August 31, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:54 PM


Key Islamic State leader killed in apparent U.S. strike in Syria (Angus McDowall and Phil Stewart, 8/31/16, Reuters)

Islamic State said on Tuesday one of its most prominent and longest-serving leaders was killed in what appeared to be an American air strike in Syria, depriving the militant group of the man in charge of directing attacks overseas.

A U.S. defense official told Reuters the United States targeted Abu Muhammad al-Adnani in a Tuesday strike on a vehicle traveling in the Syrian town of al-Bab.

Posted by orrinj at 7:46 PM


'A Penny Saved,' Ben Franklin Would Be Proud Of Gen Z (Neale Godfrey ,  8/28/16, Forbes)

[E]nter Gen Z, referred to as the "iGen." This generation is comprised of bright and well educated young adults, who want to be entrepreneurs and are attached to a mobile device at all times. But, what is impressive is that they seem to have the money-smarts that were missing in previous generations.

TD Ameritrade's 2nd Annual Generation Z survey uncovered an interesting response to the question: "If you were given $500 today, what would you do with it?" reported a surprising "... 70 percent of those in Generation Z say they'd save at least part of it, and among them, 34 percent would save it for college."

Posted by orrinj at 7:26 PM


As Obama heads to Laos, signs of a tilt away from China (Marius Zaharia, 8/30/16, Reuters)

[D]iplomats say Obama could be pushing on an open door in Laos, thanks to a change of government there in April.

They say the country's new leaders appear ready to tilt away from Beijing and lean more closely toward another neighbor, Vietnam, whose dispute with China over the South China Sea has pushed it into a deepening alliance with the United States.

"The new government is more influenced by the Vietnamese than the Chinese," said a Western diplomat in Southeast Asia." "It's never too late for a U.S. president to visit."

Obama will become the first sitting U.S. president to visit landlocked Laos, where the United States waged a "secret war" while fighting in Vietnam, dropping an estimated two million tonnes of bombs on the country. About 30 percent of the ordnance failed to explode, leaving a dangerous and costly legacy.

Laos has strategic importance to both Vietnam and China. Vietnam has a long land border with Laos that gives it access to markets in Thailand and beyond. For China, Laos is a key gateway to Southeast Asia in its "new Silk Road" trade strategy.

Laos, which is developing a series of hydro power plants along one of the world's longest rivers, the Mekong, aims to become "the battery of Asia" by selling power to its neighbors.

Posted by orrinj at 5:16 PM


How to Get Another Thorax (Steven Rose, 9/08/16, London Review of Books)

Bringing genetics together with development was a tougher proposition. Genetics had since Mendel been a science of differences, seeking to explain why some peas are yellow and wrinkled, others green and round, or why one person has blue eyes, another brown. Development, though, was a science of similarities, asking for instance why humans, in their trajectory from fertilised egg to adult, are generally bilaterally symmetrical, each with two eyes, two arms terminating in five-fingered hands. An attempt to unify them was made by another of the Cambridge group, the polymath biologist C.H. (Hal) Waddington, who in the early 1940s coined the term epigenetics to refer to the study of the 'causal interactions between genes and their products which bring the phenotype into being'. (Phenotype is a Humpty-Dumptyish word, but can be roughly taken to mean any observable feature of a living organism, at any level from the molecular to the cellular to the entire organism and its behaviour. Richard Dawkins extended its definition by asserting that the dam a beaver builds is part of its phenotype.)

Epigenetics seeks to explain how, starting from an identical set of genes, the contingencies of development can lead to different outcomes. To illustrate this, Waddington imagined what he called an 'epigenetic landscape' of rolling hills and valleys. Place a ball at the top of the hill and give it a little push. Which valley it rolls down depends on chance fluctuations; some valleys may converge on the same endpoint, others on different ones. Waddington called this process 'canalisation', though the material basis for the metaphor was, at the time, unknowable. He imagined the hills and valleys as held in place by strings stretching from nodes (genes) located below the surface landscape.

He also went further, proposing that if a strongly canalised phenotypic change was repeated generation after generation, some random mutation would eventually catch up with it and it would be assimilated into the genome. He demonstrated that this was possible by exposing developing fruit fly embryos to ether, which induces them to develop a second thorax. After some twenty generations (it takes a fruit fly about seven days to develop from a fertilised egg to an adult ready to mate, so experiments using them are fast and easy), the flies developed the second thorax without exposure to the ether - the epigenetically induced bithorax had become fixed in the fly's genome. To many of his contemporaries, it appeared as if Waddington was arguing for a version of the ultimate evolutionary heresy, Lamarckism - the inheritance of acquired characteristics. It was easy for them to dismiss Waddington's results as the artificial product of extreme laboratory conditions, irrelevant to the real world.

The TBC sought funding from the Rockefeller Foundation to set up a theoretical biology institute in Cambridge, but Rockefeller turned the proposal down in favour of a major investment in biochemistry, which presaged the later triumphs of molecular genetics. By now, many of the group's members had been drafted into war work. Needham was posted to China, where he began the work on the history of Chinese science for which he is now best known. Waddington worked on operations research for the air force. In 1947 he left for Edinburgh, where he remained for the rest of his career, but despite his continued advocacy of the theory, epigenetics faded from view.

With the discovery of the structure of DNA by Francis Crick and James Watson in the 1950s, there was a renewed conviction among biologists - especially the physicists and engineers turned biologists like Crick - that what was needed was a ruthless reductionism. It was immediately recognised that DNA's helical structure provided the chemical form of a program - a code made up of the molecule's four subunits or 'bases', adenine, cytosine, guanine and thymine, represented by the letters A, C, G and T - that could direct an organism's development, and also a copying mechanism by means of which information could be transferred from generation to generation. Life, it seemed, was computable. The triumph of reductionism seemed so secure that by the 1990s ambitious molecular biologists were able to persuade their funders, public and private, to embark on the massive project of sequencing the entire three billion As, Cs, Gs and Ts that spell out the human genome. The information the sequence provided would, they claimed, transform our understanding of medicine, and in so doing give a powerful boost to a languishing economy.

As the project got underway, the sequencers conducted a poll. How many genes - that is, mini-sequences of A, C, G and T coding for specific proteins - would they discover embedded in the human genome? The betting suggested around a hundred thousand, roughly the same as the number of different proteins in the human body. When it came to it, the chastened researchers reported that the actual number of genes was just over twenty thousand, about the same number as in a millimetre-long nematode worm. Twenty thousand genes to direct the development of the human embryo from fertilised egg to newborn baby, to code for the hundred thousand proteins, to determine the fates of the 37 trillion cells in the human body.

The numbers made a nonsense of the idea that there is a 'gene for' any particular human characteristic, from eye colour to IQ to sexual orientation, and has confounded the hope that sequencing the genome would generate a cornucopia of precision-tailored treatments for complex diseases. The problem lies in the common misconception of genes as 'master molecules' directing the operation of the cells in which they reside. In fact DNA is a rather inert molecule, as it has to be if it is to serve as a code. It is the cells that do the work. Cellular enzymes read, edit, cut and paste, transcribe and translate segments of DNA - the literary metaphor, universally employed by molecular biologists, isn't accidental; they think of DNA as the language in which the Book of Life is written - in a scheduled flow during the development of the foetus, according to whether the cells are destined to become liver or brain, blood or bone. No gene works in isolation but as part of a collaboration. Many genes may be required to produce a single phenotype - more than fifty main gene variants have been shown to affect the chances that someone will contract coronary heart disease, for example - and a particular gene may influence many different phenotypic traits, depending on which organ's cells it is active in. It is during this period of rapid growth that living organisms are at their most plastic, responding to environmental challenges by modifying anatomical, biochemical, physiological or behavioural phenotypic traits. This is epigenetic canalisation.

Posted by orrinj at 5:11 PM


Posted by orrinj at 2:41 PM


Why Amazon is trying out a 30-hour work week : Amazon, the online retailer, is launching a pilot program that would consist entirely of workers working for 10 hours less than full time, but with full benefits. (Weston Williams, Staff AUGUST 29, 2016, CS Monitor)

The company is set to launch an experimental program consisting of a few teams of workers made up entirely of employees working 30 hours a week, instead of the usual 40 hours expected of a full-time employee.

The new program is small, consisting of a few dozen people in a company that employs more than 225,000. But if it is successful, it could provide a new model for Amazon as well as other large companies seeking to become more competitive in a tightening labor market, and to especially attract more mothers.

Posted by orrinj at 2:30 PM


Trump's Visitor Ban Isn't Just Un-American. It's Bad for the Economy. (David Brown and Jordan Baum, August 24, 2016, Third Way)

Trump's ban on visitors to the U.S. would decrease U.S. GDP by $30.5 billion and cost the domestic economy 182,000 jobs in year one. GDP and job losses would then increase significantly each year the ban remains.

Those losses do not account for the further economic damage banning Muslim and other immigrants would cause. We also examine the implications of an immigrant ban by highlighting the economic contributions of the existing American-Muslim community, which makes an outsize contribution to GDP and job growth in the U.S. 

Posted by orrinj at 2:22 PM


Clinton National Lead Steady (PPP, 8/31/16)

One reason Trump's campaign may be struggling is that voters just don't buy into the premise that the United States is a dangerous country. Just 26% say they consider it to be, to 64% who don't think it's a dangerous country. That may help explain why Trump's ostensible outreach to African Americans and Latinos- playing up violence within their communities- isn't working. Only 13% of African Americans and Latinos think Trump actually cares about them, to 74% who say they don't think he does. Hillary Clinton is winning their voters 73-9 with Jill Stein at 6% and Gary Johnson at 3%. [...]

-Trump has fought with most of the media over the course of this campaign but battles with the New York Times and CNN have been particularly prominent. Voters say by a 54/29 spread that the Times has more credibility than Trump, and by a 52/34 one that CNN has more credibility. Trump is losing his fights with the media in the arena of broader public opinion. [...]

-It's widely known that Trump voters support building a wall on the border with Mexico to keep undocumented immigrants out of the country. We find that 31% of them also support building a wall along the Atlantic Ocean to keep Muslims from entering the country from the Middle East.

Posted by orrinj at 12:32 PM


Clinton to stress American exceptionalism in Ohio (CATHERINE LUCEY AND JILL COLVIN August 31, 2016, AP) 

Hillary Clinton plans to stress her support for "American exceptionalism" during a speech in the battleground state of Ohio, while arguing that Donald Trump has rejected the concept.

Clinton's midday address at the American Legion's annual convention in Cincinnati Wednesday comes as Trump plans a last-minute trip to Mexico in advance of a long-awaited speech on immigration. A Clinton campaign official said the Democratic nominee plans to use her first public event in days to portray her Republican opponent as a questionable leader who would "walk away from our allies, undermine our values, insult our military -- and has explicitly rejected the idea of American exceptionalism."

Posted by orrinj at 12:27 PM


U.S., India sign military logistics agreement (Reuters, 8/30/16)

The United States and India have signed an agreement to share military logistics, they said in a joint statement on Monday, a step toward building defense ties as both countries seek to counter the growing maritime assertiveness of China.

Posted by orrinj at 4:28 AM


Scientists Just Took a Big Step Toward Ending the Op[***]d Epidemic  (JULIA LURIEAUG. 29, 2016, mOTHER jONES)

A team of researchers, whose work was published earlier this month in Nature, designed a compound named PZM21 that is producing promising results. Multiple experiments on mice appear to reduce pain without slowing down breathing or being addictive. When the rodents treated with the compound were placed on a hot plate, for example, they appeared to experience as much pain relief as those treated with morphine. Mice showed no preference between being in a chamber where they received PMZ21 and another where they received a saline solution.

Rather than tweaking an existing drug, as most drugs are created, the research team used a combination of computational modeling and synthetic drug generation to design a compound from scratch that would bind well with the known structure of the brain's opioid receptors. Doing so was a four-year effort, involving researchers from Stanford University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of California-San Francisco, and Friedrich-Alexander University in Germany.

...only ever contract afflictions that impact white people.

August 30, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:26 PM


A tale of two GDPs: Why Republicans and Democrats live in different economic realities (Ian Anson, 8/28/16, tHE cONVERSATION)

In a recent paper published in Political Research Quarterly, I tested competing expectations about the ways media can convince partisans to engage in motivated reasoning. The study examines the conditions under which partisans internalize their preferred "facts."

The Cooperative Congressional Election Study is a massive survey project put together by more than 50 research teams nationwide. I presented survey-takers with one of five randomly assigned articles about the economy during the 2014 wave of the study. These stories were designed to mimic the type of content they might see when visiting a partisan news source. Some of the articles presented readers with "just the (congenial) facts": these survey-takers saw a news story showing either optimistic or gloomy economic data. Others saw stories that presented these facts paired with statements blaming or praising President Barack Obama for the trend. These latter treatments make survey-takers highly aware of the agenda of the story's author - especially if they identify as partisans.

Just as expected, Republicans and Democrats in the study were most likely to learn from the news story when it reinforced their own worldview. Republican Reba believed the bad news, while Denny the Democrat believed the good news.

The surprising finding was that this pattern only held for the "just the facts" news stories - not the overtly partisan ones. In other words, partisans enjoy cheerleading for their party but are even more strongly affected by news stories that appear to be highly objective. When asked to report whether they thought the economy in the past year had gotten better or worse, partisans in these treatment conditions were significantly more likely than others to give the party-congenial response.

In the 2016 campaign, we have seen plenty of examples of overt partisan jeering when pundits discuss economic conditions. The study's results suggest that people are actually not very likely to digest economic information from such overtly partisan reports. Instead, the most powerful tool for affecting how we perceive the economy is the subtle process of agenda-setting.

As studies of media slant have reliably shown, agenda-setting is widespread in today's media marketplace. By consistently presenting economic facts that agree with the partisan narrative, free of any overt partisan language, slanted sources can subtly adjust citizens' beliefs about the way the economy is going.

Posted by orrinj at 7:22 PM


Leaked ISIS Documents Show Internal Chaos : Recently uncovered ISIS documents read like a bad comedy about embezzlement, infiltration, and bureaucratic infighting. (Michael Weiss, 08.30.16, Daily Beast)

What appear to be internal documents from the administration of the so-called Islamic State, obtained exclusively by The Daily Beast, show the terrorist organization under strain from financial misappropriation, embezzlement, alleged infiltration by anti-ISIS spies, and bureaucratic infighting. [...]

The documents are mainly bits of correspondence between other ISIS officials and are embarrassing to a messianic movement that proclaims it is growing in strength and expanding its dominions in spite of nearly three years of attritional warfare and battlefield losses across Iraq and Syria.

Posted by orrinj at 7:17 PM


Nobel prize winner tells Clinton: Tax fossil fuels (Heather Long, August 30, 2016, CNN Money)

Nobel prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz has some advice for Hillary Clinton: Tax fossil fuels.

Stiglitz, who is an adviser to Clinton, says taxing carbon would be the best way to address climate change -- and boost the U.S. economy. [...]

"I think a carbon tax would stimulate the economy," Stiglitz told CNNMoney. He says it would lead many firms to remodel their factories and redesign their supply chains, which would generate jobs and growth.

Posted by orrinj at 7:16 PM


Philadelphia's black voters outraged by Donald Trump's 'outreach' (DANIEL DALE, Aug. 29, 2016, The Star)

Donald Trump says "inner-city" African-Americans will vote for him because of how miserable their lives and neighbourhoods are.

The African-Americans of North Philadelphia say Donald Trump is an ignorant bigot.

Trump's campaign has described his recent rhetoric about black people as outreach. With actual black people, it seems to have produced little but outrage. Trump, Philadelphians said in interviews this weekend, is offering blacks not a helping hand but a slap in the face.

"Extremely insulting. And I think purposely insulting," said lawyer Rasheedah Phillips, 32.

"He's getting the ships ready. He wants to send us back over to Africa," said Douglas Skipworth, 33, who does maintenance work.

"Black folk aren't fooled by this thing. African-Americans are clear about who Trump is," said professor Anyabwile Love, 41, watching his 2-year-old son. "Many other elections, local and national, it's been the lesser of the two evils. In this, it's not even lesser of two evils. It's one is completely against us and one is not."

Trump has a historically dreadful approval rating with black voters, as low as 1 per cent. But as he frantically attempts to convince white people that he is not a racist, black people have suddenly become central to his message.

Which black people believe is racist.

Posted by orrinj at 7:06 PM


America's True Role in Syria (Jeffrey D. Sachs, AUG 30, 2016, Project Syndicate)

A widespread - and false - perception is that Obama has kept the US out of the Syrian war. Indeed, the US right wing routinely criticizes him for having drawn a line in the sand for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad over chemical weapons, and then backing off when Assad allegedly crossed it (the issue remains murky and disputed, like so much else in Syria). A leading columnist for the Financial Times, repeating the erroneous idea that the US has remained on the sidelines, recently implied that Obama had rejected the advice of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to arm the Syrian rebels fighting Assad.

Yet the curtain gets lifted from time to time. In January, the New York Times finally reported on a secret 2013 Presidential order to the CIA to arm Syrian rebels. As the account explained, Saudi Arabia provides substantial financing of the armaments, while the CIA, under Obama's orders, provides organizational support and training.

Unfortunately, the story came and went without further elaboration by the US government or follow up by the New York Times. The public was left in the dark: How big are the ongoing CIA-Saudi operations? How much is the US spending on Syria per year? What kinds of arms are the US, Saudis, Turks, Qataris, and others supplying to the Syrian rebels? Which groups are receiving the arms? What is the role of US troops, air cover, and other personnel in the war? The US government isn't answering these questions, and mainstream media aren't pursuing them, either.

On more than a dozen occasions, Obama has told the American people that there would be "no US boots on the ground." Yet every few months, the public is also notified in a brief government statement that US special operations forces are being deployed to Syria. The Pentagon routinely denies that they are in the front lines. But when Russia and the Assad government recently carried out bombing runs and artillery fire against rebel strongholds in northern Syria, the US notified the Kremlin that the attacks were threatening American troops on the ground. The public has been given no explanation about their mission, its costs, or counterparties in Syria.

Through occasional leaks, investigative reports, statements by other governments, and rare statements by US officials, we know that America is engaged in an active, ongoing, CIA-coordinated war both to overthrow Assad and to fight ISIS. America's allies in the anti-Assad effort include Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, and other countries in the region. The US has spent billions of dollars on arms, training, special operations forces, air strikes, and logistical support for the rebel forces, including international mercenaries. American allies have spent billions of dollars more. The precise sums are not reported.

Posted by orrinj at 7:06 PM


Reducing Inequality and Poverty in America (Martin Feldstein, AUG 23, 2016, Project Syndicate)

How should programs for the poor be changed to increase participation and avoid adverse effects on work incentives? One bad idea that is getting a surprising amount of favorable attention is the so-called Universal Income Benefit: providing enough money to all households (below the age of 65) to keep them above the poverty line, even if they had no other income. The amount given to each household would depend on the number of adults and children, but not on the household's income or wealth.

This unconditional transfer would solve the problem of lifting all Americans out of poverty. But it would be impossibly expensive. Even if it replaced all of the means-tested programs for the poor other than the health programs, its net cost would exceed $1.5 trillion a year, or more than 9% of GDP. To pay for that without raising the deficit would require doubling the personal income tax. So the Universal Income Benefit is definitely a non-starter.

The best way to help the poor is the negative income tax plan originally proposed by both Milton Friedman (the conservative economist at the University of Chicago) and James Tobin (the liberal economist at Yale University). All households below the age of 65 would receive an amount of money that would keep them out of poverty if they had no other income; but the amount of the transfer would decline gradually as their household income rose. Above a certain threshold, the household would pay an income tax as they do today; below that level, the "tax" would be negative.

Posted by orrinj at 6:58 PM



[T]he mogul's New York modeling agency, Trump Model Management, has profited from using foreign models who came to the United States on tourist visas that did not permit them to work here, according to three former Trump models, all noncitizens, who shared their stories with Mother Jones. Financial and immigration records included in a recent lawsuit filed by a fourth former Trump model show that she, too, worked for Trump's agency in the United States without a proper visa.

Foreigners who visit the United States as tourists are generally not permitted to engage in any sort of employment unless they obtain a special visa, a process that typically entails an employer applying for approval on behalf of a prospective employee. Employers risk fines and possible criminal charges for using undocumented labor.

Founded in 1999, Trump Model Management "has risen to the top of the fashion market," boasts the Trump Organization's website, and has a name "that symbolizes success." According to a financial disclosure filed by his campaign in May, Donald Trump earned nearly $2 million from the company, in which he holds an 85 percent stake. Meanwhile, some former Trump models say they barely made any money working for the agency because of the high fees for rent and other expenses that were charged by the company.  

Canadian-born Rachel Blais spent nearly three years working for Trump Model Management. After first signing with the agency in March 2004, she said, she performed a series of modeling gigs for Trump's company in the United States without a work visa. At Mother Jones' request, Blais provided a detailed financial statement from Trump Model Management and a letter from an immigration lawyer who, in the fall of 2004, eventually secured a visa that would permit her to work legally in the United States. These records show a six-month gap between when she began working in the United States and when she was granted a work visa. During that time, Blais appeared on Trump's hit reality TV show, The Apprentice, modeling outfits designed by his business protégés. As Blais walked the runway, Donald Trump looked on from the front row.

Posted by orrinj at 11:57 AM


How to Fight Secular Stagnation (Michael Spence, AUG 30, 2016, Project Syndicate)

A second condition supporting [secular stagnation]1 is rooted in the impact of heightened uncertainty - about growth, job security, policies and regulations, and the many developments that could affect any of those factors - on investment and consumption. People simply don't know whether their governments are going to start making progress in combating deflationary pressure, countering rising inequality, addressing social and political fragmentation, and restoring economic growth and employment.

With future demand far from guaranteed, private investment has been declining in many countries, including, most recently, China. The same goes for household consumption, particularly in the advanced economies, where a larger share of consumption is optional (for example, replacing consumer durables, traveling, and eating out at restaurants).

It takes a second to process that worry--the deflationary epoch has produced a situation where, for the first time in human history, consumption is optional for most of us.  And we're supposed to combat that?

Record Number of 401(k) Savers Increased Contributions in Q1 2016 (Rebecca Moore, 4/29/16, ASSETINTERNATIONAL.COM)

Total savings rate for 401(k) savers hit a record level in Q1 2016, Fidelity reports.

Its quarterly analysis of Fidelity-administered 401(k) and individual retirement accounts (IRAs) finds the total savings rate for 401(k) savers, which combines individual contributions plus employer contributions, reached 12.7% in Q1, topping the previous record high of 12.5% in Q1 2008. In addition, a record 13.6% of 401(k) investors increased their savings rate in Q1, an increase from the previous high of 12.9% in Q1 of 2015.

Even Fidelity's annual analysis of small business retirement plans found that for self-employed 401(k) accounts, self-employed (SEP) IRAs and Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees (SIMPLE), contributions increased in every plan category.

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

U.S. household net worth rose to $88.1 trillion in first quarter: Fed (Reuters, 6/09/16)

The net worth of U.S. households rose in the first quarter as a boost in real estate values offset a fall in stock market prices, a report by the Federal Reserve showed on Thursday.Families' net worth increased to $88.1 trillion over the quarter, up from a revised $87.3 trillion in the previous period.

Posted by orrinj at 11:50 AM


Addicted to Making Campaign Contributions? (RUSSELL BERMAN, 8/29/16,  The Atlantic)

When Bernie Sanders asked for money to fuel his underdog presidential campaign, Geraldine Bryant didn't even need to think about it.

"I loved Bernie, and every time he asked for money, I just gave it to him," Bryant told me in a recent phone interview. A filmmaker in Manhattan, Bryant gave the Sanders campaign 44 separate contributions over a nine-month period between October and June, in amounts ranging from $1 to $2,000. The donations totaled $14,440--more than five times the legal limit that an individual can give to a presidential primary campaign.

Lorraine Grace, an environmentalist and educator who runs a nonprofit organization north of San Francisco, gave the Sanders campaign 17 contributions during the height of the Democratic primary between December and May, in amounts ranging from $15 to $2,000. It added up to $8,625. "I donate almost like automatic," Grace explained. "Bernie Sanders' campaign reaches out to me? Bingo. Donation."

Bryant and Grace epitomize the fund-raising juggernaut that Sanders built virtually from scratch in 2015, allowing a small-state senator with little national following and a non-existent donor base to match Hillary Clinton dollar-for-dollar through much of their hard-fought Democratic primary. Sanders raised $231 million from more than 2.7 million donors, relying on grassroots support rather than the wealthy bundlers who collect large checks for establishment candidates.

But the constant fundraising requests that produced that shower of cash can be troubling in their own way. They're reminiscent of the marketing strategies used by casinos, tobacco companies, and even "the old Nigerian scams," said Timothy Fong, co-director of the Gambling Studies Program at UCLA. The solicitations convey "a sense of urgency, the very impulsive, it's an opportunity that can't be missed," he said. "It's very similar to what drug dealers use or casinos use to get people to continue to play."

Posted by orrinj at 11:43 AM


Finally, a California government pension safety valve (The San Diego Union-Tribune Editorial Board,  Aug. 27, 2016)

A unanimous state appeals court ruling that local and state governments can make "reasonable" changes in pension terms going forward is the best news on the California pension front ... ever.

For decades, under what was known as "the California rule," once a government employee was hired, her or his pension benefits could only be increased, not reduced. This was based on the assumption that these benefits amounted to a contract between employer and employee.

But in a ruling on unions' push to continue late-career pension spiking in Marin County despite a 2012 state law saying such maneuvers were no longer legal, Associate Justice James Richman made a broader point: "While a public employee does have a 'vested right' to a pension, that right is only to a 'reasonable' pension -- not an immutable entitlement to the most optimal formula of calculating the pension."

Posted by orrinj at 11:32 AM


Chart of the Day (Mark J. Perry, 8/29/16, AEI Ideas). 


The trend in the chart above shows another remarkable energy milestone for which we can thank hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, and the resulting shale revolution. In 2016 so far through July, US consumer spending on "energy goods and services" (includes gasoline and other energy goods, and of electricity and natural gas services) has been only 3.8% of total personal consumer expenditures. As the chart shows, that marks the first time in US history back to 1929 that the share of consumer spending on energy has been below 4%. 

Posted by orrinj at 11:25 AM


LePage says he is considering resignation, apologizes (ERIC RUSSELL, 8/30/16,

Gov. Paul LePage raised the possibility Tuesday that he may not finish his second term, amid mounting pressure from Democrats and members of his own party to amend for his recent actions.

"I'm looking at all options," the Republican governor said while appearing on WVOM, a Bangor talk radio station. "I think some things I've been asked to do are beyond my ability.

Governing is about all the people, not just the ones most similar to you.

August 29, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:14 PM


Gene Wilder Dies at 83; Star of 'Willy Wonka' and 'Young Frankenstein' (DANIEL LEWIS, AUG. 29, 2016, NY Times)

With his haunted blue eyes and an empathy born of his own history of psychic distress, he aspired to touch audiences much as Charlie Chaplin had. The Chaplin film "City Lights," he said, had "made the biggest impression on me as an actor; it was funny, then sad, then both at the same time."

Mr. Wilder was an accomplished stage actor as well as a screenwriter, a novelist and the director of four movies in which he starred. (He directed, he once said, "in order to protect what I wrote, which I wrote in order to act.") But he was best known for playing roles on the big screen that might have been ripped from the pages of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

He made his movie debut in 1967 in Arthur Penn's celebrated crime drama, "Bonnie and Clyde," in which he was memorably hysterical as an undertaker kidnapped by the notorious Depression-era bank robbers played by Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty. He was even more hysterical, and even more memorable, a year later in "The Producers," the first film by Mr. Brooks, who turned it into a Broadway hit.

Mr. Wilder played the security-blanket-clutching accountant Leo Bloom, who discovers how to make more money on a bad Broadway show than on a good one: Find rich backers, stage a production that's guaranteed to fold fast, then flee the country with the leftover cash. Unhappily for Bloom and his fellow schemer, Max Bialystock, played by Zero Mostel, their outrageously tasteless musical, "Springtime for Hitler," is a sensation.

The part earned Mr. Wilder an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actor. Within a few years, the anxious, frizzy-haired, popeyed Mr. Wilder had become an unlikely movie star.

He was nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance as the wizardly title character in "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" (1971). The film was a box-office disappointment, partly because of parental concern that the moral of Roald Dahl's story -- that greedy, gluttonous children should not go unpunished -- was too dark in the telling. But it went on to gain a devoted following, and Willy Wonka remains one of the roles with which Mr. Wilder is most closely identified.

He had the one quality that separates great comic actors from their peers, the ability co convince us of their empathy, on the one hand, but frighten us with the hint that they could be genuinely mad or even evil , on the other.  


Posted by Glenn Dryfoos at 6:44 PM


Happy Bird-day!

See: All That Jazz #30

Posted by orrinj at 6:43 PM


Lessons from a 28 Year-Long Evolutionary Experiment (Jeffrey Marlow | August 29, 2016, Discover)

Every morning, a scientist walks into a lab in East Lansing, Michigan, grabs a pipette, and mixes two liquids. One is a cloudy brew of E. coli cells, billions of organisms thick; the other is a sterile solution with glucose and essential nutrients. One part A, 99 parts B, and back in the incubator it goes; over the next 24 hours, the cells will double nearly seven times, adapting to the broth in the process.

And so it goes in the lab of Richard Lenski, a Professor of Microbial Ecology at Michigan State University, just as it has for the last 28 years. That's more than 65,000 generations of E. coli, the "lab rat" of microbiology; the associated experiments have generated freezers' worth of samples and burned through enough petri dishes to fill a warehouse.

It started with 12 replicate populations of the same E. coli strain, each allowed to propagate on its own as it adapted to the glucose- and citrate-containing food source. "Is evolution this invariable slow and gradual process?" Lenski recalls wondering as he set up the first agar plates.

...designed and guided by an intelligent being?

Posted by orrinj at 5:59 PM


Colombia's Milestone in World Peace (STEVEN PINKER and JUAN MANUEL SANTOS, AUG. 26, 2016, NY Times)

The peace treaty announced this week between the government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, marks more than the end of one war. It is a milestone for peace in the Americas and the world.

The 52-year war between the Colombian state and the FARC is the oldest and only armed conflict in the Western Hemisphere, and the last one held over from the Cold War. From Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, war -- in the classic sense of a violent conflict over governance or territory fought by at least one national army -- has disappeared. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:53 PM


The stock market boom of the Obama years (The Week, 8/29/16)

President Obama has presided over some of the best years to invest of the last century, The New York Times reports. The stock market has risen 11.8 per­cent on an annualized basis since Obama took office, the third best performance during an American presidency since 1900. Market performance was only better under Calvin Coolidge (25.5 per­cent) and Bill Clinton (15.9 percent).

Consider that had you been prescient enough to buy shares of a low-cost stock index fund on Mr. Obama's first inauguration day, on Jan. 20, 2009, you would now have tripled your money. Stock market performance of this level has rarely been surpassed. [The New York Times]

Posted by orrinj at 2:13 PM


Battleground States: Georgia ( Michael Nelson, August 25, 2016, Cook Political Report)

Charles S. Bullock III is the Richard Russell Professor of Political Science at the University of Georgia and the author of several books on southern politics, including the coedited The New Politics of the Old South, now in its fifth edition. What follows is the text of an email interview on Georgia politics today.  [...]

Is Georgia's electorate changing in ways that advantage either party? 

In addition to the higher turnout rates among African Americans, Georgia's electorate is becoming more diverse. The numbers of Hispanics and Asian Americans are growing. In 2014, for the first time the exit poll provided an estimate of Hispanic preferences. The exit poll estimate put the Hispanic share of the vote at 4% while the state's post-election audit was much lower at 1%. In part the difference is attributable to the recency with which the state added Hispanic as a category when voters register. Previously, the options were black, white or other and some Latinos who registered before having Hispanic as a choice identified themselves as white. 

Younger Georgians are more Democratic than their parents or grandparents. In 2014 not only did Millennials favor the Democrats (Michelle Nunn for Senate and Jason Carter for governor), so did voters aged 30 - 44. Polls this year also show younger voters tending Democratic while the older voters continue to prefer Trump. 

Posted by orrinj at 2:05 PM


Solid U.S. consumer spending boosts prospect of Fed rate hike (Lucia Mutikani, 8/29/16, Reuters)

U.S. consumer spending increased for a fourth straight month in July amid strong demand for automobiles, pointing to a pickup in economic growth that could pave the way for the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates this year. [...]

Low inflation, however, suggests the U.S. central bank could wait until its December policy meeting before raising borrowing costs.

"This report is a mixed bag for the Fed. While the consumer sector is continuing to advance solidly, progress towards the Fed's inflation mandate has stalled," said Michelle Girard, chief economist at RBS in Stamford, Connecticut.

The disconnection of economic growth and inflation is over thirty years old now.
Posted by orrinj at 2:00 PM


Brexit is actually boosting the UK economy (Nicole Gelinas, 8/29/16, NY Post)

Two months ago, the world's wise men were warning that if UK voters decided to "Brexit" from the European Union, they'd rain down economic crisis. Guess what? Today, Britain is fine -- and has even seen a boost from its "Leave" vote.

The International Monetary Fund, central bank chiefs, academic economists -- you know, the people who study the economy for a living -- said Brexit would be a disaster.

Then-Prime Minister David Cameron warned that Britons who voted to leave would risk their Social Security-style pensions. President Obama said Britons would have to "go to the back of the queue" to ink trade deals with the United States.

Now, though, Britain is showing how real free-market economics can correct political mistakes -- if, indeed, Brexit was a mistake.

After the vote, the British pound plummeted. Financial traders believed their government's warnings and ditched the currency.

Before Brexit, one British pound was worth $1.48. Today, it's worth $1.32. The pound has fallen against other currencies, too. That has meant record visitors to Britain this summer -- and tourists spending record amounts of money, too.

In the month before Brexit, airline reservations to Britain were down compared to the previous year, the Guardian reported. After the Brexit vote, they jumped 4.3 percent -- and wealthier tourists bought more jewelry and watches.

Other parts of the economy haven't suffered, either. Consumer confidence and domestic spending are both up. "Retail sales smashed expectations in August," the Daily Mail noted on Friday. Manufacturing and home-sales reports are well and good.

Posted by orrinj at 1:56 PM


In Hebron, Fatah faces a civil war at the polls (Avi Issacharoff, 8/29/16, The Times of Israel)

These are the first elections in more than a decade in which voting is taking place at the same time in both Gaza and the West Bank, and Hamas and Fatah are going head-to-head.

Whatever the result, it will affect not only the status of these organizations but also of their leaders, and could even seep into the relationship between the Palestinians and Israel. While these elections are local, and won't directly change anything politically or security-related between Israel and the Palestinian, a sweeping win by the hardline Islamist movement Hamas is still liable to ramp up the amount of suspicion and lack of trust between the two peoples.

As in the other cities in the West Bank, the trouble in Hebron is that because there are so many secular slates of candidates, there is a reasonable chance that the more moderate camp of Fatah and groups of its ilk will split the secular vote, paving the way for victory by Hamas candidates.

For Hamas's leaders in Gaza and abroad, the vote marks an extraordinary opportunity to take stock of where public opinion stands.

But fear of arrests by Israel or the Palestinian Authority have kept Hamas from openly running its members for office in the municipalities, forcing the movement to content itself with semi-independent figures who are known as Hamas supporters.

Posted by orrinj at 1:47 PM


A New Kind Of Ethical Diamond Is Made, Not Mined (JESSICA LEBER 08.29.16, Co.Exist)

In one end of a facility in Silicon Valley goes electricity--lots of it. Out the other, comes an armored truck stashed with diamonds.

In the middle are 8,000°F plasma reactors and more than $100 million in investment to power a startup that is on a mission to make ethical, sustainable diamonds in California. [...]

Lab-made diamonds aren't new. Since the 1950's, they've been used in industrial applications, but they always had impurities that kept them out of the jewelry sector until recently. Only in the last five years, a few companies achieved the holy grail: colorless diamonds that could not be distinguished from the real thing.

It's impossible to overstate deflation.

Posted by orrinj at 1:40 PM


How Tripoli Was Taken: The Lightning Advance That Ended Gadhafi's Rule (Clemens Höges, 8/29/11, der Spiegel)

The advance on Tripoli begins on Sunday, August 21, in Zawiya, a city of 250,000 on the coastal road, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) west of Tripoli. A column of rebel combat vehicles stretches for a kilometer along the road, heading east. It is a ragtag force that includes cars filled with fighters and the rebels' combat vehicles: pickup trucks with machine guns, rocket launchers and rapid-fire guns mounted on the beds. Most of the rebels are from the Nafusa Mountains, and they are traveling in groups identifiable by their stickers, groups like the Zintan Brigade and the Tripoli Brigade. With about 2,000 men Uraibi's group, the Jadu Brigade, is one of the largest.

Whenever the convoy comes to a stop in the scorching heat, the pickups spread out from the road, firing at individual buildings or groups of soldiers. Then it continues on its way in a cloud of dust and diesel fumes, leaving the air smelling of burnt gunpowder. A thin man with a salt-and-pepper beard, wearing a green canvas uniform, squats by the side of the road. Ali A., a businessman from the western German city of Giessen, is taking a short break from the war.

The war began for him 22 years ago, he says, when he fled through the desert. His rage against the regime began to grow in Germany, where he managed to get by, first as an asylum seeker and later as a German citizen. But he felt disconnected from the life he was living there, gleaning bits and pieces of news about his real life in Libya from friends in the country. He prefers not to see his last name in print, especially in SPIEGEL, fearing that the German authorities could decide to prosecute him for killing people in Libya. The man, who operates a rocket launcher, has no idea how many people he has killed.

As a young man living in Jansur, a Tripoli suburb, he printed flyers with a group of friends. They distributed the flyers outside schools at night, demanded more democracy and protested against Gadhafi's senseless war in Chad, where more than 7,500 Libyans were killed by the time it ended in 1987.

Gadhafi's secret police tracked down the small group, and one day they came to his parents' house to arrest him. He wasn't home, but he happened to call the house while the men were there. His brother told him about the police and Ali, fearing that he would be sent to prison for years, never even went home that day, leaving his wife and their three-month-old daughter behind.

"I didn't know that it would take 22 years," he says, speaking German with a faint regional dialect from the western state of Hesse.

Only three days after the uprising began in Benghazi, Ali closed his business in Giessen. He flew to Tunisia and crossed the border into the mountains, where he joined the Nafusa rebels and then joined another group of rebels from Jansur. The group has now formed its own brigade, the Jansur Brigade, probably the smallest with only 40 men.

He knows that his daughter now has a child of her own. But neither his wife nor his daughter know that he is coming, that he is a soldier in this war and that he is killing others so that he can return to life in Jansur.

Suddenly his comrades call out to him. It's time to move on. They are approaching a bridge where Gadhafi's soldiers are waiting with tanks. He climbs behind the steering wheel of the black Ford F-150. The pickup is camouflaged with mud, and other rebels are now manning the rocket launcher on the bed, which they take turns operating. "I can see them," he says. But the men quickly lose sight of one another in this chaotic war, and in his case it's because his only means of communication is a German mobile phone that doesn't work here in Libya. He accelerates and the group starts driving toward the rumbling sound of gunfire near the bridge, where only fighters dare to go.

As Abu Bakr Uraibi will later recount, his group with the Jadu Brigade is nearby-- and not moving from the spot. Uraibi has learned a lot in recent months.

Shortly after the uprising began, he took his wife and five children and drove home to Jadu. He was afraid that Gadhafi's troops would attack the towns in the Nafusa Mountains, and he knew immediately which side he would take. The people living in the mountains are not Arabs but Berbers, the original inhabitants of Libya, with their own language and writing that looks like primitive rock drawings. "Gadhafi always discriminated against Berbers," says Uraibi. "He didn't trust us."

Uraibi is doing relatively well, he says, but he is fighting for the future. "Gadhafi ruined our country, the healthcare system, the schools. Our oil makes us as rich as the sheikhs on the Gulf. But where is the money? And why do we isolate ourselves? We could have tourists, we could travel and we could be open."

Posted by orrinj at 1:29 PM


Surprisingly Little Evidence for the Usual Wisdom About Teeth (Aaron E. Carroll, AUG. 29, 2016, NY Times)

What about everything else? It turns out there's a whole journal dedicated to the idea that we could use more rigor in dental recommendations. Evidence-Based Dentistry either publishes systematic reviews or summarizes reviews from other organizations, like the Cochrane Collaboration.

The good news is that brushing appears to work. But it's important to know that it's brushing with fluoride toothpaste that matters, not the brushing alone. Doing that doesn't just prevent gingivitis and plaque formation; it also prevents cavities, which is the outcome that we care most about.

My dentist has always recommended a powered toothbrush. The evidence seems to agree that, as many randomized controlled trials confirm, powered toothbrushes reduce both plaque and gingivitis more than regular toothbrushes. An older Cochrane review concluded that the rotating powered toothbrushes were superior than the side to side powered brushes. I use the latter, and this disappointed me. But the difference between the two types, while statistically significant, was really small.

There appear to be no good randomized controlled trials on brushing frequency. The other studies that do exist, while flawed, seem to support twice-a-day brushing.

Surely the twice-a-year teeth cleanings matter? In 2005, Evidence-Based Dentistry highlighted a systematic review on the effects of routine scaling and polishing (you call it teeth cleaning). Researchers found eight randomized controlled trials that were on point, but they were all judged as having a high risk of bias. The results were all over the map. Their conclusions were that the evidence isn't of sufficient quality to reach any conclusions as to the benefits or harms of scaling and polishing. [...]

What about preventive dental visits themselves? In 2013, Bisakha Sen, Nir Menachemi and colleagues used data from the Alabama Children's Health Insurance Program to follow more than 36,000 children to see how preventive dental visits affected dental care and spending over time. They found that preventive visits were associated with fewer visits for restorative dental care in the future, implying that there was an improvement in oral health. But they found that, for the most part, more than one annual preventive visit in children was not cost-effective.

Further work found that it may have been the use of sealants, and not preventive visits in general, that had this protective effect. Since sealants could be applied without an actual visit to the dentist, that brings into question whether a more cost-effective means of getting sealant on children's teeth might be possible -- using a lower-cost dental hygienist, perhaps. Fluoride varnish appears to work well, too.

No review of dental health would be complete without at least acknowledging water fluoridation. Much of the evidence is old because it's getting hard to do studies. It would be somewhat unethical to withhold fluoridation at this point from some people, because the evidence in favor of the practice is so compelling.

In fact, fluoride is so important that the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that in areas where the water supply is deficient, providers prescribe oral fluoride supplementation to children. They recommend the use of fluoride varnish as well.

To recap, there's good evidence that brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste is a good idea, especially with a powered toothbrush. For children, there's good evidence that the use of fluoride varnish or sealants can be a powerful tool to prevent cavities. The rest? It's debatable.

The value of "death panels" is that we could just stop paying for these things and make them pure consumer goods.

Posted by orrinj at 1:18 PM


The Genetics of Type 2 Diabetes Is a Mess : A recent study shows why genetic advances in medicine are so challenging. (Michael White, 8/29/16, Pacific Standard)

After more than a decade of large, high-tech studies, the genetic basis of diabetes remains, for the most part, unexplained.

Type 2 diabetes is one of the major diseases that biomedical scientists hope to conquer with genomics. It's one of our most common diseases -- the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that nearly 10 percent of all Americans have it. Diabetes is also expensive: It accounts for an estimated $176 billion in medical costs each year. And while most of us have the impression that diabetes is something you prevent with a healthy diet and exercise, the disease also has a strong genetic component.

By understanding the genetics of diabetes, we hope to combat the disease in three big ways. First, we'll be able to identify people with a high genetic risk, and make them the focus of prevention efforts. Second, we might recognize and specifically treat different molecular forms of the disease -- different people likely have different underlying genetic mutations, which means that not all diabetics respond the same way to a one-size-fits-all therapy. And third, genetics will help us understand the disease's molecular underpinnings, and guide us toward better treatments that directly target those molecules. If we achieved all three goals, we would indeed revolutionize the treatment of diabetes.

And so, for the past decade, researchers have conducted large genetic studies, involving at first thousands, and now tens of thousands of diabetics. The results have been somewhat disappointing: Though researchers have linked dozens of mutations with diabetes, we're clearly still missing much of the picture. Known mutations account for only 10 percent of the estimated genetic contribution to the disease. After more than a decade of large, high-tech studies, the genetic basis of diabetes remains, for the most part, unexplained.

To find the missing mutations in diabetes, scientists of two large international research consortia performed a deeper DNA analysis of a large set of study subjects. Earlier studies used a lower-cost, coarse-grained scan of the subjects' DNA. These scans only had the power to detect mutations that are relatively common in the population. In this most recent study, the researchers decided to survey the subjects' genomes much more comprehensively.

The hypothesis behind this approach is that diabetes is a bit like Leo Tolstoy's famous claim about unhappy families: Each case of diabetes is affected by genetics in its own way. 

Close.  But, rather, each diabetic is affected by his family in its own way.

Posted by orrinj at 1:04 PM


Meet the man siphoning money from Donald Trump : A 25-year-old with no Trump ties raises $1 million by dangling 'dinner' with the GOP nominee. (SHANE GOLDMACHER 08/29/16, Politico)

At a glance, the two websites look virtually indistinguishable. Both feature a photo of Donald Trump, in a suit and red tie, in front of a giant American flag. Both seemingly offer a chance for two to win dinner with Donald Trump.

One is at; the other is at

The first belongs to Trump's campaign. The second is a scheme run by Ian Hawes, a 25-year-old Maryland man who has no affiliation with Trump or his campaign and who has preyed on more than 20,000 unsuspecting donors, collecting more than $1 million in the process.

Posted by orrinj at 1:01 PM


Fight for Syria's Aleppo exposes limits of Russian air power (Maria Tsvetkova and Christian Lowe, 8/29/16, Reuters)

Russia's politically-sensitive and ultimately fruitless decision to launch bombing missions on Syria from Iranian soil has exposed the limits to its air power, leaving Moscow in need of a new strategy to advance its aims.

People familiar with Russia's military said Moscow opted for the sorties from Iran - and Tehran agreed to allow them - because they were struggling to achieve their aim of crushing rebels in the city of Aleppo.

The gamble failed and rebels fighting their ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Aasad, remain ensconced in parts of Aleppo.

Posted by orrinj at 12:47 PM


Putin's Stooge (Owen Matthews , 8/28/16, Newsweek)

Not since the beginning of the Cold War has a U.S. politician been as fervently pro-Russian as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Just four years after his predecessor Mitt Romney declared Russia to be Washington's greatest geopolitical threat, Trump has praised President Vladimir Putin as a real leader, "unlike what we have in this country." Trump has also dismissed reports that Putin has murdered political enemies ("Our country does plenty of killing also," he told MSNBC), suggested that he would "look into" recognizing Russia's annexation of the Crimean peninsula and questioned whether the United States should defend NATO allies who don't pay their way. When Russian hackers stole a cache of emails in July from the Democratic National Committee's servers, as security analysts have shown, Trump called on "Russia, if you're listening," to hack some more.

"Trump is breaking with Republican foreign doctrine and almost every Republican foreign thinker I know," says Michael McFaul, U.S. ambassador to Russia from 2012 to 2014. "He is departing radically from Ronald Reagan, something never done by any Republican Party presidential candidate."

It's easy to see why Putin views Trump's ascendancy as a godsend--and why he mobilized his cyberspies and media assets to his aid, according to security analysts. "Trump advocates isolationist policies and an abdication of U.S. leadership in the world. He cares little about promoting democracy and human rights," continues McFaul. "A U.S. retreat from global affairs fits precisely with Putin's international interests."

Posted by orrinj at 12:31 PM

"HEY, WILLIE, I NEED A LOOP" (profanity alert):

SECRET LIFE OF A COUNTRY CLUB CADDY (Andrew Kahn, MAY 27, 2014, Narratively)

Country club caddying is much different than working for a professional golfer. You are not asked for distances on every shot or to read the green on every putt, nor do you have to be as concerned with the emotional state of your golfer. It has just one requirement: an ability to walk five miles with up to fifty pounds on your shoulders. Patience certainly helps. Even as a veteran, there were times I'd wait for a loop from seven a.m. until noon. There was an internal struggle between wanting to get on the course and knowing that's just the start of your work. "Gotta make a day's pay," Billy, who was also a full-time firefighter, would always say when you asked if he was sticking around.

Leaving was not easy, anyway. Communicating with the caddy master was like deciphering code. I'd ask whether it was worth staying and get a shrug in return. He'd catch me trying to leave and say, "Hey, where do you think you're going?" and I'd slink back to the bench like a dog who knows he's misbehaved. Two hours later he'd see me sitting there and say, "You're still here?" My friend and I were terrified of him and would play rock-paper-scissors to decide who'd talk to him. But he was fair. If he made you wait around one day he'd get you out early the next, often with a high-paying group.

Once on the course, I learned to zone out while still paying attention so I could get from the first tee to the eighteenth green in what seemed like less time than it really was. Splitting the round into smaller benchmarks was key. I'd tell myself, Just get to the fourth tee, then get through seven. I'd get a free Gatorade at the turn (after nine holes) and a hot dog for a dollar if I wanted. After I climbed the big hill on thirteen, I felt like I was heading home.

Sometimes I'd lose both my focus and sight of the ball. It was never good when I turned my head as if the ball was passing, only to hear it land twenty yards behind me. But even worse was when I didn't hear or see it at all. This warranted one of several stall tactics. The key was to let the golfer lead me to his ball, presuming he saw it. I've untied and retied my shoes, gone to the nearest water fountain to wet my towel, cleaned every club in the bag, stretched -- anything to kill the time until the golfer walked towards his ball. Of course, if neither of us saw it, I was screwed.

When the round was done, I'd put the money from each golfer in separate pockets. Once they were out of sight I counted it. A veteran looper told me the rate was $37.50 a bag when he started in 1996. It was $40 to $50 when I started and $60 to $70 by the time I stopped in 2008. Now it's up to $80 a bag, minimum. The super loopers doing two a day are making at least $320 in cash.

After a summer of single-bag loops and occasional one-and-ones (one bag and one putter from a cart-riding golfer, for half the fee of a bag), I graduated to doubles. The difference between carrying two bags compared to one is less than you think, physically, and if you're going to spend two hours sitting and another four on the course, you'd rather get $100 than $50.

Although, working for two golfers meant twice as many complaints. There are a few I've heard more than a hundred times: "I barely touched it" -- said when a golfer hammers a putt ten feet past the hole. "That's not fair. I hit that sooo well" -- said after a shot lands in a sand trap or the rough or some other undesirable location. And my favorite: "The ball's just not travelling well today" -- said when a golfer's shots repeatedly come up short of the green. I've never heard a golfer say the conditions were making the ball travel farther than usual. One time a woman I was caddying for hit a tree -- in plain sight no more than thirty yards away -- and yelled at her husband, "Why didn't you tell me that tree was there?"

It was always amusing when a horrible player would ask how far away a hole is and I'd tell him "about 135, 140," and he'd say, "Well, which is it? 135 or 140?" as if it mattered. More often than not he was going to shank it sixty yards anyway. And when he did, he'd likely blame it on his clubs. As I heard one golfer tell his annoying partner, "It's not the arrows. It's the Indian."

I saw caddies cheat for their golfers by moving a ball from the rough to the fairway. I even heard about a "hole-in-one caddy," fired a few years before I started, who turned good shots into lifetime memories on holes where the golfer couldn't see the green's surface, in the hopes of getting better tips. It sure as hell wasn't worth losing my job over something like that and I didn't care enough about how well my golfer played.

Never saw a caddie cheat for his golfer, but I've seen plenty cheat a golfer who was a jerk and/or a bad tipper.  It's easy enough to foot wedge one into the rough or step on one and bury the lie.

August 28, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:21 PM


10,000th Syrian reaches US this week in resettlement program (KARIN LAUB, Aug. 28, 2016, AP)

The U.S. will reach its target this week of taking in 10,000 Syrian war refugees in a year-old resettlement program, the U.S. ambassador to Jordan said Sunday, after meeting families headed to California and Virginia.

Posted by orrinj at 6:51 PM


Burden of Health-Care Costs Moves to the Middle Class (ANNA LOUIE SUSSMAN, Aug. 26, 2016, WSJ)

Growth in overall health-care spending is slowing, but middle-class families' share of the tab is getting larger, squeezing households already feeling stretched financially. [...]

The Kaiser Family Foundation, a health-care research nonprofit, found deductibles for individual workers have soared in the past five years, rising 67% since 2010 without adjusting for inflation, roughly seven times earnings growth over the same period. A separate Kaiser analysis of tens of millions of insurance claims found patient cost-sharing rose by 77% between 2004 and 2014, driven by a 256% jump in deductible payments.

"The growth in deductibles for workers shows no sign of slowing," said Larry Levitt, senior vice president at the foundation. "What consumers have been paying has been going up much faster than wages. Even people who are insured are having problems paying medical bills."

Transfer more and it will slow more.

Posted by orrinj at 5:02 PM


For Hillary Clinton and Democrats, a Public Shift Toward 'God-Talk' (SAMUEL G. FREEDMAN AUG. 27, 2016, NY Times)

The Clinton campaign, meanwhile, has given voice to the religious principle of love -- an explicitly Christian concept that is espoused by most monotheistic faiths -- as the root of liberal policies.

"It was extraordinary during the convention to hear this discussed explicitly and implicitly," said the Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III, the pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago and the author of a forthcoming book about the scriptural interplay of love and justice.

"Most of America views love in a very sentimental capacity," Dr. Moss said. "But the way God loves us -- agape -- is not about me liking someone or me feeling good about someone, but about God making a deep demand" on humans to seek the kind of equitable society that Dr. King termed "the beloved community."

Jennifer A. Herdt, a professor of Christian ethics at Yale Divinity School, made a similar observation.

"Liberals have been more comfortable talking about justice than love," she said. "What we're now seeing is the recovery of an understanding of love and justice as connected to each other, this notion of love reviving the heart of democracy. Because democracy has a heart. It's not just about your individual project. It's about coming together."

Indeed, Mr. Trump's serial disparagements of Muslims, Mexican immigrants, disabled people, African-American protesters and women -- and his campaign's popularity among white supremacists and anti-Semites -- gave the Democrats a wide berth to position themselves as the party of lovingkindness.

However expedient in this election cycle, the party's decision to use religiously inflected language reflects a shift. Of course, virtually every candidate for president has intoned the expected mantra "God bless America." The "civic religion" of Cold War America, with its evocation of a "Judeo-Christian tradition," was used by politicians of all stripes to contrast devout America from "godless Communism."

Yet the first Catholics to seek the presidency -- the Democratic candidates Alfred E. Smith, in 1928, and John F. Kennedy, in 1960 -- had to publicly promise not to take orders from the pope in order to quell bigoted attacks. On issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage and aid to parochial schools, the Democrats have coalesced around separation of church and state.

The one contrary example in modern liberalism was the civil rights movement. No matter how much progressives might wish to play it down, that political effort was organized by members of the clergy, mobilized through churches and infused with religious language. In a 1962 sermon, "Levels of Love," Dr. King based the quest for civil rights in agape's command that humans should emulate God by loving others, even their enemies, however different in class, race, religion, and political belief.

In this exceptionally divisive presidential campaign, such Christian language has connected to people in other faiths -- especially those who have been on the recent receiving end of bias and hate crimes.

"The language of the civil rights movement is deeply familiar to anyone who is familiar with the Quran," said Omid Safi, the director of Duke University's Islamic Studies Center. "One of the most-known verses in the Quran is that God commands you to engage in love and justice. And to love your fellow human being in that way is to merge with the divine current."

Valarie Kaur, a filmmaker and activist who is Sikh, said she heard in the convention's language a version of her religion's concept of "chardi kala," meaning to serve God and humanity through "relentless love and optimism."

"We've seen a resurgence of the language of love this election season for a reason," she said. "The escalation of hate and vitriol has been so extreme and confrontational that Americans are hungry for a potent language in return."

Posted by orrinj at 4:49 PM


Immigration Flip-Flop Leaves Trump Campaign Flailing on Sunday Shows : If his campaign team's performance on the Sunday shows this week tells us anything, it's that even they have no idea what his "new" immigration policy is. (Tim Mak, 08.28.16, Daily Beast)

Asked about the so-called "deportation force" that Trump had promised, vice presidential candidate Mike Pence said that the idea was a "mechanism, not a policy"--as if there was a distinction between the two. 
"I mean, you're going to hear more detail in next two weeks that lays out all the policies," Pence said on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday morning. "I think Donald Trump will articulate what we do with the people who are here... what you see going on right now--and I think, at a certain level, it's very refreshing, because it's the Donald Trump that I see every day--is, you see a CEO at work."

Gov. Chris Christie, who chairs Trump's transition team, seemed similarly unable to elucidate precisely what Trump's policy would be in coming days.

"There's going to be, you know, some decisions he's going to have to make as president regarding these folks, and I think what he's said [is] let's get let's first get all of the bad actors out of the country," Christie said on ABC's "This Week."

Meanwhile, on CBS's "Face the Nation," Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway couldn't answer the question of whether undocumented immigrants would need to deport themselves or whether there would be a "deportation force."  [...]

Those who have supported Trump's previous immigration stances are fed up. Mark Krikorian, who leads the anti-immigration Center for Immigration Studies, which is frequently cited by the campaign, told The Daily Beast earlier this week that he was a fan of the extensive immigration plan that Trump had put out last summer while running for the Republican nomination. 

"It's pretty detailed," Krikorian said. "It's just that he's never read it." 

If Trump is going to clarify his remarks, not even the chairman of the Republican National Committee seems to know exactly when that will be.

"You're going to find out from Trump very shortly. He's going to be giving prepared remarks on the issue I think very soon. I don't want to give a date," Reince Preibus dutifully told NBC's Chuck Todd on "Meet the Press."

There's a deliciously insipid quality to the whole notion of turning something these folks pretend is serious--illegal immigration--into a massive game of red rover, where all that we really require is that they cross a line and then step back over.
Posted by orrinj at 4:36 PM


Trump might already be out of time : With negative perceptions hardened, his late adjustments on policy and rhetoric could sway too few people to matter. (ELI STOKOLS 08/28/16, Politico)

The Republican nominee -- three months after clinching the nomination -- has begun frantically trying to reposition himself in the past week, installing a new campaign manager and controversial CEO to help him escape the straitjacket that his 14 months of incendiary comments and hard-edged policy positions have him in.

His task, GOP insiders readily concede, seems close to impossible. In an interview Wednesday night, Trump's new campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, recognized how long it may take to improve the public's negative perceptions of the GOP nominee, likening her turnaround project to turning a tanker.

Trump may not have that kind of time. Early voting begins in 26 days in Minnesota and in 32 other states soon after that. And already, as summer inches to its end, 90 percent of Americans say they've decided. For all the televised daily drama this race has provided, the final outcome itself is shaping up to be less dramatic than any presidential election since 1984.

"Kellyanne is good at this, but she's got a very damaged candidate and it's very late in the game," said Tony Fratto, a GOP operative in Washington and former deputy press secretary to President George W. Bush. "I think it's too late, in fact. I don't believe he can change. All of this is trying to trick voters into thinking there is a better Donald Trump out there. There is no better Donald Trump."

Posted by orrinj at 12:05 PM


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by orrinj at 11:58 AM


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

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

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

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

August 27, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 5:57 PM


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

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

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

Posted by orrinj at 5:50 PM


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by orrinj at 9:56 AM


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

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

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

Posted by orrinj at 9:51 AM


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by orrinj at 9:45 AM


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

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

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

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

Posted by orrinj at 9:40 AM


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by orrinj at 8:14 AM


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

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

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

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

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

Posted by orrinj at 8:08 AM


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

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

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

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

Posted by orrinj at 8:03 AM


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by orrinj at 7:56 AM


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by orrinj at 7:52 AM


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

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

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

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

Posted by orrinj at 7:47 AM


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by orrinj at 7:38 AM


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

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

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

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

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

Posted by orrinj at 7:33 AM


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

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

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

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

Posted by orrinj at 7:24 AM


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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by orrinj at 7:05 AM


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by orrinj at 6:42 AM


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

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

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

The San Diego Chicken will have a crowd.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 26, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 5:17 PM


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

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

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

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

Posted by orrinj at 2:55 PM


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

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

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

Posted by orrinj at 11:08 AM


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

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

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

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

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

Posted by orrinj at 11:01 AM


Posted by orrinj at 10:54 AM


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

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

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

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

Posted by orrinj at 10:50 AM


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

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

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

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

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

Posted by orrinj at 10:43 AM


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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by orrinj at 10:38 AM


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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by Glenn Dryfoos at 7:45 AM


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

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

His death was confirmed by his assistant, Maureen Sickler.

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

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

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

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

August 25, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:01 PM


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

Posted by orrinj at 4:43 PM


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

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

Posted by orrinj at 4:31 PM


Demystifying the Islamic State (Andrew Liepman and Colin P. Clarke, August 2016, Rand)

Of the three concentric circles that comprise the Islamic State group, the war is going better than expected against the two innermost circles--the first is the caliphate itself, the core of the Islamic State's organization. In the next outermost circle, the outlying areas of Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, Nigeria and Yemen, things are going reasonably well, as Islamic State affiliates in those countries are being slowly but steadily attenuated. Perhaps the most concerning is that last concentric circle, the amorphous and disconnected outer ring of lone wolves and small groups of jihadists inspired by Islamic State propaganda and ideology.

To counter the threat the Islamic State group poses to the Middle East and the West more broadly, it is crucial to understand what the terrorist organization is and what it is not, where it is truly dangerous and where its power and reach have limits. Attributing all jihadist violence to a ruthless gang headquartered in Raqqa, brilliantly planning attacks and managing their caliphate while pulling the strings near and far, exaggerates the power of the Islamic State group and plays into their propaganda and recruiting efforts.

First, the Islamic State is the caliphate, a defined territory stretching across parts of Iraq and Syria with its capital in Raqqa. The caliphate is more than just territory, however, as it remains a major attraction for foreign fighters traveling to the region to join the organization and differentiates the Islamic State group from its chief ideological competitor, al-Qaida. The caliphate is both the Islamic State group's greatest strength--it is what drew tens of thousands of volunteers--and its greatest vulnerability, as the dramatic battlefield defeats of late clearly show.

Second, the Islamic State group is a collection of provinces, affiliates, franchise groups or wilayats, not all of which are created equal. The Islamic State has claimed relationships with satellite groups in Libya, the Sinai Peninsula and Afghanistan, and has garnered bayat, or allegiance, from organizations or splinter groups of these organizations previously independent or formerly aligned with al-Qaida, including Boko Haram in Nigeria, al-Shabab in Somalia and others throughout the Muslim world. This haphazard collective of ne'er-do-wells should not be seen as more than it is. Some groups are, indeed, dangerous and enduring, but most--like the caliphate itself--are likely not.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, the Islamic State is an ideology. What it represents is the embodiment of Salafi jihadism and all of its undercurrents--anti-American, anti-Jewish and, of course, anti-Shia. This ideology motivates individuals and groups around the world to conduct attacks in the Islamic State's name, as happened in San Bernardino, Orlando and elsewhere. This third manifestation of the Islamic State group is the most insidious, unpredictable and difficult to eliminate.

Now, for what the Islamic State is not: It is not an existential threat on the order of the challenge the United States faced during the Cold War. It is not a nuclear-armed nation-state like the Soviet Union, nor is it a near-peer adversary, trained and equipped for conventional military operations like China, Iran or North Korea.

It's hardly fair to blame the UR for how easily he won his phase of the WoT.

Think the world is on fire? Obama's national security adviser says things are better than ever. (Zack Beauchamp, August 18, 2016, Vox)

The basic starting point, according to Rice, is that the world is better than it ever has been -- and it's getting better still:

We are in an era where, as the president has often said, if you didn't know who you were going to be, or whether you were going to be male or female; white, black, Asian, Native American, Latino, [or] something else; if you didn't know if you were going to be straight or gay -- if you didn't know anything about who you were going to be and you had to pick a time in which to be born...

You would pick this time. Because the odds of success for any individual are much higher in the aggregate than they've ever been.

Rice's support for this theory was a series of rattled-off metrics.

"More people are free of poverty than ever before, conflict between states is less than ever before, technology is providing extraordinary opportunities for advancement, and health and agriculture and well-being," Rice says. "Compare the era we're living in today to the losses we suffered in World War II or even in the Vietnam War, or compare the economic challenges we face now to the Great Depression."

Rice is right on the evidence. The number of people living at $1.25 per day or less declined by roughly 1.1 billion people between 1990 and 2015. The number of war deaths per 100,000 people worldwide has increased in the past three years, owing largely to the war in Syria, but is still far lower than it was even 20 years ago. Average global life expectancy worldwide was 48 in 1950; it was 71.4 in 2015.

Obama and his advisers see these improvements as the product of a network of global institutions and dominant ideas -- things like the global free trade regime, the United Nations, America's alliance networks in Europe and East Asia, and the like. They believe this basic international order has worked to make the world a much better place than it's ever been.

Because Team Obama sees the world's basic institutions through this very positive lens, they're focused on protecting them. The most important foreign policy task, for Team Obama, is to make sure the world keeps getting better.

That means, first and foremost, protecting the current system from things that threaten it.

"We can renew the international system that has enabled so much progress, or we can allow ourselves to be pulled back by an undertow of instability," Obama said in a 2014 address to the United Nations. "We can shape the course of this century, as our predecessors shaped the post-World War II age."

Think about the Obama administration's stated priorities over the years: the pivot to Asia, the push for global climate change agreements, the nuclear negotiations with Iran. Each was designed to address something that could at least theoretically threaten important parts of the system: a conflict-ridden relationship with China, catastrophic climate change, a nuclear Iran.

In those cases, the Obama administration was willing to take risks and spearhead ambitious new policy initiatives, because the tail risk of inaction was extremely high.

The administration is less willing to act, by contrast, when it comes to immediate crises -- significant problems that nonetheless don't pose systemic threats. The Obama administration has been very wary of getting pulled into a major involvement in Syria, for example, or a large-scale troop deployment to fight ISIS.

Posted by orrinj at 4:25 PM


Denouncing Trump's bigotry, Hillary Clinton flatters mainstream Republicans in order to demoralize them (Matthew Yglesias, August 25, 2016, Vox)

In a speech today on the subject of Donald Trump's ties to the "alt right," Hillary Clinton painted the GOP nominee as a dangerous racist with a history of discriminatory conduct and hateful rhetoric that dates back to before the beginning of his presidential campaign.

She also went out of her way to deny that this aspect of Trump and Trumpism has anything to do with the Republican Party mainstream.  [...]

Politically speaking, the key passage of Clinton's speech was one where she made an unusual move for a candidate and offered fulsome praise to the opposition political party. Rather than noting the ways in which Trumpism has ties to the GOP past, she highlighted elements of the Republican Party history that push in the opposite direction:

This is a moment of reckoning for every Republican dismayed that the party of Lincoln has become the party of Trump. It's a moment of reckoning for all of us who love our country and believe that America is better than this.

Twenty years ago, when Bob Dole accepted the Republican nomination, he pointed to the exits and told any racists in the party to get out.

The week after 9/11, George W. Bush went to a mosque and declared for everyone to hear that Muslims "love America just as much as I do."

In 2008, John McCain told his own supporters they were wrong about the man he was trying to defeat. Sen. McCain made sure they knew -- Barack Obama is an American citizen and "a decent person."

Clinton is flattering Republicans about their past to shame them about their present.

To reach the kind of electoral targets Clinton is currently aiming for in places like Arizona and Georgia -- or to help her party's House members who need to win in districts that are 4 or 5 points more Republican than the nation as a whole -- Clinton needs to win in places that are full of lifelong Republicans.

Posted by orrinj at 4:19 PM


Surprise! Fake Babies Actually Make Kids Think Teenage Motherhood is Awesome : A new study found that infant simulators increase teenage girls' odds of getting pregnant. (BECCA ANDREWS, AUG. 25, 2016, Mother Jones)

It's a common scare tactic in school systems that have the money to pull it off: Give teenage girls dolls that cry incessantly, need to be changed often, and basically acts like any newborn would. Make them take care of it for a grade. The exercise will, in theory, deter girls from pregnancy by having them deal with the consequences in advance, and it can earn them an easy A.

But in a new study, Australian researchers found that the exercise is doing more harm than good--when they compared girls in Australia who participated in the program to girls who did not, eight percent of the girls who carried the doll gave birth at least once while they were still in high school, compared with four percent of girls in the control group who never worked with the doll.

Posted by orrinj at 4:06 PM


Scotland Is The Latest Country To Run For A Day On Renewables Alone (CHARLIE SORREL 08.23.16, Co.exist)

As the world enjoys month after month of the hottest weather ever recorded, more and more countries (like Portugal and Costa Rica) are proving that renewables can provide enough electricity to exceed their entire power needs. Scotland is the latest to join the club: Its wind turbines recently supplied its entire energy needs for one day.

On Sunday, August 14, Scotland's wind turbines pumped 39,545 megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity into the grid, while the country's entire consumption was 37,202 MWh. That includes homes, factories, businesses, everything.

Posted by orrinj at 3:59 PM


AI Is Here to Help You Write Emails People Will Actually Read (Klint Finley, 8/23/16, Wired)

Respondable analyzes your messages as you write them, predicts how likely they are to get a response, and then suggests ways you can improve them. If your subject line it too terse, for instance, or the email's tone seems rude, it will tell you. In theory, this will make life easier for people on both ends on the exchange: The recipient the email will get clearer, more actionable emails, and the sender should be more likely to get a prompt response. The project is in its early days but it does give us a glimpse of how AI might work in concert with humans, not to take our jobs but to make our jobs a bit easier.

Posted by orrinj at 3:55 PM


Autism-Linked Genes Often Differ Between Siblings (Amy Norton, Aug. 25, 2016, HealthDay News) 

In families that have more than one child with autism, the gene variations underlying each child's disorder often differ, new research shows.

Posted by orrinj at 1:20 PM


The University of Chicago Doesn't Support 'Trigger Warnings' Or 'Safe Spaces' (Rachel Dicker, Aug. 25, 2016, US News)

"You will find [at Chicago] that we expect members of our community to be engaged in rigorous debate, discussion, and even disagreement," Dean of Students Jay Ellison wrote. "At times this may challenge you and even cause discomfort."

"Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so called 'trigger warnings,' we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual 'safe spaces' where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own," Ellison continued.

Posted by orrinj at 1:14 PM


In Praise of the Private Email Server : If you aren't secretary of state, it's actually a really smart idea. (Nat Meysenburg, 8/25/16, Slate)

For years, I've been trying to convince people that there is value in having an email server in your closet. But few seemed to really get it, so I often found myself wishing for a high-profile example to illustrate why it is a good idea. That wish has, in a way, come true: The casual news consumer has had the pleasure of hearing about a "private email server" quite a lot over the past year.

Let's begin with a disclaimer. It was a bad idea for Hillary Clinton, as secretary of state, to use a private email server for official State Department business--full stop. When you hold that, or any other, government position, you should assume that all of your emails will be part of the public record. This is a good thing. If you are a member of the Cabinet, the world will eventually have its chance to pick through your inbox, be it by Freedom of Information requests, congressional inquiry, leaking, hacking, or simply declassification after 50 years. This is a good thing. Best to just leave all business on the company mail server, and talk about your daughter's wedding elsewhere.

Having stipulated that, let's do something unheard of in an election year while talking about a nominee and leave the politics aside for minute. Let's not talk about Hillary Clinton the politician. Let's instead talk about Hillary Clinton as the example of a citizen exercising legal rights afforded to her by the Constitution, and how those rights were secured through self-hosting. More importantly, let's use the Clinton email saga as an example of how you, an average private citizen, could secure those very same rights through the simple act of putting a server in your home.

August 24, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 8:09 PM


Bernie Sanders's New Political Group Is Met by Staff Revolt (ALAN RAPPEPORT and YAMICHE ALCINDOR, AUG. 24, 2016, NY Times)

A principal concern among backers of Mr. Sanders, whose condemnation of the campaign finance system was a pillar of his presidential bid, is that the group can draw from the same pool of "dark money" that Mr. Sanders condemned for lacking transparency.

The announcement of the group, which was to be live streamed on Wednesday night, also came as the majority of its staff resigned after the appointment last Monday of Jeff Weaver, Mr. Sanders's former campaign manager, to lead the organization.

Several people familiar with the organization said eight core staff members have stepped down. The group's entire organizing department quit this week, along with people working in digital and data positions.

After the resignations, Mr. Sanders spoke to some who had quit and asked them to reconsider, but the staff members refused. [...]

At the heart of the issue, according to several people who left, was deep distrust of and frustration with Mr. Weaver, whom they accused of wasting money on television advertising during Mr. Sanders's campaign; mismanaging campaign funds by failing to hire staff or effectively target voters; and creating a hostile work environment by threatening to criticize staff members if they quit.

Claire Sandberg, who was the organizing director at Our Revolution and had worked on Mr. Sanders's campaign, said she and others were also concerned about the group's tax status -- as a 501(c)(4) organization it can collect large donations from anonymous sources -- and that a focus by Mr. Weaver on television advertising meant that it would fail to reach many of the young voters who powered Mr. Sanders's campaign and are best reached online.

"I left and others left because we were alarmed that Jeff would mismanage this organization as he mismanaged the campaign," she said, expressing concern that Mr. Weaver would "betray its core purpose by accepting money from billionaires and not remaining grass-roots-funded and plowing that billionaire cash into TV instead of investing it in building a genuine movement."

Far from leading a movement, Bernie will disappear without a trace. He was a moment and the moment failed even among Democrats against a weak rival.

Posted by orrinj at 8:05 PM


Charlie Sykes' Air War : How one of the most influential #NeverTrumpers is battling his party's nominee and questioning some long-held beliefs. (ERICK TRICKEY August 21, 2016,  Politico Magazine)

Since last year, the most influential political talk show host in Wisconsin has found out just how hard it is to be a #NeverTrump conservative on right-wing radio. Ever since Sykes began denouncing Donald Trump on the air--which he does just about every time he talks about the presidential election--he's strained his relationships with the listeners of his daily radio show.

Sykes' many arguments with listeners over Donald Trump's serial outrages have exposed in much of his audience a vein of thinking--racist, anti-constitutional, maybe even fascistic--that has shaken Sykes. It has left him questioning whether he and his colleagues in the conservative media played a role in paving the way for Trump's surprising and unprecedented rise.

A few days before the Wisconsin congressional primary in early August, Sykes seized on remarks by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan's opponent, Paul Nehlen, that raised the idea of deporting all Muslims, even American citizens. It's the kind of inflammatory rhetoric that has become the norm during a presidential cycle that has featured Trump's calls for immigration bans on Muslims, loyalty tests and mass deportations. A friendly and round-faced guy with glasses, Sykes, 61, doesn't even try to conceal his disgust, but a large segment of his listeners, like Audrey from Oshkosh, are eager to defend ideas that Sykes believes violate fundamental conservative principles.

"Yeah! Let me make a comparison, and I don't mean this in a bad way," Audrey says. "They're talking about phasing out breeding of pit bulls. Well, not all pit bulls are bad."

"You're comparing American citizens, Muslims, to rabid dogs," Sykes responds.

"No, I'm saying, they're talking about phasing out the breed because so many are bad. No one wants to phase out poodles! I mean, there's no Lutherans doing this! We never know when one of these people are going to be radicalized."

"One of these people," says Sykes.

Sykes ends the call. He's silent, broadcasting dead air. He looks upset, like he's stopped breathing. He goes to a commercial break.

"OK, that doesn't happen very often," he says off-air. "I'm not usually absolutely speechless." He says his listeners never talked like this until recently.

"Were these people that we actually thought were our allies?" he asks.

Posted by orrinj at 8:00 PM


Hillary Clinton has eased one of the biggest doubts about her capacity to be a good president (Matthew Yglesias on August 19, 2016, Vox)

As Donald Trump undertakes his second major campaign shakeup of the summer, it's worth reflecting on the remarkable stability of Hillary Clinton's 2016 quest for the presidency. Campaign chair John Podesta is exactly where he was a year ago. So are policy point man Jake Sullivan, communications director Jennifer Palmieri, spokesperson Brian Fallon, and basically everyone else.

The campaign is bigger than it was a year ago, with more field organizers and regional offices and an ever-expanded digital team. But fundamentally the team was put in place back when Joe Biden was seen as Clinton's main rival for the Democratic nomination.

The difference is stark: Trump appears to be running a pirate ship with endless mutinies on board while Hillary Clinton is running a well-disciplined battleship.

Posted by orrinj at 5:18 PM


Central Bankers' Main Challenge: Staying Relevant (GREG IP, Aug. 24, 2016, WSJ)

When central bankers gather this week in Jackson Hole, Wyo., they will be consumed not with some pressing crisis in the global economy but by an existential threat to their relevance.

The threat stems from the realization that the sluggish economic growth that has prevailed since 2009 may be here to stay. If so, then so are today's low interest rates.

Central banks set interest rates to balance investment and savings and thus keep economies fully employed and inflation stable. The interest rate that achieves that balance is called the natural rate. The fact that inflation and growth are now so sluggish despite ultra-easy monetary policy shows that the natural rate has fallen--by 1 to 2.5 percentage points since 2007 in the U.S., Canada, Britain and the eurozone, according to a recent Fed study. Fed policy makers think the U.S. natural rate is 3%, down from 4.5% before the recession. That's 1.5 percentage points less ammunition to counteract the next shock to the economy.

Won't Someone at the Fed Think of the Millennials? (Sid Verma, August 24, 2016, Bloomberg)

For the Federal Reserve to succeed in its mandated bid to anchor inflation higher, it needs to overcome a big demographic hurdle: millennials don't expect prices to rise anytime soon.

There's a good reason for that: Americans who entered the workforce from 2000 onwards have experienced a benign inflation climate, with core Personal Consumption Expenditure (PCE) price inflation averaging just 1.7 percent, below the Fed's 2 percent target. And the PCE rate hasn't breached 2.5 percent at any point since the turn of the millennium.

Central Bankers are guarding against a phenomenon that no longer exists and damaging the economy periodically by fighting it.  They need to adopt policies that are relevant to the deflationary epoch.

Posted by orrinj at 5:01 PM


Why Germans give their kids paper cones on the first day of school  (Deutsche-Welle, 8/23/16)

 By far the most important [ritual...associated with starting elementary school] the so-called "Schultüte," literally school bag or cone."

...would give kids cones not filled with ice cream.

Posted by orrinj at 4:53 PM


Trump's shrinking trade appeal evident in North Carolina (THOMAS BEAUMONT, 8/24/16, Associated Press)

 Hillary Clinton "owes the state of North Carolina a very big apology," Donald Trump thundered, condemning the loss of manufacturing jobs due to free-trade deals supported by the Democratic presidential nominee.

The attack line drew no more than polite applause at his event last week in Charlotte.

In the state that may be the most pivotal to Trump's White House bid, the audience for the Republican's chief economic pitch is shrinking by the day. Textile and furniture manufacturing no longer dominates the state's economy as it did a generation ago. Banking, technology and others industries have driven North Carolina's economic output to grow faster than any state in the past three years.

Voters are flowing into the state at a firehose rate -- young, educated and many who take high-paying jobs when they arrive. They're coming from everywhere and quickly diluting North Carolina's conservative political underpinnings.

"Clinton is winning," said North Carolina Republican pollster Michael Luethy. "Particularly because folks who have moved to the state in the last five years are very different voters. They're persuaded by a different issue set than those have been here a while."

Posted by orrinj at 4:48 PM


Why Trump Is Failing With College Grads : His dark message of decline doesn't resonate among voters with college degrees. (WILLIAM A. GALSTON, Aug. 23, 2016, WSJ)

The support of white voters with a college education is the key battle of the 2016 presidential contest, and Donald Trump is losing it. In 2012 Mitt Romney beat Barack Obama by 14 points among college-educated whites, according to exit polls. The average of top national surveys shows Mr. Trump trailing Hillary Clinton among these voters by nine points, and the latest Pew Research Center survey gives Mrs. Clinton a 14-point edge.

Unfortunately for Mr. Trump, these voters are more important than ever. As recently as 1988, whites without a college degree formed 54% of the electorate, compared with only 31% for whites with a four-year degree or more and 15% for nonwhite voters. A Center for American Progress analysis shows that by 2012, the noncollege white share of the electorate had fallen by 18 points to 36%, while college-educated white voters had risen five points to 36% and minority voters nearly doubled to 28%.

Posted by orrinj at 4:43 PM


Obama creates 87,500-acre national monument in Maine's North Woods (KEVIN MILLER, 8/24/16,

President Obama designated more than 87,500 acres of forestland in Maine's fabled North Woods as a national monument Wednesday in a historic but unilateral decision following years of fierce debate.

With the stroke of a pen, Obama created the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument - the second national monument in Maine history after Acadia National Park's precursor - on land east of Baxter State Park in an area facing severe economic uncertainty. The move is likely to delight conservation activists and infuriate local opponents fearful the designation is trading potential industrial-based opportunities in the Katahdin region for mostly seasonal tourism jobs.

The designation is a substantial yet partial victory for Roxanne Quimby, the wealthy co-founder of the Burt's Bees product line whose nonprofit, Elliotsville Plantation Inc., donated the land to the federal government this week. 

The Left voted for Eleanor Roosevelt but got Teddy.

Posted by orrinj at 4:36 PM


Old people are happier than young people, study finds (The Week, 8/24/16)

Getting old might not be as bad as it's cracked up to be. Though growing older inevitably comes with the aches and pains of an aging body, a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry added further evidence to the theory that it also comes with increased levels of happiness. After surveying 1,546 San Diego residents between the ages of 21 to 99, researchers found that the older people were, the happier they seemed to be.

Posted by orrinj at 1:36 PM


The Geo-Gamechanger? : Review of Chollet's The Long Game (Matt Gobush | August 22, 2016, Providence)

One of the many strengths of Chollet's account is, indeed, its inductive power: from the administration's varied approach to a diverse set of international challenges, he abstracts principles that capture the president's worldview. Obama's long game, Chollet posits, is defined by eight features: balance, sustainability, restraint, precision, patience, fallibility, skepticism, and exceptionalism. These are evidenced in the Administration's pivot to Asia (balance), handling of Afghanistan (sustainability), war against terrorism (precision), response to Russian aggression (patience), and so on. His analysis helps stitch together a coherent strategy from these disparate situations.

The "long game checklist," as Chollet refers to it, is revealing not only for what it includes, but also for what it does not. Largely absent from Obama's foreign policy has been a priority on the promotion of democracy, human rights, rule of law, and other progressive ideals. The author channels Reinhold Niebuhr's Christian realism and William James' pragmatism in describing the president's innate skepticism towards pursuing an ambitious values agenda. Obama's long game connotes realism and, as Chollet implies, an introspective realism focused on the means of exercising American power more than on the ends. Unlike his predecessors, Obama's legacy is not a vision of new world order, a bridge to a better future, or a struggle against an axis of evil, but a new understanding of America's potential and limits on the world stage.

While the book lives up to its goal of illuminating the "intellectual foundations" of Obama's foreign policy, it also confronts the hard cases in detail. Indeed, the first chapter is devoted to the Syria crisis, seen by many as Obama's norte mare. As Marc LiVecche and I argued in dueling essays in the spring issue of Providence, the red-line episode displayed the Obama doctrine's moral feebleness (my words) and bungling failure (LiVecche's). Chollet disarms our critiques--literally--by recalling a manifestly positive outcome of the tortured diplomatic episode: Assad's total and unconditional abandonment of his formidable chemical weapons arsenal. Even Israeli prime minister Netanyahu, a thorn in the president's side, readily acknowledges his nation and the world are safer as a result of Syria's chemical disarmament, however feeble and bungling the administration's rhetoric during the crisis. Advantage Chollet.

Chollet is less persuasive, however, in arguing that Obama's "unique style of foreign policy... is best suited to leadership in the twenty-first century." The surprising parallels he draws with the foreign policies of Republican predecessors Eisenhower, Nixon, and Bush 41 beg the question of whether the long game is a grand strategy more fit for containing rival superpowers, such as during the Cold War, than for managing asymmetric threats from rogue regimes and non-state actors, such as the United States and its allies face today.

One would prefer an Evangelical, like Reagan, Clinton or W, but a mere Republican will do.

Posted by orrinj at 1:31 PM


Trump aide accused Catholics of backing immigration to boost church (Rafael Bernal - 08/23/16, The Hill)

Steve Bannon, Donald Trump's new campaign CEO, previously accused Catholics of supporting Hispanic immigration to prop up the church's numbers on his radio program in the spring. 

"I understand why Catholics want as many Hispanics in this country as possible, because the church is dying in this country, right? If it was not for the Hispanics," Bannon told Robert P. George, a Princeton law professor who, along with dozens of other leaders, wrote an open letter to fellow Catholics denouncing Trump. 

"I get that, right? But I think that is the subtext of part of the letter, and I think that is the subtext of a lot of the political direction of this."

That's the text, not a subtext.

Posted by orrinj at 1:27 PM


This Florida Community May Unleash Genetically Modified Mosquitoes to Fight Zika and Dengue : Is it safe? A quick primer. (ERICA LANGSTONAUG. 22, 2016, Mother Jones)

Genetically engineered mosquitoes may sound like a sci-fi superbug out of a Steven Spielberg film, but these are the real deal. The altered insects are the latest approach to quell the spread of mosquito-borne diseases that claim an estimated 725,000 lives globally each year, not to mention Zika virus, which has spread rapidly in the Americas and causes alarming birth defects--and could turn out to affect the adult brain, too--but seldom kills.

Earlier this month, the Food and Drug Administration approved the first proposed US field trial of genetically modified mosquitoes. The trial is planned to launch in Key Haven, Florida, 161 miles south of the Miami-Dade neighborhood where the nation's first locally transmitted Zika cases have been detected--and five miles from the the heart of Florida's 2009-10 outbreak of dengue, a potentially deadly virus that can be spread by the same mosquito. Local opposition has stalled the release of the altered bugs, even as the Zika virus continues to spread in South Florida. Now residents in this island community will get to weigh in on the fate of the trial via a nonbinding local referendum this November. A majority of the mosquito control commissioners for the Keys, who have final say in the matter, have vowed to side with the locals. If a trial is approved, the mosquitoes could be let loose as early as December.

Didn't they kill enough people by opposing DDT?

Posted by orrinj at 1:22 PM


This Abortion Clinic Had to Shut Down Because It's Expensive to Protect Against Violence : Wisconsin is now down to two providers. (BECCA ANDREWSAUG. 23, 2016, Mother Jones)

A Planned Parenthood clinic in Appleton, Wisconsin, is closing down. But not because of the state's staunchly anti-abortion Legislature.

After two civilians and one police officer were killed at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs last November, the women's health care provider reworked its security plans for each affiliate. The Appleton clinic, which provides a range of reproductive health services beyond abortion to Wisconsin women, is unable to fulfill the new requirements. The closure of this clinic means Wisconsin is down to two Planned Parenthood clinics, 80 miles apart, that provide abortions--one in Milwaukee and one in Madison.

In 2015, anti-abortion activist David Daleiden released undercover videos that purported to show Planned Parenthood officials involved in selling fetal tissue--a federal crime. This led to a string of 12 state and four congressional investigations, but none revealed any evidence of wrongdoing by the provider. The videos did reinvigorate the anti-abortion movement, and threats of violence against abortion providers surged, culminating in the Colorado Springs clinic shooting.

For local affiliates, this has meant providing more security and, as Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin Chief Operating Officer Chris Williams told the Capitol Times, the Appleton facility was unable to meet the "more stringent and scrutinized approach." The Appleton clinic has experienced violence in the past. In 2012, anti-abortion activist Francis Grady threw a homemade explosive device through a window and damaged a small exam room. The facility was closed when the incident occurred, so no one was injured, and it reopened less than a week later.

The biggest concern was the state of the clinic building, Williams told the Capitol Times, and retrofitting it to make it secure would have cost nearly $300,000. He did not specify what precisely needed to be done. The clinic performed about 600 abortions per year, according to Williams.

Posted by orrinj at 1:18 PM


Major Mitt Romney 2012 Donors Shun Donald Trump in Favor of Down-Ballot Races (ALANA ABRAMSON  Aug 23, 2016, ABC News)

An ABC News analysis of several of Mitt Romney's biggest donors in 2012 revealed that they have so far declined to help fund Donald Trump's campaign, his joint victory fund or super PACs backing him, instead shifting their contributions to congressional election campaigns.

Hedge fund manager Paul Singer, an outspoken critic of Trump, donated $1 million to Restore Our Future, a super PAC that backed Romney in 2012, and $5 million this election cycle to Conservative Solutions, a super PAC supporting Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.

Singer, who earlier this summer said Trump's economic policies could cause a "global depression," also gave $2.5 million to Our Principles PAC, intended to stop Trump from winning the GOP nomination.

Posted by orrinj at 1:14 PM


Turkish tanks roll into Syria to confront Islamic State (AP AND AFP August 24, 2016)

Turkey's military launched an operation before dawn Wednesday to clear a Syrian border town of its Islamic State militants, and the country's state-run news agency said Turkish tanks had crossed into Syria as part of the offensive.

There is no Syria.

Posted by orrinj at 1:06 PM


The Scarecrow of National Debt (Robert Skidelsky, AUG 24, 2016, Project Syndicate)

A government that can issue debt in its own currency can easily keep interest rates low. The rates are bounded by concerns about inflation, over-expansion of the state sector, and the central bank's independence; but, with our relatively low levels of debt (Japan's debt amounts to over 230% of its GDP) and depressed output and inflation, these limits are quite distant in the UK and the US. And as the record bears out, continuous increases in both countries' national debt since the crash have been accompanied by a fall in the cost of government borrowing to near zero.

Posted by orrinj at 12:52 PM


Public Option Would Fix Health Insurance Marketplace (SCOTT LEMIEUX AUGUST 24, 2016, American Prospect)

[D]emocrats should take steps to address the health law's underlying problems. The obvious solution is one that surfaced repeatedly in the multiple draft versions of the legislation that eventually became the ACA, and that is now part of the 2016 Democratic Party platform: a public option. This would entail making a government-operated health-care plan available on public markets. Allowing good public insurance to compete would both ensure that decent, affordable insurance is available in all 50 states, and prevent power plays like Aetna's by making public insurance available as a backstop. If private companies can provide insurance that people want to buy at rates competitive with the public option, good. If they can't, this would also be fine, because the public sector would absorb a bigger share of the health insurance market, a positive development in itself.

What makes the public option desirable will also make it very hard to pass, of course, even in the event that Congress becomes more Democratic and more progressive after Election Day. Insurance companies know full well how a robust public option would eat into their customer bases and profits, and will fight it with everything they've got. Democrats should exhaust every avenue for winning a public option. But if they fall short, there are other ways to strengthen health insurance exchanges.

One of these, which has been advocated by Hillary Clinton, would be to lower the eligibility age for Medicare to 55, down from 65. This would be an easier political lift, and indeed, had it not been for then-Senator Joe Lieberman's desire to stick it to the liberals who had defeated him in the 2006 Democratic primary, it may well have been part of the original health-care statute. Expanding Medicare makes sense regardless, because it would make good public insurance available to more people. Importantly, it would also indirectly strengthen the exchanges by creating insurance pools that, on average, are younger and healthier. It's a win-win that Democrats on Capitol Hill, who are expected to take control of the Senate this fall and may even have an outside shot at regaining the House, should be able to pass.

Other potentially viable ways to strength the exchanges, as suggested by the University of Chicago's Harold Pollack, including making the subsidies available to people purchasing insurance more generous, and providing better compensation for insurers who end up with sicker-than-expected customer pools. As Pollack observes, the latter will be necessary because of a health-care measure approved as part of a 2014 spending bill that largely eliminated the so-called risk corridors that help insurers. The measure was championed by Republican Senator and presidential also-ran Marco Rubio of Florida. Rubio and his allies had framed the risk corridors as an unearned sop to the insurance industry--"a taxpayer-funded bailout." But that claim didn't hold water, because while insurance companies cannot deny coverage to applicants, they aren't actually required to sell on the exchanges. Rather than a gift, compensation for insurers with older, sicker customers ensures that they will remain in markets. Ultimately, Rubio's initiative did more to harm the middle-class people trying to buy health insurance than to the bottom lines of the insurance companies.

Yet another regulatory fix has been proposed by Henry Aaron of the Brookings Institution: expand the coverage pools by requiring everyone purchasing individual plans to do so through the exchanges. This approach is already in effect in the District of Columbia's health insurance exchange, one of the best-run in the country, and has proven to be successful.

Even as Democrats mull incremental fixes, they should keep their eye on what for many progressives is the long-term goal: European-style, comprehensive health insurance coverage.

Yes, the Public Option is a 'Trojan Horse' to Destroy Private Health Insurance (MARK HEMINGWAY, 8/24/16, Weekly Standard)

Recently, there's been renewed interest in reviving the "public option." Loosely, the public option is a policy proposal to create a giant government-run health insurer that would compete with private insurers. The rationale behind it is that a publicly run insurance company would be able to operate on lower overhead and provide health coverage significantly cheaper than private insurers.

The idea, which was dreamed up by Yale political science professor Jacob Hacker, first really came to public attention when it was bandied about in the run-up to Obamacare, before being dropped as too radical. However, with the Obamacare insurance exchanges in a precarious position because private insurers are losing money and dropping out of the system, President Obama has renewed calls for a "public option" to provide insurance coverage. Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has also come out in support of a public option, in part because she was pushed to the left on health in her bruising primary with socialist Bernie Sanders. (Sanders called his program "Medicare for all," and Hacker calls the public option "Medicare-like.")

Majority in U.S. Support Idea of Fed-Funded Healthcare System (Frank Newport, 5/16/16, Gallup)

Presented with three separate scenarios for the future of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), 58% of U.S. adults favor the idea of replacing the law with a federally funded healthcare system that provides insurance for all Americans. 

Trojan horse?  Americans would welcome the public option with open arms.

August 23, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 8:55 PM


I SPENT FIVE YEARS WITH SOME OF TRUMP'S BIGGEST FANS. HERE'S WHAT THEY WON'T TELL YOU. : How Donald Trump took a narrative of unfairness and twisted it to his advantage. (ARLIE RUSSELL HOCHSCHILD SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016, Mother Jones)

What the people I interviewed were drawn to was not necessarily the particulars of these theories. It was the deep story underlying them--an account of life as it feels to them. Some such account underlies all beliefs, right or left, I think. The deep story of the right goes like this:

You are patiently standing in the middle of a long line stretching toward the horizon, where the American Dream awaits. But as you wait, you see people cutting in line ahead of you. Many of these line-cutters are black--beneficiaries of affirmative action or welfare. Some are career-driven women pushing into jobs they never had before. Then you see immigrants, Mexicans, Somalis, the Syrian refugees yet to come. As you wait in this unmoving line, you're being asked to feel sorry for them all. You have a good heart. But who is deciding who you should feel compassion for? Then you see President Barack Hussein Obama waving the line-cutters forward. He's on their side. In fact, isn't he a line-cutter too? How did this fatherless black guy pay for Harvard? As you wait your turn, Obama is using the money in your pocket to help the line-cutters. He and his liberal backers have removed the shame from taking. The government has become an instrument for redistributing your money to the undeserving. It's not your government anymore; it's theirs.

I checked this distillation with those I interviewed to see if this version of the deep story rang true. Some altered it a bit ("the line-waiters form a new line") or emphasized a particular point (those in back are paying for the line-cutters). But all of them agreed it was their story. One man said, "I live your analogy." Another said, "You read my mind."

It's all about that fear that minorities are getting your welfare money. It's naturally exacerbated by the presence of a person of color in the Oval.

Posted by orrinj at 8:51 PM


Japan Turns to Illegal Foreign Workers as Farmers Age : Number found working illegally nearly triples in three years (Yoshiaki Nohara, August 22, 2016, Bloomberg)

Some farms are tapping cheap foreign labor. Japan generally doesn't accept migrant workers, but many companies use a so-called internship-training program as a back door. About 7,000 foreign workers entered the agriculture sector through this program in 2013 after passing exams at the end of their first year, according to the Ministry of Justice. That is more than double the number in 2007.

One advantage for Japan is that with the magnitude of the population bust they'll have plenty of free housing to offer.

Posted by orrinj at 8:47 PM


How I Won the Minnesota Twins' Mascot Race (Josh Voorhees, 8/23/16, Slate)

My high school cross country coach was a big believer in visualization. The day before an important meet, he'd have the entire team lie down on the grass or the gym floor, and he'd tell each of us to picture how the race would unfold. Two weeks ago, lying in my friends' basement the night before the most significant race of my adult life, I remembered what my coach told me. That night, I imagined myself in a bright-green fish costume, waddling to glory.

This was one of the least ridiculous things I did in the days after learning I'd get the chance to run in a mascot race at a Major League Baseball game. For the uninitiated, these in-game stunts typically involve a handful of people--sometimes fans, sometimes ballpark personnel--dressed in cartoonish costumes sprinting from the outfield to a finish line somewhere near home plate. It's a way to inject a little local (and promotional) flare into the downtime between innings, that time when most fans are looking for the bathroom or another beer. The Milwaukee Brewers have a sausage race. In Washington, D.C., the Nationals have the racing presidents. In Minnesota, where I'd be suiting up, the Twins stage a mascot race that features a bunch of anthropomorphized animals at every home game. Hey, it's better than being a Pepsi bottle or a hot sauce packet.

My friend, who works for one of the Twins' corporate sponsors, had managed to snag two of the five spots in the race in anticipation of my visit to Minneapolis. After I confirmed that this wasn't some kind of joke, I got down to work.

My first step was to scout the competition. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:34 PM


Hail and Farewell, Brother John McLaughlin (Pat Buchanan, 8/23/16, Imaginative Conservative)

In 1970, Fr. John heard another calling, and, declaring himself a liberal Republican, challenged Sen. John Pastore in his home state of Rhode Island. An unamused Sen. Pastore obliterated John by two-to-one. It was right after this election, while I was vacationing in the Bahamas, that, one morning, I encountered Father John in his Bermuda shorts at a hotel newsstand on Paradise Island. John was soon, at poolside, explaining to me why I, as a Catholic and a beneficiary of eight years of Jesuit education, had a moral obligation, a moral duty, to get him a job as a speechwriter in the Nixon White House. Over some resistance, we succeeded, and John was soon the oracle of the shop, known to younger speechwriters as, "The Rev."

When Watergate broke, Nixon's aide Dick Moore urged John to get out and use his speaking talents to defend the president. John was soon out on the front lawn of the White House preaching to large assemblies of writing press and TV cameras. Dick Moore told me, "Pat, I think we've created a monster." But John was a portrait in loyalty to the embattled president. When transcripts of the Oval Office tapes were released, containing the phrase, "expletive deleted," hundreds of times, and Dr. Billy Graham was publicly scandalized, John was unfazed. He stepped out on the White House lawn and immortalized himself by calling Richard Nixon, and I quote, "the greatest moral leader in the last third of this century." Now that is loyalty.

When President Ford came in, John, despite his resistance, was the first man out of the White House. To raise his profile, he asked me to contact William F. Buckley Jr., and get him on as a guest on "Firing Line." I wrote Buckley, and got back a letter that read in its entirety, "Dear Patrick: Intending no disrespect, who is the Rev. John J. McLaughlin, S. J.? Cordially, Bill." As it would have crushed John, I did not show him the letter, until he became famous. As he soon did.

John achieved a niche in the pantheon of television journalism when, in 1982, he launched "The McLaughlin Group." As one of the initial panelists, I was joined by Bob Novak of the perpetual scowl, known to colleagues as "The Prince of Darkness," Jack Germond and Mort Kondracke. Soon Eleanor Clift was aboard, and far from being discriminated against as a woman, she was treated every bit as badly as the rest of us.

Posted by orrinj at 2:51 PM


The Potential Pros and Cons of Clinton's Small Business Standard Tax Deduction (RICHARD RUBIN, Aug 23, 2016, WSJ)

· It could be much simpler for business to file taxes and could resemble the streamlined home office deduction rules that the Internal Revenue Service recently introduced. "It is a great idea," said Keith Hall, president and chief executive officer of the National Association for the Self-Employed. "The one thing that they never have enough of is time and this type of program would generate additional time for small businesses."

Posted by orrinj at 2:45 PM


Donald Trump Jacked Up His Campaign's Trump Tower Rent Once Somebody Else Was Paying It (S.V. Date, 8/22/16, The Huffington Post)

After bragging for a year about how cheaply he was running his campaign, Donald Trump is spending more freely now that other people are contributing ― particularly when the beneficiary is himself.

Trump nearly quintupled the monthly rent his presidential campaign pays for its headquarters at Trump Tower to $169,758 in July, when he was raising funds from donors, compared with March, when he was self-funding his campaign, according to a Huffington Post review of Federal Election Commission filings. The rent jumped even though he was paying fewer staff in July than he did in March.

Posted by orrinj at 2:41 PM


Trump staff posts racist comments on social media, AP review finds (AP, 8/23/16)
Donald Trump's paid campaign staffers on their personal social media accounts have declared that Muslims are unfit to be U.S. citizens, ridiculed Mexican accents, called for Secretary of State John F. Kerry to be hanged and stated their readiness for a possible civil war, according to a review by the Associated Press of their postings.

The AP examined the social media feeds of more than 50 current and former campaign employees who helped propel Trump through the primary elections.

Posted by orrinj at 2:36 PM


Did Colin Powell Advise Clinton To Use A Private Email? (Joe Conason, August 23, 2016, Newsweek)

[L]ast June, while reporting on Powell's advice to Clinton for my book, I contacted his office for comment--and got a very different answer.

His principal assistant, Margaret "Peggy" Cifrino, informed me then via email that their calendar showed that the Albright dinner had occurred in June 2009. While he didn't recall some details of the dinner because it had occurred seven years ago, according to Cifrino, he remembered what he did and didn't say to Clinton on the topic in question that evening:

He does recall sharing with Secretary Clinton his use of his email account and how useful it was and transformative for the Department. He knew nothing then or until recently about her private home server and a personal domain, nor, therefore, could he have advised her on that or suggested it. By June I would assume her email system was already set up.

So it is perplexing for him to say he doesn't remember that dinner conversation at all now, since, according to his own assistant, he remembered at least some of what he said as recently as two months ago.

Yet in another sense, it is hardly surprising that Powell would prefer not to be drawn into the center of the continuing controversy over Clinton's emails, a position he has carefully avoided so far.

Posted by orrinj at 2:30 PM


Offshore wind farm a green-energy milestone (Bill Loveless, 8/21/16, USA TODAY)

The $300 million wind farm is relatively small, with 30 megawatts of capacity, enough to power about 17,000 homes in Rhode Island, including dwellings on Block Island, where costly diesel fuel is used to keep the lights on.

The farm's impact may be much larger as it demonstrates the potential for offshore wind energy while coastal states such as Rhode Island, Massachusetts and New York  look increasingly to renewable energy to reduce their carbon emissions.

"It's really difficult for a utility to say, 'We'd like to see you build a couple of hundred megawatts' if no one has even been successful building 1 megawatt offshore," Grybowski said. "Utilities have seen the success of the Block Island project. That makes them comfortable with this new resource."

Grybowski is gearing up for his company's next big undertaking, one with the potential for up to 200 turbines with 1 gigawatt of capacity in 256 square miles of federal waters 30 miles southeast of Montauk, N.Y.

The Long Island Power Authority recently announced plans to acquire 90 megawatts of capacity from 15 Deepwater Wind turbines in the area, though the financial terms  need to be worked out.

August 22, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 9:03 PM


Business Economists Say Hillary Clinton Is Best for the Economy (BEN LEUBSDORF, Aug 22, 2016, WSJ)

A majority of business economists in a new survey said Hillary Clinton is the best choice to oversee the U.S. economy as president.

Her Republican rival, Donald Trump, didn't even come in second.

The National Association for Business Economics surveyed its members ahead of the Nov. 8 presidential election. Roughly 55% said Mrs. Clinton, the Democratic nominee, would do the best job of managing the economy.

About 14% picked Mr. Trump--slightly less than the 15% who selected Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson and the 15% who said they didn't know or had no opinion. ( The figures didn't add up to exactly 100% due to rounding.)

...given that he's pro-trade and pro-immigration.

Posted by orrinj at 8:57 PM


Cutting corporation tax will make Theresa May's Brexit talks 'more difficult', European leaders warn (Steven Swinford  Michael Wilkinson , 22 AUGUST 2016, The Telegraph)

Theresa May's Brexit negotiations with the European Union will be "more difficult" if she cuts corporation tax, European leaders have warned.

Stefan Loefven, the Swedish Prime Minister, said that any "aggressive" tax cuts by Britain will damage relations with the European Union.

Posted by orrinj at 8:47 PM


Meet the voters jumping off the Donald Trump train (DANIEL DALE, Aug. 21, 2016, The Star)

[Kimberly] McBride, a former teacher with health challenges, is struggling to pay her mortgage and she was drawn to Trump's economic message. She was aghast, though, when he invited Russian hackers in late July to obtain Clinton's emails. When he then insulted the Muslim parents of a soldier killed in Iraq, she broke with her husband and flipped to Clinton.

The Khan controversy appears to have been a campaign tipping point. Polls suggest that well over half of Republicans disapproved of Trump's furious response, which reinforced Clinton's criticism of his temper.

Posted by orrinj at 8:37 PM


A Trump campaign office in Colorado is being run by a 12-year-old (The Week, 8/22/16)

In the crucial swing state of Colorado, Donald Trump's Jefferson County campaign is being run by someone who is too young to vote ... or even drive. Weston Imer, 12, in in charge of organizing volunteers in the county, which is part of the Denver metro area and has a population of about 552,000.

Posted by orrinj at 1:58 PM


Pence Laughs at Trump's Claim to 95% of Black Support (Daily Beast, 8/22/16)

Republican vice-presidential nominee Mike Pence doesn't seem to take seriously Donald Trump's boast that he'll have 95 percent of the black vote in 2020. During a Monday morning pre-taped interview with Fox News, host Ainsley Earhardt mentioned how "Donald Trump is telling the African-American community 'I am the guy for you,' and he says by 2020 he's going to have 95% of the African-American support." Pence chuckled in response, prompting Earhardt to ask, "Why are you laughing?" Pence then immediately deflected: "Well, that's Donald Trump. Look, he has a heart for every American. And also he's a truth teller. He speaks the truth. It's been the failed policies of Democratic politicians that have harmed people living in the cities in this country now for generations... [A]nd his optimistic view about the 2020 when he's running for re-election, that's pure Donald Trump."

Posted by orrinj at 1:48 PM


Trump now says he plans to legalize some undocumented immigrants (Eduardo Suárez, August 20, 2016, Univision)
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump plans to present an immigration plan in Colorado Thursday that will include finding a way to legalize millions of undocumented immigrants, according to three people who attended a meeting between the candidate and Hispanic leaders on Saturday at Trump Tower in New York.

"I really liked that Trump acknowledged that there is a big problem with the 11 million [undocumented] people who are here, and that deporting them is neither possible nor humane," said Jacob Monty, a Texas immigration lawyer who attended the meeting.

Trumpets presumably being attracted by both the impossible and the inhumane.

Posted by orrinj at 1:42 PM


I Know Trump's New Campaign Chairman, Steve Bannon. Here's What You Need To Know. (BEN SHAPIRO AUGUST 17, 2016, Daily Wire)

5. Under Bannon's Leadership, Breitbart Openly Embraced The White Supremacist Alt-Right. Andrew Breitbart despised racism. Truly despised it. He used to brag regularly about helping to integrate his fraternity at Tulane University. He insisted that racial stories be treated with special care to avoid even the whiff of racism. With Bannon embracing Trump, all that changed. Now Breitbart has become the alt-right go-to website, with Yiannopoulos pushing white ethno-nationalism as a legitimate response to political correctness, and the comment section turning into a cesspool for white supremacist mememakers.

Posted by Glenn Dryfoos at 6:46 AM


Welcome to "All That Jazz," a weekly (I hope) feature on where I will provide short reviews of some of my favorite jazz recordings. My goals are to introduce you to musicians and music you may not be familiar with, entice you to listen to some great music and, perhaps, spark your own quest to learn about this great and uniquely American art form.   (I know that the "uniquely American" thing is overused...but in this case, it really is true.)  I will try to make these pieces accessible to both jazz fans and casual listeners.

A few things before we get to our first installment:

·      When I say these will be "short" reviews, I mean short...ranging from a few sentences to maybe 2 paragraphs.  This will be a test for me, as I could go on and on about any of these recordings, spinning off into background on each of the players, comments about the songs and their composers and all sort of tangents and anecdotes.   But I have a real job and family, and despite OJ's predictions about the imminent demise of labor, I'm guessing most of you have jobs or other obligations, too.  So the quicker you get through my notes and start listening to the music, the better for all of us.  (This intro will be far longer than anything I write about a given recording.)

·      I will alternatively refer to the subject of my pieces as "recordings," "CD's," "albums" and, G-d help me, I may even slip sometimes and call them "records."   I do most of my listening on via iTunes over my laptop, iPad or may still have a vinyl fetish...but whatever I call them, you'll know what I mean.

·      My taste in jazz runs the gamut of the music from Louis Armstrong's Hot Five and Hot Seven recordings in the 1920's through whatever was debuted by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra last night.  But the focus of most of what you see here will be "straight ahead" jazz...the mostly acoustic, mostly swing-standards-and-blues-based music that arose in the 1930's and continues to be the primary form of jazz performed today.  This music encompasses genres such as swing, bebop, hard bop, cool, West Coast and others.  I may sometimes write about earlier forms of the music, more "out" or avant garde styles, or jazz "fusion", but it won't be too often.

·      I will usually comment on albums...that is, compilations of individual songs...although sometimes I will focus on one particular recording of a song that blows me away or, perhaps, various recordings of the same composition by different players.  (For those of you who are new to this, there is a canon of standard songs familiar to all jazz musicians and most fans...many written by the great early- and mid-century pop and Broadway composers such as the Gershwin brothers, Cole Porter and Rogers & Hart and many by jazz musicians such as Duke Ellington and Thelonious Monk.  In jazz these written "standards" are used as springboards for improvised solos based on the melodies and harmonies of the songs.)

·      The CD's chosen will not always be the greatest (whatever that means) or most famous examples of the music...although sometimes they will be.  What they will be are personal favorites of mine or the music I'm listening to at the time. 

·      For every recording, I will provide a link to or other online seller and, if available, a link to a YouTube post of a tune from the album or at least a representative video of the same artist.

·      I enjoy all instruments that jazz is commonly played on...heck, the subject of my first review below is a harmonica player... but my real love is the saxophone.  So expect to see sax players over-represented here.  My all-time favorites and personal heroes are Benny Carter and Sonny Rollins.  I won't bury you with the music of these titans, but if you were to only study their output (Benny's recording career spanned from 1927 - 1990 and Sonny's started in 1949 and continues to this day), you'd have a have a deep understanding of the beauty, intelligence, humor, elegance and exuberance that can be found in great jazz performances.

·      I'm calling this feature "All That Jazz" after the Benny Carter tune of the same name (and not in honor of the lame and non-jazzy Kander & Ebb song from the musical "Chicago").  I couldn't think of anything better...although given the time of day I will write most of these, "Round Midnight" was also in the running.  If you have a better suggestion, I'm open.

·      I welcome comments, feedback, debate, opinions or whatever.  I'm not sure whether the best way to do this will be through the "comments" section or some other system the Brothers Judd will set up.  But if you write a comment, I will read it and respond (if appropriate), and if requested, will recommend other albums by the same artist or other worthwhile recordings in the same genre.

That's it.  I hope you enjoy reading these as much as I'm looking forward to writing them.
Jean "Toots" Thielemans, Man Bites Harmonica (1958)

YouTube: East of the Sun

Even if you've never listened to jazz, I promise you that you have heard Toots Thielemans.  It was his harmonica playing the theme songs to the TV shows Sesame Street and Sanford and Son and the film Midnight Cowboy, and his whistling (!) in commercials for Old Spice, Pinesol and other products.  But foremost, Toots is a first rate jazzman on harmonica and guitar.   Born in Brussels, he recently retired from active touring and recording at the age of 92.  

My favorite Toots' album is Man Bites Harmonica, a 1958 release featuring Toots on a front line with the great baritone sax player Pepper Adams and supported by a top-notch rhythm section of Kenny Drew (piano), Wilbur Ware (bass) and Art Taylor (drums).   The band plays a nice mix of lightly swinging standards (kicked off by my favorite tune, "East of the Sun"), ballads and blues.  Toots shows off his sax-inspired bebop-ish chops on the harmonica and a fluid technique and ringing tone (reminiscent of Herb Ellis or Kenny Burrell) on guitar, Pepper is at his gruff, discursive best, and the rhythm section cooks at just the right temperature throughout.  The YouTube clip above is the opening tune, "East of the Sun," and will give you the flavor of this album.  Another favorite of mine is their rendition of "Struttin' With Some Barbecue," a song recorded by Louis Armstrong's Hot Five in the late 20's, and not a tune usually played in more modern settings.

[originally posted : 9/19/14]

August 21, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 10:03 AM


Present at the Creation : The never-told-before story of the meeting that led to the creation of ISIS, as explained by an Islamic State insider. (HARALD DOORNBOS, JENAN MOUSSA, AUGUST 16, 2016, Foreign Policy)

In mid-April 2013, Abu Ahmad noticed a dark red-brown car pull up in front of the headquarters of Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen (MSM), a Syrian jihadi group led by Abu al-Atheer, in the northern Syrian town of Kafr Hamra.

One of Abu Ahmad's friends, a jihadi commander, walked up to him and whispered in his ear: "Look carefully inside the vehicle."

The car was nothing special: not new enough to attract attention but not a jalopy, either. It wasn't armored and it did not have a license plate.

Inside the vehicle sat four men. Abu Ahmad recognized none of them. The man sitting behind the driver wore a folded black balaclava like a cap. On top of it was a black shawl, falling over his shoulders. He had a long beard. Except for the driver, all occupants held small machine guns on their laps.

Abu Ahmad could see that there was no extra security at the gate of the headquarters. As usual, just two armed fighters stood guard in front of the entrance. The internet connection at the headquarters was working normally. To him, there didn't seem to be any sign that today was different from any other day.

But after the four men got out of the car and disappeared into the headquarters, the same jihadi commander walked up to him again and whispered "You have just seen Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi."

Since 2010, Baghdadi had been the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), al Qaeda's affiliate in that war-torn country. According to Baghdadi's own account, he sent Abu Muhammad al-Jolani as his representative to Syria in 2011, instructing him to set up the Nusra Front to wage jihad there. Until the beginning of 2013, ISI and Nusra worked together. But Baghdadi wasn't satisfied. He wanted to combine al Qaeda's Iraqi and Syrian affiliates to create one outfit that stretched across both countries -- with him, of course, as the leader.

Every morning, for five days in a row, the red-brown car dropped off Baghdadi and his deputy, Haji Bakr, at the headquarters of MSM in Kafr Hamra. Before sunset, the same car with the same driver would pick them up from the headquarters and take Baghdadi to a secret location for the night. The next morning, the car would come back to drop off Baghdadi and Bakr.

Over the course of those five days, inside the headquarters of MSM, Baghdadi talked extensively to a group of important jihadi leaders in Syria. These were some of the world's most wanted men, all gathered in one room, sitting on mattresses and pillows on the ground. They were served breakfast and lunch: roasted or grilled chicken and french fries, tea, and soft drinks to wash it down. Baghdadi, the most wanted man in the world, drank either Pepsi or Mirinda, an orange-flavored soda.

In addition to Baghdadi, the participants included Abu al-Atheer, the emir of MSM; Abu Mesaab al-Masri, an Egyptian jihadi commander; Omar al Shishani, a leading Chechen jihadi who had come to Syria from Georgia; Abu al-Waleed al-Libi, a jihadi leader from Libya who had come to Syria; Abed al-Libi, an emir in the Libyan Katibat al-Battar group; two Nusra intelligence chiefs; and Haji Bakr, Baghdadi's second in command.

Abu Ahmad was fascinated by the congregation of so many senior commanders. During breaks in the talks, he would walk around the headquarters, speaking to people who attended the meeting. Abu Ahmad was full of questions: Why did Baghdadi come from Iraq to Syria? Why did all these commanders and emirs meet with him? And what was so important that Baghdadi himself discussed for days on end?

The answer to Abu Ahmad's questions could be found in a speech made by Baghdadi, shortly before the Kafr Hamra meeting. On April 8, 2013, Baghdadi announced that his organization had expanded into Syria. All jihadi factions there -- including Nusra -- had to submit to his control. "So we declare while relying on Allah: The cancellation of the name Islamic State of Iraq and the cancellation of the name Jabhat al-Nusra, and gathering them under one name, the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham," he intoned.

"The sheikh is here to convince everybody to abandon Jabhat al-Nusra and al-Jolani," one of the participants in the talks told Abu Ahmad. "Instead, everybody should join him and unite under the banner of ISIS, which soon will become a state."

Baghdadi, however, faced one big problem in realizing his goal. The assembled emirs explained to the ISI chief that most of them had sworn allegiance to Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's chosen successor and the leader of al Qaeda. How could they suddenly abandon Zawahiri and al Qaeda and switch to Baghdadi?

According to Abu Ahmad, they asked Baghdadi during the meeting: Have you pledged allegiance to Zawahiri?

Baghdadi told them that he had indeed pledged allegiance, but hadn't declared it publicly, per Zawahiri's request. But Baghdadi assured the men that he was acting under the command of the al Qaeda leader.

The jihadi leaders had no way to check if this claim was true. Zawahiri was perhaps the most difficult person in the world to contact -- he had not been seen in public in years, and is still in hiding, most probably somewhere in Pakistan or Afghanistan.

With Zawahiri unable to mediate the dispute himself, the jihadi leaders had to make up their own minds. If Baghdadi acted on behalf of Zawahiri, there was no doubt they had to follow the order to join ISIS. But if Baghdadi was freelancing, his plan to take over Nusra and other groups was an act of mutiny. It would divide al Qaeda and create fitna, or strife, between all the jihadi armies.

So the commanders gave Baghdadi a conditional allegiance. "They said to him: 'If it is true what you are saying, then we will support you,'" Abu Ahmad told us.

Baghdadi also spoke about the creation of an Islamic state in Syria. It was important, he said, because Muslims needed to have a dawla, or state. Baghdadi wanted Muslims to have their own territory, from where they could work and eventually conquer the world.

The participants differed greatly about the idea of creating a state in Syria. Throughout its existence, al Qaeda had worked in the shadows as a nonstate actor. It did not openly control any territory, instead committing acts of violence from undisclosed locations. Remaining a clandestine organization had a huge advantage: It was very difficult for the enemy to find, attack, or destroy them. But by creating a state, the jihadi leaders argued during the meeting, it would be extremely easy for the enemy to find and attack them. A state with a defined territory and institutions was a sitting duck.

Abu al-Atheer, the MSM emir, had already told his fighters before the arrival of Baghdadi that he was very much against declaring a state. "Some people are talking about this unwise idea," Atheer told his men. "What kind of madman declares a state during this time of war?!"

Omar al-Shishani, the leader of the Chechen jihadis, was equally hesitant about the idea of creating a state, said Abu Ahmad. There was a reason why Osama bin Laden had been hiding all these years -- to avoid getting killed by the Americans. Declaring a state would be an open invitation to the enemy to attack them.

As The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright is the singular text on Al Qaeda in the run-up to 9-11, so The ISIS Apocalypse: The History, Strategy, and Doomsday Vision of the Islamic State by William McCants is the outstanding book on Baghdadi and company.

Obviously a group that has caused as much death, misery and Mayhem as ISIS has to be taken seriously, but an account of its history and ideology can't help but be comical.  Nevermind how frequently Mr. McCants portrait of a rising jihadi and the imminent threat he represents ends with the character being killed by a US missile attack, consider instead just the impossibility of ISIS ever realizing its goals. We can start with the one the Al Qaeda skeptics enunciated above and continue from there:

(1) In order to be a legitimate potential political alternative, the jihadists have to demonstrate that they can take and hold or create a state.  But the attempt does nothing, in reality, but to make it easier for the US to acquire targets.  In essence, none of the public structure of a state can be brought into existence without our proceeding to destroy it.

(2) On the other hand, the inability to institute a caliphate--a state run by the jihadis' notions of totalitarian Islamicist governance--delegitimizes the group and its message.

(3) Suppose, however, that reality were radically different and the US and the West (and the Turks and the Iranians, etc.) all ceased paying attention to the Arabian Penninsula and allowed the Salafi radicals to establish their caliphate.  As Mr. McCants recounts, the legitimacy of that regime would depend on its capacity to deliver decent lives to those living under its rule.  And, of course, it would have to exceed the capacity of rival regimes--the Western model--to deliver prosperity, security, justice, etc., in order to demonstrate its superiority.  As a slew of other isms have amply proven, there are no real competitors here at the End of History.

(4) Legitimacy would also depend on Muslims choosing to live under such a regime, which they stubbornly refuse to do--taking up arms against it or fleeing to the hated West. Indeed, ISIS has been forced to use such brutal methods to repress the locals that it tends to undermine its own claims to representing the popular will, fails to govern in conformity with the standards required of the genuine Caliphate and makes the prospect of its success repellent to even those Sunni Muslims it is ostensibly trying to appeal to.

(5)  Nor is it just the methods that ISIS employs that are problematic; it is also the men wielding those methods.  The military forces of ISIS are dependent on former Ba'athist officers, ignorant foreign fighters attracted to the war for non-religious reasons, and various and sundry psycho and sociopaths.  The resulting brutality and corruption are hardly consistent with the idea of establishing a religious utopia. And the presence of non-Arabs is a tough sell in what are still tribal regions. Even if Allah were sending an army to help the faithful restore the Caliphate, this surely isn't the best he could do, is it?

(6) And here we get to the theological problems that ISIS faces.  It's not just the inferior quality of the armed forces and their leadership, but the whole movement depends on the idea that it is being led by the Allah-sent Mahdi who is preparing the world for the End Times.  It is sufficient for us as Christians that this is nothing more than heresy and that there is no possibility of a Mahdi to recognize the futility of the whole enterprise.  But, taken on its own terms, the declaration by ISIS that the Mahdi is here and the Caliphate restored requires--as a purely theological matter--that they succeed.  A Mahdi and a Caliphate that are being pummeled as relentlessly as those in Syria today stand as a rebuke to the theology itself.  The Apocalypse is, obviously, not supposed to result in Christians, Jews, Shi'a, Alawites, Kurds, Persians, Turks and the rest standing victorious on the battlefield while the jihadi lower their black battle flag and run for cover.

Taken as a whole, these weaknesses make it clear that while the Salafi jihadists were a terribly destructive force, briefly, and will likely remain a terrorist threat for some time, they are not and never were a serious geo-political threat.  There can be no Clash of Civilizations where only one exists.

Posted by orrinj at 9:36 AM


Ennahda brings fresh blood to party's new Executive Bureau (Myriam Ben Zineb, July 29, 2016, Al Monitor)

Ghannouchi said the new composition, which includes "veiled and unveiled" women as well as young members, consolidates the orientations announced at the congress.

He indicated that the election of Laadhari as secretary-general serves as a positive message to young people and reflects the will of the party to strengthen the presence of young figures on different levels.

By appointing moderates such as Laadhari and Ounissi, Ghannouchi seems to be attempting to shift the party from "a religious" party toward a more "civil" party, which he himself announced at the congress.

In fact, these modern and moderate young people with strong academic credentials breathe new life into the party and undoubtedly shine its image, which is too often seen as "retrograde."

The Executive Bureau of Ennahda has been renewed by 50% and "feminized" by almost 25%. It now has members belonging to the "three generations of the party" and includes some of Ennahda's executives who held ministerial posts, others who have served abroad, those who remained in Tunisia, those who had spent years in prisons and others long known for their militancy. "A true complementary combination," Laadhari said.

Posted by orrinj at 9:31 AM


Clinton fans fears about trade with Salazar (Vicki Needham, 08/20/16, The Hill)

Hillary Clinton has rankled anti-trade groups by hiring former Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Colo.) as her transition team leader.
Salazar, who also served as secretary of the Interior Department under President Obama, has expressed support for the trade deal with 11 countries spanning the Pacific Rim.

Posted by orrinj at 9:29 AM

60 in '16:

Trump effect spills into Pennsylvania Senate race (Lisa Hagen, 08/21/16, The Hill)

Sen. Pat Toomey is feeling the ripple effect of Donald Trump's sagging poll numbers in the critical battleground state of Pennsylvania.

Up until a few weeks ago, the GOP senator was consistently leading Democrat Katie McGinty in this year's most expensive Senate race so far.

But if Hillary Clinton maintains her double-digit edge in the Keystone State, pollsters and strategists don't see how Toomey can withstand Trump's down-ballot drag.
"That's got to be a red flag for Toomey who looked like he was cruising along," said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, which has McGinty up 3 points and Clinton surging by 10 points. A month earlier, the survey had Toomey leading by 10 points and Trump by 2 points.

Posted by orrinj at 9:25 AM


THE TRUMP TAX  (Vox, August 21, 2016)

The 2016 presidential election was supposed to be close -- but Republicans should have had the edge.

An election forecast built by Vox and a team of political scientists projects that a generic Republican should win 50.9 percent of the two-party vote in 2016. But Donald Trump isn't a generic Republican -- and he is polling at 45.3 percent of the two-party vote, according to the Huffington Post Pollster. The difference between those numbers -- 5.6 points, as of today -- is what we're calling the Trump Tax: the electoral penalty Republicans appear to be paying for nominating Trump.

Posted by orrinj at 9:00 AM


With a comfortable lead, Clinton begins laying plans for her White House agenda (Anne Gearan, John Wagner and Dan Balz, August 20, 2016, Washington Post)

Hillary Clinton's increasingly confident campaign has begun crafting a detailed agenda for her possible presidency, with plans to focus on measures aimed at creating jobs, boosting infrastructure spending and enacting immigration reform if current polling holds and she is easily elected to the White House in November.

In recent weeks, as her leads over GOP nominee Donald Trump have expanded, Clinton has started ramping up for a presidency defined by marquee legislation she has promised to seek immediately. The pace and scale of the planning reflect growing expectations among Democrats that she will win and take office in January alongside a new Democratic majority in the Senate.

While careful not to sound as if she is measuring the draperies quite yet, Clinton now describes what she calls improved odds for passage of an overhaul of immigration laws -- the first legislative priority she outlined in detail last year -- and what could be a bipartisan effort to rebuild the nation's roads, bridges, airports, rail system and ports. [...]

Clinton has lately been telling Democratic audiences about her growing support among Republicans and touting what she says is a record of successfully working across the aisle to get things done. Her campaign regularly trumpets Republican endorsements and GOP disavowals of Trump.

She should take advantage of this opportunity to propose the sorts of business/consumption tax trade-offs that also have bipartisan support.

STUDY: Every $1 Of Infrastructure Spending Boosts The Economy By $2 (Lucas Kawa, Nov. 30, 2012, Business Insider)

A recently published working paper from the San Francisco Fed shows that the fiscal multiplier of infrastructure spending is much larger than the typical government spending multiplier.

Sylvain Leduc and Daniel Wilson studied the effect of unexpected infrastructure grants on state GDPs (GSPs) since 1990 and found that, on average, each dollar of infrastructure spending increases the GSP by at least two dollars. Valerie Ramey, Professor of Economics at UC San Diego and member of the National Bureau of Economic Research, reports that the typical fiscal multiplier is between 0.5 and 1.5.

How Immigrants Boost U.S. Economic Growth (Diana Furchtgott-Roth, December 2, 2014, Fiscal Times)

Immigration benefits America in at least two ways. First, increased immigration expands the American workforce and encourages more business start-ups. Second, immigrants increase economic efficiency by raising the supply of low- and high-skilled immigrants. In many cases immigrants' educational backgrounds complement, rather than displace, the skills of the native-born labor market.

For instance, on the low-skill end of the spectrum, 91 percent of native-born Americans hold high school diplomas or higher, whereas only 62 percent of noncitizens do. Immigrants account for about 16 percent of the U.S. labor force, with 24.3 percent of workers who are foreign-born and over the age of 25 not completing high school, compared with merely 4.8 percent of native-born workers. These immigrants work in the agriculture and leisure and hospitality sectors.

Immigrants provide much of the low-skill labor for these industries. Without the immigrant labor, prices consumers pay for hotels and restaurants would be substantially higher, and some agriculture might migrate offshore.

On the high-skill end of the spectrum, 56 percent of engineering doctoral degrees, 51 percent of computer science doctoral degrees, and 44 percent of physics doctoral degrees were awarded in 2011 to students who were neither U.S. citizens nor permanent residents. National Science Foundation data show that 163,000 foreign graduate students studied science and engineering in U.S. universities in 2010, up from 152,000 in 2008.

Immigrants benefit from, and disproportionately contribute to, U.S. research in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Many universities rely on graduate students for research assistance and technical expertise, with government research funding training graduate students in the latest technologies. Most research, moreover, does not require security clearances-and little, if any, research is restricted to American students.

Posted by orrinj at 8:54 AM


The Future of Big Oil? At Shell, It's Not Oil : The energy giant is shifting to gas as the industry adapts to climate change. (Matthew Campbell, Rakteem Katakey, James Paton, 7/20/16,  Bloomberg Businessweek)

At Australia's Curtis Island, you can see Big Oil morphing into Big Gas. Just off the continent's rugged northeastern coast lies a 667-acre liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal owned by Royal Dutch Shell, an engineering feat of staggering complexity. Gas from more than 2,500 wells travels hundreds of miles by pipeline to the island, where it's chilled and pumped into 10-story-high tanks before being loaded onto massive ships. "We're more a gas company than an oil company," says Ben van Beurden, Shell's chief executive officer. "If you have to place bets, which we have to, I'd rather place them there."

Van Beurden is betting on gas projects such as Curtis Island to address the central challenge facing all oil giants: how to survive in a world moving ever faster toward new ways of producing and consuming energy.

Mum, what is a combustion engine? (Alex Gray, 17 August 2016, World Economic Forum)

[T]here are early signs that even the combustion engine, lynchpin of the industrial age, might eventually be on its way to the technological graveyard.

According to the Norwegian newspaper Dagens Naeringsliv, the ruling party Framstegspartiet will ban all combustible fuel-driven cars in the country by 2025.

It may seem ambitious, but perhaps not impossible. Worldwide sales of electric cars are booming. According to the International Energy Agency, in 2015 the global threshold of one million cars on the road was exceeded, with 1.26 million up and running. In 2005, electric cars were still measured in hundreds.

Government initiatives are partly behind the boom in electric cars. Incentives and subsidies such as toll-free driving, free public parking, use of public transport lanes and exemptions from heavy car taxes as well as purchasing incentives have encouraged the driving public to go electric.

Posted by orrinj at 8:48 AM


Syrian rebels prepare attack from Turkey on Islamic State town (Reuters, 8/21/16)

Jarablus, located on the western bank of the Euphrates river, is the last significant town held by the militant Islamist group on Syria's border with Turkey. It is 34 miles (54km) east of al-Rai, a border town the same rebel groups recently took from Islamic State.

By taking Jarablus themselves, the rebel groups would preclude an assault on the town by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a group of Kurdish-dominated militias who on Aug. 6 took the city of Manbij, 20 miles (30km) to the south, from IS. [...]

Islamic State has pulled personnel out of Jarablus in recent days, the rebel leader said. On Friday families of IS fighters were evacuated from Jarablus and another city nearby, al-Bab, to the group's stronghold of Raqqa, a war monitor said.

The operation aimed to effectively end Islamic State's foothold at the Turkish border, the official said, adding that the assault on the town would difficult.

Posted by orrinj at 8:34 AM


Promised prosperity never arrived in Russian-held Crimea, locals say (Maria Tsvetkova, 8/21/16, Reuters)

More than two years after Russia annexed Crimea and promised its 2 million people a better life, residents say prices have soared, wages and pensions have stagnated and tourists have fled.

The sunny and mountainous Black Sea peninsula is back in the news, with Russian President Vladimir Putin accusing Kiev of sending infiltrators across the border to wreck its industry. But locals say the damage has already been done by Moscow's neglect.

"We joined Russia and they stopped giving a damn about us," Yevgeny, a worker at a titanium plant in the town of Armyansk told Reuters.

"People are naive. They thought that if we were part of Russia, everything would be Russian. Prices have now jumped to the Russian level, but wages have stayed the same. That's the main problem."

Well, you decided to be Russian....
Posted by orrinj at 8:17 AM


The death of neoliberalism and the crisis in western politics (Martin Jacques, 8/21/16, The Guardian)

After almost nine years, we are finally beginning to reap the political whirlwind of the financial crisis. But how did neoliberalism manage to survive virtually unscathed for so long? Although it failed the test of the real world, bequeathing the worst economic disaster for seven decades, politically and intellectually it remained the only show in town. Parties of the right, centre and left had all bought into its philosophy, New Labour a classic in point. They knew no other way of thinking or doing: it had become the common sense. It was, as Antonio Gramsci put it, hegemonic. But that hegemony cannot and will not survive the test of the real world. [...]

Large sections of the population in both the US and the UK are now in revolt against their lot, as graphically illustrated by the support for Trump and Sanders in the US and the Brexit vote in the UK. This popular revolt is often described, in a somewhat denigratory and dismissive fashion, as populism. Or, as Francis Fukuyama writes in a recent excellent essay in Foreign Affairs: "'Populism' is the label that political elites attach to policies supported by ordinary citizens that they don't like." Populism is a movement against the status quo. It represents the beginnings of something new, though it is generally much clearer about what it is against than what it is for. It can be progressive or reactionary, but more usually both.

Brexit is a classic example of such populism. It has overturned a fundamental cornerstone of UK policy since the early 1970s. Though ostensibly about Europe, it was in fact about much more: a cri de coeur from those who feel they have lost out and been left behind, whose living standards have stagnated or worse since the 1980s, who feel dislocated by large-scale immigration over which they have no control and who face an increasingly insecure and casualised labour market. Their revolt has paralysed the governing elite, already claimed one prime minister, and left the latest one fumbling around in the dark looking for divine inspiration.

The wave of populism marks the return of class as a central agency in politics, both in the UK and the US. This is particularly remarkable in the US. For many decades, the idea of the "working class" was marginal to American political discourse.

Except, of course, that Brexit itself is a rebellion against the transnationalism of the Second Way and the political landscape of the UK and US is defined by the utter futility of the Second Way leader of the Labour Party and the retrograde Donald Trump.  Meanwhile, the neoliberal leaders of the two nations are virtually unopposed and will be (have been) succeeded this year by other neoliberals, while no one will seek to rerun the Corbyn nor Trump experiments, particularly because of their catastrophic results in local elections/primaries. 

Meanwhile, the most distinctive thing about the 2008 credit crisis turned out to be how easily we rode it out and recovered thanks to the universal neoliberalism of the Anglosphere/Scandinavia, especially by contrast to the Second Way approaches to the Depression. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:06 AM


Trump campaign has biggest spending month yet, but Clinton dominates financially (Washington Post, 8/21/16)

The campaign doled out $773,000 to reimburse various Trump-owned companies for expenses. In all, nearly $7.7 million has been paid out to Trump companies or Trump family members to cover campaign expenditures, filings show.

The Clintons donate earnings to their charitable Foundation, which helps defray their expenses.  Trump donates your political contributions to himself.

Posted by orrinj at 7:52 AM


Westerners seen flocking to battle Islamic State while they still can (THOMAS WATKINS August 21, 2016, AFP)

Growing numbers of Westerners appear to be trying to join the battle against the Islamic State group in Iraq before it's too late, frontline volunteer fighters say.

IS group jihadists have suffered a string of setbacks in Iraq and Syria in recent months, including the loss of key towns and facilities surrounding the remaining major strongholds in their self-declared "caliphate" -- Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria.

Although limited or unreliable public data make it difficult to track numbers, anecdotal evidence suggests aspiring anti-jihadists -- many of them military veterans -- recognize they may be running out of time to fight IS in a pitched battle as the group loses territory and morphs into a traditional terror group.

August 20, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 6:18 PM


As Obama Golfs, In 2008 He Slammed Bush For Waiting Too Long Visit Flooded New Orleans (DEREK HUNTER, 08/19/2016, Daily Caller)
President Barack Obama has come under criticism from Republicans for refusing to interrupt his Martha's Vineyard vacation to visit or even personally comment on the devastating flooding in Baton Rouge, Louisiana that has killed more than a dozen and devastated the lives of tens of thousands of Americans, but he's gotten a pass from Democrats and the mainstream media.

In 2008, however, then Senator Obama was much less forgiving of President Bush's handling of the flooding of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, attacking him for flying over the flooded city rather than visiting it.

Posted by orrinj at 6:03 PM


Reality Is Finally Silencing the Brexit Doom-Mongers (Harry Phibbs, August 19, 2016, Heat Street)

It is less than two months since the historic victory for Vote Leave in the EU referendum and increasingly the gloomadon poppers are facing humiliation.

Economists polled by Reuters predicted a 9,500 jump in unemployment claims in July due to Brexit. But the number of unemployment claims fell by 8,600.

The Guardian described this as "a big surprise".

It will certainly come as a big surprise to George Osborne. Before the referendum he said that "a vote to leave would represent an immediate and profound shock to our economy" which would "lead to an increase in unemployment of around 500,000."

There was more good news about retail sales in July: they were up 1.4% on June and 5.9% on July last year. While the BBC were filling the airwaves with messages of woe from "expert" remainers about the collapse of confidence, the rest of us were shopping.

The credit agency, Moody, predicts there will be no recession. It had downgraded the growth forecast for 2017 but has quietly nudged it back up.

The financial data firm Markit offers a cheering Household Finance Index (which measures economic confidence) for August. It has reversed July's plunge and edged above its level in June:

On June 23rd, the day of the EU referendum, the FTSE 250 closed at 17,333. It is now up to 17,846.

Posted by orrinj at 2:07 PM


Can There Be a Party of the Left in Britain? (JANE MILLER, 8/18/16, In These Times)

We may be watching the Labour Party's death throes. It gets harder by the day to recall that heady time less than 20 years ago when Labour won the General Election--after 18 years of Tory rule--with a huge majority. So what's happened? Paradoxically, given its title, Richard Seymour's Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics charts a history of the party's decline.

It's a long story of successful efforts by the Labour Party establishment to keep its left wing under control and as far as possible from power. Under Tony Blair, the party was firmly centre-right. Yes, there were a few improvements on welfare and taxation, but Blair was in thrall to Thatcherism, and his government did little to reduce inequality and nothing to return privatised industries and utilities to public ownership.

As Corbyn demonstrates in Britain and Trump in America, there is nothing more deadly to a party's political fortunes in the modern Anglosphere than to be identified with the Second and First Ways respectively.  Corbyn is everything the Left ever wanted in a leader as Trump is the Right's dream candidate.  They are anathema to their fellow citizens.

Posted by orrinj at 1:33 PM


This German bank is charging customers to hold their deposits (Ivana Kottasova, August 16, 2016, CNN Money)

Imagine paying 100,000 euros into your checking account, only to rack up negative interest rate charges of 400 euros a year.

That may sound like a terrible deal, but it's exactly what one small German bank is doing.

Raiffeisenbank Gmund am Tegernsee, a community bank in southern Germany, said it would charge a fee of 0.4% on deposits of more than 100,000 euros held in current accounts.

Which is what happens when the dollar I give you tomorrow buys more than the one you gave me today.

Posted by orrinj at 1:29 PM


Trump companies owe $650 million, says NY Times (AFP, August 20, 2016)

Companies belonging to Donald Trump have at least $650 million in debt, more than twice the amount shown in public filings made by his presidential campaign, the New York Times reported Saturday.

The paper employed a property information firm to search publicly available data on more than 30 US properties connected to the Republican candidate, including offices and golf courses.

In addition to the $650 million liabilities, "a substantial portion of his wealth is tied up in three passive partnerships that owe an additional $2 billion to a string of lenders," the Times said about debt that could significantly affect Trump's wealth.

At least no one can accuse him of just pandering to poor white trash.
Posted by orrinj at 1:19 PM


Donald Trump's New Nickname for Hillary Clinton Is a Dog Whistle For White Supremacists (Ari Feldman, August 19, 2016, Forward)

"Hillary Clinton wants to be America's Angela Merkel," said Donald Trump at a rally in Youngstown, Ohio, this week.[...]

[H]e's signaling to the far right, which despises Merkel for sullying German purity by letting in refugees.

"There is no question that the people who call him their 'glorious leader' know exactly what he's talking about," said Heidi Beirich, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project. "That is the audience that is concerned about this issue. Merkel is hated by Trump's white supremacist supporters, and she and Clinton are seen in the same light." [...]

Much of this hatred of Merkel comes from Europe's Generation Identity movement, with has released videos and books accusing politicians like Merkel of trying to destroy white ethnic heritage.

"You impose tolerance and diversity but you mean self-hatred, self-denial, and self-abolishment. You love and support the foreign and hate and fight what is our own," one video states.

Posted by orrinj at 1:15 PM


The dangerous alliance between Hillary Clinton's Democrats and neocons (MICHAEL TRACEY, 8/15/16. NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)

Earlier this month, Hillary Clinton's campaign released a TV ad that should give pause to anyone hoping to avoid foreign policy catastrophe in coming years. As part of her ongoing effort to court disaffected Republicans, independents and assorted apolitical centrist types, the ad featured a number of purported experts solemnly attesting to the unreliability and volatility of Donald Trump.

Among these characters was Max Boot. One of the chief intellectual architects of the Iraq War, Boot has emerged from richly earned ignominy and ostracization to enjoy a sudden career revival, in large part thanks to liberals eagerly touting his Trump-bashing op-eds and media appearances. The logic behind lavishing Boot with such effusive praise, these Dems presumably reckon, is to show that hostility to the wildman GOP nominee crosses party lines.

Posted by orrinj at 1:07 PM


U.S. Army fudged its accounts by trillions of dollars, auditor finds (Scot J. Paltrow, 8/19/16, Reuters) 

The United States Army's finances are so jumbled it had to make trillions of dollars of improper accounting adjustments to create an illusion that its books are balanced.

The Defense Department's Inspector General, in a June report, said the Army made $2.8 trillion in wrongful adjustments to accounting entries in one quarter alone in 2015, and $6.5 trillion for the year. Yet the Army lacked receipts and invoices to support those numbers or simply made them up.

As a result, the Army's financial statements for 2015 were "materially misstated," the report concluded. The "forced" adjustments rendered the statements useless because "DoD and Army managers could not rely on the data in their accounting systems when making management and resource decisions."

Disclosure of the Army's manipulation of numbers is the latest example of the severe accounting problems plaguing the Defense Department for decades.

The report affirms a 2013 Reuters series revealing how the Defense Department falsified accounting on a large scale as it scrambled to close its books. As a result, there has been no way to know how the Defense Department - far and away the biggest chunk of Congress' annual budget - spends the public's money.

Posted by orrinj at 12:59 PM


Tens of thousands of Yemenis rally to support Houthi-led council (Reuters, 8/20/16)

As Houthi demonstrators packed Sanaa's Sabeen Square waving Yemeni flags and chanting slogans, chairman Saleh al-Samad outlined the council's plans for running the war-ravaged country following the breakdown of the peace talks earlier this month.

"Economic affairs will be the priority of our work in the coming period," he said. [...]

Saturday's declaration formalized a vow earlier this month by the Houthis and their allies in the General People's Congress, the party of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, to establish a body to govern the capital and other parts of the country under their control.

The demonstration -- one of the biggest in Yemen since the civil war broke out last year -- took place as the Saudi-led coalition backing exiled President Abd-Rabbou Mansour Hadi stepped up air strikes and fighting on the ground intensified.

Posted by orrinj at 8:38 AM


Trump's old school: His immigration plan would kill 4 million jobs (Patrick Gillespie, 8/16/16, CNNMoney)

A new forecasting tool at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania estimates Trump's plan to deport undocumented workers would result in four million lost jobs by 2030.

"A lot of undocumented workers are taking on jobs that frankly no one else wants, so it's unlikely those jobs are going to be filled," says Kent Smetters, an economics professor at Wharton who led a team that took a year to create the forecasting tool by using census data.

Posted by orrinj at 8:19 AM


Battleground Texas? (Nancy LeTourneau, August 16, 2016, Washington Monthly)

PPP released a poll from Texas today showing Trump leading Clinton by only 6 points. But here is the part that could signal a sea change.

Trump's lead is based entirely on his holding a 63-33 advantage among seniors. With voters under 65, Clinton leads him 49-45. And when you look just specifically at voters under 45, Clinton leads Trump 60-35. Older voters are overwhelmingly responsible for the Republican advantage in Texas, and generational change is likely to help Democrats become more competitive.

A big piece of that generational change is the increasing racial diversity of the electorate in Texas. Trump has a 69/25 lead with white voters but the reason the state's so competitive overall is that among non-white voters Clinton has a 73-21 lead, including a 68-27 edge with the state's booming Hispanic population.

Posted by orrinj at 7:45 AM


The Global Poor Desperately Need a Thing You Can't Taste or Touch: Property Rights : Rio's poor lack a much more important ticket than one to the Olympics. They lack a ticket into the game of capitalism. They lack property rights. (MICHAEL MATHESON MILLER, August 10, 2016, The Stream)

Here are four reasons why property rights matter -- and it is not just economics.

Property Rights Enable Economic Development

In many developing countries, 50 to 60 percent of the land has no clear title. If you don't know who owns the land, then you have no incentive to improve and develop it, and it can be easily taken away from you -- especially if you are a widow or an orphan. Without a clear title, you also can't use the land as collateral to get a loan for, say, a tractor or to start a small business.

As Peruvian economist Hernando De Soto points out, the existing assets in the developing world are much greater than all the foreign aid over the few last decades. The problem is that the poor cannot access much of the value of their land without clear title. What results is lots of potentially productive land that remains unproductive.

The correlation between private property and economic development is very strong. If we overlay maps of economic development and property rights, we see how countries with strong property rights are the most developed. Yes, there are more things going on there than property rights. The rule of law, freedom from corruption and others things also play a role. But as Ghanaian entrepreneur, Herman Chinery Hesse put it, "You cannot develop an economy without private property."

Getting Property Rights Changes Your Worldview for the Better

Rafael Di Tella and Ernesto Schargrosky conducted a very interesting study in a neighborhood in Buenos Aires where half of the people got title to their land, while the other half were still waiting to get title. The outcome was purely luck of the draw. The two researchers discovered that having clear title to one's land actually changed the way that people saw the world.

Those with clear title to their land had higher levels of trust, lower teenage pregnancy, more concern for education and a more positive outlook towards the future. [...]

Property Rights Limits the State

Stable private property rights also have important political ramifications. One is that they limit the state and check the consolidation of power. They exert this effect in a couple of ways. Most obviously, when property is not owned by state, but by different private interests, this creates different centers of power and influence that can resist state power.

Private property not only enables private businesses to flourish, it also enables stronger layers of civil society or what the 19th century French political philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville called "intermediary institutions." These include schools, private associations, synagogues, churches, mutual aid societies and the like, which create a buffer between the individual and the state.

When families, religious communities and civil society are weak or non-existent, there are few layers between the individual and the state, and the state begins to absorb more things to itself -- ultimately leading to what Tocqueville called "soft despotism." Tocqueville writes that there are three things which prevent this descent into soft despotism: local politics, civil society (private voluntary organizations) and religion.

Each of these pulls people out of themselves and gets them engaged in their communities and with others. Yet, without private property, people are not as engaged in their community, and can easily became wards and pawns of the state.

Property Rights Promote Family and Religious Liberty

Finally, private property is essential for the family, and for religious liberty. Property creates the space for families to live out their freedoms and responsibilities. It enables families to have economic independence and not simply be dependent on others. This space and independence is essential for the religion and culture, for how do you think religion and culture primarily get passed down? Not first and foremost in the church, synagogue or religious school -- but in the family.

Without freedom of the family, there cannot long be freedom of religion, and cultural traditions and patterns get weakened and replaced by the culture of adverting and consumerism.

While Christians and Jews can at times forget the interconnection between family, property, and religion, socialist activists have understood this well. Socialists of every stripe from Marx and Engels, to Robert Owen, Gramsci, the Fabians and the Frankfurt School all recognize the reinforcing nature of these three things -- this is why they always fight to eradicate them. Friedrich Engels, quoting Robert Owen, maintained that there were three primary obstacles to socialist reform: "private property, religion, the present form of marriage."

As Jewish and Christian teaching and socialist writers all recognize, there is a deep and reinforcing relationship between private property and religion. When private property rights are harmed, families are weakened, religious liberty is endangered and the door to soft and hard despotic states is opened.

Posted by orrinj at 7:42 AM


Scientists who found gluten sensitivity evidence have now shown it doesn't exist : The scientific method in action. (JENNIFER WELSH, 8/19/15, BUSINESS INSIDER)

Although experts estimate that only 1 percent of Americans - about 3 million people - actually suffer from celiac disease, 18 percent of adults now buy gluten-free foods.

Since gluten is a protein found in any normal diet, Gibson was unsatisfied with his finding. He wanted to find out why the gluten seemed to be causing this reaction and if there could be something else going on. He therefore went to a scientifically rigorous extreme for his next experiment, a level not usually expected in nutrition studies.

For a follow-up paper, 37 self-identified gluten-sensitive patients were tested. According to Real Clear Science's Newton Blog, here's how the experiment went:

Subjects would be provided with every single meal for the duration of the trial. Any and all potential dietary triggers for gastrointestinal symptoms would be removed, including lactose (from milk products), certain preservatives like benzoates, propionate, sulfites, and nitrites, and fermentable, poorly absorbed short-chain carbohydrates, also known as FODMAPs. And last, but not least, nine days worth of urine and faecal matter would be collected. With this new study, Gibson wasn't messing around.

The subjects cycled through high-gluten, low-gluten, and no-gluten (placebo) diets, without knowing which diet plan they were on at any given time. In the end, all of the treatment diets - even the placebo diet - caused pain, bloating, nausea, and gas to a similar degree. It didn't matter if the diet contained gluten. (Read more about the study.)

"In contrast to our first study... we could find absolutely no specific response to gluten," Gibson wrote in the paper. A third, larger study published this month has confirmed the findings.

It seems to be a 'nocebo' effect - the self-diagnosed gluten sensitive patients expected to feel worse on the study diets, so they did. They were also likely more attentive to their intestinal distress, since they had to monitor it for the study.

Posted by orrinj at 7:36 AM


Runner who helped competitor says she's fueled by faith (Kevin J. Jones, August 19, 2016, CATHOLIC NEWS AGENCY)

An Olympic runner whose sportsmanship drew headlines this week says that her faith in God helps her to find joy in her sport.

Abbey D'Agostino, who was raised in a Catholic family, spoke to Julia Hanlon's "Running On Om" podcast, published November 18, 2015. She discussed her fears and anxieties about running, her injuries, and her prayer life.

"I ended up just accepting Jesus and recognizing what that meant in my life," she told Hanlon. "I felt the peace that comes with acknowledging that I'm not going to run this race with my own strength. And I think that acknowledging those fears before God is what allowed me to feel that peace and I was drawn to it and I wanted to know a God who would work that way in my life."

"That's when I started to rekindle more the sheer joy of the sport," said D'Agostino, who is now 24.

Posted by orrinj at 7:10 AM


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

The idea of reform and liberalisation was entirely Andropov's. As head of the KGB, he was better informed than anyone else about the catastrophic economic situation in the USSR. When he became head of state, he was able to start putting into effect the plan he had been hatching for a long time.  I don't think Andropov completely trusted Gorbachev. He, Andropov, belonged to the older generation and was not intending to dismantle the system; the maximum he was prepared to consider was that a new type of person should be able to rule the country.

In many ways Heydar Aliyev was Andropov's more obvious successor and student. It was Aliyev that Andropov counselled to embark on reforms in his country, Azerbaijan, without worrying about the Soviet leadership.  He also recommended to Aliyev that he should study the Hungarian economy and visit Hungary more often. There, economic reforms were in full swing after the 1958 uprising and there were even private companies, something quite unimaginable in the USSR.

Andropov rang Aliyev and invited him to Moscow as First Deputy Chairman of the USSR Council of Ministers (Sovmin), which was an important economic post. To my mind this offer of an All-Union [central] position meant significantly more than we can imagine.

Perhaps Andropov realised Gorbachev did not have the required authority to introduce reforms in the empire that was the USSR. Perhaps he understood what was needed was a politician of a different calibre.  I've heard many times from friends of Aliyev that the terminally ill Andropov was torn with uncertainty over whom he should appoint as his successor.  Many thought it might be Aliyev who would become the head of this great state.  But Aliyev himself realised the impossibility of this for a non-Russian.  After Stalin, the Russian people would not have wanted to see an Azeri from an Islamic republic as their head of state.

Thus there were two fairly strong political figures in the CC Politburo when Andropov left the scene:  Heydar Aliyev, believer in a strong state and national hero of Azerbaijan; and Mikhail Gorbachev, young and raring to go out and make historic changes. Gorbachev denies that he did everything to ensure Aliyev was not part of a possible leadership battle. At the same time, Heydar Aliyev told me himself that when he had a heart attack in 1987, Gorbachev failed to visit him in hospital, and even ignored repeated requests to meet once he had recovered. This belied the fact that Aliyev had been one of Andropov's closest disciples and had many times spoken out in favour of Gorbachev. The battle between these two powerful figures ended when Gorbachev achieved supreme power, while Aliyev was left under a cloud and forced to retire from the scene.

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

Gorbachev certainly didn't expect the course that events took, and for most of his time in power he was completely lost. The simple reason is that he didn't have (nor could he have done!) any real political experience which would have enabled him to perceive the results of his actions. 

The other interesting thing about the fall of the USSR--besides it being Andropov's project--was the specific part of the reform effort that the leaders misunderstood.  One of the main thrusts of Glasnost was to allow open criticism of Stalin, who they perceived as having tainted Lenin's sweet pure communism.  But given some freedom the dissidents went directly after Lenin and thereby destroyed the roots of the regime and the very idea of Marxism-Leninism.  

Posted by orrinj at 7:04 AM



The jihadi employment form asked the recruits, on a scale of 1 to 3, to rate their knowledge of Islam. And the Islamic State applicants, herded into a hangar somewhere at the Syria-Turkey border, turned out to be overwhelmingly ignorant.

The extremist group could hardly have hoped for better.

At the height of Islamic State's drive for foot soldiers in 2013 and 2014, typical recruits included the group of Frenchmen who went bar-hopping with their recruiter back home, the recent European convert who now hesitantly describes himself as gay, and two Britons who ordered "The Koran for Dummies" and "Islam for Dummies" from Amazon to prepare for jihad abroad. Their intake process complete, they were grouped in safe houses as a stream of Islamic State imams came in to indoctrinate them, according to court testimony and interviews by The Associated Press.

"I realized that I was in the wrong place when they began to ask me questions on these forms like 'when you die, who should we call?'" said the 32-year-old European recruit, speaking to the AP on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals. He said he thought he was joining a group to fight President Bashar Assad and help Syrians, not the Islamic State.

The European, whose boyish demeanor makes him appear far younger than his age, went to Syria in 2014. He said new recruits were shown IS propaganda videos on Islam, and the visiting imams repeatedly praised martyrdom. Far from home, unschooled in religion, having severed family ties and turned over electronic devices, most were in little position to judge.

An AP analysis of thousands of leaked Islamic State documents reveals most of its recruits from its earliest days came with only the most basic knowledge of Islam.

August 19, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 8:40 PM


Commodities Show Why Fed Is Still Unmoved by Inflation: Chart (Millie Munshi, August 19, 201, Bloomberg)

Posted by orrinj at 8:33 PM


Stocks Are Pointing to a Blowout on Election Day (Tom DiChristopher, CNBC)

The last four times the S&P 500 has hit a new high in August during an election year, the victor won in a landslide. That insight comes from Art Cashin, director of floor operations at the New York Stock Exchange for UBS, and was confirmed by CNBC.

History could be poised to repeat itself with the S&P having struck a number of new highs this month, most recently hitting an intraday high of 2,193 and a closing peak of 2,190 on Tuesday.

"It's very rare to make new highs in August to begin with, and when you've done that in an election year, whoever won took 30 or more states, so that will lead to the idea that however this comes out, it might be a landslide," Cashin told CNBC's "Squawk on the Street."

Posted by orrinj at 8:26 PM


A New Artificial Leaf Turns Sunlight And CO2 Into Fuel More Efficiently (CHARLIE SORREL 08.16.16, Co.Exist)

A solar cell is great if you want electricity right now, but what if you could get a solar panel that pulled CO2 from the air and used sunlight to turn it into burnable fuel? It might sound fantastic, but that's just what plants do when they photosynthesize, and it's also the promise of a new device from researchers at the University of Illinois.

"Instead of producing energy in an unsustainable one-way route from fossil fuels to greenhouse gas," lead author Amin Salehi-Khojin said in a news release, "we can now reverse the process and recycle atmospheric carbon into fuel using sunlight."

Instead of storing generated electricity in batteries, this artificial photosynthesis uses the sun to convert atmospheric carbon dioxide into fuel. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:22 PM


America's immigrant economy: more work, less pay (Patrick Gillespie, 8/19/16, CNNMoney)

Immigrants in America work more, search for jobs more and get paid way less than native-born U.S. citizens.

They're a big chunk of the U.S. job market too. Documented and undocumented immigrants make up nearly 20% of America's labor force, according to a report by Goldman Sachs (GS).

Immigrants have a lower unemployment rate (4.3%) than native-born U.S. citizens (4.9%). They also participate more in the economy, meaning they're either working or looking for work.

But they make far less than native-born citizens. Immigrants weekly income is about $681. Native-born Americans earn $837 a week, according to Goldman.

Posted by orrinj at 8:19 PM


Hillary Clinton reportedly told FBI that Colin Powell advised her to use private email (The Week, 8/19/16)

The Times did not just rely on a congressional leak, however. According to an advance copy of Joe Conason's new book on Bill Clinton's post-presidency, Powell gave her the email counsel at a dinner hosted by Madeleine Albright, in which Albright asked Powell and two other former secretaries of state, Henry Kissinger and Condoleezza Rice, to give Clinton one piece of advice. Powell, Conason said, "told her to use her own email, as he had done, except for classified communications, which he had sent and received via a State Department computer.... Saying that his use of personal email had been transformative for the department, [Powell] thus confirmed a decision she had made months earlier -- to keep her personal account and use it for most messages."

Posted by orrinj at 10:03 AM


New Study: It's Actually Bad for Men to Be Breadwinners (Belinda Luscombe, 8/19/16, TIME)

Being a good provider isn't all it's cracked up to be, says a new study. Guys who are required to earn the lion's share of the family income are less happy and less healthy than guys who aren't. And the higher the percentage of the bacon a guy has to bring home, the bigger hit his body and brain take.

Posted by orrinj at 9:55 AM


FACING TIM TEBOW (David Aardsma  Aug 19, 2016, Baseball Essential)

I heard last week, just like the rest of the sports world, about Tim Tebow's desire to play in Major League Baseball. And when I heard the familiar name of my friend and former big leaguer Chad Moeller, I immediately texted him and offered my services to him as a pitcher. Thankfully, I wasn't ignored, even though Chad was getting calls from anybody and everybody wanting a piece of Tim, and we scheduled a time for me to come out and face Tebow.

I had recently stopped throwing to begin my offseason training and prepare for the 2017 season, but now I had to ramp it back up. Luckily, I hadn't taken too much time off throwing, and I was able to get back into the swing of things pretty quickly. [...]

 I had been looking forward to this moment for a week, and I was as ready as I could be for it. I had gotten all warmed up and Tebow stepped into the box. The first thing I noticed was that it felt like he was right on top of the plate. He is a huge guy, and it almost looked like he was crowding the plate. Usually only little lefties who want to get on base crowd the plate, but having someone as big as Tebow that close made me take notice. By doing this, he essentially took the entire inside half of the plate from me. His stance is pretty spread out, but he uses his back leg extremely well to create power in his swing.

I faced Tim for about five different at-bats, and each time we treated it just like a game, with the catcher was calling strikes and balls. Overall, I was actually really happy with how I threw. I was sitting in the low 90s and attacking the zone with all my pitches.

Watching Tim from my standpoint, I was really impressed with his approach at the plate. For not playing the game in over a decade, he had very good plate discipline and very rarely swung at pitches off the plate. He actually started working the count against me. I was expecting him to be coming out of his shoes almost every pitch, but Tim was very controlled with every swing and every at-bat. He let go only when the count allowed him to, and he stayed grounded when he was behind in the count.

One of the most impressive things I saw -- and you rarely see this in "young" or "new to the game" players -- is that even when Tebow swung and missed, he was right on the ball. He rarely got fooled by any pitch, and his adjustments were remarkable.

Posted by orrinj at 9:47 AM


It's Impossible to Count the Things Wrong With the Negligent, Spurious, Distorted New Biography of George W. Bush (WILL INBODEN, AUGUST 15, 2016, Foreign Policy)

When I first heard that acclaimed historian and presidential biographer Jean Edward Smith was writing a biography of former President George W. Bush, I recall telling a fellow historian that I was cautiously optimistic it would be a well-crafted, insightful book and that I looked forward to its publication. I had read some of Smith's earlier works, including biographies of former presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and of Dwight D. Eisenhower, and found the books to be elegantly written, carefully researched, and deeply insightful. But my optimism was tempered by the fact that the materials and perspectives of history are not yet available to Smith, or to any other would-be biographer of Bush.

How wrong I was to be optimistic at all.

Readers should be forewarned that this essay is longer than the customary book review. I beg their indulgence, because Smith's biography, Bush, is so replete with factual errors and specious judgments that an extended set of corrections and remonstrances seems warranted for the sake of the historical record. All the more so because I am not aware of any other reviews to date that have identified the many flaws in the book. If anything, it has received some surprisingly positive assessments from the generally credible Peter Baker and Morton Kondracke in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, respectively. As I hope to demonstrate, such favorable reviews are wholly unwarranted.

August 18, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 6:56 PM


Imagine There's No Border : A world without boundaries is a fantasy. (Victor Davis Hanson, Summer 2016, City Journal)

Today's open-borders agenda has its roots not only in economic factors--the need for low-wage workers who will do the work that native-born Americans or Europeans supposedly will not--but also in several decades of intellectual ferment, in which Western academics have created a trendy field of "borders discourse." What we might call post-borderism argues that boundaries even between distinct nations are mere artificial constructs, methods of marginalization designed by those in power, mostly to stigmatize and oppress the "other"--usually the poorer and less Western--who arbitrarily ended up on the wrong side of the divide. "Where borders are drawn, power is exercised," as one European scholar put it. This view assumes that where borders are not drawn, power is not exercised--as if a million Middle Eastern immigrants pouring into Germany do not wield considerable power by their sheer numbers and adroit manipulation of Western notions of victimization and grievance politics. Indeed, Western leftists seek political empowerment by encouraging the arrival of millions of impoverished migrants.

Dreams of a borderless world are not new, however. The biographer and moralist Plutarch claimed in his essay "On Exile" that Socrates had once asserted that he was not just an Athenian but instead "a citizen of the cosmos." In later European thought, Communist ideas of universal labor solidarity drew heavily on the idea of a world without borders. "Workers of the world, unite!" exhorted Marx and Engels. Wars broke out, in this thinking, only because of needless quarreling over obsolete state boundaries. The solution to this state of endless war, some argued, was to eliminate borders in favor of transnational governance. H. G. Wells's prewar science-fiction novel The Shape of Things to Come envisioned borders eventually disappearing as elite transnational polymaths enforced enlightened world governance. Such fictions prompt fads in the contemporary real world, though attempts to render borders unimportant--as, in Wells's time, the League of Nations sought to do--have always failed. Undaunted, the Left continues to cherish the vision of a borderless world as morally superior, a triumph over artificially imposed difference.

Yet the truth is that borders do not create difference--they reflect it.

That last is a genuine insight, which, reversed, explains the demise of borders : porous borders reflect the lack of differences amongst nations at the End of History.  America and North Korea have a border because they are so different.  America and South Korea, Canada, the Bahamas, Iceland, England, Sweden, etc. have none because they are virtually indistinguishable. The latter are not going to become less like us, the former is going to become more.

Posted by orrinj at 4:40 PM


Sunni-Shia Harmony (PBS, August 12, 2016)

AHMED: [W]e are in America. America is genuinely a pluralist society, so you have every kind of group here, every kind of opinion. So in this environment, the confrontation--the stark confrontation--between Shia and Sunni is blurred.

LAWTON: Also, for second and third generation American Muslims, the old sectarian divides from abroad become less important. Nazneen Zaidi is a Shitte who was born in Florida.

NAZNEEN ZAIDI: When my parents immigrated here in the late 70s, there was no Shia mosque here, and so their first friends were all Sunni, and so my first introduction to Islam was with their Sunni friends.

23LAWTON: Zaidi teaches at a Sunni school where she says she has been warmly accepted. She has become close friends with some of her fellow teachers, who are Sunni.

ZAIDI: As a Shia, I see myself as a Muslim first. Yes, I am Shia, I'm very proud to be Shia, but when I consider myself and someone asks me what religion I am, I don't say I'm Shia, I say I'm Muslim. And I think that's how I identify, and I've always identified as that.

LAWTON: Still, there have been some tensions between the two communities. Razvi says sometime Shiites have not been welcomed at Sunni mosques.

RAZVI: It does happen occasionally, but then it's a small segment of people that I personally feel might be ignorant because they might not have been exposed to some Shia people in the community or in their circle of friends, and they just think that whatever you're doing is wrong.

LAWTON: This past Ramadan, her Shia mosque held a special prayer service where the two communities prayed together and then broke their fast together.

20RAZVI: It's become like an extended family. There's Shia, there's Sunni, there are men, women, children. And since it's an open environment you feel more comfortable.

Posted by orrinj at 4:37 PM


You may think the world is falling apart. Steven Pinker is here to tell you it isn't. (Julia Belluz, August 16, 2016, Vox)

Julia Belluz

You wrote a very optimistic book about the trend toward less violence on earth. But it feels like we've seen a lot of violence here in the US since then. We had the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012 -- and there have been at least 1,069 mass shootings since then. Overseas, more than 1,200 people have died in ISIS-related terror attacks, not including those killed in Iraq and Syria. And we've heard a lot about killings of young black men by police, and the killings of police, over the past several years. How do you put all this in context?

Steven Pinker

News is a misleading way to understand the world. It's always about events that happened and not about things that didn't happen. So when there's a police officer that has not been shot up or city that has not had a violent demonstration, they don't make the news. As long as violent events don't fall to zero, there will be always be headlines to click on. The data show -- since the Better Angels of Our Nature was published -- rates of violence continue to go down.

Rates of death in war show something of an uptick because of the war in Syria -- but that's still a fraction of the levels they were in the 1960s through the early 1990s, and that's to say nothing of the World Wars.

There has probably been a slight increase in the rate of violent crime in the US in 2015, and I say probably because the FBI figures are still not out for that year.

But even then that wouldn't even be as high as it was in 2012, just three years ago, and that itself is a huge decrease in the levels of '60s, '70, and '80s in the US, where violent crime has fallen by more than half. So there is probably an uptick for 2015 and 2016. But it's just a wiggle in a curve that's been going down, down, down.

Even if you even compare situation this year to a random year in the 1970s or 1980s, by every measure our world is much more peaceful.

Posted by orrinj at 4:31 PM


Liberals Come Up Short--Literally : New research finds the taller a person is, the more likely they are to be a conservative. (Tom Jacobs, 8/17/16, Pacific Standard)

"A one-inch increase in height increases support for Conservatives by 0.6 percent," write University of Michigan economist Raj Arunachalam and Ohio State University political scientist Sara Watson. Their study is published in the British Journal of Political Science.

The researchers used data collected in 2006 as part of the ongoing British Household Panel Survey, a nationally representative annual survey of more than 12,000 adults in the U.K. They compared respondents' self-reported height with their annual income and political preference.

The results were clear: "Taller people are more likely to support the Conservative Party, and to hold conservative political positions," they write. What's more, the relationship between height and party affiliation "is almost linear."

Posted by orrinj at 4:22 PM


Healthcare costs decline, but remain expensive (Cort Olsen, August 16 2016, Employee Benefit News)

Choosing the right medical coverage can be a daunting task, especially for those who suffer from chronic illnesses or have a large family. Xerox HR Services recently released its 32nd National Healthcare Trend Survey and found that since 2010 healthcare costs have dropped from 11.6% to 8%. Despite this drop, when compared to the inflation rate, cost still maintains a wide lead above inflation, which the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics says is sitting at 1.4%.

This wide gap between cost and inflation has caused many employers to shift more cost over to employees. This has resulted in some consumers weighing price into their decisions of where and when to seek healthcare, and even delaying treatment due to cost.

Posted by orrinj at 3:57 PM


Trump Sees an Economy in Tatters, But Many Republicans Are Feeling Just Fine (DANTE CHINNI, Aug 18, 2016, WSJ)

Aggregated from surveys in taken the second quarter, the Gallup data show that 63% of Americans say their standard of living is getting better, up from 55% a year earlier.

The data also reveal a fault line running through communities that lean heavily Republican. While some Republican-leaning communities don't see their standard of living improving, data from others, particularly exurban areas, show a large majority say their standard of living is getting better.

The numbers shed some light on why Mr. Trump is struggling in the polls and having a hard time bringing the GOP together behind his message that the U.S. economy is in tatters and the country is in decline.

Shutting your eyes and stamping your feet won't reverse the prolonged economic boom.

Posted by orrinj at 3:48 PM


Universal Basic Income and the New Corporatist Democrats : One of the boldest ideas for making Americans more economically secure may finally have a champion. (Alexander Holt, 8/17/16, Pacific Standard)

[A]s the parties re-align, Basic Income may find a champion with the new corporatist, quasi-libertarian Democrats, while being vilified by the populist Republicans.

If you believe there is a coming re-alignment, then the future of the Democratic party is big business, and big business, especially the technology sector, will love Basic Income. The tech sector likes minimal government regulation, which has allowed them to gain monopoly power, amass giant profits, and control and manipulate entire areas of the economy. These companies are very opposed to heavy-handed market interventions such as breaking those companies up (Google, Amazon) or heavily regulating what it means to be an employee (Uber).

The tech companies will argue that they are efficient and keep prices low for consumers, and that heavy regulation will hamper innovation. With Basic Income, these companies don't have to change their behavior, but everyone would become more economically secure. Uber employees will be financially secure, even if they don't get paid much, and are automated away later by driverless cars (the same logic explains why Travis Kalanick, CEO of Uber, supported Obamacare).

No company wants to pay higher taxes, but they would trade higher taxes to fund Basic Income if it allows them to continue to dominate the market. Greg Ferenstein, who used to write for TechCrunch and has studied the political views of Silicon Valley elites said in a recent interview: "It is absolutely false to consider Silicon Valley anti-tax. They are not anti-tax, and they are not anti-re-distribution. They are generally anti-regulation, but they are pro anything that uses their wealth to help the common good in way that doesn't inhibit economic disruption and innovation." Marginally higher taxes are not an existential threat. Market controls are.

And besides, these companies, often funded by advertising dollars, understand that money needs to continue to circulate in the economy in order for consumers to keep buying things, which thus justify the business model of many of the tech companies' services.

And while it's especially true in the technology sector, the leaders and workers of large U.S. companies are increasingly coastal, cosmopolitan elites, which means the values of their companies will reflect their own values. Those values are not only socially liberal, but that the government should help people efficiently and with limited bureaucratic interference.

Cosmopolitan elites will also like how Basic Income helps prevent the proletariat from revolting without too many invasive policy solutions. Urban poor will like Basic Income because it will increase their incomes, and also frees them from demeaning parochial meddling of administrators telling them how they can and cannot spend their money (i.e., food stamps).

The process will only be accelerated by the declining numbers of workers.

Posted by orrinj at 3:42 PM


Hitler-Inspired 'Trump Youth' Website Is Taken Down (Josefin Dolsten, August 18, 2016, Forward)

A website for millennial supporters of Donald Trump that bore striking similarities to the Hitler Youth movement was no longer online Thursday morning, two days after the Forward broke the news of its existence.

Both the group's name, "Trump Youth," and its rhetoric evoked Hitler Youth, a wing of Germany's Nazi party.

In a video posted to the site, the group's blond leader spoke of having to fight a worldwide "parasite" enemy, which he later identified as "globalists."

Nazi propaganda likened Jews to parasites and condemned them for their perceived lack of loyalty to their "host" countries.

"Our nations have been commandeered by an international criminal cartel and this parasite is feeding on our energy. It's in Japan, it's in China, it's in Germany, it's in America -- now, if we don't throw this parasite off our backs, the world will fall into chaos," said Jayme Louis Liardi, the self-identified leader of "Trump Youth."

In white-nationalist lingo, "globalism" represents the "oppressive" economic elite, often associated with Jews, that is hurting the lower class, said Peter Montgomery an expert on right wing politics at People for the American Way.

Posted by orrinj at 3:40 PM


Study: Current electric car range suitable for 87% of all drivers (BRYAN CLARK, 8/16/16, Next Web)

If you're still worried that an electric car battery isn't enough to get you from Point A to Point B and back, stop. According to a new study by MIT, the 'range anxiety' discussion is overblown.

By analyzing driving habits across the country, MIT researcher Jessika Trancik and a team of colleagues found that currently available electronic car technology would prove suitable to replace 87 percent of the personal vehicles on the road, and up to 98 percent by 2020 -- assuming current rates of battery improvement remain stable.

Posted by orrinj at 3:36 PM


How A Trump Debacle Could Affect The House And State Legislatures (Seth Masket, 8/17/16, 538)

In a 1986 paper, political scientist James Campbell sought to measure the coattail effect and found that each additional percentage point that the presidential candidate won was commensurate with a three seat gain in the House. It's possible that this effect has waned somewhat in recent years with the rise in polarization and the number of safe seats. (The scatterplot above suggests the relationship is more like two seats for each percent of the vote today.) There are fewer massive seat shifts in the House during presidential elections than there used to be, but there are also fewer presidential blowouts.

So what might this year look like? Republicans, with 247 of the House's 435 seats and 4,125 of the states' 7,383 legislators, are certainly exposed.1 Trump's polling numbers aren't great, but there are so many factors that make him an unusual candidate, from his rejection of many core conservative principles to his lack of support from several prominent Republicans. We've really not seen a candidacy quite like his at the presidential level.

But we have seen it at the state level. Colorado provides us with a couple of useful recent examples. One is the state's 2010 gubernatorial race, in which Dan Maes, widely seen as an unqualified and irresponsible candidate for governor, nonetheless won the Republican nomination. Instead of trying to coach him or prop him up, most party leaders quickly abandoned him and championed former Rep. Tom Tancredo, the nominee of the American Constitution Party, as the "real" Republican in the race. They also diverted campaign resources into state legislative races. The result: Republicans badly lost the gubernatorial race despite a strong national Republican tide. But the GOP actually picked up a net of one state Senate seat and five state House seats, seizing narrow control of the lower chamber.

In 2004, Colorado Democrats targeted key state legislative races and channeled millions of dollars their way. Despite President George W. Bush's winning the state by nearly 5 percentage points, Democrats managed to seize seven state House seats and one state Senate seat, taking control of both chambers for the first time in four decades. The top of the ticket doesn't have to dictate what happens below.

As we're seeing in several races this year, it's tricky for Republican candidates to simultaneously run with their party while running against their national ticket. But it's not impossible.

Posted by orrinj at 3:25 PM


Uber's First Self-Driving Fleet Arrives in Pittsburgh This Month : The autonomous cars, launching this summer, are custom Volvo XC90s, supervised by humans in the driver's seat. (Max Chafkin, 8/18/16,  Bloomberg Businessweek)

Starting later this month, Uber will allow customers in downtown Pittsburgh to summon self-driving cars from their phones, crossing an important milestone that no automotive or technology company has yet achieved. Google, widely regarded as the leader in the field, has been testing its fleet for several years, and Tesla Motors offers Autopilot, essentially a souped-up cruise control that drives the car on the highway. Earlier this week, Ford announced plans for an autonomous ride-sharing service. But none of these companies has yet brought a self-driving car-sharing service to market.

Uber's Pittsburgh fleet, which will be supervised by humans in the driver's seat for the time being, consists of specially modified Volvo XC90 sport-utility vehicles outfitted with dozens of sensors that use cameras, lasers, radar, and GPS receivers. Volvo Cars has so far delivered a handful of vehicles out of a total of 100 due by the end of the year. The two companies signed a pact earlier this year to spend $300 million to develop a fully autonomous car that will be ready for the road by 2021.

The Volvo deal isn't exclusive; Uber plans to partner with other automakers as it races to recruit more engineers. In July the company reached an agreement to buy Otto, a 91-employee driverless truck startup that was founded earlier this year and includes engineers from a number of high-profile tech companies attempting to bring driverless cars to market, including Google, Apple, and Tesla. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:40 PM


Bridging the divide on Health Savings Accounts to deliver higher value health care (James C. Capretta, August 18, 2016, Real Clear Health)

An important starting point should be deregulation of the use of resources in Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). HSAs are the most prominent effort to place consumers at the center of important decision-making in the health sector. Consumers (and their employers) can make tax-preferred contributions to their HSAs, which can then be used to pay for the costs of needed medical care not covered by insurance payments. For consumers with high deductibles (often several thousand dollars), HSAs become an important financing source for paying for costs before insurance coverage kicks in.

HSA enrollees have an incentive to conserve the resources in their HSAs because it is their money. The more judicious they are in the use of their HSA funds, the larger their accounts will grow over time (they can make penalty free withdrawals for non-medical purposes at age 65 or older).

But an unspoken presumption of HSAs is that the account holders will use their funds to pay for care on a fee-for-service basis. Indeed, that is a requirement of current law and IRS regulations: HSA funds can only be withdrawn to pay for qualified medical expenses, which is to say they must be used to pay for a specific service or product purchased by the HSA account holder. But, in the best-managed care plans, care is not paid for on a piecemeal basis. Rather, the plan gets paid a fixed fee of some sort and then provides care to the enrollee according to medical need and the terms of their contract.

Despite the HSA bias toward unmanaged fee-for-service medicine, there are many examples in the marketplace today of HMOs sold in tandem with an HSA. Kaiser Permanente, for instance, enrolls many patients in its HSA-HMO plan. But these managed care offerings are adjusted to fit within the confines of today's HSA rules, which means they look and feel more like loose network plans than tightly integrated managed care products.

To begin to harness more fully the power of both consumerism and managed care in controlling costs, the rules for HSAs should be modified substantially to allow HSA holders to use their balances to purchase care from integrated systems in more creative ways than on a fee-for-service basis. For instance, HSA holders should be allowed to pay a fixed monthly fee to integrated plans to secure access to a wide variety of services, including access to electronic records and the ability to connect with their providers remotely. Moreover, HSA holders should be allowed to purchase options contracts allowing them to access an integrated plan's network and care protocols in the event they incur large medical expenses, such as in the course of cancer treatment. Giving consumers more leeway over the use of their HSA resources will allow them to exert more pressure on those supplying medical services to them, and thus also allow them to get services provided to them in ways that they prefer and at prices they find acceptable.

To many state insurance regulators, these kinds of arrangements will look suspiciously like premium payments. But if an HSA holder is already enrolled in an high-deductible insurance product, there is no reason to prevent them from using their HSA balances to secure the best possible arrangement for securing both primary and preventative care in an integrated setting and for accessing the best management possible in the case they need more expensive care.

Loosening the rules for the use of HSA accounts with managed care and other private plans could make room for creative arrangements, and it could foster greater price and quality competition among integrated care offering.

Posted by orrinj at 12:40 PM


Has Trump Put Texas in Play? (Eric Garcia, 8/16/16, Roll Call)

Hillary Clinton is within striking distance of Donald Trump in Texas, according to a new poll.

Public Policy Polling, a firm that does polling largely for Democrats, found that Trump beats Clinton by 6 points in Texas, where Mitt Romney beat President Barack Obama by 16 points in 2012.

Posted by orrinj at 12:32 PM


Republican Speechwriter Who Penned Benghazi Mother's RNC Speech May Vote for Clinton (Tré Goins-Phillips, 8/18/16, The Blaze)

Richard Cross, a lifelong Republican, wrote the scathing anti-Hillary Clinton speech delivered by the mother of one of the Benghazi victims at the Republican National Convention, but now he's saying he might vote for the former secretary of state in November. [...]

Cross, a former staff member for Maryland Republicans like Gov. Bob Ehrlich and former Rep. Helen Bentley, said the final straw was Trump's proposed ban on Muslim immigration into the United States, a bold policy proposal the billionaire businessman has since reformed to be specific to countries where terrorism flourishes.

"President Eisenhower would have never proposed banning Muslims from America. Nor would President Nixon. Nor would President Reagan," Cross wrote. "Donald Trump has betrayed and perverted their legacies. Consequently, I no longer recognize my party."

In Cross' view, the November election is "a citizenship election," equating it to the civil rights movement, when supporters were called to "stand up and be counted." It seems, though, Cross feels boxed in to vote for a candidate he doesn't appear to support.

"I am confronted by two painful choices: Vote for the most divisive political figure in the past 25 years or throw away my vote on a kooky Libertarian ticket," he lamented, later suggesting Clinton is "the only choice" in 2016.

Posted by orrinj at 12:31 PM


It Looks Like the NSA Was Hacked.  (Jeremy Stahl, 8/18/16, Slate)

On Saturday, a group calling itself the Shadow Brokers sent notices to media outlets about its purported hack of the Equation Group, an organization that was exposed last year by Russian security firm Kaspersky Lab as likely one of the world's most sophisticated hacking collectives. As Foreign Policy wrote, Kaspersky Lab called Equation Group "a threat actor that surpasses anything known in terms of complexity and sophistication of techniques." Without directly calling Equation Group an NSA organization, Kaspersky linked the group to the intelligence agency and pointed to involvement with the Stuxnet malware software that was widely believed to be a U.S.-Israeli cyberattack against Iran's nuclear program.

Information wants to be free.
Posted by orrinj at 12:23 PM


Cuba's Startup Path to Entrepreneurship (Kamilia Lahrichi, Aug. 18, 2016, US News)

[A]n entrepreneurial spirit is taking hold in the country. Spending is increasing to invest in the tourism sector, such as hotels and restaurants. Cuba's future economic health may depend on a private sector maturing outside of state government regulations. [...]

The growing embrace of entrepreneurship is having a subtle effect on Cuban society, says Cárdenas, the coordinator of the El Toque digital platform.

"I don't think that the young Cuban entrepreneurs see themselves as the new face of capitalism that will take down socialism," Cárdenas adds. Still, he notes a shift away from more than 50 years of Cuban history under communist rule that, as he says, focused on, "... the great social project, the 'mass' - which was the term used.

"We've changed the focus from the collective history to individual stories."

In March, U.S. President Barack Obama met with Cuban entrepreneurs to jump-start the economy. Obama's visit, during which he called for an end to the U.S trade embargo with the country, meant that new doors would be opened for Cuban entrepreneurs, Cárdenas says.

"Cuba is only 90 miles from the U.S. It has to create its future by counting on the U.S.," he says. "But one shouldn't think, either, that Cuban entrepreneurs are nothing without the U.S. "You can blame the government, people or the law. But at the end of the day, you're the one responsible for not trying."

Adds Causa, of A la Mesa: "We're throwing ourselves in the digital era with great optimism."

Posted by orrinj at 12:19 PM


Can Robot Butchers Do One Of America's Most Dangerous Jobs? : Meatpacking is an industry where humans may be happy to give their jobs to machines. (CHARLIE SORREL 08.18.16, Co.Exist)

These robots will replace workers at meat-packing factories, and not a moment too soon.

The meat-packing company JBS is part of the world's largest beef processor, and in its Greeley, Colorado plant, it is experimenting with robots on the production line. In order to automate the processing of the meat, JBS has invested in a New Zealand robot company called Scott Technology. According to a recent NPR program, automating production would trim the $100 million that JBS pays to its employees every year.

August 17, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 4:52 PM


Clinton could win by a 'landslide' in Virginia and Colorado, poll finds (The Week, 8/16/16)

Hillary Clinton's winning streak in battleground state polls continued this week. The latest Quinnipiac University polls out Wednesday showed Clinton with double-digit leads over Donald Trump in Colorado and Virginia and a slim margin over Trump in Iowa.

Poll: Trump leads Clinton by 3 points in Missouri (Rebecca Savransky, 8/16/16, The Hill)

Trump is favored by 45 percent of likely Missouri voters and Clinton is backed by 42 percent, according to the poll. Another 13 percent of respondents said they are undecided.

Clinton has decreased the gap between her and her opponent since the last statewide poll was conducted; the July 11-12 survey showed the Democratic nominee trailing Trump by 10 points, 46 percent to 36 percent.

Voting for Trump through gritted teeth (KYLE CHENEY 08/16/16, Politico)

Interviews with Republican members of the Electoral College - all from the red states Trump has his best chance of winning - reveal that the divisions that have wracked the GOP for months have also reached this oft-overlooked body with the ultimate authority to decide the election.

All of the members contacted by POLITICO - including Greathouse, Lynch and Byers - insisted they would cast their electoral vote for Trump if he prevailed in their state. (They'd disenfranchise millions of voters and risk a Constitutional crisis if they didn't.) But most indicated they would do so through gritted teeth - if only to reject Hillary Clinton or to uphold oaths they took to their party.

"You hold your nose and do some things," said Jim Skaggs, a Kentucky GOP elector, who said he would cast his electoral vote for Trump but may stay home on Election Day. "Neither one of them give a damn about the voters of Kentucky. They're here to get elected."

Several GOP electors refused to say who they'd cast their personal ballot for on Election Day. Others committed to voting for a third party or write-in candidate - if they vote at all - even though they committed to support Trump with their electoral votes.

Trump is single-handedly wiping out the Red/Blue divide.

Posted by orrinj at 4:46 PM


Runners help each other after fall, lifting Olympic spirit (AP, August 17, 2016)

In an Olympics that has seen a few unsavory incidents -- the Egyptian judoka who refused to shake hands with his Israeli opponent, the booing of a French pole vaulter by the Brazilian crowd -- Hamblin and D'Agostino provided a memory that captured the Olympic spirit.

"I was like, "Yup, yup, you're right. This is the Olympics Games. We have to finish this,'" Hamblin said.

It was a scene to warm the hearts of fans during a qualifying heat of the women's 5,000 meters. Hamblin and D'Agostino set aside their own hopes of making the final to look out for a fellow competitor.

It started when D'Agostino clipped Hamblin from behind and they both went sprawling with about 2,000 meters to go.

Hamblin fell heavily on her right shoulder. D'Agostino got up, but Hamblin was just lying there. She appeared to be crying. Instead of running in pursuit of the others, D'Agostino crouched down and put her hand on the New Zealander's shoulder, then under her arms to help her up, and softly urged her not to quit.

"That girl is the Olympic spirit right there," Hamblin said of D'Agostino. "I've never met her before. Like I never met this girl before. And isn't that just so amazing. Such an amazing woman."

As it turned out, D'Agostino probably needed more help: She soon realized she'd hurt her ankle in the fall.

Grimacing, she refused to give up, though, running nearly half the race with the injury. Hamblin did what she could, hanging back with D'Agostino for a little while to return the favor and offer encouragement.

Figures it would take NH to teach the world decency.

Posted by orrinj at 4:42 PM


'Act of God': Ruinous flooding catches Louisiana off guard (Associated Press, 8/15/16)

An act of God is how some are describing it, a catastrophic 48-hour torrent of rain that sent thousands of people in Louisiana scrambling for safety and left many wondering how a region accustomed to hurricanes could get caught off guard so badly.

Posted by orrinj at 4:37 PM


The Man Who Created Political TV Out of Nothing (FRED BARNES, 8/16/16, Weekly Standard)
John McLaughlin was a Jesuit priest, unsuccessful Senate candidate in Rhode Island, and White House aide to Richard Nixon. But he won't be remembered for any of that because he did something a lot bigger. He changed TV political commentary and made it faster, funnier, and far more watchable--in other words, a whole lot better.

McLaughlin, who died Tuesday at 89, actually invented a new type of political chat show. He was the bombastic anchor. He was joined by four Washington journalists--big names in some cases--from whom he elicited opinions on the week's happenings. Then he often mocked what they said.

There weren't many political shows on TV when The McLaughlin Group went on the air in 1982. And the existing ones were staid and less exciting than a weather report. McLaughlin changed that. TMG was rambunctious, sometimes raucous, always sharply opinionated. The panelists argued with each other, at times angrily, and McLaughlin frequently declared their views "WRONG!"

Without letting on to what he was doing, McLaughlin turned the journalists on his show into television characters. He gave them nicknames. There was Eleanor Rodham Clinton. I got the nickname Freddy the Beadle Barnes. Viewers picked their favorites and rooted for them.

It's no coincidence that Steven Colbert stopped being funny the moment he stopped being John McLaughlin.

Posted by orrinj at 4:32 PM


Patients who have Obamacare are filling more prescriptions and paying less for drugs, study finds (Noam N. Levey, 8/17/16, LA Times)
Patients who gained health coverage through the Affordable Care Act are filling significantly more prescriptions while paying less for their drugs, according to a new study that credits the health law and adds to evidence of its benefits for previously uninsured Americans and those with chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes and high blood pressure.

Posted by orrinj at 4:27 PM


A $3 Raffle? Trump's Unorthodox Pleas for Cash (Ciro Scotti , August 16, 2016, )

On Sunday, a digital marketer sent a message to the mailing list run by Breitbart, a conservative website. The message -- entitled "How great is this?" -- was from Donald Trump, inviting recipients to send him $3 to earn a chance to tour Trump Tower and have lunch with his son Eric.

No mention of any campaign issues that might light a fire under donors. No thoughts about how the three bucks could help propel a conservative agenda. Just a lunch raffle and the promise that Eric will spring for the chow and that Dad will ask him what was said over the $19 "gold label" burger or $25 lobster roll at Trump Grill - although there actually were no details about exactly where the winner will be allowed to regale young Trump with his or her political views.

Posted by orrinj at 4:22 PM


Yes, Clinton Is a Hawk, and It's Silly to Deny It (DANIEL LARISON, August 17, 2016, American Conservative)

Critics of the status quo will find plenty to dislike, but there's no reason to believe her administration would represent any kind of dramatic departure in foreign policy -- not just in the Middle East but around the world.

It's not credible to say that there isn't much evidence for Clinton's hawkishness. In almost every case for the last twenty years, Clinton has reliably sided with those favoring more rather than less aggressive measures in response to foreign conflicts and crises. She did this during her husband's administration ("I urged him to bomb" [Kosovo]), she did it as a senator with her Iraq war authorization vote, and she did it as Secretary of State (see Libya, Syria, etc.). Unlike many presidential nominees, Clinton has not shied away from her hawkish record as a candidate. During the primaries, she touted the Libyan war as "smart power at its best" and as I mentioned earlier this week she has made no secret of her support for "no-fly" and "safe" zones in Syria that would entail a significant increase in the U.S. military role in that country.

Posted by orrinj at 2:27 PM


Bin Laden's son urges overthrow of Saudi rulers (AFP August 17, 2016)

The son of al-Qaeda's slain founder Osama bin Laden has urged Saudis to "overthrow" the kingdom's rulers in order to "free" themselves from US influence, SITE Intelligence Group reported Wednesday.

August 16, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 8:14 PM


One fateful pitch still in Mays' Hall path (T.R. Sullivan, February 26th, 2007, MLB)

Carl Mays, who is on the Veterans Committee ballot this year, went to his grave believing one pitch cost him from being enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.

It may be the most infamous pitch in Major League history. Mays threw the pitch in the fifth inning on Aug. 16, 1920, while with the New York Yankees at the Polo Grounds. He was pitching against the Cleveland Indians and the batter was shortstop Ray Chapman.

It was a high fastball and Chapman was known to crowd the plate. Mays, a submarine-style pitcher who released his pitches just off the ground, had a reputation for throwing inside but insisted afterward that Chapman leaned into the pitch. One theory suggested that the spikes on Chapman's front left shoe got caught in the dirt and kept him from getting out of the way.

For whatever reason, he did not. Instead the pitch hit him on the left side of the head. In those days, they did not wear batting helmets and wouldn't for several more decades.

The ball made a loud sickening sound as it hit Chapman and bounded back to Mays. The pitcher thought the ball had hit the bat and threw over to first base for the out.

Chapman crumpled to the ground. He eventually tried to get up and walk toward the clubhouse in deep center field but collapsed around second base. The ball hit him so hard that it not only lacerated the left side of his face at the point of impact but on the opposite side as well where the brain pushed against the skin. Blood came out of the right ear.

He was taken to the clubhouse, where he mumbled, "I'm all right, tell Mays not to worry."

Posted by orrinj at 8:10 PM


Republican Latinos In Florida Are Voicing Their Support For Hillary Clinton (Anjali Sareen, 8/16/16, National Memo)

Latino Republicans in the all-important swing state of Florida are voicing their support for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and encouraging others in their party to do the same.

William Sanchez, a long-time Republican who worked in George W. Bush's administration at the Department of Justice, is part of a group called "Together for America," which is dedicated to recruiting Republicans and Independents to support Clinton against Donald Trump. The group was initially created by the Clinton campaign itself.

Sanchez joins other Latinos that worked for the Bush Administration, including Carlos Gutierrez, who recently publicly endorsed Clinton, calling a possible Trump presidency "dangerous."

Posted by orrinj at 8:09 PM


Putin's incredible shrinking circle (MARK GALEOTTI 16 August 2016, Open Democracy)

Whereas once Putin looked to his former comrades in the KGB and the St. Petersburg administration for his go-to guys, now he is recruiting disproportionately from the people he knows. Given his cloistered lifestyle, that often means bodyguards, personal assistants, and the like. Vaino, for example, was head of his personal protocol office (and even memorably carried his umbrella from time to time).

This, however, does not represent a fundamental change in the system. Putin has always been the unchallenged "decider" presiding over a court of boyars who know their power, wealth and futures depended on the tsar's favour. And while many of the new appointees are not yet well-known, we cannot assume that they are all docile yes-men and colourless ciphers. Today's grateful appointee will likely become tomorrow's arrogant power in the land. The inexorable logic of Putin's personalised, de-institutionalised and essentially ruthless regime is that he must periodically devour his favourites -- where Yakunin and Ivanov go, other past cronies such as Rosneft head Igor Sechin and deputy prime minister Igor Shuvalov may well follow -- as they become tiresome, embarrassing or a threat.

Posted by orrinj at 5:15 PM


Clinton names close confidants, Obama veterans to transition team (Amanda Becker and Luciana Lopez, 8/16/16, Reuters)

"They are the names you would expect - people who have been advising her for a long time; people who have worked with her for a long time and people who are peers, who she respects," Matt Bennett of the moderate Democratic group Third Way said of Clinton's transition team.

The group will be headed by Ken Salazar, a former interior secretary and U.S. senator. He will lead four co-chairs: former Obama national security adviser Tom Donilon; former Obama aide Neera Tanden, who now leads the progressive think tank the Center for American Progress; former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm and Maggie Williams, the director of Harvard's Institute of Politics.

Heather Boushey, the executive director of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, will be the chief economist. Two additional policy advisers from Clinton's campaign, Ed Meier and Ann O'Leary, will also move full-time to the transition team, the campaign said in a statement.

Posted by orrinj at 5:09 PM


Iran Kills Three Purported Sunni Militants (Radio Liberty, August 16, 2016)

Iranian security forces claim they have killed three purported Sunni militants in western Iran.

Police reported that the men were killed in a shoot-out on August 16 in the city of Kermanshah, about 500 kilometers southwest of Tehran and about 100 kilometers from the border with Iraq.

Russian warplanes take off from Iran to target ISIS in Syria (, 8/16/16)

Russian warplanes took off on Tuesday from a base in Iran to target Islamic State fighters and other militants in Syria, the U.S. military confirmed -- a move seen as a widening of Moscow's bombing campaign, while drawing Russia and Iran closer as the Obama administration is seeking greater cooperation with Moscow in its fight against the radical insurgents.

Posted by orrinj at 5:02 PM


Why Israel won't admit success of nuke agreement (Akiva Eldar, August 16, 2016, Al Monitor)

An admission by the prime minister of Israel or the defense minister that they were wrong is not "a shock." It's an earthquake. Israeli recognition of the fact that Iran does not have the capacity to produce nuclear weapons is the sky falling on Israel's entire defense perception.

If Iran's nuclear threat has dissipated, why does Israel need the hundreds of nuclear bombs it has (according to foreign sources)? If there's no nuclear threat on the horizon, there's no need for nuclear deterrence. Why does Israel deserve to be the only country in the Middle East exempted by the United States from joining the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)? On the day Israel concedes its mistake regarding the nuclear agreement with Iran, what reason would the United States have for maintaining Israel's "qualitative military advantage" -- a laundered way of saying that it protects Israel's nuclear policy? Not only that, but if the threat has indeed been eradicated, as the president says, there's no reason to keep boycotting Iran.

Posted by orrinj at 4:57 PM


Young voters flee Donald Trump in what may be historic trouncing, poll shows (Susan Page and Fernanda Crescente, 8/14/16, USA TODAY)

The findings have implications for politics long past the November election. If the trend continues, the Democratic Party will have scored double-digit victories among younger voters in three consecutive elections, the first time that has happened since such data became readily available in 1952. That could shape the political affiliations of the largest generation in American history for years to follow.

In the new survey, half of those under 35 say they identify with or lean toward the Democrats; just 20% identify with or lean toward the Republicans. Seventeen percent are independents, and another 12% either identify with another party or don't know.

Trump's weakness among younger voters is unprecedented, lower even than the 32% of the vote that the Gallup Organization calculates Richard Nixon received among 18-to-29-year-old voters in 1972, an era of youthful protests against the Vietnam War.

Posted by Glenn Dryfoos at 4:33 PM


RIP Bobby Hutcherson

Bobby Hutcherson, Vibraphonist With Coloristic Range of Sound, Dies at 75 - (Nate Chinen, 8/16/16, NY Times)

Bobby Hutcherson, the great jazz vibes player whose work spanned the styles of bop (with Milt Jackson also on vibes), hard bop, post-bop, and funk has died.  I particularly like his work over the years...60's, 70's, and 80's...with Dexter Gordon, (here also with Billy Higgins and Cedar Walton, who appeared with Hutcherson and Dexter in "Round Midnight" ).  

Posted by orrinj at 10:35 AM


Father of Man Killed by Milwaukee Police Makes Emotional Admission, Apologizes to His Children (Jon Street, 8/15/16, The Blaze)

Patrick Smith, who said he has "been going back and forth in jail," then apologized for not setting a different example for his kids.

"When they see the wrong role model, this is what you get," he said. "I've gotta start with my kids, and we gotta change our ways, to be better role models. And we gotta change ourselves. We've gotta talk to them, put some sense into them."

Smith also alleged the "targeting" of blacks but refused to admit that it's "their fault."

"If you know there's a reason, don't give in to the hand. Don't be going around with big guns, don't be going around shooting each other and letting them shoot y'all cause that's just what they're doing and they're out to destroy us and we're falling for it," Smith said.

August 15, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 8:45 PM


Trump proposes values test for would-be immigrants in fiery ISIS speech (Jeremy Diamond, 8/15/16, CNN)

[T]he billionaire candidate proposed a more stringent immigration test for admission into the United States to admit only "those who share our values and respect our people."

This is an excellent idea and anyone who wants to come here who meets our liberal democratic standards should be admitted.  Test them, process them, issue them with IDs and welcome them home.

Posted by orrinj at 8:29 PM


How We Killed the Tea Party (PAUL H. JOSSEY, August 14, 2016, Politico)

As we watch the Republican Party tear itself to shreds over Donald Trump, perhaps it's time to take note of another conservative political phenomenon that the GOP nominee has utterly eclipsed: the Tea Party. The Tea Party movement is pretty much dead now, but it didn't die a natural death. It was murdered--and it was an inside job. In a half decade, the spontaneous uprising that shook official Washington degenerated into a form of pyramid scheme that transferred tens of millions of dollars from rural, poorer Southerners and Midwesterners to bicoastal political operatives.

What began as an organic, policy-driven grass-roots movement was drained of its vitality and resources by national political action committees that dunned the movement's true believers endlessly for money to support its candidates and causes. The PACs used that money first to enrich themselves and their vendors and then deployed most of the rest to search for more "prospects." In Tea Party world, that meant mostly older, technologically unsavvy people willing to divulge personal information through "petitions"--which only made them prey to further attempts to lighten their wallets for what they believed was a good cause. While the solicitations continue, the audience has greatly diminished because of a lack of policy results and changing political winds.

I was an employee at one of the firms that ran these operations. But nothing that follows is proprietary or gleaned directly from my employment. The evidence of the scheming is all there in the public record, available for anyone willing to look.

Except that the Tea Party was always a wholly owned subsidiary of the Beltway Right, Secrets of the Tea Party  (BEAU HODAI, 3/21/10, In These Times)

As the Tea Party movement has gained momentum during the last 12 months, it seems few Tea Partiers have caught on to the troubling past of the man at the center of their movement: FreedomWorks chairman, former House Majority Leader and recently-retired lobbyist extraordinaire, Dick Armey.

As chairman of FreedomWorks, the group credited with mobilizing the Tea Party movement, Armey is the movement's de facto leader. Yet Armey's years spent lobbying for a group recognized by the State Department as being a terrorist organization should give Tea Partiers pause.

In the weeks before April 15, 2009, local newspapers began reporting that groups calling themselves TEA, or Taxed Enough Already, were planning rallies to protest wasteful government spending. By the time Tax Day rolled around, over 300 protests were under way in all 50 states. More than 100,000 people took to the streets, gathered in parks and city centers with signs, slogans and costumes evoking America's revolutionary past.

The protests have continued. On Sept. 12, 2009, Tea Partiers marched on Washington, D.C. From a podium at the base the Capitol Building, Armey addressed the crowd with his wife Susan by his side. They were standing there together, he said, for the future of their grandchildren.

When the first rounds of stimulus didn't work, what'd they do? The same thing the government always tries to do with a bad idea: If it doesn't work, do more. ... I want to make one clear idea: Not too long ago, President Barack Obama stood right there on that stage. He said the one singular pledge of commitment that we ask of every elected official in America at every level. He pledged a commitment of fidelity to the United States Constitution.

At which point the crowd burst into the collective chant: "You lie! You lie! You lie," echoing Rep. Joe Wilson's (R-S.C.) outburst during Obama's address to Congress three days earlier.

Armey went on to lead the masses in the chant: "Freedom works! Freedom works! Freedom works!"

If the good Lord did not mean for them to be fleeced He would not have made them sheep.

Posted by orrinj at 8:24 PM


Why Netanyahu's 'Asian option' is raising eyebrows in Israel (Ben Caspit, August 15, 2016, Al Monitor)

According to several Israeli sources familiar with the Israeli-Russian relationship, telephone calls between Netanyahu and Putin are now a matter of routine. Over the past few months, Netanyahu met with Putin face to face on three separate occasions, while he did not meet once with US President Barack Obama. He even turned down an invitation from Obama's staff for a meeting in the United States. The question now is whether Netanyahu and Obama will meet in September at the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York. While it is assumed that they will, given the terrible relationship between the two men, it is hard to bet on such a meeting taking place.

As Netanyahu drifts away from Obama at a rapid pace, he is drawing closer to Putin at an equally quick pace. That is not all. Israel's relationship with China is also heating up with microwave-like speed. Over the past few years, Israel has invested considerable energy in an effort to upgrade its relationship with the Far East and Southeast Asia and with India, Korea and other countries.

Not everyone in Israel is happy about this. Does it come "at the expense" of Israel's close relationship with the West, particularly with the United States and the European Union?

An apartheid Israel is Eastern, not Western.

Posted by orrinj at 8:17 PM


Why Low Oil Prices Might Increase Economic Freedom in the Persian Gulf (Owen Morgan & James M. Roberts / August 15, 2016, Daily Signal)

In 2014 the International Monetary Fund reported that Saudi Arabia needed oil prices of at least $106 per barrel to maintain the government spending level.

Today, the House of Saud recognizes that oil prices might not come back any time soon. To cut back, it has increased gasoline, diesel, and kerosene prices, although they remain far below international averages. It also increased prices on water and electricity. In the future, Saudi leaders plan to implement a sales tax and privatize health care and education.

Saudi Arabia isn't the only oil producer suffering. Thanks to substantial oil and natural gas reserves, Qatar is the wealthiest nation in the world per capita. But, because the country produces few products other than oil, its budget was also hard hit by the collapse of oil prices.

In November 2015, the ruler of Qatar, Emir Sheik Tamim, announced that the country could "no longer provide for everything" and admitted that heavy subsidization had led to "dependency on the state to provide for everything".

As a result, Qatar is ending its fuel subsidies to reduce its budget deficit. This reform represents a significant change of policy from 2014, when the IMF reported that Qatar had the highest per person energy subsidies in the world.

Saudi Arabia and Qatar are not alone--several other nations have recently cut subsidies that had been in place for a long time. These include big oil producers United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Oman.

We should have done this for them decades ago via gas taxes.

Posted by orrinj at 8:11 PM


Iranian military official: We will 'uproot' Jabhat al-Nusra (Ali Hashem, August 15, 2016, Al Monitor)

"Nothing really happened," an Iranian military source told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity. "What does it really mean in the field? ... It's only a public relations move that makes it easier for backers of the terrorist group to pay money and send arms [to it] without being criticized. So rather than paying in secret, they'll do it openly."

To Iran, Jabhat al-Nusra, Jaish al-Fatah and Ahrar al-Sham are much more dangerous than the Islamic State, the Iranian military source told Al-Monitor. "International and regional backers are doing whatever possible to tell the world that these groups are moderate Islamists, while they know that they are all -- like Daesh -- of the same origin, which is al-Qaeda." The Iranian military source said, "Today, the central command of al-Qaeda is weak. The killing of Osama bin Laden left the group with nothing but some heritage that's being exploited every now and then by its leaders to preserve influence, but now that even this heritage is gone, the [al-Qaeda-linked] groups are giving up their 'mother' because of her enemies. But this means that one day, when they are stronger, they [al-Qaeda affiliates] won't mind giving up their new allies for whoever will preserve their existence. That's why we are going to rid the world of them." The Iranian military source told Al-Monitor, "For years now, we've been doing our duty without looking at names and without giving attention to whoever is backing and supporting [these groups]. We'll continue to do what we have to do, wherever we need to be, and whether it's Nusra, al-Qaeda, Daesh -- or the new name it [Jabhat al-Nusra, now Jabhat Fatah al-Sham] was given -- our mandate is to uproot it and rid the region of such a terrorist group." He told Al-Monitor, "But it's not us who should be on alert; it's their backers who will be the first to be hit. Those who carried out the Sept. 11 attacks were one day sweethearts of the United States in Afghanistan, and there's no doubt that those in Syria, when strong enough, will want to do 10 times what happened in New York in 2001. We know our enemy well, but others -- despite their advanced techniques in foreseeing dangers -- are still supporting their real enemies."

Alaeddin Boroujerdi, head of Iran's parliamentary national security and foreign policy commission, said Aug. 4, "Dividing terrorists between good ones and bad ones doesn't change anything." Following a meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, Boroujerdi said, "Changing the names of terrorist groups doesn't change the fact that they are terrorists. This won't change the nature of such groups, and Jabhat al-Nusra continues to embrace the same radical, terrorist mentality despite the name change."

Posted by orrinj at 2:06 PM


The 5 Diseases That Exercise May Ward Off -- If You Get Enough, That Is (Alice G. Walton, 8/15/16, Forbes)

The aim of the meta-analysis, published in the BMJ, was to suss out how disease risk changes with increasing activity, a question hasn't been fully answered. Exercise is generally measured in metabolic equivalents (METs). The 150 minutes of moderate and 75 minutes of vigorous activity correspond to 600 METs/week, for instance, and the WHO recommends getting more than this amount per week. [...]

[P]eople getting the highest amounts of exercise in the study (at least 8,000 METs/week) compared to people with the lowest levels (less than 600 METs/week), had 14% reduced risk for breast cancer, 20% reduced risk for colon cancer, 28% reduced risk for diabetes, 25% reduced risk for heart disease and 26% reduced risk for stroke.

That said, getting these more extreme amounts of exercise wasn't absolutely necessary-there were "diminishing returns" at levels beyond 3,000-4,000 METs/week, which the paper suggests could be an optimal amount. And which suggests that while we may need more than many of us currently get, some serious health benefits are seen at levels that are not totally out of reach for most of us.

Posted by orrinj at 1:43 PM


Trump Losing Ground in Kansas : State has not voted for a Democrat since Lyndon Johnson (Eric Garcia, 8/10/16, Roll Call)

According to a poll conducted for KSN-TV, Trump would get 44 percent of the vote compared to 39 percent for Hillary Clinton. That's 3 points down from what Trump received in KSN's July poll and Clinton was up 3 points.

Mitt Romney won the state in 2012 with almost 60 percent of the vote, while Barack Obama got 38 percent.

Posted by orrinj at 1:21 PM


 Why Growth Will Fall : a review of The Rise and Fall of American Growth: The US Standard of Living Since the Civil War by Robert J. Gordon (William D. Nordhaus AUGUST 18, 2016, NY Review of Books)

A central aspect of Gordon's thesis is that the conventional measures of economic growth omit some of the largest gains in living standards and therefore underestimate economic progress. A point that is little appreciated is that the standard measures of economic progress do not include gains in health and life expectancy. Nor do they include the impact of revolutionary technological improvements such as the introduction of electricity or telephones or automobiles. Most of the book is devoted to describing many of history's crucial technological revolutions, which in Gordon's view took place in the special century. Moreover, he argues that the innovations of today are much narrower and contribute much less to improvements in living standards than did the innovations of the special century.

Rise and Fall represents the results of a lifetime of research by one of America's leading macroeconomists. Gordon absorbed the current thinking on economic growth as a graduate student at MIT from 1964 to 1967 (where we were classmates), studying the cutting-edge theories and empirical work of such brilliant economists as Paul Samuelson, Robert Solow, Dale Jorgenson, and Zvi Griliches. He soon settled in at Northwestern University, where his research increasingly focused on long-term growth trends and problems of measuring real income and output.

Gordon's book is both physically and intellectually weighty. While handsomely produced, at nearly eight hundred pages it weighs as much as a small dog. I found the Kindle version more convenient. Here is a guide to the principal points.

The first chapter summarizes the major arguments succinctly and should be studied carefully. Here is the basic thesis:

The century of revolution in the United States after the Civil War was economic, not political, freeing households from an unremitting daily grind of painful manual labor, household drudgery, darkness, isolation, and early death. Only one hundred years later, daily life had changed beyond recognition. Manual outdoor jobs were replaced by work in air-conditioned environments, housework was increasingly performed by electric appliances, darkness was replaced by light, and isolation was replaced not just by travel, but also by color television images bringing the world into the living room.... The economic revolution of 1870 to 1970 was unique in human history, unrepeatable because so many of its achievements could happen only once.

The series of "only once" economic revolutions behind this short summary makes up the next fourteen chapters of the book. Most of the innovations are familiar, but Gordon tells their histories vividly. More important, in many cases, he explains quantitatively the way these economic revolutions boosted the living standards of the statistically average American. Among the most illuminating chapters are those on housing, transportation, health, and computers.

The last two chapters are about the fall in Rise and Fall. This book differs from the Spenglerian "decline of the West" genre in an important respect. As the mathematicians might say, Gordon moves up a derivative. In other words, he is not predicting that living standards in the US will decline; rather he views it as likely that the growth rate of living standards will decline from its very rapid pace in the special century.

Gordon sees two sources for his pessimistic outlook. The first is that the long list of "only once" social and economic changes cannot be repeated. A second source is what he calls "headwinds." These are structural changes in the economy that reduce actual output below the country's technological potential and provide another reason for slow growth in living standards in the decades ahead.

Let us simply rewrite that paragraph slightly from the perspective of 2066:

The [past half] century of revolution in the United States [...] was economic, not political, freeing households from an unremitting daily grind of painful [office] labor, household drudgery [....] and early death. Only [fifty] years later, daily life had changed beyond recognition. Manual outdoor jobs were replaced by [machines], work in air-conditioned environments [was replaced by machines], housework was increasingly performed by [smart] appliances... The economic revolution of [2016 to 2066] was [completely consistent with the prior century of industrial revolution in which human labor was displaced].

August 14, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:00 PM


Trump in the dumps : The divisiveness of his campaign, and his own loutishness, are giving Donald Trump a ton of trouble (The Economist, Aug 6th 2016)

SO CLOSE to the stage that Donald Trump could almost have touched it, a notice on the school wall in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, carried this message: "Welcome to Cumberland Valley where sportsmanship is an expectation. So please ...let the spectators be positive." No chance of that. Even before the Republican nominee appeared, late on August 1st, on a pit-stop between Ohio and New York, the 3,000-odd people packing the gymnasium were spewing hate. 

"What should we do with Hillary Clinton?" hollered a local politician, as if this crowd, of young people wearing "Trump that bitch" T-shirts and older ones who apparently did not mind the slogan, needed warming up. "Kill her!" someone shouted. "Lock her up!" the chant began.

This is Mr Trump's achievement. The billionaire demagogue has not merely responded to the grievances of working-class whites--such as the folk in Mechanicsburg, mourning their lost steel mills and the pay rises and other benefits that once accrued to being hardworking and white in America. He has also sought to stoke their anger. Vengeance against "rapist" Mexicans, Muslim fifth-columnists, job-killing outsourcers and his "criminal" Democratic opponent, Mr Trump tells his supporters, is the solution to their gripes. Anyone who says otherwise, he added in his bleak convention speech last month, is conning them. "No longer can we rely on those elites in media and politics, who will say anything to keep a rigged system in place."

And yet, appearing onstage in Mechanicsburg, to the accompaniment of mock-heroic synthesiser chords, as if he were a game-show host, Mr Trump looked tired and unenthused. He did not thump the air and trumpet polling data as he likes to; how could he? After a disastrous fortnight for the Republican nominee, in which the chaos and thuggery he has brought to American politics appear to have united much of non-Trumpian America in disgust, the polls look bad for him.

Trump Is Losing, and Losing It (Kevin D. Williamson, 8/14/16, National Review)

Unless something radical and unexpected happens, Donald Trump is going to lose the 2016 presidential election -- he'll lose it more than Hillary Rodham Clinton will win it -- for more or less the reasons that his critics on the right have been explaining for more than a year now: In short, the sort of thing that makes hearts go pitter-patter out in derka-derka talk-radio land doesn't necessarily fly in the rest of the country and may in fact even come off as creepy and weird, which is why three times as many people watch The Middle -- a show I'd never heard of -- as watch Sean Hannity's nightly Trump-fest on Fox News. There's more to America than your Uncle Bob's right-wing Facebook circle, and Trump isn't very well prepared for that. 

Our friend Hugh Hewitt found this out the hard way. The talk-radio host was trying to help the Republican nominee explain away his absurd and surreal claim that Barack Obama is the founder of the Islamic State. "I know what you meant," Hewitt said. "You meant that he created the vacuum, he lost the peace." But Trump refused to take Hewitt's good counsel: "No, I meant he's the founder of ISIS," Trump insisted. "I do." Hewitt pointed out that President Obama does, from time to time, invest a fair amount of time and energy in killing Islamic State operatives. Trump: "I don't care."

...nearly everything the Right believes about America is wrong.

Posted by orrinj at 6:52 PM


U.S. energy independence looks 'tantalizingly close' (Matt Egan, August 9, 2016, CNN Money)

[T]he shale oil and gas revolution of the last couple of decades has made the improbable goal of American energy independence close to reality. Analysts at Raymond James recently predicted the U.S. will be "tantalizingly close" by 2020, as long as oil prices and domestic production rebound.

"The U.S. will be a much smaller importer of oil in the future than anybody thought was possible a decade ago," said Jason Bordoff, a Columbia University professor and former energy policy adviser to President Obama.

Ironically, the historic oil boom that President Obama has presided over is what makes that dream achievable today.

Posted by orrinj at 6:41 PM


Abortion as a Positive Good: How the Abortion Movement Echoes Radical Slavery Rhetoric (Miles Smith, August 3rd, 2016, Public Discourse)

In February 1837, South Carolina Senator John C. Calhoun changed the tone of the cultural, religious, political, and social war over slavery by declaring human bondage a "positive good." Most members of the generation of Americans who created the United States government, by contrast, saw slavery as an unfortunate legacy of the colonial period. A few in Georgia and South Carolina were indifferent to its moral status but committed to its economic benefits. Many others hoped that the new government might eventually put slavery on the road to extinction.

During the debates over the federal constitution, even members committed to allowing the retention of slavery argued against provisions that might affirm the morality of human bondage. William Paterson of New Jersey, for example, opposed representing slaves in the Congress because it might afford "an indirect encouragement of the slave trade," an institution seen as wicked even by many slaveholders. And in 1790, when Quakers presented a petition to Congress arguing for the abolition of the slave trade, Virginia planter Josiah Parker thanked them for "attending to matters of such momentous concern to the future happiness and prosperity of the people." Parker, like Washington, Adams, and scores of the revolutionary generation, hoped eventually to eradicate chattel slavery from the new United States. Richard Henry Lee, another slaveholding Virginian, called slavery a moral blight. Even as late as 1820, when Congress argued over slavery's expansion into federal territories and the new state of Missouri, South Carolina's virulently pro-slavery Senator William Smith could only offer an anemic moral defense of slavery when he called it a "necessary evil."

Calhoun's radical embrace of slavery added to the dehumanization of African-Americans and departed from long-held moral and political understanding of slavery in American political life. In our own time, modern-day John C. Calhouns make up the abortion lobby in American politics. [...]

Abortion activists couch their arguments in the language of absolute individual autonomy. A woman, they declare, has a right to do what she pleases with her body. No one--not her husband, parents, family, faith community, or society at large--has a right to tell her what to do with it. In an interview in April 2016, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards exasperatedly told the audience that she and women around the country were "so sick of men telling us what to do with our bodies." But Richards wasn't just sick of men coercing the individual will of women to spare the life of the unborn. She was sick of churches, families, local communities, state legislatures, and any other human institution. Her will should be absolute over theirs even in the case of the life or death of a human being. The DNC crowd cheered when Ilyse Hogan invoked the same idea. In so doing, they cheered nothing less than the tyrannical disposition that dominated the psyches of antebellum slaveholders.

A popular antebellum argument against abolition and emancipation foreshadowed the current abortion narrative in its emphasis on total autonomy. John Townsend, a southern pamphleteer, published a virulently pro-slavery tract during the 1860 election titled The South alone, should govern the South: And African slavery should be Governed by Those Only Who are Friendly To it. That southerners alone--without the influence or interference of natural law or revealed religion--should govern slavery was a very new idea, even for slaveholders. Patrick Henry, a slaveholding Virginian, believed that slavery was "repugnant to humanity . . . inconsistent with humanity, and destructive to liberty." Townsend and the slaveholding generation of 1860 rejected any and all cultural, legal, political, and religious restrictions on slavery--much in the same way their latter-day analogues have done with the killing of the unborn. The tyranny of the individual is as complete with abortion activists as it was with slave owners.

Both slavery and abortion defenses often use the language of submission. Abortion supporters argue that women should not have to submit themselves to the state or any other mediating authority, such as churches and family. Not even the father of the unborn child has a say. Similarly, Townsend angrily denounced those who would allow authorities other than the individual to determine the moral rightness of chattel slavery in the United States. "Submission," cried Townsend, remained intolerable because it abrogated the individual slaveholders' ultimate and final authority over their human chattel. In the same way, modern abortion advocates have viewed any obstacle to abortion-on-demand--including waiting periods and parental consent for minors--as an entirely unwarranted invasion of women's totalitarian authority over their unborn children.

Posted by orrinj at 5:29 PM


Donald Trump goes off message, again, in latest attack on the media (Deutsche-Welle, 8/14/16)

"I am not running against Crooked Hillary Clinton," Trump said in a speech Saturday in Fairfield, Connecticut. "I'm running against the crooked media."

Of course, if he were actually running at all he wouldn't be in CT...
Posted by orrinj at 1:09 PM

60 in '16:

The Poll Numbers That Show Why Mitch McConnell Is Sounding the Alarm (JIM MANLEY, Aug 14, 2016, WSJ)

Posted by orrinj at 1:02 PM


Trump's new problem: His lead on economic issues is gone (Heather Long, August 14, 2016, CNN Money)

As recently as mid-July, when voters were asked which candidate "would better handle the economy," they picked Trump over Clinton by a wide margin (54% to 43%), according to CNN/ORC polling.
Now Clinton has the edge. In the most recent CNN/ORC poll, conducted July 29 to 31, Clinton was ahead on the economy question, 50% to 48%.

In 1992, voters only noticed that the economy had bounced back after the election.  In 2000, Al Gore ran against his own administration and its economy.  In 2008, Obama had an easy sell after the House GOP tanked the markets by opposing the bailout.  in 2016, the economic environment is too strong for a Sanders or a Trump to win by running against it.

Posted by orrinj at 12:56 PM


The Brave New World of Robots and Lost Jobs (David Ignatius, August 12, 2016, Washington Post)

      The deeper problem facing America is how to provide meaningful work and good wages for the tens of millions of truck drivers, accountants, factory workers and office clerks whose jobs will disappear in coming years because of robots, driverless vehicles and "machine learning" systems.

      The political debate needs to engage the taboo topic of guaranteeing economic security to families -- through a universal basic income, or a greatly expanded earned-income tax credit, or a 1930s-style plan for public-works employment. Ranting about bad trade deals won't begin to address the problem.  

      The "automation bomb" could destroy 45 percent of the work activities currently performed in the United States, representing about $2 trillion in annual wages, according to a study last year by the consulting firm McKinsey & Co. We've only seen the beginning of this change, they warned. Currently, only 5 percent of occupations can be entirely automated, but 60 percent of occupations could soon see machines doing 30 percent or more of the work.

      The McKinsey analysts sharpened their argument in a new paper released last month. Their estimates, based on U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data covering more than 800 occupations, drew a shocking picture of the future. In manufacturing, 59 percent of activities could be automated, and that includes

"90 percent of what welders, cutters, solderers and brazers do." In food-service and accommodations, 73 percent of the work could be performed by machines. In retailing, 53 percent of current jobs could be lost.

      White-collar workers may imagine that they're safe, but that's wishful thinking. If computers can be programmed to understand speech as well as humans do, 66 percent of jobs in finance and insurance could be replaced, for example, McKinsey warns.

Imagine trying to explain to any generation of our ancestors that the greatest crisis we face is aesthetic worries over transferring our extraordinary wealth to ourselves despite not having to hold jobs anymore.

Posted by orrinj at 12:52 PM


Yemen army pushes al Qaeda fighters from two cities, about 40 dead (Reuters, 8/14/16)

Yemeni army forces backed by Arab coalition aircraft killed about 40 suspected al Qaeda fighters on Sunday as they fought their way into two militant strongholds in eastern Yemen, a local official and residents said.

Posted by orrinj at 12:45 PM


Former Bush commerce secretary backs Clinton, slams Trump (REBECCA MORIN, 08/14/16, Politico)

Carlos Gutierrez, former United States Secretary of Commerce under George W. Bush, has endorsed Hillary Clinton, adding to a number of Republicans who are siding with the other side of the aisle in this election.

"I actually think Hillary Clinton has the experience, she's been around, she knows how the system works. I think she'd make a darn good president," he said on CNN's State of the Union. "I would have preferred Jeb Bush, but I think Hillary is a great choice. I am afraid of what Donald Trump would do to this country."

Posted by orrinj at 7:50 AM


This Republican mayor has an incredibly simple idea to help the homeless. And it seems to be working. (Colby Itkowitz August 11 , 2016, Washington Post)

Next month will be the first anniversary of Albuquerque's There's a Better Way program, which hires panhandlers for day jobs beautifying the city. In partnership with a local nonprofit that serves the homeless population, a van is dispatched around the city to pick up panhandlers who are interested in working. The job pays $9 an hour, which is above minimum wage, and provides a lunch. At the end of the shift, the participants are offered overnight shelter as needed.

In less than a year since its start, the program has given out 932 jobs clearing 69,601 pounds of litter and weeds from 196 city blocks. And more than 100 people have been connected to permanent employment.

"You can just see the spiral they've been on to end up on the corner. Sometimes it takes a little catalyst in their lives to stop the downward spiral, to let them catch their breath, and it's remarkable," Berry said in an interview. "They've had the dignity of work for a day; someone believed in them today."

Berry's effort is a shift from the movement across the country to criminalize panhandling. A recent National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty report found a noticeable increase, with 24 percent of cities banning it altogether and 76 percent banning it in particular areas.

There is a persisting stigma that people begging for money are either drug addicts or too lazy to work and are looking for an easy handout.

But that's not necessarily the reality. Panhandling is not especially lucrative and it's demoralizing, but for some people it can seem as if it's the only option. When panhandlers have been approached in Albuquerque with the offer of work, most have been eager for the opportunity to earn money, Berry said. They just needed a lift. One man told him no one had said a kind word to him in 25 years.

August 13, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 9:09 PM


Inside the Failing Mission to Save Donald Trump From Himself (Aexander Burns and Maggie Haberman, 8/13/16, NY Times)

Advisers who once hoped a Pygmalion-like transformation would refashion a crudely effective political showman into a plausible American president now increasingly concede that Mr. Trump may be beyond coaching. He has ignored their pleas and counsel as his poll numbers have dropped, boasting to friends about the size of his crowds and maintaining that he can read surveys better than the professionals.

In private, Mr. Trump's mood is often sullen and erratic, his associates say. He veers from barking at members of his staff to grumbling about how he was better off following his own instincts during the primaries and suggesting he should not have heeded their calls for change.

He broods about his souring relationship with the news media, calling Mr. Manafort several times a day to talk about specific stories. Occasionally, Mr. Trump blows off steam in bursts of boyish exuberance: At the end of a fund-raiser on Long Island last week, he playfully buzzed the crowd twice with his helicopter.

But in interviews with more than 20 Republicans who are close to Mr. Trump or in communication with his campaign, many of whom insisted on anonymity to avoid clashing with him, they described their nominee as exhausted, frustrated and still bewildered by fine points of the political process and why his incendiary approach seems to be sputtering.

He is routinely preoccupied with perceived slights, for example raging to aides after Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, in his re-election announcement, said he would stand up to the next president regardless of party. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:59 PM


The Perfect G.O.P. Nominee (Maureen Dowd AUG. 13, 2016, NY Times)

All these woebegone Republicans whining that they can't rally behind their flawed candidate is crazy. The G.O.P. angst, the gnashing and wailing and searching for last-minute substitutes and exit strategies, is getting old.

They already have a 1-percenter who will be totally fine in the Oval Office, someone they can trust to help Wall Street, boost the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, cuddle with hedge funds, secure the trade deals beloved by corporate America, seek guidance from Henry Kissinger and hawk it up -- unleashing hell on Syria and heaven knows where else.

The Republicans have their candidate: It's Hillary.

Posted by orrinj at 6:50 PM


Hezbollah leader endorses Trump's claim that US created IS (AP AND TIMES OF ISRAEL,  August 14, 2016)

The leader of Lebanon's Hezbollah terror group quoted Trump at a rally in the country's south Saturday, saying the presidential candidate's statements were based on facts.

"This is an American presidential candidate who is saying this. What he says is based on facts and documents," Hassan Nasrallah said.

Posted by orrinj at 4:38 PM


Trump a factor in surprisingly close Missouri Senate race (JIM SALTER, Associated Press)

Ask Republican Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri about his party's presidential nominee and you'll likely get a polite but weary response.

It's tough enough for the political veteran seeking re-election against up-and-coming Democrat Jason Kander, Missouri's secretary of state who is showing surprising strength in the polls and in raising money. The string of recent controversies involving Donald Trump, who Blunt has endorsed, doesn't help.

Like many of his Senate GOP colleagues, Blunt, who served seven terms in the House before his election to the Senate in 2010, prefers to talk about his own record and agenda, not Trump's.

Posted by orrinj at 9:43 AM


Our Friendly Visitors : A new book examines foreign observations of American democracy. (Daniel J. Mahoney, August 12, 2016, City Journal)

Nolan points out the common themes that connect these visitors to America over a period of 100 years (Tocqueville traveled to America in 1831-32, Weber in 1904, and Chesterton in 1921 and 1930-31). But many of their themes and concerns were shared by an almost uniformly critical observer of America, the Egyptian Islamist Sayyid Qutb (who spent time in America from 1948 to 1950). The first three visitors "were simultaneously impressed with and disquieted by what they saw in America." Qutb saw only shadows and the dissolution of the human spirit. In his view, Americans lived for the almighty dollar, had no sense of beauty, and were fundamentally estranged from nature and religion. Moreover, the happiness they pursued constantly eluded them. He saw in America only conformity and a tendency to form an agitated "herd." Much of this is undoubtedly overwrought. But Nolan is struck by the fact that many of the same criticisms were made in a more balanced way by the friendly critics of America and American democracy. One doesn't have to indulge Qutb's penchant for political extremism, his one-sided hostility to Western democracy, his hatred of Zionism and Jews (which Nolan understates), or his fanciful belief that Islam will solve all the problems of modern civilization to recognize that he, too, has something to say about the limits of modern democracy.       

Alexis de Tocqueville was "the first to identify the paradoxical tendencies of individualism, conformism, and voluntarism in American society." A self-declared friend of America and democracy, Tocqueville nonetheless described Americans' "conformist habits and acute sensitivities to the opinion of others." Americans always wanted praise from foreigners, as if they were searching for confirmation of their own superiority. Tocqueville worried about the "tyranny of the majority" (excessively assertive majorities) as well as the passivity that could accompany democratic conformism. The later visitors to America repeated these themes and concerns, in somewhat different form. Tocqueville and Chesterton were both sensitive to the paradox that excessive individualism, and disengagement from the larger society, undermined authentic individuality--the ability to withstand public opinion and the pressures of the crowd. They feared the rise of what later came to be called "mass society." 

Tocqueville was the first to praise the American propensity to "associate" with others--to overcome pernicious individualism through voluntarism and collective efforts that didn't entail intervention by an obtrusive central government. This "art of association," as Tocqueville called it, went hand in hand with a vigorous system of local self-government. Tocqueville admired Americans' capacity to take charge of their own lives in a way that avoided the twin extremes of individualism and collectivism. Chesterton, too, praised "the pro-democracy" force of voluntary associations and saw in American habits "of social organization" a "power that is the soul and success of democracy." 

As for political economy, Tocqueville, Weber, and Chesterton all admired the energy and industriousness of the American people. At the same time, they criticized the excesses of what Tocqueville called the "mercantile spirit." Long before Weber articulated his famous thesis on "The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism," Tocqueville noted the multiple ways Americans brought together Puritanism and the mercantile spirit. Americans, he noted, affirmed the value of religion, even as they redefined virtue in utilitarian terms (virtue was increasingly tied to self-interest and worldly success). 

It is our extreme conformity that enables the Republic to function so smoothly and makes it so easy to assimilate immigrants of all backgrounds. And globalization is nothing more than the exportation of our conformity to the ideas of democracy, capitalism and protestantism.

Posted by orrinj at 9:38 AM


Putin Dismissed His Chief of Staff. What Does It Mean for Russia? (REID STANDISH, AUGUST 12, 2016, Foreign Policy)

[B]eyond the tightly choreographed meeting, news that the 63-year-old Ivanov -- a man who Putin once said was among his most trusted advisors -- would request to leave one month before parliamentary elections and in the middle of fresh standoff with Ukraine -- has been met with great skepticism. The details behind the high-level shake-up within the Kremlin are not clear, but many analysts view the move as part of a wider trend within Putin's inner circle: He has been replacing older members with a younger generation of officials to reorder the political elite to his benefit.

"Psychologically, it's easier for Putin these days to be around the people who always thought of him as the great leader and cannot recall the times when Putin was not that great leader," Stanislav Belkovsky, a former Kremlin spin doctor and Putin critic, told Ekho Moskvy, a prominent Russian radio station, on Friday.

Posted by orrinj at 9:33 AM


Republicans question Trump's travel choices, tight purse strings (Dana Bash and Abigail Crutchfield, 8/12/16, CNN)

Concerned Republicans say their worries go beyond the campaign's decision to send its greatest resource -- the candidate himself -- to chase one or two electoral votes in Maine, or to what they believe are unwinnable states like Connecticut. The other phenomenon perplexing veteran operatives is that the Trump campaign now has the needed money to finance television ads and ground operations -- they just don't appear to be spending it.

The imbalance in ad spending is astonishing. Since the end of the primaries, Hillary Clinton has spent $42.9 million in ads. Donald Trump has spent zero.

"They have to spend money efficiently right now to avoid getting buried by Hillary," argued Austin Barbour, a longtime Republican political operative.

"We saw this in 2012 against Obama when we were working on Romney. They were burying us with negative ads in swing states well before Labor Day. That same thing is happening with Trump," added Barbour.
Miller says the Trump campaign plans to start running television ads "soon" but declined to go further than that, saying he doesn't want to reveal internal campaign strategy.

Posted by orrinj at 8:09 AM


Ben Watson Slams Planned Parenthood For Wanting To 'Exterminate Blacks' (JANICE WILLIAMS, 08/08/16, IB Times)

NFL player Ben Watson has made a radical charge against Planned Parenthood. The 35-year-old Baltimore Ravens tight end alleged Planned Parenthood was created to eliminate the black race while discussing how race factors into abortion during an interview with the Turning Point Pregnancy Resource Center, CBS Sports reported Sunday. 

"I wouldn't say I have any unique insight," he said. "I do know that blacks kind of represent a large portion of the abortions, and I do know that honestly the whole idea with Planned Parenthood and [Margaret] Sanger in the past was to exterminate blacks, and it's kind of ironic that it's working."

According to Watson, who has written lengthy and popular essays highlighting the many social injustices faced in the black community, Planned Parenthood is one of the biggest forces pushing minorities to get abortions.

"We [as minorities] support candidates, and overwhelmingly support the idea of having Planned Parenthood and the like, and yet, that is why she created it," Watson said. "We are buying it hook, line, and sinker, like it's a great thing. It's just amazing to me and abortion saddens me period, but it seems to be something that is really pushed on minorities and provided to minorities especially as something that they should do."

Over the years, Sanger has received a lot of criticism over her ideals about abortion and the black community. In the late 1930's, Sanger started "The Negro Project," which was aimed at providing abortion and pregnancy prevention services in the rural south. Her known support of the Nazi party's eugenics movement, the idea of improving the human race by encouraging reproduction based on specific genes, has led to backlash in recent years, the Washington Post reported.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Poor People Should Have Abortions, Not Children (STEVEN ERTELT   SEP 24, 2014, LifeNews)

"It makes no sense as a national policy to promote birth only among poor people," Ginsburg says.

This isn't the first time she's sounded in favor of eugenics. Ginsburg caused a stir in July 2009 when she made comments about the Roe v. Wade abortion case that appeared racist. In an interview with the New York Times, Ginsburg said made it appear she supported Roe for population control reasons targeting minorities. [...]

Ginsburg first advocated taxpayer funding of abortions and followed it up by saying she backed Roe to eliminate "populations that we don't want to have too many of."

Posted by orrinj at 7:53 AM


With Trump certain to lose, you can forget about a progressive Clinton (Thomas Frank,  13 August 2016, The Guardian)

[Tom] Friedman need be frightened no longer. Today it looks as though his elites are taking matters well in hand. "Jobs" don't really matter now in this election, nor does the debacle of "globalization", nor does anything else, really. Thanks to this imbecile Trump, all such issues have been momentarily swept off the table while Americans come together around Clinton, the wife of the man who envisaged the Davos dream in the first place.

As leading Republicans desert the sinking ship of Trump's GOP, America's two-party system itself has temporarily become a one-party system. And within that one party, the political process bears a striking resemblance to dynastic succession. Party office-holders selected Clinton as their candidate long ago, apparently determined to elevate her despite every possible objection, every potential legal problem. The Democratic National Committee helped out, too, as WikiLeaks tells us. So did President Barack Obama, that former paladin for openness, who in the past several years did nearly everything in his power to suppress challenges to Clinton and thus ensure she would continue his legacy of tepid, bank-friendly neoliberalism.

My leftist friends persuaded themselves that this stuff didn't really matter, that Clinton's many concessions to Sanders' supporters were permanent concessions. But with the convention over and the struggle with Sanders behind her, headlines show Clinton triangulating to the right, scooping up the dollars and the endorsement, and the elites shaken loose in the great Republican wreck.

She is reaching out to the foreign policy establishment and the neocons. She is reaching out to Republican office-holders. She is reaching out to Silicon Valley. And, of course, she is reaching out to Wall Street. In her big speech in Michigan on Thursday she cast herself as the candidate who could bring bickering groups together and win policy victories through really comprehensive convenings.

Things will change between now and November, of course. But what seems most plausible from the current standpoint is a landslide for Clinton, and with it the triumph of complacent neoliberal orthodoxy. She will have won her great victory, not as a champion of working people's concerns, but as the greatest moderate of them all, as the leader of a stately campaign of sanity and national unity. The populist challenge of the past eight years, whether led by Trump or by Sanders, will have been beaten back resoundingly. Centrism will reign triumphant over the Democratic party for years to come. This will be her great accomplishment. The bells will ring all over Washington DC.

In this ironic and roundabout way, Trump may prove to be a disaster for the reform politics he has never really believed in. Indeed, it would be difficult to find a leader who could discredit populism more thoroughly than this compassion-free billionaire. For Friedman's beloved "elites", I predict that Trump will come to serve an important symbolic purpose. Trump loves to boast that he is immune to the scourge of money in politics, that he's nobody's puppet, and from his coming ruin and disgrace we will no doubt be told to draw many lessons about how money in politics actually helps prevent the rise of people like Trump and makes the system more stable.

In the Anglosphere, the neoliberal always wins.  And when the opposition party runs a nakedly paleo candidate it turns into a rout.

Posted by orrinj at 7:48 AM


Coalition reclaims former IS stronghold in Syria (AP August 13, 2016)

A Syrian Kurdish official says US-backed fighters are now in control of a northern Syrian town that until recently was a stronghold of the Islamic State group.

Nasser Haj Mansour of the predominantly Kurdish Syria Democratic Forces says Manbij "is under full control," adding that search operations are still ongoing to try find any extremists who might be hiding in the town.

It's hardly the UR's fault that the enemy is so feeble it hasn't taken much effort to defeat them.

Posted by orrinj at 7:36 AM


Congress Is Working--You Just Haven't Heard About It : The best kept secret in Washington. (Marci Harris,  8/13/16, Pacific Standard)

[T]he legislative record of the 114th Congress (which runs from January 2015 through January 2017) is one of the most productive in recent years, due to considerable compromise and cooperation among members of both parties on key issues. And that is the last thing that either party wants you to know.

As my colleagues at POPVOX have noted, major bipartisan policies have been enacted over the past two years. Longstanding issues that have vexed Congress for years have been resolved during the 114th -- under GOP control, with Democratic cooperation, signed by President Barack Obama. Congress ended the Medicare physician payment system that required a temporary "doc fix" every year for 17 years. It repealed No Child Left Behind (which officially expired in 2007) and began the process of reforming federal education policy. This Congress repealed the National Security Agency's bulk data surveillance program while reauthorizing the PATRIOT Act. It passed the first long-term transportation bill in a decade a new version of toxic chemicals bill, and updated the Freedom of Information Act for the 21st century. You may support or oppose the substance of any of these bills, but they are hardly the work of a do-nothing Congress.

Brookings recently released its "Democracy Dashboard," measuring a few key indicators for various government institutions. While that data only runs through 2014, a quick check on available data for the 114th (2105-16) shows that many of the gridlock trends appear to be on the upswing -- more big votes, more conference committees.

...that any time your partisans aren't paying attention or are confused about what you're doing (Thatcher, Blair, Clinton, W, Obama) you can get a lot done.

Posted by orrinj at 7:31 AM


Book review: how to navigate the labyrinth of jazz : Ted Gioia proves an able guide as he helps readers find their feet in what can be an off-putting genre - but in the absence of an accompanying CD, we must turn to YouTube for the music (Tribune News Service, , 31 July, 2016)

Can anyone learn how to listen to any kind of music by reading about it, even from someone as knowledgeable as Gioia? (Especially without the help of a CD, and none is included with this book.) Count me as sceptical going in. As Fats Waller is said to have warned, "If you have to ask, don't mess with it."

Gioia's early chapters, on rhythm and phrasing - the swing and pulse of jazz - and on self-expression are the least helpful and the most self-evident. "This intensely personal quality to improvisation, its tendency to mirror the psyche," he writes, "may be the most enchanting aspect of jazz." For some of us, it's the only aspect of jazz.

But starting with the chapter on structure, the book really begins to swing. There is no musical notation here - not that I could have read it - and jazz, a music of nuance, is notoriously difficult to transcribe anyway. But there are detailed analyses of three jazz standards: Duke Ellington's Sepia Panorama, Sidewalk Blues by Jelly Roll Morton and his Red Hot Peppers, and Charlie Parker's Night in Tunisia.

For each, the author lays bare the basic structure. For example, Night begins with a 12-bar intro, first four guitar, next four adding bass and drums, the final four adding horns. Then on to the A theme, B theme, and so forth to the final repetition of the A theme, then the coda.

Complicated? Not at all. Fortunately each piece is available on YouTube, and with the book in my lap and my computer at my side I listened and counted my way through the labyrinth, bar by bar. It's helpful to at least know what a bar is, but gradually I began to understand something I had only dimly sensed.

Gioia offers other hints and nudges: if lost follow the bass player, not the drummer. Soloists tend to trade off phrases in four-bar chunks. Sing or hum along as you listen. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:25 AM


FACT CHECK: Clinton Lays Out Economic Plan In Contrast To Trump (Tamara Keith, Danielle Kurtzleben, Sarah McCammon, MEG ANDERSON, Brett Neely, JONQUILYN HILL, 8/11/16, NPR)

Thank you. Thank you so much.

I have to tell you, I am thrilled to be here for a number of reasons. First, it's wonderful to be back in Michigan. You can really feel the energy and dynamism that is driving this state's comeback.

[The unemployment rate in Michigan peaked in June 2009 at a stunning 14.9 percent and has been falling essentially ever since. Unemployment in the state as of June 2016 was 4.6 percent, though that is a preliminary reading. -Tamara Keith]

And, in Detroit, we've got new businesses opening, neighborhoods like Midtown and Eastern Market are coming back, the auto industry just had its best year ever.

[By the measure of new cars purchased, 2015, was in fact a banner year. Take this headline from Car And Driver: Boom! "We Look Back at 2015 U.S. Auto Sales, the Best Year Ever." The article credits the improved economy. -Tamara Keith]

Over in Ann Arbor, high tech firms are thriving, the next generation of engineers are getting trained up in Houghton and here at Futuramic, so well named, you are on the front lines of what I believe will be a true manufacturing renaissance in America.

I just was given a short but exciting tour by Mark Jurcak and John Couch, who were telling me about how this company, what started as and for most of its early history, was an auto supply company. And then in 2000 as the market began to change and some of the auto companies began to realign, they were faced with a choice. We all face choices in life, don't we? And this company could have just said hey, you know, our business is not going to be what it was. We've got to just fold up. Let's, you know, just kind of quit. But that's not what happened here. And what happened here is what can happen across America. You are in now what is largely an aerospace company, and because of the workforce and the work ethic and the commitment of Futuramic, you are seeing the future unfold. So, I got to see what's happening here to help build the SLS rocket, that is going to go from Macomb to Mars.

I saw the two halves of an F35 nose cone waiting to be put together. I talked with some of the workers about the absolute perfection that is required to do this work. And what I believe with all my heart is that what's happening here, can happen in so many places if we put our minds to it, if we support advanced manufacturing, if we are the kind of country that once again understands how important it is to build things. We are builders and we need to get back to building.

[This is a key part of Clinton's economic message. She talks regularly aboutadvanced manufacturing, visiting factories around the country to promote the idea that although American manufacturing won't return to what it once was, it could be something new, more efficient and innovative. This is quite a contrast with Trump's pledge to reopen steel mills that were shuttered a generation ago and bring the coal industry back to what it once was. -Tamara Keith]

So we're making progress. None of us can be satisfied until the economic revitalization we're seeing in some parts of Michigan reaches every community but it is inspiring to see this combination of old fashioned hard work and cutting edge innovation. And I know my opponent in this election was here in Michigan about a week ago and it was like he was in a different place. When he visited Detroit on Monday, he talked only of failure, poverty and crime. He is missing so much about what makes Michigan great.

And the same is true when it comes to our country. He describes America as an embarrassment. He said and I quote, 'We're becoming a third world country.' Look around you my friends. Go visit with the workers building rockets. That doesn't happen in third world countries!

[Nigeria, India, Iran, Ukraine, and Algeria are developing nations with space programs. -- Jonquilyn Hill]

Posted by orrinj at 7:21 AM


God, Mrs. Thatcher and Brexit, Too : Review of Filby's God & Mrs. Thatcher (Will Higgins, August 4, 2016, Providence)

In her book God & Mrs. Thatcher, Dr. Eliza Filby, professor of British History at Kings College in London, recognizes this tendency to perceive Margaret Thatcher as some ahistorical persona present in all of Britain's affairs. Filby thus attempts, without minimizing Britain's first female Prime Minister's achievements or personality (that would be a futile endeavor indeed), to "consign" the Iron Lady to her historical context. We cannot be led by the dead, no matter how formidable, but we can learn from them. In other words, when applying the thrust of Filby's argument to the continuing post-Brexit uncertainty, asking "Would Thatcher have been a Brexiteer?" is not the operative question, but rather, "How does understanding Thatcher in her context inform us in ours?" Filby points out that the Iron Lady's "passing simply revealed how much [Britain] had changed" between her premiership and her death. With Brexit underway, the UK promises to continue changing. After rejecting the EU bogeyman, British citizens must think deeply about what they want for their country and how they must behave to get it.

Apart from contextualizing Thatcher's life and legacy, God & Mrs. Thatcher, as the title implies, contributes to our understanding of Margaret Thatcher by tracing the Christian, specifically Methodist, origins of her political convictions. It places what her husband, Denis Thatcher, called her "deep religious faith" at the center of the narrative. Filby recounts that Denis referenced his wife's faith when correcting Bernard Ingham, who purported to enumerate Mrs. Thatcher's leadership style with five characteristics, none of which touched on religion. Like Denis Thatcher in that instance, Filby contends that including Margaret Thatcher's faith is essential for understanding the Prime Minister. She goes a bit father, however, rightly situating Christianity as the organizing theme for Margaret Thatcher's whole life and work. Refreshingly, the author understands that ideas and beliefs can be powerful motivators, even for powerful people.

Some ideas encountered in childhood stick. To see this in Margaret Thatcher's life, one must start in Grantham, a small town in Lincolnshire where she grew up. As a politician, Thatcher invoked her early years for overtly political purposes (to distance herself from the "millionaire's wife" label and extol the virtues of capitalism), but her time in Grantham was truly formative. Margaret's father was a devout Methodist and a grocer. She inherited his abhorrence of debt, so it is "not without irony" that her government later allowed significant expansion of personal credit. Both father and daughter struggled to reconcile the creative power of free-market capitalism with the materialist culture it encouraged. Filby's text shows Thatcher's world-view never severed itself from Grantham.

As the introduction to God & Mrs. Thatcher advertises, the book is not technically a biography. This is clearly seen in Filby's overview of the late 1960s, a time when political discourse presaged somewhat the discussions now surrounding Brexit. 1968 was a year of upheaval. The political center was in crisis. Enoch Powell delivered his "Rivers of Blood" speech, which stirred fears about immigration in the midst of a struggling British economy. Sound familiar? Powell was vigorously anti-European but ardently pro-market, a policy pairing that has earned him the title "God-father of Thatcherism." It should be noted, however, that in the 1970s Margaret Thatcher strongly supported the European Economic Community (EEC), which Britain entered in 1973. Similarly to modern discourse, immigration fueled in some quarters the sense that "British-ness" was eroding. By 1980 "a tangible sense of England" was entering Tory thinking on immigration and European federalism.

Thatcher became party leader in 1975 and won the PM position in 1979. Once in office she followed Powell's belief that the Gospel is primarily for the individual and that "original sin" could be leveraged against utopian visions of society. Powell also paved the way for Thatcher's opposition to the agenda of liberal Anglicanism, calling the clergy amateurs in economics and politics.

Posted by orrinj at 7:15 AM


New polls show Hillary Clinton thumping Donald Trump in Colorado, North Carolina, and Virginia (The Week, 8/12/16)

The latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist polls out Friday delivered more bad news for Donald Trump. Surveys of the battleground states of Colorado, Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia each revealed Hillary Clinton well ahead of Trump, with some of her winning margins even cracking double digits. "These are supposed to be battleground states, but right now, they don't look that way," said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion.

Posted by orrinj at 7:08 AM


Anne Bradstreet & the Puritan Influence on America (Robert Stacey, 8/12/16, Imaginative Conservative)

Perhaps the single most important political and social concept in all of Puritan theology is that of the covenant. Modern readers often conflate the notion of covenant with the more widely understood notion of contract. A contract is a legal document between two or more parties that defines a quid-pro-quo exchange between them. For example, Party A might enter into a contract with Party B to mow his grass each week for fifty dollars. The two parties negotiate a price, terms of service, and other details and then bind themselves to the contract. The contract is legally enforceable should one party violate the terms.

A covenant is quite different. The covenant is a biblical concept and many examples can be found on the pages of Scripture. All covenants have certain common characteristics. First, a covenant is always made between God and people, as opposed to a contract which is made simply between people. Next, the terms of a covenant are non-negotiable. Whereas the parties to a contract typically collaborate on mutually acceptable terms, the terms of a covenant are dictated by God Himself and are not subject to amendment. Finally, a covenant is permanent, in many cases extending beyond the lifetimes of the initial generation of subscribers. Whereas a contract ordinarily concludes when the relevant parties have fulfilled their obligations to one another, a covenant has no earthly expiration date.

To further illustrate this principle, consider an example from the Old Testament. God famously enters into a covenant with Abraham in Genesis 17. In declaring this covenant, the Lord issues the terms to Abraham: "I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you... And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojourning." For their own part, Abraham and his descendants (none of whom were even born yet) are to worship God and circumcise their children as a sign. And of course, several times throughout the chapter, God calls this Abrahamic covenant "an everlasting covenant," an indication of its permanency.

Which is why we have a Constitution.
Posted by orrinj at 7:00 AM


Obama, Once Pot Smokers' Hero, Will Leave Office A Disappointment (Rob Hotakainen, 8/12/16, McClatchy)

On Thursday night, though, legalization advocates had grown weary of the 44th president. They scheduled a protest to throw marijuana seeds on the White House lawn to show their dismay at the Drug Enforcement Administration's rejection of a petition to remove marijuana from its place on the list of most dangerous drugs.

The decision quashed the hopes of legalizers who thought it would be Obama who would finally remove marijuana from the list that includes LSD and heroin.

The long-awaited ruling by the DEA means the federal government's official position is that marijuana has absolutely no medical use.

August 12, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 6:44 PM


US drone strike killed Islamic State leader in Afghanistan (LOLITA C. BALDOR, 8/12/16, Associated Press)

Gordon Trowbridge, deputy press secretary, said Hafiz Saeed Khan died in southern Nangarhar Province on July 26.

The State Department last year designated Khan a global terrorist, saying he is the leader of the Islamic State in Khorasan, which includes former members of the Pakistani and Afghan Taliban. Khan had previously been a Tehrik-e Taliban commander, but last year pledged loyalty to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Posted by orrinj at 6:20 PM


The Dream Team you've never heard of (OSCAR ROBERTSON, August 11, 2016, The Undefeated)

Our "Dream Team" of NBA all-stars was put together for a State Department goodwill tour. We played 19 games in the Iron Curtain countries of Poland, Romania and Yugoslavia -- which doesn't even exist as a country anymore -- and two games in Egypt, winning them all by large margins. We also put on clinics in every city we visited.

Our team was personally selected and coached by Red Auerbach, the most successful coach, general manager and team president in NBA history, and anchored by Bill Russell, who won 11 NBA titles.

We only had eight players: Boston Celtics' Russell, Tom Heinsohn, KC Jones and Bob Cousy (retired a year earlier and then coaching at Boston College); Jerry Lucas and me from the Cincinnati Royals; Bob Pettit from the St. Louis Hawks, and Tom Gola from the New York Knicks.

Russell, Jones, Lucas and I had been Olympic gold medalists, all of us were all-NBA, and all eight players plus Red are now in the Hall of Fame.

But our "Dream Team" has essentially been forgotten by the NBA, the media, even our own State Department - just as we were largely ignored in our own country back then. But there's a particular reason this tour should be remembered, which I will get to in a moment.

Posted by orrinj at 4:41 PM


A massive new study debunks a widespread theory for Donald Trump's success (Max Ehrenfreund and Jeff Guo, August 12, 2016, Washington Post)

Economic distress and anxiety across working-class white America have become a widely discussed explanation for the success of Donald Trump. It seems to make sense. Trump's most fervent supporters tend to be white men without college degrees. This same group has suffered economically in our increasingly globalized world, as machines have replaced workers in factories and labor has shifted overseas. Trump has promised to curtail trade and other perceived threats to American workers, including immigrants.

Yet a major new analysis from Gallup, based on 87,000 interviews the polling company conducted over the past year, suggests this narrative is not complete. While there does seem to be a relationship between economic anxiety and Trump's appeal, the straightforward connection that many observers have assumed does not appear in the data.

According to this new analysis, those who view Trump favorably have not been disproportionately affected by foreign trade or immigration, compared with people with unfavorable views of the Republican presidential nominee. The results suggest that his supporters, on average, do not have lower incomes than other Americans, nor are they more likely to be unemployed. [...]

Among Americans who were similar in terms of income, age, education and other factors, those who lived in places where people were less healthy had more favorable views of Trump. In these communities, whites are dying faster, there is more obesity, and people report more health problems. Again, this pattern held when Rothwell focused on white respondents only and on white Republicans specifically.

In other words, between two people who earn the same amount of money and have the same amount of schooling, the person who comes from a place with bad health is more likely to support Trump. It's hard to say what is causing this bad health, but at least some of this probably has roots in cultural practices -- diet and exercise habits, patterns of drinking and smoking, and more. [...]

Although Trump voters tend to be the most skeptical about immigration, they are also the least likely to actually encounter an immigrant in their neighborhood.

Rothwell finds that people who live in places with many Hispanic residents or places close to the Mexican border, tend not to favor Trump -- relative to otherwise similar Americans and to otherwise similar white Republicans.

Among those who are similar in terms of income, education and other factors, those who view Trump favorably are more likely to be found in white enclaves -- racially isolated Zip codes where the amount of diversity is lower than in surrounding areas.

These places have not been effected much by immigration, and Rothwell believes that is no coincidence. He argues that when people have more personal experience of people from other countries, they develop friendlier attitudes toward immigrants.

Posted by orrinj at 1:15 PM


Hillary Clinton paid 34.2 percent federal tax rate in 2015 (Amanda Becker and Susan Heavey, 8/12/16, Reuters)

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton paid an effective federal tax rate of 34.2 percent last year and a combined federal, state and local effective tax rate of 43.2 percent, her campaign said on Friday. [...]

It is customary for U.S. presidential candidates to make their tax returns public, although they are not required by law to do so.

Clinton's tax returns have been made public, in some form, every year since 1977.

Posted by orrinj at 9:47 AM


Macy's to Close 100 Stores as E-Rivals and Discounting Hit Legacy Retailers (RACHEL ABRAMS and SAPNA MAHESHWARIAUG. 11, 2016, ny tIMES)

The great American consumer is very much alive. It's just that people aren't shopping like they used to, reluctant to pay full price or even leave the couch -- cutting deep into the business of many top retailers. [...]

For decades, Americans have relied on the country's dense footprint of shopping centers and department stores for their prom dresses, paper towels and everything in between. Often, they were willing to drive to the mall, pay full price or wait for annual sales to get a deal.

But that has been transformed in the last decade, with the meteoric rise of the online giant Amazon, discount and low-cost stores like T. J. Maxx gaining popularity, and a long recession that reset the value of a dollar.

People continue to spend. In the spring, household spending rose at an annualized rate of 4.2 percent, driving overall economic growth. But more and more, they now want bargains and convenience -- in stores and online -- and know how to find them.

Posted by orrinj at 9:41 AM


Rubio's Lead in Florida Evaporates as GOP Struggles to Overcome Trump Slump (Stephanie Akin, 8/12/16, Roll Call)

Marco Rubio's lead in the Florida Senate race has evaporated, making him the latest down-ballot Republican to slump as voters register increasing dissatisfaction with Donald Trump as the party's nominee, according to a Quinnipiac University Poll released Friday. 

Incumbent Republican Senate candidates in the three key swing states surveyed -- Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio -- all polled better than Trump, the survey showed. But in Florida and Pennsylvania, both considered crucial to the party's efforts to maintain control of the Senate, the races are now too close to call.

Posted by orrinj at 9:36 AM


Trump closes up shop in New Jersey (MATT FRIEDMAN 08/12/16, Politico)

[T]he Trump campaign appears to have pulled up stakes in the Garden State.

After two messages left at the number of Trump's New Jersey headquarters were not returned, POLITICO visited the nondescript suburban complex listed as its address.

That office no longer exists.

Posted by orrinj at 8:59 AM


US Producer Price Index down 0.4% in July vs. 0.1% increase expected (Reuters, 8/12/16)

U.S. producer prices unexpectedly fell in July on declining costs for services and energy products, pointing to a tame inflation environment that could make it difficult for the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates.

If economists took results as seriously as their ideas, there'd be resulting pressure to lower rates.

Posted by orrinj at 8:53 AM


'Chasing Dreams: Baseball and Becoming American' : A new exhibit spotlights American Jews' struggle for racial equality in baseball. (Peter Dreier, August 12, 2016, American Prospect)

A glorious exhibit, Chasing Dreams: Baseball and Becoming American, refracts that history through the lens of baseball. The exhibit displays over 130 artifacts, original films, and interactive experiences that highlight how Jews and other minority groups, including Italians, African Americans, Latinos, Asians, and others, used baseball to help them find common ground as Americans. It documents the country's history of immigration, ethnic and racial conflict, tensions between group identity and assimilation, and crusades to challenge bigotry and dismantle discrimination. Organized by the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia, it will be on display at the Skirball Museum in Los Angeles through October 30, the American Jewish Historical Society in New York through July 2017, and other cities.

It is difficult today to imagine the excitement that greeted Jackie Robinson when he broke baseball's color barrier in 1947. His success on the baseball diamond--he won the Rookie of the Year Award that season--was a symbol of the promise of a racially integrated society. The dignity with which Robinson handled his encounters with racist players and fans and dealt with Jim Crow on the road in hotels, restaurants, trains, and other public places drew public attention to the issue. His experiences stirred the consciences of many white Americans and gave black Americans a tremendous boost of pride and self-confidence.

By hiring Robinson, the Dodgers earned the loyalty of millions of black Americans from across the country. But the team also gained the allegiance of many white Americans, most fiercely American Jews, especially those in the immigrant and second-generation neighborhoods of America's big cities, who believed that integrating our national pastime was a critical steppingstone to tearing down many other obstacles to equal treatment. 

Despite the fact that Americans fought in World War II in part to end Hitler's persecution of Jews, anti-Semitism was still widespread in postwar America. Throughout the country, colleges, employers, real estate agents and homebuilders, hotels, resorts, and country clubs still discriminated against Jews. In this climate, Jews and African Americans were natural allies, and Jewish groups were at the forefront of campaigns to integrate housing and break down other barriers for both groups.

One of the most interesting artifacts in the Chasing Dreams exhibit is a 1948 poster portraying four white boys and one African American boy holding bats and gloves, preparing for a game of baseball. One of the white boys, clearly upset, tells another white player, "What's his race or religion got to do with it? He can pitch!"

The caption on the poster says: "Keep pitching for EQUAL RIGHTS for all Americans. Remember--Home runs are made by children of every race, color, creed, and national origin. FIGHT FOR racial and religious understanding."

The poster was part of a campaign in Cincinnati to promote religious and racial understanding. In 1948, as the Brooklyn Dodgers were prepared to meet the Cincinnati Reds, Mayor Albert D. Cash used the occasion to collaborate with Phil Goldsmith, owner of Goldsmith Sporting Goods and local president of B'nai B'rith, a Jewish fraternal and service organization, in an effort to combat prejudice and discrimination. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:46 AM


N.H. Republicans Worry About Trump's Weak Ground Game (Anthony Brooks, 8/11/16, WBUR)

"If you are a Trump supporter and want to get a sign for your yard, there's no place to go and get it," said Fergus Cullen, the former chair of the state GOP.

Cullen is not a Trump supporter, but he is worried that a lack of organization in the state will hurt the rest of the Republican ticket.

"At this point, we would traditionally have regional field offices that are being opened that are basically funded by the presidential campaign," Cullen said. "But none of that is happening. The lack of coordination and funding on the Trump campaign means there is no organized get-out-the-vote effort, and that's going to have significant consequences down-ballot."

Posted by orrinj at 8:14 AM


Russia strikes IS capital Raqqa amid Aleppo fight (ZEINA KARAM AND PHILIP ISSA August 12, 2016, Times of Israel)

 The Russian military sent long-range bombers to strike a series of Islamic State targets in the group's de facto capital of Raqqa on Thursday -- a fresh round of airstrikes that Syrian activists said killed at least 20 civilians and came amid Turkish calls for greater cooperation with Moscow against the extremist group.

Posted by orrinj at 8:08 AM


Morning Joe: Trump Not Mentally Stable Due to Lack of Sleep (David Rutz, August 12, 2016, Free Beacon)

Trump's erratic behavior in recent weeks, including publicly feuding with a Gold Star family, joking that "Second Amendment people" could possibly stop Hillary Clinton, and saying President Obama is the "founder of ISIS," has accompanied a sharp drop in the polls.

"I think he's absolutely exhausted," Brzezinski said. "I don't think he's slept since he won the nomination, and even before, when he was starting to realize that he was going to win the nomination."

She said she'd heard Trump sleeps in "two-hour spurts."

"That takes a toll on the brain in a very real way," she said. "It impacts your judgment. It impacts your mood. It impacts your ability to connect with people. It impacts your ability to retain and take in and process information. I think he's losing it."

...that we prefer to imagine he's mentally unbalanced than actually believes what he says.

Posted by orrinj at 7:52 AM


Sean Hannity's Veneration of Ignorance (BRET STEPHENS, Aug. 8, 2016, WSJ)

Mr. Hannity has never made a secret of his feelings for Mr. Trump, which is the love that dares to speak its name. But his comments were also a revelation, and not just that it has dawned on him that the Republican nominee is likely to lose and lose big. Like members of a cult who discover too late that their self-proclaimed messiah is mortal after all, rationalizations are required.

Mr. Trump has lately been road-testing one such rationalization, saying the election will be "rigged." Voter fraud is a reality in American elections, but it is typical of the candidate to confuse anecdote with data and turn allegation into conspiracy. Mr. Trump also says the media is "rigged" against him, which is amusing coming from the beneficiary of the equivalent of $3 billion in free advertising.

Mr. Hannity's excuses are even more disgraceful, combining oily self-absolution with venomous obloquy for the very conservatives who have spent the year warning that a Trump candidacy is an epic GOP disaster that all-but guarantees Hillary Clinton's election. The habit of shifting blame and refusing to take responsibility is supposed to be the curse of the underclass and its political hucksters, but Mr. Hannity is giving Al Sharpton a run for his money.

Mr. Hannity's other goal is to preserve the fiction--first cultivated by Ted Cruz and later adopted by the Trumpians--that a wan GOP "establishment" and its "Acela corridor" voters sat on their hands while Mr. Obama traduced the Constitution and sold us out to the enemy. "They did nothing, nothing!" the anchor fumed Thursday on his show. "All these phony votes to repeal and replace ObamaCare, show votes so they go back and keep their power and get re-elected."

Maybe Mr. Hannity thinks that Messrs. Ryan and McConnell should have jumped the White House fence and stuck a pitchfork in the president. Or that they should have amended the Constitution to repeal Article One, Section Seven--the one that gives the president his veto. Otherwise, it's hard to understand the constant lament about a do-nothing Congress except by wondering whether Mr. Hannity is stupid or dishonest.

TV Is Americans' Main Source of News (Lydia Saad, 7/08/13, Gallup)

On a relative basis, Republicans are more likely than independents or Democrats to say their main source of news is television. At the same time, independents rely the most of the three groups on the Internet, while Democrats put the most emphasis on print.

Fox News is a clear driver of Republicans' higher tendency to turn to television for their news, with 20% versus 6% of independents and 1% of Democrats, naming it as their main news source. No other television, print, or online news source generates as much loyalty from either Democrats or independents. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:49 AM


The Government Quietly Just Approved This Enormous Oil Pipeline (ALEXANDER SAMMON, AUG. 12, 2016, Mother Jones)

It took seven years of protests, sit-ins, letter-writing, and, finally, a presidential review to prevent the Keystone XL oil pipeline from being built. Now, in a matter of months, America's newest mega pipeline--the Dakota Access Pipeline Project (DAPL)--has quietly received full regulatory permission to begin construction. Known also as the Bakken Pipeline, the project is slated to run 1,172 miles of 30-inch diameter pipe from North Dakota's northwest Bakken region down to a market hub outside Patoka, Illinois, where it will join extant pipelines and travel onward to refineries and markets in the Gulf and on the East Coast. If that description gives you déjà vu, it should: The Bakken Pipeline is only 7 miles shorter than Keystone's proposed length.

Posted by orrinj at 7:36 AM


Republican Officials Ask RNC to Stop Funding Trump Campaign (REID J. EPSTEIN, Aug 11, 2016, WSJ)

"Every dollar spent by the RNC on Donald Trump's campaign is a dollar of donor money wasted on the losing effort of a candidate who has actively undermined the GOP at every turn," the letter reads. "Rather than throwing good money after bad, the RNC should shift its strategy and its resources to convince voters not to give Hillary Clinton the 'blank check' of a Democrat-controlled Congress to advance her big government agenda."

The letter has been signed by five former GOP members of Congress: Mr. Shays, former New Hampshire Sen. Gordon Humphrey, who said he may vote for Mrs. Clinton, and former Reps. Tom Coleman of Missouri, Mickey Edwards of Oklahoma and Vin Weber of Minnesota.

The vast majority of signatories to the letter are former Republican staffers, including 15 who worked for the RNC. Others signing include Bruce Bartlett, who was an economic policy adviser to President George W. Bush, Rory Cooper, who was communications director for then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, and Sharon Castillo, who worked for the 2004 Bush-Cheney campaign and the RNC.

August 11, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:35 PM


U.S. says 300 Islamic State fighters killed in Afghan operation (SANJEEV MIGLANI, 8/10/16, Reuters)

Afghan forces, backed by the United States, have killed an estimated 300 Islamic State fighters in an operation mounted two weeks ago, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan said on Wednesday, calling it a severe blow to the group.

General John Nicholson said the offensive in the eastern province of Nangarhar was part of U.S. operations to degrade the capabilities of Islamic State wherever it raised its head, whether in Iraq and Syria or in Afghanistan.

US: IS 'in retreat on all fronts,' down to 15,000 fighters American general says (LOLITA C. BALDOR August 11, 2016, AP) 

The military campaigns in Iraq and Syria have taken 45,000 enemy combatants off the battlefield and reduced the total number of Islamic State fighters to as few as 15,000, the top US commander for the fight against IS said Wednesday.

Posted by orrinj at 4:23 PM


Left's Labour's Lost : If it wants to get serious about winning power, the Labour party must confront the changing nature of its social base. (PATRICK O'CONNOR 11 August 2016, OpenDemocracy)

Blair built a coalition around public sector workers, union support, and by injecting just the right smidge of solidarity into enough aspiring politicians in marginal constituencies to make them feel relaxed with the targeted redistribution of social benefits. (Yes, that was done in your name). Notwithstanding the Iraq war, student fees and augmenting Tory-inaugurated Private Finance Initiatives, some of those far-reaching achievements include increased NHS funding, Sure Start Nurseries, Working Tax Credits, the intervention in Kosovo, the brokering of the Northern Ireland peace accord, and lifting hundreds of thousands of children out of child poverty. How these have not contributed to improved material conditions of those living in Britain and abroad is difficult to see.

Posted by orrinj at 4:16 PM


THE CHRISTIAN ROOTS OF HUMAN RIGHTS (Thomas S. Kidd, August 1, 2016, The Gospel Coalition)

I was fascinated to read Kyle Harper's chapter "Christianity and the Roots of Human Dignity in Late Antiquity" in Timothy Shah and Allen Hertzke's new volume, Christianity and Freedom, from Cambridge University Press. (The price of the book will make it affordable only for large institutional libraries, but you can get it through Interlibrary Loan programs or wait for a paperback edition, which I am told is forthcoming.) Harper, an expert on Christianity in late antiquity, and the provost at the University of Oklahoma, notes that we commonly associate ideas of human rights with the "Enlightenment" of the eighteenth century, on which some of the Declaration draws.

But Harper posits that human rights advocacy--especially that all people have equal dignity--had key, if not unique roots in Christianity of the fourth through the sixth centuries. Why did these roots not appear earlier, we might ask? Harper answers that the difference from the early church is that Christians in the age of Constantine were moving into positions of power. They could hope to effect social change, in accord with Christian principles, for the first time.

The philosophers of Greek and Roman antiquity "lacked the concept of human dignity," Harper explains. As Christianity became more widespread, leaders of the church developed more influence, and some rulers even became Christians. This "created the grounds for the development of human rights."

Posted by orrinj at 4:10 PM


Ex-Trump staffer sues campaign, alleges gun incident in North Carolina (Reuters, 8/11/16)

Vincent Bordini, who said he was hired in December 2015 as a software trainer, said Earl Phillip, then Trump's North Carolina state director, pointed a pistol at his kneecap while the two were in a car together in February, according to a lawsuit dated Wednesday and filed in state court.

Bordini said he reported the incident to several Trump campaign officials, including then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, with no result, according to the lawsuit, which was posted online by the New York Daily News. The lawsuit names Phillip and the Trump campaign as defendants.

Posted by orrinj at 4:05 PM


The Staggering Amount Billionaires Are Holding in Cash (Robert Frank, 8/11/16, CNBC)

The world's billionaires are holding more than $1.7 trillion in cash -- the highest amount since one firm began recording the measure in 2010.

Cash is an investment in a deflationary climate.

Posted by orrinj at 3:59 PM


Farm Robots Are Starting To Take Some Human Jobs, And That's Not A Bad Thing (ADELE PETERS 08.11.16, Co.Exist)

For farm workers, picking strawberries is painful work. Laborers--often migrant workers from Mexico, if the farm is in California--might spend 10 to 12 hours a day in the sun, bending and re-bending over the tiny plants, trying to fill baskets with the fragile fruits as quickly as possible for little pay. If the crop isn't organic, the fields are doused in pesticides that can put workers at risk of cancer.

There's another option: Agrobot, one of several new specialized robots designed to do some of the worst manual labor on farms. The strawberry harvester moves carefully through a field, using an artificial vision system to identify ripe fruit and gently pick it. One new version of the robot, with 60 arms, can harvest a 20-acre farm in three days; the same task would take 20 humans three days.

Posted by orrinj at 3:52 PM


Trump Calls Obama the 'Founder of ISIS' (DANIEL ARKIN and ERIK ORTIZ, 8/11/16, NBC News)

"In many respects, you know, they honor President Obama," Trump said at a rally in Florida. "He's the founder of ISIS. He's the founder of ISIS. He's the founder. He founded ISIS."

Trump continued: "I would say the co-founder would be crooked Hillary Clinton." why the Right cheers on his anti-Americanism. He engages in exactly the sort of self-loathing that we used to associate with the Left.

Posted by orrinj at 1:21 PM


Steve King: Clinton 'is somebody I can work with' (Jason Noble, August 11, 2016, Des Moines Register)

"I've sat across the table with Hillary Clinton eye-to-eye, and when you're working outside of staff and outside of the press she is somebody I can work with," King said during a speech at The Des Moines Register's Political Soapbox at the Iowa State Fair.

Posted by orrinj at 1:11 PM


As Trump Takes Harsh Tone, Ayotte's Rhetoric Is More Welcoming (Kyle Plantz, Aug 11, 2016, NH Journal)

Trump is not making it an easy re-election for Ayotte. On Tuesday, Trump started a new controversy with remarks about the right to bear arms that many interpreted as a threat of violence against Hillary Clinton, forcing many Republicans to repudiate the statement.

"I think they're inappropriate, and obviously today's forum was about making sure we can better serve our veterans on a bipartisan basis, so thank you," Ayotte said to NBC News after a veteran's forum in Manchester on Wednesday. "I said they're inappropriate, so I think that means they went too far."

Andrew Smith, director of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center and associate professor of government, tells NH Journal that Trump's message has forced many Republicans off message in their campaigns.

"When you have someone making over the top statements for the press to criticize, that is causing Republicans and his own campaign to explain what he means," he said. "They [candidates] are not able to carry their message forward. That's the concern that Trump is causing a lot of Republicans, to be defensive and to clean up his messes, instead of coming up with their own policies and platform."

Ayotte has come out against Trump for his comments many times over the past several months. She condemned him for crossing a line with his rhetoric, including his comments on a Mexican judge and recently with the Khan family, who spoke against Trump at the Democratic Convention.

But Ayotte has faced criticism from Democrats and some #NeverTrump Republicans for not rescinding her support for Trump.

"She's conflicted," said Joseph Bafumi, associate professor of government at Dartmouth College. "She wants to be favorable to her party's nominee. She sees what Trump is doing and she doesn't like it on a personal level and electorally in New Hampshire. She doesn't want to be part of that. She walks this fine line."

Bafumi suggests that the biggest difference between Ayotte and Trump is his tone and temperament when he speaks.

"Their tones are very different," he said. "Trump is harsh, in your face and never holds back. He says he's politically incorrect and tells it like it is, but some see it as much too abrasive for a presidential candidate. Ayotte has a very even and much more mild demeanor. They couldn't be more different in tone and temperament."

August 10, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 6:48 PM


Libyan Forces Claim Control Of IS Headquarters In Sirte (Radio Liberty, August 10, 2016)

U.S.-backed Libyan militias say they have captured the Islamic State (IS) group's headquarters in their main Libyan stronghold of Sirte.

A spokesman for forces loyal to Libya's UN-backed government of national accord, Rida Issa, said on August 10 that the forces also took Sirte's Ibn Sina hospital and university campus.

Posted by orrinj at 4:44 PM


Hillary Clinton's Moral Conflicts on Abortion (MYRIAM RENAUD  AUG 6, 2016, The Atlantic)

Clinton's views on abortion are more nuanced and reflect her religious commitments to a greater degree than partisans on either side of the issue may realize.

For the most part, Clinton's stance matches the official stance of the United Methodist Church, or UMC--the tradition in which she was raised and remains a faithful member. Clinton, who calls herself an "old-fashioned Methodist," told a Newsweek interviewer in 1994 that abortion is morally wrong. One of her biographers, Paul Kengor, notes that she has turned to the UMC's Book of Resolutions when she has wanted help reaching a decision or when grappling with a moral question. The Book accepts abortion but only in a qualified way. It professes "the sanctity of unborn human life" while allowing that certain circumstances--"conflicts of life with life"--may warrant terminating a pregnancy. This may explain Clinton's recent comments on NBC's "Meet the Press" during which, to the dismay of many pro-choicers, she described the fetus as an "unborn person." She has also declared her support of some "late-pregnancy" restrictions that would go into effect perhaps as soon as the "unborn person" is viable, except in cases of rape or incest or when the life or mental or physical health of the mother is at risk.

Husband Bill has perhaps been a more reliable defender of legal abortion. Already pro-choice when he served as governor of Arkansas, he seemed troubled by the question of when life begins. He noted in his 2004 memoir that it is self-evident that biological life starts at conception. Even so, "No one knows," he wrote, "when biology turns into humanity or, for the religious, when the soul enters the body." Kengor reports that Bill sought the guidance of his then-minister, the Reverend W. O. Vaught, a conservative Baptist whose anti-abortion stance was well known. Vaught's opposition, however, had been shaken by the real-life trials of parishioners faced with difficult pregnancies. Challenged by Bill to offer a definitive answer, Vaught turned to the Bible. Based on his reading of scripture, he concluded that not until God "breathes life" into a body does "personhood" start. Human life, then, begins at birth with the first breath, he said; while abortion may be morally suspect, it does not qualify as murder. For Bill, Vaught's interpretation--which differs from the UMC's--settled the issue.

In her public comments, Clinton has been more ambivalent than her husband. She has noted that the question of when human life begins is "delicate" and "difficult," echoing the UMC's position that the beginning of life is "the God-given boundary" of human existence. When Clinton was New York's Senator, she refused to sanction legislation placing limits on access to contraception because, she argued, doing so effectively turns abortion into a stand-by method of birth control. In a 2006 email released by her campaign, Clinton argued that low-income women experience more unintended pregnancies when contraception is expensive or hard to find, and "almost half of unwanted pregnancies end in abortion." She made clear in a 2007 Democratic presidential forum that she wants to make abortion "safe, legal, and rare." And, she emphasized, "By rare, I mean rare."

Clinton has broadened the scope of standard pro-choice arguments by acknowledging that abortion can be an agonizing decision and that it "represents a sad, tragic choice to many, many women." She has also acknowledged that it can lead to long-term feelings of guilt and regret, which the UMC calls "post-abortion stress"--after-effects rarely discussed by pro-choice activists. When women weigh whether to terminate a pregnancy, Clinton counsels them to "summon up what we believe is morally and ethically and spiritually correct and do the best we can with God's guidance." Once again, her religiously grounded advice tracks the UMC's: "We call all Christians to a searching and prayerful inquiry into the sorts of conditions that may cause them to consider abortion. We entrust God to provide guidance, wisdom, and discernment."

Mr. Trump has never wrestled with a moral question in his life.
Posted by orrinj at 4:41 PM


Florida Republican: 'I think I'll write in the name Jeb Bush' (Harper Neidig, 8/10/16, The Hill)

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) said Tuesday that she will write in Jeb Bush's name when voting for president in November, according to ABC News.

"I think I'll write in the name Jeb Bush," she told the Miami Herald editorial board. "A candidate should espouse optimism."

Posted by orrinj at 4:35 PM


TRUMP: A TRUE STORY : The mogul, in a 2007 deposition, had to face up to a series of falsehoods and exaggerations. And he did. Sort of.  ( David A. Fahrenthold and Robert O'Harrow Jr.,  August 10, 2016, Washington Post)

It was a mid-December morning in 2007 -- the start of an interrogation unlike anything else in the public record of Trump's life.

Trump had brought it on himself. He had sued a reporter, accusing him of being reckless and dishonest in a book that raised questions about Trump's net worth. The reporter's attorneys turned the tables and brought Trump in for a deposition.

For two straight days, they asked Trump question after question that touched on the same theme: Trump's honesty.

The lawyers confronted the mogul with his past statements -- and with his company's internal documents, which often showed those statements had been incorrect or invented. The lawyers were relentless. Trump, the bigger-than-life mogul, was vulnerable -- cornered, out-prepared and under oath.

Thirty times, they caught him.

Trump had misstated sales at his condo buildings. Inflated the price of membership at one of his golf clubs. Overstated the depth of his past debts and the number of his employees.

That deposition -- 170 transcribed pages -- offers extraordinary insights into Trump's relationship with the truth. Trump's falsehoods were unstrategic -- needless, highly specific, easy to disprove. [...]

Trump has had a habit of telling demonstrable untruths during his presidential campaign. The Washington Post's Fact Checker has awarded him four Pinocchios -- the maximum a statement can receive -- 39 times since he announced his bid last summer. In many cases, his statements echo those in the 2007 deposition: They are specific, checkable -- and wrong.

Trump said he opposed the Iraq War at the start. He didn't. He said he'd never mocked a disabled New York Times reporter. He had. Trump also said the National Football League had sent him a letter, objecting to a presidential debate that was scheduled for the same time as a football game. It hadn't.

Last week, Trump claimed that he had seen footage -- taken at a top-secret location and released by the Iranian government -- showing a plane unloading a large amount of cash to Iran from the U.S. government. He hadn't. Trump later conceded he'd been mistaken -- he'd seen TV news video that showed a plane during a prisoner release.

But, even under the spotlight of this campaign, Trump has never had an experience quite like this deposition on Dec. 19 and 20, 2007.

He was trapped in a room -- with his own prior statements and three high-powered lawyers.

"A very clear and visible side effect of my lawyers' questioning of Trump is that he [was revealed as] a routine and habitual fabulist," said Timothy L. O'Brien, the author Trump had sued.

Posted by orrinj at 4:30 PM


The Most Scenic Train Rides in the U.S. (Conde Nast Traveler)

Amtrak: The Adirondack

The Adirondack passes through the lavish wine country along the Hudson River and follows the western shore of Lake Champlain. Passengers board at Penn Station in Manhattan and, after a ten-hour trip filled with striking views, arrive in Montreal by evening. Autumn is the ideal time to book this route, as the season affords travelers gorgeous glimpses of fall foliage through the Hudson Valley.

Posted by orrinj at 4:25 PM


Secret Service spoke to Trump campaign about 2nd Amendment comment (Tami Luhby and Jim Sciutto, 8/10/16, CNN)

A US Secret Service official confirms to CNN that the USSS has spoken to the Trump campaign regarding his Second Amendment comments.

"There has been more than one conversation" on the topic, the official told CNN.

...towards those it is sworn to protect.

Posted by orrinj at 4:12 PM


Worthwhile California initiative (Austin Frakt,   August 10, 2016, Incidental Economist))

The California Public Employees' Retirement System (Calpers) started paying hospitals differently for 450,000 of its members beginning in 2011. It set a maximum contribution it would make toward what a hospital was paid for knee and hip replacement surgery, colonoscopies,cataract removal surgery and several other elective procedures. Under the new approach, called reference pricing, patients who wished to get a procedure at a higher-priced hospital paid the difference themselves.

For example, in 2011 the Calpers maximum contribution for a knee or hip replacement surgery was set at $30,000. A Calpers patient receiving knee or hip replacement surgery at or below this reference price paid the usual cost-sharing: 20 percent of the cost, up to a maximum of $3,000. But a patient electing to use a hospital that charged, say, $40,000 paid the usual cost-sharing in addition to the $10,000 above the reference price.

As Calpers initiated the new approach, 41 of the several hundred hospitals in California could provide knee and hip replacement procedures at or below $30,000 and with acceptable quality, as measured by things like low readmission rates and high rates of use of guideline infection controls. Some hospitals charged more than $100,000 for the procedures.

The results of knee and hip replacement surgery reference pricing were striking, as were those for cataract removal, arthroscopy and colonoscopy. In a series of studies, James Robinson and Timothy Brown, University of California, Berkeley, health economists, found that under reference pricing, Calpers patients flocked to lower-priced hospitals and outpatient surgical centers. Prices and total spending for the procedures plummeted.

Health care prices can not withstand market forces, if we choose to apply them.

Posted by orrinj at 4:07 PM


Ryan Blowout Confirms Free Beacon Polling (Washington Free Beacon, August 10, 2016)

The win dealt a blow to anti-establishment forces in the Republican Party that had rallied behind Nehlen, who recently said that the United States should consider deporting all of the more than 3 million Muslims living in the country.

Trump is an aberration, not a movement.

Posted by orrinj at 3:41 PM


Inside Clinton's GOP recruitment plan : The campaign is beginning to reap the rewards of a behind-the-scenes operation that was months in the making. (ANNIE KARNI 08/09/16, Politico)

Day by day, the defectors are trickling out: Republican elected officials, bold-faced names from the George W. Bush administration, CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, all repudiating Donald Trump.

In one burst on Monday, 50 former Republican national security officials signed an open letter rejecting Trump's qualifications to serve as commander in chief.

The unprecedented desertion of the GOP nominee by leading members of his own party -- and their embrace of Hillary Clinton -- is partly organic, but for the most part it's being midwifed by the Clinton campaign, which is beginning to reap the rewards of a behind-the-scenes recruitment effort that's been months in the making.

That effort is expected to culminate in the unveiling of an official Republicans for Hillary group as early as Wednesday, by the campaign.

"In our lifetimes, we have not seen a nominee of a major party have so many members of his own party walk away and denounce them," said Clinton's senior strategist Joel Benenson. "It's out of the realm of politics."

Posted by orrinj at 3:31 PM


One In Five Republicans Wants Trump Out: Poll (Grant Smith, August 10, 2016,Reuters) 

Some 19 percent think the New York real estate magnate should drop out, 70 percent think he should stay in and 10 percent say they "don't know," according to the Aug. 5-8 poll of 396 registered Republicans.

Posted by orrinj at 1:54 PM


Trump Is In Fourth Place Among Black Voters (Harry Enten, 8/10/16, 538)

[T]rump is polling worse among black voters than almost every single Republican presidential nominee since 1948 in polls taken between the party conventions and Election Day.

Trump is currently in fourth place among black voters. You read that correctly: He's trailing Hillary Clinton, Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party nominee Jill Stein. 

August 9, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:51 PM


Can Clinton corner Condi, Kissinger? : Winning more endorsements from wary GOP foreign policy experts presents a big opportunity. (NAHAL TOOSI 08/08/16, Politico)

As Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign reaches out to Republicans alarmed by Donald Trump's national security blunders, there's a group of high-profile GOP hold-outs whose endorsement would be a major coup if the Democrat could win them over.

Condoleezza Rice, James Baker, George Shultz and Henry Kissinger are among a handful of so-called Republican "elders" with foreign policy and national security experience -- people who have held Cabinet-level or otherwise high-ranking positions in past administrations -- who have yet to come out for or against Trump.

A person close to Clinton said her team has sent out feelers to the GOP elders, although it wasn't clear if those efforts were preliminary or more formal requests for endorsement, or if they were undertaken through intermediaries. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:29 PM


Polls: Trump Trails Clinton by Double Digits in Pennsylvania (JOHN MCCORMACK, 8/09/16, Weekly Standard)
Pennsylvania has long been viewed by election analysts as a potentially decisive state in the 2016 presidential contest, but new polls out of the Keystone state show a race that isn't even close.

A Quinnipiac poll released Tuesday shows Donald Trump getting trounced by Hillary Clinton in Pennsylvania by 10 points (52 percent to 42 percent) in a head-to-head matchup and by 9 points when Libertarian Gary Johnson is included.

Posted by orrinj at 3:49 PM


Donald Trump appears to encourage gun-rights advocates to shoot Hillary Clinton (ADAM EDELMAN, 8/09/16, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)

"Hillary wants to essentially abolish the Second Amendment. And by the way, if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do folks.

"Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don't know," he said to light cheering.

Posted by orrinj at 12:59 PM


Watching from an Israel aghast, president Trump is just unthinkable, while Clinton has started to look invaluable (DAVID HOROVITZ August 9, 2016, tIMES OF iSRAEL)

[I]n Trump, America has a presidential candidate ... demonstrably capable of turning on anyone and everyone -- even on the bereaved parents of a casualty of war.

In this new and frankly insane reality, for a tiny Israel so dependent on mighty America amid the seething mass of Middle Eastern unpredictability, the ostensibly blinkered, Palestinian-empathizing, settlement-bashing, Iran-legitimating Barack Obama now appears quite the soul of temperate wisdom. And Hillary Clinton, previously tarred in right-wing Israeli circles for her association with and empowering of the unloved Obama, now looks responsible, serious, adult.

Compared to Donald Trump, indeed, Hillary Clinton now stands for Israel as the near epitome of presidential salvation. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:55 PM


Obamacare Appears to Be Making People Healthier (Margot Sanger-Katz, AUG. 9, 2016, NY Times)

Wanda Morrison, 61, of Louisville, Ky., with her physician, Dr. Kimberley Brumleve, at the Family Health Center in Louisville in November 2015. CreditBrittany Greeson for The New York Times
Obamacare has provided health insurance to some 20 million people. But are they any better off?

This has been the central question as we've been watching the complex and expensive health law unfurl. We knew the law was giving people coverage, but information about whether it's protecting people from debt or helping them become more healthy has been slower to emerge.

A few recent studies suggest that people have become less likely to have medical debt or to postpone care because of cost. They are also more likely to have a regular doctor and to be getting preventive health services like vaccines and cancer screenings. A new study, published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine, offers another way of looking at the issue. Low-income people in Arkansas and Kentucky, which expanded Medicaid insurance to everyone below a certain income threshold, appear to be healthier than their peers in Texas, which did not expand.

The study took advantage of what Dr. Benjamin Sommers, an author of the paper and an assistant professor of health policy and economics at Harvard, called "a huge natural experiment."

Posted by orrinj at 4:44 AM


Clinton opens double-digit lead over Trump in latest Monmouth poll (Kimberly Alters, 8/08/16, The Week)
A Monmouth University poll released Monday shows Democrat Hillary Clinton leading Republican Donald Trump by double-digits, building greatly upon her two-point lead before party conventions last month. Clinton earned 50 percent support among likely voters to Trump's 37 percent...

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 AM


US a Big Winner From Global Outsourcing (Maria Nenkova and Bryan Riley, 8/08/16, Daily Signal)

[I]t is important to recognize that international investment flows and job creation are closely related--and the United States is a big beneficiary of this process.

The U.S. automobile industry is a perfect example of that. Many foreign automobile brands actually produce vehicles here in America, and vice versa. The Toyota Camry and Honda Accord top the list of the 2016 American Made Index, which rates cars assembled in America based on what percentage of their parts are domestic.

As mentioned in the 2016 "International Automakers in America" report released by Global Automakers, which represents many of the international automakers that produce vehicles in the United States, "the growth of international automakers in the U.S. is an American success story."

International automakers have invested $73 billion in U.S.-based design, research, development, manufacturing, finance, and other operations. Their 36 manufacturing facilities operating in the United States produced nearly 5.4 million vehicles in 2015. It is also worth acknowledging the fact that 126,500 Americans were directly employed by these companies.

Domestic automobile brands, like the "Big Three," benefit from foreign investment too. For example, Chrysler, a Michigan-based company, is now known as Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, since Italy's Fiat became its main investor. The same argument is valid in the opposite direction. The popular Ford Fusion is assembled in Mexico, and the Chevrolet Impala is assembled in Canada.

Posted by orrinj at 3:57 AM


Would you pick fruit and veg for very low pay? No? We have a problem (Peter Fleming, 8/08/16, The Guardian)

Would you work on a remote British farm, putting in long days picking fruit and digging up potatoes in the countryside? It is easy to see such work in a romantic light, like something out of the Darling Buds of May. But it is mostly the opposite. Long hours, low pay, dirty conditions and physically demanding work.

This is why British producers of fruit and vegetables are so worried. Most of us would answer no to the above question without a second thought. In a recent report, the chairman of a large produce firm, said that "no British person wants a seasonal job working in the fields. They want permanent jobs or jobs that are not quite as taxing physically."

So companies like this rely on up to 70,000 foreign workers to pick, sort and pack fruit and vegetables. They are more willing to get their hands dirty for low pay. The same is the case in many other British industries. Not many of us want to be employed cleaning up a slaughter house, for example, so eastern European workers are vital.

Posted by orrinj at 3:54 AM


The Drone Presidency (David Cole AUGUST 18, 2016, ny rEVIEW OF bOOKS)

On March 5, the United States used unmanned drones and manned aircraft to drop bombs on a group of what it described as al-Shabab militants at a camp about 120 miles north of Mogadishu, Somalia, killing approximately 150 of them. The administration claimed that the militants presented an imminent threat to African Union troops in the region with whom US advisers have been working, although it produced no evidence to support the claim. The news that the United States had killed 150 unnamed individuals in a country halfway around the world with which it is not at war generated barely a ripple of attention, much less any protest, here at home. Remote killing outside of war zones, it seems, has become business as usual.

This is a remarkable development, all the more noteworthy in that it has emerged under Barack Obama, who came to office as an antiwar president, so much so that he may be the only person to win the Nobel Peace Prize based on wishful thinking. Our Peace Prize president has now been at war longer than any other American president, and has overseen the use of military force in seven countries--Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia. In the latter four countries, virtually all the force has come in the form of unmanned drones executing suspected terrorists said to be linked to al-Qaeda or its "associated forces."

That an antiwar president has found the drone so tempting ought to be a warning sign. As Hugh Gusterson writes in Drone: Remote Control Warfare:

If targeted killing outside the law has been so attractive to a president who was a constitutional law professor, who opposed the war in Iraq from the very beginning, who ended the Central Intelligence Agency's torture program, and who announced his intention to close the Guantanamo Bay detention camp on assuming office, it is unlikely that any successor to his office will easily renounce the seductions of the drone.

August 8, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 5:04 PM

PANIC IN NEEDLE PARK (self-reference alert):

How Chuck Taylor Taught America How to Play Basketball : A shoe-in for the first ever basketball game in the Olympics, Converse All Stars have a long history both in and out of sport (Maya Wei-Haas, 8/08/16, SMITHSONIAN.COM)

It was 1936, and the United States men's basketball team stepped onto the rain-soaked outdoor courts sporting bright white Converse shoes--patriotic blue and red pinstripes wrapping around each sole. The Americans were taking on the Canadians in the Olympic finals, and the conditions were miserable. As it poured, water inundated the courts, turning them into a "sea of mud," according to the New York Times. But, in a painfully low-scoring game, the U.S. ultimately won 19-8.

This was basketball's inaugural year in the games and the first of seven consecutive Olympic gold medals for the U.S. men's team. But it also marked the first appearance of the iconic "Olympic white" Chuck Taylor shoes--a design still around to this day.

The history of the shoe is nearly as old as the game of basketball itself, and in a way both matured together. In 1891, YMCA physical educator James Naismith invented the indoor game, played with a soccer ball and two peach baskets, to keep his students fit during the frigid Massachusetts winters. Seventeen years later, Marquis Converse founded his Converse Rubber Shoe Company, also in Massachusetts, to produce rubber galoshes, a far cry from the canvas kicks the company is known for today.

The company churned out these protective boots for the wet spring, winter and fall, but sales inevitably dropped during the dry summer months. After two years of Converse firing his employees at the beginning of the slump and rehiring when the rains returned in autumn, the entrepreneur made a bid to keep his most skilled workers year-round. He started making a non-skid, canvas-topped shoe.

The first version was a low-top oxford kind of shoe, says Sam Smallidge, the head archivist at Converse. But these dressy sneaks quickly became associated with sports, specifically the rapidly spreading basketball craze. In 1922, the Converse Rubber Company hired a charismatic athlete named Charles "Chuck" Taylor as part salesman, part player-coach for the shoe's club team, the Converse All Stars.

So, mid-70s, the cool thing in the 'hood was to wear your high white Chucks with colored laces.  The Mother Judd gave me the $12 to get new ones and some sweet red laces.  Rode to Bloomfield--wear there were businesses on the main drag--on on our bikes, bought the kicks and went back through Bloomfield Park.  It had rained so we were splashing through the puddles.  By the time we got home the brand new sneakers were more or less pink.  The Mother tried washing them in bleach which just made them a more delicate shade of pink.  Broke down crying and told her I couldn't wear them to school or kids would beat me up and call me a (insert effeminate pejorative here).  She ponied up for new ones. God bless her.

Posted by Glenn Dryfoos at 5:27 AM


Today would have been Benny Carter's 109th birthday, and those of you who read these posts (ATJ #2ATJ #14, and ATJ #29) know I am a great admirer of Benny the musician and Benny the man.   I don't have much to add to my previous notes about the King, so I'll just link to some YouTube videos:
From the "Jazz Masters" series here's Benny in 1981 playing one of his favorite ballads, Erroll Garner's Misty, accompanied by Kenny Barron (piano), George Duvivier (bass) and Ronnie Bedford (drums).

Benny was, of course, a great composer and arranger...not only for jazz bands, but for TV and movies as well.  A few of his tunes were used by NFL Films: 

Until recently, I didn't know that Benny had ever played with my other musical hero, Sonny Rollins.  Thanks to Google Images, I now know that Benny, Sonny, Dizzy Gillespie and Gerry Mulligan teamed up at the inaugural Monterey Jazz Festival...although, sadly, I can't find any recordings of the performance.
Almost 110 years after Benny's birth and about 90 years after he made his first recordings, Benny's contributions as an instrumentalist, band leader, composer and arranger remain vital and ever-present.  If you tune into a jazz radio station anywhere in the world and listen for even a little while, you're likely to hear someone playing or singing one of his great melodies or to hear his arranging signature: five saxophones swinging in close harmony.  Or, if you're really lucky, you'll hear Benny himself, playing one of his own tunes.  
Happy birthday, Benny.

August 7, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 12:48 PM


Jets pound rebels after they break Aleppo siege (LISA BARRINGTON AND SULEIMAN AL-KHALIDI, 8/07/16, rEUTERS)

Syrian insurgents who broke the siege of rebel-held eastern Aleppo on Saturday in a significant territorial gain came under intense air attack from pro-government forces on Sunday trying to repel the advance which also cut government-held Aleppo's main supply route. [...]

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad wants to take full control of Aleppo, pre-war Syria's most populous city, which has been divided between rebel and government-held areas.

Assad's government forces are supported in Syria by Russian air power, Iranian militias and fighters from Lebanon's Hezbollah group [...]

As the insurgents took over parts of the government's Ramousah military complex, which contains a number of military colleges, they broadcast images of the weaponry and ammunition they were taking possession of.

Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, formerly the al Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front, posted pictures of rows of armored vehicles, munitions, howitzers, rockets and trucks. [...]

Fears are growing in government-held western Aleppo that it might become besieged by rebels, as east Aleppo has been by government forces, because the main route south to Damascus for goods transport, the Ramousah road, has been severed.

Posted by orrinj at 12:41 PM


How Germany Could Have Won World War I : If Berlin had made some different choices we would be living in a very different world.  (Michael Peck, May 8, 2014, National Interest)

If twentieth-century Germany had a tombstone, it would say "This is What Happens to Those Who Fight on Two Fronts". Much as kung-fu movies make fighting multiple opponents look easy, it's generally better to defeat your enemies one at a time.

That was the idea behind Germany's Schlieffen plan, which called for concentrating on France in the opening days of the conflict while keeping weaker forces in the East. The key was to defeat France quickly while vast and underdeveloped Russia still mobilized, and then transfer forces by rail to settle accounts with the Tsar.

However, Russia did attack into East Prussia in August 1914, only to be surrounded and annihilated at the Battle of Tannenberg. They lost 170,000 men to just 12,000 Germans in one of history's most famous battles of encirclement. Yet the Russian advance also frightened German Army Chief of Staff Helmuth von Moltke into transferring three corps from France to East Prussia. They arrived too late for Tannenberg, while depriving the Western offensive of vital troops at Germany's best time to overcome France and possibly end the war.

From then on, Germany had to spread its forces between West and East, while supporting its Austro-Hungarian and Turkish allies. Just what Germany could have accomplished--had it been able to concentrate on just one front--became painfully clear in 1918. After forcing the new Soviet government to sue for peace, the Germans quickly transferred 500,000 troops to France. They also unleashed innovative new stosstruppen (stormtrooper) infiltration tactics--an early form of blitzkrieg without the tanks--that enabled them to break the trench-warfare deadlock.

Kaiserschlacht ("Kaiser's Battle") offensives shattered several British armies and compelled British commander Douglas Haig to warn his troops that their backs were "to the wall." After four years of unrelenting combat and economic blockade, Germany still had the strength to achieve more in weeks than four years of bloody Allied offensives at the Somme, Passchendaele and Chemin des Dames.

Ideally, Germany could have found diplomatic means to have fought against Russia alone without war with France, or vice-versa.

Posted by orrinj at 12:37 PM


Is Iran judiciary open to negotiating on human rights?  (Arash Karami, August 4, 2016, Al Monitor)

The head of Iran's judiciary, Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani, made an interesting proposition to European countries during a speech Aug. 3 on the occasion of Human Rights Day in Iran. He said Iran is willing to hold talks on human rights as long as Europe is willing to also discuss the human rights situation in their countries.

"It cannot be that only Iran is questioned," Larijani said. "It has to be two-way. We have questions for Europe, too." He said that Iran wants to question Europe on the spread of Islamophobia, forced unveiling in schools and restrictions on discussing the Holocaust, specifically in France.

Iran, which has the highest number of people executed per capita in the world, has been on the defensive over the human rights reports issued by American and European organizations and the human rights sanctions issued by those countries. Iranian authorities, however, view this human rights pressure more as a political tool. "The West applies double standards with respect to human rights," Larijani said. As examples, he raised the relationship of Europe and the United States with Bahrain despite its recent crackdown on clerics and dissidents. In regard to the recent scandal of removing a Saudi Arabian-led coalition from the child rights blacklist, Larijani said, "With their own dollars, they silence the secretary-general of the United Nations over the violation of children in Yemen."

Posted by orrinj at 12:33 PM


The Confounding Futurism of Kevin Garnett : The Big Ticket's next season may be in doubt, but his impact on the league has never been clearer (Jonathan Tjarks, 8/01/16, The Ringer)

The great big men of the NBA's last era are slipping away. Tim Duncan and Amar'e Stoudemire have retired this summer and Kevin Garnett could be next. The Timberwolves are patiently waiting on Garnett, who has spent the past few weeks mulling over a possible return for one final season. It would be his 22nd in the league, giving him more active seasons than Robert Parish or Kevin Willis -- he would effectively be the longest-tenured player in NBA history. Like Duncan, Garnett is a bridge between generations, a walking link connecting the past and the future. He played with Terry Porter and Spud Webb in his rookie season, and Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins in what might be his last. Porter and Webb are 53. Towns and Wiggins will both be 21 at the All-Star break of the upcoming season.

Garnett was one of a kind: a modern pivot sent back in time to the mid-'90s. When he entered the league, most 7-footers were stuck under the basket after a long stint in college learning to play in the post. Garnett didn't have time for any of that, becoming the first player to declare for the draft out of high school in 20 years. Few had seen a big man who could slide his feet like Garnett 25-plus feet from the basket, and he's one of the only players in league history who could guard all five positions. If there's anything to regret with how Garnett's career has played out, it's that he was so far ahead of his time the league didn't know how to fully utilize him.

...only Michael was his peer in forcing, by the sheer exercise of will, teammates to play defense.

Posted by orrinj at 12:31 PM


Kevin Whately Says Goodbye To 'Inspector Lewis' (Jane Levere, 8/07/16, Forbes)

In a recent telephone interview, Whately said he became involved with Inspector Morse after colleagues urged him to portray Inspector Lewis, a younger man on television than he was in the Colin Dexter novels on which the series was based.  John Thaw portrayed Inspector Morse.

He said that in the early part of this century, he was again asked to portray Lewis in a spin-off series, opposite CS James, the character portrayed by Laurence Fox .

"They asked me for two or three years whether I'd consider spinning Lewis off.  I didn't want to do it, I didn't think it was a good idea.  I didn't think the character was strong enough.  An executive on Morse took me out to lunch, said if you do one and it's a failure, we will leave you alone.  I did one as a pilot and it took off immediately.  We were back on the moving train."

Whately said Inspector Morse ran for 33 episodes and that Inspector Lewis will run for the same number of episodes.  "Morse was so important to me, I didn't want to go beyond that number," he said.

Posted by orrinj at 12:14 PM

THEY SHOULD ALL BE PUBLIC (profanity alert):

Julian Assange to Bill Maher: WikiLeaks 'Working On' Hacking Trump's Tax Returns (Marlow Stern, 8/07/16, Daily Beast)

Maher then posed a question: "Why don't you hack into Donald Trump's tax returns?" since the real estate heir has refused to release his taxes, thereby becoming the first U.S. presidential candidate in decades to do so.

"Well, we're working on it," a smirking Assange replied.

There's nothing private about the public taxes you pay.

Posted by orrinj at 12:02 PM


How globalization actually saved America's middle class (Shikha Dalmia, August 1, 2016, The Week)

For starters, notes Manhattan Institute's Scott Winship, the American working class is stable. (His four-part series in Forbes earlier this year dissecting the various arguments and data deployed by inequality-narrative peddlers is well worth a look.) He notes that the rate of increase of median wages of workers has certainly slowed since the 1970s. But that isn't because workers aren't being fairly compensated for their productivity contributions. Rather, he points out, the labor market entered a period of prolonged correction after powerful unions artificially bid up wages for several decades in the post-World War II era. There were other factors too, but realistic calculations show that today's wages, earnings and income -- individual and household -- are stuck at 2000 levels, he says. "That sounds bad, except that in 2000, the American middle class was richer than it had ever been, and essentially the richest middle class in global history," he maintains. [...]

Remarkably, our quality of life has continued to improve. [...]

St. Lawrence University economist Steve Horwitz examined the consumption patterns of Americans post-9/11 in 2014 and found that for virtually every good -- washing machines, computers, cell phones, and so on -- the consumption gap between the rich and poor diminished between 2003 and 2005. 

When your costs decline but your income remains the same you got a raise.
Posted by orrinj at 11:57 AM


American Nazi Party: Trump victory would be 'a real opportunity' (ERIC CORTELLESSA, August 7, 2016, Times of Israel)

Rocky Suhayda, who heads the Arlington, Virginia-based neo-Nazi group, told his followers last month that he predicted Trump would defeat Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, and that the real estate mogul gave them the best chance to assemble an alliance dedicated to advancing their agenda.

"I'm gonna project, that I believe that Trump is going to win the election this November, for various reasons which I don't want to go into again," Suhayda said during a July broadcast. "I think it's gonna surprise the enemy, because, I think that they feel that the white working class, especially the male portion of the working class, and with him his female counterparts have basically thrown in the towel. Given up hope of any politician again standing up for their interests."

He went on to say: "Now, if Trump does win, okay, it's going to be a real opportunity for people like white nationalists, acting intelligently to build upon that, and to go and start -- you know how you have the black political caucus and what not in Congress, and, everything, to start building on something like that, okay. It doesn't have to be anti, like the movement's been for decades, so much as it has to be pro-white. It's kinda hard to go and call us bigots, if we don't go around and act like a bigot. That's what the movement should contemplate. All right."

He lost me at "intelligently"....

Posted by orrinj at 11:53 AM


Small US Towns Look to Syrian Refugees for an Economic Boost (Michael Ollove, 8/07/16, Stateline)

RUTLAND, Vermont -- Mayor Christopher Louras sees trouble ahead for this small city of about 16,000 at the foot of the Green Mountains.

"It's a strong, vibrant community but unless we do something to stem the population decline, we're going to be in big, big trouble," Louras said. "And it's not just Rutland. Rutland is a microcosm of the state and small towns around the country."

Related: Christians Only? Debate Over Syrian Refugees Quickly Turns Toxic

But the mayor sees a quick fix. He's asked Vermont's resettlement agency to send refugees to Rutland, and says they would help fill vacant housing and entry-level jobs to keep the economy moving.

It's an approach small towns from Montana to Georgia are increasingly considering as they grapple with shrinking and aging populations. 

Posted by orrinj at 11:39 AM


This weird TV show from Norway will be your new favorite Netflix binge (JUAN BUIS, 8/04/16, Next Web)

Their first broadcast in 2009 was a 7.5 hour long train ride from Bergen to Oslo. It turned out to be immensely popular and was watched by two million people - roughly 45 percent of Norway's population. [...]
The full list of the shows you're now able to watch on Netflix are:

Slow TV: National Firewood Evening (2016)
Slow TV: National Firewood Morning (2016)
Slow TV: National Firewood Night (2016)
Slow TV: National Knitting Evening (2016)
Slow TV: National Knitting Morning (2016)
Slow TV: National Knitting Night (2016)
Slow TV: Northern Passage (2016)
Slow TV: Northern Railway (2016)
Slow TV: Salmon Fishing (2016)
Slow TV: The Telemark Canal (2016)
Slow TV: Train Ride Bergen to Oslo (2016)

Posted by orrinj at 10:42 AM


Report: GOP Strategists Are Getting Ready to Ditch Trump for the Down Ticket (Chas Danner, 8/06/16, New York)

[T]he New York Times is reporting that top GOP strategists, growing increasingly resigned to the likelihood of Trump being an election-day disaster for the party, are now actively working on plans to distance down-ticket incumbents from the nominee.

Those plans exclude fully disavowing Trump (and potentially alienating his base), but include other coping mechanisms like accelerating the development of ads that distinguish GOP candidates from Trump -- airing as soon as early next month -- or possibly launching a large-scale ad campaign to support conventional Republican positions, thus bolstering the party itself instead of the party's nominee -- or as the Times paraphrases one strategist's explanation, "to provide voters with a different, nonthreatening view of Republicans, so that the party is not wholly defined by Mr. Trump's day-to-day pronouncements."

In addition the Club for Growth, a major conservative political group, is itself researching contingency plans to motivate voters who don't like Trump but might vote for down ticket candidates. And while the GOP's hold on the Senate is most at risk this year, Paul Ryan, who is himself facing an ugly -- if not terribly risky -- primary battle at home in Wisconsin, has warned Republican donors that the party's 30-seat majority in the House isn't safe either.

Posted by orrinj at 9:09 AM


Brexit means that Britain will be boss again (Daniel Hannan, 6 August 2016, The Spectator)

We know what people voted against,' say half-clever ­pundits, 'but it's far from clear what they voted for.' Actually, it's very clear: the ­British voted to leave the EU and take back control of their own laws. They didn't ­dictate precisely what kind of deal we should have with our neighbours after leaving: that is for ministers to negotiate. But when Leave campaigners invited people to 'take back ­control', voters understood what that meant: legal supremacy should return from Brussels to Westminster.

Remainers spent the campaign trying to suggest that the EU was just one among several international associations in which Britain participated. It was, they wanted us to believe, a club, like Nato or the G20, in which we agreed to abide by common rules in order to secure common objectives. All such ­associations, they argued, involved some loss of sovereignty. If we wanted ­'undiluted ­sovereignty', averred Sir John Major, we should 'go to North Korea'.

Not for the first time, Sir John under­estimated the electorate. People could see that the EU differed from every other international body in that it presumed to legislate for its member states. Membership of Nato or the G20 may mean ceding power in ­certain areas; but it emphatically doesn't mean ceding sovereignty -- that is, the ultimate right to determine laws.

If Nato or the G20 aspired to unitary statehood, they, too, might become subjects of referendums. So far, though, no other body in the world has awarded itself supreme legal authority. I write 'awarded itself' deliberately. The primacy of EU law was not in the Treaty of Rome. Rather, as even committed federalists admit, it was invented by the European Court of Justice in a series of expansive ­judgments in 1963 and 1964.

So the EU's treaties are unlike any other international accords. Instead of binding their signatories as states, they sustain a separate legal order, superior to national laws and directly binding upon businesses and individuals within states.

The Anglosphere (mainly) has over the last two centuries redefined sovereignty so that the legitimacy of the governor requires the consent and participation of the governed.  By the democratic standards of the English-Speaking world, the EU is simply illegitimate. There was never any chance that the nations of Northern Europe would submit to it.

Posted by orrinj at 9:04 AM


Energy minister: Iran has respected 'bad' nuclear deal (AFP, August 7, 2016)

"It's a bad deal but it's an accomplished fact, and during the first year we spotted no significant breach from the Iranians," said Steinitz, who is close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"But it's still too early to conclude that this 12-year deal is a success," he told Israel Radio.

Bibi has to pretend to oppose the deal in order to assuage the far Right, but Bennett went too far.  So now he has to send out guys to signal Washington that he's still on board.  What a hoot.

Posted by orrinj at 9:00 AM


Russia, not Hezbollah, sent drone into Israel -- report (TIMES OF ISRAEL, August 7, 2016)

A drone that crossed into northern Israel last month belonged to Russia -- not Hezbollah, as was initially suspected -- the Haaretz newspaper reported Sunday.

Posted by orrinj at 8:51 AM


Medicaid Works : States that haven't expanded Medicaid are missing out on a good thing. (Chad Stone, Aug. 5, 2016, US News)

[M]edicaid works, as my CBPP colleagues explain in a new blog series of that name.

Medicaid, which Washington and the states jointly fund, provides health coverage to low-income families and individuals, including children, parents, pregnant women, seniors and people with disabilities. Since President Johnson signed Medicaid into law in 1965, policymakers have significantly expanded eligibility and closed many gaps in coverage, as Judith Solomon shows here.

Medicaid is now an essential and popular part of the nation's health care system, providing quality health coverage for 97 million low-income Americans over the course of 2015 - that's Fact #1 in Edwin Park's 10 Key Facts post. Fact #2: Medicaid and the new health marketplaces created under health reform have already helped cut the number of uninsured Americans from 45 million in 2013, before health reform's key provisions kicked in, to 29 million last year. Medicaid is a cost-effective program, with high participation, that provides significant financial support to low-income beneficiaries.

Health reform's designers envisioned a critical role for the Medicaid expansions in reducing the number of uninsured. They would fill a longstanding coverage gap for low-income adults without employer coverage who were not previously eligible for Medicaid and whose income is too low to qualify for the premium tax credits to buy health insurance in the new health marketplaces. States have flexibility to design their Medicaid programs, and the federal government pays the entire cost of covering the new Medicaid enrollees through this year - and no less than 90 percent thereafter for suitable expansion programs.

Many states have taken the opportunity to expand coverage for this neglected population. For several states, it has produced net savings for their budgets, partly through lower payments to hospitals for uncompensated care, as Jesse Cross-Call discusses here. States that expanded coverage have seen a substantially larger drop in the share of adults without health coverage than states that haven't (see chart).

Universal HSAs and National Health both cut health care costs and provide coverage of the whole demos.  One builds individual wealth so that retirement entitlements can be cut as well.  By choosing not to work towards the former with the President, the GOP has just hastened the latter.
Posted by orrinj at 8:15 AM


Unilever's Big Strategic Bet on the Dollar Shave Club (Bhaskar Chakravorti, JULY 28, 2016, Harvard Business Review)

Absorbing a disruptor. Dollar Shave Club is an interesting illustration of the theory of a disruptor breaking into a highly profitable and over-served industry from the low-end; it's not unusual for incumbents to seek to absorb these rivals when they're still relatively small.

Thanks to the momentum Dollar Shave Club created, the online market for razorblades has grown from essentially zero to $263 million, according to estimates from Slice Intelligence, a market research firm. While disruption has become an over-hyped and misunderstood idea, particularly in the tech industry, it is still relatively novel in consumer goods whose products may be "fast moving," but with far more slowly evolving business models.

Despite all this, it is hard to rationalize paying such a high premium for a small player, no matter how disruptive, with a low margin business model, focused on a zero-sum game of taking business away from an incumbent. This would be particularly at odds in a time when Unilever's corporate strategy is focused on re-balancing in favor of higher margin categories and brands, with growth potential. At the very minimum, the company would be sending a confusing signal to its shareholders.

A fundamental shift in the industry.  A third rationale that builds on the first two, to my mind, is the most compelling one. As I mentioned earlier, a deal such as this - involving an acquisition of a disruptive rival for a five-times revenue multiple -- would feel at home in Silicon Valley. The best explanation for it is that it is, indeed, a "Silicon Valley" play. Unilever's move is a signal of more fundamental changes in the consumer products industry.

Dollar Shave Club has shown that the shaving market can still be transformed - thanks to an online subscription model, a memorable brand, and a strong consumer experience. For more evidence of this, consider that Gillette, still the No. 1 razor brand, saw its market share fall from 71% in 2010 to 59% in 2015. (And for the record, P&G-owned Gillette sued Dollar Shave Club late last year for patent infringement. Dollar Shave Club filed a countersuit in February.)

One of the ways in which P&G managed to slow Dollar Shave Club's encroachment was by responding with its own subscription entry, the Gillette Shave Club. In fact, P&G has extended the idea into new categories, the Tide Wash Club, offering pod refills for a subscription fee. Other competitors, such as Harry's, have also jumped on the bandwagon with its own "shave plans".

In the meantime, the biggest player on the online retail block, Amazon, is growing as a serious competitor to consumer products companies, with its push into private-label goods - diapers, detergents and grocery items -- combined with its "subscribe and save" option for these sorts of staples that require regular replenishment.

The accumulation of these transitions suggests that the classic consumer-products business model is about to be busted across the board, with both retailers and their suppliers gearing up to encroach on each others' traditional positions along the value chain using a digital connection with the consumer.

Shaving is a mug's game in the first place.

August 6, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 8:07 PM


US Muslim group slams IS in billboard campaign (TIMES OF ISRAEL, August 6, 2016)

A billboard campaign in Chicago denouncing the Islamic State terror group has become a hit with social media users worldwide.

The campaign was launched by an American non-profit organization representing American Muslims.

Quoting the verse "Life is sacred," from the Quran (5:32), the billboard sign reads "Hey ISIS, you suck!!! From: #ActualMuslims," using another name for the terror group.

Posted by orrinj at 5:05 PM


As Obama Takes On Trump, The President's Popularity Rises (McClatchy Tribune News Service, 8/06/16)

President Barack Obama's favorability rating continues to gain as he steps up criticism of his would-be successor, Donald Trump.

The percentage of voters who think the country is on the right track has increased in the latest McClatchy-Marist poll, and 53 percent of registered voters say they approve of the job Obama is doing as president, compared with 40 percent who disapprove.

Posted by orrinj at 4:56 PM


N. Korea accuses US of seeking 'pre-emptive nuclear strike' (AFP•August 6, 2016)

North Korea has accused Washington of planning a pre-emptive nuclear strike, after the US announced it would deploy its B-1 bomber in the Pacific for the first time in a decade.

It's 6 decades late, but it's the least we can do for the North Korean people.

Posted by orrinj at 4:42 PM


I'm a neoliberal. Maybe you are too (Sam Bowman, 8/06/16, Medium) 

Many of our left-wing opponents would describe us as neoliberal to slander us. I suggest we follow the Suffragettes and wear this label with pride.

So who are "we"? Here are a few common beliefs that I think "we" have in common. I'm not claiming that these beliefs are exclusive to us, of course.

We like markets -- a lot. We think that markets are by far the best way of organising most human affairs that involve scarce resources, because they align people's incentives in ways that communicate where resources can be be used most efficiently, and give people reasons to come up with new ways of using existing resources. This means that markets and market-like systems are desirable in many, many places they're not present at the moment -- healthcare, education, environmental policy, organ allocations, traffic congestion, land-use planning.

We are liberal consequentialists. A system is justified if it is the one that best allows people to live the lives that they want to live, or makes them happiest or more satisfied than any other. There are no inherent rights that override this. People's wellbeing is all that matters, and generally individuals are best at defining what is best for themselves.

We care about the poor. [...]

We care about the welfare of everyone in the world, not just those in the UK. [....]

We base our beliefs on empirics, not principles. There is an unlimited number of stories that you can tell about the world, but only a few are true. You find out which are true by comparing the stories to reality with experiments and throwing away the ones that don't fit. It doesn't matter if a theory appears to be internally coherent -- if it can't stand up to experimentation, it's wrong. In particular, quantitative empirical research is what we look for.

We try not to be dogmatic. [...]

We think the world is getting better. And, really, it is: pro-market ideas have taken hold nearly everywhere, raising living standards by an extraordinary amount for a huge number of people. [...]

We believe that property rights are very important. Predictable and formalised ownership of scarce resources is extremely important. [...]

But we're comfortable with redistribution, in principle. Because we're consequentialists we don't think that property rights are morally significant in and of themselves -- they're a useful rule that allows the economy to function properly but there is no intrinsic value to them.

These are the Third Way principles that the winner of every national election in the Anglosphere has been more closely identified with than his/her opponent.  They can be boiled down to the simple concept that utilizing First Way means (free market capitalism) is the best way to deliver Second Way ends (social security).

Posted by orrinj at 4:36 PM


Trump Campaign Memo: Primary Strategy Was To Provide 'SAFE SPACE' For Voters Called 'Bigots' (Eric Owens, 08/06/2016, Daily Caller)

An internal memo from Donald Trump's presidential campaign obtained by FiveThirtyEight shows that Trump sought to court voters who felt a "persistent state of disenfranchisement" from the U.S. political process by offering them a "safe space" to express their views.

Trump's campaign strategy during the 2016 primary season specifically targeted voters who "have been called 'stupid,' 'racists,' and 'bigots'" by "elites," according to the memo.

Posted by orrinj at 11:02 AM


Rebels turn tables on regime as IS loses Syria bastion  (AFP, 8/06/16)

Jihadists and rebels captured strategic military positions on the edges of Syria's second city Aleppo on Saturday, turning the tables on Russian-backed regime forces besieging the city.

Posted by orrinj at 10:58 AM


Yemen's Houthi-led bloc sets up governing council, peace talks wind down (Reuters, 8/06/16)

The armed Houthi movement and the party of Yemen's former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, the General People's Congress (GPC), hold most of Yemen's northern half, while Hadi's forces share control of the rest of the country with local tribes.

Posted by orrinj at 7:44 AM


Humpback whales around the globe are mysteriously rescuing animals from orcas : Scientists are baffled at this seemingly altruistic behavior, which seems to be a concerted global effort to foil killer whale hunts. (BRYAN NELSON, July 30, 2016, Mother Nature Network)

Humans might not be the only creatures that care about the welfare of other animals. Scientists are beginning to recognize a pattern in humpback whale behavior around the world, a seemingly intentional effort to rescue animals that are being hunted by killer whales.

Marine ecologist Robert Pitman observed a particularly dramatic example of this behavior back in 2009, while observing a pod of killer whales hunting a Weddell seal trapped on an ice floe off Antarctica. The orcas were able to successfully knock the seal off the ice, and just as they were closing in for the kill, a magnificent humpback whale suddenly rose up out of the water beneath the seal.

This was no mere accident. In order to better protect the seal, the whale placed it safely on its upturned belly to keep it out of the water. As the seal slipped down the whale's side, the humpback appeared to use its flippers to carefully help the seal back aboard. Finally, when the coast was clear, the seal was able to safely swim off to another, more secure ice floe.

Another event, involving a pair of humpback whales attempting to save a gray whale calf from a hunting pod of orcas after it had become separated from its mother, was captured by BBC filmmakers. [...]

Perhaps the most stunning aspect of this behavior is that it's not just a few isolated incidents. Humpback whale rescue teams have been witnessed foiling killer whale hunts from Antarctica to the North Pacific. It's as if humpback whales everywhere are saying to killer whales: pick on someone your own size! It seems to be a global effort; an inherent feature of humpback whale behavior.

Posted by orrinj at 7:40 AM


8 things you should always buy generic to save money (AOL.COM, Jul 25th 2016)

And get them at the dollar store.

Posted by orrinj at 7:29 AM


The world's most productive countries also have the shortest workdays (Fast Company, 8/06/16)

New analysis of GDP data from the OECD and hours worked data from the Central Intelligence Agency reveals that working longer hours doesn't always translate into more productivity. 

Seven countries among those with the highest GDP also rank for the top ten fewest working hours. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:24 AM


How this majestic British bird was saved from the brink of extinction (Joe Shute, 6 AUGUST 2016, The Telegraph)

 In medieval cities kites were as commonplace as pigeons today, and as scavengers served a vital function, clearing the streets of human detritus. In The Knight's Tale Chaucer had a kite pilfer a bone from a pair of dogs. Shakespeare - whose collected works refer to red kites no fewer than  15 times - described London in Coriolanus as  the 'city of kites and crows'.

This alliance came to an end with improved urban sanitation and the Tudor Vermin Acts, which introduced bounty payments for species including the red kite. Records show that 329 kites were killed in Tenterden, Kent, between 1679 and 1693. In Morwenstow, Cornwall, 276 were killed between 1676 and 1690.

By the late-18th and 19th centuries, gamekeepers had seized the mantle of eradicating  the kite to stop the birds taking the chicks of ground-nesting birds. In 1808, according to the ornithologist Ian Carter, an expert on the reintroduction of the red kite, the Marquess of Bute prepared an oath for gamekeepers on his estate in Argyll: 'I shall use my best endeavours to destroy all birds of prey etc... wherever they can be found therein. So help me God.'

The decline was hastened by the fact that the rarer the red kite became, the more egg collectors targeted its nests. This situation culminated in a letter written in 1903 by the naturalist and Aberystwyth University professor JH Salter to the British Ornithologists' Club, pleading for help to save the remaining pairs, which he located in Carmarthenshire's Towy Valley.

The letter prompted the formation of an unlikely and self-funded coalition, comprising landowners, farmers, a retired colonel and a local vicar. They circulated pamphlets imploring gamekeepers not to shoot and kept a watch - and a veil of secrecy - around nesting sites.

Raptor populations were restored by banning hunting, not DDT.

Posted by orrinj at 7:19 AM


Freddie Mac posts $993M profit in 2Q; paying $933M dividend (MARCY GORDON, August 2, 2016, AP)

Mortgage giant Freddie Mac reported net income of $993 million for the second quarter, down sharply from the same period of 2015.

The company said Tuesday its income from fees received from lenders for guaranteeing mortgages increased in the April-through-June period, but it sustained losses on investments because of the decline in interest rates.

McLean, Virginia-based Freddie will pay a dividend of $933 million to the U.S. Treasury next month. Freddie will have paid $99.1 billion in dividends, exceeding its government bailout of $71 billion.

Posted by orrinj at 7:11 AM


Insiders to Trump: Drop out (STEVEN SHEPARD 08/05/16, Politico)

[R]epublican insiders in key battleground states have a message for The Donald: Get out.

That's according to The POLITICO Caucus -- a panel of activists, strategists and operatives in 11 swing states. The majority of GOP insiders, 70 percent, said they want Trump to drop out of the race and be replaced by another Republican candidate -- with many citing Trump's drag on Republicans in down-ballot races. But those insiders still think it's a long-shot Trump would actually end his campaign and be replaced by another GOP candidate.

"I'd rather take our chances with nearly anyone else than continue with this certain loser who will likely cost the Senate and much more," said a New Hampshire Republican -- who, like all respondents, completed the survey anonymously.

"The effect Trump is having on down-ballot races has the potential to be devastating in November," added a Florida Republican. "His negative image among Hispanics, women and independents is something that could be devastating to Republicans. Trump's divisive rhetoric to the Hispanic community at large has the potential to be devastating for years to come."

The poor kids canvassing for Kelly Ayotte this week were essentially going house to house apologizing for Trump and begging us no let him influence our votes in NH. But almost every elected position in NH these days tend to go to the party that wins at the presidential level of the ticket.

Posted by orrinj at 7:06 AM


Is Iran Still Israel's Top Threat? : How the nuclear agreement looks in the country where its consequences are the gravest (GRAHAM ALLISON  MAR 8, 2016, Atlantic)

[C]onsider the following assessment:

"Without a doubt the nuclear deal between Iran and the West is a historic turning point. It is a big change in terms of the direction that Iran was headed, and in the way that we saw things."

"It has many risks, but also presents many opportunities. Our role is to look at the risk prism and the capability prism and to judge from that--not to assume that the worst-case scenario will take place, because that is as dangerous as the best-case scenario. Therefore, we are now revisiting our strategy."

"In the 15-year timeframe that we are looking towards, we are still keeping Iran high on our priority lists because we need to monitor its nuclear program. But this is a real change. This is a strategic turning point."

At a recent meeting in Washington, I challenged the participants to identify the author of these quotes. The most frequently proposed answer was Secretary of State John Kerry's speechwriter nominating his boss for the Nobel Peace Prize. No one guessed correctly.

These are the words of the individual who has primary responsibility for the defense of the state of Israel: Israeli Chief of the General Staff Lieutenant General Gadi Eizenkot. Eizenkot, who commands the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), offered these unvarnished judgments publicly in a January speech to colleagues at Israel's premier national-security think tank, the Institute for National Security Studies. In speaking so explicitly about a deal Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called a "historic mistake" that raises the specter of a second Holocaust, Eizenkot settled the debate in Israel about where he and the IDF stand on this question.

This debate erupted last summer when Eizenkot, for the first time in Israeli history, released a public defense strategy. When the document was published, Israeli analysts found it almost unbelievable that the strategy said nothing about an Iranian nuclear threat. The omission was so blatant that members of the press speculated that a secret annex outlines the true scope of the Iranian nuclear threat, while others contended that the omission was the ultimate putdown to the prime minister. Eizenkot's January speech ended this speculation.

Posted by orrinj at 6:58 AM


Somalis in Maine strike back after Trump's comments at rally : Somali residents of Maine say Donald Trump's characterization of their community as dangerous is unfair and could undo years of work to integrate into the country's whitest state (AP, Aug. 5, 2016)

Somalis began coming to Maine in the 1990s as part of a refugee resettlement effort in Portland. A housing shortage caused some to look to Lewiston, a former mill town 35 miles to the north, where apartments were cheaper.

Integration was not without challenges. Laurier Raymond, then Lewiston's mayor, told Somalis to stop relocating to the city in 2002 because of what he called a strain on social services. A few years later, someone rolled a frozen pig's head into a mosque, drawing widespread condemnation from the community and eventually criminal charges.

These days, Somalis and immigrants from other African communities attend public schools and run local businesses.

Portland school Superintendent Xavier Botana called the district's Somali students "a shining example" of the strength of diversity. It's common in both cities to see hijab-clad mothers shepherding children around playgrounds, something no one would have fathomed decades ago in the state that still has the lowest percentage of nonwhites in the U.S.

Other Somali communities have grown in places such as Minnesota and Columbus, Ohio.

Young men in Minnesota's Somali community have been targeted by terror recruiters in recent years, and three Somali men who were accused of plotting to go to Syria to join the Islamic State group were convicted in June of conspiracy. There have been no such arrests in Maine.

Rick Bennett, the chairman of the Maine Republican Party, said he did not think Trump's comments in Portland were a declarative statement that Maine's Somalis are dangerous. He added that the growth of Maine's Somali community is "an example of legal immigration working."

Rain in a Dry Land (PBS: June 19, 2007)

Posted by orrinj at 6:53 AM


In Texas Oil Country, Wind Is Straining the Grid : A new $8 billion electricity transmission system is now complete, but it's already nearing maximum capacity. (Richard Martin  August 6, 2016, MIT Technology Review)

The Lone Star state is by far the largest state for wind power, with nearly 18,000 megawatts of wind generation capacity already built and another 5,500 megawatts--nearly equal to California's total installed capacity--planned. The biggest driver of that wind boom was an $8 billion transmission system that was built to bring electricity from the desolate western and northern parts of the state to the big cities of the south and east: Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, and Houston.

Completed in 2014, the new wires--known as Competitive Renewable Energy Zones, or CREZ--have the capacity to carry some 18,500 megawatts of wind power across the state. That's not enough to handle the 21,000 megawatts of capacity Texas expects to reach this year, and it's creating a situation that's straining the transmission system and potentially resulting in periods where the turbines go idle.

Posted by orrinj at 6:46 AM


Arab-Kurd alliance said to capture IS Syria stronghold (AFP August 6, 2016)

A coalition of Arab and Kurd fighters on Saturday seized the Islamic State group stronghold of Manbij, two months after launching an operation to capture the strategic city in northern Syria, a monitor said.

"The Syrian Democratic Forces took control of Manbij on Saturday and are combing the city in search of the last remaining jihadists," said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Backed by air strikes from the US-led coalition, the SDF launched its offensive to retake Manbij on May 31.

The town had served as a key transit point along IS's supply route from the Turkish border to Raqa, the de facto capital of its self-styled Islamic "caliphate."

Posted by orrinj at 6:37 AM


Trump's Campaign Focused On Attracting Unlikely Voters, A Memo Shows (Clare Malone, 8/05/16, 538)

Most presidential campaigns spend their time and money appealing to people who vote regularly in elections. Not Donald Trump. According to a Trump campaign memo obtained by FiveThirtyEight, the campaign pursued a highly unorthodox strategy of courting unlikely voters during the primaries, focusing on people who rarely participate in GOP primary elections. The campaign relied on free media, including Trump's frequent TV appearances, to turn out regular voters, according to the memo.

August 5, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 5:00 PM


The sky is falling! Wait, no it's not. (RACHEL ALEXANDER, July 27, 2016, Heritage)

As the green movement grows, few seem to notice that a major reason the movement emerged -- the prediction that human activity will soon lead to cataclysmic events -- has proven false.

Of all the people still making such predictions, perhaps the most famous is former vice president Al Gore. In 2006, he said that if "drastic measures" weren't taken to reduce greenhouse gasses, the earth would reach a "point of no return" in 10 years.  "We can't wait," he said, promoting his movie An Inconvenient Truth, which turned out to be inconveniently wrong. "We have a planetary emergency. ... The future of human civilization is at stake! ... Global warming is the greatest challenge we've ever faced!" January 25, 2016, came and passed and the earth's temperature has remained almost the same. Tornadoes are declining, the number of polar bears is increasing, and ice in the Antarctic continues to expand.

Despite his dire warnings about global warming causing rising sea levels, Gore bought a beachfront mansion. Meanwhile, he has been very successful as a green-tech investor.

In 2003, the Pentagon commissioned a doomsday report entitled, "An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for United States National Security." The report predicted severe climate disasters occurring around the world in 2005, 2007 and 2010 due to global warming, "Floating ice in the northern polar seas, which had already lost 40% of its mass from 1970 to 2003, is mostly gone during summer by 2010." It went on to address the years 2010-2020, "By the end of the decade, Europe's climate is more like Siberia's."

And in 2005 the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) warned that "man-made global warming" would cause sea levels to rise by 2010, causing 50 million "climate refugees" to flee from islands and coastal areas. Not a single "climate refugee" has yet had to  flee. The UNEP took its "climate refugees" map off its website.

These failed predictions are nothing new. In 1922, that's 94 years ago, the Associated Press reported that coastal cities would be uninhabitable in a few years due to "a radical change in climate conditions" and the melting of the polar ice caps. When Earth Day launched 46 years ago, "experts" were making many apocalyptic warnings that turned out false.

Reason compiled a list. Paul Ehrlich declared that Americans would have a life expectancy of 49 years. Harvard biologist George Wald warned that "civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken." A scientist at the National Academy of Sciences said in Scientific American that the world would run out of lead, zinc, tin, gold and silver by 1990 and copper just after 2000.

Posted by orrinj at 4:55 PM


Libertarian Gary Johnson Is Nearing A Prime-Time Slot (Matthew Cooper, 8/05/16, Newsweek)

With Donald Trump plummeting in the polls and Hillary Clinton registering high negatives, the Libertarian Party ticket has a rare opportunity: to be represented in the presidential debates for the first time since 1992.

That opportunity has been underscored by a new Fox News poll that shows the Libertarian Party's presidential nominee, Gary Johnson, the former New Mexico governor, getting 12 percent support. A party qualifies to join a presidential debate if it scores 15 percent in a series of polls leading up to the fall forums.

Posted by orrinj at 4:49 PM


'No Empirical Evidence' for Thomas Piketty's Inequality Theory, IMF Economist Argues : Historical data shows he has it all wrong, Carlos Góes says in a new study (IAN TALLEY, Aug 5, 2016, WSJ)

[M]r. Piketty's thesis, posed by the French economist in his controversial 2013 tome "Capital in the Twenty-First Century," isn't proved by historical data, says International Monetary Fund economist Carlos Góes.

"There is little more than some apparent correlations the reader can eyeball in charts," Mr. Góes says in a new paper published by the IMF. "While rich in data, the book provides no formal empirical testing for its theoretical causal chain."

Mr. Góes tested the thesis against three decades of data from 19 advanced economies. "I find no empirical evidence that dynamics move in the way Piketty suggests."

In fact, for three-quarters of the countries he studied, inequality actually fell when capital returns accelerated faster than output.

Those findings support previous work by Daron Acemoglu of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and political scientist James Robinson, now of the University of Chicago, suggesting Mr. Piketty's thesis was far too simplistic for the complexities of real-world economies that are affected by politics and technology.

Mr. Góes says his study also provides evidence that Mr. Piketty's assumption that saving rates remain stable is flawed. Rather, the data shows changes in the savings rate are likely to offset most of the effects of an increase in capital share of national income.

Ideologies are evidence-proof.
Posted by orrinj at 12:43 PM


Harvard Republican Club Doesn't Support GOP Nominee for First Time in 128 Years (Rachel Dicker, Aug. 5, 2016, US News)

[I]n a break from a 128-year-long tradition, the Harvard Republican Club has announced it will not be backing the GOP nominee this year.

"Donald Trump holds views that are antithetical to our values not only as Republicans, but as Americans," the club explained in a statement on its Facebook page Thursday. "The rhetoric he espouses - from racist slander to misogynistic taunts - is not consistent with our conservative principles."

"Donald Trump, despite spending more than a year on the campaign trail, has either refused or been unable to educate himself on issues that matter most to Americans like us," the statement continues. "He speaks only in platitudes, about greatness, success, and winning."

The Harvard Crimson reports that a poll by the Harvard Republican Club earlier this week showed only 10 percent of its members said they would be supporting Trump for president. Ten percent were undecided, and 80 percent said they would not vote for him. [...]

"President Reagan called on us to maintain ... our shining city on a hill. He called on us to maintain decency in our hearts by loving our neighbor," the Harvard Republican Club wrote. "He would be ashamed of Donald Trump. We are too."

Former CIA Chief Endorses Clinton, Calls Trump an 'Unwitting' Russian Agent (Gabrielle Levy, Aug. 5, 2016, US News)

Michael Morell, former acting director of the CIA, endorsed Hillary Clinton for president Friday, praising the Democratic nominee's national security acumen and offering a blistering critique of her Republican rival, Donald Trump, who he called an "unwitting agent of the Russian Federation."

"First, Mrs. Clinton is highly qualified to be commander in chief. I trust she will deliver on the most important duty of a president - keeping our nation safe," Morell wrote in an op-ed in The New York Times. 
"Second, Donald J. Trump is not only unqualified for the job, but he may well pose a threat to our national security." [...]

"I am neither a registered Democrat nor a registered Republican. In my 40 years of voting, I have pulled the lever for candidates of both parties," he said. "As a government official, I have always been silent about my preference for president. No longer."

Morell, who retired from the CIA in 2013, was a 33-year veteran of the agency who worked closely with President George W. Bush during the Sept. 11 attacks and with President Barack Obama during the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. He was named acting director when Obama tapped Leon Panetta for secretary of defense and stepped in again when David Petraeus resigned amid a scandal.

Is Georgia Becoming A Battleground State? (Harry Enten, 8/05/16, 538)

Hillary Clinton is riding high in the polls. How high? A poll released by the Atlanta Journal Constitution on Friday found Clinton leading Trump in Georgia, 41 percent to 38 percent. That follows other Georgia polls published this week also showing a close race in the Peach State. A Democratic presidential nominee hasn't carried Georgia since 1992. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:37 PM


Wall Street 'fear gauge' lowest in a year (Financial Times, 8/05/16)

A measure of expected volatility for US stocks tumbled on Friday to its lowest level in a year after upbeat data on the American labour market sent the S&P 500 to a new record high.

Posted by orrinj at 12:32 PM


'No Doubt' President Obama Is a Muslim, Donald Trump's New York Campaign Chair Says (Will Bredderman, 08/04/16, NY Observer)

Donald Trump's New York State campaign co-chairman insisted in an interview with the Observer that President Barack Obama is a Muslim--and pointed to his handling of matters in the Middle East as evidence.

Speaking over the phone for an unrelated story, Carl Paladino--the 2010 GOP candidate for governor of New York--abruptly changed subjects and assailed the sitting president and his policies. The Buffalo-based real estate developer and Tea Party activist maintained that Obama, a practicing Christian, has sought to mislead the public about his religious affiliation, but that the citizenry has not fallen for his falsehoods.

"In the mind of the average American, there is no doubt he is a Muslim," Paladino said. "He is not a Christian."

Posted by orrinj at 12:28 PM


Trump admits there's no Iran cash video. But this fits a pattern -- one involving Muslims. (Aaron Blake August 5, 2016, Washington Post)

Donald Trump claimed Wednesday that he had seen video of the recently reported $400 million cash transfer between the United States and Iran -- this despite no video of the exchange being public or known about. His campaign explained late Wednesday that he was mistaken and had actually seen video of American prisoners being released by Iran, not the money transfer.

And yet, there was Trump on Thursday afternoon on Portland, Maine, recounting the very same nonexistent video of the money transfer.

"You know, it was interesting, because a tape was made. Right? You saw that? With the airplane coming in? Nice plane," Trump said. "And the airplane coming in, and the money coming off, I guess, right? That was given to us -- has to be -- by the Iranians. And you know why the tape was given to us? Because they want to embarrass our country."

Later in the very same speech, Trump brought up another story he often tells -- one that fact-checkers have determined is without merit -- that people saw bombs in the San Bernardino terrorists' apartment but didn't turn them in because they feared it would be viewed as racial profiling.

And less than a week ago, Trump again recounted seeing Muslims celebrating in New Jersey on 9/11 -- another well-chewed-over allegation for which there exists basically no evidence.

By now, it is well-established that Trump struggles with the facts, and he's prone to apparently inventing stories about things. But Trump's imagination is especially vivid and prolific when it comes to stories involving a specific topic: Muslims.

Posted by orrinj at 12:23 PM


Polls: Clinton Pulling Ahead in Battleground States (Stephanie Akin, 8/04/16, Roll Call)

Hillary Clinton has widened her lead over Donald Trump in several states, including battlegrounds like New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Colorado, as more voters say the business mogul is not qualified to be president, according to polls from those states.
The polls also indicate that voter wariness of the Republican nominee could hamstring the party's push to maintain control of the Senate, with Republicans losing ground in several key races. [...]

The advantage for Clinton is so strong in Colorado, a traditional swing state, that the campaign temporarily stopped buying advertisements there in July, diverting the money to other regions, according to The Colorado Independent and other media sources. Clinton campaigned in Colorado on Wednesday.   

"Colorado is no longer a battleground state," prominent Colorado political analyst Floyd Ciruli wrote on a blog for his Ciruli and Associates consulting firm. Ciruli cited several trends, including a growing Hispanic population and a local Republican Party that has been hostile to Trump. [...]

The WBUR survey also found that, while voters were split about Clinton's fitness for the job, their concerns about Trump were far greater. Forty-eight percent of likely voters say Clinton is fit to be president, 46 percent say she's not, it found. Less than a third say Trump is qualified,  and more than 60 percent say he's not.  

In the Senate race -- one of the most competitive in the country  -- Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan has a 10-point lead over incumbent Republican Kelly Ayotte, the poll found. Like many vulnerable Republicans, Ayotte has tried to maintain a middle ground on the controversial presidential nominee.

Posted by orrinj at 12:20 PM


A Model Carbon Tax : Canada once again leads the way - this time on how a carbon tax can fight climate change while growing the economy. (Michael PurzyckiAugust 5, 2016, Washington Monthly)

This fall, voters in Washington State could become the first in the country to pass a carbon tax. If approved, Initiative 732 (I-732) would levy a $25 per ton tax on carbon emissions from fossil fuel, which would in turn fund a one percent cut in sales taxes as well as rebates for lower-income households.

Many economists agree that one of the most efficient ways to reduce the carbon emissions that contribute to climate change is to tax it.  But as appealing as it might be in theory, could a carbon tax work in practice?

In the Canadian province of British Columbia (BC), the answer seems to be "yes." In fact, BC's carbon tax - levied in 2008 - might be an ideal model for how a carbon tax could help to combat climate change without damaging economic growth.

BC's carbon tax started at C$10 per metric ton, and has been $C30 per metric ton (about $23 in U.S. money) since 2012. In real-world impacts, the effect of this tax has been to raise the price of gasoline by 6.67 Canadian cents per liter (roughly 25 U.S. cents per gallon).

The tax has had undeniably significant effects on the province's consumption of fossil fuels and, as a consequence, its carbon emissions. Stewart Elgie, a law and economics professor at the University of Ottawa, calculates that petroleum use per capita fell more than 16% in BC in the first five years of the carbon tax, while it rose 3% in the rest of Canada during the same period.

Posted by orrinj at 12:15 PM


Editorial Another front in the war on Islamic State, and still no legal authority (The Times Editorial Board, 8/05/16, LA Times)

In launching airstrikes in Libya this week, the Obama administration opened a new chapter in its campaign to "degrade and ultimately destroy" Islamic State. But even as that war expands, it continues to be waged under authority granted by Congress more than a decade ago for a very different purpose. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:06 PM

MR. 30%:

The Clinton Bounce Is Real (CHUCK TODD and CARRIE DANN, 8/05/16, NBC News)

 A new Franklin and Marshall College poll of Pennsylvania shows Clinton with an 11 point lead over Trump, 49 percent to 38 percent. A Detroit News/WDIV-TV poll of Michigan voters finds a nine point lead for the former secretary of state, 41 percent to 32 percent. And a fresh WBUR/MassINC poll this morning shows Clinton opening up a 15 point lead over the GOP nominee in New Hampshire, 47 percent to 32 percent. Add that to national polls this week from NBC News|SurveyMonkey (Clinton +8), CNN/ORC (Clinton +9) and FOX News (Clinton +10).

New Poll Has Trump at 9 Percent Among Young Voters (Margaret Hartmann, 8/05/16, New York)

The new McClatchy-Marist survey is even worse for Trump. It shows Clinton leading him 48 percent to 33 percent in a poll of 1,132 adults conducted Monday through Wednesday. In a four-way matchup, Clinton has 45 percent, Trump has 31 percent, Libertarian Gary Johnson has 10 percent, and Green Party candidate Jill Stein has 6 percent. With the latest poll figured in, RealClearPolitics' polling average has Clinton with a seven-point lead, up from last week when Trump had a one-point lead.

But the worse news may be Trump's fourth place finish among voters ages 18-29: [...]

Though social media and trendy headgear are two of the core elements of Trump's campaign, he's performed poorly with young people for months -- but a major-party candidate polling in the single digits among a huge voting bloc is still notable. In 2012, Mitt Romney won 36 percent of the 18-29 vote compared to Obama's 60 percent, and in 2008, McCain had 32 percent to Obama's 66 percent. 

Ex-GOP senator: Trump's a sociopath (Nikita Vladimirov, 8/04/16, The Hill)

Former Sen. Gordon Humphrey (R-N.H.) says he is considering voting for Hillary Clinton over "sociopath" Donald Trump.

Humphrey, who served in Congress from the '70s to 1990, told NBC News on Thursday he is confident that Trump has major psychological issues, and said that the prospect of the Republican becoming the commander in chief is "frightening."

"I am ever more confirmed in my belief that Trump is a sociopath, without a conscience or feelings of guilt, shame or remorse. And he is pathologically insecure, recklessly attacking anyone who does not confirm him as the best there is," he wrote in an email to the news network.

"To imagine Trump in charge of our armed forces at a moment of crisis is frightening," Humphrey added.

Posted by orrinj at 11:59 AM


Protesters With Pocket Constitutions Thrown Out Of Trump Rally (Anjali Sareen, 8/05/16, National Memo)

On Thursday, several protesters attended a Trump rally in Maine. Rather than picketing or overtly opposing Trump's candidacy, they chose to stand up and silently display pocket-sized copies of the Constitution of the United States.

The protesters were referencing the man who may end up causing Trump's downfall. At the Democratic National Convention last week, Khizr Khan, the father of a slain Muslim-American soldier, pulled a pocket Constitution out during his speech and openly asked Trump whether he had ever read the document himself.

The protesters in Maine were immediately thrown out of the rally by Trump campaign staff, and faced a booing crowd on their way out.

Posted by orrinj at 11:39 AM


Hannity to GOP leaders: 'I'm getting a little sick and tired of all of you' (Dylan Stableford, August 4, 2016, Yahoo)

"If in 96 days Trump loses this election, I am pointing the finger directly at people like Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham and John McCain," Hannity said. "I have watched these Republicans be more harsh toward Donald Trump than they've ever been in standing up to Barack Obama and his radical agenda.

...but it turned out that the American people don't hate immigrants, Muslims, etc.  No wonder they're so discombobulated : everything they believed is false.

Posted by orrinj at 11:26 AM


High Ratings Illuminate Obama's Last Birthday In Office (Matthew Cooper, August 5, 2016, Newsweek)

President Barack Obama celebrated his 55th birthday the way most middle-aged men do: with a three hour briefing at the Pentagon followed questions about ISIS and Donald Trump, the Zika virus and commuting the sentences of hundreds of prisoners. Sure, it wasnt' the standard cake-and-a-new-tie kind of birthday for the father of two, but it had a certain emblematic quality for the final days of his presidency.

Obama's popularity has crept over 50 percent and his party which suffered so badly in 2010 and 2014--the two midterm elections during his presidency--seems poised to make gains thanks to Donald Trump, a would-be president who has proven to be as unlikely a nominee as the freshman senator did in 2008. Now that he's riding high in the polls, Obama was, as they say, "full of vinegar" at his hour-plus press conference.  [...]

The president boasted about the success of the Iran nuclear deal and dismissed qualms about the newly released video of an American plane landing in Tehran to deliver $400 million to the theocratic regime. The first African-American president was glad to talk about his unprecedented set of prisoner commutations, announced recently, that he described as a kind of down payment of on reversing years of high rates of incarceration in the U.S. Despite a summer of ISIL-inspired attacks, Obama appeared sanguine about defeating the terrorist group, even while he allowed that the lone wolf attacks have been on the rise. "ISIL turns out not to be invincible," he said, noting coalition successes on the battlefield in the Middle East such as the retaking of Fallujah, a much-contested Iraqi city. 

...which is why we should never elect legislators to the office, but he finally has the hang of this.

August 4, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 8:45 PM

MR. 30%:

  New poll shows Clinton with largest lead over Trump yet (The Week, 8/04/16)

A new McClatchy-Marist poll released Thursday shows Hillary Clinton has opened her biggest polling lead against Donald Trump yet. The poll, conducted after the conclusion of both parties' nominating conventions, shows Clinton holding a 15-point lead in a head-to-head match-up against Trump, pulling 48 percent support to his 33 percent. In a four-way race including the Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson and the Green Party candidate Jill Stein, Clinton still leads Trump by 14 points, 45 percent to 31 percent.

Posted by Glenn Dryfoos at 8:23 PM


to Tony Bennett
Posted by orrinj at 12:15 PM


After priest's murder, Muslims join French and Italian Catholics at mass (Aidan Quigley, JULY 31, 2016, CS Monitor)

Muslims in France and Italy joined Catholics to celebrate Mass following the murder of a priest earlier this week by two young men who claimed allegiance to the self-described Islamic State.

Between 100 and 200 Muslims joined 2,000 worshipers at the Gothic cathedral in Rouen, a city just a few miles from Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray, where on Tuesday two Islamist militants killed 85-year-old priest Jacques Hamel.

Posted by orrinj at 12:07 PM


Requests for unemployment aid rise to still-low 269,000 (LA Timers, 8/04/16)

More Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, but the number remained close to historic lows in a positive sign for the job market.  [...]

Economists estimate that Friday's employment report will show that 175,000 jobs were added in July, with the unemployment rate dipping to 4.8% from 4.9%. 

Posted by orrinj at 11:56 AM


Donors losing patience with Trump (Jonathan Swan, 8/03/16, The Hill)

Both Manafort and the Trump children are trying to get the candidate back on message -- back to talking about the economy and Hillary Clinton and her ethical problems.

But there are more basic problems with the Trump campaign that continue to frustrate senior officials and allies.

Trump's lack of discipline on Twitter remains an issue, despite several aides now working on his Twitter feed.

"I would break his f---ing thumbs if I could ... because he can't stop f---ing tweeting," said the Trump fundraiser. 

The fundraiser said things had gotten so bad over the past 48 hours that there was no point in making fresh fundraising pitches on Wednesday. The only calls at the moment involve donors venting their anger, the fundraiser said.

"You know what a lot of donors are talking about? It's that Trump is saying that the race is rigged ... because he can't accept blame. ... He's one of these personalities who can never say he's wrong, never say he's made a mistake.  

"There's nothing rigged," the fundraiser added. "Look, if a few dead people vote in Chicago or Pennsylvania, who cares? That isn't going to be the difference."

Another senior member of Trump's fundraising team told The Hill that donors are sending messages and emails saying, "Tell Trump to stay on message and keep attacking Hillary and stop the other antics." 

"People don't understand what he's doing," the fundraiser said on Wednesday. "He's not attacking Hillary, he's attacking our own. You eat your young, right?" 

"Do I feel uncomfortable? I've felt uncomfortable all along. The question is when do you lose your enthusiasm and stop working as hard."

Wealthy Republicans Campaign For Hillary Clinton, Reject Trump  (Reuters, 8/04/16)

Groups of wealthy Republicans unhappy with Donald Trump have been privately courting prominent peers to join them in backing Democrat Hillary Clinton's U.S. presidential bid, several people involved in the effort told Reuters.

They say they are seeking money and endorsements from other Republicans disillusioned by Trump, their party's candidate for the Nov. 8 presidential election. Some have received encouragement from Clinton and members of her campaign staff.

"I made the decision that I wouldn't be able to look at my grandkids if I voted for Trump," said Dan Webb, a former federal prosecutor and a self-described "Republican for decades" working to win over prominent Republican business people in Chicago. [...]

Groups formed to support Clinton include Republicans for Her 2016, run by Republican lobbyist Craig Snyder; a grassroots organization called R4C16, led by John Stubbs and Ricardo Reyes, officials in former President George W. Bush's administration; and the Republican Women for Hillary group co-led by Jennifer Pierotti Lim, an official at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

 Obama Is Right about Trump (KEVIN D. WILLIAMSON, August 4, 2016, National Review)

Yes, Obama is a preening mediocrity and a genuine dullard in the matter of international relations -- but is what he said about Trump true? 

Of course it is true. 

Dennis Prager, who in January insisted that "Trump is unfit to be president" and that arguments about Supreme Court appointments were mostly baloney because there is no reason to have "confidence that he would nominate conservatives to the Supreme Court," is lecturing Trump critics that we must support him in order to "prevent a left-wing Supreme Court." Prager should read Prager. 

Prager, who sells books about anti-Semitism, is among those getting into bed with every Jew-hating weirdo not named Al Sharpton to elect a candidate who opposes conservative ideas at nearly every turn, and who is -- even Obama gets one right every now and again -- morally and intellectually unfit for the office, and he is doing so on the strength of a Supreme Court argument that Prager himself thought was bumf just a few months ago. 

Donald Trump could very well nominate Judge Judy to the Supreme Court. 

If your argument is, "Regardless, I prefer him to Hillary Rodham Clinton," okey-dokey. But let's be honest about what exactly it is you prefer to Mrs. Clinton, what manner of man you would see entrusted with the most powerful political portfolio on Earth. If you are going to do that, then you should have the intellectual honesty and the moral courage to be straight and plain about what it is you are doing.  

Gaps in Melania Trump's immigration story raise questions (BEN SCHRECKINGER and GABRIEL DEBENEDETTI, 08/04/16, Politico)

The racy photos of the would-be first lady, published in the New York Post on Sunday and Monday, inadvertently highlight inconsistencies in the various accounts she has provided over the years. And, immigration experts say, there's even a slim chance that any years-old misrepresentations to immigration authorities could pose legal problems for her today.

While Trump and her husband, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, have said she came to the United States legally, her own statements suggest she first came to the country on a short-term visa that would not have authorized her to work as a model. Trump has also said she came to New York in 1996, but the nude photo shoot places her in the United States in 1995, as does a biography published in February by Slovenian journalists.

Posted by orrinj at 11:48 AM


UK On Course To Reach Trade Deal With Canada Before The EU Can (Harry Phibbs, August 4, 2016, Heat Street)

Six weeks on from the referendum, we already have a pretty good clue that Brexit will mean wider trading opportunities around the world.

"What would Remain look like?" was a question that BBC viewers heard far less often during the campaign. The implication was that all was settled and calm with the European Union and thus the question was superfluous. But the reality for the EU is ever more chaotic and dysfunctional. 

The attempt to agree a trade deal with Canada has been a nightmare of complexity. The haggling has been going on for an extraordinary seven years.

Jean-Luc Demarty, the European Union's director general for trade, sounds like a broken man. He warns the EU will be "close to death" should the deal collapse after all this effort. Yet it may well.

The struggle and delay is scarcely surprising. For a deal to be reached, all 28 member states of the EU have to agree terms. It is reported that Romania and Bulgaria are unwilling to do so. They are cutting up rough over an (unrelated) matter of visa entry to Canada. Doubtless if Demarty manages to placate them, some other country will come up with special demands.

The deal was due to be finalised at a summit in October, but now there are fears that the whole thing could drift on a few more years - or possibly collapse altogether. [...]

Before the referendum result the Canadians officially cautioned  against Brexit - perhaps as a result of some private arm twisting  instigated by Downing Street. But now Freeland is adopting a very different tone. She suspects that a proper free trade agreement with the UK is highly desirable and eminently achievable. She says of the UK: "We have a very robust relationship - we are not just friends, we are family."

Of course a UK-Canada trade deal will still be a major task. Also we in the UK are a bit out of practice in having the freedom to negotiate for ourselves.

Yet it will be an initiative of those who believe in what they are doing and determined to accomplish the task in a straightforward manner - not always on the look-out for mind numbing devices to frustrate the process.

It will be two nations with a shared history and common language seeking agreement. That is a rather different proposition for Canada than dealing with 28 nations.

Posted by orrinj at 11:44 AM


11-Year-Old to Pence: Will Your Job Just Be Damage Control for Trump? (Chandler Gill, August 4, 2016, Daily Beacon)

"Good morning Governor Pence," the boy said. "I've been watching the news lately, and I've been noticing that you have been kind of softening up on Mr. Trump's-uh-policies and words. Is this going to be your role in the administration?"

Posted by orrinj at 7:54 AM


Hillary Clinton Holds Big Lead Over Donald Trump in New Hampshire, Poll Shows (KATHARINE Q. SEELYEAUG. 4, 2016, NY Times)

New Hampshire voters who either prefer or lean toward Mrs. Clinton outnumber those who prefer or lean toward Mr. Trump by 47 percent to 32 percent, according to the poll, conducted for WBUR, an NPR station in Boston, by the MassInc Polling Group. [...]

But 56 percent of New Hampshire voters say she came out of her convention a stronger candidate, and only 39 percent said the same of Mr. Trump.

Perhaps most important, 63 percent say Mr. Trump is not fit to be president.

Given the other polls out today, the election is over as far as the Cheeto Jesus is concerned:

PA Clinton +11 MI Clinton + 9 (4-way) via @RealClearNews

Posted by orrinj at 7:48 AM


What You Need to Know About India's Biggest Economic Reform in Decades (Nikhil Kumar, 8/04/16, TIME)

Late on Aug. 3, after a debate lasting almost eight hours, Indian lawmakers approved plans for a major economic overhaul to turn the country into one unified market in which businesses can trade goods and services across state lines without having to navigate a prohibitive array of federal and local taxes. In what has been billed as the most significant reform since India opened up its economy in 1991, the measure is aimed at sweeping away a maze of levies that have hampered economic growth by making it harder for businesses to expand nationwide. Instead, the idea is to introduce a single tax system that would allow, for example, freight trucks to move quickly across India, rather than spending hours idling at multiple checkpoints filling in forms and making tax payments when they travel between states.

By simplifying the system, India, already the world's fastest-growing large economy, could see growth rise by as much as 2%. The successful passage of the so-called Goods and Services Tax (GST) bill is a big win for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has been criticized for not doing enough to reform India's economy since he came to power in 2014. Here is what you need to know about the landmark reform.
India's current tax system has long been recognized as a major drag on the economy. Plans to simplify the process were first mooted more than a decade ago, and the first GST bill came before Parliament in 2011, when Modi was still a regional leader. It was his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), then in opposition in New Delhi, that blocked the law proposed by the Congress Party-led government. But the tables were turned in 2014, when Modi led the BJP to power and the Congress began opposing the measure. More than two years of political bickering followed before the Congress, which found itself increasingly isolated on the issue as the BJP won the support of regional political parties, finally relented this week.

August 3, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 8:24 PM


Artificial Leaf That Produces Fuel From CO2 And Sunlight (HIMANSHU GOENKA, 08/01/16, IB Times)

[S]cientists from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) have created a solar cell that converts atmospheric carbon dioxide into a usable fuel.

"The new solar cell is not photovoltaic -- it's photosynthetic," Amin Salehi-Khojin, assistant professor of mechanical and industrial engineering at UIC, said. Salehi-Khojin, who is also the senior author of a related study published in the Science journal, added: "Instead of producing energy in an unsustainable one-way route from fossil fuels to greenhouse gas, we can now reverse the process and recycle atmospheric carbon into fuel using sunlight."

The new solar cells can remove carbon dioxide, or CO2, from the atmosphere -- like trees do -- and farms that use such cells as artificial leaves "could produce energy-dense fuel efficiently," according to the UIC website. The fuel produced by the cells is "synthesis gas, a mixture of hydrogen gas and carbon monoxide," which "can be burned directly, or converted into diesel or other hydrocarbon fuels."

Posted by orrinj at 8:07 PM


Why Buffett believes a monkey could invest better than Trump (Tami Luhby, August 3, 2016, CNN Money)

Buffett recently slammed Trump's business acumen, noting that when the billionaire listed his company on the stock market, it lost nearly all its value within a few years.

"People who believed in him, who listened to his siren song, came away losing well over 90 cents on the dollar. They got back less than a dime," Buffett said at a rally for Hillary Clinton Monday. "In 1995, when he offered this company, if a monkey had thrown a dart at the stock page, the monkey on average would have made 150%." [...]

No major U.S. company has filed for Chapter 11 more than Trump's ca[***]o empire in the last 30 years.

Posted by orrinj at 8:03 PM


How to kick-start Iran-US regional cooperation (Seyed Hossein Mousavian, August 3, 2016, Al Monitor)

In return, Iran was due relief from all nuclear-related sanctions. This was enshrined not only in the JCPOA, but also in UN Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 2231, which voided all previous nuclear-related Security Council resolutions against Iran. As such, limitations on Iranian trade, banking and financial transactions were formally lifted and the Iranian people were set to begin benefiting from increased foreign investment and business. But all has not gone well so far.

In the six months since the implementation of the nuclear deal, Iran has accrued important benefits. These gains include the doubling of its petroleum exports, attraction of nearly $3.5 billion in foreign investment, access to as much as $30 billion of its frozen assets, reconnection to the SWIFT network and establishment of banking relations with more than 400 foreign banks. Nevertheless, Tehran has run into serious issues when it comes to getting major international banks to facilitate the numerous trade and investment agreements it has reached aimed at boosting its economic development.

The problem has been twofold. First, a US ban on dollar clearing for Iran remains in effect, preventing foreign banks wishing to deal with Iran from conducting transactions in US dollars. This has impeded banks' abilities to facilitate major trade deals and repatriate frozen Iranian assets. Second, international banks and investors remain hesitant to deal with Iran due to fears that they will run afoul of remaining US sanctions or that new sanctions will be imposed down the road that may nullify their investments.

One senior Iranian official recently told me that the US Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), which oversees the implementation of the sanctions regime, "continues its business at times with even more zeal and sends unsolicited warnings to business partners." He cited an example of a recent request to a Latin American bank to transfer $25 million for Iran to buy soybeans. The bank responded, "We must inform you that our bank does not enter into any deal involving Iran, since said country appears on OFAC lists."

JCPOA opponents have been instrumental in fostering this atmosphere of fear, which is preventing Iran from receiving effective sanctions relief. Working in tandem with hawks in the US Congress, groups such as the neoconservative Foundation for Defense of Democracies have lobbied relentlessly for upwards of 30 bills that would impose additional US sanctions and prevent trade deals with Iran from materializing.

These actions run counter to the nuclear deal, which requires the United States to "sustain this JCPOA and to prevent interference with the realization of the full benefit by Iran of the sanctions lifting." The efforts of the lobby in Washington opposed to Iran-US engagement have spurred strong reactions in Tehran. Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani recently declared that the time has come for Iran to "counteract" the actions of Congress. In this vein, he called for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran to make the preparations necessary to return the country's nuclear capabilities back to their state prior to the nuclear deal.

The reality is that the JCPOA was agreed to by six major powers and mandated by a UNSC resolution. If a bill imposing new sanctions on Iran was to be passed by Congress and approved by a future president, it would result in the United States violating the deal and thereby isolating itself. Not only would the JCPOA-mandated commission charged with overseeing disputes in the deal's implementation blame the United States, but Iran would also have JCPOA-stipulated grounds to follow Larijani's suggestion and engage in "nuclear snapback"-- reconstituting its previous nuclear capabilities.

Consequently, the tactic of die-hard opponents of US-Iran engagement -- to increase sanctions on Iran -- is a moot effort and in fact a bluff. Their real aim is not to directly sabotage the deal, but to create an atmosphere of uncertainty predicated on threatening new non-nuclear sanctions in order to scare away international banks and companies from doing business with Iran, thereby minimizing the incentives Iran has to comply with the deal.

The solution is to not fall for this psychological ploy. International banks and companies should rest assured that nuclear-related sanctions on Iran are gone for good and that there is nothing the United States can do -- neither now nor in the future -- to reimpose them without destroying its credibility at the same time. Iranian officials, meanwhile, should be careful to not play into the hands of the deal's American opponents and increase uncertainty about the future of the JCPOA.

Posted by orrinj at 7:53 PM


Trump asks why US can't use nukes: MSNBC (Matthew J. Belvedere. 8/03/16, cnbc)

Donald Trump asked a foreign policy expert advising him why the U.S. can't use nuclear weapons, MSNBC's Joe Scarborough said on the air Wednesday, citing an unnamed source who claimed he had spoken with the GOP presidential nominee.

"Several months ago, a foreign policy expert on the international level went to advise Donald Trump. And three times [Trump] asked about the use of nuclear weapons. Three times he asked at one point if we had them why can't we use them," Scarborough said on his "Morning Joe" program.

...with regard to Pyongyang, where there's no risk of collateral damage because of the regime's paranoia.

Posted by orrinj at 7:43 PM


Few Republicans want to campaign with Trump : POLITICO asked four dozen GOP candidates a simple question: Will you campaign with Donald Trump? Hardly any said yes. (ALEX ISENSTADT and THEODORIC MEYER 08/02/16, Politico)

As Donald Trump staggers following a series of self-inflicted political wounds, Republican candidates up and down the ballot are expressing growing disinterest in hitting the campaign trail with him this fall.

Over the last week, POLITICO surveyed nearly 50 GOP candidates in competitive House, Senate and governor's races on whether they'd be willing to campaign with the Republican nominee. Only a handful said yes -- and the rest said no, refused to commit, or didn't respond at all.

It's an unusual turn of events. Typically down-ballot candidates -- eager to generate excitement and media attention for themselves, to turbocharge fundraising, and to increase their stature -- spend the fall months proudly campaigning alongside their presidential nominee.

But in the year of Trump, appearing on the same stage as the party's standard-bearer, whose negative ratings are higher than any GOP nominee in recent memory, is perilous for those running in hyper-competitive states and districts.

"I would recommend they have a perpetual scheduling conflict," said Rob Jesmer, a former National Republican Senatorial Committee executive director who advises a number of the party's most prominent lawmakers.

New Hampshire voters unmoved by Trump's criticism of Ayotte (The Associated Press, 8/03/16)

 New Hampshire voters are largely dismissing Donald Trump's new criticism of Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte as campaign chatter that reflects more poorly on the businessman than it does on Ayotte.

"I don't think she necessarily said or did anything wrong, she spoke her values," said Amy Wright, a Democrat from Hopkinton who doesn't support Ayotte's re-election. "He plays very unfair." [...]

Most polling shows Ayotte is faring better among New Hampshire voters than Trump.

Pat Lodi, a self-described independent from Hooksett who plans to vote for Ayotte, said Trump should be careful criticizing Ayotte.

"Anything negative he says," Lodi said. "Reflects poorly on him."

Of course, everything he says reflects poorly on him.

Billionaire Klarman slams Trump, vows to work for Clinton  (LAWRENCE DELEVINGNE, 8/03/16, Reuters)

Billionaire hedge fund manager Seth Klarman said on Wednesday he would work to get Hillary Clinton elected president of the United States because he finds recent comments by Donald Trump "shockingly unacceptable."

"His words and actions over the last several days are so shockingly unacceptable in our diverse and democratic society that it is simply unthinkable that Donald Trump could become our president," Klarman said of the Republican presidential nominee. [...]

Klarman, whose Boston-based investment firm manages $29 billion, is registered as an independent voter. But a review of filings showed that his political giving has largely benefited Republicans over the years, including donations this election cycle to political action committees that supported primary candidates Jeb Bush, Chris Christie and Marco Rubio.

Posted by orrinj at 7:36 PM


Lukashenko and the Reformers (Artyom Shraibman, 7/28/16, Carnegie Endowment)

Recently, however, a new trend has begun to sweep through Belarusian politics: the government's economic institutions are filling up with pro-market bureaucrats who oppose Lukashenko's socialist political philosophy. 

The first sign of change came in 2012, when Lukashenko replaced Sergey Tkachev, his Marxist economic advisor, with aging banker Petr Prokopovich. Then, in 2013, Prokopovich was replaced by Kirill Rudy, a thirty-five-year-old professor and former Fulbright scholar who is avowedly pro-market.

Rudy took over at a difficult time. In 2009, Belarus began to experience a series of significant financial and economic crises. In 2014, the Belarusian ruble lost 30 percent of its value in thirty days. During this crisis period, all important economic positions in the Council of Ministers--the seat of executive power--were given to pro-market bureaucrats some with the private sector background. 

Under new leadership, the National Bank was able to stabilize the exchange rate by implementing tight monetary policies and introducing a floating rate for the Belarusian ruble for the first time in years. The National Bank executives had regular meetings with independent experts, while the government raised the retirement age, and increased tariffs on municipal services (so suddenly at first that Lukashenko had to dial them back). Most impressively, it fought off lobbyists who wanted a bureaucratic wage increase. 

Over the last year, members of the Council of Ministers and their colleagues from the presidential administration have been pushing Lukashenko to begin enacting broader governmental reform. They aim to weaken governmental support for ineffective semi-state companies and to begin to move toward privatization. 

Rudy has been particularly forceful in his calls for change: he has published essays and books on reform, and even lightly criticized the Belarusian economic system on national television. [...]

To a certain extent, a failing economy has forced his hand: for the past several years, low gold reserves, growing external bond debt, double-digit inflation, a trade imbalance, overdependence on Russia, and periodic crashes of the Belarusian ruble have plagued the economy. At a certain point, Lukashenko could no longer afford to take advice from Marxist professors at public universities. He needed a team of experienced technocrats, people who would be able to speak the same language as the IMF. 

And it's not just the administration's economists who are increasingly reform-minded. The Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, headed by Vladimir Makei, holds similarly liberal views. Like Makei, Belarusian diplomats tend to be pragmatic types who argue the country should be a more neutral regional actor, reducing its dependence on Russia and becoming more connected to Europe.

Posted by orrinj at 7:19 PM


Why 'Useless' Surgery Is Still Popular (Gina Kolata,  AUG. 3, 2016, ny tIMES)

In 2009, the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine published results of separate clinical trials on a popular back operation, vertebroplasty, comparing it to a sham procedure. They found that there was no benefit -- pain relief was the same in both groups. Yet it and a similar operation, Kyphoplasty, in which doctors inject a sort of cement into the spine to shore it up, continue to be performed.

Dr. David Kallmes of the Mayo Clinic, an author of the vertebroplasty paper, said he thought doctors continued to do the operations because insurers pay and because doctors remember their own patients who seemed better afterward.

"When you read a study, you reflect on whether it is representative of your patient population," Dr. Kallmes said. "It is easy to conclude that the answer is 'no.' The mean age in the study is different or 'I do it differently.'"

"I think there is a placebo effect not only on patients but on doctors," Dr. Kallmes adds. "The successful patient is burned into their memories and the not-so-successful patient is not. Doctors can have a selective memory that leads them to conclude that, 'Darn it, it works pretty well.'"

The latest controversy -- and the operation that arguably has been studied the most in randomized clinical trials -- is surgery for a torn meniscus, a sliver of cartilage that acts as a shock absorber in the knee. It's a condition that often afflicts middle-aged and older people, simply as a consequence of degeneration that can occur with age and often accompanying osteoarthritis. The result can be a painful, swollen knee. Sometimes the knee can feel as if it catches or locks. So why not do an operation to trim or repair the torn tissue?

About 400,000 middle-aged and older Americans a year have meniscus surgery. And here is where it gets interesting. Orthopedists wondered if the operation made sense because they realized there was not even a clear relationship between knee pain and meniscus tears. When they did M.R.I. scans on knees of middle-aged people, they often saw meniscus tears in people who had no pain. And those who said their knee hurt tended to have osteoarthritis, which could be the real reason for their pain.

Added to that complication, said Dr. Jeffrey N. Katz, a professor of medicine and orthopedic surgery at Harvard Medical School, is the fact that not everyone improves after the surgery. "It is not regarded as a slam-dunk," he said. As a result, he said, many doctors have been genuinely uncertain about which is better -- exercise and physical therapy or surgery. That, in fact, was what led Dr. Katz and his colleagues to conduct a clinical trial comparing surgery with physical therapy in middle-aged people with a torn meniscus and knee pain.

The result: The surgery offered little to most who had it. Other studies came to the same conclusion, and so did a meta-analysis published last year of nine clinical trials testing the surgery. Patients tended to report less pain -- but patients reported less pain no matter what the treatment, even fake surgery.

Then came yet another study, published on July 20 in The British Medical Journal. It compared the operation to exercise in patients who did not have osteoarthritis but had knee pain and meniscus tears. Once again, the surgery offered no additional benefit.

An accompanying editorial came to a scathing conclusion: The surgery is "a highly questionable practice without supporting evidence of even moderate quality," adding, "Good evidence has been widely ignored."

Posted by orrinj at 7:13 PM


Hillary Clinton Expands Lead Over Donald Trump in Fox Poll (AARON ZITNER, Aug 3, 2016, WSJ)

A new Fox News poll finds Hillary Clinton with a 10-point lead over Donald Trump despite deep reservations about her trustworthiness.

The survey is the latest of several to find Mrs. Clinton with a post-convention lead over Mr. Trump. She had 49% support among registered voters in the new survey to Mr. Trump's 39%. [...]

In the latest survey, 69% of voters who had heard of Mr. Trump's comments about a Muslim-American soldier who died in Iraq said his remarks were out of bounds. Just under 20% said his comments were in bounds.

Posted by orrinj at 5:42 PM


These Drugs Could Save the U.S. Billions of Dollars. Would You Take Them? (Amrith Ramkumar, August 2, 2016, Bloomberg)

They used to be considered unlikely challengers to brand-name biologic drugs. Now some estimate (PDF) that they could save the U.S. health-care system tens of billions of dollars by 2024--once they win regulators' approval.  

So what is it about generic biologics that has changed? Mainly the viability of these complicated drugs that are made from living cells, compared to their brand-name counterparts, and how big drugmakers think about them. 

"A similar drug for less money--what's there not to like about that?" said Dr. Caleb Alexander, lead author of a study, released on Monday in Annals of Internal Medicine, comparing generic biologics with their brand-name counterparts, and co-director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Drug Safety and Effectiveness. Alexander and the other researchers found that one class of generics was similar to its branded counterparts in safety and effectiveness.

Posted by orrinj at 5:31 PM


How Hillary can win Republicans (James Pethokoukis, August 3, 2016, The Week)

[H]ow, exactly, can Team Clinton turn #NeverTrumpNeverHillary into #HillaryCurious, and then finally, into #SurpriseImWithHer.

Step one is already complete: the upbeat Democratic National Convention. After a gloomy GOP gathering that painted the greatest nation on Earth as a failed state -- basically The Walking Dead, but all the zombies are undocumented immigrants or Syrian refugees -- the Democrats decided to go full Morning in America. And they tried to do it in a way that's appealing to Reagan Republicans. As National Review editor Rich Lowry tweeted during the DNC: "American exceptionalism and greatness, shining city on hill, founding documents, etc -- they're trying to take all our stuff." [...]

Take corporate tax reform, for instance. It's a standard part of modern GOP economic orthodoxy. But many Democrats also favor it, including President Obama. And while there are big differences among various GOP plans and the Obama plan, they're directionally similar: lower tax rates and close tax loopholes.

Imagine Clinton offering a plan that deeply slashed corporate tax rates, while paying for it by eliminating tax breaks and raising capital gains taxes on wealthier Americans. Or maybe help pay for it through a "too big to fail" tax on megabanks. Either way, such a proposal would appeal to pro-growth Republicans while shoring up support among progressives who think Clinton is too close to Big Money.

How Clinton Could Knock Trump Out (Thomas L. Friedman AUG. 3, 2016, NY Times)

[T]hat leads to my second reason for pushing Clinton to inject some capitalism into her economic plan: The coalition she could lead. If there is one thing that is not going to revive growth right now, it is an anti-trade, regulatory heavy, socialist-lite agenda the Democratic Party has drifted to under the sway of Bernie Sanders. Socialism is the greatest system ever invented for making people equally poor. Capitalism makes people unequally rich, but I would much rather grow our pie bigger and faster and better adjust the slices than redivide a shrinking one.

There are a lot of center-right, business Republicans today feeling orphaned by Trump. They can't vote for him -- but a lot of them still claim they can't bring themselves to vote for Hillary, either. Clinton should be reaching out to them with a real pro-growth, start-up, deregulation, entrepreneurship agenda and give them a positive reason to vote for her.

It makes sense politically: Take Trump on at his self-proclaimed strength. And it makes sense economically: If Clinton wins, she will need to get stuff done, not just give stuff away.

I get that she had to lean toward Sanders and his voters to win the nomination; their concerns with fairness and inequality are honorable. But those concerns can be addressed only with economic growth; the rising anti-immigration sentiments in the country can be defused only with economic growth; the general anxiety feeding Trumpism can be eased only with economic growth.

Why Obama thinks he can peel Republicans off Trump (Paul Waldman, August 3, 2016, The Week)

 In his speech at the Democratic convention, he said, "what we heard in Cleveland last week wasn't particularly Republican -- and it sure wasn't conservative. What we heard was a deeply pessimistic vision of a country where we turn against each other, and turn away from the rest of the world." And in a press conference on Tuesday he went further, imploring Republican politicians to reject Trump in the wake of his fight with the parents of a Muslim-American soldier who died in Iraq. "The question I think that they have to ask themselves is: If you are repeatedly having to say, in very strong terms, that what he has said is unacceptable, why are you still endorsing him?" he said. "What does this say about your party, that this is your standard-bearer?" In other words: Reject Trump, my Republican friends, for it's the only way to save the GOP.

He might be trolling -- saying this precisely because he knows it will make it more difficult for Republican politicians to reject Trump (few things are more dangerous for a Republican than taking Barack Obama's advice). But the real audience he had in mind was probably moderate voters, both independent and Republican, who might be convinced to vote for Hillary Clinton. He's saying to them: I know you're already conflicted about Trump, so it's OK to vote for Clinton and still consider yourself a Republican in good standing.

And Trump is sure working hard to make the argument for him. As if all his attacks on various minority groups up until now weren't enough, now he has actually gotten into a seemingly endless argument with a family whose son was killed in Iraq, leading him to be roundly condemned by one member of his party after another (even if almost all of them are still endorsing him). That too sends a signal to moderate Republicans. If members of their own party are lambasting Trump, then it must be reasonable for them to cross party lines, just this once.

Posted by orrinj at 5:25 PM


Possible presidential spoiler Gary Johnson speaks to The Times editorial board about siphoning votes from Hillary Clinton (The Times Editorial Board, 7/29/16, LA Times)

The following is a transcript of Gary Johnson's meeting with the Los Angeles Times editorial board.

Mariel Garza: [...] [W]hat would you bring to a debate that we won't see in a Trump-Clinton debate?

GJ: Well, back to the three legs of the stool, embracing immigration for starters. Immigration is really a good thing. I saw that two days ago in the Wall Street Journal, [where] the Wharton School of business, which Trump graduated from, did an analysis of the economic impact of increasing immigration by 50%, increasing immigration by granting work visas to high-skilled workers, and then actually limiting immigration, and the economic impact of each one of those three alternatives. Well, limiting immigration was actually going to have a negative impact on the economy. Minimal impact by allowing high-skilled workers into the country. And a big benefit for increasing immigration by 50%. So embracing immigration, making it as easy as possible for somebody who wants to come into this country to work and to get a work visa. A work visa should entail a background check and a Social Security card. Don't build a wall across the border, they are not -- and I am speaking as a border state governor -- they are not taking jobs that U.S. citizens want. They're just hard-working people that can't get across the border legally to take the jobs that do exist. And you're also aware that actually this is like the lowest number of illegal crossings in decades right now because jobs don't exist in the United States either. So this is a political bogeyman that really doesn't exist. [...]

I support making taxation easier, simplifying the tax system. I support lower taxes. If I could wave a magic wand -- and I'm not doing this in a vacuum, having had the support of Chapman University, I mean, free market -- if I could wave a magic wand, I would eliminate income tax. I would eliminate corporate tax. Because we would do that and we also could abolish the IRS, and I would replace all of it with one federal consumption tax.

I ask you to look at the "fair tax," which is a proposal that's been before Congress for 10 years. I think 80 congressmen and women sign onto it every year, so it's a known product. But it dots the "I"s and crosses the Ts on how you accomplish one federal consumption tax. I believe with a 0% corporate tax rate in this country, I believe tens of millions of jobs, for no other reason than a 0% corporate tax, simplifying tax to the extent that that would simplify tax ... I mean, imagine our lives without the IRS. And then I do think that pink slips would get issued to 80% of Washington lobbyists because that's why they're there, to garner tax favor.

NG: Very briefly, how does the fair tax work?

GJ: Very briefly, a consumption tax is regressive, for starters, OK? Well, the way that it gets beyond being regressive is that it issues a prebate check to everybody through the Social Security administration to the tune of $200 per month that allows all of us to pay the consumption tax up to the point of the poverty level. A 28% tax on goods and services -- and before you fall out of your chair thinking that's, whoa -- it's actually, in theory, not going to add cost to products. So if you use a can of Coke as an example. A can of Coke today sells for a buck. Well, there's accounting fees and legal fees along with just complying with the IRS, there's Social Security tax that has to be matched, unemployment, Medicare ... all of those, all of what currently comes out of individuals and you and I from our payroll check, that would come out of the proceeds of the consumption tax. So there would no longer be any withholding whatsoever from your payroll check. Social Security, Medicare, unemployment, all coming out of the proceeds of the fair tax. But back to all those taxes -- that currently is contained in that dollar can of Coke. You take all of that out, arguably that can of Coke sells for 72 cents. You apply the 28% consumption tax and you still end up paying for the profit.

JH: Doesn't that smack, though, of tax cuts that pay for themselves, an idea that's been widely discredited?

GJ: When you say tax cuts that pay for themselves ...

JH: Since the dawn of the Laffer curve, there's been this belief that simply by lowering ...

GJ: This is not a tax cut by the way. This is designed to be revenue-neutral.

Posted by orrinj at 5:21 PM


U.S. strikes easing advance against Islamic State in Sirte, says commander (AIDAN LEWIS, 8/03/16, Reuters)

U.S. air strikes are easing the passage of Libyan forces as they seek to clear Islamic State from the militant group's former North African stronghold of Sirte, a senior field commander said on Wednesday.

Mohamed Darat said the first strikes, which took place on Monday, had helped Libyan brigades under his command secure the Dollar residential neighborhood by targeting militants who had been holding out on the district's edge.

Libya's U.N.-backed government requested the strikes nearly three months into a campaign that had slowed due to heavy casualties from sniper fire, mines and mortars.

"In the last two houses in this area we faced strong resistance so we asked (the U.S.) to hit that site," said Darat, speaking from a part of Dollar captured last week. "We moved back and they struck."

Posted by orrinj at 5:14 PM


Trump Aide Carter Page Slammed America During A Moscow Speech (Masha Froliak, August 3, 2016, Heat Street)

Carter Page, foreign policy adviser to Donald Trump, spent several days in Russia last month. Officially, he was there to give a lecture at the New Economy School. But Trump's supporters will be stunned to learn that in the midst of the presidential campaign, his foreign policy adviser Page appeared in Moscow slamming the USA in front of a bunch of Russians. Carter Page even said America was a hypocrite to focus on democracy.

Addressing hundreds of new graduates, Page spoke about world economics and "how to increase potential in unstable times." In his speech, given just last month on July 7th, Donald Trump's right-hand man criticized American foreign policy for using cold war stereotypes and "often-hypocritical focus on democratization." But it wasn't all doom and gloom- if Trump's foreign policy chief was against American policy, he loved Putin. Mr. Page publicly complimented Russia, currently aiding Assad in Syria against American-backed rebels, for "really moving ahead."

Posted by orrinj at 5:10 PM


Hezbollah sees no immediate end to Syria war, partition in Iraq and Syria a possible outcome (SAMIA NAKHOUL, LAILA BASSAM AND SULEIMAN AL-KHALIDI, 8/03/16, Reuters)

Lebanon's Hezbollah said the partition of Iraq and Syria was a possible outcome of sectarian fighting across the region and there was no prospect of any end to the war in Syria until after November's U.S. presidential election.

Posted by orrinj at 5:00 PM


NYPD commissioner: Trump 'scares the hell out of me' (NOLAN D. MCCASKILL 08/03/16, Politico)

Donald Trump doesn't just strike fear into Bill Bratton. He "scares the hell out of me," the retiring New York Police Department commissioner said Wednesday.

"Mr. Trump scares me -- scares the hell out of me, to be quite frank with you and personal opinion," Bratton told "CBS This Morning." "I just don't get it in terms of the support for him."

Bratton, a military veteran, also said he was "amazed that veterans groups are so charmed by him" and called his Purple Heart episode "appalling."

Meg Whitman, a Hewlett Packard executive and Republican fund-raiser, said Tuesday that she would support Hillary Clinton for president and give a "substantial" contribution to her campaign in order to stop Donald J. Trump, whom she berated as a threat to American democracy.

"I will vote for Hillary, I will talk to my Republican friends about helping her, and I will donate to her campaign and try to raise money for her," Ms. Whitman said in a telephone interview.

In an unusual break with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, Gov. Chris Christie said that Khizr and Ghazala Khan have the "right" to say whatever they want, and that criticism of them is "inappropriate."

GOP reaches 'new level of panic' over Trump's candidacy (Philip Rucker and Dan Balz August 3, 2016, Washington Post)

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich, one of Trump's most loyal defenders, warned that his friend was in danger of throwing away the election and helping to make Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton president unless he quickly changes course.

"The current race is which of these two is the more unacceptable, because right now neither of them is acceptable," Gingrich said in a Wednesday morning telephone interview. "Trump is helping her to win by proving he is more unacceptable than she is."

Posted by orrinj at 4:56 PM


Kids May Outgrow ADHD (David Oliver, Aug. 3, 2016, US News)

For parents of children diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, a new study delivers some uplifting news: Kids may outgrow it by their 18th birthday.

Posted by orrinj at 4:52 PM


Pence breaks position with Trump to endorse Paul Ryan (The Associated Press, 8/03/16)

Donald Trump's running mate Mike Pence endorsed House Speaker Paul Ryan in his primary fight Wednesday, in Pence's latest break in position from the billionaire businessman.

Posted by orrinj at 4:46 PM


Tim Huelskamp Loses Primary (ROXANA HEGEMAN and JOHN HANNA, 8/03/16, Associated Press) 

A doctor who ousted U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp in the Kansas Republican primary faces a long-shot bid by an independent candidate in the general election before he can claim the seat.

Great Bend obstetrician Roger Marshall won the tough contest Tuesday against Huelskamp in the 1st District, which spans western and much of central Kansas. [...]

Marshall, from the central Kansas community of Great Bend, received endorsements from the Kansas Farm Bureau, Kansas Livestock Association, National Association of Wheat Growers, and U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

"Getting kicked off the Agriculture Committee is a crime that can't be forgiven," Brian Scheideman, a 52-year-old driver's education instructor, said after voting in his hometown of Wamego for Marshall. "I don't mind the independent voice, but you've got to figure out how to work with people."

Huelskamp is a tea party favorite with a national profile from clashing with GOP leaders over farm and budget legislation. He was a vocal critic of former House Speaker John Boehner, and Huelskamp's supporters argued that he gave his conservative, safely GOP district an independent voice.

Backlash in Kansas ousts at least 11 conservative lawmakers (JOHN HANNA, 8/03/16, AP) 

A top Senate leader and at least 10 other conservative Kansas legislators have lost their seats as moderate Republicans made GOP primary races a referendum on education funding and the state's persistent budget woes.

Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce was among the lawmakers ousted amid a backlash against Republican Gov. Sam Brownback and his allies.

We are the Establishment Party, not a tea party.

Posted by orrinj at 4:41 PM


U.S. private sector adds 179,000 jobs in July: ADP (Reuters, 8/03/16)

U.S. private employers added 179,000 jobs in July, above economists' expectations, a report by a payrolls processor showed on Wednesday.

Posted by orrinj at 4:36 PM


Nice Cargo Shorts! You're Sleeping on the Sofa (NICOLE HONG, Aug. 1, 2016, WSJ)

Mr. Hansen's wife, Ashleigh Hansen, said she sneaks her husband's cargo shorts off to Goodwill when he's not around. Mrs. Hansen, 30, no longer throws them out at home because her husband has found them in the trash and fished them out.

"I despise them," she said. "There were so many good things about the '90s. Cargo shorts were not one of them."

Fashion historians believe cargo pants were introduced around the 1940s for military use. In the U.S. Air Force, narrow cockpits meant pilots needed pockets in the front of their uniforms to access supplies during flight. British soldiers climbing or hiding in high places found pockets on cargo pants more effective than utility belts for storing ammunition.

They exploded into mass fashion in the mid-to-late 1990s, coinciding with the popularity of teen retailers like Abercrombie & Fitch, which became famous for filling its catalogs with shirtless men wearing only cargo shorts. The pockets filled a utilitarian need as cellphones became ubiquitous.

"Those teenagers are now married, and they don't get rid of their clothes. They don't evolve," said Joseph Hancock, a design and merchandising professor at Drexel University, who wrote his Ph.D. thesis about cargo pants.

Around 2010, slimmer men's shorts started to replace baggy silhouettes. By then, the backlash against cargo shorts was well under way.

Fashion guru Tim Gunn said in a 2007 interview with Reuters that cargo shorts were the least fashionable item of clothing in his closet. British tabloid Daily Express called cargo shorts "a humiliation for any man over 21 and should be sold only after proof of age has been presented."

Many upscale golf courses have banned cargo shorts in recent years. In 2012, Michael Jordan was playing golf in cargo shorts at a Miami country club when he was asked to change his pants, according to news reports at the time. He reportedly refused. His agent released a statement afterward saying Mr. Jordan had previously worn cargo pants at the club without incident.

Posted by orrinj at 1:53 PM


George W. Bush Delivers Critique of Donald Trump's Policies (BETH REINHARD and  REID J. EPSTEIN, Aug. 3, 2016, WSJ)

Without naming Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, former President George W. Bush delivered an incisive critique of his policies of "isolationism, nativism and protectionism" at a private fundraiser in Cincinnati on Tuesday for Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, according to four people who attended. [...]

People at the fundraiser recalled that the former president said that Islamic women should come to the U.S. to experience a free society so they can lead the charge for equality in the Middle East. "He said everyone wants to be free," said U.S. Rep. Brad Wenstrup of Cincinnati. "He really touched everyone in the room."

Asked about the future of the Republican Party, Mr. Bush said, "As long as everyone feels welcome, I think we'll succeed," according to Mr. Wenstrup.

Mr. Bush also stressed to Mr. Portman's donors that the institution of the presidency was more important than the occupant of the White House. Criticizing President Obama, he said, would demean the institution. Even in troubled times, "we're lucky because we'll always have the presidency," Mr. Bush said, according to one attendee.

Posted by orrinj at 1:44 PM


Treasury 30-Year Yield Seen Near Zero in Nomura's Vicious Circle (William Finbarr Flynn , August 1, 2016, Bloomberg)

The yield on 30-year Treasuries could plunge to almost zero within two years as investors seeking higher income streams shift funds from Japanese government bonds into the U.S., according to the Asian nation's biggest brokerage.

"Japanese money" will move into the sovereign securities of other major economies as about 900 trillion yen ($8.9 trillion) of JGBs offer negative yields, Toshihiro Uomoto, Nomura Holdings Inc.'s chief credit strategist in Tokyo, wrote in a report on Monday. The decline in global yields will weigh on consumer sentiment, put pressure on banks' interest income, and may result in more stimulus from central banks, according to Uomoto, ranked as Japan's top credit analyst by Nikkei Veritas for three of the past four years.

...why would we also pay you interest?

August 2, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:25 PM


Harrisburg Slams Trump's 'War Zone' Riff (Asawin Suebsaeng, 8/02/16, Daily Beast)

On Tuesday, Trump said at a Virginia rally that Harrisburg, PA, "looked like a war zone where you [once had] these massive plants." (Trump noted that he noticed the alleged similarities when he had recently flown over the city in his private plane).

The city of Harrisburg begs to differ.

"Mr. Trump has made an unfortunate mistake in disparaging Pennsylvania's capital city after a mere glance from the window of his airplane," Joyce Davis, director of communications of the City of Harrisburg, emailed The Daily Beast. "Mr. Trump should know that Harrisburg and its residents are an integral part of the United States, which he is vying to lead. Its rich history and natural beauty have won both the respect and acclaim of some of America's greatest leaders and patriots."

The Harrisburg region actually enjoys a stable influx of new residents, and has comparatively low unemployment. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:11 PM


Trump declines to endorse Ryan, McCain for re-election: Washington Post (Reuters, 8/02/16)

Donald Trump on Tuesday declined to endorse two fellow Republicans, U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan and U.S. Senator John McCain, in their upcoming re-election battles after both Republicans criticized his remarks about the family of a slain Muslim U.S. Army captain.

Posted by orrinj at 4:51 PM


To Avoid Recession, Fix the Corporate Tax Code (Diana Furchtgott-Roth, August 1, 2016, Reuters)

The problem was not consumers, who went shopping at the healthiest rate since the fourth quarter of 2014, resulting in an increase in personal consumption expenditures of over 4 percent. The problem was declining domestic investment across the board.

Consider that gross private domestic investment declined by 9.7 percent on an annualized basis from the first quarter of 2016 to the second quarter. Over the past year, it declined by 3.4 percent.

Within the category of domestic investment, second quarter nonresidential structure investments declined by 7.9 percent on an annualized basis relative to the first quarter, and nonresidential equipment by 3.5 percent. Residential investment was lower by 6.1 percent.

American individuals and businesses were reluctant to make investments in the second quarter. The declining investments are all the more remarkable given the Fed's abnormally-low interest rates. The Fed has now held interest rates historically low for several years.

Of course, it's only remarkable if you accept both the false premise--that rates are low--and the idea that consumers were acting against their own best interests on masse.  Instead, simply accept that deflation means that real interest rates are artificially high and that it makes sense to hold off on large expenditures, since they'll be cheaper later, and it is evident that there's nothing remarkable here.

Posted by orrinj at 4:43 PM


Donald Trump's Draft Deferments: Four for College, One for Bad Feet (STEVE EDER and DAVE PHILIPPSAUG. 1, 2016, NY Times)

Back in 1968, at the age of 22, Donald J. Trump seemed the picture of health.

He stood 6 feet 2 inches with an athletic build; had played football, tennis and squash; and was taking up golf. His medical history was unblemished, aside from a routine appendectomy when he was 10.

But after he graduated from college in the spring of 1968, making him eligible to be drafted and sent to Vietnam, he received a diagnosis that would change his path: bone spurs in his heels.

The diagnosis resulted in a coveted 1-Y medical deferment that fall, exempting him from military service as the United States was undertaking huge troop deployments to Southeast Asia, inducting about 300,000 men into the military that year.

The deferment was one of five Mr. Trump received during Vietnam. The others were for education.

His experience during the era is drawing new scrutiny after the Muslim American parents of a soldier who was killed in Iraq publicly questioned whether Mr. Trump had ever sacrificed for his country. In an emotional speech at the Democratic National Convention last week, the soldier's father, Khizr Khan, directly addressed Mr. Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, saying, "You have sacrificed nothing and no one."

To his credit, it's not just the Vietnamese people he doesn't care about.  There's no one whose freedoms he thinks we should defend, including a significant number of our fellow Americans.

Posted by orrinj at 4:24 PM

WHO CAN LISTEN TO HIM FOR 15 HOURS? (profanity alert):

BANNER DAY FOR BS : 15 Hours of Donald Trump's Lies (OLIVIA NUZZI, 8/02/16, Daily Beast)

From his attacks on the Khan family to calling Hillary Clinton the devil and his claims of 'yuge' crowds, Monday was an incredible day of falsehoods for the GOP nominee.

The lying started at 7:27 a.m. and did not stop until after dark. 

Even for Donald Trump, Monday, Aug. 1, was a banner day for bull[***].

With 100 days until Election Day, the Republican presidential nominee decisively rejected suggestions that he make some attempt to appear statesmanlike in his campaign against Hillary Clinton, opting to commit fully to the erraticism and dishonesty that characterized his performance in the Republican primary. 

Monday was a dive, hair-first, into a general election strategy not yet seen before on American soil--and a strategy for existing as a human being in the world not usually seen outside the bowels of the New York City subway system after 2 a.m.

Typed into the ether on Twitter, shouted at the people of Columbus, Ohio, at a town hall, or yodeled at a rally to the cable cameras and citizens of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the steady stream of nonsense could not be corked. 

That is, until the fried chicken arrived. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:19 PM


Reports: Trump asked GOP for Backup on Khans, No One Responded (Stephanie Akin, 8/02/16, Roll Call)

As criticism mounted against Donald Trump Monday for his treatment of an American Muslim couple whose son died in the Iraq war, his campaign sent an appeal to Republicans in Congress to back him up, according to media reports. No one responded.  [...]
Instead of repeating Trump's suggested arguments, several Republicans issued statements denouncing him and thanking Khizr and Ghazala Khan for their sacrifice. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, who had led the way with a similar statement Sunday, circulated a "must-see" photograph of himself holding up a pocket copy of the constitution , as Khizr Khan had done at the Democratic National Convention the week before.  

Posted by orrinj at 2:53 PM

THE BIOGRAPHER OF POWER (profanity alert):

Interviews : Robert Caro, The Art of Biography No. 5 (James Santel, Paris Review)


When did you start to gravitate to the kinds of large nonfiction projects that would define your career?


I loved being a reporter. I loved finding out about how things really worked and trying to explain them in my stories, and I became more and more ­interested in politics because I was starting to feel that it was important to ­explain political power. The paper assigned me to cover this bridge that Robert Moses wanted to build. The bridge was supposed to run from Oyster Bay to Rye. I can't remember the details, but it would have required something like six more lanes on the Long Island Expressway just to handle the traffic. And the bridge itself would be so big that the piers on which it crossed Long Island Sound would have disrupted the tidal flow and caused pollution. 

The bridge was still years away, but there was some minor measure, a bill or appropriation or feasibility study, perhaps, pertaining to it that Moses needed to keep the project moving forward. I went up to Albany, I saw Governor Rockefeller, I had a long session with his counsel. I saw the ­assembly speaker, a guy named Tony Travia, and I saw the president of the state Senate, Joseph Zaretzki. They all understood that this bridge was just a terrible idea.

So I went back and told my editor, The bill is dead. And then a couple of months later, a friend in Albany called me and said, Robert Moses was up here yesterday. You better come back up. And I drove back up there and walked into the assembly chamber just as they were approving the bill by a huge majority. 

See, before that, I had written articles on politicians, investigative pieces, and I had won a couple of journalism awards. They were really minor awards, but when you're young and you win any award, you think you know everything. So I thought I was accomplishing my purpose, which was to explain political power to my readers. But driving home from Albany to Roslyn that night, all the way I kept thinking, Everything you've been writing is bull[****], because everything you've been writing is based on the belief that political power comes from the ballot box, from being elected. Here was Robert Moses, a guy who was never elected to anything, and he came up to Albany for one day and changed the entire state government around, from the governor to the assembly. How did he have the power to do that? You have no idea and neither does anybody else. I said to myself, If you really want to explain political power, you're going to have to understand that. So I decided to apply for a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard to study urban planning, and I got it. I was taking a course taught by two professors who had written a textbook on urban land-use planning, and they were explaining why highways get built, where they get built, and they were explaining it as if it were a mathematical equation, and with every class, they added a couple of factors--population density, grade elevations, things like that. Totally rational. I would sit there diligently taking notes, and then one day I suddenly said to myself, This is all wrong. They don't know why highways get built where they're built, and I do. They get built where they're built because Robert Moses wants them built there. 

All the Niemans had offices then. I walked back to my office, and I ­really sat and thought, How am I going to explain to the readers of Newsday about Robert Moses? And the more I thought, the more I realized, My God, I'm never going to be able to do this in the context of daily journalism. It's ­going to take a book. To me it seemed that the story of Moses was the story of modern New York. I didn't have an agent, but I wrote a book proposal and got a $5,000 contract, $2,500 then and the other $2,500 when I finished. 

We didn't really have any savings, and that wasn't enough for me to quit my job. For a while, I tried to work on the book while I stayed on as a ­reporter, but I wasn't making much headway. I got a grant for a year, and that was when I decided I could quit. I told Ina the book would be done in nine months. But after a year, it was still only in the early stages. Ina sold our house--we moved to an apartment in the Bronx--and the money from that gave us another year. But I knew the book still had a lot more years to go. So those were years when we were just plain broke. All I could think was that I was going to have to be really lucky to be able to finish this book without having to go back to work as a reporter. I knew that if I went back to work, I would never finish. 

After some years, I got an agent, Lynn Nesbit, and changed publishing houses, and she and my new editor, Bob Gottlieb, made sure I finally had enough money. But the only way she could get enough money for me to finish The Power Broker was for me to sign a two-book contract. The second one was for a biography of Fiorello La Guardia, but after I finished The Power Broker, I didn't want to do it, because so much of it was covered in The Power Broker. And I've never been able to stand ­doing something that I've already done.

I knew what I really wanted to do for my second book, because I had come to realize something. I wasn't interested in writing a biography but in writing about political power. I could do urban political power through Robert Moses because he had done something that no one else had done. He had shaped the city with a kind of power we didn't learn about in textbooks, which tell us that, in a democracy, power comes from being elected. He had shaped it with a different kind of power. So if I could find out and explain where he got his power and how he kept it and how he used it, I would be explaining something about the realities of urban power--how raw, naked power really works in cities. And I could do it through his life because I got the right man, the man who did something that no one else had done. I felt it would be great if I could do that kind of book--a book about political power--about national power. And I had had a similar flash about Lyndon Johnson. It was the Senate, it wasn't the presidency. He made the Senate work. For a century before him, the Senate was the same dysfunctional mess it is today. He's majority leader for six years, the Senate works, it creates its own bills. He leaves, and the day he leaves it goes back to the way it was. And it's stayed that way until this day. Only he, in the modern era, could make the Senate work. So he, like Moses, had found some new form of political power, and it was ­national, not urban power. I wanted to do a book about that. That's what first drew me to Lyndon Johnson. 

Also, I wanted to do Johnson's life in more than one volume because there were things that had been cut out of The Power Broker that I regretted having to cut. I cut 350,000 words out of that book. I still miss some of those chapters. I expected to have a fight over this, but before I said anything, Bob said, I've been thinking about you and what you ought to do. I know you want to do the La Guardia biography, but I think what you should do is a biography of Lyndon Johnson. And then he said, And I think you should do it in several volumes. 

Posted by orrinj at 2:43 PM


Donald Trump's Self-Created Pothole : Attacks on Khizr and Ghazala Khan, parents of U.S. soldier killed in Iraq, broaden the character issue in the campaign from being solely about Hillary Clinton (PETER D. HART, Aug 2, 2016, WSJ)

Today, we may be watching the first time a presidential nominee has created his own pothole: by attacking the immigrant parents of a U.S. soldier who died in service to his country. How deeply this cuts and how long this story lasts depends on Donald Trump. He could apologize and the subject may change, but the campaign has suffered a critical wound because this issue speaks to the character of the candidate. This exchange is not something that he can turn back on Hillary Clinton or somehow blame on a staff writer or the media. These remarks are 100% Donald Trump. He said these things, he doubled down, and he owns this attack line.

It has been my contention for some time in the 2016 campaign that the Trump campaign effectively has been carrying a paper bag of water. Each misstep adds more water to the bag. At some point, the bag will rip and the water will gush out. The candidate's back-and-forth with Khizr and Ghazala Khan may not be the instance that rips the bag, but it is significant. It has changed the dynamics of the character issue from being solely about Hillary Clinton to also being very much about Donald Trump.

The Republican primaries were likewise only ever about him.  Too bad he didn't take on this much water early enough to save us from Hillary. 
Posted by orrinj at 2:37 PM


Affordable Care Act premiums are lower than you think (Loren Adler and Paul Ginsburg, July 21, 2016, Health Affairs)

Since the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) health insurance marketplaces first took effect in 2014, news story after story has focused on premium increases for certain plans, in certain cities, or for certain individuals. Based on preliminary reports, premiums now appear set to rise by a substantial amount in 2017.

What these individual data points miss, however, is that average premiums in the individual market actually dropped significantly upon implementation of the ACA, according to our new analysis, even while consumers got better coverage. In other words, people are getting more for less under the ACA.

Posted by orrinj at 2:32 PM


US veteran homelessness slashed in half: What's behind the decline? : In the past six years, the number of unsheltered veterans has been slashed by more than half, according to a report released Monday by the Obama administration. (Aidan Quigley, Staff AUGUST 1, 2016, CS Monitor)

Speaking at the Disabled American Veterans annual meeting Monday in Atlanta, President Obama called the nation's commitment a "sacred covenant." "I don't use those words lightly. It's sacred because there is no more solemn request than to ask someone to risk their life, to be ready to give their life on our behalf," he said. [...]

A linchpin in the current strategy is the HUD-VASH voucher program for rental assistance for veterans, which has seen bipartisan support in Congress. 

At the local level, communities have emphasized housing-first and rapid re-housing policies to address the number of homeless veterans. Housing-first policies place veterans immediately into permanent housing instead of transitional housing or shelter, and eliminate previous barriers and requirements for being eligible for housing. 

This a gradual shift in strategies for fighting homelessness, Matt Leslie, the director of housing development for veterans in Virginia's Department of Veterans Services tells the Monitor. 

"Oftentimes, housing was kind of earned. So you'd step your way through places: You'd do well in an emergency shelter, then you'd work your way to transitional, then you'd work your way into housing," Mr. Leslie says. "But that was leaving some of the really vulnerable people with potential mental illness, substance abuse, they'd just get left out.... My belief is a housing plan should be started on Day 1."

This had led to the implementation of housing-first policy, which takes away some of the barriers to obtaining housing. Increasingly, policymakers and advocacy organizations point to permanent housing as stabilizing factor that enables the formerly homeless to start to address other issues.

The government is also focusing on prevention by providing short-term support and relief to provide services necessary to keep veterans from becoming homeless. 

"It's really that collection of interventions and a huge commitment from our leadership and from Congress to support those changes that really defines and describes the successes we've had," O'Toole says. "I think it's exciting because it really proves that something can be done for something that has not always been considered fixable."

Posted by orrinj at 2:25 PM


Jamie Dimon just put America's standing in the world in perspective (Matt Turner, August 1, 2016, Business Insider)

"I'm going to talk about the United State patriotically for a second. We have the best military on the planet, the best military barriers ever built, called the Atlantic and the Pacific. Very peaceful and friendly neighbors called Mexico and Canada. Some of the best universities on the planet, some of the best businesses on the planet, great work ethic, great rule of law, other than how it often applies to banks. The widest and deepest financial markets that the world's ever seen. You don't get that in Brazil, Russia, India, China. I'm not making fun of them. We have all the food, water and energy we should need. Again, you don't get that [elsewhere]. And I'm saying this out of respect for China. They don't have enough food, water and energy. They have 500 million people living in poverty and they have a lot of very tough neighbors in the neighborhood. So you know, we, America, should look at what we do very well. Our future is going to be unbelievable."

Posted by orrinj at 2:20 PM


Get a Free Pocket Edition of the U.S. Constitution (Now #2 on the Amazon Bestseller List) (Open Culture, August 2nd, 2016)

Khizr Khan may be to Donald Trump what Joseph Welch was to Joe McCarthy. That would be one positive outcome of Khan's speech. The other is that sales of the U.S. Constitution (as Electric Literature noted) have gone through the roof. The U.S. Constitution is currently #2 on Amazon's list of bestselling books, right behind the new Harry Potter book. Fathom that.

You, too, can buy a pocket edition of the Constitution. But why not get it for free? Through November 8, the ACLU is running a promotion which will let you snag a free pocket-sized Constitution-one that can fit in your backpack, glove compartment, or back pocket. It measures 3/12" x 5.5" and features "the full text of the Constitution, the Amendments, including the Bill of Rights, as well as a Know Your Rights series: What to do if you're stopped by the police."

Head to this page, and use the coupon code POCKETRIGHTS.

Posted by orrinj at 2:10 PM


Study Dashes Millennials' Reputation as Hookup Generation (Robert Preidt, Aug. 2, 2016, HealthDay News) 

A new study contradicts the common perception that young American adults -- so-called Millennials -- are having more casual sex than previous generations.

Researchers analyzed decades of national data. They found 15 percent of young adults aged 20 to 24 born in the early 1990s (Millennials) had no sexual partners since age 18, compared with 6 percent of Americans born in the late 1960s (Generation Xers).

Only people born in the 1920s reported having less sex in their early 20s.

Posted by orrinj at 1:59 PM


U.S. says seven al Qaeda operatives killed in July strikes (Susan Heavey, 8/02/16, Reuters)

Seven al Qaeda operatives were killed in two U.S. counterterrorism strikes last month in the Arabian Peninsula near central Yemen, the U.S. Central Command said in a statement.

US planes hit Islamic State in Libya for first time (AFP, August 1, 2016)

"The first American airstrikes on precise positions of the Daesh (IS) organization were carried out today, causing heavy losses... in Sirte," Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj said in a televised speech.

In Washington, the Pentagon said the raids were launched in response to a request from the unity government.

Obama, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong Vow to Push for Trade Pact (BYRON TAU and  CAROL E. LEE, Aug. 2, 2016, WSJ)

President Barack Obama, after meeting Tuesday with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, said the two leaders were still committed to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, despite increasingly long odds of U.S. approval this year.

Posted by orrinj at 1:55 PM


LIFE ON EARTH MAY HAVE ARISEN UNUSUALLY EARLY (Ryan F. Mandelbaum, 8/02/16, Popular Science)

In the grand scheme of the cosmos, life on earth might have popped up far sooner than it should have.

A team led by Harvard astronomy department chair Avi Loeb crunched some numbers comparing the size of stars to how soon life should form on the habitable planets that surround them. The team predicts that the odds of life developing around the more common and smaller red dwarf stars will increase drastically in the future. In other words, when it comes to life, maybe we ain't seen nothin' yet.

Life has lots of prerequisites. It starts with a planet orbiting a star, so the star's energy can fuel the life-inducing chemical reactions. Those reactions generally occur in liquid water, so the planet needs to sit in a so-called habitable zone, a distance from the star where the planet is too warm for water to freeze and too cold for water to boil. The planet also needs to have oxygen, carbon, and other elements, and weigh enough so that its gravity can hold onto an atmosphere. But are those conditions unique to the Earth?

"The general idea that many people subscribe to is that, since we exist next to a star like the Sun in a galaxy like the Milky Way, for life to exist you need these conditions," Loeb told Popular Science. "But in fact, low-mass stars are much more common than the Sun. The sun isn't a typical star. Low-mass stars are very long-lived; they can live 1,000 times longer."

Got that? Life should not have arisen on the only world where it ever has.  Sublime...

Posted by orrinj at 1:50 PM



It's one of the most universal recommendations in all of public health: Floss daily to prevent gum disease and cavities.

Except there's little proof that flossing works.

Still, the federal government, dental organizations and manufacturers of floss have pushed the practice for decades. Dentists provide samples to their patients; the American Dental Association insists on its website that, "Flossing is an essential part of taking care of your teeth and gums."

The federal government has recommended flossing since 1979, first in a surgeon general's report and later in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans issued every five years. The guidelines must be based on scientific evidence, under the law.

Last year, the Associated Press asked the departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture for their evidence, and followed up with written requests under the Freedom of Information Act.

When the federal government issued its latest dietary guidelines this year, the flossing recommendation had been removed, without notice. In a letter to the AP, the government acknowledged the effectiveness of flossing had never been researched, as required.

The AP looked at the most rigorous research conducted over the past decade, focusing on 25 studies that generally compared the use of a toothbrush with the combination of toothbrushes and floss. The findings? The evidence for flossing is "weak, very unreliable," of "very low" quality, and carries "a moderate to large potential for bias."

"The majority of available studies fail to demonstrate that flossing is generally effective in plaque removal," said one review conducted last year. Another 2015 review cites "inconsistent/weak evidence" for flossing and a "lack of efficacy."

Posted by orrinj at 1:43 PM


Donald Trump Lashes Out at a Crying Baby (PATRICK CALDWELL, AUG. 2, 2016, MoJo)

Donald Trump doesn't humor any interruptions during his speeches--even if those outbursts are coming from an infant. During a rally Tuesday in Northern Virginia's Loudoun County, a baby in the audience started to cry. At first, Trump played the role of common-man politician, saying, "I love babies. I hear that baby crying. I like it." But as the dissatisfied infant kept making noise during Trump's attacks on China, the real estate mogul change his mind. "Actually I was only kidding, you can get the baby out of here," Trump said.

"I think she really believed me that I love having a baby crying while I'm speaking," Trump added incredulously.

August 1, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 11:55 PM


Donald Trump says he would tell his daughter to find a new job if she were harassed at work (Catherine Garcia, 8/01/16, The Week)

When asked what he would tell his eldest daughter, Ivanka, if she was being sexually harassed in the workplace, Donald Trump gave a stupefying response.

"I would like to think she would find another career or find another company if that was the case," he told interviewer Kirsten Powers, a paid political contributor to Fox News. 

Posted by orrinj at 9:00 PM


Billionaire Warren Buffett ready to take on Donald Trump (CATHERINE LUCEY and ALAN SUDERMAN, 8/01/16, Associated Press)

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett says he'll do whatever it takes to defeat Donald Trump -- including escorting people to the polls himself.

Campaigning with Hillary Clinton in Nebraska Monday, Buffett savaged Trump's business record, questioning his bankruptcies and asking why the Republican presidential candidate won't release his tax returns. The so-called "Omaha Oracle" then announced a new campaign called "Drive 2 Vote," designed to bring out voters in Nebraska's second congressional district, which offers a single Electoral College vote to the district winner.

"I will take at least 10 people to the polls who would otherwise have difficulty getting there," said Buffett, adding that he had reserved a 32-seat trolley for the day with a goal of getting the highest-percentage turnout of any congressional district in the country. "Let's give America a civics lesson."

Posted by orrinj at 7:27 PM


The Fallen Soldier Who Could Bury Trump (Ciro Scotti, August 1, 2016, Reuters)

A year ago Donald Trump got away with questioning the heroism of Senator John McCain, who as a young Navy fighter pilot was shot down over North Vietnam, tortured and held for five years in the infamous hellhole prison nicknamed the Hanoi Hilton.

Now it's payback time. 

McCain this morning lashed out at the GOP presidential nominee for his attack on the family of Army Captain Humayun Khan, a Muslim killed in Iraq in 2004 as he sought to save his troops from a suicide bomber. 

"In recent days, Donald Trump disparaged a fallen soldier's parents. He has suggested that the likes of their son should not be allowed in the United States -- to say nothing of entering its service. I cannot emphasize enough how deeply I disagree with Mr. Trump's statement," the Arizona Republican said in a very personal statement. "I hope Americans understand that the remarks do not represent the views of our Republican Party, its officers, or candidates." 

Posted by orrinj at 7:22 PM


Trump: Election Will Be 'Rigged' for Hillary (Casey Leins, Aug. 1, 2016, US News)

"I'm afraid the election's going to be rigged, I have to be honest," the Republican nominee told a crowd in Columbus, Ohio.

Posted by orrinj at 4:04 PM


Trump's RNC Was Least Effective Party Convention in Three Decades, Poll Finds (Ben Mathis-Lilley, 8/01/16, Slate)

On Monday, Gallup released another Trump-related finding that's also bad news for the GOP nominee.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 PM


Russian helicopter shot down, killing five on board (BBC, 8/01/16)

A Russian military helicopter has been shot down in Syria killing all five on board - the deadliest single incident for Russia's military since its air campaign began last September.

Posted by orrinj at 3:54 PM


Donald Trump's Race to the Bottom Becomes a Sprint (DAVID FRENCH, July 31, 2016, National Review)

In the last two days, Donald Trump has declared that Gold Star father Khizr Khan had "no right to stand in front of millions of people and claim I have never read the Constitution, (which is false) and say many other inaccurate things," speculated that his wife, Ghazala, "maybe wasn't allowed to have anything to say," and discussed his own business as his example of "sacrificing" for his country. That's a man who hopes to take an oath of office to "preserve, protect, and defend" the Constitution apparently forgetting about the First Amendment. That's a man seeking to be commander-in-chief of the military who treated a Gold Star mom as if she was a mere tool of her husband. And a man who mentions his business success as a "sacrifice" in the context of discussing a soldier who gave the last full measure of devotion to his country is a man without shame.  

It's hard to overstate how much Trump's comments contradict the culture of the military he seeks to lead. Gold Star families are treated with reverence, and the mere sight of a Gold Star pin means that soldiers of all ranks move quickly to serve. They don't ask the parents' views on policy. They don't care about the parents' personality, ethnicity, or faith. They have suffered immense pain for our country, and a country that cannot honor that pain isn't a country that deserves any man or woman's sacrifice. A candidate who can't respect those parents doesn't deserve to lead.

Posted by orrinj at 3:47 PM


Here we go again: Oil plunges back below $40 (Matt Egan, August 1, 2016, CNN MONEY)

It's the latest setback for oil bulls who thought crude was on a straight shot back to $60 and higher following the crash that began in late 2014. The price had peaked at $107 in June 2014.

The recent selling has been driven by a realization that the epic oil glut remains largely intact -- and some U.S. oil companies may make it worse by starting to drill more.

Posted by orrinj at 3:41 PM


How America's next president can double growth (Heather Long, August 1, 2016, CNN Money)

Growth so far in 2016 has averaged 1%, but Dimon said he's "not sure" that is accurate. He thinks the economy is stronger than that, especially since Americans continue to buy, buy, buy.

So what does the next president need to do to turbocharge growth? Dimon says it's simple: He or she needs to focus on three key agenda items: "proper" immigration reform, "proper" infrastructure spending, and lower taxes on business.