September 30, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 9:15 PM


 Donald Trump Is Being Outplayed by Women--and He's Losing His Mind Over It (Joan Walsh, 9/30/16, The Nation)

It's no accident that three of Trump's victims--Machado, the Khan family, and Judge Gonzalo Curiel--are not white. Hostility to minorities is the animating energy of the campaign. But the candidate's derangement over Machado surpasses his prior breakdowns--for a good reason. A woman he once controlled, quite literally--making her exercise in front of the media, to prove she was taking his demands to lose weight seriously--is defying him publicly. Another woman, Hillary Clinton, refused to slink into obscurity after her husband humiliated her (last year Trump shared a fan's tweet asking, "If Hillary Clinton can't satisfy her husband what makes her think she can satisfy America?") and is currently leading him in the race for the presidency.

As Trump reflexively lashes back at these two noncompliant women, millions of other women are seeing the sort of man who's kept them back, on the job and sometimes at home, and they're appalled. During a campaign in which she has occasionally struggled with a lack of enthusiasm, she is getting a great gift from her opponent. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:05 PM


Donald Trump Is Wrong--Immigrants Don't Commit More Crimes (David Bier, September 27, 2016, Time)

What the anti-immigration crowd needs to understand is that not only are immigrants less likely to commit crimes than native-born Americans, but they also protect us from crime in several ways.
To begin with, immigrants prevent crime indirectly by simply committing far fewer crimes per person than native-born Americans.

Here's how it works: imagine 1 out of every 20 people is a criminal. If you are a criminal, you have a 5% chance of bumping into another criminal who tells you about an opportunity to commit a crime or helps you carry it out. When an influx of low-crime immigrants enters the country, they reduce the chances of you making that connection, thus reducing overall crime.

This is one reason why homicides and robberies in the most immigrant-dense cities fell further than elsewhere in the country following a surge in immigration in recent years. It is no surprise that America's crime rates plunged as immigration surged in the 1990s.

Immigrants also reduce crime rates by infusing new capital into rundown areas. Studies have shown that filling abandoned buildings and fixing up neighborhoods makes residents less likely to commit crimes, and new residents also fill public coffers, which can be invested in better law enforcement.

Buffalo is a good example. Denise Beehag of the International Institute of Buffalo told NPR last year that immigrants "were pretty much the only group that was moving into the West side of Buffalo and taking over those vacant houses and businesses." Crime fell most dramatically in Buffalo in Bangladeshi immigrant areas--by 70%.

Immigrants also reduce crime in more direct ways. For starters, about 25,000 police officers, detectives and other law enforcement personnel were born in another country, according to the Census Bureau in 2014.USA Today reported last year that more law enforcement agencies across the country are recruiting immigrants to fill vacancies in tough areas and connect with the diverse population.

Immigrant police officers expand the size of the law enforcement labor force, which lowers crime in two ways. First, the sheer number of cops has been shown to have a depressing effect on crime. And second, allowing agencies the ability to hire the best recruit possible increases the quality of their workforce, which further depresses crime.

Of course, immigrants who aren't cops also stop crimes and save lives. There are another nearly 6,000 immigrants working as firefighters, roughly 14,000 as correctional or probation officers, almost 70,000 working in private security, and nearly 700,000 in medical and health services, including nearly half of all diagnosticians and treating practitioners.

Posted by orrinj at 5:53 PM


Donald Trump's debate defeat has sent him into a raging tailspin (DANIEL DALE, Sept. 30, 2016, Toronto Star)

At the first presidential debate, Hillary Clinton questioned her opponent's temperament.

And she beat him. So, naturally, he set about proving her right.

Donald Trump's lopsided Monday defeat has sent him into a raging tailspin. Over the course of four days, in ways that seem far more vitriolic than strategic, the Republican presidential candidate has lashed out at Clinton, her husband, the media, the moderator, and a Latina former beauty queen about whom he posted a bizarre attack on Twitter before dawn on Friday.

"This is the worst post-debate spin in world history," Rick Tyler, a MSNBC political analyst and a former spokesman for Trump rival Ted Cruz, said in an interview. "The debate was bad enough. And he just has compounded all his problems. The Clinton camp must be overjoyed. They are playing him like a fiddle." [...]

"He has an image of himself of never losing. He's a winner. So if he's perceived as having lost on an issue, he can't let it go. That's why he needs to get into conspiracy theories," John Ziegler, a conservative talk radio host and Trump critic, said in an interview.

"It's clearly all out of ego. He has an incredibly large ego, he's massively insecure, he's incredibly easy to bait. And it's hard for me to see at this point how he turns it around," he said. "It's all about saving face, it's all about saving his ego, it's all about his own insecurities."

It still seems more likely that he'll drop out than that he'll submit to an electoral thrashing.

Posted by orrinj at 5:37 PM


Gary Johnson has 6 newspaper endorsements. Donald Trump has 0. (The Week, 9/30/16)

On Friday, Johnson landed the endorsement of the Chicago Tribune, which dubbed him "agile, practical and, unlike the major-party candidates, experienced at managing governments." The editorial called Hillary Clinton "undeniably capable," but expressed concern about her "intent to greatly increase federal spending and taxation, and serious questions about honesty and trust." Trump, on the other hand, the newspaper deemed "not fit to be president."

While the Tribune's decision to endorse a third-party candidate is alone notable, what makes it even more noteworthy is that it puts Johnson yet another newspaper endorsement ahead of Trump. Johnson has also secured the support of The Detroit News, the New Hampshire Union Leader, the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Winston-Salem Journal, and The Caledonian-Record.

Conservative Newspapers Explain Why They Refused To Endorse 'Frightening' Trump (Melanie Mason, 9/30/16, Los Angeles Times)

USA Today broke its 34-year tradition of not endorsing in a presidential race, publishing a scathing argument against voting for Donald Trump.

The editorial board unanimously found Trump "unfit for the presidency" and the editorial, published Thursday, goes on to list the reasons why, among them: his "erratic" behavior and his "checkered" business past.

Conservative Newspapers Explain Why They Refused To Endorse 'Frightening' Trump (Joe Strupp, 9/30/16, Media Matters)

Andrews said the five-member editorial board was unanimous in their choice, adding that a non-endorsement was not an option.

"We felt that fundamentally not endorsing in any race we are looking at is a pretty lame approach," she said. "Because somebody has to decide who the next president is and voters have to make a decision, it felt a like a dereliction of duty."

The Enquirer wasn't the first traditionally Republican paper to endorse Clinton. The Dallas Morning News ended 80 years of GOP presidential endorsements on September 7 when it backed Clinton.

"We had recommended John Kasich in the primary and were disappointed that his campaign didn't catch more fire," said Keven Ann Willey, Morning News editorial page editor since 2002 and a member of the Pulitzer Prize Board. "Over that time Donald Trump just became more and more difficult to tolerate. The thought of him as the leader of our country just became anathema. On issues ranging from immigration to foreign relations to tax policy, it was hard to find much to align with him on. He is really not a conservative, he is a Republican of convenience."

Willey said the nine-member editorial board was unanimous in their choice of Clinton, another unusual occurrence.

"It was a long and deliberative process," she said, adding that opposition to Trump was based on many things such as his "name-calling of people and groups of people and the tone, the ramifications of that are just frightening."

The most recent and perhaps most surprising case was the Arizona Republic, which gave Clinton the nod this week. That marked the first time it had endorsed a Democrat in its history, which dates back to 1890 went it launched as the Arizona Republican.

Editorial Page Editor Phil Boas said the nine-member editorial board began criticizing Trump nearly a year ago.

For him, the tide started to turn against Trump when Trump supporters "started kicking and punching" a protester at a rally in Birmingham, AL, in November 2015 and Trump yelled, "get him the hell out of here." Trump later doubled down on his rhetoric in an interview the same week, telling Fox News, "maybe he should have been roughed up."

"That's when I sat down and wrote an editorial that these are sort of the ominous base notes of authoritarianism," said Boas, an admitted lifelong conservative Republican. "It was a sign and alarm that this guy might be dangerous."

Since then, the paper has routinely criticized Trump, endorsing John Kasich in the Arizona primary and hitting the businessman in numerous editorials.

"Because this is probably the most unusual election in our lifetimes, the process was different than what I'm used to and for us," Boas explained. "It really evolved over a year on our pages, a conversation with our readers. I don't think any loyal reader of our editorial pages are that surprised that we endorse Clinton. For a year now we have been writing scalding editorials about Donald Trump."

Boas also cited Trump's mocking of New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski's disability. "I was just appalled by it," he said. "He made fun of a disabled man, he mocked him. ... To behave that way is disrespectful of the office. This became bigger than party, bigger than team."

Posted by orrinj at 5:25 PM


Trump Is More Unpopular Than Clinton Is -- And That Matters (Harry Enten, 9/30/16, 538)

In every election, the candidate who was leading in net favorability ratings in late September won the Electoral College and the election. The campaign with the closest favorability margin, 2000, also featured the closest final result. This year, the net favorability differences aren't anywhere near as small. Since mid-September, Clinton's net favorability rating is 10 percentage points better than Trump's -- similar to the edges George W. Bush had in 2004 and Barack Obama had in 2008. Bush and Obama both won small but solid victories.

Indeed, if you were going to project the 2016 election using a simple linear regression based on the difference between candidates' net favorability ratings, you'd have Clinton winning by a little over 4 percentage points. That's slightly larger than the 3.1-point margin the FiveThirtyEight polls-only model currently forecasts. Again that suggests that Clinton may have some upside potential our model may not be showing.

Posted by orrinj at 5:16 PM


Trump Praised Saudi Arabia's Sharia Law for Making It Easy for Men to Get Divorced (PEMA LEVY, SEP. 30, 2016, Mother Jones)

In order to avoid admitting to cheating on his wife, Donald Trump invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination 97 times during his divorce proceedings with Ivana Trump in 1990, the Huffington Post reported Friday. So it should come as little surprise that Trump had kind words for a system that allows men to divorce their wives without going to court: Saudi Arabia's sharia law.

The Republican presidential candidate praised the Islamic law, or sharia, system during a 60-second syndicated daily radio commentary called "Trumped!" that he recorded daily from 2004 to 2008. In a January 2008 segment, Trump discussed a news story of a Saudi man who had divorced his wife for watching a television show while alone at home because, in Trump's telling, the husband considered it tantamount to being alone with a strange man.

"Men in Saudi Arabia have the authority to divorce their wives without going to the courts," Trump said. "I guess that would also mean they don't need prenuptial agreements. The fact is, no courts, no judges--Saudi Arabia sounds like a very good place to get a divorce."

Posted by orrinj at 12:17 PM


China factories limp along, Japan inflation goes backwards (Wayne Cole, 9/30/16, Reuters)

China's factory sector struggled to gain speed in September while Japanese inflation went backwards in August despite the best efforts of policymakers, underscoring the limits of stimulus in reviving world growth. [...]

The U.S. economy also looked to have bounced back in the third quarter, while a string of data showed Europe weathered Britain's Brexit vote better than many had feared. [...]

The limits of policy stimulus were all to evident in Japan where core consumer prices fell 0.5 percent in August from a year earlier, the largest drop since March 2013.

The data seemed to mock the Bank of Japan's recent pledge not only to boost inflation to 2 percent but to lift it above that, so far unreachable, target for a sustained period.

Posted by orrinj at 12:12 PM


Trump Foundation lacks the certification required for charities that solicit money (David A. Fahrenthold, September 29, 2016, The Washington Post)

Donald Trump's charitable foundation -- which has been sustained for years by donors outside the Trump family -- has never obtained the certification that New York requires before charities can solicit money from the public, according to the state attorney general's office.

Under the laws in New York, where the Donald J. Trump Foundation is based, any charity that solicits more than $25,000 a year from the public must obtain a special kind of registration beforehand. Charities as large as Trump's must also submit to a rigorous annual audit that asks -- among other things -- whether the charity spent any money for the personal benefit of its officers.

Posted by orrinj at 12:05 PM


Luke Cage, Black Conservative : The Netflix series curses a new hero with old-school politics (Justin Charity, 9/30/16, Ringer)

Luke Cage doesn't say much. As played by Mike Colter in the new Marvel series for Netflix, Luke is the strong, silent type. He'll smile a bit if you play Method Man's "P.L.O. Style" or ask him about Kobe Bryant -- hip-hop and basketball are points of frequent, overeager fan service in Luke Cage -- but otherwise he carries himself with the cold, bland demeanor of an on-duty bodyguard.

At his most talkative and forthright, Cage will disarm a young, gunshy hoodlum with an angry lecture about the patriotism of Crispus Attucks and the catastrophic legacy of Robert Moses. He will insist that Harlem, despite being under the thumb of international arms dealers and a deeply corrupt police force, is actually rotting from within. Cage's biggest pet peeve, underscored in every other episode of the series, is hearing people say "n[***]," especially if the term is specifically addressed to him. (More on this later.) For a character that series creator Cheo Coker has explicitly linked to the #BlackLivesMatter movement, Cage spouts some surprisingly conservative undertones and mantras. He speaks like a man who has rather bitterly entered middle age.

Power Man and Iron Fist (Heroes for Hire) was always one of my favorites.
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 PM


Sectarian fighters mass for battle to capture east Aleppo (Martin Chulov and Kareem Shaheen in Beirut, 29 September 2016, The Guardian)

The coming showdown for Aleppo is a culmination of plans made far from the warrooms of Damascus. Shia Islamic fighters have converged on the area from Iraq, Iran, Lebanon and Afghanistan to prepare for a clash that they see as a pre-ordained holy war that will determine the future of the region.

For the past four years, Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and his regime have insisted that his forces were capable of shaping the battle for Aleppo and that the confrontation would be fought along nationalist lines. But with the battle now imminent, the remnants of Assad's army have been relegated to a supporting role.

On social media accounts, and in interviews, leaders of the Shia groups speak in strident sectarian tones about the looming battle, which they bill as part of the same struggle to orientate power in Iraq and Lebanon.

Commanders gathered near Aleppo include battle-hardened devotees of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, with close to a decade of experience fighting in Iraq against both US troops and Sunni militants, including the Islamic State (Isis).

One of the most prominent of those leaders is Akram al-Kaabi, from the Iraqi militia Harakat Hezbollah al Nujaba, who arrived in Aleppo last weekend. Surrounded by Shia iconography in the town of al-'Ais, near Aleppo, he praised his followers' willingness to fight far from home and described them as part of an "army of resistance" defending the Shia faith from usurpers.

"Why are you going to Syria? Because we are in the axis of resistance, and the axis of resistance has many battles all over the world," al-Kaabi said. "If we had to go to the farthest point of the world, we would go."

There is no Ba'ath nation.

Posted by orrinj at 11:55 AM


Exclusive: China set to export corn, posing new threat to battered global market - sources (Dominique Patton, 9/30/16, Reuters)

China has given approval to at least two companies to export corn, trading sources said, in a radical move by the world's No. 2 producer to cut its ballooning surplus and unleash more supply into a saturated global market. [...]

Traders and analysts said exports have been increasingly likely as China struggles with a massive grain surplus and prepares to harvest a bumper crop, its first in almost a decade without government price support.

Chinese corn prices have slumped more than 20 percent in the past year and are expected to fall further towards international benchmarks.

Even if quantities are limited at first, sales abroad would spook major exporters such as Brazil and the United States, increasing competition at a time when record harvests are predicted in many regions. Five of the top ten largest corn importers are in Asia, which may allow China to compete against the Americans and others with lower freight costs.

Posted by orrinj at 11:47 AM


Debate Night Message: The Markets Are Afraid of Donald Trump (JUSTIN WOLFERS SEPT. 30, 2016, NY Times)

Wall Street fears a Trump presidency. Stocks may lose 10 to 12 percent of their value if he wins the November election, and there may be a broader economic downturn.

These conclusions arise from close analysis of financial markets during Monday's presidential debate, which provides a fascinating case study of the complex interconnections between American politics and economics. The market's judgment stands in sharp opposition to Donald J. Trump's claims that his presidency would be good for business.

Posted by orrinj at 11:34 AM


Trump's Overnight Twitter Tirade Sums Up His Weaknesses (ISSIE LAPOWSKY, 09.30.16, Wired)

Donald Trump, apparently, doesn't get much sleep. Because, beginning at 5:14 am, the Republican nominee for President picked up his phone and started firing off tweet after tweet about former Miss Universe Contestant Alicia Machado, who Hillary Clinton name-checked during the first presidential debate last week. [...]

That Trump would unleash a tweetstorm before sunrise shouldn't surprise anybody at this point. But this one in particular seems to encapsulate two of the biggest issues dogging Trump's campaign: his attitude toward women and his apparent problems with impulse control. They also showcase his propensity for seeding conspiracy theories, just as he has with regard to Hillary Clinton's health and President Obama's citizenship. [...]

For Trump to unleash such a temperamental attack against a woman--flaunting a sex tape that does not appear to exist, no less--is an altogether curious strategy, if it's a strategy at all.

Posted by orrinj at 11:11 AM


Hillary-Hatred Derangement Syndrome : She alone stands between America and the reign of the most unstable, unfit president in U.S. history. (DOROTHY RABINOWITZ, Sept. 29, 2016, WSJ)

The NeverHillary forces are another matter entirely--citizens well aware of the darker aspects of Donald Trump's character but who have nonetheless concluded that they should give him their vote. They are aware of his casual disregard for truth, his self-obsession, his ignorance, his ingrained vindictiveness. Not even the first presidential debate, which saw him erupt into a snarling aside about Rosie O'Donnell, could loosen his hold on that visceral drive to inflict payback, in this case over a feud 10 years old.

The NeverHillary forces are aware, too, of his grandiosity--his announcement that he knows more about Islamic State than any of America's generals will long be remembered--his impulse-driven character, his insatiable need for applause, the head-turning effect on him of an approving word from Vladimir Putin. The Russian leader's compliment late last year was of the mildest kind--he referred to Mr. Trump as "talented" and "colorful"--but it was enough to make the candidate's heart go pitter-patter with gratitude and engender instant expressions of his faith in Mr. Putin's integrity and leadership. As Mr. Trump himself has explained, "if he says nice things about me, I'm going to say nice things about him." [...]

No one witnessing Mr. Trump's primary race--his accumulation of Alt-Right cheerleaders, white supremacists and swastika devotees--could fail to notice the menacing tone and the bitterness that came with it.

Not for nothing did the Democrats bring off a triumph of a convention, alive with cheer, not to mention its two visitors whose story would lift countless American hearts. They were, of course, the Muslim couple Khizr and Ghazala Khan, whose son, Capt. Humayun Khan--brought here as a child--died in Iraq in 2004, saving his men from an explosive-rigged car.

His countrymen now go streaming to his grave at Arlington National Cemetery to leave notes and flowers. He reminded us of who we are--the nation that takes its newcomers and transforms them into Americans. After 9/11, Capt. Khan, American, could scarcely wait to serve his country. The national response to the Khans injected a sense of unity and affirmation, however brief, into an atmosphere of embittering divisiveness.

September 29, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:41 PM


U.S. may consider lifting sanctions on Afghan warlord: official (Hamid Shalizi and Josh Smith, 9/29/16, Reuters)

The United States may consider lifting sanctions on one of Afghanistan's most notorious warlords after a peace accord was signed in the Afghan capital on Thursday, a U.S. official said. [...]

"With this agreement, I hope to put an end to the current crisis in the country," Hekmatyar said in his message.

"I call on all sides to support this peace deal and I call on the opposition parties of the government to join the peace process and pursue their goals through peaceful means."

He reiterated his calls for an end to "foreign interference" and for all foreign troops to leave Afghanistan.

Hekmatyar, who served as prime minister in the 1990s, before the rise to power of the Taliban, has long been known as close to neighboring Pakistan, and he received U.S. aid during the fight against the Soviets.

His faction of Hezb-i-Islami has played a relatively small role in the current conflict, in which the Taliban have a leading role in battling the Western-backed government in Kabul.

But government officials hope the accord will be a first step toward eventually making similar peace deals with the Taliban and other groups.

"This is a chance for the Taliban and other militant groups to show what their decision is: To be with people and join the respected caravan of peace, like Hezb-i-Islami, or confront the people and continue the bloodshed," Ghani said.

Posted by orrinj at 7:31 PM


Car Makers Rev Up Push Into Electric Vehicles (WILLIAM BOSTON, Sept. 29, 2016, WSJ)

At the Paris Auto Show, which begins this week, major auto makers unveiled plans to accelerate development of electric vehicles over the next few years.

Volkswagen AG, still reeling from its emissions cheating scandal sought to show it had cleaned up its act. It presented a concept vehicle, a prototype of a battery-powered, fully self-driving Golf that the company said could go into mass production in 2020. The company is planning to introduce 30 new electric vehicle models by 2025.

"This car is to fight Tesla and the others, not our conventional competitors," said Herbert Diess, head of the Volkswagen passenger-car brand. "We have to take them very seriously. It's not rocket science. The other competitors are making great progress."

Until now, government incentives have driven the adoption of electric vehicles in many markets. Norway and the Netherlands, two of the smallest auto markets, became the biggest markets for electric vehicles through subsidies and other incentives to promote electric cars, which are still more expensive than conventional gasoline and diesel vehicles.

But over the next decade stricter emissions targets in Europe, the U.S. and China will increase the costs of developing conventional combustion engines. Falling battery costs will also make electric vehicles more competitive. By 2030, AlixPartners, a consultancy, predicts that electric vehicles will largely replace diesel, especially in smaller cars.

"This will go down as one of those years where it all started to change," says Andrew Bergbaum, managing director at AlixPartners.

Posted by orrinj at 7:25 PM


Cheer Up. History Will Forget This Dismal Campaign. (Tyler Cowen, 9/28/16, Bloomberg View)

When historians look back on our era, the Hillary Clinton-Donald Trump campaign probably will be a modest footnote to broader and mostly uninterrupted positive trends. For instance, in a remarkably short time, America has gone from clunky, joke-worthy cell phones, to having most of its citizens connected to much of the world's information, and to most of the world's people, at a moment's notice. That is actually one of the greatest achievements of human history, even if we are far from realizing its full practical benefits.

Ours is sometimes called an age of gridlock, but the law and regulation of the internet has advanced smoothly, albeit imperfectly, to allow this all to fall into place. The rapid spread of online communications was aided by the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which laid down some basic ground rules. Since that time, American government has assisted with domain name registration, cable regulation, applications of intellectual property law, spectrum allotment, the placement and regulation of satellites, international protocols for the web, and the maintenance of an open internet for most of the world, among other relevant issues. For all the mistakes that were made, the product is up and running.

Pushing for China's entry into the World Trade Organization in 2001 made it possible to finish off iPhones efficiently in that market and then export them. And it is China that may produce the next generation of cheap smartphones to narrow the digital divide in this country.

None of those are the hot-button issues of politics or the front page, but that's the point. We're so caught up in emotional partisan symbols that we've been distracted from seeing and articulating the progress.

...that what historians will most note about the decades following the collapse of the Eastern Bloc is the complete conformity of the governing parties throughout the West.

Posted by orrinj at 7:07 PM


After The Gold Rush (MARIE BRENNER, SEPTEMBER 1990, Vanity Fair)

Donald Trump appears to take aspects of his German background seriously. John Walter works for the Trump Organization, and when he visits Donald in his office, Ivana told a friend, he clicks his heels and says, "Heil Hitler," possibly as a family joke.

Last April, perhaps in a surge of Czech nationalism, Ivana Trump told her lawyer Michael Kennedy that from time to time her husband reads a book of Hitler's collected speeches, My New Order, which he keeps in a cabinet by his bed. Kennedy now guards a copy of My New Order in a closet at his office, as if it were a grenade. Hitler's speeches, from his earliest days up through the Phony War of 1939, reveal his extraordinary ability as a master propagandist.

"Did your cousin John give you the Hitler speeches?" I asked Trump.

Trump hesitated. "Who told you that?"

"I don't remember," I said.

"Actually, it was my friend Marty Davis from Paramount who gave me a copy of Mein Kampf, and he's a Jew." ("I did give him a book about Hitler," Marty Davis said. "But it was My New Order, Hitler's speeches, not Mein Kampf. I thought he would find it interesting. I am his friend, but I'm not Jewish.")

Later, Trump returned to this subject. "If I had these speeches, and I am not saying that I do, I would never read them."

Is Ivana trying to convince her friends and lawyer that Trump is a crypto-Nazi? Trump is no reader or history buff. Perhaps his possession of Hitler's speeches merely indicates an interest in Hitler's genius at propaganda. The Führer often described his defeats at Stalingrad and in North Africa as great victories. Trump continues to endow his diminishing world with significance as well. "There's nobody that has the cash flow that I have," he told The Wall Street Journal long after he knew better. "I want to be king of cash."

Posted by orrinj at 6:57 PM


McConnell: Saudi 9/11 law could have 'unintended ramifications' : The Republican Senate leader blames the White House for not engaging sooner with Congress. (SEUNG MIN KIM and BURGESS EVERETT 09/29/16, Politico)

Though Obama's veto of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act was easily overridden, many senators are seeking changes to the law later this year, particularly after gauging any international reaction. McConnell laid some fault at the hands of the White House, calling the battle over JASTA a "good example" of "failure to communicate early about the potential consequences" of a popular bill.

"I told the president the other day that this is an example of an issue that we should have talked about much earlier," McConnell said Thursday. "It appears as if there may be some unintended ramifications of that and I do think it's worth further discussing. But it was certainly not something that was going to be fixed this week." [...]

"I would like to think there may be some work to be done to protect our service members overseas from any kind of legal ensnarement that occur, any kind of retribution," Ryan said at his weekly press conference Thursday. "I would like to think there's a way we can fix so that our service members do not have legal problems overseas while still protecting the rights of the 9/11 victims, which is what JASTA did do."

On the other hand,  it won't have the intended ramifications.  It was just an exercise in foot-stamping.

Posted by orrinj at 2:35 PM


'Alt-Right' Hears Just Enough Dog Whistles To Stick With Donald Trump (Nathan Guttman, September 29, 2016, The Forward)

During a discussion on racial tensions and violence, Trump pointedly used the term "inner city" neighborhoods, and suggested the need to restore "law and order" by increasing police enforcement. Analysts say those terms were used to reach out to far right-wing whites.

"When these people here politicians talk about 'inner city,' what they hear is people talking about black violence," said Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center who has been researching "alt-right" activity. "Donald Trump has been dog whistling the extreme right from the beginning."

However, the mention of alleged African-American crime was not enough for some. Marilyn Mayo from the Anti-Defamation League's center on extremism noticed that some "alt-right" activists had said after the debate they had hoped Trump would expand more on the issue and state that "most crimes are committed by black males."

Still, by and large, experts agree that "alt-right" voters could be satisfied with what they heard from Trump.

He steadfastly refused to apologize for spending years promoting the canard that President Obama was not born in the United States, which white supremacists still relentlessly promulgate online.

When prompted by moderator Lester Holt to address the so-called birther issue in the context of racial tensions, Trump flat out refused, seeking to shift the blame to Obama himself.

"I say nothing, he should have produced [the birth certificate] before," he said. Trump went on to accused aides to Clinton for initially questioning Obama's birthplace in 2008 and proudly claimed he was "the one who got [Obama] to produce [his birth certificate]."

The veiled reference to alleged criminal activity of African-Americans, as well as his ambiguous response to the "birther" question, set the right tone for supporters from the extreme right seeking racially loaded references.

"The 'alt-right' still thinks Trump represents their interests and they don't see him trying to distance himself from them," said Mayo. But, according to Potok, these activists understand that as Trump battles to win over centrist voters, they may be the ones paying the price. "People in the extreme right," he said, "believe that he will have to distance himself."

Posted by orrinj at 2:31 PM


US Army Accidentally Tweeted 'Trump Lies' (Jonah Bennett, 09/29/2016, Daily Caller)

The U.S. Army accidentally posted an overtly political article to its Twitter account Monday entitled, "Trump Lies Once Every 3 Minutes, 15 Seconds."

Posted by orrinj at 2:26 PM


Heckler shines during Ryder Cup practice round (US News, Sept. 29, 2016)

Rory McIlroy and Andy Sullivan took multiple cracks at a 12-foot putt on No. 8 and missed every time. David Johnson, of Mayville, North Dakota, let them know about it, saying he could make the putt. Henrik Stenson pulled Johnson from the gallery and Justin Rose laid a $100 bill right next to the ball, daring Johnson to make it.

After wisecracking that the putter he was handed was too short, Johnson muttered, "home soil, right?" Then he drilled the putt , eliciting a roar from the crowd. 

Posted by orrinj at 2:22 PM


Renault Beats Tesla And GM To The Punch With 250 Mile Range EV 'Available Now' (Bertel Schmitt ,   9/29/16, Forbes)

There is one thing Tesla can be proud of: Automakers around the world are getting off their duffs. Today, French carmaker Renault announced at the Paris auto show that its fully electric "ZOE will be available for immediate sale with the Z.E. 40 battery enabling it to travel 400km NEDC." The car is just one in a wave of longer-range EVs, launched by major automakers to compete with Tesla's Model 3, which is not expected to appear in serious quantities before 2018.

ZOE's 400km range translate to roughly 250 miles according to the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC). That cycle might be a bit optimistic.  However, Renault states that the number is "equivalent to a real-world range of 300km [186 miles] in urban or suburban areas on a single charge." With that, Renault's ZOE is the first of a number of electric vehicles that deliver a gasoline-like range at an affordable price. The current ZOE starts at  EUR 17,490 ($19,630) including tax.

Posted by orrinj at 2:15 PM


An Intriguing Link Between Police Shootings and Black Voter Registration (Maimuna Majumder, 9/29/16, Wired)

Though black Americans comprise 12 percent of the US population, they account for 27 percent of the victims in fatal police shootings reported between January 1, 2015 and July 7, 2016, according to a database compiled by the The Washington Post. Moreover, police officers were twice as likely to shoot and kill unarmed black individuals than unarmed white individuals. [...]

What we found was staggering. The number one determinant of over-representation in fatal police shootings--after controlling for all other aforementioned indicators--was the percentage of eligible black Americans registered to vote within the state in question. In other words, the higher the percentage of eligible black Americans registered to vote, the lower the over-representation ratio in a given state. Furthermore, states suffering from increased rates of income inequality (i.e. Gini index, median household income) demonstrated higher over-representation ratios, while states with increased diversity (i.e. percentage of noncitizen residents) demonstrated lower over-representation ratios.

Posted by orrinj at 2:10 PM


Iraq's OPEC revolt shows Saudi-Iran oil deal fragility (Rania El Gamal and Alex Lawler, 9/29/16, Reuters)

Iraq's new oil minister Jabar Ali al-Luaibi told his Saudi and Iranian counterparts, Khalid al-Falih and Bijan Zanganeh, in a closed-door gathering in Algiers that "it was an OPEC meeting for all ministers", a source briefed on the talks said.

Luaibi also said he didn't like the idea of re-establishing OPEC's output ceiling at 32.5 million barrels per day (bpd), according to sources in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.

Reviving a ceiling, abandoned a year ago because of a Saudi-Iranian clash, was seen by some members as crucial in helping OPEC manage a vastly oversupplied market and prop up prices that stand well below the budget needs of most producers.

But Luaibi told the meeting the new ceiling was no good for Baghdad as OPEC had underestimated Iraq's production, which has soared in recent years.

Confusion followed, according to sources, and after a debate OPEC chose to impose a ceiling in the range of 32.5-33.0 million bpd - a decision dismissed by many analysts as weak and non-binding. OPEC's current output stands at 33.24 million bpd.

Posted by orrinj at 2:05 PM


After Islamic State, Fears of a 'Shiite Crescent' in Mideast (YAROSLAV TROFIMOV, Sept. 29, 2016, WSJ)

From the point of view of Sunni Arab regimes anxious about Iran's regional ambitions, Islamic State--as repellent as it is--provides a silver lining. The extremist group's firewall blocks territorial contiguity between Iran and its Arab proxies in Syria and Lebanon.

This means that now, as Islamic State is losing more and more land to Iranian allies, these Sunni countries--particularly Saudi Arabia--face a potentially more dangerous challenge: a land corridor from Tehran to Beirut that would reinforce a more capable and no less implacable enemy.

Pro-Iranian Shiite militias such as Lebanon's Hezbollah and Iraq's Badr and Asaib Ahl al-Haq are filling the void left by Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, and they are much better equipped and trained than the Sunni extremist group. They are also just as hostile to the Saudi regime, openly talking about dismantling the kingdom and freeing Islam's holy places from the House of Saud.

The success of the Christian/Shia axis in the War has been astounding.

Posted by orrinj at 2:00 PM


The worker shortage facing America's farmers (Octavio Blanco, 9/29/16, CNNMoney)

With fewer workers, farm owners say costs are rising and they often must leave unpicked fruit to rot in the fields. Many producers are even opting to leave the U.S. for countries with lower costs and fewer regulations, said Tom Nassif, CEO of Western Growers, a trade organization that represents farm owners both in the U.S. and abroad.

"We're pretty much begging for workers. It's very bleak," he said.

Posted by orrinj at 1:55 PM


Donald Trump's Castro Connection (Kurt Eichenwald, 9/29/16, Newsweek)

A company controlled by Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for president, secretly conducted business in communist Cuba during Fidel Castro's presidency despite strict American trade bans that made such undertakings illegal, according to interviews with former Trump executives, internal company records and court filings. [...]

The payment by Trump Hotels came just before the New York business mogul launched his first bid for the White House, seeking the nomination of the Reform Party. On his first day of the campaign, he traveled to Miami where he spoke to a group of Cuban-Americans, a critical voting bloc in the swing state. Trump vowed to maintain the embargo and never spend his or his companies' money in Cuba until Fidel Castro was removed from power.

Posted by orrinj at 1:49 PM


Detroit newspaper breaks with tradition, endorses Gary Johnson (Mark Hensch, 9/29/16, The Hill)

The Detroit News on Thursday endorsed Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson, breaking a nearly century-and-a-half tradition of backing Republicans.

"Today this newspaper does something it has never done in its 143-year history: endorse someone other than a Republican candidate in a presidential contest," the paper's editorial board said.

Posted by orrinj at 1:43 PM


Nearly 7 million Californians will be automatically enrolled in state-run retirement savings plan under new law (Sophia Bollag and Samantha Masunaga, 9/29/16, LA Times)
Nearly 7 million workers for California companies will be automatically enrolled in a new state-run retirement program under a bill signed Thursday by Gov. Jerry Brown.

The law requires all California companies with at least five employees to enroll their workers in the new California Secure Choice Retirement Savings Program or offer their own retirement savings plan. [...]

The retirement program will be overseen by a state board, but most of the administrative work will be outsourced to private companies. Those firms will need to be chosen before enrollment can begin.

Though structured as an individual retirement program, Secure Choice will operate much like a 401(k).

Posted by orrinj at 1:36 PM


I miss George W. Bush (Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, September 29, 2016, The Week)

For conservatives, the case for why we should all be missing Bush is simple: He won. And that's something no other conservative presidential candidate has done since. Say what you will about his narrow victories, but Bush won twice. And not only did he deliver the White House, but also both branches of Congress, and two pretty good Supreme Court picks. With Hillary looking like a shoo-in and Antonin Scalia's seat waiting to be filled, don't you want a guy who can win, fellow conservatives?

Many of my hardcore conservative friends have excoriated Dubya for his supposed breaches of conservative orthodoxy. And I have my own criticisms of his famous brand of "compassionate conservatism." But would you rather have compassionate conservatism, or Trumpism? The insistence by so many organs of movement conservatism that only small-government purism could be considered orthodox conservatism is what set the stage for the backlash against the GOP establishment by its working-class base, propelling Trump to the top of the ticket.

George W. Bush is a man of virtue. He got married only once, and he never cheated on his wife. That shouldn't necessarily be a stand-out quality, but in these late days of the Republic, it is, and I miss that about Bush.

Heck, even Bush's much-mocked malapropisms look positively charming next to Trump's foot-in-mouth ramblings.

Progressives have reason to miss George W. Bush, too. He spent his entire political career, dating back to Texas, reaching out to minorities. The Bush-style communitarian vision of the welfare state was designed to help many minority communities thrive. You may not have liked the way that he, as a conservative, thought that should be done (i.e. "faith-based initiatives"), but his heart was in the right place.

September 28, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:37 PM


California's housing shortage will hamper the economy, reports say (Natalie Kitroeff, 9/28/16, LA Times)

The dearth of housing in California will put a drag on the state's economic growth, according to two new studies. 

California will continue to pile on jobs in 2017, but its advantage over the rest of the country will shrink in the future, say a report from UC Riverside and another from UCLA.

The state cannot continue to grow as fast as it has in recent years, said economists who wrote the reports, unless it funnels more people into the workplace. But there aren't enough homes in the state to accommodate a wave of new workers.

The failure to pass W's amnesty has been a long term drag on the economy.
Posted by orrinj at 7:31 PM


The Original Deplorables : Obama misunderstands populism (GEOFFREY NORMAN, 10/03/16, Weekly Standard)

[W]hile McGovern's visceral and honorable opposition to the war was unquestionably anti-elitist, there were gaps in his populist résumé. He lacked the pervasive sense of anger and the appetite for payback. He was, basically, a decent liberal of generally sunny disposition. He was missing the hate chromosome.

The legendary populists had this. For Huey P. Long, hate served as a kind of adrenaline, driving him to the excesses for which he was famous. He hated the rich, especially those made that way through inheritance. And he hated Standard Oil and all the big corporations who prospered, even through the Depression, while farmers and the working men endured and either lost hope or found some in Long's "Share the Wealth" vision.

George McGovern would have been uncomfortable in Huey Long's presence. And Long would have found McGovern's campaign promise of a thousand-dollar grant to every taxpayer anemic and his personality boring.

And since he was fundamentally a decent and honorable man, George McGovern would have been repelled by the antisemitism that attached to the Share the Wealth program and its lead crusader, Gerald L. K. Smith.

This, in fact, is the great stain on populism, going back to the days of William Jennings Bryan and earlier. It may have been inevitable that the movement would be infected and cursed by the oldest of all the hatreds. The populists of the Midwest and prairie states in the last years of the nineteenth century were white Protestants, hostile to people who weren't like them. And they believed that foremost among their enemies and oppressors were .  .  . the bankers. And we all know who runs the banks.

Some of the early populists went gladly down this ugly road. As, for instance, when E. Z. Ernst, a Kansas populist, made the case that "English capitalists" had somehow gained financial control over America, whose citizens were unaware they now had "Shylock's rope about their necks in preparation for the final execution."

This was pretty common fare in populist circles, which accounts for the popularity and influence of a tract called Seven Financial Conspiracies Which Have Enslaved the American People, first published in 1887. The author, Sarah Emery, employed a lot of crackpot numerology, conspiracy theorizing, and not-so-thinly veiled antisemitism (she, too, had a fondness for the name "Shylock") to account for the woes that were catalysts of populism. The book may have sold as many as 400,000 copies.

There was antisemitism attached to the early populist movement, and racism as well. Bryan himself had given a speech in defense of the KKK at the 1924 Democratic convention.

But as progressivism prospered, populism declined and, with Long's assassination, seemed a spent and marginal force. Without the kind of emotional--not to say "charismatic"--leaders that Long and Bryan had been, there was no populist movement. The movement depended on emotion more than reason and, thus, lost vitality and influence during the New Deal and the Second World War. Populism might depend on the passions of the common man and his resentment of elites, but it needed leaders and did not seem to breed them. They sprang up and seized on the anger of people who eventually fell in behind them. Both Bryan and Long blazed onto the political stage at relatively young ages, and both rose very quickly. But while they had many followers, there weren't any understudies to take their places. And this was, according to enlightened thought, a good thing. The widespread prosperity following World War II also took the edge off the anger that had been populism's rocket fuel. Times were good--or good enough--and people had money. Presumably, the bankers had been defeated along with the fascists.

By the fifties, populism had been reduced to material for academic study. It was a crucial element in Richard Hofstadter's exceedingly influential take on American political history. Hofstadter won two Pulitzers, and his essay "The Paranoid Style in American Politics" never seems to go out of style. Perhaps because it explains that the dark night of fascism is always descending on America (though, as Tom Wolfe's rejoinder had it, seems always to fall on Europe).

Hofstadter made the populists intellectually relevant by arguing that their antisemitism and conspiratorial view of the world had somehow made Joe McCarthy possible. He laid the foundation of this argument on what he called the "agrarian myth," explaining, "The utopia of the Populists was in the past, not in the future. According to the agrarian myth, the health of the state was proportionate to the degree to which it was dominated by the agricultural class, and this assumption pointed to the superiority of an earlier age."

So, "The agrarian myth encouraged farmers to believe that they were not themselves an organic part of the whole order of business enterprise and speculation that flourished in the city .  .  . but rather the innocent pastoral victims of a conspiracy hatched in the distance." This "notion of an innocent and victimized populace colors the whole history of agrarian controversy, and indeed the whole history of the populistic mind."

Suspicion of city boys morphed into hatred of them and the "paranoid style," so you could draw a line from William Jennings Bryan and Sarah Emery straight to McCarthy and what intellectuals like Hofstadter and those who read and quoted him believed was a climate of fear.

The argument was exceedingly influential and would seem to have driven a stake through the heart of populism as a plausible political movement. What politician would want to run as leader of the nation's paranoids? Populism was a term of opprobrium, and when it was attached to any living American political figure, he would most likely be from the South and a raging racist, the prototype of whom was Tom Watson of Georgia, who had been an early leader in the Farmers' Alliance. In those days, he was something of a liberal on matters of race; he had even, in one of his campaigns, personally stood up to a mob intent on lynching a black man. He ran for president in the 1904 and 1908 elections, as candidate of the Populist party. But by then, he was an out-and-out white supremacist who would celebrate--in a newspaper he published--the lynching of a man named Leo Frank who "happened" to be a Jew.

He was also fiercely opposed to immigration. When he wrote, "We have become the world's melting pot," it was not to celebrate the fact. "The scum of creation has been dumped on us," he continued. "Some of our principal cities are more foreign than American."

There were other Southern politicians to whom the populist label was attached. Not all of them racists--at least not of the Watson temperament. George Wallace, after all, began his political odyssey as something of a moderate on race. And then there was the man who preceded him, Jim Folsom. "Big Jim" or "Kissing Jim," as he was known by his followers in Alabama.

Folsom was a sort of big-hearted rube who knew how to touch all the right buttons with the common folk. Folsom was moderate enough on race that he had Harlem congressman Adam Clayton Powell over for a drink at the governor's mansion in Montgomery. He was also against the poll tax and generally for the things a good populist should be. He drank like a fish and loved the ladies, which accounted for many of the "colorful" anecdotes about him. Like the one about how he was warned that his political enemies were trying to snare him in a scandal by getting him drunk and then sending a temptress to seduce him. "Boys," Folsom is supposed to have replied, "let me tell you something. If you're fishing for Big Jim with that kind of bait, you're going to catch him every time."

He was populism's best face in those times but was too crude and corrupt to be taken seriously. He couldn't supply much juice to the paranoid streak in American life that Hofstadter and other intellectuals and academics saw as the great American menace. Coming, of course, from the right.

But as populism was being marginalized by events and scholars, the conditions for its resurrection were germinating, and they would flower on both the left and right.

Posted by orrinj at 7:28 PM


U.S. strike in Afghanistan kills 18, most militants but possibly civilians too (Reuters, 9/28/16)

A suspected U.S. drone strike against Islamic State in Afghanistan killed 18 people on Wednesday, most of them militants but possibly including some civilians, Afghan officials said. [...]

Provincial police spokesman Hazrat Hussain Mashriqiwal said several Islamic State leaders had been killed, but he denied there were any noncombatants among the victims.

Islamic State has enticed hundreds, perhaps thousands, of fighters in Afghanistan and Pakistan to join, and it holds some territory in Nangarhar, with Achin a stronghold.

But it has not been able to expand its influence in Afghanistan beyond a few districts and the Taliban remain the dominant Islamist force.

Posted by orrinj at 7:19 PM


TRUMP'S REVOLT AGAINST VOWS (Alexi Sargeant, 9 . 27 . 16, First Things)

In preparation for marriage, I have been reading Fulton Sheen's classic Three To Get Married, which interweaves meditations on matrimony, fatherhood, and motherhood with sophisticated Trinitarian theology. In a chapter titled "The Unbreakable Bond," Sheen reflects on the indissoluble nature of marriage and connects it to the other vows that undergird human society:

It [the vow] may be hard to keep, but it is worth keeping because of what it does to exalt the character of those who make it. Once its inviolable character is recognized before God, an impulse is given to self-examination, the probing of one's faults, and new efforts at charity. It is too terrible to contemplate what would happen to the world if our pledged words were no longer bonds. No nation could extend credit to another nation if the compact of repayment was signed with reservations. International order vanishes as domestic society perishes through the breaking of vows. [...] Once we decide, in any matter, that passion takes precedence over truth and erotic impulse over honor, then how shall we prevent the stealing of anything, once it becomes "vital" to someone else?

Sheen is making a point central to social conservatism. The keeping of promises, the maintenance of trust, the sacredness of one's word. These are some of the noblest values in the conservative firmament--which is why it has been so dispiriting watching conservative commentators ignore these truths and tout Donald Trump, a man who tramples on vow-keeping.

The debate last night underlined the reasons why Donald Trump's character and temperament should be disqualifying in the eyes of conservatives. Even those of us most worried about a Clinton presidency need to wield a plausible exit threat, else what influence can we really exert over any party? And if Donald Trump is not reason enough to follow through on this threat, what possible Republican candidate would be? David Duke?

Trump's policies, such as they are, usually come down to America breaking its promises.

Posted by orrinj at 7:10 PM


Switzerland Stays Most Competitive Nation as WEF Warns on Trade (Simon Kennedy, September 27, 2016, Bloomberg)

The World Economic Forum named Switzerland the most competitive nation for an eighth straight year as it warned less open trade was threatening economic growth globally.

Switzerland was ahead of Singapore and the U.S. in the annual rankings of 138 countries, with Netherlands overtaking Germany to take the fourth spot.


India isn't just growing fast, it's much more competitive (Charles Riley, September 28, 2016, CNN)

India's economy is booming. It's also becoming much more competitive.

The country has zoomed higher in a new ranking of global competitiveness by the World Economic Forum, marking the second consecutive year of massive gains following a long malaise.

India was the most improved country in the 2016 ranking, moving up 16 places to 39th. It's a major improvement from two years ago when it languished in 71st position.

Posted by orrinj at 7:01 PM


Robots are now making shoes for Adidas, and this is just the beginning (Vishal Mathur, 9/28/16, Live Mint)

According to the International Labour Organization numbers released in July, an estimated 137 million Asian workers could lose their jobs to robots globally in the next 20 years. In January this year, the US Census Bureau suggested that robots will take over as many as five million jobs in the US alone by 2020. And it seems, we are slowly building up to that.

It was just last year that Adidas, the shoes, clothing and accessories company, had announced plans for setting up a factory in Ansbach, south Germany, which will start production by 2017. But this wasn't going to be just any manufacturing unit for churning out the latest line-ups of footwear. What remained unique about this manufacturing unit was the fact that it was fully automated, and that robots would manufacture shoes. Things seem to move rather quickly when robots are in charge, it seems, and Adidas has rolled out the first shoe made at this robot factory, called SPEEDFACTORY. The shoe is called Futurecraft M.F.G. (Made for Germany), and it'll initially be exclusive to the German markets only. The Ansbach unit is expected to roll out other shoes as well in the coming months.

However, this is just the start. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:56 PM

60-30 NATION:

Donald Trump's Unchanged Ratings (Which Are Worse Than Hillary Clinton's) (JEFF HORWITT, Sep 28, 2016, WSJ)

Much has been written about how both major-party nominees are viewed far more negatively than positively. Particularly striking within this point are Donald Trump's numbers, which have been consistently worse than Hillary Clinton's ratings over the course of the campaign. Despite (sometimes uneven) efforts to soften his image, his negative personal ratings have barely budged from the start of his campaign.

In July 2015, the first Wall Street Journal/NBC News survey since Mr. Trump announced his candidacy found that 26% of registered voters had positive feelings toward Mr. Trump and 56% viewed him negatively. Since then, positive feelings toward Mr. Trump have barely moved, and the 30-point net negative margin of last July had expanded to 33 points in the September 2016 WSJ/NBC poll.

Voters' feelings toward Donald Trump as tracked in the Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll from July 2015 through September 2016.

Posted by orrinj at 6:42 PM


New Debate Strategy for Donald Trump: Practice, Practice, Practice (PATRICK HEALY, ASHLEY PARKER and MAGGIE HABERMAN, SEPTEMBER 28, 2016, NY Times)

Campaign advisers to Donald J. Trump, concerned that his focus and objectives had dissolved during the first presidential debate on Monday, plan to more rigorously prepare him for his next face-off with Hillary Clinton by drilling the Republican nominee on crucial answers, facts and counterattacks, and by coaching him on ways to whack Mrs. Clinton on issues even if he is not asked about them.

Whether he is open to practicing meticulously is a major concern, however, according to some of these advisers and others close to Mr. Trump.

Great rumors today that the kids are angry because Dad's campaign staff is damaging the business.  

Posted by orrinj at 6:35 PM


Saudi Arabia cuts wage bill of government employees by 20% to cut costs (Glen Carey, Vivian Nereim, 9/28/16, Live Mint)

Saudi Arabia cancelled bonus payments for state employees and cut ministers' salaries by 20%, steps that further spread the burden of shoring up public finances to a population accustomed to years of government largesse.

The government also decided to suspend wage increases for the lunar year starting next month and curbed allowances for public-sector employees, according to royal decrees and a cabinet statement published by state media. The salaries of members of a legislative body that advises the monarchy were cut by 15%.

By curbing what many Saudis had for years taken for granted, the government is signalling a determination to reduce the highest budget deficit among the world's 20 biggest economies amid low oil prices and a lingering war in neighbouring Yemen.

The key is to drain their resource wealth to the point where they are forced to tax the citizenry--there is no representation without taxation.

Posted by orrinj at 6:26 PM

LIKE 1980...:

Poll: Americans Don't Trust Hillary's Health (AARON BANDLER, SEPTEMBER 28, 2016, Daily Wire)

A new poll shows that most Americans don't trust Democratic presidential Hillary Clinton on her health.

The poll-an Associated Press/GfK poll-found that only 36 percent of Americans are "very or extremely confident" that Clinton's health won't be a liability as president.

...all she had to do was not seem too elderly for the job. Girlfriend needs to hydrate though, it's not Arkansas water anymore....

Posted by orrinj at 4:57 PM


China upset as U.S. sanctions firm tied to North Korea nuclear program (Reuters, 9/28/16)

China said on Tuesday it was opposed to any country using its own laws to carry out "long arm jurisdiction", after the United States sanctioned a Chinese industrial machinery wholesaler tied to North Korea's nuclear program.

The U.S. Treasury said it was sanctioning Dandong Hongxiang Industrial Development Co and four of its executives, including the firm's founder, Ma Xiaohong, under U.S. regulations targeting proliferators of weapons of mass destruction.

Posted by orrinj at 4:44 PM


The Age of Reaction (David Brooks, SEPT. 27, 2016, NY Times)

Today, as the Columbia political theorist Mark Lilla points out in his compelling new book, "The Shipwrecked Mind: On Political Reaction," reactionaries are in the saddle.

Reactionaries, whether angry white Trumpians, European nationalists, radical Islamists or left-wing anti-globalists, are loud, self-confident and on the march.

Reactionaries come in different stripes but share a similar mentality: There was once a golden age, when people knew their place and lived in harmony. But then that golden age was betrayed by the elites. "The betrayal of elites is the linchpin of every reactionary story," Lilla writes.

Soon, they believe, a false and decadent consciousness descended upon the land. "Only those who have preserved memories of the old ways see what is happening," Lilla notes. Only the reactionaries have the wisdom to turn things back to the way they used to be, to "Make America Great Again."

"Reactionaries are not conservatives," Lilla continues. "They are, in their way, just as radical as revolutionaries and just as firmly in the grip of historical imaginings. Millennial expectations of a redemptive new social order and rejuvenated human beings inspire the revolutionary; apocalyptic fears of entering a new dark age haunt the reactionary."

Reactionaries are marked by a militant, apocalyptic mind-set, a crisis mentality. They are willing to take extreme, violent action to turn back the clock. In their narcissism, they think they alone understand the crisis and are in a position to reverse the trends.

It's understandable that we would be living in a reactionary moment. The periods after financial crises are always bumpy politically. Whether it was the 1890s, the 1930s or today, such periods often thrust up ugly, backward-looking ideologies.

Well, that may permanently get Fox Butterfield off the hook.  What Mr. Brooks seems to have missed is that the reason the reactionaries on the Right and Left are so worked up is because the elites are so thoroughly dominant throughout the Anglosphere.  There is so little difference between our Third Way presidents and prime ministers since the End of History that historians will find it difficult to differentiate between them and it is hard to see how swapping Bill Clinton for David Cameron or W for Tony Blair would have made any significant difference to our respective nations.  

And not only is another new elitist indistinguishable from the rest in the series already in power in Britain but one soon will be here.  Meanwhile, the reactionaries--Donald and Corbyn, likewise indistinguishable--are laughingstocks.  

Suffice it to say that no reactionary to the party elite won a single Republican congressional primary this year.  The notion, therefore, that this is a reactionary moment is patently absurd.

Posted by orrinj at 4:39 PM


Benefits of an Evenly Split Court Will Become Apparent (Eric Segall, MAY 18, 2016, NY Times)

Most Supreme Court disputes do not result in 5-to-4 decisions but in those that do, the median justice -- for 10 years now Justice Kennedy -- gets to impose his views on the rest of the country. With a deadlocked court, the justices will try harder to find common ground and issue narrower decisions as they did in Monday's contraception case, and as they did in an important class action case that day where the court didn't say much that changed the law or the outcome.

As time goes on, and the justices have to compromise more -- a skill they might find useful in the future -- the American people may find that they don't need a single nine-member court to solve the country's most disputed legal questions. If the justices are unable to reach a consensus, court of appeals judges around the country would have the final say on divisive issues. These courts are made up of judges who are far more politically, geographically and educationally diverse than the Supreme Court justices, and in many cases different answers in California, New York and Texas may well represent the best solutions. In the unusual case where national uniformity is essential -- such as in some economic cases where a rule, even a bad rule, is better than no rule at all -- the justices will likely find a way to come together for uniformity's sake.

A five-member conservative or liberal majority on the Supreme Court can impose a partisan political agenda on the country without too much difficulty, often with one key justice dictating the results. With eight justices equally divided among conservative and liberals, the court can only act decisively when at least one justice switches sides. This is a state of affairs to be celebrated, not lamented, and may be appreciated when the court is fully staffed again.

Posted by orrinj at 4:32 PM


The big baffling number at the heart of a cosmic coincidence : One huge ratio helps explain two very different phenomena. (Paul Davies, 9/28/16, Cosmos)

[I]n the 1960s, Princeton astrophysicist Robert Dicke offered a very different explanation for the big number coincidence. The starting point for his theory was the connection between biological evolution and the evolution of the universe.

The current age of the universe now, he reasoned, is not some random moment; it's the moment when life has evolved enough to produce beings able to measure it. Dicke wondered what the pre-requisites were for intelligent life in the universe, and how that might relate to the mystery of 1040.

All known life is based on the element carbon. But carbon did not exist in the early universe; it was formed later by nuclear processes inside stars. When large stars grow old and die, they explode, and their life-encouraging carbon can end up in the next generation of stars and their planets. That meant, Dicke reasoned, that life in general, and intelligent beings in particular, could not exist until at least one generation of stars had lived and died.

Stars are made mainly of hydrogen - a form of nuclear fuel - held together by gravity. They burn steadily through this fuel until it is spent and the energy released has radiated away.

If gravity were stronger, the stars would consume their nuclear fuel faster, because they would be squeezed harder and burn brighter. But a star only dies once all the heat produced from burning its fuel has radiated into space, and its escape depends on electromagnetism: photons formed deep inside the stars have to plough through a thick soup of electrons and protons, scattering this way and that.

Dicke showed that the lifetime of a typical star hinges precisely on the ratio of electric to gravitational forces in the hydrogen atom.

The upshot of Dicke's calculation is that the current age of the universe is about the same as the ratio of electric to gravitational forces. If gravity were weaker, stars would live longer and carbon-based life would have emerged later. And if gravity were stronger, life would have arisen sooner.

Posted by orrinj at 4:26 PM


What Ever Happened to Peak Oil? (Bill Murray & Carl M. Cannon, September 28, 2016, RCP)

For more than two generations, schoolchildren were assured by their science teachers, elected officials, and the media that the world's supply of oil--the great fuel of America's car culture, not to mention U.S. economic prosperity--was finite and would soon be exhausted.

This perception that we would run out of oil, and sooner rather than later, became more than a theory, one that went by the name "peak oil." It became a kind of catechism. It was included in the prayer books of the environmental movement and incorporated into the legislative history and language of U.S. federal energy policy. It became an underlying basis for everything from Jimmy Carter's admonition to turn down the nation's thermostats, the enactment of 55-mile-per-hour speed limits, and federal mandates on gasoline standards for cars and trucks.

Today, the question is how policymakers should one react when the conventional wisdom is proven so spectacularly wrong, as is the case here.

It wasn't that the peak-oil hypothesis defied common sense. And it wasn't only environmental doomsayers making the claim. That gold-and-white Plymouth sports car was in a time capsule in the energy-friendly oil-patch city of Tulsa-by-God-Oklahoma. The closer one got to the oil industry, the more talk one heard of peak oil.

The theory itself was promulgated and then popularized by M. King Hubbert, a Shell Oil Co. geologist who predicted in a 1956 scientific paper that U.S. oil production would peak in the early 1970s at 10 million barrels a day--and then begin a long inexorable decline. It came to be called "Hubbert's peak" and eventually "peak oil." When U.S. oil output did peak for a while in the early 1970s, this seemed confirmation of his theory. Americans stuck in long lines at the gas station during OPEC-induced shortages were in no mood to argue.

Later, Hubbert extrapolated the theory globally, arguing that worldwide peak oil production would occur in the 1990s. With help from doomsday futurists such as Paul Ehrlich, citing additional work by Hubbert, "peak oil" entered the non-energy sector lexicon as a shorthand for the inevitable exhaustion of the world's natural resources, most especially fossil fuels.

But an unexpected development occurred in the 21st century, a century that the naysayers had said would be one with scarce crude oil resources: The supply instead exploded.

The apocalyptic future promised by the "peak oilers" simply did not come to pass. In 2004 the world produced nearly 84 million barrels of oil a day; by the second half of 2016, roughly 97 million barrels of oil is being produced daily, with more on the way as OPEC, Russian and U.S. oil producers do battle for market share with prices at the gasoline pump more than 40 percent lower than they were two years ago.

In 2007, the U.S. produced 5.1 million barrels of crude a day, while Oklahoma produced 175,000 barrels a day. A short eight years later, the U.S. produced 9.4 million barrels a day and Oklahoma had more than doubled its production to 432,000 barrels a day.

 "Welcome to the world beyond Hubbert's peak," wrote Kenneth S. Deffeyes, a Princeton geologist who was a Shell Oil colleague of King Hubbert--and someone who had believed in peak oil himself.

Yet, old creeds die hard. Mason Inman, Hubbert's biographer, believes that peak oil's originator, who died in 1989, would still not concede that he was wrong.

What Mathusian ever has?

Posted by orrinj at 4:21 PM


Beyond Baseball, Vin Scully Leaves Behind an Archive of Oddities (RICHARD SANDOMIR, SEPT. 28, 2016, NY Times)

[H]e will also leave behind an archive of oddities -- some of them cataloged and preserved, or only a few clicks away on the internet, and some of them desperately sought -- that reflect an era when no job seemed too small and a lyrical, rhythmic voice honed for radio was really something.

He read a grocery list on air. He hosted a game show. He sang and, by most accounts, sang pretty well.

Of course, an effort is underway to find and preserve the recordings of ballgames, too, with a number of them missing from the early 1950s and 1960s, when preservation was not paramount and it was not clear Scully would become revered. But some of the other jewels are just as coveted, and the missing ones are wistfully recalled by those who heard them or once had them.

Andy Strasberg, a former Padres marketing executive, had an idea that had probably occurred to others: that Scully's distinctive delivery would make the most mundane material compelling.

So one day in 1982, while with Scully in the visitors' broadcast booth at Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego, he asked, Would you read this grocery list for me?

"Sure, Andy, I'd be happy to," Scully said into the microphone, and he spent the next 48 seconds moving through 31 items, pacing himself as if he had rehearsed, never stumbling, and pausing ever so dramatically when he said, "Pickles -- kosher, that is." And if you were familiar with Scully's commercials for Farmer John hot dogs, as Strasberg was, you heard a hint of jauntiness when Scully said, "Bologna."

Strasberg played the Scully grocery list on his radio show soon after and reintroduced it to the internet this year. Asked if he had cajoled the accommodating Scully to record anything else, he admitted that he had: Scully read off the label of an aspirin bottle.

"I'm looking at that cassette tape right now," Strasberg said during a telephone interview last week. But when he played it, he found that the recording was no longer there, lost like a radio broadcast from the 1950s.

"I recorded over the aspirin bottle with a Tim Lollar interview," Strasberg said. "I'm heartbroken."

On YouTube, where many of Scully's classic baseball calls reside, you can also find remnants of a short-term job from the 1969-70 television season, when he hosted "It Takes Two," a game show that featured celebrity couples answering questions like "how old was the oldest dog?"

..consisting of nothing but Vin's broadcasts?

Posted by orrinj at 3:55 PM

60/40 NATION:

How Americans Feel About Immigration and Muslims in a Time of Donald Trump (DREW ALTMAN, Sep 28, 2016, WSJ)

The polling, conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation in conjunction with CNN, found that Mr. Trump's rhetoric about immigrants has not been as great a priority for his supporters as many might have thought and that while Americans are worried about terrorism, those fears have not translated into broader anti-Muslim sentiments. In short, the U.S. as a whole may be less xenophobic than many fear.

As the chart above shows, the Kaiser/CNN polling found that 57% of Americans agree with the statement that immigrants "strengthen our country because of their hard work and talents." Pew Research Center found the same share in its own 2014 polling, conducted more than a year before Donald Trump launched a presidential campaign with immigration as its central issue. By contrast, the recent Kaiser/CNN poll found that 31% agree that "immigrants are a burden on our country because they take our jobs, housing and health care." Pew's number in 2014 was very similar: 35%. These views have become more positive over the past decade...

Hate doesn't sell in America.  All Donald is doing is damaging the GOP brand.

Posted by orrinj at 3:05 PM


In 'Hitler,' an Ascent From 'Dunderhead' to Demagogue (MICHIKO KAKUTANI SEPT. 27, 2016, NY Times)

Mr. Ullrich, like other biographers, provides vivid insight into some factors that helped turn a "Munich rabble-rouser" -- regarded by many as a self-obsessed "clown" with a strangely "scattershot, impulsive style" -- into "the lord and master of the German Reich."

• Hitler was often described as an egomaniac who "only loved himself" -- a narcissist with a taste for self-dramatization and what Mr. Ullrich calls a "characteristic fondness for superlatives." His manic speeches and penchant for taking all-or-nothing risks raised questions about his capacity for self-control, even his sanity. [...]

• Hitler was known, among colleagues, for a "bottomless mendacity" that would later be magnified by a slick propaganda machine that used the latest technology (radio, gramophone records, film) to spread his message. A former finance minister wrote that Hitler "was so thoroughly untruthful that he could no longer recognize the difference between lies and truth" and editors of one edition of "Mein Kampf" described it as a "swamp of lies, distortions, innuendoes, half-truths and real facts."

• Hitler was an effective orator and actor, Mr. Ullrich reminds readers, adept at assuming various masks and feeding off the energy of his audiences. Although he concealed his anti-Semitism beneath a "mask of moderation" when trying to win the support of the socially liberal middle classes, he specialized in big, theatrical rallies staged with spectacular elements borrowed from the circus. Here, "Hitler adapted the content of his speeches to suit the tastes of his lower-middle-class, nationalist-conservative, ethnic-chauvinist and anti-Semitic listeners," Mr. Ullrich writes. He peppered his speeches with coarse phrases and put-downs of hecklers. Even as he fomented chaos by playing to crowds' fears and resentments, he offered himself as the visionary leader who could restore law and order.

• Hitler increasingly presented himself in messianic terms, promising "to lead Germany to a new era of national greatness," though he was typically vague about his actual plans. He often harked back to a golden age for the country, Mr. Ullrich says, the better "to paint the present day in hues that were all the darker. Everywhere you looked now, there was only decline and decay."

• Hitler's repertoire of topics, Mr. Ullrich notes, was limited, and reading his speeches in retrospect, "it seems amazing that he attracted larger and larger audiences" with "repeated mantralike phrases" consisting largely of "accusations, vows of revenge and promises for the future." But Hitler virtually wrote the modern playbook on demagoguery, arguing in "Mein Kampf" that propaganda must appeal to the emotions -- not the reasoning powers -- of the crowd. 

Posted by orrinj at 2:07 PM


A conservative case against Trump's apocalyptic view of America (James Pethokoukis Sep 28, 2016, Vox)

I'm a conservative who finds the self-described billionaire businessman wildly unfit to be the next American president. Trump's bigotry and boorishness are morally offensive. His apparently willful ignorance of domestic and foreign affairs is alarming. But also deeply troubling is the apocalyptic picture Trump paints of the American project in 2016, one that may frighten voters into supporting him but is totally at odds with the facts. [...]

[T]he stubborn facts, both from within and outside government, paint a much different picture than that presented by the apocalyptarians. The data doesn't support the gloom. Sure, the recovery has been slow, at least the slowest since World War II, maybe in American history. But get in line. Great Britain's recovery is perhaps the slowest in nearly two centuries, and the UK even has the low, low corporate tax rate conservatives lust after.

Perhaps what is wrong with the US economy in recent years isn't mainly Obamacare or Dodd-Frank or the higher corporate tax rate or a withering of some intrinsic Americanness. Perhaps what's wrong is something that affected both the US and UK, and the rest of the global economy.

How about this alternate theory: Recessions accompanied by systemic shocks to the banking and housing systems tend to be followed by miserably slow recoveries. At least that's the view of economists Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff. Their research suggests such anemic rebounds are characterized by "very sluggish U-shaped recovery" in incomes, Rogoff wrote last year, and persistently high unemployment. Sound familiar?

The deep financial shock of the Great Recession differentiates it from the nasty Reagan-era recession of 1981-'82, which was followed by a famously robust recovery. Looking at things that way, as the Goldman Sachs economics team recently noted, "the post-2008 U.S. recovery has not been unusually weak or prolonged relative to other financial crisis episodes, and in fact has been notably stronger when judged from a labor market perspective."

More than 15 million private sector jobs have been generated during the recovery. And over the past year the jobless rate has dropped to 4.9 percent from 5.1 percent, even as the labor force has grown by 2.4 million. Also encouraging has been the rise in total earnings -- higher hourly wages combined with hours worked -- by 3.5 percent during the past year years, economist Brian Wesbury of First Trust Advisors has noted. That's pretty decent, especially with inflation so low.

America was not a poor country before the Great Recession, nor is it now. Its per capita GDP is 20 percent or more higher than other large rich nations such as France, Germany, Japan, and the UK. American households have a net worth of nearly $90 trillion, according to the Federal Reserve, a total that doesn't even include intangible assets such as patents and copyrights ($15 trillion).

And while one can argue the merits of gradually reducing government debt as a share of the economy, there's no indication investors think Uncle Sam is near his borrowing capacity -- not with America a comparatively low-tax country and running the world's reserve currency. [...]

Another way of gauging America's ability to create high-value entrepreneurship is by how many people get really rich that way relative to what happens in other nations. And no big, rich country translates entrepreneurial daring into wealth the way the United States does.

Europe and Asia would love to have economies as entrepreneurially dynamic as America's. A study last year found that the cumulative value of all European billion-dollar tech startups -- the so-called unicorns -- created since 2000 was only a third of Facebook. Instead of creating the next Apple, Google, or Netflix, Europe sues the existing American ones. This dynamism is perhaps one reason why other advanced economies, according to Pew Research, say the US remains as important and powerful a world leader as it was a decade ago.

Here's another weird thing about the "Flight 93" critique: It's kind of moldy and outdated. The number of unauthorized immigrants in the US has been stable for nearly a decade, according to Pew. Moreover, immigrants from Asia, mostly China and India, are now outpacing those from Mexico -- yet the complaints focus on Mexicans. And a new economic literature review from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine finds immigration "has an overall positive impact on long-run economic growth in the U.S."

Likewise, concerns about trade -- the subject at the very heart of the Trump campaign -- overstates the case. The China trade disruption to particular regions of the country is a yesterday challenge, not a tomorrow one.

In their paper "The China Shock," economists David Autor, David Dorn, and Gordon Hanson conclude, "The great China trade experiment may soon be over, if it is not already. The country is moving beyond the period of catch-up associated with its market transition and becoming a middle-income nation. Rapidly rising real wages indicate that the end of cheap labor in China is at hand." A more forward-looking critique of the US economy would look at the labor market challenges posed by automation. But one would not know this listening to Trump. once again rejecting a Bush we've left it to a Clinton to reap the rewards of a Peace Dividend.  Hillary, like the UR, can't avoid having a successful presidency.

Posted by orrinj at 2:03 PM


The Arizona Republic endorses Hillary Clinton, its first Democrat since 1890 founding (The Week,September 27, 2016)

For the first time in its history, The Arizona Republic newspaper is supporting a Democrat over a Republican for president, endorsing Hillary Clinton.

Posted by orrinj at 1:57 PM


VW's new electric car will cost less, and go farther than, Tesla's Model 3 (Peter Valdes-Dapena, September 28, 2016, Money)

The car, called the I.D., is expected to cost less than $30,000, which is less than both the Tesla Model 3 and the Chevrolet Bolt. It will have much longer range, able to go almost 375 miles on a single charge, the automaker said at a presentation ahead of the Paris Motor Show.

Posted by orrinj at 1:51 PM


Catalonia to hold independence referendum with or without Spain's consent (Angus Berwick and Tomás Cobos, 9/28/16, Reuters)

Catalonia will hold a referendum on independence from Spain next year whether or not the central government in Madrid agrees to one, the region's head Carles Puigdemont said on Wednesday.

Puigdemont told the Catalan parliament that he was willing to discuss the terms of a referendum with Madrid, which has steadfastly opposed any such vote in the northeastern region, but that otherwise he would hold one next September.

Posted by orrinj at 1:46 PM

TO STAND (profanity alert):

From Cuba With Heat : Marlins rookie pitcher Jose Fernandez on his journey from Cuban defector to MLB All-Star (JORDAN RITTER CONN, JULY 16, 2013, Grantland)

If you wanted to find a good bat near Fernandez's childhood home in Santa Clara, Cuba, you were better off moving away from the trees and into the fields. Louisville Sluggers were predictably scarce on the island, so as a 5-year-old in search of a proper bat, he had to take inventory of the sticks near his family farm. Breaking a branch off a tree wouldn't work. A fresh branch, Fernandez explains, would probably be damp. Damp branches break.

He looked for sticks that had been on the ground for a while, those that had been hardened in the Caribbean sun. Once he had a proper bat, Fernandez took a spare bag from his home and wandered around in search of rocks. The best rocks, of course, were those closest in size to a baseball, but Fernandez couldn't be too picky. Whatever he found, he kept, at least long enough for him to toss into the air and smack with his newfound stick, hopefully far enough to pass the treeline that he designated as the boundary for a home run. Then he'd round the bases -- first might have been a tree, second a stone, third a patch of dirt, all depending on the day -- and he'd return to his sack of rocks and do it all over again. He played alone, hours at a time. He let himself dream. Someday, if he worked hard, he might make it to the Cuban League.

He had no reason to fantasize about the major leagues. For one, Fernandez knew nothing about MLB. "I heard that the best baseball was there," he says, "but it's not like I knew who the players were or who the teams were or anything." Second, he had no reason to think he'd ever leave Cuba. Though he shared a bedroom with his grandmother, by Cuban standards he was upper middle class. "Middle class in Cuba isn't the same as middle class here," says Fernandez's stepsister, Yadenis Jimenez. But Fernandez never went hungry. He never thought of himself as poor.

"We had no reason to want to leave Cuba," says Ramon Jimenez, Fernandez's stepfather. "For a lot of people, it made sense. But for us, we were OK."

In fact, Fernandez would probably still be in Cuba if not for a professional setback suffered by Jimenez. He was denied the opportunity to leave the country for a medical mission in Venezuela because the government deemed him a risk to defect. "Until then," he says, "we had no reason to ever want to leave Cuba, to ever even think about it. But that was a reminder. When you're there, it's like you're in prison. I had to leave." So he would defect first, Jimenez planned, and then he would save enough money to have his children join him.

Everyone in Cuba, Jimenez says, knows someone who knows someone who traffics defectors. If you want to escape, then you make a few calls, maybe hold a few meetings, pay somewhere between $500 and $10,000 (Fernandez says his defection cost about a grand), and the next thing you know, you're on your way to a boat. But that's the easy part. Most would-be defectors get caught, and generally, those are the lucky ones. Many Cubans refer to the stretch of water between Havana and Miami as the Caribbean's largest cemetery. If the current doesn't get you, then there's always the threat of a leaky boat, a soldier's bullet, or, in some cases, an aggressive shark.

Jimenez took his chances. Thirteen times, he failed. Usually, their boat never made it into the water. His group would approach the beach and wait for their ride, but as soon as the boat arrived, one member of the group -- an undercover agent -- would make a call. Police would arrive. If Jimenez and the others were lucky, they would go home. If not, they'd end up in jail.

Eventually, however, Jimenez noticed a pattern. The undercover agent would typically wait until the defectors made their final call -- the one coordinating the exact time of pickup -- and then initiate the bust. That way, when the boat arrived, police could arrest all parties involved. If a group could keep their pickup time a secret, he thought, then they could escape before the police arrived. Jimenez changed his approach. Instead of waiting on dry land, he and his group spent hours sitting in the water. The undercover agent, if one was present, had no choice but to follow. Only now the defectors left a coconspirator back on the beach with a cell phone, which he used to coordinate the pickup. Their arrangements could no longer be overheard. No one knew when the boat would arrive -- not Jimenez, not his fellow defectors, and not anyone from law enforcement who might have infiltrated the group. They stood in the sea, heads just above the water. They waited. When the boat arrived, they hopped aboard. If an agent were around, he'd have no chance to call for help. By the time he returned to dry land to get his phone, the defectors would be gone.

Once Jimenez made it to Florida, he settled in Tampa. First, he worked at the airport, washing cars. But soon enough he found a job in the medical field, and he saved enough money to begin sending for his family members. Jose was a teenager by then, just a few years away from being enlisted in Cuba's compulsory military service. He was also a pitcher with a decent fastball, and the more he talked to Jimenez, the more he fantasized about life in the United States. By age 14, he and his mother decided to defect.

Three times, they set off for Miami. Three times, they failed. Fernandez spent a few months in a Cuban prison, an attempted defector surrounded by murderers, a 14-year-old boy locked up with grown men. He doesn't ever want to think about the food again -- "I have no idea how I would even describe it in English," he says, "but believe me, you don't want to know." He tries not to remember all those bodies cramped into so little space. And he doesn't let his mind dwell on the inmate killings. "To them, their lives were already over," Fernandez says. "What did it matter to them if they killed you? That's just one more murder."

After Fernandez was released from prison, at age 15 he and his mother planned another attempt. This time, instead of leaving from the north to Miami -- for decades the expressway for Cuban defectors -- they would travel south to the province of Sancti Spiritus and depart from a beach near the city of Trinidad. Instead of heading to the United States, they would arrive in Cancun. The alternate route was longer but more lightly policed. The seas were rougher, but there would be no threat of seeing lights from the Coast Guard. In Trinidad, Jose and his mother, Maritza, met his stepsister Yadenis and her mother, as well as eight other hopeful escapees.

Along the northerly route to Miami, there will sometimes be dozens or even hundreds of potential defectors, all lurking by the beach and waiting for boats. But here in the south, Fernandez's group was alone. It was near midnight and the rain fell cool and steady and they scrambled for cover near the water until they found a cave. They dropped down inside and huddled together, their feet battered and bloody from the sharp rocks inside the cave. Nearby was a lighthouse, manned by police they assumed were watching for defectors. "We thought, They'll never suspect us here," Fernandez says. "No one would be crazy enough to do this so close to the lookout." When the light beamed in their direction, they ducked. When it passed, they allowed themselves to stand.

Posted by orrinj at 1:40 PM


Trump's Losing Debate Strategy (JASON L. RILEY, Sept. 27, 2016, WSJ0

If you are Donald Trump, and six weeks before Election Day most voters still view Hillary Clinton as the safer Oval Office choice, you head into the first presidential debate with a simple objective. You must show people that you have the knowledge and temperament for the job. 

Posted by orrinj at 1:28 PM


The Darwinism of Hollywood Filmmakers (ROBERT BRENNAN, 9/27/16, Crisis)

Kubrick did not obsess on mankind's penchant for violence as Peckinpah, but his overriding theme in most of his work seemed fascinated by man as an absurdity, especially when he is thinking he is something special. He directed across a wide spectrum and diverse sampling of American cinema pallets--the crime/caper film The Killing--two great anti-war films Paths of Glory and Dr. Strangelove--a one of a kind epic Spartacus. Even though I only understand thirty percent of it, a high-end science fiction film was unheard of until Kubrick willed it into existence in the form of 2001 A Space Odyssey. It is within the opening sequence of this Kubrick master work where Robert Ardrey's beliefs in the nature of man bloom in 70mm wide screen splendor.

No need for a spoiler alert here as the opening scene of the ape-man creature figuring out what to do with the animal bone at the water hole has become so culturally ubiquitous. No doubt it is a great piece of filmmaking as the ape-man slowly figures out what he's got in his hands and then sets about becoming Ardrey's "killer ape" in a slow motion ballet of violence as he lets all the other ape-men know which side of the watering hole belongs to whom.

Like Peckinpah, Kubrick was introduced to the works of Robert Ardrey by their mutual acting acquaintance. Ardrey's hypothesis shows up time and again in other Kubrick movies. Man is just the sum of his DNA. Violence and injustice and nihilism are his only true inheritances. His Roman epic Spartacus is praised in many critical corners precisely because it is one of the few ancient Roman epics made by a major studio that does not have a Christian subtext of any kind.

Except, of course, that 2001 is the most Designist film ever made, positing the opposite of what is proposed here.  The apes do not learn to use tools and commit violence until the obelisk, obviously a product of intelligence, shows up and changes them. Indeed, the film pretty much demonstrates that no one believes in Darwinism when push comes to shove.

Posted by orrinj at 9:18 AM


September 27, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 6:22 PM


How the Split Screen Framed Trump and Clinton (JAMES PONIEWOZIK, SEPT. 27, 2016, NY Times)

The split screen told the story at the first 2016 presidential debate, and it was not kind to Donald J. Trump.

At the right was his opponent, Hillary Clinton, a practiced one-on-one debater, who held long, studied gazes on her opponent, delivered calibrated attacks and turned to the audience to smile incredulously at his responses.

At the left was Mr. Trump, the volatile presence who alpha-dogged a season of Republican debates. Now he grimaced, squinted, nodded, pursed his lips, sniffed, huffed and interrupted, becoming, over the night, an agitated man in a box.

This seemed to be by Mrs. Clinton's design. She had reportedly prepared to face two different versions of her opponent. There might be a reserved Mr. Trump, ready to reassure voters about his self-control. Or there might be the raging, ranting Mr. Trump of the primaries.

Turns out they both showed up. The quiet Mr. Trump took the first shift, presenting a general-election version of his forceful campaign persona minus the bluster, insults and defenses of his anatomy. He pushed his case firmly, hitting his campaign's focal points on the economy and trade.

But it didn't take long for Mrs. Clinton to find the other Mr. Trump under that thin second skin. Her needling began immediately. She referred to her opponent as "Donald," where he pointedly called her "Secretary Clinton." ("Yes, is that O.K.?" he asked at his first reference to her.) She referred to his starting a business with a "$14 million" loan from his father, which Mr. Trump preferred to call a "very small loan."

The digs targeted Mr. Trump's status and founding mythos, triggering his image-protection reflex. He became combative and rattled, letting his opponent lead him down rhetorical detours (at one point he revived an old feud with Rosie O'Donnell) knowing that he would follow his ingrained ABCs: always be counterpunching.

Posted by orrinj at 6:06 PM


Nasrallah: Wahhabism 'more evil' than Israel (TIMES OF ISRAEL, September 27, 2016)

"Wahhabism is more evil than Israel, especially [in] that it seeks to destroy others and eliminate whatever thing that has to do with Islam and its history," the paper quoted him saying Tuesday, according to a translation on the Ya Libnan website.

Posted by orrinj at 5:51 PM


Hillary Clinton Made It OK to Laugh at This Election Again (Claire McNear, 9/27/16, The Ringer)

If there's a lasting image from Monday night's first presidential debate, it's Hillary Clinton, called upon to respond to her opponent, letting out a little Woo!, and then shimmying as the audience chuckled, her grin growing with the crowd's laughter.

Is Donald Trump funny? For voters of a certain persuasion, the answer long seemed to be: of course. Look at his hair! Watch his silly television show. See how badly he wants to plate things in gold; how desperately he wants us to know about it. Look at how easily he's mocked back down to size. 

The mystery is why anyone takes him seriously.

Posted by orrinj at 5:33 PM


Posted by orrinj at 3:20 PM


The Fed is under attack, but still massively profitable for taxpayers (Chris Isidore, 9/27/16, CNNMoney)

Last year the Fed poured a record $117 billion back into U.S. coffers, a record high. That money gets spent on everything from highway construction to the military and food stamps.

In the last decade, its payments to Treasury have totaled nearly $700 billion. Since the bank's operating expenses are only about $4 billion a year, it's an incredibly profitable business.

Posted by orrinj at 3:09 PM


No election fears: Consumer confidence hits 9-year high (Patrick Gillespie, 9/27/16, CNNMoney)

Americans haven't felt this good about the economy in a long time.

Consumer confidence rose in September to its highest level since August 2007 -- before the Great Recession.

The data, released Tuesday by the Conference Board, a business association, helps dismiss arguments that the uncertainty of the election is weighing down Americans' perception of the economy, said Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist at Capital Economics, a research firm.

Posted by orrinj at 2:55 PM


6 Conservative Positions Trump Abandoned In The Debate (BEN SHAPIRO SEPTEMBER 27, 2016, Daily Wire)

Last night, at the first presidential debate, Donald Trump mirrored the leftist agenda on issues including free trade and gun rights; he pumped isolationism, and agreed with Hillary Clinton on government funding for child care. Here were Trump's greatest anti-conservative apostasies:

Free Trade Sucks. Trump led off the debate with one of his old Buchanan-esque standbys: free trade stinks. Jobs are fleeing for Mexico, that absolute economic powerhouse that is for some reason the source of massive illegal immigration thanks to Mexicans fleeing their country for the greener pastures of the United States. China is destroying us, even though China has had multiple stock market meltdowns in the last two years. Trump called Mexico the "eighth wonder of the world" in terms of industrial capacity. He said NAFTA was the worst trade deal in history (false). He said other countries are "stealing" our jobs, as though we have a central job bank and those nefarious bandoleers are holding it up at gunpoint. This is economic illiteracy of the highest order. [...]

Trump Defends Putin. Hillary pointed out that Russian dictator Vladimir Putin was responsible for some of the hacks of American institutions including the Democratic National Committee. Trump replied, "As far as the cyber, I agree to parts of what Secretary Clinton said. We should be better than anybody else, and perhaps we're not. I don't think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the DNC. She's saying Russia, Russia, Russia, but I don't - maybe it was. I mean, it could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, OK?" 

Trump Reiterates Iraq War Incoherence. Trump did support the Iraq war in 2002. He then turned on it. Then he backed a pullout from Iraq. Then he didn't. Last night, he said that we should have "taken the oil." This is international piracy, and it also makes no sense, given Trump's statements that he wouldn't want continual troop presence in Iraq. Idiotic.

Trump Rips Defense Alliances. Again. In an attempt to defend his prior foolishness regarding the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Trump said he would essentially blackmail the members of NATO by threatening to remove ourselves from the alliance. He also said we should abandon Japan to the tender mercies of the Chinese unless Japan pays us more money.

Posted by orrinj at 2:35 PM


The Alt-Right Tries To Spin Trump Debate Performance And Fails (Anjali Sareen, September 27, 2016, National Memo)

The alt-right, the fringe sect of conservatism that is marked by white nationalist allegiances, is struggling to make sense of the debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump last night. Despite attempts to shill for Trump, as usual, many in the alt-right are finding it difficult to reasonably deny that Clinton won, in every sense of the word.

Stormfront, the site founded by a Ku Klux Klan leader and seen as a premier website for alt-right neo-Nazis, had several posts from readers indicating their view that Hillary won the debate. Deadspin rounded up some of these posts, and they include at least one person saying, "I'm a hard core  [sic] Trump supporter - and was from the very beginning - but Hillary mopped the floor with Trump tonight." Another added, "sorry but he got crushed tonight."

Meanwhile Breitbart News, the Trump sock-puppet nationalist site run by Stephen Bannon, is pushing the idea that Trump won, and hard, but is flailing. The Breitbart front page is running headlines like "+5% Say Hilary Won - But Trump Picks Up Undecideds" and "Hillary's Name Misspelled On The Debate Ticket." Clinton's name being misspelled, then, is clearly big news for the alt-right fan site.

And his surrogates think he did so bad he should duck the rest, Rudy Giuliani thinks Donald Trump should skip the next debates (The Week, 9/27/16)
In Rudy Giuliani's opinion, Donald Trump's first presidential debate should be his last. Unless, that is, Trump could secure a promise that the next debate moderator would stick to being just that: a moderator. "If I were Donald Trump, I wouldn't participate in another debate unless I was promised the journalist would act like a journalist, and not an ignorant fact check," the former New York City mayor said Monday night after the debate, per a video from the spin room posted by Bloomberg.

Of course, he can't even convince himself he wasn't a mess, Donald Trump wonders aloud whether his debate mic was sabotaged (The Week, 9/27/16)

Donald Trump swears he isn't trying to start any "conspiracy theories," but he couldn't help but wonder Tuesday morning on Fox & Friends whether anyone else noticed something fishy about his microphone at Monday night's presidential debate. "I had a problem with a microphone that didn't work. My microphone was terrible. I wonder, was it set up that way on purpose? My microphone -- in the room they couldn't hear me, you know, it was going on and off. Which isn't exactly great. I wonder if it was set up that way, but it was terrible," 

It's not the mic's fault that he spoke.

Posted by orrinj at 2:28 PM


Trump directed $2.3 million owed to him to his tax-exempt foundation instead (David A. Fahrenthold, September 26, 2016, Washington Post)

Donald Trump's charitable foundation has received approximately $2.3 million from companies that owed money to Trump or one of his businesses but were instructed to pay Trump's tax-exempt foundation instead, according to people familiar with the transactions.

In cases where he diverted his own income to his foundation, tax experts said, Trump would still likely be required to pay taxes on the income. Trump has refused to release his personal tax returns. His campaign said he paid income tax on one of the donations, but did not respond to questions about the others.

That gift was a $400,000 payment from Comedy Central, which owed Trump an appearance fee for his 2011 "roast."

Then there were payments totaling nearly $1.9 million from a man in New York City who sells sought-after tickets and one-of-a-kind experiences to wealthy clients.

That man, Richard Ebers, bought goods and services -- including tickets -- from Trump or his businesses, according to two people familiar with the transactions, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about the payments. They said that Ebers was instructed to pay the Donald J. Trump Foundation instead. Ebers did not respond to requests for comment.

The gifts begin to answer one of the mysteries surrounding the foundation: Why would other people continue giving to Trump's charity when Trump himself gave his last recorded donation in 2008?

The donations from Ebers and Comedy Central, which account for half the money given to the Trump Foundation since 2008, also provide new evidence of the Trump Foundation's ties to Trump's business empire. [...]

Previously, The Post reported that the Trump Foundation appears to have violated laws against "self-dealing," which prohibit nonprofit leaders from using charity money to help themselves. In particular, Trump appeared to use $258,000 from the charity to help settle lawsuits involving a golf course and an oceanside club. Trump also spent charity money to buy two portraits of himself, including one that he hung in the bar of one of his golf resorts in Florida.

"This is so bizarre, this laundry list of issues," said Marc Owens, the longtime head of the Internal Revenue Service office that oversees nonprofit organizations who is now in private practice. "It's the first time I've ever seen this, and I've been doing this for 25 years in the IRS, and 40 years total."

The laws governing the diversion of income into a foundation were written, in part, to stop charity leaders from funneling income that should be taxed into a charity and then using that money to benefit themselves. Such violations can bring monetary penalties, the loss of tax-exempt status, and even criminal charges in extreme cases.

Posted by orrinj at 6:06 AM


Markets Bet On Hillary Clinton After First Presidential Debate : Investors appear to be betting that the debate shifted support toward Hillary Clinton (RIVA GOLD,  Sept. 27, 2016, WSJ) 

Stocks recovered, the Mexican peso soared and haven assets retreated on Tuesday as investors bet a debate between the two presidential candidates shifted support to Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump.

Shares in Japan, Hong Kong and Shanghai rose during Monday night's debate and closed higher, led by companies with big ties to the U.S., while futures pointed to a 0.4% opening gain for the S&P 500.

Many market participants said they believe a Clinton victory would offer more support to risk-assets such as stocks at least in the short term, amid greater clarity on her policy stance.

Asian stocks rise as markets give thumbs up to Hillary Clinton in presidential debate (Kedar Grandhi, September 27, 2016, IB Times)

The 90-minute debate between the Democrat and Republican presidential candidates took place on Monday night (26 September), the first of three before the November elections. Clinton is said to have appeared relaxed and in control throughout most of the debate. She was seen as the debate's winner, with many praising her ability to effectively slam Trump with facts and figures.

Sean Callow, an analyst with Westpac in Sydney, said: "Markets started to call the debate for Hillary within the first 15 minutes or so, with the Mexican peso surging in what is probably its busiest Asian session in years... The bounce in S&P futures, AUD and USD/JPY all show that investors were watching closely and didn't hesitate to declare Trump the loser."

Posted by orrinj at 5:52 AM


Donald Trump's Woeful Debate Performance Won't Deter His Die-Hard Fans : His brash, reality TV persona took the stage last night, even as he tried to appear presidential. (Joseph P. Williams, Sept. 27, 2016, US News)

Despite facing his opponent for the first time in a one-on-one debate, Trump repeatedly interrupted Clinton during her responses, browbeat her on trade and foreign policy issues and blamed her and President Barack Obama for creating a nation on the brink of ruin.

But he also rejected concrete facts, declaring that the moderator, NBC News anchor Lester Holt, was incorrect for mentioning Trump was in favor of the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq and that Trump perpetuated the falsehood that Obama isn't an American citizen, two claims that have been widely proven. Trump mugged, sighed, fidgeted and, leaning into the podium microphone, said, "No!" or "Wrong!" when Clinton or Holt brought up his past statements.

The GOP candidate seemed driven to defend himself against even the smallest slight. He complained about Clinton's "not nice" political ads against him. He bristled when she suggested his as-yet-unreleased taxes would show he's not as wealthy as he claims. He pushed back and questioned her "stamina" when she suggested he's unfit to be commander-in-chief - even as his free-form answers over the last half of the debate often trailed into contradictions and bordered on incoherence.

No one would expect him to learn facts, because they undercut his entire candidacy, but he ought to be able to learn from experience, no?  This was the same problem he had in primary debates : he's bored by the actual issues, so he disappears, then responds manically to any perceived slight.

Posted by orrinj at 5:32 AM


Trump plagued with the sniffles during debate (JONATHAN LEMIRE, Associated Press)

Donald Trump has a cold. Or at least something gave him the sniffles.

The Republican nominee sniffled very loudly throughout much of the first general election debate Monday, eliciting a slew of comments and jokes on social media.

The hashtag #sniffle quickly become popular on Twitter, while some compared the audible breathing, or loud sniffing, to Al Gore's sighing from the 2000 presidential debate. One Hillary Clinton supporter, former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, took it one step further, posting on Twitter: "Notice Trump sniffing all the time. Coke user?"

To be fair, he'd be the oldest man to win a first term.  
Posted by orrinj at 5:26 AM


Donald Trump on Not Paying Taxes: 'That Makes Me Smart' (RICHARD RUBIN, Sep 26, 2016, WSJ)

When Mrs. Clinton said there were years when Mr. Trump paid no taxes, he replied, "That makes me smart."

When Mrs. Clinton said U.S. infrastructure was failing because Mr. Trump hasn't paid any federal income taxes for a lot of years, he said, "It would be squandered, too, believe me."

Mrs. Clinton has made Mr. Trump's tax returns an issue throughout the campaign. He is the first major-party candidate since 1976 to refuse to release his tax returns. It is unclear how much he has reported in federal income, how much he has paid in taxes or how much he has donated to charity.

Public records confirm that at some points in the past, Mr. Trump hasn't paid income taxes.

September 26, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:33 PM


Paul LePage's Binders Full of White People (DAVID A. GRAHAM, 9/26/16, The Atlantic)

In August, Governor Paul LePage of Maine launched a diatribe at a man who'd asked him about a spate of drug problems in the state.

"I don't ask them to come to Maine and sell their poison, but they come and I will tell you that 90-plus percent of those pictures in my book, and it's a three-ringed binder, are black and Hispanic people from Waterbury, Connecticut, the Bronx and Brooklyn," he said.

But when reporters asked to see the binder, LePage refused. It turns out he may have been right to be wary: Its contents, released Monday after an open-records request, showed that the Republican badly misstated its contents, blaming people of color from out of state when most of those included are white Mainers.

Posted by orrinj at 7:28 PM


Obama takes on zoning laws in bid to build more housing, spur growth (LORRAINE WOELLERT, 09/26/16, Politico)

The Obama administration Monday is calling on cities and counties to rethink their zoning laws, saying that antiquated rules on construction, housing and land use are contributing to high rents and income inequality, and dragging down the U.S. economy as a whole.

City zoning battles usually are fought block by block, and the president's involvement will create friction, particularly among environmental groups and the not-in-my-backyard crowd. But the White House jawboning is welcome news to many others, including mayors and builders increasingly foiled by community opposition to development.

Posted by orrinj at 7:19 PM


Is Artificial Intelligence Gaining the Upper Hand in the US Military? (Patrick Tucker, 9/26/16, Defense One)

The Pentagon's oft-repeated line on artificial intelligence is this: we need much more of it, and quickly, in order to help humans and machines work better alongside one another. But a survey of existing weapons finds that the U.S. military more commonly uses AI not to help but to replace human operators, and, increasingly, human decision making.

Posted by orrinj at 6:58 PM


Who can inspire civility in the presidential campaign? (Monitor's Editorial Board SEPTEMBER 26, 2016, CS Monitor)

Voters could use a few examples of how politicians should behave. They need look no further than the mutual respect often seen between those who have already occupied the White House - many of whom were once bitter foes.

Last Saturday, for example, President Obama and former President George W. Bush opened the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington. Mr. Bush helped launch the project and Mr. Obama, as the first black president, had the honor to see it finished. Their warmth toward each other was again on display. First lady Michelle Obama even gave Bush a hug, which made him glow.

A similar close relationship now exists between Bill Clinton and the man he beat in 1992, George H.W. Bush. They are not only friendly but have worked on projects together.

The big thing is not just that they're decent men, but that they have so few significant political differences.  The funny thing is that the one guy none of them can stand is Jimmy Carter.
Posted by orrinj at 6:50 PM


Source: WalletHub

Posted by orrinj at 6:44 PM


What Happened When I Moved My Company To A 5-Hour Workday : A little over a year ago, Tower Paddle Boards started letting employees leave by lunchtime and offering 5% profit-sharing. (STEPHAN AARSTOL 08.30.16, Fast Company)

In every office, I've often felt, there are just a few people who do three times the work of everyone else, yet their reward is only marginally higher. As an entrepreneur, I've been managing my own productivity time--not on-the-clock-time--pretty effectively for over 15 years, and I've largely been able to work fewer hours than my friends in the corporate world. So when I started Tower, my company that sells stand-up paddle boards, I figured (or at least hoped) that I could hire just these types and give them a better deal in the process.

So while we operated on a standard eight-hour workday at first, just like most other companies, I wanted to put my theory to the test. And it also seemed like freeing up employees' afternoons for the outdoor lifestyle the company promoted would be a natural fit. So on June 1, 2015, I initiated a three-month test. I moved my whole company to a five-hour workday where everyone works from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Over a year later, we're sticking with it. Here's why, and how we made the change work.

When we kicked off the pilot program, I told my employees I wanted to give them two things. First, I simply wanted to give them their lives back--so they'd have a pass to walk out each day right at 1 p.m. as long as they proved highly productive. Second, I wanted to pay them better for more the more focused effort that would take. Their per-hour earnings were set to nearly double overnight: we'd be rolling out 5% profit-sharing at the same time.

By trimming your workday down to five hours, time management comes baked into the pie.
Prior to the switch, an employee making $40,000 a year would've been paid $20 per hour ($40,000 divided by 2,000 hours per year). With the profit-sharing program leading to about $8,000 per person, that same employee would now make about $48,000 but only have a baseline of 1,250 hours per year, so their per-hour earnings would jump to $38.40. And it was crucial to me that this didn't increase the company's expenses by a single dime--there'd be no increased financial risk to our bottom line.

In exchange, though, I had a big ask: I needed each of my team members to be twice as productive as the average worker. We had a high bar of productivity to clear before this, and that didn't change. I told them they just needed to figure out how to do it all in just five hours now--but there'd be support: we'd all need to figure it out and were in this together. If anybody couldn't, though, they'd be fired. The pressure was real, but so was the incentive to meet the challenge; their workweek had suddenly become better than many people's vacation weeks.

The results have been astounding. We've been named to the Inc. 5000 list of America's fastest growing companies the past two years (we ranked #239 in 2015). This year, our 10-person team will generate $9 million in revenue.

Posted by orrinj at 6:15 PM

Daniel Webster's Cod Chowder

Take a cod of ten pounds, well cleaned, leaving on the skin. Cut into pieces one and a half pounds thick, preserving the head whole. Take one and a half pounds of clear, fat, salt pork, cut in thin slices. Do the same with twelve potatoes. Take the largest pot you have. Try out the pork first; then take out the pieces of pork, leaving the drippings. Add to that three parts of water, a layer of fish, so as to cover the bottom of the pot; next, a layer of potatoes, then two tablespoons of salt, 1 teaspoon of pepper, then the pork, another layer of fish, and the remainder of the potatoes.

Fill the pot with water to cover the ingredients. Put it over a good fire, let the chowder boil twenty-five minutes. When this is done, have a quart of boiling milk ready, and ten hard crackers split and dipped in cold water. Add milk and crackers. Let the whole boil five minutes. The chowder is then ready and will be first rate if you have followed the directions. An onion may be added if you like the flavor.

Posted by orrinj at 3:39 PM


Iran's supreme leader tells Ahmadinejad not to run again for president (Bozorgmehr Sharafedin, 9/26/16, Reuters)

[T]he instruction by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, reported by state news agency IRNA, effectively destroys his chances of getting the wider backing he would need to run a successful campaign.

"He (Ahmadinejad) came to me and I told him not to stand as I think it is not in his interest and that of the country," Khamenei was quoted as saying.

"It will create bipolar opposites and divisions in the country which I believe is harmful," Khamenei added.

Rouhani's popularity surged after last year's deal with world powers that lifted most sanctions on Iran in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.

Posted by orrinj at 3:32 PM


Glenn Beck Breaks Up With Ted Cruz Over His Donald Trump Endorsement (Andrew Kirell, 09.26.16, Daiy Beast)

[W]hen Cruz finally appeared, via telephone, on the The Glenn Beck Radio Program, it was clear that Beck was wondering: What had I just wasted a year of my life on?

Wistfully comparing the senator's infamous RNC speech--in which he refused to endorse Trump, instead imploring voters to "vote their conscience"--to a speech from legendary orator Charles Sumner, Beck pointedly asked: "Am I supposed to now vote for him or am I supposed to vote for my conscience?"

Cruz stumbled to comfort his old friend. [...]

"For the very first time I heard Ted Cruz calculate. And when that happened, the whole thing fell apart for me," he lamented. "It's my fault for believing men can actually be George Washington. It's my fault."

And then made a jaw-dropping admission: Maybe Marco Rubio would've been better.

"I should have said, 'You know who can win, you know who could beat Hillary Clinton? Marco Rubio,'" he said, seemingly unaware that just moments before he spoke of the futility of supporting politicians. "'He's a different kind of politician, he's young politician, he's a Hispanic, he can win. Let's go for it.'" (Oddly enough, Marco Rubio capitulated and endorsed Trump months before Cruz ever did.)

And then his regrets turned to anger. He suggested Cruz would now attempt to shame him and others for refusing to vote for either major-party nominee. "Why don't you just cover me in a bucket of blood?" he shouted.

"The interview pissed me off," he later asserted. "That was so calculated that it was stunning to me.

"I think I have to apologize and say, maybe, perhaps, those of you who said Ted Cruz is calculating and a smarmy politician, I think I may have to slightly agree with you and apologize for saying, 'No, he wasn't.'"

His politics are as deplorable as the man, so Mr. Beck can't get off the hook that easily.

Posted by orrinj at 3:27 PM


Jeremy Corbyn Re-Elected: Hard Left Kills Off the Labour Party (Alex Massie, 09.24.16, Daily Beast)

At 11:45 a.m. Saturday morning, Theresa May, the newly ensconced leader of the Conservative Party, won a handsome victory at Britain's next general election. It was also the time, the precise moment, when the Labour Party ceased to exist as a functioning electoral force. For it was at 11:45 a.m. that it was announced that, for a second time, Jeremy Corbyn was duly elected leader of the Labour Party.

The Labour Party that has produced six prime ministers, from Ramsay MacDonald to Gordon Brown, is no more. It is an ex-party. It has ceased to be. A once mighty electoral machine built upon the sweat and passion of the working class has been taken over by the far left, a patchwork coalition of cranks and Trotskyites much more motivated by ideological purity than tedious, even banal, considerations of electability. In Corbyn's world, winning elections is for losers. 

The Labour Party is not trudging into the wilderness, it is enthusiastically scurrying to the nearest, highest cliff from which it may leap. This is a party embracing its own downfall. It is quite a sight, the like of which British politics has not seen in decades. 

Their reaction to Tony Blair is doing more damage than the Right's reaction to W--Trump will be gone soon and we'll have our party back.
Posted by orrinj at 3:21 PM


Egyptian official mocks Abbas 'stupidity,' says Fatah 'screwed' in leaked call (TIMES OF ISRAEL, September 26, 2016)

According to the Middle East Eye, the comments were made by Major General Wael el-Safty, an officer in Egypt's General Intelligence Directorate in charge of Palestinian affairs, during a conversation with Fatah's Mohammad Dahlan.

In excerpts of the call which were broadcast on Egyptian Mekameleen TV, Safty reportedly says Abbas's "concentration isn't at full capacity" and he "has nothing to offer."

Safty goes on to compare Abbas to "a camel," saying he routinely regurgitates old ideas. He also speaks of his advanced age (the PA leader is 81), saying "The track is running out, if you excuse the phrase."

He claims Abbas "isn't smart at all. He doesn't want to change, he doesn't want to do anything."

The Egyptian official attacks Abbas's leadership, saying Palestinian factions inside Fatah and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) are becoming increasingly unruly under his leadership.

"Fatah is completely screwed," he says. "The (PLO) is even worse...It's stupidity."

Posted by orrinj at 1:25 PM


One More Reason Arnold Palmer Was the King : He wasn't just golf's greatest ambassador -- he was its foremost salesman (Geoff Shackelford and Joe House, 9/26/16, The Ringer)

The tributes are flowing and so are the tears. Arnold Palmer meant everything to golf. But few realize what he meant to the business of sports. More than Michael Jordan, Phil Knight, Peyton Manning, Tiger Woods, and even more than his highness, King LeBron James of Cleveland, Palmer was invaluable to translating not just his game, but all games, into our daily lives.

His passing at 87 on Sunday evening has already elicited the always-awkward declaration that golf would be nowhere had Arnold Daniel Palmer not come along. It's a silly suggestion: Bobby Jones got Warner Bros. to fund a series of films at the start of the Depression, not long after he'd experienced the same ticker-tape parades and Time magazine covers that Ben Hogan would enjoy during the 1950s. Walter Hagen convinced America that pro golfers were more than just gambling degenerates. And Sam Snead showed people that golfers were athletes long before Palmer and his forearms started slashing at the ball like no one had ever seen.

The genius of Palmer was less in winning seven majors, 62 PGA Tour titles, and 10 times on the senior tour -- a circuit he validated with his presence -- but instead in combining the best attributes of his golfing predecessors with a saintly charisma that few humans have ever exuded. Someone else might have come along to revolutionize the sports business. But they didn't.

And so yes, he made a fortune off his epic charm and his even more epic blend of masculinity and sensitivity. In attacking golf courses, signing more autographs than anyone else alive, and cashing in on off-course opportunities to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, the King still always made us feel like he was looking out for our best interests. Arnold Palmer reaffirmed our faith in sports as American life at its best, at its most interesting and, yes, its most profitable (at least among ventures not involving the shuffling of paperwork).

Something was lost when we separated the monetary value of athletes from the actual value of their performances.

September 25, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:21 PM


Where The Race Stands Heading Into The First Debate (Nate Silver, 9/25/16, 538)

1. Who's ahead in the polls right now?

Hillary Clinton, but tenuously. There were some semantic debates on Twitter this morning after ABC News and the Washington Post released their new national poll that showed Clinton 2 points ahead of Donald Trump. Did the Post convey the right impression in describing the race as a "virtual dead heat" in its headline?

I might have chosen slightly different vocabulary: "Clinton has razor-thin advantage," or something like that. But it's basically correct, at least based on the FiveThirtyEight forecast, to characterize the election as both close and competitive. The ABC News/Post poll is typical of recent national polls, which have Clinton up by about 2 points on average. (That average includes some high-quality polls that have Clinton ahead by as many as 6 points, but also a handful of others that show Trump with a lead.) Meanwhile, in the Electoral College, Clinton is leading in the states she needs to win, but only in those states, and not by all that much. Trump is one string of good polls in Pennsylvania or Colorado or New Hampshire away from erasing that advantage.

To put it another way, a narrow Trump win would not count as a major polling foul-up if the election were held today: It would be within a reasonable range of disagreement among pollsters. A clear Trump win -- or for that matter, a Clinton landslide -- would be more of a problem for the polls.

With that said, Clinton is a pretty good bet at even-money. As of Sunday morning, she's a 58 percent favorite according to both our polls-only and polls-plus models.

...where everyone just needed to be reassured that Reagan wasn't gaga.  Hillary needs to show up and not pass out.  Of course, Reagan only had the one debate and it was the week before the election...

Posted by orrinj at 4:50 PM


Jose Fernandez's greatness in perspective : Jose Fernandez is one of the greatest young pitchers in baseball history. (Timothy Finnegan, Sep 25, 2016, Fake Teams)

Fernandez's career K-BB% of 23.8% is the greatest K-BB% for a starting pitcher age 24 or younger in the live ball era, which dates back to 1920. The bulk of that is built on his 31.2% strikeout rate, which is the best strikeout rate for starters of those ages, and there isn't a close second. Nobody else in that age group has a strikeout rate over 29%.

Fernandez wasn't just the best young pitcher ever at striking batters out, he was one of the best young pitchers ever at preventing runs and keeping batters off base. By ERA-, which adjusts for run scoring environment, Fernandez is the third best starter age 24 or under at preventing runs. His 67 ERA- is better than notables like Roger Clemens (71), Clayton Kershaw (72), Tom Seaver (72), and Bob Feller (73) in their age 24 and under seasons. His 1.05 WHIP is also third best for starters in that age group, and is better than Tom Seaver's WHIP of 1.07 in those seasons.

By FIP-, Fernandez is the greatest starting pitcher ever age 24 and under. His FIP- of 64 ranks better than anybody in the history of baseball, live ball or not, which dates back to 1871.

Posted by orrinj at 4:38 PM


A Week of Whoppers From Donald Trump (MAGGIE HABERMAN and ALEXANDER BURNS, SEPT. 24, 2016, NY Times)

All politicians bend the truth to fit their purposes, including Hillary Clinton. But Donald J. Trump has unleashed a blizzard of falsehoods, exaggerations and outright lies in the general election, peppering his speeches, interviews and Twitter posts with untruths so frequent that they can seem flighty or random -- even compulsive.

However, a closer examination, over the course of a week, revealed an unmistakable pattern: Virtually all of Mr. Trump's falsehoods directly bolstered a powerful and self-aggrandizing narrative depicting him as a heroic savior for a nation menaced from every direction. Mike Murphy, a Republican strategist, described the practice as creating "an unreality bubble that he surrounds himself with."

The New York Times closely tracked Mr. Trump's public statements from Sept. 15-21, and assembled a list of his 31 biggest whoppers, many of them uttered repeatedly.

Posted by orrinj at 12:22 PM


OPEC Under Pressure to Act in Algiers as Surplus Triples (Grant Smith, September 22, 2016, Bloomberg)

More than 800,000 barrels a day of additional crude is pouring into the global market this month compared with August as Russia pumps at an all-time high while Libya and Nigeria restore disrupted supplies, according to statements from their ministry officials. That would imply a tripling of the supply surplus, estimated currently at about 400,000 barrels a day by the International Energy Agency.

"We are overproducing and we're not going to draw down inventories like we thought we would," said Chris Bake, a senior executive at Vitol Group, the biggest independent crude trader. "We're still building crude inventories and that's a problem."

Posted by orrinj at 7:55 AM


The Conservative Media Figures Who Donated To The Clinton Foundation (ERIC HANANOKI, 5/15/15, Media Matters)

Numerous individuals and entities that don't fit the model for Democratic Party donors have donated to the Clinton Foundation. For instance:

Newsmax Media, Inc. The media company, which has billed itself as operating the "#1 Conservative Site in the Nation," has made donations to the Clinton Foundation of between $100,001 to $250,000 and between $1,000,001 to $5,000,000.

Donald J. Trump. Trump, a perennial-potential Republican presidential candidate, donated between $100,001 to $250,000 to the foundation.

Richard M. Scaife. The late Scaife, who published the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, was described as "one of America's leading funders of conservative causes." He donated between $250,001 to $500,000 to the foundation.

News Corporation Foundation. The foundation for News Corp., which is headed by Rupert Murdoch and was formerly the parent company of Fox News, donated between $500,001 to $1,000,000 to the foundation.
James R. Murdoch. Murdoch, the co-chief operating officer of Fox News parent company 21st Century Fox and son of Rupert Murdoch, donated between $1,000,001 to $5,000,000.

High-Profile Republicans Have Supported The Clinton Foundation's Efforts

Many Republican Party-affiliated individuals have attended and supported Clinton Foundation-affiliated events, including the annual Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) meetings. They include former first lady Laura Bush, Fox News founder Rupert Murdoch, former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, Sen. John McCain, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, Republican billionaire T. Boone Pickens, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, former Bush Treasury secretary Hank Paulson, and former first daughter Barbara Bush.

Romney spoke to CGI in the middle of his 2012 presidential campaign and praised President Clinton for having "devoted himself to lifting the downtrodden around the world. One of the best things that can happen to any cause, to any people, is to have Bill Clinton as its advocate." He added: "I have been impressed by the extraordinary power you have derived by harnessing together different people of different backgrounds, and different institutions of different persuasions. You have fashioned partnerships across traditional boundaries -- public and private, for-profit and nonprofit, charitable and commercial."

McCain spoke to CGI in September 2008 during his own presidential run, and also praised its efforts, stating: "You know something about great change at the Clinton Global Initiative, because you are striving every day to bring it about. I thank each one of you for the good work you have done to relieve suffering across the earth, and to spread hope. I thank you for the even greater works that you seek to accomplish in the years to come, under the leadership of the man from Hope."

Laura Bush appeared at CGI in 2006 and said she was "delighted to be a part of this year's Clinton Global Initiative. Thank you for inviting me, and thank you for the terrific development work you're doing through your foundation."

Newsmax CEO and editor Christopher Ruddy recently praised the foundation for helping "improve global health and wellness, increase economic opportunities for women in less-developed nations, reduce childhood obesity, and spur economic growth in countries that desperately need the help."

TRUMP AND THE TRUTH: HIS CHARITABLE GIVING (John Cassidy , 9/23/16, The New Yorker)

Fahrenthold and his colleagues deserve a great deal of credit for their reporting, but they aren't the first journalists to take a skeptical look at Trump's charitable activities. As far back as the early nineteen-nineties, the investigative reporter David Cay Johnston was following up on Trump's claims, calling up dozens of charities that Trump said he'd given money to. Johnston had difficulty confirming some of the payments. In 1999, when Trump was mulling an earlier bid for the White House, the Smoking Gun, a Web site that specializes in unearthing and analyzing legal documents, inspected the annual tax returns of the Trump Foundation. Although Trump has managed to keep his own tax returns private, the tax filings of his foundation are public documents. They detail how much money Trump and other donors have given to the foundation, how much the foundation has handed out, and who the recipients were.

The Smoking Gun looked at the period from 1994 to 1998, when Trump's businesses were recovering from a severe economic downturn earlier in the decade that saw three of his Atlantic City casinos, along with his Plaza Hotel, in New York, file for bankruptcy. As the real-estate market recovered, so did Trump's net worth. In 1999, Forbes magazine estimated that he was worth $1.6 billion. "With all that dough, you'd think the presidential aspirant might use some green to benefit society (because those garish skyscrapers and Atlantic City clip joints ain't the grandest legacy)," a Smoking Gun article from November of that year said. "Alas, the Donald J. Trump Foundation has donated a paltry total of $475,624 over the past five years . . . Compared to other business barons like Bill Gates and David Geffen, The Donald looks like a lousy penny-pincher."

Posted by orrinj at 7:39 AM


Investigation: Donald Trump Either Lied To Jeb Bush Or Broke the Law   (Kurt Eichenwald, September 23, 2016, Newsweek)

In the lie we are examining here, Trump either committed a felony or proved himself willing to deceive his followers whenever it suits him.

Trump told the public version of this story last year, during the second Republican presidential debate.

Trump had been boasting for weeks at his rallies that he knew the political system better than anyone, because he had essentially bought off politicians for decades by giving them campaign contributions when he wanted something. He also proclaimed that only he--as an outsider who had participated in such corruption of American democracy at a high level--could clean it up. During the September 2015 debate, one of Trump's rivals, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, verified Trump's claim, saying the billionaire had tried to buy him off with favors and contributions when he was Florida's governor.

"The one guy that had some special interests that I know of that tried to get me to change my views on something--that was generous and gave me money--was Donald Trump," Bush said. "He wanted ca[***]o ga[**]ling in Florida."

Trump interrupted Bush:

Trump: I didn't--

Bush: Yes, you did.

Trump: Totally false.

Bush: You wanted it, and you didn't get it, because I was opposed to--

Trump: I would have gotten it.

Bush: Ca[***]no gambling before--

Trump: I promise, I would have gotten it.

Bush: During and after. I'm not going to be bought by anybody.

Trump: I promise, if I wanted it, I would have gotten it.

Bush: No way. Believe me.

Trump: I know my people.

Bush: Not even possible.

Trump: I know my people.

If Trump was telling the truth that night, so be it. But if he was lying, what was his purpose? His "If I wanted it, I would have gotten it," line may be a hint. Contrary to his many vague stories on the campaign trail about being a cash-doling political puppet master, this story has a name, a specific goal and ends in failure. If Bush was telling the truth, then Trump would have had to admit he lost a round and, as he assured the audience, that would not have happened. When he wants something, he gets it.

But that wasn't the point he needed to make in 2007. The deposition was part of a lawsuit he'd filed against Richard Fields, who Trump had hired to manage the expansion of his ca[***]no business into Florida. In the suit, Trump claimed that Fields had quit and taken all of the information he obtained while working for Trump to another company. Under oath, Trump said he did want to get into ca[**]no ga[***]ing in Florida but didn't because he had been cheated by Fields.

A lawyer asked Trump, "Did you yourself do anything to obtain any of the details with respect to the Florida gaming environment, what approvals were needed and so forth?"

Trump: A little bit.

Lawyer: What did you do?

Trump: I actually spoke with Governor-Elect Bush; I had a big fundraiser for Governor-Elect Bush...and I think it was his most successful fundraiser, the most successful that he had had up until that point, that was in Trump Tower in New York on Fifth Avenue.

Lawyer: When was that?

Trump: Sometime prior to his election.

Lawyer: You knew that Governor Bush, Jeb Bush at that time, was opposed to expansion of gaming in Florida, didn't you?

Trump: I thought that he could be convinced otherwise.

Lawyer: But you didn't change his mind about his anti-gaming stance, did you?

Trump: Well, I never really had that much of an opportunity because Fields resigned, telling me you could never get what we wanted done, only to do it for another company.

One of these stories is a lie--a detailed, self-serving fabrication. But unlike the mountain of other lies he has told, this time the character trait that leads to Trump's mendacity is on full display: He makes things up when he doesn't want to admit he lost.

Assume the story he told at the debate is the lie. Even though Bush's story reinforced what Trump was saying at rallies--he had played the "cash for outcomes" political game for years--he could not admit he had tried to do the same in Florida because he could not bring himself to say that he had lost. Instead, he looked America in the eye and lied. And then he felt compelled to stack on another boast: His people are so wonderful that they would have gotten ca[***]no gambling in Florida, regardless of Bush's opposition--if Trump had wanted it.

Posted by orrinj at 7:31 AM


Pakistani Taliban Leaders Reported Killed In Air Strike (RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal, 9/25/16)

Three Pakistani Taliban leaders have reportedly been killed by a joint Afghan and NATO air strike in the Laman area of Afghanistan's Paktika Province, Pakistani security sources say.

Posted by orrinj at 7:20 AM


Musician Buckwheat Zydeco, who took genre mainstream, dead at 68 (Deutsche Welle, 9/25/16)

"This is one of the world's true genius musicians. A completely natural musician who could just fit in in any scenario," Fox told The Associated Press news agency. "He had this incredible charisma both onstage and personally," Fox continued. "To the end of his days with all the stuff that he'd done, all the awards, he was still the same Stanley Dural Jr. who was picking cotton when he was 5 years old."

One of 13 children, Dural earned his nickname because of his signature braided hair when he was younger that resembled the character Buckwheat from "The Little Rascals" television show. His father played the accordion, but the younger Dural preferred listening to and playing rhythm and blues and learned to play the organ. In the late 1950s, still a teenager, Dural was backing up musicians and eventually formed his own band. In 1976 he joined legendary zydeco artist Clifton Chenier's Red Hot Louisiana Band as an organist, launching an important musical turn in his career.
"I had so much fun playing that first night with Clifton. We played for four hours and I wasn't ready to quit," he said in comments quoted in his obituary.

Zydeco music was once largely unknown outside of Louisiana, where people would often drive for miles to small dancehalls where zydeco bands featured an accordion and a washboard. But Dural helped bring the genre to a larger audience after signing a five-album deal with Island Records in 1987.

Posted by orrinj at 7:14 AM


Muslim Assimilation: Demographics, Education, Income, and Opinions of Violence (ALEX NOWRASTEH, 8/24/16, Cato)

Assimilation and General Feelings about America

Pew found that U.S. Muslims are more likely to be satisfied with national conditions than dissatisfied, 56 percent to 38 percent, in contrast to the general public which was only 23 percent satisfied and 73 percent dissatisfied.  Three-quarters of Muslims also think that most can get ahead with hard work compared or 62 percent of the general public. 

A total of 56 percent of American-Muslims think that Muslims want to adopt American customs and ways of life, 20 percent want to be distinct, and 16 percent want to be both.  Thus, 72 percent of Muslim respondents think Muslims either want to assimilate entirely or partly.  Presumably, much of the desire to avoid assimilation comes from the impulse to preserve their religion and its traditional gender norms from dominant American values.   

Other Concerns

Concerns over Muslims-American support for violence, al Qaeda, or cooperation with law enforcement also abound.  The results of a Pew survey in Table 1 show that American Muslims have opinions on these topics that are very similar to those of the general public and the native born.  Interestingly, native-born Americans are slightly more understanding of suicide bombing than Muslims.  Furthermore, Muslims are half as likely as the general public to have a favorable view of al Qaeda.  The responses to that question indicate that many respondents don't know what al Qaeda is - the biggest surprise.

Posted by orrinj at 6:49 AM


How time can turn $3,000 into $50 million (PAUL A. MERRIMAN, 12/28/15, Market Watch)

The plan I am about to describe isn't magic. It's a recipe with four essential ingredients:

An initial investment of $3,000
A Roth IRA
An investment that's likely to grow at 12% over a very long time
A long lifetime (plus ample patience).

Want to try it? Here's how, using an imaginary infant named Brendon for the example.

When Brendon is born, set aside a lump sum of $3,000. Invest it in an ETF or a mutual fund that holds small-cap value stocks. (To learn more about this check out my podcast called The Best Small-Cap-Value ETF.)

Leave the money in that asset class to grow. And grow. As soon as Brendon has taxable earned income, start contributing the money in the account to a Roth IRA in his name, keeping it invested in small-cap value. That way, at least under current tax law, it will never be taxed. Do this every year until all the money is within a Roth account.

Assuming that Brendon leaves this money alone and that it continues to compound at 12%, when he is 65 years old, your one-time $3,000 investment in small-cap value will be worth about $4.75 million.

That is still far short of $50 million. Let's follow the money and see how this scenario plays out.

Assume that at 65 Brendon starts withdrawing 5% of the balance of his small-cap value account every year. That first year, he takes out $237,281. (Compare that figure to your $3,000 investment.) Because the money continues to compound at 12%, his balance grows, and so do his yearly withdrawals.

When he's 70, he'll take out $323,572, based on his account value of $6.47 million. At 80, the account is worth slightly more than $12 million, and he takes out $601,710 -- theoretically without any tax liability.

If we assume Brendon keeps this up until his death at 95 (his final annual withdrawal being $1.5 million), his account will be worth about $30.5 million. Starting at age 65, he will have taken out a total of $21.6 million. That final value plus all the withdrawals come to more than $50 million from your initial $3,000. And, presumably, very little of it will have been taxed.

Just making federally-funded contributions to a sort of tax-free O'Neill Account for every kid and then means-testing SS benefits essentially ends the program.

September 24, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 9:00 PM


Posted by orrinj at 5:56 PM


Estimating the Impacts of the Trump and Clinton Health Plans (Q&A with Christine Eibner, Rand)

Christine Eibner, a senior economist at the RAND Corporation, led a team that analyzed parts of the proposed health care plans of the two major parties' presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. [...]

Can you briefly describe what each candidate's plan does and how you went about analyzing the plans?

The Trump plan repeals the Affordable Care Act (ACA). So we first analyzed the effect of full repeal by itself. Then we conducted three additional analyses, in which we examined the effect of repealing the ACA combined with each of three other parts of the Trump proposal:

allowing tax deductions for the full amount of health insurance premiums;

converting Medicaid to a block grant program; and

allowing insurers to sell policies across state lines.

The Clinton plan modifies the ACA. It introduces a number of policies designed to expand coverage and reduce consumer out-of-pocket costs. We analyzed four of the policies included in Clinton's plan:

A cost-sharing tax credit of up to $2,500 per individual or $5,000 per family to offset the cost of out-of-pocket spending in excess of 5 percent of income, available to all individuals enrolled in private coverage;

Reducing the maximum premium contribution individuals must make to enroll in a benchmark plan on the ACA marketplaces;

Fixing the "family glitch," a quirk in the ACA that means workers and their families could be ineligible for marketplace tax credits, even if they cannot obtain employer coverage without spending more than 9.7 percent of income on health insurance. We model this policy in combination with the reduction in premium contributions.

Introducing a public option in the ACA's marketplaces. [...]

What were the key findings?

All of the Trump proposals decrease the number of insured, increase out-of-pocket spending for consumers enrolled in individual market plans, and raise the federal deficit compared to the ACA. The federal deficit increases because repeal of the ACA would eliminate the ACA's provisions that reduce spending and generate revenue, such as changes to Medicare payment policy; and taxes and fees levied on insurers, medical devices, and branded prescription drugs. The amount that the deficit increases varies widely, from half a billion dollars under the block-grant provision to $41 billion under the tax deduction provision. People with lower incomes would be more affected than other groups. This is true largely because repealing the ACA means eliminating Medicaid expansion, which covers people with incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty level. Sicker people would also be disproportionately affected, because the proposals would eliminate the ACA's rule that people with pre-existing conditions can't be denied coverage.

The Clinton proposals all increase the number of people with insurance and decrease consumer out-of-pocket spending among the insured population. Three of the four proposals increase the federal deficit. The amount of the increase varies from $3.5 billion under the premium reduction to $90.4 billion under the cost-sharing tax credit. One of the Clinton proposals (the public option) reduces the deficit by $700 million. In terms of out-of-pocket spending, the Clinton proposals have the biggest effect on people whose incomes fall between 139 to 250 percent of the federal poverty level ($33,534 to $60,750 for a family of four). The cost-sharing tax credit proposal has the largest effect because it potentially touches as many as 178 million people and expands coverage to an additional 9.6 million.

Posted by orrinj at 5:46 PM


No Fortune 100 CEOs Back Republican Donald Trump (REBECCA BALLHAUS and  BRODY MULLINS, Sept. 23, 2016, WSJ)

No chief executive at the nation's 100 largest companies had donated to Republican Donald Trump's presidential campaign through August, a sharp reversal from 2012, when nearly a third of the CEOs of Fortune 100 companies supported GOP nominee Mitt Romney.

During this year's presidential primaries, 19 of the nation's top CEOs gave to other Republican candidates, including former Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of campaign donations. [...]

Jeffrey Immelt, the CEO of General Electric Co., who gave to Sen. Lindsey Graham during the GOP primary, called Mr. Trump's comments about Mexicans and Muslims "unacceptable" in an interview with Vanity Fair last month.

Posted by orrinj at 11:36 AM


What We Know (And Don't Know) About Immigration and the U.S. Economy (JEFFREY SPARSHOTT  AND PAUL OVERBERG, Sep 23, 2016, WSJ)

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine this week released a report looking at the economic and fiscal implications of immigration to the U.S.  The findings suggest benefits for the immigrants themselves and the broader U.S. economy, but also acknowledge costs for state and local governments. Here are some additional facts, figures and findings from the study: [...]

Immigrants and their children will account for the vast majority of current and future net workforce growth. Even so, the U.S. civilian labor force is growing only slowly. It's expected to expand 0.5% this decade, compared with 1.2% in the 1990s and 0.7% in the 2000s. That has significant implications for overall economic growth as well as funding for programs like Social Security.

The panel didn't look at immigrants' social or cultural impact that may have economic effects. For instance, 59% of immigrants over 15 are married versus just 48% of natives.

Posted by orrinj at 10:54 AM


Read Vin Scully's touching farewell letter to Dodgers fans (Jason Foster,  Sep. 23, 2016, Sporting News)

Posted by orrinj at 10:39 AM


Trump Stumbles on Good Idea: Take Away Harvard's Tax Breaks (Eric Levitz, 9/24/16, New York)

A broken clock is right twice a day. Donald Trump is correct far less often. But he does, on occasion, have himself a point.

Your average elite university has become an enormous hedge fund with a side business in research and education. Harvard spends roughly $800 million on research every year -- and $4.2 billion in total operating expenses. As New York's Annie Lowrey notes, the university has used its wealth to buy up enormous amounts of land in Cambridge, driving up real-estate prices while contributing little, if anything, in property tax. Revoking its nonprofit status would provide the state of Massachusetts with an additional $80 million a year. Considering that Harvard recently spent a billion dollars renovating its student dorms, the Bay State can probably be trusted to find a more socially useful way to invest that $80 million.

Posted by orrinj at 10:31 AM


Rafsanjani takes aim at Iranian military spending amid furor  (Saeid Jafari, September 23, 2016, Al Monitor)

The chair of Iran's Expediency Council, Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, delivered the following remarks Aug. 10 at the 33rd Summit of Managers and Heads of Education in the Country, organized by the Ministry of Education:

Today, you can see that Germany and Japan have the strongest economies in the world. These same two countries were prohibited from having military forces after the Second World War. When a country is at war, it spends so much money on its military. With no military spending, these countries could use that extra money on science and production and were able to create a science-based economy for themselves. As a result, they are no longer fragile. The door has been opened to a similar process in Iran. Managers, teachers, and concerned citizens should use this opportunity. I am sure that we can get there during President [Hassan] Rouhani's second term.

And for the same reason : the protective cover of American alliance.

Posted by orrinj at 10:18 AM


Why Ted Cruz Is Finally Endorsing Donald Trump (Ed Kilgore, 9/24/16, New York)

At The Atlantic, Russell Berman suggests Cruz is worried about his reelection bid in 2018, and the possibility of a primary challenge fed by the parallel grudges that Establishment Republicans and Trumpites hold against the junior senator from Texas.

It is the changing dynamics of the presidential general election, however, that may well be pushing Cruz toward at least a pro forma gesture toward his party's nominee. By that I do not mean that Cruz is gaming the possibility that Trump will win; no matter what he does now, the Texan will almost certainly be frozen out of any real influence in a Trump administration. It's the significant likelihood of a narrow Trump loss that is probably bugging Cruz and his advisers. It was one thing to stay on the sidelines and watch sadly as Trump self-destructed and lost by a landslide, as appeared likely for a good part of the general-election campaign. In that scenario, Cruz was in a good position to help pick up the pieces afterward and become the chief advocate for a movement-conservative version of the GOP's post-Trump future. But after an agonizingly close Trump defeat, Cruz would become a prime object of recriminations for having helped Hillary Clinton and her baby-killing, Christian-hating secular-socialist minions to seize power.

Given that his own politics is driven primarily by the same racial and religious hatreds as Trump's, the only reason not to endorse him was petty personal hurts.  Serious politicians should be above such things and able to support those who are vindicating their beliefs.

The Senator has to endorse him for all the same reasons that conservatives have to oppose him.

Posted by orrinj at 10:11 AM


Clinton's eyes -- a window into her health issues (John R. Coppedge, 9/22/16, The Hill)

It appears that she has a problem with her left sixth cranial nerve. That nerve serves only one function and that is to make the lateral rectus muscle contract. That muscle turns the eye in the direction away from the midline. 

It comes out of the base of the brain and runs along the floor of the skull, immediately beneath the brain before coursing upward to the eye. Dysfunction of that muscle causes the striking picture of the eyes not aiming in the same direction and causes the patient to suffer double vision.

Like all things medical, there is a long list of potential causes but in my opinion the most likely one, based on Clinton's known medical history is an intermittent lateral rectus palsy caused by damage to or pressure on her sixth cranial nerve.

It is known that she suffered a traumatic brain injury in late 2012 when she fell and struck her head. What is also known is that she was diagnosed with a transverse sinus thrombosis -- blood clot in the major vein at the base of the brain. Almost all patients with a transverse sinus thrombosis suffer swelling of the brain and increased intracranial pressure. Most have headaches, balance issues and visual disturbances -- all of which Clinton was reported to have following that event.

Clinton's physician reported that she was placed on Coumadin (a blood thinner) to dissolve the blood clot. Actually, that is incorrect, because Coumadin has no effect on an existing clot. It serves only to decrease the chance of further clotting occurring Clinton's physician has also reported that on follow up exam, the clot had resolved. That is surprising since the majority of such clots do not dissolve. The way it was documented that the clot had resolved has not been reported.

If, as is statistically likely, Clinton's transverse sinus is still blocked, she would still have increased pressure and swelling and decreased blood flow to her brain. That swelling would place pressure on the exposed portion of the sixth cranial nerve at the base of her brain, explaining the apparent lateral rectus palsy. And such a deficit can be partial and/or intermittent. 

Additionally, when patients who have decreased intracranial blood flow becoming volume depleted (dehydrated) or have a drop in blood pressure loss of consciousness can occur. That could explain her witnessed collapse in New York City on 9/11. [...]

It would be very helpful if Clinton agreed to an independent exam and to have the questions raised here answered. 

Posted by orrinj at 10:01 AM


Monetarists are out of ideas (Noah Smith, 9/24/16, Live Mint)

Maybe doubling down on activist monetary policy would work, but another possibility is that the standard theory of how monetary policy works--the general idea that low interest rates stimulate both inflation and the real economy--is broken.

I have no idea whether Williamson's Neo-Fisherism is the answer. An alternative possibility is that monetary policy just doesn't do very much when interest rates are very low.

Perhaps the premium of corporate bond rates over government rates diverges when rates get low. Maybe interest on bank reserves changes the equation. Or maybe the institutional peculiarities of the banking system prevent low rates, quantitative easing and forward guidance from having much of an effect.

Perhaps Fed policy affects expectations in ways that are very hard for us to understand, that end up cancelling out much of monetary policy's intended effect.

But whatever's going on, I don't foresee the conventional wisdom, or the instincts of central bankers, changing very much. I predict that policymakers, and mainstream macroeconomics, will continue to believe that low interest rates encourage both inflation and growth, and that high rates do the opposite.

Rather, inflation is the cause of higher rates and deflation, while it causes lower rates, actually hides how high real rates are.

Posted by orrinj at 9:49 AM


What One Man Learned Attending Both The RNC And Gathering Of The Juggalos In One Week : "Two sets of clowns, two divergent worldviews." Author Nathan Rabin crosses societal screams with his new book, 7 Days in Ohio. (JOE BERKOWITZ 09.23.16, Fast Company)

"Both events felt very influenced by wrestling. Insane Clown Posse used to be involved with the WWE, and there's a wrestling ring at the Gathering of the Juggalos, but also don't forget that Trump is a Hall of Famer at the WWE. He's a performer," Rabin says. "Both events kind of had the vibe of cult meetings, too. There's a lot of chanting, but the chanting is very different. At the Gathering, people will be chanting 'Fam-i-ly! Fam-i-ly!' or 'Magic magic ninja what!' It's about community, and there's affection there. People were chanting to affirm themselves and their experience and just be generally positive. At the RNC, when people would chant things, it was terrifying. It made me feel scared--it played to this hatred of women, more than anything. 'Lock her up!' There's this hatred that kind of goes beyond the pale and becomes frightening. 'Build a wall!' These are all just incredibly negative things. When people were chanting at the RNC, they wanted to hurt or punish somebody."

"I wouldn't say Insane Clown Posse are totally Christian, but they do promote a Judeo-Christian theology. It's almost like AA, where you just have to have faith in something bigger than yourself. The form of Christianity at the Republican National Convention just took the form of flat-out hate. The Westboro Baptist Church--the God Hates [****] people--were there, but they kind of lost some of their mojo because everybody was saying horrible things about homosexuals. There were a lot of signs like 'Sodomites roast in hell.' I think Trump's a fake-Christian. I think he is obviously a debauched sinner who realized that in 2016, if you wanna get elected as a Republican, you better start talking about how much you love Jesus and your favorite book is the Bible."

"These events are funhouse mirror reflections of each other--they're spectacles, very vulgar, populist, and they're about appealing directly to the base, but in different ways," Rabin says. "Here we have the party of the establishment, one of these two giant parties who have dominated American politics, and it has sort of compressed itself into the fringe. To say you support the Republican presidential nominee this year is to make a kind of extreme and radical statement and that's crazy. While this party is descending into madness, the Juggalos are starting to get at least a little more activist-minded and respectable. They've never been more political, working together on this case to counter the FBI."

Posted by orrinj at 9:14 AM


The Slow Slide Into Single-Payer Health Care (IB Times, 9/24/16)

For decades, liberal Democrats have been advocating a single-payer health care system where government pays all the bills. The public has never supported this idea, but it looks like the country is headed there anyway, slowly but surely.

The latest data from the Census Bureau show that just since President Obama took office, the number of Americans getting health care through a government program -- Medicare, Medicaid, the VA, etc. -- shot up by 32 million (an increase of more than 32%).

In contrast, the number of people getting coverage from private insurers has gone up 11.6 million (a gain of less than 6%).

The Congressional GOP's strategy of just trying to obstruct the UR--who they imagined an illegitimate and temporary figure, just as Democrats considered W--meant that they offered no alternatives to things like immigration reform and Obamacare, both 60-40 issues.  The former left room for Trump to rise, which will at least cost this eminently winnable presidential, potentially both houses of Congress and who knows what long term damage with everyone but older white men. The latter has just served to make an eventual National Health system more likely, where universal HSAs would have been preferable.  

Posted by orrinj at 9:09 AM


'What's red and can't be trusted at Number Ten?' - Twitter reacts to Rooney benching (Ronan Murphy, Sep 24, 2016, Goal)

Posted by orrinj at 9:03 AM


The New Know-Nothings (The Editors, 10/03/16, American)

It was a time of great economic uncertainty and political turmoil. The next election promised to move the nation closer to a terrible precipice, and the native-born were frustrated by their diminished status, one accelerated by an apparently endless flow of newcomers who seemed destined to dislocate and replace them. Cries of "America for Americans" rose across the anxious republic.

Was that 1856 or last week? It appears it has been both. Responding to the "dog whistling"--or worse--of politicians, the xenophobia and neo-nativism of the so-called alt-right, thinly veiled as a political position, has emerged from the murk of the internet. The alt-right's message has found an especially receptive audience among white males frustrated by reduced economic prospects and a perception of a loosening hold of white hegemony in U.S. society.

Voices from within this fringe sometimes bluntly promote hate and a juvenile, pseudo-scientific delusion of the superiority of European culture, denigrating others as polluters or diminishers of its greatness. But the Hispanic presence in the New World is old and deep enough to rival any Anglo claim to cultural legitimacy on these shores. Of course it is not as old as that of the "Americans" regularly ignored by such competing claims of authenticity: the indigenous people whose cruel eradication made room for everyone else in the first place.

The reek of this creed of tribalism and intolerance should be instantly recognizable to modern-day Catholics. To the Know-Nothings, Irish Catholics came to America merely as paupers or felons in service to a Romish plot to undermine American liberty through the ballot box. Recycling 19th-century nativist headlines would require little more than the adjustment of a few words: Replace Irish with Mexican, Catholic with Muslim.

It's easy to forget that it took a hundred and fifty years from that point to Reform the Church so that it accepted democracy, capitalism (John Paul II) and protestantism (Benedict).  We'll Reform the Sunni much more quickly.  

Posted by orrinj at 8:51 AM


Four al Qaeda members killed in suspected U.S. drone strike: officials (Reuters, 9/24/16)

They said the attack in Marib province, controlled by forces loyal to exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, occurred late on Friday. A local commander of the militant Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), known as Abu Khaled al-Sanaani, was killed along with three associates, they said.

It was the second drone strike in two days to target a local commander of the Islamist militant group regarded by U.S. officials as one of the most dangerous branches of al Qaeda.

Posted by orrinj at 8:37 AM

IF HE'S CALLING HIMSELF "THE UNICORN RIDER"... (self-reference alert):

Obama used a pseudonym in emails with Clinton, FBI documents reveal (JOSH GERSTEIN and NOLAN D. MCCASKILL, 09/23/16, Politico)

President Barack Obama used a pseudonym in email communications with Hillary Clinton and others, according to FBI records made public Friday.

The disclosure came as the FBI released its second batch of documents from its investigation into Clinton's private email server during her tenure as secretary of state.

...we're doing the Icky Shuffle.

Posted by orrinj at 8:19 AM


The Democrats' Methodist Moment : Young Hillary Rodham saw the church's social concerns shift from alcohol and gambling to sexism and racism. (KENNETH L. WOODWARD, Sept. 22, 2016, WSJ)

After Bill Clinton, a Bible-toting Southern Baptist, was elected, I repeatedly tried as religion editor of Newsweek to interview him about his religious beliefs and practices. Ten days before the 1994 midterm elections, the White House offered me Hillary, the sturdy Methodist, instead.

The first lady spoke candidly about her Methodist upbringing, her core Christian beliefs and prayer habits, and how she frequently consulted the latest Methodist Book of Resolutions, the church's official handbook on social and political issues, which she kept upstairs in the family quarters. Piety plus politics was her message.

I asked her if she ever thought of becoming an ordained Methodist minister once her White House years were over. "I think about it all the time," she instantly replied. But after exchanging glances with her press secretary, Lisa Caputo, she asked me not to print what she had said because she felt it made her sound much too pious. I didn't.

I feel free to mention this now because Hillary Rodham Clinton obviously has opted for a career in public service. But for a serious Methodist, public service is a form of ministry. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:07 AM


On Jacoby Brissett's touchdown, it's a case of walk before run (Keith Pearson, September 24, 2016, Boston Herald)

The play that will stick out from Jacoby Brissett's first NFL start Thursday night was the rookie quarterback's 27-yard touchdown run late in the first quarter that gave the Patriots a 10-0 lead.

After initially faking a give to LeGarrette Blount running left, Brissett rolled to the right and was able to break into space as Shaq Mason blocked Benardrick McKinney, the linebacker to that side, who had initially started to follow Blount.

At the 6-yard line, Brissett made a quick shift to his left and watched as free safety Andre Hal whiffed on a tackle and Malcolm Mitchell blocked downfield to neutralize cornerback Johnathan Joseph.

Making the play all the more impressive was that it was only installed during the weekly walk-through according to Patriots coach Bill Belichick.

"We thought we could get outside and there wasn't really anybody left out there but the corner who was in man coverage and it's just a question of -- once we got outside -- it was just a question of when the free safety would get there or if an inside linebacker would be able to get there quick enough, but because LeGarrette flowed across the formation that dragged the linebackers with him and so there was, as you saw, nobody left," Belichick said during a conference call yesterday.

"The timing of the play between Jacoby and Shaq was really perfect, which is remarkable considering the fact we've never run the play other than just a walk-through. But Shaq cut McKinney down at the perfect time as Jacoby was getting outside of him. McKinney just didn't really have a chance to recover."

Posted by orrinj at 7:59 AM


Trump Underperforms Romney Among Every Group -- WSJ/NBC News Poll (NEIL KING JR., Sep 22, 2016, WSJ)

[I]n a stark illustration of Mr. Trump's challenge, the poll showed him underperforming Mr. Romney's marks among every portion of the population, including among the groups where he will have to rack up truly historic numbers to offset declines elsewhere, particularly among non-white voters.

For instance, Mr. Trump has performed particularly well among white voters who lack a college degree, a contingent that made up around 36% of the electorate in 2012. In the new poll, the GOP nominee performed well among that slice, topping Mrs. Clinton by 18 percentage points.

But Mr. Romney, in his loss in 2012, did much better in the election exit polls among that same group, leading Mr. Obama by 26 percentage points.

Pick your group and you will find the same dynamic.

Mr. Trump is up 55 points among self-declared conservatives, but Mr. Romney clocked an advantage of 65 points. He is up 77 points among Republicans, but Mr. Romney topped that mark by 10 points. Among white men, Mr. Trump enjoys a 13-point advantage, compared to Mr. Romney's 27-point edge.

All you ever hear from the Right is how the GOP damages itself by nominating "squishes"--GHWB, Bob Dole, Maverick, Mitt--and if only we'd nominate a full-blooded rightwinger it would be magical...

Posted by orrinj at 7:47 AM


Sorry, Mark Zuckerberg. Your plan to put an end to disease is a sickeningly bad idea (Jemima Lewis 22 SEPTEMBER 2016, The Telegraph)

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has already made extraordinary progress in combatting malaria worldwide, and almost completely eliminating polio. But the Zuckerberg-Chans have the most ambitious vision yet: developing new technologies and medicines to tackle every disease ever invented.

We'd better hope they don't succeed. What would it do to the human race if we were granted eternal health, and therefore life? Without any deaths to offset all the births, we would have to make room on earth for an extra 208,400 people a day, or 76,066,000 a year - and that's before those babies grow old enough to reproduce themselves.

Within a month of Mr Zuckerberg curing mortality, the first wars over water resources would break out. Within a year, the World Health Organisation would be embarking on an emergency sterilisation programme. Give it a decade and we'd all be dead from starvation, apart from a handful of straggle-bearded tech billionaires, living in well-stocked bunkers under San Francisco.

To avert global catastrophe, the Zuckerbergs will have to leave us something to die of. But perhaps they've thought of that already. Perhaps instead we will be discreetly euthanised, once our online data suggests we are starting to flag. There'll be a knock on the door, and one of those cute Japanese nursing robots will gently see us off with a painlessly lethal injection .

200 years of hoping humans will die off and every day takes them farther from their wish.

September 23, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 9:30 PM


With Kevin Garnett Retiring, 2021 Hall Of Fame Class Is The Best Ever* (Mitch Lawrence , 9/23/16, Forbes) 

Kevin Garnett had to call it quits. After 21 years, his body could no longer take the pounding. Last season for the Minnesota Timberwolves, the 2004 MVP hit the old-man wall. He did not play a single minute over the final 34 games, as his very good friend and coach, Sam Mitchell, felt that Garnett was no longer able to contribute, or even hold up. In effect, he was already retired. So it merely paved the way for Garnett's decision on Friday to accept a buyout, according to league sources. He was scheduled to make $8 million this coming season.

A 15-time All-Star who was a relentless competitor and a defensive force in his prime, Garnett's retirement means that he'll be eligible in five years for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. In 2021, he'll actually be overshadowed by the automatic first-ballot inductions of two NBA icons, Tim Duncan and Kobe Bryant.

...weren't just the best defensive players of their respective generations but actually intimidated teammates into playing defense too.

Posted by orrinj at 8:46 PM


Trump's Father Helped GOP Candidate With Numerous Loans (ALEXANDRA BERZON and  RICHARD RUBIN, Sept. 23, 2016, WSJ)

The document, a ca**no-license disclosure in 1985 by then-wife Ivana Trump, shows Mr. Trump taking out numerous loans from his father and his father's properties near the start of his career in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

At the time of the disclosure, Mr. Trump owed his father and his father's businesses about $14 million, according to the document.

That is a different picture from the one he paints at campaign rallies. "I started off with a million-dollar loan and I built it up to more than $10 billion in value--a million dollar loan," he said at an event in Rome, N.Y., in April.

Unlikely as it seems, he's an even worse businessman than everyone thought.

Posted by orrinj at 3:51 PM


Does gluco[**]mine really help joint pain? (BBC, 22 September 2016)

In collaboration with Prof Phil Conaghan of the University of Leeds, a world expert on joint pain, we recruited 80 people with painful knees. Phil and his team assessed their joints and asked them to rate their pain levels, and then 40 of them were given a "supplement pill" to take daily and the other 40 were given daily exercises. After two months, we asked them to rate their pain again. And the results were very telling.

In the group that took the supplement pill, 55% reported a significant reduction in pain - an improvement of around 30% or more. In fact, many in the group were extremely enthusiastic about the effect this supplement had, one saying she felt "like a new person".

In the group that were given exercises to do, 80% reported the same reduction in pain. So, the exercises were much more effective than the supplement - but the supplement was still very good at reducing our volunteers' pain.

So what was this marvellous pill? As you've probably already guessed by now, it was just a placebo. Placebo works very well for joint pain. Gluco[**]mine "works" - but the evidence is that it doesn't work much better than placebo.

If you've got sore joints, then, you might as well save yourself some money - about half the time a sugar pill will make you feel better, but if you actually want the best chance of making a difference, then Phil's exercises are the way to go. Nothing beats them in studies - and they're free.

Posted by orrinj at 3:45 PM


U.S. intel officials probe ties between Trump adviser and Kremlin (Michael Isikoff, September 23, 2016, Yahoo News)

U.S. intelligence officials are seeking to determine whether an American businessman identified by Donald Trump as one of his foreign policy advisers has opened up private communications with senior Russian officials -- including talks about the possible lifting of economic sanctions if the Republican nominee becomes president, according to multiple sources who have been briefed on the issue.

The activities of Trump adviser Carter Page, who has extensive business interests in Russia, have been discussed with senior members of Congress during recent briefings about suspected efforts by Moscow to influence the presidential election, the sources said. [...]

Some of those briefed were "taken aback" when they learned about Page's contacts in Moscow, viewing them as a possible back channel to the Russians that could undercut U.S. foreign policy, said a congressional source familiar with the briefings but who asked for anonymity due to the sensitivity of the subject. The source added that U.S. officials in the briefings indicated that intelligence reports about the adviser's talks with senior Russian officials close to President Vladimir Putin were being "actively monitored and investigated."

Posted by orrinj at 3:41 PM


Enquirer: It has to be Hillary Clinton (Enquirer editorial board,  September 23, 2016)

The Enquirer has supported Republicans for president for almost a century - a tradition this editorial board doesn't take lightly. But this is not a traditional race, and these are not traditional times. Our country needs calm, thoughtful leadership to deal with the challenges we face at home and abroad. We need a leader who will bring out the best in all Americans, not the worst.

That's why there is only one choice when we elect a president in November: Hillary Clinton.

Posted by orrinj at 1:31 PM


Debate Prep? Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump Differ on That, Too (PATRICK HEALY, AMY CHOZICK and MAGGIE HABERMANSEPT. 23, 2016, NY Times)

Mr. Trump, in turn, is approaching the debate like a Big Man on Campus who thinks his last-minute term paper will be dazzling simply because he wrote it.

He has paid only cursory attention to briefing materials. 

Posted by orrinj at 1:25 PM

60-40 NATION:

Most Americans See Trump As a Racist Madman -- Some Just Like That in a President (Eric Levitz, 9/23/16, New York)

An Associated Press-GfK survey released Friday finds that a majority of Americans think Trump is at least somewhat racist, while 60 percent say he does not respect ordinary people, and nearly three-quarters say he is neither civil nor compassionate -- a sentiment endorsed by 40 percent of Trump's own supporters. Clinton earns kinder marks on all of those fronts, with 22 percent saying she's racist, 48 percent that she doesn't respect ordinary folks (and/or "deplorables"), and 58 percent that she isn't compassionate.

A new SurveyMonkey poll shows Americans taking an even darker view of the Republican nominee, with a majority of voters saying Trump would abuse the power of the presidency to punish his political opponents, allow the U.S. to default on its debt, inspire "race riots" in major cities, create a database to track Muslim Americans, and order air strikes against the families of terrorists.

Posted by orrinj at 9:17 AM


Trump's English-only campaign : Paying little attention to shifting demographics, the Republican nominee offers nothing in Spanish. (SHANE GOLDMACHER 09/23/16, Politico)

It was just over a year ago, at a nationally televised debate, when Donald Trump chided Jeb Bush for speaking another language on the campaign trail. "This is a country," Trump said standing at the lectern next to Bush, "where we speak English, not Spanish."

The crowd at the Ronald Reagan presidential library applauded. Ever since, Trump has stayed true to his word.

With 46 days until the November elections, and as early voting begins in a handful of states, Trump is on the precipice of becoming the only major-party presidential candidate this century not to reach out to millions of American voters whose dominant, first or just preferred language is Spanish. Trump has not only failed to buy any Spanish-language television or radio ads, he so far has avoided even offering a translation of his website into Spanish, breaking with two decades of bipartisan tradition.

Posted by orrinj at 9:11 AM


Obamacare Has Increased Insurance Coverage Everywhere (Anna Maria Barry-Jester and Ben Casselman, 9/22/16, 538)

When congressional candidates last hit the campaign trail in 2014, one word seemed to be at the top of the agenda for virtually every Republican: Obamacare. But that was before most of the law's provisions took effect. Two years later, the health law seems to have faded as a campaign issue.

New data released this month might give a hint as to why: The uninsured rate -- the share of the population without health insurance -- dropped in every congressional district in the country between 2013 and 2015, according to the American Community Survey.

The GOP will increase coverage, not decrease it.
Posted by orrinj at 9:00 AM


This could be the end of the Labour party : It has no way forward even as a credible opposition so long as it follows Corbyn's vicious, vacuous creed (Nick Cohen, 24 September 2016, The Spectator)

The last upsurge of left-wing militancy in the 1970s had Eric Hobsbawm, E.P. Thompson and other formidable socialist thinkers behind it. Joseph Stiglitz, Thomas Piketty and Danny Blanchflower looked like their successors. They too have produced formidable work on how to make society fairer. They agreed to help Corbyn, but walked away after discovering that Corbynism is just a sloganising personality cult: an attitude, rather than a programme to reform the country. That attitude is banal in content, conspiracist in essence, utopian in aspiration and vicious in practice. [...]

Corbyn's banality, which has driven serious leftists away, is not the unmitigated political disaster it seems either. As with so many who call themselves socialists, it has let him embrace Islamist movements, which are fascist in their political outlook, and Russia's conservative and kleptomaniac autocracy. This has been my left-wing generation's greatest betrayal, and its hypocrisy and cynicism is exacting a heavy political price. Yet the banality that allows disgraceful alliances also ensures that the far left does not have to commit to a specific domestic programme.

Utopias are always banal. Corbyn's Utopia allows his supporters to wallow in the warmth of self-righteousness. They want to end austerity. Stop greed. Bring peace. How they do it is not their concern. Practicalities are dangerous. They take you away from utopia and back into the messy, Blairite realm of compromises and second-bests.

Anyone who knows history knows that utopianism can justify viciousness. By his supporters' reasoning, leftists who are against Corbyn must be in favour of poverty, greed and war. All tactics are justified in the struggle against such monsters.

Just as Trump is nothing more than a reaction against W, so too is Corbyn just a reaction against Blair.  Reactionaries don't win in the Anglosphere.

Labour of the negative (Roger Scruton, 9 Sep 2016, The Spectator)

The current crisis in the Labour party has many causes; but the principal one, it seems to me, is that the party is now led in Parliament by someone who thinks that he is answerable only to those who voted for him, and neither to his wider constituency in the country -- the constituency of Labour voters -- nor to the institution in which he sits. He is not entirely to blame for this. The rules for the election of the leader were changed by Ed Miliband so as to bypass the parliamentary party, a move that reflected Miliband's general indifference towards institutions that gave a voice to those who disagreed with him.

The result is that the parliamentary Labour party is nominally under the control of someone who sits silent and impotent on the bench of the House of Commons certain only of one fact, which is that he is the elected leader. It is as though Parliament and its offices were of no interest to him; yet there is no procedure for removing him other than the one that will ensure that he is re-elected. When, a century ago, the members of the parliamentary Conservative party voted in a way of which their leader Andrew Bonar Law disapproved, he was asked what he felt, and he replied: 'I must follow them, I am their leader.' The wisdom of this remark would be lost on Jeremy Corbyn.

Posted by orrinj at 8:46 AM


A Robot That Sews Could Take the Sweat Out of Sweatshops (Signe Brewster  September 22, 2016, MIT Technology Review)

Take a look at the tag on your shirt. If you are in the U.S., chances are it was made in a country like China or Thailand and then shipped overseas.

Jonathan Zornow, the sole employee of a new startup called Sewbo, thinks the U.S. could bring garment manufacturing a little closer to home by automating the feeding of fabric into sewing machines--a step that to this day is done by hand. Zornow has created a process by which a robotic arm guides chemically stiffened pieces of fabric through a commercial sewing machine.

Machines already play a large part in clothing manufacturing. Fabrics can be woven by machines, and then cut into pieces by computer-controlled cutting machines. There are also a few small items like dress shirt collars and cuffs that can be machine-sewn, according to North Carolina State University textiles and apparel researcher Cynthia Istook. But humans still have to put all of the pieces of fabric together, guide them through a sewing machine, and then pass them onto the next assembly line station.

Posted by orrinj at 8:36 AM


Crossing the Rubicon (John-Clark Levin, September 9, 2016, Claremont Review of Books)

More evidence argues that Trump is less Cincinnatus than Caesar: his pointed refusal to denounce death threats on his behalf; naked hostility to the free press; gleeful incitement of political violence; and baleful warning of riots if his supporters didn't get their way at the Republican convention. Just as alarming is Trump's repeatedly-stated intent to order the killing of innocent civilians who are family members of terrorists. When challenged that the U.S. military is trained to refuse unlawful orders, such as this war crime, Trump replied: "They won't refuse. They're not going to refuse me. ... When I say they'll do as I tell them, they'll do as I tell them."

This openly declared desire to suborn the military into committing unlawful acts does not mean that Trump will launch a coup and declare himself dictator. Those instincts would, however, do irreparable harm to the republic's political and moral order. With the vast power of the imperial presidency at his command, would Trump suddenly abandon his lifelong compulsion to intimidate, delegitimize, and ruin anyone who speaks out against him?

Another attribute of authoritarianism is contempt for an independent judiciary. Donald Trump is presently being investigated for running a fraudulent "university" that bilked ordinary Americans out of millions of dollars for real-estate seminars, which were sold on the basis of claims whose utter falsity he has already admitted. Trump has moved to get two resulting class-action lawsuits against him thrown out of court. When the judge denied the motions and allowed the cases to proceed, Trump attempted to disqualify him in the court of public opinion explicitly on grounds of race. Although this judge is an American citizen born in Indiana, Trump openly argued that his Mexican ancestry renders him too biased to fairly hear the cases. Can we expect that President Trump would dutifully submit to a court's judgment that his actions were illegal or unconstitutional? Or is his conduct more consistent with that of a man who would manufacture some excuse to ignore any judge he disagrees with?

Posted by orrinj at 8:11 AM


Charity watchdog compares Clinton, Trump foundations (Joseph N. DiStefano, 9/21/16, Philly Star)

Comparing the  Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation and the Donald J. Trump Foundation: "GuideStar takes no position on elections ...  We have, however, been repeatedly asked about the Trump and Clinton Foundations. Accordingly, we would like to offer a few notes of analysis on their structure, size, strategy, and transparency ... [...]

"The Clinton family's tax returns suggest that the majority of its charitable giving has been through the Clinton Foundation. Without access to Mr. Trump's tax forms it is difficult to know the scale of his charitable activities outside the Trump Foundation. But it does appear that the dollars have not matched the pledges.

"An investigation by the Washington Post has not been able to validate that Trump has actually donated the money he pledged, instead finding, 'Trump promised millions to charity. We found less than $10,000 over 7 years.' ... The last donation to the Trump Foundation by any of its trustees -- family or otherwise--was in 2008 ...  

"The Clinton family has -- at least over the last several years -- donated more money (and at a far higher proportion of their wealth) than the Trump family ... The Clintons have out-raised Trump. The Clintons' fundraising for their foundation is one aspect of a broader fundraising portfolio totaling $3 billion over the last four decades ... They are not alone operating at this level: the Bush family raised $2.4 billion over a similar period.

"Trump has certainly helped raise money for both charitable and electoral efforts, but the total is undoubtedly less than the Clintons'...

"The Clintons, the Bushes, and the Trumps must navigate a tangle of relationships with wealthy individuals. These relationships have caused some to claim that fundraising for the Clinton Foundation compromised Clinton's role as Secretary of State."

Guidestar says it found "little evidence to support this claim. The Clinton Foundation signed [a Memorandum of Understanding] in 2008 clarifying that Hillary Clinton would not have a role with the Foundation during her tenure at the State Department. ... Funding for the Clinton Foundation decreased significantly during that period (2009-2013) ... The Clinton Foundation should have been more aggressive in dealing with the perception of potential conflict."

In their yearly federal Form 990 filings, "some 34,997 organizations have provided enough [information] to get one of GuideStar's four 'transparency seals' ...  1,061 have earned the highest level, Platinum. The Clinton Foundation is one of them." For example, the Clintons provide details of programs they say helped teach more than 100,000 women and girls job skills in developing countries.

"The Trump Foundation has provided no additional information and so has not earned a transparency seal."

Posted by orrinj at 8:05 AM


The GOP's Jewish Donors Are Abandoning Trump (Eitan Hersh and Brian Schaffner, 9/22/16, 538)

In recent years, Republicans have made inroads into the overwhelmingly Democratic constituency of American Jews. But this year, Republican Jews -- or Jewish donors to the Republican party, at least -- are abandoning their party's nominee at a stunningly high rate.

In 2012, 71 percent of the $160 million that Jewish donors gave to the two major-party nominees went to President Obama's re-election campaign; 29 percent went to Mitt Romney's campaign, according to our analysis of campaign contributors, which used a predictive model to estimate which donors are Jewish based on their names and other characteristics. This ratio of support mirrors how Jewish voters cast their ballots in 2012.

So far in 2016, of all the money given to major-party candidates by donors who appear to be Jewish, 95 percent has gone to Hillary Clinton and just 5 percent has gone to Donald Trump.

Apparently Jews aren't as self-loathing as the Alt-Right thinks?
Posted by orrinj at 7:56 AM


Trump Campaign Admits Paying CNN's Lewandowski Until After Election (HANK BERRIEN SEPTEMBER 21, 2016, Daily wire)

The Donald Trump campaign has confirmed what many have suspected: former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski is being paid by the Trump campaign despite working as a commentator for CNN.

It had already been made public that the Trump campaign was paying $20,000 per month to Lewandowski's Green Monster Consulting through August, according to campaign finance reports.  But the Trump campaign released a statement in which it became clear that Lewandowski, who likely signed the same nondisclosure/nondisparagement clauses that Trump & Co. require of their employees, will be paid until well after the November election is concluded.

How Putinesque.
Posted by orrinj at 7:53 AM


In your face, Roger Goodell (Steve Buckley, September 23, 2016, Boston Herald)

It's not a question of if Roger Goodell broke his hand while watching last night's Gillette Stadium showdown between the Patriots and the Texans. It's really just a question of exactly when it happened.

My money is on that 27-yard run by Jacoby Brissett, which took place with 1:54 remaining in the first quarter of the 27-0 victory against the always-in-over-their-heads Houston.

And not just because the run was electrifying, even though it was.

And not just because it culminated with Brissett plunging into the end zone for his first career NFL touchdown, even though it did.

No, it was this: The Patriots have turned Tom Brady's Deflategate suspension into a spring break Fort Lauderdale kegger.

And since the entire point of Deflategate was to scrape the Patriots' collective noses across the pavement out in front of NFL Headquarters, this is a disaster.

It's a disaster for Goodell. It's a disaster for NFL owners who've long believed the Patriots to be in need of some serious comeuppance. It's a disaster for fans in New York, in Indy, in Baltimore -- in short, in Everywhere Else in the World -- who've longed to see those cheatin', lyin' Patriots pay a price for their cheatin' and lyin'.

Posted by orrinj at 7:31 AM


Counterterrorism and Counterinsurgency in Somalia : Assessing the Campaign Against Al Shabaab (Seth G. Jones, Andrew Liepman, Nathan Chandler, Rand)

This report analyzes the U.S. and allied campaign against the al Qa'ida-linked terrorist group al Shabaab in Somalia, examines what steps have been most successful against the group, and identifies potential recommendations. It concludes that, while al Shabaab was weakened between 2011 and 2016, the group could resurge if urgent steps are not taken to address the political, economic, and governance challenges at the heart of the conflict.

This study finds that a tailored engagement strategy -- which involved deploying a small number of U.S. special operations forces to conduct targeted strikes, provide intelligence, and build the capacity of local partner forces to conduct ground operations -- was key in degrading al Shabaab. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:23 AM


President Obama Is Right on the TPP : The Trans-Pacific Partnership will advance our values and protect our strategic interests. (Ira Shapiro, September 23, 2016, Washington Monthly)

Democratic and Republican administrations have pursued reciprocity in a number of ways, including by exerting unilateral pressure. But the principal instrument for achieving reciprocity has been negotiated trade agreements - multilateral, regional and bilateral - which have provided a means to ensure that other countries grant U.S. products and services access to their markets. Today, the United States still constitutes almost 25 percent of a world economy that is 18 times larger than it was in 1945. We lead the world in agricultural exports, virtually every service industry, and information and communications technology and life sciences, which are building blocks of future prosperity.  The shale revolution has made the United States the world's leading producer of oil and gas. America is the world's most attractive place for foreign investment, which increases competition, promotes innovation and creates jobs.

Last year, the U.S. auto industry, which now includes the domestic "Big 3" as well as Japanese, German, and Korean companies, exported over two million cars and SUVs to more than 100 countries around the world. No country has an economy that matches ours in strength across the board.  It's no accident that we have recovered more quickly and more robustly from the Great Recession than virtually any other country.

Those facts should provide some optimism, but not complacency.  Five years ago, having led the United States through the global economic crisis, President Obama doubled down on our commitment to TPP, which began as a relatively modest negotiation that did not yet include Canada, Mexico or Japan.  Obama recognized that our future prosperity depends on doing business with the vast majority of global citizens who live outside our borders.   He understood that the Asia-Pacific nations were integrating economically, and that the United States faced the danger of being left outside, disadvantaged by the preferential trading agreements these other nations reached among themselves.

The president saw TPP as an opportunity to advance our priorities and values, including enhanced labor rights, environmental protection, an open Internet, and rules for the digital economy.  He realized that the Asia-Pacific nations were seeking not only our military presence, but an economic alternative to compete with China's state capitalism.

No trade agreement is perfect or beneficial to only one party; other nations work hard to protect and advance their interests.  But TPP, as negotiated, delivers on the major promises made by the President and the U.S. Trade Representative, Michael Froman, when Congress passed Trade Promotion Authority last year to allow the President to complete the negotiation.

President Clinton's first big victory will be on TPP, firmly planting herself in her husband and her predecessor's Republican footsteps.

Posted by orrinj at 7:16 AM


Kingdom Comedown: Falling Oil Prices Shock Saudi Middle Class (AHMED AL OMRAN in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and  NIKHIL LOHADE in Dubai, Sept. 23, 2016, WSJ)

Mohammed Idrees used to travel to London once or twice a year, but these days the Saudi civil servant is asking his wife and children to cut back on using the family car to save fuel and has installed a solar panel for the kitchen to reduce electricity costs.

For decades, Saudi nationals such as Mr. Idrees enjoyed a cozy lifestyle in the desert kingdom as its rulers spent hundreds of billions of dollars of its oil revenue to subsidize essentials such as fuel, water and electricity.

But a sharp drop in the price of oil, Saudi Arabia's main revenue source, has forced the government to withdraw some benefits this year--raising the cost of living in the kingdom and hurting its middle class, a part of society long insulated from such problems.

September 22, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:26 PM


The key question on the Clinton Foundation is whether it saved lives. The answer is clearly yes. (Dylan Matthews, September 22, 2016, Vox)

Effective philanthropy is something I've spent a lot of time thinking about and reporting on, and so that's the question I set out to answer: Does the Clinton Foundation do worthwhile charitable work?

My starting point, to be honest, was skepticism. Most elite charitable giving is terrible, more a vehicle for wealthy donors' self-aggrandizement than actual change. Donors tend to select causes that are trendy and thus oversaturated with funders as is, or to give to famous organizations regardless of merit. Even when they pick a good cause, like global poverty, screw-ups are common.

Take the PlayPump, a charity fad from the mid-2000s in which merry-go-rounds were attached to water pumps in African villages. The goal was to make it easier to access clean water. The project was catnip to clever design-obsessed philanthropists. Donors loved watching cheerful kids play their way to cleaner water. But when the cameras left, it turned out children were being forced to toil on the playground for hours on end.

I thought it was likely the Clinton Foundation had gotten behind a lot of PlayPump-like projects -- feel-good, sound-great ideas that attracted Clinton's wealthy and well-known friends but didn't really have much of a measurable impact the world.

But I was wrong. After reviewing foundation documents and talking to numerous people in the philanthropy and global health sectors familiar with its work, I've come to the conclusion that the Clinton Foundation is a real charitable enterprise that did enormous good. Its projects are of varying effectiveness, but its work is supported by credible, discriminating funders, and the foundation has least one huge accomplishment under its belt -- an HIV/AIDS program that saved an untold number of lives.

And -- perhaps uncomfortably for liberals and conservatives alike -- it is exactly the kind of unsavory-seeming glad-handing and melding of business and politics for which Bill and Hillary Clinton have taken years of criticism that led to its greatest success.

Posted by orrinj at 7:21 PM


Trump received $1.6 million from Secret Service (ISAAC ARNSDORF and KENNETH P. VOGEL 09/22/16, Politico)

Donald Trump's campaign isn't alone in patronizing his own businesses: taxpayers are indirectly doing so, too.

Federal Election Commission records show that the U.S. Secret Service has paid the Trump campaign about $1.6 million to cover the cost of flying its agents with the candidate on a plane owned and operated by one of his companies.

Posted by orrinj at 7:15 PM


How Washington Blew Its Best Chance To Fix Immigration (Alec MacGillis, September 19, 2016, pRO pUBLICA)

I didn't bring up Trump in my conversation with Labrador, but Labrador did. In the midst of talking about the collapse of the immigration-reform effort he had been part of, he broke off and said, matter-of-factly: "The reason we have Donald Trump as a nominee today is because we as Republicans have failed on this issue."

Democrat Xavier Becerra had gotten the House talks on immigration reform started in 2007 with Republican Sam Johnson. In late 2012, he approached Johnson. "We've got Barack Obama for another four years. Think we can start talking again?" (Jeff Brown for The New York Times) "We could figure this out"

It's easy to forget how recently the Hispanic vote was viewed as up for grabs. In 2004, George W. Bush won 44 percent of Latino voters. As late as 2006, Democrats and Republicans responded similarly to a Pew Research Center question about whether immigrants "strengthen our country because of their hard work and talents," with about 40 percent in each party saying yes.

Seeking to secure lasting Hispanic support for Republicans, Bush in 2007 threw his support behind a bipartisan push for comprehensive immigration reform on the Hill. But the legislation failed amid a talk-radio-fueled backlash over "amnesty" -- granting legal status to many immigrants who arrived in the country illegally -- as well as a lack of political capital on Bush's part and ambivalence among many Democrats and organized labor about the bill's provisions.

In late 2007, after that effort foundered, Representative Xavier Becerra, a Los Angeles Democrat, approached Representative Sam Johnson, a Republican from the northern suburbs of Dallas. Becerra, the American-born son of Mexican immigrants, had grown up hearing his father talk about seeing "No dogs or Mexicans" signs in windows. By his estimate, his district held more noncitizens than any other in the country, and it seemed to him that his entire career in Congress had been defined by the fight to bring clarity for those people and their families.

Johnson, a retired Air Force colonel who spent nearly seven years in a North Vietnamese prison after being shot down during the Vietnam War, was staunchly conservative but not doctrinaire; Becerra was easygoing and well-liked by many of his Republican colleagues. The two congressmen had worked together in the past. "I said, 'Sam, I betcha you and I, we're about as opposite as you can get, but if you and I sat down, we could figure this out,' " Becerra says. "He said, 'You know what, partner, you're probably right.' "

Becerra and Johnson invited colleagues to expand the conversation, and by the 2008 election, the group had grown to 16. They met often, for hours at a time, and always behind closed doors, to protect the Republicans participating -- memories of the 2007 backlash lingered. By 2010, they had the bones of a bill. "It became clear that there were a whole bunch of R's that wanted to get this done," Becerra told me.

The essential elements of any comprehensive reform package had been clear for some time: improving enforcement for those overstaying their visas; tightening border security; easing the route for legal entry to reduce future illegal immigration and supply the work force; and coming to a disposition for the millions already in the United States. In early 2010, the group worked through the usual tension points -- how many guest workers to allow for agriculture and other seasonal employment, what kind of compliance to demand from employers, how many visas to grant for high-tech workers from abroad, how long the path to citizenship for those granted legal status should be and so on.

They made real progress that year, but outside the room, the climate was deteriorating. House Republicans had mounted party-line opposition to Obama's economic-stimulus package, climate legislation and Obamacare. There also simply wasn't the necessary time or attention available, the secretary of homeland security at the time, Janet Napolitano, told me. "The energies of the administration were focused on the economy, and we were still in Iraq and Afghanistan," she says.

That fall, Republicans swept the House, deposing many of the Democrats involved in the immigration effort, and the talks came to an abrupt end. The lesson was plain: Bipartisan huddles were well and good, but they meant little in the absence of will on the part of party leaders.

That will suddenly materialized after Mitt Romney's decisive loss in the 2012 presidential election. Romney won just 27 percent of the Hispanic vote, devastating his chances in swing states like Florida, Nevada and Colorado. Republican leaders and conservative pundits took a hard look at his 44-point deficit with Hispanics and saw in it both threat and opportunity. On one hand, a Republican Party that could not attract Hispanic voters risked demographic obsolescence. On the other, a party that could attract those voters might not need to change much else in its policy platform.

It seemed a seductively easy fix. "There's no need for radical change," the conservative Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer, who had previously opposed reform, wrote two days after the election. "The other party thinks it owns the demographic future -- counter that in one stroke by fixing the Latino problem." Also announcing his conversion that day was Sean Hannity of Fox News. "It's simple to me to fix it," he said. "If people are here, law-abiding, participating for years, their kids are born here, you know, first secure the border, pathway to citizenship, done."

Eight days after the election, Bill O'Reilly aired a segment on immigration reform on his Fox News show and invited on Luis Gutiérrez, a Democrat born to Puerto Rican parents who represents part of Chicago and for a time participated in Becerra and Johnson's bipartisan talks. "I have many Republican colleagues, good men and women," Gutiérrez told O'Reilly. "And you know what they've been telling me? They said: 'Luis, let's take this off the table. Let's take it off the table once and for all, or you're going to run the tables on us.' "

The following day, Gutiérrez was at the House of Representatives' gymnasium when he spied the Republican Party's most famous gym rat: Representative Paul Ryan, who was readjusting to normal life in the Capitol after the Romney campaign. "Hey man, I did everything I could to be sure you couldn't be vice president," Gutiérrez told him. "Just joking."

Ryan took the gibe in stride, then got down to business. He told Gutiérrez that he'd seen him the night before on O'Reilly's show. "He said to me, 'I don't want to do it to take it off the table, Luis,' " Gutiérrez told me. " 'I don't want to do it because it's politically expedient. I want to do it because it's the right thing to do, because I'm Catholic, and my Christian values say we cannot have millions of people in second-tier status.' I was like, Brother, you and I are going to get along just fine."

Posted by orrinj at 7:01 PM


Edmund Burke on Constitutions & Natural Law (Bradley J. Birzer, 9/21/16, Imaginative Conservative)

The real goal of political society, Edmund Burke claimed in his arguments against the French Revolutionaries, is not to create new laws or new rules, but "to secure the religion, laws, and liberties, that had been long possessed." If one creates a law out of theory, he will explain much later in his Reflections on the Revolution in France, those laws will be supported only by their own terrors and not because of justice or nature or right make it good. The true revolutionary--that is, the conservator of moral and ethnical norms--will reclaim and reform rather than overturn. He sees not what could be, but what has been. In particular, he wants to re-secure that which "had been lately endangered." A real revolution, therefore, prevents tyranny rather than merely paving the way toward uncertainty. 

Burke, who considered himself an Old Whig, found the best expression of a proper revolution in the English tradition of 1215 and 1688.

You will observe, that from the Magna Charta [sic] to the Declaration of Right, it has been the uniform policy of our constitution to claim and assert our liberties, as an entailed inheritance derived to us from our forefathers, and to be transmitted to our posterity. [...]

Had the French followed the example of nature rather than reason, they would have stood with the Americans and the English as great examples of manly virtue and Liberty. Instead, hating all that came before and dreaming of every possibility the mind can conjure, they have captured, ironically, nothing "beyond the vulgar practice of the hour," they behave not as civilized men but as savages, shielding their lust under the name of reason. Had they behaved according to eternal truths, they would "have shamed despotism from the earth." Instead, by despising what has come before, the French Revolutionaries have prostituted their culture and their very being. Thus, France has "sanctified the dark suspicious maxims of tyrannous distrust."

Posted by orrinj at 6:54 PM


U.S. companies welcome to invest in Iran, says Rouhani (Reuters, 9/22/16)

"Iran has never had problems with American companies to invest in Iran ... the nuclear deal has paved the ground for all foreign investors and companies to invest in Iran," Rouhani told a news conference on the sidelines of the annual U.N. gathering of world leaders.

Posted by orrinj at 6:43 PM


How solar power towers generate electricity at night (jake Port, 9/21/16, Cosmos)

This is where solar power towers shine. They capture the sun's energy during the day and store it to be used after sundown.

If you've ever used a magnifying glass on a sunny day, you might have noticed that if you place it at just the right angle and distance from an object, it focuses light into an intense point.

This is essentially how a solar tower collects heat.

Thousands of moveable mirrors called heliostats on the ground are angled to reflect sunlight to a central receiver at the top of the tower.

That concentrated heat can turn water into steam to power a turbine - or, in newer models, be stored in a "hot tank" full of molten sodium or salts (such as a mix of potassium nitrate and sodium nitrate) sitting around 550 °C.

Posted by orrinj at 6:38 PM


EXCLUSIVE: ISIS 'Will Fight to the Death' for Mosul, Says Top Peshmerga General (KEVIN BARON, 9/22/16, DEFENSE ONE)

When Kurdish Peshmerga, Iraqi army, and U.S.-led coalition forces move to liberate nearby Mosul, possibly within two weeks, Islamic State fighters will not abandon their prized city and quietly slink away as many in Washington have predicted, according to the Peshmerga's top military officer.

"They will fight to the death," said Gen. Jamal Mohammad Omer, Kurdish military chief of staff, in an exclusive interview with Defense One in his office Thursday. [...]

"We are ready," said Omer, who also goes by Jamal Mohammed. "If we liberate Mosul, Daesh will be finished," he said, using the preferred derogatory acronym for the Islamic State.

Posted by orrinj at 6:24 PM


Racial issues involving Somalis heightened after mall attack (KYLE POTTER, 9/21/16, Associated Press)

The day after a young Somali-American man stabbed 10 people at a central Minnesota mall, pickup trucks were spotted driving through predominantly Somali neighborhoods, honking and waving Confederate flags -- highlighting the precarious bond between the thousands of Somalis who live in St. Cloud and other city residents.

Saturday's attack at Crossroads Center Mall is testing city and community leaders' efforts to improve longstanding racial tensions, which flared up a few years ago when Somali-American high school students said they were being harassed and being called terrorists.

It's also spawning backlash against Somalis and other Muslims elsewhere in in the state, including south of the Twin Cities, where the owner of a restaurant and ice cream parlor changed his sign out front after Saturday's attack to read "Muslims Get Out," saying he won't be "peer pressured by the politically correct crowd."

During World War I, Minnesota nativists waged an all out war on German culture in the state (Ehsan Alam, 01/05/16, mINN pOST)

When the United States entered World War I in 1917, Germans were the single largest ethnic group in Minnesota. Nativism during this period was a "patriotic" attitude that saw recent immigrants -- particularly those of German descent -- as potentially traitorous. Many felt that because German Americans shared their heritage with the Kaiser and the German Empire, they would side with the enemy power. That many German Americans advocated neutrality until the U.S. declared war was further proof of disloyalty to nativists.

The most conspicuous nativist agency was the Minnesota Commission of Public Safety (MCPS). Created by the state legislature in April of 1917, the MCPS was a seven-person commission headed by Governor J. A. A. Burnquist. It was given near-dictatorial powers to support the war effort at home and root out disloyal elements. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:18 PM


The Revolution Is Coming (wALTER rUSSELL mEAD, 9/21/16, vIA mEDEA)

The self-driving revolution is moving forward on all cylinders. The NYT reports:

Federal auto safety regulators on Monday made it official: They are betting the nation's highways will be safer with more cars driven by machines and not people.

In long-awaited guidelines for the booming industry of automated vehicles, the Obama administration promised strong safety oversight, but sent a clear signal to automakers that the door was wide open for driverless cars. [...]

The government's endorsement will speed up the rollout of autonomous cars, experts said, potentially within the next five years.

Cleaner air, happier lives, higher incomes, less CO2, fewer road deaths, exurban growth, more space, more freedom, more leisure time: Autonomous vehicles, if they fulfill even a part of their promise, will do more to make this country green than all the climate NGOs put together, save more lives than Mothers Against Drunk Driving could dream of, and transform human life more than any invention since the personal computer.

Posted by orrinj at 6:06 PM


Tale of Two Charities: Trump's Helps Trump While the Clintons' Is the Real Deal. : The facts speak for themselves: The Clintons have been quite literally a thousand times more charitable than The Donald. (David Cay Johnston, 09.22.16, Daily Beast)

Trump claims he is worth more than $10 billion. That means his verified gifts since 2001 come to less than four one-hundredths of 1 percent of his claimed wealth. Even if we accept his claim of $102 million--and count it as all being donated since 2001--his total giving would be just 1 percent of his claimed net worth.

The Clintons are worth no more than $62 million, their financial disclosure forms show. Their charitable donations since 2001 come to at least 37.6 percent of their maximum net worth.

This means that, relative to wealth, the Clintons have given at a rate a thousand times Trump's verifiable charitable giving. Even accepting Trump's claim that his giving is much larger than the public record shows, the Clintons gave at more than 37 times Trump's rate.

The Clintons' tax returns show that they tithe, giving away a tenth of their income, mostly, like Trump, to foundations bearing the family name.

Now what about the uses of these known charitable gifts? Giving money away is easy, while making a measurable difference is hard.

The Trump Foundation shows mostly small gifts, from $1,000 to $25,000. The three largest grants it made in 2014, its latest tax filing shows, all had an element of self-interest.

The largest grant, $100,000, went to Citizens United Foundation, which promotes anonymous donations to influence elections.

The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of West Palm Beach was next at $50,000. It pays Trump to host fundraisers at the Trump-owned National Doral Miami, a luxury hotel, and charity golf tournaments on the Doral's links.

The Trump foundation also gave $50,000 to Columbia Grammar and Prep School in Manhattan, a private school whose students include Barron, the candidate's youngest child.

Those three grants come to more than a third of the Trump Foundation's 2014 grants, which totaled $591,450, a piddling sum for the self-described 10 billion-dollar man.

The self-interested nature of those grants fits with another pattern. The Trump foundation has made eight improper gifts, some of which are flatly illegal, reporting by David Fahrenthold of The Washington Post and others shows.

These include a $25,000 political donation--a no-no for any charity--to help Pam Bondi win a second term as Florida attorney general. The Trump foundation improperly reported the gift on its annual tax filing, then offered a convoluted story about confusing the names of a Kansas and California charity with Bondi's campaign group, whose treasurer said in 2013 it had no problem with accepting a campaign donation from the 
Trump charitable foundation. Trump says he paid a $2,500 penalty for the illegal campaign donation and donated $25,000 as a replacement of the money to his foundation.

The Trump foundation also paid off personal and business obligations of Trump, The Washington Post reported this week. That is known as self-dealing, which is also an illegal use of charitable funds. These include buying two paintings of himself for $30,000 and shelling out $258,000 to settle lawsuits.

And the Clinton Family Foundation and the related Clinton Global Initiative? The foundation is a grantmaker, while the initiative facilitates action by others.

At least 11 million people are breathing as this is written because of the Clintons' charitable endeavors, which increased the number of poor people overseas getting life-sustaining drugs to suppress HIV from about 250,000 to nearly 12 million.

Posted by orrinj at 4:41 PM


Study: Donald Trump's trade policies could cost 4 million jobs (Zack Beauchamp, Sep 21, 2016, Vox)

The Peterson estimate looked at Trump's fairly consistent positions on trade, like withdrawing from NAFTA and slapping a 35 percent tariff on Mexican goods and a 45 percent tariff on Chinese ones. Trump would be able to do these things without Congress: US law gives the president wide discretion over tariff rates, empowering the executive to declare an economic "emergency" and raise duties basically at will.

The Peterson analysts assumed that China and Mexico would retaliate by raising tariffs on American goods and imposing other trade barriers. The team then used a model developed by Moody's Analytics, an economic research firm, to estimate the effects.

In the worst case, which they call the "full trade war" scenario, the US collapses into recession by 2019, with growth at -0.1 percent. The unemployment rate would shoot up to 8.7 percent, with the economy shedding upward of 4 million jobs.

"Together China and Mexico account for a quarter of US international trade in goods and services," Peterson's Marcus Noland, Sherman Robinson, and Tyler Moran write. "The trade war [Trump's] policies is likely to spark would send the US economy into a recession and cost millions of Americans their jobs."

Posted by orrinj at 4:34 PM


What Happened When New Zealand Got Rid of Government Subsidies for Farmers (Josh Siegel, September 22, 2016, Daily Signal)

Facing a budget crisis in 1984, the incoming Labour government took the first step in implementing a long list of market reforms when it eliminated about 30 different agricultural production subsidies and export incentives.

"I've talked to diplomats serving New Zealand at that time, and they were paying the country's expenses on personal credit cards," says Petersen, who is a practicing farmer in Waipukurau and not considered a government official. "The government at that time had to take drastic action, and they looked at the pieces they thought would be easiest and quickest."

But this was no small decision.

New Zealand's economy is more dependant on agriculture than the U.S. economy is. New Zealand is a country of about 4.6 million people without much of a domestic market for products such as milk, meat, and wool. However, New Zealand produces enough food for 40 million people, Petersen says, and, unlike the U.S., exports about 90 percent of its production.

Officials predicted at the time that the complete and sudden cutoff of government aid--without much of a support system to ease the transition--would cause a mass exodus of farmers walking off their land.

"There was minimal financial assistance from the New Zealand government to assist farmers making the transition to an unsupported market," says Nick Clark, general policy manager of the Federated Farmers of New Zealand.

In response to emailed questions from The Daily Signal, Clark says the government provided a "exit grant" to farmers who wanted to leave their jobs, amounting to about two-thirds of their previous annual income. In addition, he says, low-income farmers were entitled to social welfare support.

The government also contributed funding to a trust established to advise farmers on whether it made financial sense to stay in business.

"Overall, though, there was no substantive government effort to soften the effect of change," Clark says.

By 1987, falling commodity prices and rising costs depressed incomes and exacerbated the debt problems of many farmers, who already were paying high interest rates due to inflation.

The price of land, which had been "artificially inflated due to subsides," Clark says, plummeted.

Still, the sudden removal of government support had less impact than expected. Only about 800 farms, or about 1 percent of total farms at that time, took the exit grant, he says.

Much of the dislocation happened in rural communities, some of which made sure to expose their pain to the government.

Maurice McTigue, a member of New Zealand's parliament in the 1980s, recalled in an interview with The Daily Signal that thousands of farmers protested on the capital, Wellington, cutting sheep loose on government property to make a point.

The decision to embrace dramatic change was personal for McTigue and others in government. About 40 percent of the members of parliament were farmers, including himself, McTigue says.

"I've got bruises and bumps still to show from it," says McTigue, now vice president of outreach at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University in Arlington, Virginia, a research organization that describes itself as bridging the gap between academic ideas and real-world problems.

"It's easy to look back at it and say this was a good decision and farming benefited, but to actually live through it was a very difficult experience," McTigue says.

Today, New Zealand's farmers are some of the world's most productive and innovative.

Removing government assistance completely, New Zealand officials say, freed farmers to produce what people really want, and to do so in an efficient way that could turn a profit.

Since the reforms, New Zealand farmers have cut costs, diversified their land use, and developed new products, Clark says.

Additionally, productivity in agriculture has grown faster than the New Zealand economy as a whole.

September 21, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:20 PM



On balance, then, Trump's sweeping indictment of globalization seems alarmist. And his determination to rail against trade at a rally in Texas was, under the circumstances, rather uncouth. For one, he was speaking in the state that has benefitted the most from NAFTA and would suffer the most from its repeal, a point some of his own supporters had impressed upon him earlier that same day. At a private fundraiser in San Antonio, Dennis Nixon, the CEO of the Laredo-based International Bank of Commerce (IBC), had told the candidate and a roomful of supporters, "Mr. Trump, we must support trade," according to the Texas Tribune.

At the time, behind the closed doors of the fundraiser, Trump indicated that he was listening to Nixon, even if he didn't necessarily agree. But there he was, just hours later in The Woodlands, at the first available opportunity, scoffing at the pro-trade perspective in public. He returned to his critique of trade several times throughout his remarks. At one point he noted that some conservatives had implored him to take a more nuanced view of free trade and bragged that he had resisted their entreaties: "Who cares?"

Well, anyone who values the health of the Texas economy should care about the effects of Trump's rhetoric. He's been roaming the nation for more than a year, and there are signs that his view on trade is resonating. In a poll taken a few weeks after Trump's appearance, the University of Texas found that 51 percent of Texas Republicans--that's right, Texas Republicans!--think that international trade deals have done the nation more harm than good. But it's a bipartisan issue, as the ongoing debate over the Trans-Pacific Partnership proves. That treaty would lower barriers to trade between the United States and eleven other countries.

Posted by orrinj at 7:09 PM


The future is unemployed--and maybe that's not a bad thing (Rana Dasgupta , September 21, 2016, Prospect)

At some basic level the classical link between the creation of wealth and the creation of jobs has been severed. In the era of high industry, all the world's most valuable companies required enormous labour: General Motors, at its height, employed 800,000 people. Today's companies are very different: though Facebook has a market capitalisation of $300 billion--seven times General Motors'--it employs fewer than 15,000 people. Facebook is an enormous concentration of new wealth, but it pays little in terms of wages. It is the perfect symbol of our era of work-without-employment: Facebook's income is actually generated by the billion people who supply their journalism to the world's biggest media company as a charitable donation.

But as with so many other transitions, this one was of little interest as long as it did not touch the western middle classes. It was the explosion of white-collar work, after all, that saved capitalism from the death predicted by Marx; and the memory of this middle-class explosion has stayed with the west ever since, supplying an unwarranted optimism about capitalism's purpose. Even when the long-term assault on working-class jobs made abundantly clear just how little this system cared about providing "employment" the optimism of the middle classes--the chosen--did not falter.

But that is changing now the middle classes are the main target. Of course robotisation will continue to eat away at working-class opportunities: the advent of driverless cars, and its consequences for bus and taxi drivers is only the highest-profile example. But such data-led innovation will obviously have its greatest impact on intellectual labour. We realise that "artificial intelligence" need look nothing like what we thought--which was, essentially, us--and that it has already crept up on us through big data and analytical algorithms. These systems are evolving several million times faster than human intelligence, and it is obvious that the small edge that human beings still retain is vanishing as we speak. Bustling middle-class workplaces--corporate offices, engineering labs, even schools--will go the faceless way of airport check-in and supermarket check-out. [...]

This system does not need all of us. Employing us, in fact, is an irritation whose eradication is already a main focus of innovation and investment. Unemployment will be the structural reality for very large numbers across the world. So what are we going to do?

For a start, we will need more complex ideas of sharing than those encouraged by individualistic welfare states.

Posted by orrinj at 7:03 PM


It's Bill Belichick's system that lifts Patriots while others crash without QB (Karen Guregian, September 21, 2016, Bioston Herald)

Former Patriots tackle Matt Light said it's because the Belichick Way is built for disasters. So if Tom Brady is out, it stinks -- but it won't sink the ship.

"As Tom Brady goes, sure, the Patriots are going to go as well. But if he's not there, it's not a total collapse because everything is based off the system versus the individual," Light said. "And that's clear in every decision that's made. Contractually, personnel-wise, every decision is geared toward, as Bill would say, putting the best people on the field that have earned the right to play for the Patriots. So I'd say within the environment Bill has created, with the coaching staff and the next-man-up mentality, you don't have to worry as much about when those disasters hit."

In 2008, the Patriots had their first go-round without Brady for almost an entire season thanks to a torn ACL. This year, a Deflategate-spawned suspension has taken him away for the first four games.

The Patriots didn't make the playoffs in 2008 but were a hard-luck 11-5 with Matt Cassel under center. Currently, the Pats are 2-0 with the Jimmy Garoppolo-Jacoby Brissett tag team. Moreover, they're 2-0 without Brady, tight end Rob Gronkowski, running back Dion Lewis and right tackle Sebastian Vollmer, with linebacker Dont'a Hightower and left tackle Nate Solder also missing time.

The adversity pile keeps growing, but there's still no sense of panic even with Brissett, a rookie, in line to start tomorrow night against the Texans.

Former Pats offensive coordinator Charlie Weis also credited his old boss and the system. He might be biased, but that comes with having worked for Belichick during three of the team's Super Bowl wins. He was there when Brady replaced an injured Drew Bledsoe.

"You see other teams and the same thing happens, and they fall apart," Weis said. "But in New England, you really have to look at the head coach. He has such a calm about him. In this game coming up, the expectations he'll have will be nothing less than playing great. And if I'm a Patriots fan and I'm watching this, I know one thing: They've been there, done that. They'll figure it out. There's just too much evidence that he's got it handled."

Whether it's employing an offensive system that's predicated on having a quarterback who's smart, decisive and gets rid of the ball quickly -- along with receivers who are smart and can get open in a hurry -- Belichick just plugs in pieces that are going to work for him. He won't allow excuses.

"A lot of teams, their star quarterback goes down, or their star player goes down, and they start hanging their heads. They allow it to seep in and become an excuse as to why they can't win or get the job done," former Pats offensive lineman Damien Woody, now an ESPN analyst, said. "With coach Belichick, he doesn't allow them to entertain that thought: We have a system in place, we have the coaches, the players . . . regardless of who goes down, we're going to plug somebody else in, and we're still going to make this thing go. So it's Bill, it's the system, and it's the mindset."

It's because players don't matter that they can carry one of the youngest and cheapest rosters in the NFL.

Posted by orrinj at 6:57 PM


GOP Megadonor Pledges $2 Million to Help Latino Voters Defeat Trump (Eric Levitz, 9/21/16, New York)

Mike Fernandez, a billionaire Republican donor, is pledging $2 million to help register new Latino voters in Florida, and then turn them out for Hillary Clinton on Election Day.

Historically, Latinos have been drastically underrepresented in America's voting booths. Among registered voters, the demographic is much less likely to turn out on Election Day than whites or African-Americans. What's more, there are millions of Hispanic legal residents who are eligible for citizenship but have neglected to apply for naturalization. These facts -- combined with Latino voters' antipathy for Donald J. Trump -- have made expanding the Hispanic slice of the electorate a top priority for the Clinton campaign.

Thus, funding Latino registration and turnout efforts offers Fernandez a means of opposing the GOP nominee -- even if he can't quite bring himself to bankroll a Democrat (Fernandez does plan to vote for Hillary Clinton in November).

"As a lifelong Republican, I cannot support a Party I no longer recognize," Fernandez told Politico, explaining that he could not understand how the GOP "could not distance itself from a man who has taken such liberties with the facts that calling him a liar would not suffice."

Posted by orrinj at 1:52 PM


British premier meets with Iranian president at the UN ( TIMES OF ISRAEL AND AFP September 21, 2016)

UK Prime Minister Theresa May met with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday at the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

In what was their first meeting, they discussed rebuilding the relationship between the two countries in the wake of last year's nuclear deal.

According to Iran's Tasnim news site, May said that Britain voiced support for strengthening her country's ties with Tehran and praised the tightening political and economic relations between the countries.

Posted by orrinj at 1:46 PM


High-Income Voters Favor the Democratic Nominee for First Time in Decades (Eric Levitz, 9/21/16, New York)

Donald Trump is making high-income voters Democrats again. A new poll from Bloomberg Politics shows Hillary Clinton besting Trump among voters with annual household incomes of $100,000 or more by a margin of 46 to 42 percent.

If Clinton maintains that advantage through Election Day, it would mark a new milestone on the Democratic Party's long path to conquering the upscale electorate. In exit polls of 2012, Mitt Romney defeated Barack Obama among voters earning $100,000 and more by a ten-point margin. And no Democratic nominee has won that demographic since Bill Clinton's reelection in 1996. Before that, the party hadn't won the cohort for decades.

Posted by orrinj at 1:34 PM


Epidemics of Insanity: Euripides, Mao, and Qutb : How virulent contagions of political fanaticism spread across the globe--or, what the Muslim Brotherhood and its descendants share with The Little Red Book (Paul Berman, September 20, 2016, Tablet)

Maoism stood for the revolutionary principles of Stalin, which Stalin's mediocre heirs in the Soviet Union had abandoned--Stalin, in the perfected form of Mao Zedong Thought. And, around the world, there were people who fell into the belief that, under Mao, the utopia that had failed to emerge in the Soviet Union was indeed taking shape, and the horrors of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution were, on the contrary, grandeurs, and the turmoil in China was merely the traumatism of a magnificent and world-historical birth. The new proletarian civilization was emerging at last, except in the perfected form that allowed it to be, instead, a peasant civilization. The most astounding claims were made on Chinese Communism's behalf. It was believed that, under the Cultural Revolution, a new level of altruism had been achieved, that individualism had disappeared, that a new kind of sexual purity had emerged, that mankind had very nearly become a new and superior species. [...]

Milestones proposed and still proposes an alternative reality, in a pocketbook version. This is seventh-century Medina, which Qutb wished to reestablish in some corner of the world, yet to be determined, in order to launch the struggle for world conquest against the rival empires of Communism and the Western powers. And Qutb's book proposed that, in the degree possible, you should begin to inhabit the alternative reality right now, even if the Quranic society has not yet been able to establish itself somewhere. Like Maoism, then, Qutb's idea offers an alternative life, as well as a program for action. It lends itself to a utopian counterculture, which can be established anywhere, not just in regions where the jihadis have succeeded in taking power, as in the emirate of Afghanistan in Taliban times, when al-Qaida acted on Qutbite principles, or in the post-Qutbite Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in our own moment.

In France, for instance (as I learn from reading a superb new book by Gilles Kepel, Terreur dans l'Hexagone: Genèse du djihad français), an Islamist preacher from Syria succeeded for a few years in establishing a Quranic utopia in the little village of Artigat, outside Toulouse, which attracted converts to Islam and the descendants of North African immigrants alike. The Quranic utopians ran businesses; meanwhile, their community became an outpost of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. Jihadis shuttled back and forth from France to the field of battle; sometimes they made France the field of battle.

Why did people join this community, or join the myriad other Islamist countercultures that established themselves in one neighborhood or another in different countries? They joined, and they continue to join, because they have wanted to adopt marvelous and heroic new identities--not the identity of a muscular proletarian or peasant from the Chinese posters, which was the attraction back in Maoist times, but the identity of a companion of the prophet in ancient Medina. Perhaps there are indications that, here and there around the neighborhood, geographical or virtual, a good many people are deciding to adopt such an identity. Then the attraction may become irresistible. In this fashion, the contagion may spread, and the newly established utopias may turn into Euripides' Thebes, centers of insanity--with the only difference being that, whereas the women in Thebes abandon themselves to wine and Bacchic follies, the women in the Islamist countercultures abandon themselves to a life of teetotaling, self-isolation beneath a niqab, serial widowhood, and perhaps (as we have just now seen attempted in France) martyrdom themselves.

I do not mean to ignore the philosophical and practical chasms that separate Islamism's alternative reality from Maoism's. Still, it is interesting to observe that, from the standpoint of graphic design, nothing at all separates these alternative realities. If you look at the iconography of the Islamist terrorist movements--I had the opportunity to do this by attending an illustrated lecture by Ely Karmon in Tel Aviv some months ago--you will be struck by how closely the Islamist images of fists clutching AK-47s and other representations of the jihad follow the graphic-design concepts that were established many decades ago by the Chinese Maoists. But it is not just a matter of imagery. Mostly these political contagions resemble one another in their consequences, which have been, in Maoism's case, devastating (by and large), and, in the case of the Islamic jihad, devastating (entirely).

September 20, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 6:46 PM


A Reminder of How Racist Trump Is, One Day Before His Pitch to Black Voters (Josh Voorhees, 9/20/16, Slate)

The Nixon Administration Sues Trump's Company for Housing Discrimination:

The first time Donald J. Trump's name appeared in the New York Times, it was in 1973 under headline: "Major Landlord Accused of Antiblack Bias in City." According to the Department of Justice, the Trump Management Corp. violated the Fair Housing Act of 1968 by systematically refusing to rent apartments to or negotiate with black tenants. Trump settled the case two years later without admitting guilt, but as part of the deal he was required to provide the New York Urban League with a weekly list of all apartment vacancies for two years. [...]

"Laziness Is a Trait in Blacks. It Really Is; I Believe That."

John O'Donnell, who served as the president of the Trump Plaza Hotel and C[***]o, wrote a memoir about his experience. In it, O'Donnell quoted his former boss as making statements like these:

I've got black accountants at Trump Castle and at Trump Plaza--black guys counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day. Those are the kind of people I want counting my money. Nobody else. . . . Besides that, I've got to tell you something else. I think that the guy is lazy. And it's probably not his fault because laziness is a trait in blacks. It really is; I believe that. It's not anything they can control.

In an interview in 1999 with Playboy, Trump dismissed O'Donnell as a "f[****]g loser," but not before conceding "the stuff O'Donnell wrote about me is probably true."

Posted by orrinj at 6:39 PM


Obesity gene no barrier to weight loss, study shows (Nicola Davis, 20 September 2016, The Guardian)

People with a gene linked to weight gain are just as likely to benefit from weight loss programmes as those without, researchers have discovered.

The findings suggest diet, exercise and drug-based approaches to losing weight can be widely beneficial, even if some people may have a greater risk of piling on the pounds due to their genetics. In short, your DNA is not a barrier to weight loss.

Posted by orrinj at 6:35 PM


GM Makes It Official: Chevy Bolt EV Will Cost Under $30,000 After Tax Breaks (Joann Muller , 9/20/16, Forbes)

GM has been saying for a year now that it will bring an affordable, long-range electric car to market by the end of 2016. Last week, it announced the Bolt will have an EPA-estimated range of 238 miles on a full charge, beating expectations. Now, it's making good on the pledge to make it affordable.

With an available federal tax credit of up to $7,500, Bolt buyers could wind up with a net cost of $29,995.

Posted by orrinj at 6:23 PM


Why Sahrawis see more hope in war than in peace (Habibulah Mohamed Lamin, September 19, 2016, Al Monitor)

Sept. 6 marked the 25th anniversary of the United Nations-sponsored cease-fire agreement in Western Sahara between Morocco and the Polisario Front, the Sahrawi independence movement. The peace accord was supposed to be followed by a referendum in which the Sahrawis would choose their system of governance from three options: integration with Morocco, autonomy or independence. But the planned vote was canceled after Morocco refused to allow any process that would include independence as a choice. The dispute is still ongoing, with continued tension. [...]

For 25 years, the UN's efforts have been fruitless for the Sahrawis as they wait for the promised referendum. However, other factors have recently put their cause in the spotlight -- for example, in March, Morocco expelled the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara from the Western Sahara territory. The incident caused temporary tension that was contained once the UN Security Council voted to restore the mission.

Even so, another episode of escalation began recently when Morocco decided to cross its military wall that divides Western Sahara to build a road in the disputed territory on the borders with Mauritania. A UN confidential document obtained Aug. 29 by The Associated Press said the move was a violation of the cease-fire agreement. On the other side, the Polisario Front deployed an estimated 32 personnel to the zone. Sayed said such a decision "was very strategic and has shown that the front is self-reliant, reflecting a strong will."

Mohamed Lamine El Bouhali, the former defense minister of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), the state the Sahrawi declared in 1976, also spoke during the panel discussion. El Bouhali confessed that signing the peace treaty was a mistake for the Polisario Front.

"Let's be objective enough to see what such a cease-fire has given us. We should have continued the armed struggle until we liberated every single span of Western Sahara," he said.

El Bouhali noted that SADR even gained membership for itself in the African Unity, now the African Union, during the mid-1980s "when Sahrawi soldiers were fighting in the battlefield."

It is clear that the former military commander does not believe in the ongoing peace process. In addition, he even challenged his colleagues in the leadership to prove him wrong.

Posted by orrinj at 6:18 PM


Unlike Trump Foundation, Clinton Global Initiative Has Data to Prove Its Worth (iSSIE lAPOWSKY, 9/20/16, wIRED)

Though the former president (and potential future First Husband) didn't mention the election or Trump's criticisms of the Foundation, he did spend the first first few minutes of his opening address at the Initiative, rattling off a stunning list of statistics about the Clinton Global Initiative's impact. 3,600: That's how many public commitments the Initiative's attendees have made on stage over the last 12 years. 435 million: That's how many people those commitments have helped. 52 million: That's how many children have received access to education as a result of those commitments. 114 million: That's how many people can drink clean water because of the Initiative. The list goes on.

One of the Foundation's signature accomplishments, the Clinton Health Access Initiative, has provided low-cost AIDS medication to 11.5 million people since it launched in 2002.

"I believe it's helped change the face of philanthropy," President Clinton said of the Initiative.

He noted that in 2014, the Initiative partnered with the data-mining company Palantir, which was founded by noted Trump backer (and all around swell guy) Peter Thiel, to track progress on its first decade of commitments.

The study found that nearly 82 percent of the pledges made at CGI--which run the gamut from healthcare initiatives to education projects to data collection efforts--were either completed or underway. And of the ones that were completed, more than two-thirds had either hit or exceeded the number of people they set out to help. That may sound dry, but it's important, given how difficult it is for non-profit organizations to track the long tail of their impact.

Posted by orrinj at 6:13 PM


Man v rat: could the long war soon be over? : Rats spread disease, decimate crops and very occasionally eat people alive. For centuries, we have struggled to find an effective way of controlling their numbers. Until now ... (Jordan Kisner, 20 September 2016, tHE gUARDIAN)

"Frankly, rodents are the most successful species," Loretta Mayer told me recently. "After the next holocaust, rats and Twinkies will be the only things left." Mayer is a biologist, and she contends that the rat problem is actually a human problem, a result of our foolish choices and failures of imagination. In 2007, she co-founded SenesTech, a biotech startup that offers the promise of an armistice in a conflict that has lasted thousands of years. The concept is simple: rat birth control

The rat's primary survival skill, as a species, is its unnerving rate of reproduction. Female rats ovulate every four days, copulate dozens of times a day and remain fertile until they die. (Like humans, they have sex for pleasure as well as for procreation.) This is how you go from two to 15,000 in a single year. When poison or traps thin out a population, they mate faster until their numbers regenerate. Conversely, if you can keep them from mating, colonies collapse in weeks and do not rebound.

Solving the rat problem by putting them on the pill sounds ridiculous. Until recently no pharmaceutical product existed that could make rats infertile, and even if it had, there was still the question of how it could be administered. But if such a thing were to work, the impact could be historic. Rats would die off without the need for poison, radar or coyotes.

SenesTech, which is based in Flagstaff, Arizona, claims to have created a liquid that will do exactly that. In tests conducted in Indonesian rice fields, South Carolina pig farms, the suburbs of Boston and the New York City subway, the product, called ContraPest, caused a drop in rat populations of roughly 40% in 12 weeks. This autumn, for the first time, the company is making ContraPest available to commercial markets in the US and Europe. The team at SenesTech believes it could be the first meaningful advance in the fight against rats in a hundred years, and the first viable alternative to poison. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:35 PM


Nazi Who Originated Donald Trump Jr.'s Skittles Analogy Was Hanged at Nuremberg (Naomi LaChance, Sep. 20 2016, The Intercept)

DONALD TRUMP JR.'S tweet comparing Syrian refugees to Skittles has deep roots. The concept dates back at least to 1938 and a children's book called Der Giftpilz, or The Toadstool, in which a mother explains to her son that it only takes one Jew to destroy an entire people. [...]

Streicher was hanged at Nuremburg in 1946 for crimes against humanity. The judgment read:

For his twenty-five years of speaking, writing, and preaching hatred of the Jews, Streicher was widely known as "Jew-Baiter Number One". In his speeches and articles, week after week, month after month, he infected the German mind with the virus of anti-Semitism, and incited the German people to active persecution. Each issue of Der Stürmer, which reached a circulation of 600,000 in 1935, was filled with such articles, often lewd and disgusting.

Trump's tweet has clear parallels to Streicher's children's book, where a boy named Franz learns about the Jews from his mother:

"However they disguise themselves, or however friendly they try to be, affirming a thousand times their good intentions to us, one must not believe them. Jews they are and Jews they remain. For our Volk they are poison."

"Like the poisonous mushroom!" says Franz.

"Yes, my child! Just as a single poisonous mushrooms can kill a whole family, so a solitary Jew can destroy a whole village, a whole city, even an entire Volk [nation]."

Posted by orrinj at 5:20 PM


Jordanians elect new parliament in cautious reform move (KARIN LAUB, 9/20/16, Associated Press)

Jordanians voted Tuesday for a new parliament under revised rules that officials say are meant to strengthen political parties but are seen by some as a small step, at most, toward democratic reform.

The Muslim Brotherhood, the kingdom's most organized opposition group, competed for the first time since 2007, but was not expected to win enough seats to challenge control of parliament by establishment candidates, including tribal representatives.

The vote comes at a time of regional turmoil, including domestic and external security threats to pro-Western Jordan by Islamic State extremists who control large areas in neighboring Syria and Iraq. In holding regular elections, Jordan seeks to strengthen its image as an island of stability in the region.

Keep the monarchy but let a popularly-elected Parliament govern.

Posted by orrinj at 5:07 PM


America is doing better than we're being led to believe (Issac Bailey, September 14, 2016, CNN)

According to the latest figures, median household income increased at its fastest clip ever in 2015, jumping by some 5.2% -- about back to where it was before the recession began and only a couple of percentage points lower than its 1999 peak. (And the 1999 number was inflated by an economic bubble that burst.)

As Justin Wolfers, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute, tweeted: "The income gains were broadly distributed, including every demographic, age region and gender, and were stronger for the poor than the rich."
But that's not all: 3.5 million Americans rose out of poverty, while the poverty rate declined more than it had since 1968, including big declines for Hispanics, black people, children and young adults. Meanwhile, the number of Americans with year-round, full-time jobs is at its highest level ever, the unemployment rate sits at 4.9% (in 2012, Mitt Romney pledged to get it down to 6%), we are in the midst of the longest monthly job creation streak ever, and the stock market has set new records in recent weeks.

The numbers showing the economy has continued to improve may get more headlines, but we shouldn't overlook some of the real social gains, too. Not least among these is a teen pregnancy rate that is at a historic low, a black graduation rate at an all-time high, gay people can marry and serve openly in the US military, and the achievement gap between the rich and poor, and between white people and those of color, has been closing.

Posted by orrinj at 2:44 PM


Trump used $258,000 from his charity to settle legal problems (David A. Fahrenthold, September 20, 2016, Washington Post)

Donald Trump spent more than a quarter-million dollars from his charitable foundation to settle lawsuits that involved the billionaire's for-profit businesses, according to interviews and a review of legal documents.

Those cases, which together used $258,000 from Trump's charity, were among four newly documented expenditures in which Trump may have violated laws against "self-dealing" -- which prohibit nonprofit leaders from using charity money to benefit themselves or their businesses.

In one case, from 2007, Trump's Mar-a-Lago Club faced $120,000 in unpaid fines from the town of Palm Beach, Fla., resulting from a dispute over the size of a flagpole.

In a settlement, Palm Beach agreed to waive those fines -- if Trump's club made a $100,000 donation to a specific charity for veterans. Instead, Trump sent a check from the Donald J. Trump Foundation, a charity funded almost entirely by other people's money, according to tax records.

September 19, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:16 PM


China facing full-blown banking crisis, world's top financial watchdog warns (Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, 19 SEPTEMBER 2016, The Telegraph)

China has failed to curb excesses in its credit system and faces mounting risks of a full-blown banking crisis, according to early warning indicators released by the world's top financial watchdog.

A key gauge of credit vulnerability is now three times over the danger threshold and has continued to deteriorate, despite pledges by Chinese premier Li Keqiang to wean the economy off debt-driven growth before it is too late.

The Bank for International Settlements warned in its quarterly report that China's "credit to GDP gap" has reached 30.1, the highest to date and in a different league altogether from any other major country tracked by the institution. It is also significantly higher than the scores in East Asia's speculative boom on 1997 or in the US subprime bubble before the Lehman crisis.

Studies of earlier banking crises around the world over the last sixty years suggest that any score above ten requires careful monitoring.  The credit to GDP gap measures deviations from normal patterns within any one country and therefore strips out cultural differences.

Posted by orrinj at 7:03 PM

Slow Cooker Steel Cut Oatmeal (Jess, 5/13/13, Cook Smarts)


Steel cut oats - 2 cups
Water - 6 cups
Milk (any type) - 2 cups
Butter - 2 Tbsp
Apples, peeled & chopped (optional) - 2 to 3
Brown sugar - ¼ cup
Kosher salt - 2 tsp
Cinnamon - 1 Tbsp [...]


Optional: Give the slow cooker a quick spray of cooking oil or brush with cooking oil to prevent sticking of ingredients.

Put all ingredients in a slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or 4 hours on high.

Posted by orrinj at 6:49 PM


Vin Scully Is Finishing Where He Began (Kyle Glaser , 9/19/16, Baseball America)

Vin Scully has been broadcasting Dodgers games longer than there have been 50 United States.

It's true. Hawaii and Alaska became full members of the union in 1959, nine years after Scully began calling games for the then-Brooklyn Dodgers. [...]

Q: On calling his last game in San Francisco, and how it's fitting with how his love of baseball began:

Scully: I love it. In fact, I couldn't believe it. I was not quite nine years old, I was walking home from grammar school, and I went by a Chinese laundry and in the window was the line score of the World Series game that would be Oct. 2, 1936, and the Yankees beat up the Giants 18-4. And as a little boy my first reaction was "Oh, the poor Giants." And then my grammar school was 20 blocks from the old Polo Grounds. So I could walk after school at 2:30, catch the game at 3:15 for nothing because I was a member of the Police Athletic League and the Catholic Youth Organization. So that's when I fell in love with baseball and became a true fan. My last game, with the Giants, will be Oct. 2, 2016. That will be exactly 80 years, to the minute, from when I first fell in love with the game. So it seems like the plan was laid out for me, and all I had to do was follow the instructions.

Posted by orrinj at 6:34 PM


Senate to Vote this Week on $1.15B Arms Deal with Saudi Arabia (ABC, 9/19/16)

 The U.S. Senate is expected to vote this week on a resolution to reject a pending arms sale from the U.S. to Saudi Arabia following reports of civilian casualties in Yemen at the hands of the Saudi-led coalition.

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said in a telephone briefing Monday morning that the vote to is expected to come to the Senate floor as early as Tuesday. He raised deep concerns over Saudi Arabia's conduct in Yemen.

"I think this war in Yemen poses an immediate crisis within our relationship," Murphy said. "I think we need to press pause on this arms sale in order to send a strong signal to the Saudis that the way they have conducted this war is unacceptable."

We're with the Houthis, not the Sa'uds.

Posted by orrinj at 6:06 PM


Video released in fatal police shooting of unarmed Oklahoma man Terence Crutcher (WARNING - GRAPHIC)  (TOBIAS SALINGER, 9/19/16, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)

Tulsa police said one officer fired a stun gun and another officer fired one shot that killed Terence Crutcher, who was black, after investigating his stalled car Friday night. Officer Betty Shelby, who is white, fired the fatal shot and Officer Tyler Turnbough, who is also white, deployed his Taser, police have said.

"I'm going to tell you right now, there was no gun on the suspect or in the suspect's vehicle," Police Chief Chuck Jordan said at a press conference Monday afternoon. "I want to assure our community and I want to assure all of you and people across the nation watching this: We will achieve justice." [...]

Crutcher, 40, refused orders at the scene, according to police. Investigators released video on Monday from three officers' dashcams and a police helicopter camera, along with dispatch recordings.

"I've got a subject that won't show me his hands," a female officer said in a dispatch recording. Another officer buzzed in to say he was en route to the scene near 36th St. N and Lewis Ave.

Yet the footage showed Crutcher walking back towards his car with his hands raised in the air. He placed his hands on the side of his SUV.

Four officers surrounded him, and they obscured what happened at the moment police said he had been hit with the stun gun and the shot from Shelby's gun.

"He's got his hands up there for her now," an officer could be heard saying in the video from the helicopter as it hovered overhead.

"Time for a Taser, I think," another officer said as the four officers pointed their weapons toward Cutcher from a few feet away.

"I've got a feeling that's about to happen," the first officer said.

"That looks like a bad dude, too," the other officer said. [...]

Seeking the Kingdom Ministries Pastor Mareo Johnson, a close friend of the father of four, told the Tulsa World he and members of Crutcher's family saw the footage over the weekend.

"What I seen on the video was a man who had his hands up, to me look like in compliance with police officers," Johnson said. "The only part was where he was walking back to his car, but he had his hands up. He was Tased and shot. We believe that was too much."

Well, he did look black.

Posted by orrinj at 5:33 PM


Labour Is Now Like Monty Python's 'Life Of Brian' (John McTernan, September 19, 2016, Heat Street)

Which, on the face of it, is an odd way to describe a record-breaking three massive election victories in a row which led people to question whether the Tory Party could ever be elected again. Which is why Campbell said to McDonnell:

"I get why newspapers like the Daily Mail want to trash Tony Blair. we won elections and they're a rightwing newspaper. I understand why the Tories want to trash New Labour, because we beat them three times. But when the Labour party's doing it, it's utterly ridiculous. It's part of the revolutionary posh-boy madness that's taken this party over."

Posted by orrinj at 2:01 PM


Hillary Clinton Is Absolutely Right, 'Pepe' Meme Is Antisemitic - An Apology (Louise Mensch, September 19, 2016, Heat Street)
A week or so ago we published a piece by a valued contributor, Ian Miles Cheong, one of our best gaming writers, stating that the Pepe the Frog meme is not antisemitic and that Hillary Clinton's explainer was wrong.

That piece was inaccurate. We apologize for publishing it. The piece was floated and rejected in a story meeting yet somehow, at high volume, this one slipped through the net.

Ian wrote:

Like any other exploitable meme, Pepe has also been cast as a Nazi. But no single group or ideology has ownership of the meme.

That is untrue. While Pepe, once a harmless frog meme, may have started out as a widely used meme, the frog is now a symbol of the Nazi Jew-baiting of the alt-right. [...]

As we approach the High Holy Days, we at Heat Street are well aware of the torrent of antisemitic abuse perpetrated online, of whom Donald Trump supporters on 4Chan are amongst the worst offenders, usually making use of the Pepe meme. [...]

I have discussed this matter with our contributor and showed him the evidence. He offered to delete the original post but we decided it is more in the spirit of No Safe Spaces to admit our own foul-ups. 

Antisemitism and racism is not acceptable and minimising the holocaust imagery of the SJW Nazis, the Alt-Right, is also not acceptable. On this matter, Hillary Clinton was undoubtedly correct and there can be 
no dispute about it. We apologize for inadvertently dismissing the antisemitism of the alt-right and Pepe, and stand with the Jewish people and all victims of genuine racism

Posted by orrinj at 1:54 PM


Watch Racists Being Confronted With Some Very Inconvenient DNA Results (CHARLIE SORREL 09.19.16, Co.exist)

This video is a joyous schadenfreude-fest. In it, you see a bunch of people, who are racist or xenophobic to varying extents, being interviewed about their biases.

As you can see in the video, from travel site Momondo, they discussed their views of people from other countries. The subjects were also asked to give DNA in order to determine their genetic lineage.

Posted by orrinj at 1:43 PM


Why the Kremlin's big win in Russian elections may not be a victory (Fred Weir, SEPTEMBER 19, 2016, CS Monitor)

[V]oter apathy is widespread, as is a deeply conservative mood, leading to a low turnout. Even here, in the gritty industrial and heavily militarized Urals region of Sverdlovsk - which has a tradition of anti-government protest - more than 60 percent of voters didn't bother casting ballots at all. And while those in the region who did vote swung somewhat more anti-establishment than most, the lack of engagement, both here and in Russia, could signal a more seismic political reaction from voters down the road, experts say.

"It's not the voters who supported UR, but the majority of Russians who didn't vote at all that we should be worrying about," says Andrei Koryakovtsev, an independent political expert in Yekaterinburg, Sverdlovsk's capital. "If they don't believe in the electoral system to register their views, then the chances of people taking it into the streets instead will grow."

The reality is they're too old and drunk to care.

Posted by orrinj at 1:33 PM


Is 70 the new retirement age? (Maurie Backman, 9/16/16, The Motley Fool)

Although the average retirement age in the U.S. is just 63, according to a recent study by human resources consulting firm Willis Towers Watson, almost a quarter of Americans believe they won't be able to retire until age 70 or older. Worse yet, 5% are convinced they'll never be able to retire at all.

Even workers who plan to retire at 65 aren't so sure of themselves. Those surveyed admit that, while they'd like to retire at 65, they think there's a 50% chance they'll wind up working until 70.

No one cares how old you are when you retire, as long as we don't have to give you SS checks until you're 70.

September 18, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 6:34 PM


Florida Cops May Ditch Serving Miami Dolphins Over Anthem Protests (HANK BERRIEN, SEPTEMBER 18, 2016, Daily Wire)

The Broward Sheriff's Office and their deputies may refuse to do their traditional escorting of the Miami Dolphins next week against the Cleveland Browns when the Dolphins play their first home game.

The International Union of Police Associations, Local 6020, has asked police escorts to refuse service to the team until the Dolphins makes their players stand for the national anthem. Jeffery Bell, the president of the union, stated, "We've asked the deputies and the Broward Sheriff's Office not to do the details anymore," adding, "I respect their right to have freedom of speech. However, in certain organizations and certain jobs you give up that right of your freedom of speech temporary while you serve that job or while you play in an NFL game."

Except that their employer supports their protest.  Meanwhile, public servants don't get to decide who they'll serve.

Posted by orrinj at 2:50 PM


Locals Capture Footage of Explosion in NYC's Chelsea Neighborhood That Injures 29 (Emily Zanotti, September 18, 2016, Heat Street)
At least 29 people are injured after what New York City officials are calling an "intentional" explosion in NYC's Chelsea neighborhood.

Authorities told media that the blast originated from a dumpster -- at 23rd Street and 6th Avenue -- that exploded and caught fire around 10:30 pm EST. Of the 29 injuries, only one is said to be serious - a puncture wound - while the others are mostly scrapes and bruises, according to the New York Fire Department. All victims have been released from the hospital.

Posted by orrinj at 2:41 PM


In Florida, a shifting Cuban vote could be the difference (BILL BARROW, 9/18/16, Associated Press)

Francis Suarez comes from a long line of civic and political leaders who have formed the Republican bedrock in south Florida's Cuban community for a half-century. Yet the 38-year-old Miami city commissioner hasn't decided whether he will vote for his party's presidential nominee.

And he's not alone. Many Cuban-Americans express solidarity with other Latin-Americans who see Donald Trump as anti-Hispanic. Still others hear in Trump's nationalistic populism echoes of the government strongmen they once fled.

If the point of the candidacy is narrow the party down to just a hygienically pure cohort of older whiter men he's huuuuuuge.

Posted by orrinj at 9:19 AM


Actually, Income in Rural America Is Growing, Too (Quoctrung Bui, SEPT. 16, 2016, NY Times)

Median household incomes in rural America actually grew 3.4 percent in 2015, according to policy experts who study the census numbers very closely.

Posted by orrinj at 8:15 AM


If You Build It . . . : Myths and realities about America's infrastructure spending (Edward L. Glaeser, Summer 2016, City Journal)

The progressive romance with infrastructure spending is based on three beliefs. First is that it supercharges economic growth. As President Obama put it in his 2015 State of the Union address: "Twenty-first century businesses need twenty-first century infrastructure." Further, by putting people to work building needed things, infrastructure spending is an ideal government tool for fighting unemployment during recessions. Infrastructure should also be a national responsibility, progressives believe, led by Washington and financed by federal tax revenues.

None of this is right. While infrastructure investment is often needed when cities or regions are already expanding, too often it goes to declining areas that don't require it and winds up having little long-term economic benefit. As for fighting recessions, which require rapid response, it's dauntingly hard in today's regulatory environment to get infrastructure projects under way quickly and wisely. Centralized federal tax funding of these projects makes inefficiencies and waste even likelier, as Washington, driven by political calculations, gives the green light to bridges to nowhere, ill-considered high-speed rail projects, and other boondoggles. America needs an infrastructure renaissance, but we won't get it by the federal government simply writing big checks. A far better model would be for infrastructure to be managed by independent but focused local public and private entities and funded primarily by user fees, not federal tax dollars. [...]

The third prominent infrastructure illusion is that transportation should be a centralized, tax-funded federal responsibility, rather than decentralized, user-fee-funded local responsibility. The most pressing problem with federal infrastructure spending is that it is hard to keep it from going to the wrong places. We seem to have spent more in the places that already had short commutes and less in the places with the most need. Federal transportation spending follows highway-apportionment formulas that have long favored places with lots of land but not so many people. For example, Alaska received $484 million in the 2015 highway-aid apportionment, which included support for metropolitan planning and air-quality improvement. This works out to about $657 for each Alaskan. Massachusetts received $586 billion, which amounts to roughly $87 per person. New York State received $1.62 billion, or $82 per person. Do these spending patterns reflect far greater transportation needs in Alaska than in New York City or Boston? No: the average commute time in Anchorage is 23 minutes, less than the national average, while the averages in Boston and New York are 30 minutes and 36 minutes, respectively.

Alaska's federal highway-aid haul is all too typical, unfortunately. Recovery Act transportation aid was twice as generous, on a per-capita basis, to the ten least dense states than it was to the ten densest states, even though higher-density areas need more expensive infrastructure (retrofitting New York with tunnels and bridges, for example, is far costlier than building in the greenfields of the West). Low-density areas are remarkably well-endowed with senators per capita, of course, and they unsurprisingly get a disproportionate share of spending from any nationwide program. Redirecting tax dollars across jurisdictions is rarely fair--and it isn't right, either, that poorer, lower-density regions should subsidize New York's subway and airports.

Washington's involvement also distorts infrastructure planning by favoring pet projects. The Recovery Act set aside $8 billion for high-speed rail, for instance, despite the fact that such projects would never be appropriate for most of moderate-density America. California was lured down the high-speed hole with Washington support, but many voters now seem to regret that they took the bait. In a 2015 poll, 53 percent of respondents said that they would vote for "a ballot measure ending the High Speed Rail project and spending that money on water storage projects." Only 31 percent said that they would vote against that measure.
Idiosyncratic, foolish projects existed long before the Obama administration. Detroit's infamous People Mover Monorail would never have been built without federal aid. Alaska's $400 million Gravina Island bridge to nowhere was a particularly notorious example of how Congress abuses transportation investment. As the Office of Management and Budget noted, during the Bush years, highway funding was "not based on need or performance and has been heavily earmarked."

The Recovery Act largely left decisions about individual projects to the states, but it required them to move quickly. In some cases, this led to simple maintenance projects, like repaving, which usually make sense. But when it came to larger-scale investments, the push for speed ran the risk of poor planning. The Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project, the costs of which greatly exceed its potential benefits, seems unlikely to have moved ahead without the $900 million in federal assistance that it received in 2009.

Funding infrastructure with general tax revenues removes the discipline that comes when projects need to pay for themselves. If every new road or rail project had to fund itself, the projects that deliver the greatest benefits would be the ones that move ahead. If people are willing to pay to use infrastructure, we can assume that that infrastructure provides social value.

A user-fee approach is also fairer. With general tax financing, every American must pay for new highways in Montana, regardless of whether they drive or have ever been to Montana. It's much fairer for the people who use roads to pay for roads.

User-fee financing is even more attractive because it helps reduce congestion. Building more highways will never decongest America, for counterintuitive behavioral reasons. Economists Gilles Duranton and Matthew Turner have empirically identified the Fundamental Law of Road Congestion, which is that highway miles traveled increase roughly one-for-one with highway miles built. If we build it, people will drive it. The correct fix for crowded roads is to charge people for the social costs of their choices. Singapore instituted congestion pricing in 1975, and now operates state-of-the-art electronic road pricing, with tolls that vary by usage and time of day. London has now had congestion pricing for a decade. Both cities have eased traffic as a result. Yet America still acts as if charging drivers is a crime. For decades, federal rules prevented the levying of tolls on interstate highways. The Obama administration deserves credit for supporting the possibility of tolling the system.

The federal role in transportation should be limited to certain key tasks. Washington can certainly help coordinate local investments to improve the functioning of a national transport network, as it did when building the Eisenhower Interstate Highway System. The federal government should maintain safety and maintenance standards, on the road and in the air, and can nudge localities to maintain their infrastructure. Finally, it can encourage transportation, especially buses, that helps the poor find jobs. But none of this requires a massive national spending spree.

Many tasks of government have nothing in common with private enterprise. Neither our military nor our courts should be in the business of extracting revenues from, respectively, foreign powers or litigants. Aid to the poor and to the elderly is meant to be money-losing. But infrastructure is different and has much more in common with ordinary businesses. After all, infrastructure provides valuable services, the use of which by one individual typically crowds out the use by someone else. E-ZPass technology has made it simple to charge for transportation. Why not, then, establish a business model for transportation infrastructure?

Posted by orrinj at 8:10 AM


US special forces are helping Turkey clear out ISIS strongholds in Syria (Justin Ling, September 16, 2016, Vice)

American special forces will be heading to northern Syria to help clear Islamic State-held towns, alongside Turkish forces, the Department of Defense announced on Friday. But a confrontation in a strategic border town highlights the myriad of problems that could be awaiting the Americans when they arrive.

The announcement of the expanded mission, which will see 40 special forces embedded within the Turkish military near the border, came on Friday, just hours after video surfaced from the rural town of al-Rai which, supposedly showing rebel groups chanting anti-American slogans as US troops leave town.

Posted by orrinj at 8:04 AM


More Americans have insurance than ever before -- thanks Obamacare (Kayla Ruble, September 13, 2016, Vice)

Six years after Congress passed the Affordable Care Act the percentage of Americans without health insurance hit record lows with more than 90 percent of people now covered, the US Census Bureau said on Tuesday.

The uninsured population dropped to 29 million people in the US without health insurance in 2015, or 9.1 percent of the population, according to the bureau's 2015 health insurance statistics released on Tuesday. This is down from 33.0 million people and a rate of 10.4 percent the year before.

A rise in both private and government coverage contributed to the increase in 2015, which follows a trend of declining uninsured rates since the bulk of the Affordable Care Act, dubbed "Obamacare," went into effect in 2014.

The largest increase was seen in direct-purchase coverage plans, according to the census bureau. These types of plans include the healthcare exchanges set up by under the Affordable Care Act, as opposed to plans paid for by private employers or government funded health insurance like Medicaid or Medicare.

Posted by orrinj at 7:45 AM


Donald Trump's Anything-Goes Campaign Sets an Alarming Political Precedent (JONATHAN MARTIN, SEPT. 17, 2016, NY Times)

Beyond his handling of personal information, he also casually accused the chairwoman of the Federal Reserve of corruption, claimed that the bipartisan national debate commission was rigged against him, and stated that Mrs. Clinton had not proposed a child care plan. (She has, and did so a year before he did.)

He also mocked an African-American pastor who had just welcomed him to her church, and again referred to Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who once said she had Native American roots, as "Pocahontas."

And that was all before Friday night, when Mr. Trump hinted at violence against Mrs. Clinton by inviting her Secret Service detail to disarm "and see what happens to her."

Routine falsehoods, unfounded claims and inflammatory language have long been staples of Mr. Trump's anything-goes campaign. But as the polls tighten and November nears, his behavior, and the implications for the country should he become president, are alarming veteran political observers -- and leaving them deeply worried about the precedent being set, regardless of who wins the White House.

"It's frightening," said Vin Weber, a former Republican congressman from Minnesota. "Our politics, because of him, is descending to the level of a third-world country. There's just nothing beneath him. And I don't know why we would think he would change if he became president. That's what's really scary."

Stephen Hess, who served in the Eisenhower and Nixon administrations, could not even contemplate the prospect of Mr. Trump as commander in chief.

"It's incredibly depressing," Mr. Hess said of Mr. Trump. "He's the most profoundly ignorant man I've ever seen at this level in terms of understanding the American presidency, and, even more troubling, he makes no effort to learn anything."

Posted by orrinj at 7:36 AM


Most states on track to meet emissions targets they call burden (Nichola Groom and Valerie Volcovici, 9/18/16, Reuters)

The 27 states challenging Obama's Clean Power Plan in court say the lower emissions levels it would impose are an undue burden. But most are likely to hit them anyway.

Already, Arkansas, North Carolina, Oklahoma and South Dakota appear to be meeting the CPP's early targets. And changes in the power market, along with policies favoring clean generation, are propelling most of the rest toward timely compliance, according to researchers, power producers and officials, as well as government filings reviewed by Reuters.

"We are seeing reductions earlier than we ever expected," U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy said in an interview. "It's a great sign that the market has already shifted and people are invested in the newer technologies, even while we are in litigation." [...]

[I]n a reflection of how rapidly the power market is shifting, the U.S. government's Energy Information Administration earlier this year reduced its forecast for 2030 power plant carbon emissions by nearly 11 percent, without factoring in reductions that may be generated by the Clean Power Plan.

Posted by orrinj at 7:31 AM


Islamic State shoots down Syrian warplane: Amaq news agency, monitor (Reuters, 9/18/16)

Islamic State shot down a Syrian military plane in the eastern Syrian city of Deir al-Zor, the Islamic State-affiliated news agency Amaq said on Sunday.

"A Syrian warplane belonging to the Syrian regime was brought down when targeted by fighters from the Islamic State in the city of Deir al-Zor," Amaq said in an online statement.

Posted by orrinj at 6:56 AM


Would decentralizing Syria offer a path to peace? (David Iaconangelo, SEPTEMBER 17, 2016, CS Monitor)

[T]he apparent differences in what each party involved means when they say "federalism" may illustrate how much diplomatic work separates the country from such a solution.

For the Russians, it would include appointing members of government based on their ethnic and religious affiliations and establishing a regional council to represent local interests - but as University of Geneva professor Vicken Cheterian noted in March, the Russian version of federatsiya would likely keep more power concentrated in the hands of a strong central state.

The Syrian government, led by Bashar al-Assad, has rejected Russia's proposals out of hand, considering decentralization to be totally off the table. As the European Council on Foreign Relations wrote in a report released earlier this month, the regime is bound partly by its "nationalist credentials," a source of legitimacy for the Alawite minority that compose most of its ranks. And it also fears that once decentralization kicks off, the regime could eventually collapse.  [...]

The European Council's report cites a survey showing that a majority of Syrians living in opposition-held areas favor decentralization, and the opposition has welcomed such moves in the past. But they don't want an outright partition, either. And as the report says, "many Syrians, across both the opposition and the regime, share the perception that any move towards decentralisation would mean the eventual partition of the country."

The Council goes on to outline a decentralized Syria that focuses just as much on economic fairness as political representation. In the years leading up to the war, it noted, the Assad regime had pulled back from distributing services and investment across much of the country, concentrating it in the west, where it still exercises control.

Along with giving more power to local districts, it said, a decentralized Syria should distribute oil revenues, public investment and state jobs between governates according to population.

"The reality of five years of conflict has made clear, at least to some on the opposition side, that major reform of the system of governance is unavoidable."

The two simple realities are that there is no nation and Assad won't get to govern any of it.

September 17, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 5:09 PM


A Trump Empire Built on Inside Connections and $885 Million in Tax Breaks (CHARLES V. BAGLISEPT. 17, 2016, NY Times)

[T]hat book, and numerous interviews over the years, make little mention of a crucial factor in getting the hotel built: an extraordinary 40-year tax break that has cost New York City $360 million to date in forgiven, or uncollected, taxes, with four years still to run, on a property that cost only $120 million to build in 1980.

The project set the pattern for Mr. Trump's New York career: He used his father's, and, later, his own, extensive political connections, and relied on a huge amount of assistance from the government and taxpayers in the form of tax breaks, grants and incentives to benefit the 15 buildings at the core of his Manhattan real estate empire.

Since then, Mr. Trump has reaped at least $885 million in tax breaks, grants and other subsidies for luxury apartments, hotels and office buildings in New York, according to city tax, housing and finance records. The subsidies helped him lower his own costs and sell apartments at higher prices because of their reduced taxes.

...a wealthy old white male on welfare...

Posted by orrinj at 4:41 PM


Canadian novelist W.P. Kinsella, who wrote book that became hit 1989 movie 'Field of Dreams,' dies at 81 (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, September 17, 2016)

In the 1982 novel "Shoeless Joe," a farmer hears a voice telling him to build a baseball diamond in his corn fields. When he does, Shoeless Joe Jackson and other baseball players of yesteryear come to play. It became the blueprint for the 1989 Oscar-nominated movie, which starred Kevin Costner, James Earl Jones and Ray Liotta.

Key turns of phrases in Kinsella's book -- "If you build it, they will come" and "Go the distance" -- have taken their place in literature's lexicon and among Hollywood's most memorable movie lines. [...]

Kinsella brought back to life Moonlight Graham, who played one major league baseball game but never got to bat. The author noticed Graham's name while thumbing through the Baseball Encyclopedia he had received as a Christmas gift from his father-in-law.

"I found this entry for Moonlight Graham. How could anyone come up with that nickname? He played one game but did not get to bat. I was intrigued, and I made a note that I intended to write something about him," Kinsella told The Associated Press in 2005 on the 100th anniversary of the only game Graham played in the majors.

Posted by orrinj at 2:32 PM


Syria Says U.S.-Led Coalition Bombed Syrian Troops (Radio Liberty, September 17, 2016)

The Syrian military says warplanes from the U.S.-led coalition battling Islamist militants in Syria and Iraq has bombed a Syrian Army base in eastern Syria. 

The Syrian military said in a statement issued on September 17 that the multiple air strikes on its base in the Deir al-Zor Province had resulted in casualties and damage to military equipment.

Posted by orrinj at 2:26 PM


How Methodists Invented Your Kid's Grape Juice Sugar High (Luke T. Harrington, September 2016, Christianity Today)

Grape juice wasn't a thing until 1869.

That may surprise you. There have always been grapes, and they've always had juice, right? Well, See, the thing about grapes is that their juice is loaded with sugar, and their skins naturally cultivate yeast, so the moment you squash a grape, the yeast gets in the sugary juice and starts turning it into alcohol. The label on that thousand-dollar bottle of cabernet you've got in your cellar might tell you otherwise, but, like most of Francis Ford Coppola's career, winemaking is something a toddler could do by accident.

Prior to the post-Civil War era, if you wanted your grapes to last past next Tuesday, you only had two options: Dry them out and make raisins, or squash them to make wine--and since raisins are only useful for ruining perfectly good cookies, there was really only one option. This was okay, though, because--according to the psalmist, at least--wine is a gift from God:

He makes grass grow for the cattle,
and plants for people to cultivate--
bringing forth food from the earth:
wine that gladdens human hearts,
oil to make their faces shine,
and bread that sustains their hearts. (Ps. 104:14-15)

Christians generally recognized this as true--that is, until Methodists decided it wasn't true sometime in the early 19th century.

To be fair, alcohol truly had become a blight on society at the time, thanks to the (also surprisingly recent) 1822 invention of the column still, which suddenly made hard liquor plentiful and cheap: destroying entire families, neighborhoods, and cocktails in the process. Horrified by the havoc alcohol was wreaking, Methodists began the Temperance movement and pushed for total prohibition of alcohol. (So, if you want, you could blame early Methodists for Al Capone.)

The problem with the Christian campaign for prohibition, of course, was that throughout the entirety of church history to that point, the most sacred of Christian rituals had involved the consumption of wine. We couldn't exactly crusade against alcohol while also drinking the stuff, could we?

Enter Methodist pastor Thomas Bramwell Welch. Yes, that Welch.

...because we use white bread too.
Posted by orrinj at 2:21 PM


Trump says Clinton's guards should drop their guns 'and see what happens to her' (JONATHAN LEMIRE, September 17, 2016, Times of Israel)

"I think that her bodyguards should drop all weapons. They should disarm, right?" Trump asked the crowd. "Take their guns away, she doesn't want guns. Take their -- and let's see what happens to her. Take their guns away. OK, it would be very dangerous."

Posted by orrinj at 2:16 PM


Any Given Sunday: Patriots Over Cardinals (Sterling Xie, 9/12/16, Football Outsiders)

This is supposed to be a column about underdogs. While there have been many ways to describe the Patriots during the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick era, rarely has the underdog label been an appropriate one. Headed into 2016, the Pats had been underdogs in just 50 regular season games since 2001, by far the lowest total in the league. New England had also posted the best winning percentage in games as underdogs, going 29-21. Only the Pittsburgh Steelers, who have gone 35-31 in 66 such games (the second-lowest total in the league), also finished above .500 as underdogs. [...]

Starting Jimmy Garoppolo in place of Brady is one thing, but throwing Garoppolo out there minus Rob Gronkowski, Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer, Jonathan Cooper, and Dion Lewis sounded like borderline endangerment. Based on the personnel, one might not have faulted Bill Belichick for dusting off his game plan from the Week 17 contest at Miami last year, when his primary goal was ostensibly to run out the clock ASAP and get out healthy.

Instead, Belichick and Josh McDaniels designed a game plan which was certainly kid-proofed but not entirely different from what you might expect from a typical New England offense. The Pats did run the ball on 13 out of 25 first-down plays (excluding the game-ending kneel down), and a few of those passes only came after penalties which put the offense in first-and-long situations. Last year, they ran the ball on just under 44 percent of their first-down plays, which ranked 28th. Additionally, we saw none of the hurry-up tempo which has become a fixture under Brady and which might have made sense against an athletic well-schemed defense like Arizona's. For lack of a better term, taking the air out of the ball was critical to New England's offensive game plan.

Posted by orrinj at 2:06 PM


Sunni Islam riven anew by ancient dispute (SAMER AL-ATRUSH, September 17, 2016 AFP) 

An old rift at the heart of Sunni Islam that once saw clerics brawl outside a mosque in medieval Baghdad has emerged again, only this time they are fighting it out on social media.

Clerics from around the world met in August in Grozny to define Sunnism and oppose extremism at a conference hosted by Chechnya's eccentric strongman Ramzan Kadyrov.

The gathering excluded the Salafis, the official school of thought in Saudi Arabia, and was dominated by the Ashaaris -- the main school of Sunni theologians elsewhere in the Middle East.

The clerics provoked outrage in Saudi Arabia when they issued a concluding statement defining Sunni theology as Ashaari and Maturidi -- a similar school of thought -- while not mentioning the Salafis.

September 16, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 6:56 PM


The Quest for Home Utility Bills of...Zero (GABRIEL KAHN, Sept. 13, 2016, WSJ)

The KB Home development here looks like any other middle-class subdivision in Southern California--rows of stucco houses with tiled roofs and two-car garages--except for the sticker on the entryway of one of its showcase units.

The sticker displays the average monthly cost to heat and cool the home and run the appliances: $119, compared with $252 for a standard-built home of similar size. If an owner adds solar panels, the monthly bill would drop to near zero. [...]

By 2020, the California Energy Commission plans to require every new residential building to meet a code called "zero net energy." Under ZNE, over the course of a year a new house should consume no more energy than it generates from sources such as rooftop solar panels.

The state is still writing the rules that will define exactly how builders are supposed to meet the goal, and some warn the plan is so ambitious that regulators will be forced to roll back deadlines. But the Energy Commission insists it is sticking to its timetable. By 2030, the mandate is set to expand to all new commercial buildings as well.

The commission has been trying to nudge home builders and makers of everything from windows to thermostats toward these goals for years. When the standards do take effect, they will unleash a ripple effect across the construction industry, building-supply sector, even the providers of mortgages and home insurance.
"We are sending a market signal, and we've been sending it since the mid-2000s," says commission member Andrew McAllister. "Not that they don't grumble about it."

California's determination to wring efficiency from building design is a sign of how energy policy has moved to new fronts beyond drilling rights, pipelines and power generation. While building-efficiency measures here date to the 1970s, they have taken on greater urgency since Gov. Jerry Brown recently ratcheted up the state's policies designed to address climate change: By 2050 California aims to reduce its greenhouse-gas emissions to 80% below the levels it produced in 1990.

Posted by orrinj at 6:51 PM


Why Hamilton--Not Jefferson--Is the Father of the American Economy (Stephen S. Cohen and J. Bradford DeLong, 2/16/16, Fortune)

Before Hamilton, it was the Jeffersonian economic mold, the mold that Britain had imposed through its mercantilist colonial policy, into which the American economy was being poured. Jefferson wanted to cut America loose politically from what he saw as the corruption of Imperial Britain. But he had no major quarrel with the un-industrialized agrarian economy that the British Empire was designing America to be.

Hamilton, a New Yorker, thought differently: that liberty could spring from the city as well as the countryside, and that prosperous market economies needed big pushes to get themselves going. And so Hamilton pushed the United States into a pro-industrialization, high-tariff, pro-finance, big-infrastructure political economy, and that push set in motion a self-sustaining process.

Representatives of both western farmers and New England manufacturing workers saw that it was good for them to impose high tariffs on imported British goods, and use the revenue to build the infrastructure for an America that would not just be Europe's farmer, logger, and miner, but a manufacturer and a researcher in its own right.

After Hamilton, the U.S. economy was different. It was a bet on manufacturing, technologies, infrastructure, commerce, corporations, finance, and government support of innovation. That turned out to be good for more than just farmers and the bosses and workers: it turned out to be good for the country as a whole.

Urban commercial prosperity was essential for a good and a free society. A desperately poor urban population could not be supporters of liberty. And a rural society--even a frugally prosperous one--that lacked a critical manufacturing capability could not defend itself against empire building by Britain, France, the Netherlands, or Spain. At best, it would be dependent on unwanted and unfair foreign alliances. 

[T]he United States we have today is not Jefferson's, but Hamilton's. Why? Because once the Hamiltonian system was set, it stuck. It worked. And so, very quickly it became too strong and too useful to too many powerful groups for any political coalition to dismantle it.

Hamilton's system was constructed of four drivers that reinforced one another, not just economically but politically: high tariffs; high spending on infrastructure; assumption of the states' debts by the federal government; and a central bank.

The economy was to be reshaped to promote industry. And the principal instrument for this was a high tariff on manufactured imports from Britain, the traditional world-dominant manufacturer.

The tariff would provide the incentive to invest in the development of manufacturing technologies and would subsidize the nascent manufacturing firms that would make those investments.

It was also to be the major source of federal government revenues, and would thus support an extensive program of infrastructure development. This was vital for territorial expansion and economic development, and for adding the critical political support of the western farmers to the northern coastal commercial and labor interests.

But that was not all. The tariff was also the instrument that permitted the federal government to credibly assume states' debts incurred to fund the Revolutionary War, thus strengthening the central government (central to Hamilton's plans).

The creation of a federal government debt also constituted the basis of a new and vigorous financial market. No wonder then that in Hamilton's strong and settled opinion: "a national debt, if it is not excessive, will be to us a national blessing."

Posted by orrinj at 3:14 PM


Donald Trump Jr. Said In 2012 He Wanted Pro-Life Positions Abandoned (HANK BERRIEN, SEPTEMBER 16, 2016, Daily Wire)

The pro-life movement that has decided to embrace Donald Trump knows of Trump's flip-flops on abortion, his silence when the Supreme Court overturned Texas' abortion regulations, and his praise of Planned Parenthood, including his statement that the government should continue to fund it; they should know that Trump's history is about as left-wing on abortion as a GOP presidential nominee's could be.

As Penny Nance, who heads the social conservative group Concerned Women for America, said when Trump was silent regarding the SCOTUS decision in June, "This is the biggest abortion decision that has come down in years and Hillary Clinton was quick to comment--was all over Twitter--and yet we heard crickets from Donald Trump. I'm still waiting. I'm still waiting. He needs to say something."

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

As The Daily Beast reports, Donald Trump Jr. said in a 2012 radio interview that he favored abortion rights and couldn't understand why anyone would want to restrict it. He stated, "I don't even understand how it's a political issue. I don't understand how there is one issue for voters for that. I don't understand how you can tell someone what they can or can't do. I can't buy into the abortion argument. I wish the Republicans would drop it as part of their platform."

Posted by orrinj at 3:03 PM


Russia is seriously running out of cash (Ivana Kottasova, September 16, 2016, CNNN Money)

After almost two years in recession, the country's rainy day fund has shrunk to just $32.2 billion this month, according to the Russian Finance Ministry. It was $91.7 billion in September 2014, just before oil prices started to collapse.

And it's getting worse. Analysts expect the fund will shrink to just $15 billion by the end of this year and dry up completely soon after that.

Posted by orrinj at 12:56 PM


California's job engine revs, quieting unemployment concerns (Natalie Kitroeff, 9/16/16, LA Times)

California employers quieted any lingering doubts about the state's economy in August, as an uptick in hiring helped absorb hoards of new job-seekers last month.  [...]

Since last August, the state has inflated payrolls by 378,000 workers -- a 2.3% gain. Despite new paid-leave mandates, a rising minimum wage and strict environmental regulations, California has managed to grow faster than the rest of the country for several months. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:53 PM


Obama enlists Republican Kasich to strategize on TPP passage (Roberta Rampton, 9/16/16, Reuters)

U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday engaged Ohio Governor John Kasich, a high-profile political foe, to help press Republicans to approve the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal before he leaves office in four months.

Obama discussed strategy for how to overcome domestic political angst over the TPP with Kasich, who fell short in his bid to be the Republican presidential candidate, and arranged for him to speak with reporters afterward from the White House briefing room lectern.

Posted by orrinj at 12:49 PM


The Chevrolet Bolt Is a Quiet Revolution : It makes electric vehicles plausible in a way no other car has. (Daniel Gross, 9/16/16, Slate)

On environmental grounds, it fulfills the promise of emissions-free driving. (Especially if the electricity that charges the battery comes from solar panels.) Functionally, the Bolt is fun to drive, as I learned test-driving one in Manhattan this week. Instead of feeling like a golf cart in electric mode--as the Toyota Prius plug-in does--the Bolt zipped with sufficient pace to let me cut off several drivers and run yellow lights in the congested streets of midtown. (It also has a regenerative mode, in which simply easing off the accelerator causes the car to brake and recharge the batteries.)

But it's the car's range that contributes most to its plausibility. GM believes that 200 miles is an important psychological barrier for potential purchasers of all-electric cars. The Bolt easily surpasses that. Which means you could drive from New York to Boston without stopping for juice. If you're simply driving around town, you could go a week between charges. And there are plenty of gas-powered cars that need to be refueled every 238 miles. Even if it won't wholly eliminate range anxiety, the Bolt should alleviate a lot of it.

Finally, the Bolt is plausible financially. Iterative engineering gets us better and more effective stuff for the same price or lower. This is glaringly obvious when it comes to products like computers and phones, whose prices fall even as their functionality increases exponentially. But it's also true for anything that runs on a combination of motors, electronics, and software--washers, dryers, refrigerators, freezers, and, yes, cars. The Bolt has about nine times the electric range of the 2010 Volt, is packed with many more functions, and costs $37,000. (When you account for inflation, the price drop from the first Volt is even more impressive.) GM points out that, after the $7,000 federal tax credit, the Bolt will cost about $30,000--less than the average price paid for a new car sold in the U.S.

Posted by orrinj at 12:34 PM


U.S. household net worth rose to $89.1 trillion in second quarter: Fed (Reuters, 9/16/16)

The net worth of U.S. households increased in the second quarter as a rebound in stock market prices and further gains in real estate values bolstered wealth, a report by the Federal Reserve showed on Friday.

September 15, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 4:18 PM


Trump's Visit To Flint Didn't Go Well, Wasn't Invited 'To Make A Political Speech' (Chris White, 09/15/2016, Daily Caller)

Videos show Trump getting jeered by citizens and harangued for refusing to release his tax returns.

Things got worse and awkward thereafter, as the church's pastor interrupted Trump's speech to rebuke him for needling Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

"Hillary failed on the economy, just like she's failed on foreign policy," Trump told those in attendance. "Everything she touched didn't work out, nothing. Now Hillary Clinton..."

"Excuse me, Mr. Trump," the pastor interrupted. "I invited you here to thank us for what we've done in Flint, not to make a political speech."

Posted by orrinj at 4:15 PM


The power of magical thinking : Feelings-first voters have found a voice in Donald Trump (The Economist, Sep 15th 2016)

FOR some voters, fact and feeling are one and the same. To them unseen forces can be omnipotent and scientific explanations a mere distraction. But until recently, this sort of "magical thinking" knew no political party. 

That may be changing. Eric Oliver, a political scientist at the University of Chicago, argues in a forthcoming book that Donald Trump's unexpected rise to the top of the Republican Party is "further evidence of the ontological split in American politics" between conspiracists and empiricists. The central schism in American politics may be less between liberals and conservatives than "intuitionists" and "rationalists", Mr Oliver argues. After all, the intuitionists now have a candidate: From his "birther" idea that Barack Obama was not born an American to his recent insinuations that the president is in cahoots with Islamic State, Mr Trump's political political career has been grounded in conspiracy theory. Many of his supporters seem to be similarly unpreoccupied with truth.

Following Mr Oliver's work, we asked YouGov to poll American voters and measure different elements of magical thinking, including conspiracism and "pessimism", or the tendency to believe that terrible things, like a terrorist attack or war with Russia, would happen soon.

Conspiracy has a perhaps an unfair association with fringy, foil-hatted types; in fact 60% of the 2,600 people surveyed in our sample expressed belief in at least one of the six theories we asked about. Alongside questions about chemtrails, telepathy and the disproven vaccine-autism relationship, we also asked whether the September 11 attacks were an inside job, the American government has made contact with aliens and whether Wall Street colluded to crash the global economy in 2008 (the most popular, with 35% agreeing). 

Both pessimism and belief in conspiracy theories were associated with support for Mr Trump, even when we controlled for party identification, religion and demographics. Indeed 55% of voters who scored positively on our conspiracism index favoured Mr Trump, compared with 44% of their less superstitious peers.

Improbably enough, Hillary wears the pants in this relationship.

Posted by orrinj at 4:11 PM


America's $38 trillion global trade deal you've never heard of (Ivana Kottasova, September 15, 2016, CNN Money)

The U.S. is negotiating a trade deal that's worth $38.5 trillion and spans 50 countries -- and most people have never heard about it.

The Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) has been in the works since April 2013 and it could soon become America's most important trade deal.

That's because services -- everything from tourism, to communication and finance -- are increasingly important for the U.S. economy. They account for three quarters of the GDP and four out of every five jobs in the U.S., according to official statistics.

Unlike in its trade of goods, the U.S. has a big surplus in services trade, meaning it exports a lot more than it imports. This surplus reached $262 billion in 2015.

The Office of the United States Trade representative said the 50 nations deal could help create more jobs and make the U.S. richer.

Posted by orrinj at 4:05 PM


What do the Clinton charities actually do and where does their money go? (Brian Mittendorf, September 14, 2016< The Conversation)

The activities of the Clinton Foundation are a source of many misconceptions, which is understandable given the wide range of them.

For starters, it's important to stress that the Clinton Foundation (unlike the Family Foundation) is an operating public charity, which means (1) it relies heavily on donations from the general public, and (2) it does not primarily act to disburse funds to other charities but rather engages in direct "on-the-ground" services.

The first point is noteworthy because the Clintons' personal giving of about $2.86 million to the foundation accounted for just 0.4 percent of its $807 million in contributions from 2010 to 2014.

Other funders include individuals (Gateway cofounder Theodore W. Waitt and former Formula One champion Michael Schumacher), foundations (Gates and Rockefeller), businesses (Coca-Cola and Barclays) and even foreign governments (Norway, Australia and Saudi Arabia).

It's also important because soliciting donations from so many other individuals and entities - some of whom had personal connections with the Clintons or interest in State Department business - is what has fueled many criticisms levied at the organization.

The second point matters because some rival politicians have used the low percentage of donations or grants that it gives to other charities as evidence it spends little on charitable works. In this case, however, the lion's share of the organization's program spending is for on-the-ground efforts. Research I conducted with a colleague demonstrates that this can actually be an indicator of greater effectiveness than grants alone.

Some of the foundation's most notable activities - and where much of its money is spent - are run by the three organizations I mentioned earlier.

The Clinton Health Access Initiative has long been the largest of the organization's initiatives and is now run as a separate legal entity. While the foundation currently retains control by appointing a majority of the board, the charity vowed on Sept. 14 to end this link and separate CHAI completely if Clinton wins in November.

CHAI has worked to secure discounted pharmaceuticals and other supplies for distribution, as well as increase opportunities for health care in over 70 countries, including India, South Africa, Vietnam and Zimbabwe.

The Clinton Global Initiative represents both the most innovative and most controversial program of the organization. CGI serves to match individuals and organizations willing to invest in projects aimed toward key public goals with charities and businesses seeking funding for their enterprises. Examples include funding loans to disabled veteran entrepreneurs and providing money for clinics in small villages in China.

In a sense, CGI serves a role similar to Uber's in providing a platform to facilitate a mutually beneficial match. In this case, the match is aimed at securing funds to achieve social goals. Like Uber, the approach has the potential to accelerate activity (as evidenced by hundreds of millions of dollars in CGI commitments in 2015 alone). Also like Uber, the organization has faced the challenge of vetting the parties it matches (as evidenced by concerns about funding being secured for a for-profit enterprise run by friends of the Clintons).

Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership also brings both praise and criticism for its unique approach. With funding from Canadian billionaire Frank Giustra and partnerships with Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, CGEP represents a hybrid model that provides capital to enterprises, many of which are for-profit, that seek to achieve Clinton Foundation goals.

Blurring the boundaries between for-profit and nonprofit activities, CGEP is ahead of the curve in seeking new ways to achieve social good (the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is another notable newcomer to this arena).

Posted by orrinj at 3:59 PM


New data contradicts the worst fears of Obamacare critics (Ethan Wolff-Mann, September 14, 2016, Yahoo!)

The study mostly details the changing landscape of how Americans are paying for health care, noting that premiums are rising more slowly, but deductibles are spiking. However, the survey also appeared to refute some main criticisms of Obamacare.

In the conference call discussing the results, HRET CEO Ken Anderson stressed two big findings that contradict criticism of Obamacare. That includes an argument by Carl's Jr. CEO Andy Puzder, who wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed in January saying, "Obamacare has caused millions of full-time jobs to become part-time."

In fact, the opposite happened: A whopping 7% of employers with more than 50 employees actually gave part-timers full-time jobs since Obamacare was officially launched in 2013. Only 2% of employers cut full-timers to part-time. However, it's important to note this full-time surge came amid other gains for American workers in 2015, as noted by a recent Census report.

And as for rising health care premiums? Well, they actually increased less than they have in ages, in part thanks to high-deductible plans that give employees more "skin in the game," as Altman noted, transferring the burden off employers.

That's an especially bad "but" there.

Posted by orrinj at 3:54 PM



Catholics now represent the latest demographic challenge for Donald Trump's presidential ambitions. As the Washington Post recently reported, a poll from the Public Religion Research Institute found that Catholic voters preferred Hillary Clinton to Trump by a crushing 23 percent margin, 55-32. With less than a third of Catholics intending to vote for him, Trump has fallen well below the support GOP candidates typically enjoy from Catholic voters. George W. Bush won the Catholic vote in his 2004 reelection, 52-47. Although John McCain and Mitt Romney both lost among Catholic voters, they still managed to win 45 percent and 48 percent, respectively. [...]

Writing in National Review earlier this summer, the political scientist Michael J. New commented that Trump's "Catholic problem" likely stemmed from Trump's harsh rhetoric on Latino immigrants who many American Catholics see positively as the future of their church, but also because of Trump's attacks on Pope Francis.

Posted by orrinj at 3:48 PM


PRIMARY TAKEAWAYS (Dan Tuohy, 9/15/16, Union Leader)

The primary election was a night for the political establishment. The party nominees for governor, Republican Chris Sununu of Newfields and Democrat Colin Van Ostern of Concord, are both members of the New Hampshire Executive Council. Sununu is the son of former Gov. John H. Sununu. Van Ostern, before working for Stonyfield Farms and Southern New Hampshire University, was a political consultant who worked for the New Hampshire Democratic Party and U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, among others.

Posted by orrinj at 3:44 PM


Nearly 10 Million U.S. Adults Considered Suicide Last Year (Mary Elizabeth Dallas, 9/15/16, HealthDay)

Posted by orrinj at 3:28 PM


The football season is upon us, and that means it's time to put your football knowledge to the test. Pool manager Orrin Judd has invited you to join Brothers Judd at Click the provided link to accept the invite and start making picks today.
Join today so our group is ready for the upcoming season!

Thanks to our friends at FSB, we've got an especially good prize for whoever gets the most right Week One:

Which had its origins in this profile, Mike Leach Is Thinking ... (S. C. GWYNNE, September 2009, Texas Monthly)

There's a game Thursday so join now and get your picks in.

Posted by orrinj at 3:18 PM


Almost all men with early prostate cancer survive 10 years, regardless of treatment (Laurie McGinley, September 14, 2016, Washington Post)

The survival rate for early-stage prostate cancer is 99 percent after 10 years, regardless of whether men undergo surgery, radiation or are "actively monitored," according to studies published Wednesday. Researchers hailed the results as good news, saying they had been expecting a survival rate of 90 percent.

Posted by orrinj at 3:05 PM


Globalization Goes National (Tyler Cowen, 9/15/16, Bloomberg View)

Globalization typically is defined as the movement of goods, services, ideas, labor and investment across national borders. But many nations lack integrated economic relations within their borders, and thus they could reap high gains from trade by opening up internally. This is happening, and its logic very much resembles that of globalization. 

In China, for instance, there has been a long history of geographical fragmentation. The Chinese economy has had a tendency to cluster around megacities, such as the Beijing-Tianjen-Hebei, Shanghai-Nanjing, or Guangzhou/Shenzhen/Hong Kong clusters. In the past, a Chinese port might have had better trade connections to Korea or California than to many parts of the Chinese interior. But these days the story in China is the rise and extension of national brands. The Internet is bringing the whole country's economy together through Alibaba, WeChat, and other services that ease the online purchase, shipping, and advertising of goods at the national level.    

You might decline to call this globalization because economic integration does not fit the formal definition of crossing national borders. But in the recent past, different regions of China were often economically like distinct nations. Domestic integration is lowering costs, smoothing out price differences and allowing differing cultures and linguistic areas to exchange ideas. So these improved internal trade relations have the economic features of globalization, whether or not they merit that exact name. [...]

India also is seeing its different states and regions being tied together through migration, trade, and investment. You can see this in the food: tandoori chicken and dosas have become national standards, available throughout the country, and less closely associated with their particular regions of origin. Hindi is becoming more of a national lingua franca, and the Internet makes it possible to broadcast the same messages to the entire country at relatively low cost. Many these "globalizing" developments have spread expertise and capital from the more developed southern and western parts of India to the poorer eastern and landlocked regions. Labor, in turn, has migrated from the poorer states to the wealthier cities.

Posted by orrinj at 12:49 PM


Hundreds of Israeli intellectuals to world Jewry: 'End occupation for Israel's sake'(TIMES OF ISRAEL AND AP September 15, 2016)

The 470 signatories include 48 winners of Israel's most prestigious awards (the Israel Prize and the EMET Prize); seven high-ranking IDF officers; twenty former Israeli Ambassadors, ministers, senior government officials and Members of Knesset; and160 professors in Israeli universities. [...]

"The prolonged occupation is inherently oppressive for Palestinians and fuels mutual bloodshed. It undermines the moral and democratic fabric of the State of Israel and hurts its standing in the community of nations," the letter argued.

The organization "Save Israel, Stop Occupation" seeks to end Israel's control of territories it won during the June 1967 Six-Day War and to establish a Palestinian state. These territories now include the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The organization's director Jessica Montell said Israel's military rule "harms Israeli society and it harms Jews around the world."

September 14, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 5:13 PM


Charge! Electric car drivers can now travel Northeast Corridor, West Coast (Ellen Powell, SEPTEMBER 14, 2016, CS Monitor)

 Last year, German car manufacturers BMW and Volkswagen partnered with ChargePoint, a Campbell, Calif. startup with offices in Arizona and India. Their goal? To install almost 100 high-speed charging stations for various electric vehicle (EV) brands along heavy-traffic routes. 

"Our mission is to get everyone into an EV, and as the number of EVs on the road increases, we're building features that ensure charging and driving an EV is a seamless experience," Pat Romano, CEO of ChargePoint, told Ars Technica. 

These charging stations are now up and running along two of the busiest stretches of highway in the US: the Northeast Corridor (along I-95) and the West Coast (on I-5 and Highway 101). That's a particular gain for California drivers, who have been buying around half of the electric cars purchased in the US. It's also an advantage for tourist destinations: the chargers have been placed along routes that branch off these highways, so that drivers can get to Cape Cod, Mass. or Lake Tahoe.

Though BMW i3 drivers get discounted charging for the first two years, the plugs are specifically designed to fit a range of brands, including the upcoming Chevy Bolt. Some charging stations even offer alternative connectors that work for cars like the Nissan Leaf.

Posted by orrinj at 5:03 PM


Dwight Yoakam Countrifies Prince's 'Purple Rain' 
Posted by orrinj at 2:37 PM


Lessons from Finland: helping homeless people starts with giving them homes : Sounds simple but Finland's housing first model shows it's always more cost-effective to try to end homelessness rather than manage it (Juha Kaakinen, 14 September 2016, The Guardian)

A recent report by the communities and local government committee on homelessness pointed out that the "housing first" model "appears to have had a positive impact in Finland". From 2008 to 2014 the number of people who were long-term homeless decreased by approximately 1,200, and homelessness continues to decrease. [...]

The housing first model is quite simple: when people are homeless, you give them housing first - a stable home, rather than progressing them through several levels of temporary and transitional accommodation. The idea stems from the belief that people who are homeless need a home, and other issues that may cause them to be at risk of homelessness can be addressed once they are in stable housing. Homeless people aren't told they must conquer their addictions or secure a job before being given a home: instead it is accepted that having a home can make solving health and social problems much easier.

Posted by orrinj at 12:59 PM


Post-Brexit vote UK current account deficit concerns may prove unfounded (Gaurav Sharma, September 14, 2016, ib tIMES)

Concerns over foreign investors' willingness to fund the UK's current account deficit in the wake of the Brexit vote are premature and may prove to be misplaced, according to Fitch Ratings.

Posted by orrinj at 12:53 PM


Colin Powell, in Hacked Email, Calls Trump 'National Disgrace' (MICHAEL D. SHEAR, SEPT. 14, 2016, NY Times)

Former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, who served as President George W. Bush's top diplomat, derided Donald J. Trump as a "national disgrace" and an "international pariah" in personal email exchanges that were leaked online Tuesday.

In the emails, reported by BuzzFeed News, Mr. Powell also accuses Mr. Trump, the Republican nominee for president, of having embraced what Mr. Powell called a "racist" movement when he questioned the validity of President Obama's birth certificate.

An aide to Mr. Powell confirmed the hack and said, "They are his emails."

"Yup, the whole birther movement was racist," Mr. Powell wrote in an email to a former aide, according to BuzzFeed. 

September 13, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:28 PM


US destroys 'Islamic State' chemical weapons plant in Iraq (Deutsche Welle, 9/13/16)

A dozen US warplanes destroyed nearly 50 targets at an "Islamic State" chemical weapons production plant in northern Iraq, the Pentagon said on Tuesday.

The barrage of airstrikes near the terrorist group's stronghold of Mosul targeted a converted pharmaceutical manufacturing plant and headquarters.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian told reporters the coordinated airstrikes on Monday took out a "significant chemical threat."

Posted by orrinj at 7:16 PM

How To Make Slow-Cooker Breakfast Casserole Kits (Kitchn)

Serves 8 to 10

What You Need

2 cups frozen diced hash brown potatoes
8 ounces cooked ham, cubed
1 cup shredded Gruyère cheese
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
Butter or cooking spray
12 large eggs
2 cups whole or 2% milk
1 teaspoon ground mustard
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 (6-ounce bag) baby spinach

Large mixing bowl
Measuring cup
Measuring spoons
6-quart or larger slow cooker

To Cook:
Prepare the slow cooker: Grease the bottom and sides of a 6-quart or larger slow cooker bowl with butter or cooking spray.

Whisk the eggs: Whisk the eggs in a large bowl until the whites and yolks are completely broken up, and the eggs are a bit frothy.

Season the eggs: Add the milk, mustard, salt, and pepper, and whisk to combine; set aside.

Assemble the casserole: Place the diced potatoes in the slow cooker in an even layer. Top evenly with the ham, spinach, and cheeses. Pour the egg mixture over the top. If necessary, use a spoon to push down the ham and cheese so that they are mostly submerged in the liquid.

Cook the casserole: Cover the slow cooker and cook on LOW for 8 hours. The casserole is ready when the eggs are set, the top is golden-brown, and the sides are browned and pull away slightly from the bowl.

Posted by orrinj at 6:46 PM


How Our Media Bubble Protects Our Ideologies : Almost all of the news and opinion we consume comes from outlets and commentators who share our politial beliefs. (Lisa Wade, 9/13/16, Pacific Standard)

How are media sources from opposing sides of the political spectrum covering the election? Most of us have no idea. We live in a media "bubble," one in which we usually only consume "friendly" material: news and opinion from outlets and commentators who share our lean.

At Facebook, employees followed a sample of 10.1 million users who publicly identified their political leanings. They then looked at the forces that created the bubble: (1) "ideological homophily," the degree to which friends shared the same leanings; (2) Facebook's algorithm, feeding you things it thinks you want to see; (3) and click-through behavior--which links were ignored and which attracted interaction.

They concluded that "individuals' choices played a stronger role in limiting exposure" to politically diverse content than did their algorithm. (You can get the data yourself here.)

At the Wall Street Journal, you can take a look at these different media bubbles side-by-side. They frame the data as what you might see in your Facebook feed if most of your friends identify as "very liberal" or "very conservative." More broadly, what the data represents is the use of Facebook data as an insight into the bigger media bubbles we all live in both on- and off-line.

Posted by orrinj at 5:21 PM



Nicotine needs you just like you need it. That sweet release of dopamine only happens if you really believe in it.

A new study in Frontiers in Psychiatry found that only smokers who thought that their cigarettes contained nicotine got the satisfaction of smoking. Anyone who was told they weren't getting nicotine -- even if it was a normal cigarette -- was left unsatisfied.

Posted by orrinj at 5:14 PM


AWESOME: Sniper Kills ISIS Executioner From Over A Mile Away (CHASE STEPHENS, SEPTEMBER 13, 2016, Daily Wire)

A British Special Air Service marksman killed a top ISIS executioner in a small village near Raqqa, Syria, as he was about to murder several hostages with a flame thrower. The sharpshooter pierced the fuel tank on the terrorist's back, incinerating him and three of his comrades who were preparing to film the execution. 

The SAS sniper fired a single .50 caliber round from his Barrett rifle from over 1640 yards away (almost 14 football fields) just seconds before the jihadists began to torch the 12 hostages alive. Shortly after the explosion, British and U.S. Special Forces arrived to free the prisoners.

Posted by orrinj at 5:04 PM


Bill Belichick's Unflappable Football Machine (JEREMY GORDON, Sep 13, 2016, WSJ)

 "'Cut off the snake's head and the body will die' doesn't apply to the New England Patriots -- because the whole team is a snake's head," writes the Ringer's Michael Baumann. "Suspend Tom Brady and knock Rob Gronkowski out with a hamstring injury, and Bill Belichick will just conjure some dunce off the bench to distribute the football to his army of Wes Welker types."

There was a twisted poetry in seeing the Patriots as actual underdogs, as opposed to the conspiratorial riffing about respect that Boston fans (and, if we're being fair, most sports fans) have indulged in for the last decade. Brady will never be a folk hero--he's too pretty, too successful, and too normal--but his suspension did carry a whiff of sporting injustice. It also begged the question of whether the team would manage to fill the gap. The last time he was out for an extended period was 2008, when he suffered a season-ending leg injury and was replaced by Matt Cassel. Nearly a decade later, it was safe to wonder whether the machine had rusted a bit. "Oh, Belichick loved this," writes Yahoo's Dan Wetzel. "It is not often New England gets to play the nobody-picked-us-card. It is not often the coach gets to prove everyone wrong and he and his crew correct, and then immediately get to flip the script and downplay it all."

Jimmy G. and the Young QBs (Peter King, 9/12/16, MMQB)

The other reason this outcome was so significant: Brady has such a command of this team and this locker room, and then he was gone, his four-game ban for the Deflategate sanction separating him from the team nine days ago. It was left to Belichick and the coaches and the remaining veterans to convey the sense of normalcy, even with Brady in limbo.

How'd they do it?

"We all just did our jobs," said veteran receiver Julian Edelman.

"It's all about tuning everything out and just doing your job," said defensive end Chris Long, in his first year in New England.

That mantra is so pervasive in Belichickland that even the alumni use it. I was in Houston on Saturday night and listened to Bill O'Brien's pre-game speech to his team, and he used some iteration of "Do your job" three times in 21 minutes.

Try as you might, you cannot get Patriots players to talk in real terms about what's going on in this difficult period. Because they know you don't do that; it can't help the team win, and Belichick insists on eliminating all the crappola that affects his team's chance to win.

"I don't think about who's out there playing," Edelman said. "That's not my job. You know Belichick: 'Ignore the noise. Don't believe the hype.'" There's little doubt he's succeeded. Walking around the locker room Sunday night, you couldn't find anyone giddy, or overly surprised, by what happened here. Train the mind, and the body will follow--as long as the body is good enough, and unselfish enough.

"That's one of the differences here," Long said. "Team-first guys. To gather all team-first guys, I'm telling you, it's hard to do. But they do it here. It matters. Jimmy's one of those. It's a next man up thing, and he can handle it."

Garoppolo isn't demonstrative, nor particularly excitable. Two men in the offensive huddle on the game-winning drive had no memory of anything he said other than the play calls. He throws with good touch. He is accurate. Midway through the fourth quarter, New England trailing for the first time all day, Garoppolo faced a third-and-15. One of the options on offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels' call was a fake screen that gave Garoppolo a couple options downfield. One was a deep throw up the left side to Danny Amendola; that's the option Garoppolo took. His throw was perfect.

Garoppolo belongs. He just does. You saw his reaction to adversity--the two lost fumbles that kept Arizona in the game--which basically was no reaction. In the span of three hours, Garoppolo proved the Patriots aren't going to be the vulnerable team everyone thought they'd be in the four games without Brady. The next three are home (Miami, Houston on a Thursday, Buffalo), and the prospects of running away with the division again are suddenly very real. "Everyone can shut up now and watch the guy get better and grow," said safety Devin McCourty. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:58 PM


Republicans Say Hillary Clinton Is Running for Obama's Third Term. Yes, Please. (Jonathan Chait, 9/13/16, New York)

One of the phrases that keeps cropping up in Republican election rhetoric is that Hillary Clinton is "running for Obama's third term." Oftentimes it is used as though the distastefulness of such a scenario is self-evident. "POTUS making no bones about it: Hillary running for Obama's third term," gloated Republican senator John Cornyn during Obama's convention speech. Republican strategist Scott Reed argues that GOP members of Congress may have abandoned their nominee 20 years ago, but "Dole was running in '96 against an incumbent with a 4.5 percent growing economy and world peace. Clinton is now running for Obama's third term." This is a bizarre line of reasoning to use against a popular, historically successful president. A third Obama term sounds awfully good, and not just in comparison to the unthinkable alternative.

To make this argument really resonate she needs to sound more like him, pushing freer trade, entitlement reform, amnesty and killing Salafi.

Posted by orrinj at 4:51 PM


Workplace wellness programs are a total sham (L.V. Anderson, 13 September 2016, Dallas Morning News)

You might think of Al Lewis, Vik Khanna and Tom Emerick as the Three Musketeers in the fight against wellness programs. Lewis is a health care consultant. Khanna worked as a consumer health advocate for the Maryland state attorney general before running wellness programs for various companies. Emerick managed health benefits for Wal-Mart for 15 years. 

Individually, they all came to realize that wellness programs alienated employees and wasted money. After Khanna accepted a job running a wellness program for a nonprofit health system, he says, "I had a light bulb moment when I realized that these people who want these wellness programs and are running them really, literally have no idea what they're doing."

Their criticisms of the industry start with two of the most common tools in the wellness program's toolbox: the health risk assessment and the biometric screening. HRAs typically offer advice that any moderately educated adult has already heard hundreds of times: Eat lots of fruits and vegetables. Exercise. Don't smoke. Get enough sleep.

HRAs can contain misinformation, too. The HRA I completed last year grouped full-fat dairy and eggs in the same category as cold cuts, fried foods and cake, even though the evidence against saturated fat is nowhere near as conclusive as the evidence against processed meats and sweets. 

In an HRA he completed to save money on his wife's health care plan last year, Khanna reports: "They tell me that I'm slightly overweight with a BMI of over 25, and that's because I'm very muscular. I'm short, but as one of my workout mates says, I'm built like a fire hydrant." 

Khanna, now 58, took up bodybuilding at the age of 17 and describes himself as "a fitness and wellness fanatic."

As Khanna's experience shows, BMI is a crude tool. It can't necessarily tell the difference between someone who's ripped and someone who's chubby; it also can't tell the difference between someone who's chubby and someone who's pregnant. 

What's more, a 2013 meta-analysis of more than 7,000 studies found that a BMI in the overweight category was associated with lower mortality than a BMI in the "normal" range; only morbid obesity was associated with higher mortality.

The other measurements taken in a typical biometric screening are a little better. Blood pressure tests are very useful for detecting hypertension, but blood pressure isn't consistent from one moment to the next. As for cholesterol tests, the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends that otherwise healthy adults get screened for lipid disorders every five years unless they have other factors that put them at risk for heart disease, and recommends glucose screenings only for people over age 40 who are overweight or obese.

The upshot is that wellness programs often recommend screenings for otherwise healthy people far more often than their doctors would. As Gilbert Welch, a professor at Dartmouth College's Geisel School of Medicine, argues in his book Less Medicine, More Health, biometric data collection can lead "people to feel more vulnerable, to be terrorized by false alarms, and to be overdiagnosed and overtreated."

Moreover, most health conditions simply aren't wellness-sensitive. They can't be prevented via lifestyle interventions. Think about multiple sclerosis, or asthma, or schizophrenia, or Crohn's disease. These conditions require ongoing treatment, sometimes in the form of expensive medications.

Further, wellness-sensitive diseases like cancer, heart attacks, stroke and diabetes usually don't hit until retirement, even among people who have had bad habits all along. 

"Most of the diseases they say they are going to prevent are diseases of aging," Khanna says. 

Lewis and Emerick's Cracking Health Costs estimates that "only about 7 percent of your total spending -- at the very most -- pays for medical events like heart attacks that are preventable through wellness."

A government-sponsored 2013 analysis of large employers' medical and wellness data by the nonprofit RAND Corporation was unable to detect a statistically significant reduction in health care costs as a result of wellness program implementation. RAND also challenged the notion that financial incentives produce thinner employees: according to their analysis, $10 in incentives is associated with 0.03 pounds of weight loss. At that rate, a company would need to spend $10,000 to get an overweight employee to lose 30 pounds.

Posted by orrinj at 4:35 PM


Median incomes are up and poverty rate down, surprisingly strong census figures show (Don Lee, 9/13/16, WSJ)
Steady job growth and the biggest earnings boost on record helped sharply lower the nation's poverty level last year and finally provided relief to the long-running problem of stagnant incomes.

In its annual report on income and poverty, the Census Bureau said Tuesday that the share of people in the U.S. living in poverty dropped to 13.5% in 2015, marking one of the biggest annual declines in decades. [...]

The bureau also reported Tuesday that the number of people in the U.S. without health insurance fell further last year to 9.1% from 10.4% in 2014. The drop was expected, thanks mostly to the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, which saw its second full year of impact in 2015.

With many more Americans signing up for private insurance through new marketplaces created by Obamacare, the number of people who were uninsured for part or all of last year came down to 29 million, from 33 million without medical coverage in 2014.

15 Facts About Poverty in US Government Buries (Robert Rector and Rachel Sheffield, 9/13/16, Daily Signal)

Poor households routinely report spending $2.40 for every $1.00 of income the Census says they have.

The average poor American lives in a house or apartment that is in good repair and has more living space than the average non-poor person in France, Germany, or England.

Eighty-five percent of poor households have air conditioning.

Nearly three-fourths of poor households have a car or truck, and 31 percent have two or more cars or trucks.

Nearly two-thirds of poor households have cable or satellite TV.

Half have a personal computer; 43 percent have internet access.

Two-thirds have at least one DVD player

More than half of poor families with children have a video game system, such as an Xbox or PlayStation.

One-third have a wide-screen plasma or LCD TV.

(The above data on electronic appliances owned by poor households come from a 2009 government survey so the ownership rates among the poor today are most likely higher.) [...]

Only 4 percent of poor parents reported that their children were hungry even once during the prior year because they could not afford food.

Some 18 percent of poor adults reported they were hungry even once in the prior year due to lack of money for food. [...]

Poverty and homelessness are sometimes confused. Over the course of a year, only 4 percent of poor persons become homeless (usually a temporary condition).

Only 9.5 percent of the poor live in mobile homes or trailers; the rest live in apartments or houses.

Forty percent of the poor own their own homes, typically, a three-bedroom house with one-and-half baths that is in good repair. [...]

The left claims that 1 in 25 families with children live in "extreme poverty" on less than $2.00 per person per day. Government surveys of self-reported spending by families show the actual number is 1 in 4,469, not 1 in 25.  

The typical family allegedly in "extreme poverty" reports spending $25 for every $1 of income the left claims they have. [...]

Why does Census identify so many individuals as "poor" who do not appear to be poor in any normal sense of the term?  The answer lies in the misleading way Census measures "poverty." Census defines a family as poor if its income falls below a specified income threshold. (For example, the poverty threshold for a family of four in 2015 was $24,036.)  But in counting "income " Census excludes nearly all welfare benefits.

Posted by orrinj at 4:20 PM


On the Cusp of an AI Revolution (Marc Benioff. SEP 13, 2016, Project Syndicate)

Every generation or so, emerging technologies converge, and something revolutionary occurs. For example, a maturing Internet, affordable bandwidth and file-compression, and Apple's iconic iPhone enabled companies such as Uber, Airbnb, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter to redefine the mobile-customer experience.

Now we are on the cusp of another major convergence: big data, machine learning, and increased computing power will soon make artificial intelligence, or AI, ubiquitous.

AI follows Albert Einstein's dictum that genius renders simplicity from complexity. So, as the world itself becomes more complex, AI will become the defining technology of the twenty-first century, just as the microprocessor was in the twentieth century.

Consumers already encounter AI on a daily basis. Google uses machine learning to autocomplete search queries and often accurately predicts what someone is looking for. Facebook and Amazon use predictive algorithms to make recommendations based on a user's reading or purchasing history. AI is the central component in self-driving cars - which can now avoid collisions and traffic congestion - and in game-playing systems like Google DeepMind's AlphaGo, a computer that beat South Korean Go master Lee Sedol in a five-game match earlier this year.

Given AI's wide applications, all companies today face an imperative to integrate it into their products and services; otherwise, they will not be able to compete with companies that are using data-collection networks to improve customer experiences and inform business decisions. The next generation of consumers will have grown up with digital technologies and will expect companies to anticipate their needs and provide instant, personalized responses to any query.

So far, AI has been too costly or complex for many businesses to make optimal use of it. It can be difficult to integrate into a business's existing operations, and historically it has required highly skilled data scientists. As a result, many businesses still make important decisions based on instinct instead of information.

Posted by orrinj at 1:54 PM


BlackRock sees $70 trillion in cash on sidelines that could boost stocks (Trevor Hunnicutt, 9/13/16, Reuters)

Stocks globally could continue to rise as interest rates remain low as investors who have stockpiled some $70 trillion in cash seek higher returns from the market, BlackRock Inc (BLK.N) president Rob Kapito said on Tuesday.

"People are tired of earning zero," Kapito said at the Barclays Global Financial Services Conference in New York, referencing slim returns on short-term savings and in bond markets.

"There's more cash in the system than ever before."

Kapito said some $10 trillion of the cash is effectively earning a negative yield, eroding savings, but that investors have found fewer opportunities to deploy money in the markets.

Posted by orrinj at 1:45 PM


We Drive the $30K Bolt, GM's Tesla-Walloping Electric Car (Alex Davies, 9/13/16, Wired)

FOR NEARLY TWO years, General Motors has promised that the Chevrolet Bolt, its affordable, long-range electric car, would deliver at least 200 miles on a charge and cost no more than $30,000 after the requisite federal tax credit.

Those two numbers are in many ways the Bolt's raison d'être, because they are widely seen as the key to overcoming range anxiety--the fear of being stranded with a dead battery--and pushing electric vehicles into the mainstream. "The 200-mile mark is huge, it's a huge thing in customers' minds," says Josh Tavel, the Bolt's chief engineer. "They believe they need it. So we gave it to 'em, in surplus."

Indeed. The EPA pegs the Bolt's range at 238 miles, General Motors announced today. I saw even more driving a pre-production Bolt down the California coast from Monterey to Santa Barbara. I put the car in park having added 239.9 miles to the odometer, and the range indicator said the battery had another 23 miles to go.

Nicely done, GM.

Delivering exceptional range is essential to GM's goal of beating Tesla in the race to deliver an EV for the masses. The Bolt is expected in showrooms within months; Musk & Co. plan to start producing the Model 3 late next year and offer it for around $35,000. Tesla has said the car will offer a range of 215 miles.

What's really remarkable about the bowtie-badged hatchback is it also tops Tesla's entry-level Model S 60 sedan, which delivers 208 miles and goes for $50,000.

Posted by orrinj at 1:35 PM


Top Israeli defense official in US to sign massive military aid deal (TIMES OF ISRAEL, September 13, 2016)

The acting head of Israel's National Security Council, Yaakov Nagel, touched down in Washington, DC, on Tuesday to sign a 10-year defense aid package deal with the US.

Posted by orrinj at 1:28 PM


Lionel Shriver's Address on Cultural Appropriation Roils a Writers Festival (ROD NORDLAND, SEPT. 12, 2016, NY Times)

Ms. Shriver had been billed as speaking on "community and belonging" but focused on her views about cultural appropriation, a term that refers to the objections by members of minority groups to the use of their customs or culture (or even characters of their ethnicity) by artists or others who do not belong to those groups.

Ms. Shriver criticized as runaway political correctness efforts to ban references to ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation from Halloween celebrations, or to prevent artists from drawing on ethnic sources for their work. Ms. Shriver, the author of 13 novels, who is best known for her 2003 book, "We Need to Talk About Kevin," was especially critical of efforts to stop novelists from cultural appropriation. She deplored critics of authors like Chris Cleave, an Englishman, for presuming to write from the point of view of a Nigerian girl in his best-selling book "Little Bee."

Ms. Shriver noted that she had been criticized for using in "The Mandibles" the character of a black woman with Alzheimer's disease, who is kept on a leash by her homeless white husband. And she defended her right to depict members of minority groups in any situation, if it served her artistic purposes.

"Otherwise, all I could write about would be smart-alecky 59-year-old 5-foot-2-inch white women from North Carolina," she said.

Ms. Shriver donned a sombrero for much of her speech -- an allusion to a case in the United States in which non-Mexican student government members were impeached for doing the same during a fiesta-themed tequila party at Bowdoin College. To frequent laughter from the audience, Ms. Shriver warned that the anti-cultural-appropriation movement that began in America had already reached Britain -- where she lives most of the year -- and might be headed to Australia.

September 12, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:23 PM


Jailed Kurdish militant says conflict with Turkey could be settled in six months: brother (Reuters, 9/12/16)

A three-decade conflict between the Turkish state and Kurdish militants could be resolved within six months if talks were to be revived, the jailed rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan said, according to remarks by his brother on Monday.

Posted by orrinj at 7:12 PM


Self-Driving Cars Can Learn a Lot by Playing Grand Theft Auto (Will Knight,  September 12, 2016, MIT Technology Review)

Spending thousands of hours playing Grand Theft Auto might have questionable benefits for humans, but it could help make computers significantly more intelligent.

Several research groups are now using the hugely popular game, which features fast cars and various nefarious activities, to train algorithms that might enable a self-driving car to navigate a real road.

There's little chance of a computer learning bad behavior by playing violent computer games. But the stunningly realistic scenery found in Grand Theft Auto and other virtual worlds could help a machine perceive elements of the real world correctly.

Posted by orrinj at 6:59 PM


CIA Director: Trump Lied About His Intelligence Briefing (JOSHUA YASMEH, SEPTEMBER 12, 2016, Daily Wire)

On Sunday, CIA director John Brennan challenged Donald Trump's suggestion last week that he could read "disapproval" of President Obama's policies in the body language of US intelligence officials who provided secret national security briefings to the candidate on August 17. [...]

The criticism didn't stop there. Several members of the intelligence community, both active and retired, voiced their outrage after hearing Trump's version of his intelligence briefing experience.  

"Our friends in the intelligence community were quite upset to hear that sort of talk," said former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Col. Steve Ganyard.  "I think if there was any discomfort, it was not signaling any personal preference or policy. It was more because they understood that what they were saying might be used against them in a way that was untrue." Ganyard routinely attended classified briefings during his time at the State Department.

George W. Bush's own briefer, former CIA director Michael Morell, also added to the chorus of condemnation.

"This is the first time that I can remember a candidate for president doing a readout from an intelligence briefing, and it's the first time a candidate has politicized their intelligence briefing," asserted Morell. "Both of those are highly inappropriate and crossed a long standing red line respected by both parties." A Hillary Clinton supporter, Morell didn't hold back any punches, adding: "To me this is just the most recent example that underscores that this guy is unfit to be commander in chief."

Posted by orrinj at 6:54 PM


Pence declines to call David Duke 'deplorable' (MATTHEW NUSSBAUM, 09/12/16, Politico)

Mike Pence declined to call former Klu Klux Klan leader David Duke "deplorable" in an interview on Monday, telling CNN's Wolf Blitzer that he's "not in the name-calling business."

It's difficult watching otherwise good men demean themselves this way.

Posted by orrinj at 6:44 PM


The 20 Happiest States in the U.S. (Jordi Lippe-McGraw, September 12, 2016, Conde Nast Traveler)

1. Utah
2. Minnesota
3. North Dakota
4. Hawaii
5. Colorado
6. Idaho
7. Iowa
8. Nebraska
9. South Dakota
10. California
11. New Hampshire
12. Washington
13. Wyoming
14. Vermont
15. Wisconsin
16. Massachusetts
17. Connecticut
18. District of Columbia
19. Delaware
20. New Jersey

Posted by orrinj at 6:35 PM


Trump's 'Take the Oil' Madness : If the Republican candidate followed through on his frequent calls to take Iraq's oil, we'd be looking at hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops back in the Middle East. (Bruce Riedel, 09.12.16, Daily Beast)

In fact, America "taking the oil" would destroy immediately the coalition fighting the Islamic State and eviscerate the struggle against al Qaeda as well.  Both terrorist groups would argue they had been right all along: America only wanted Islam's oil.  The two rivals might reunite.  Recruitment of extremist fighters would skyrocket.

No Muslim state would host American troops or cooperate with counter-terrorist operations.  Friendly Arab governments like Jordan would have to break ties with Washington or face massive unrest.  Americans traveling in the Islamic world from Morocco to Indonesia would be at risk.  Sunnis and Shia alike would stalk Americans.

None of our Western allies would support taking the oil.  (Canada would have to wonder if Alberta is next.)  The Europeans would see such a naked land grab as a return to the era of Hitler and Stalin.

Russia, on the other hand, would claim its seizure of Crimea was post facto legitimized.  Trump and Vladimir Putin would be fellow war criminals. China would be tempted to go for more influence in the South China Sea. The growing American-Indian rapprochement would be endangered, if not broken completely. [...]

Taking the oil is the most dangerous and irresponsible of all of the Republican nominee's policy proposals.  It's one he has repeated often.  If you want permanent war in the Middle East and a titanic clash of cultures between Islam and America, it's your best bet.

Nevermind any of the morality at play, just consider how much more the oil would cost.
Posted by orrinj at 5:06 PM


Trump Says Fed Policy He Supported is Now a Partisan Conspiracy (BENJY SARLIN, 9/12/16, NBC)

In May, Donald Trump thought the Federal Reserve handled interest rates exactly right.

"Right now I am for low interest rates, and I think we keep them low," he told CNBC.

Today, he said Fed chair Janet Yellen's interest rate decisions proved she was "obviously not independent" from the White House and was, in fact, a partisan conspirator out to help Democrats.

Posted by orrinj at 5:01 PM


After a year of Corbyn, Labour more unpopular than ever (AFP, September 12, 2016)

One year after his election, Jeremy Corbyn is leading the most unpopular opposition Labour Party in British history, according to an analysis of polls published Monday

Labour is currently trailing the ruling Conservatives by an average of 11 points, according to the Nuffield series of British General Election studies.

The further a party leader distances himself from the Third Way the lower his chances of winning an election in the English-speaking/Scandinavian world.

Posted by orrinj at 4:57 PM


Donald Trump Jr. posts Instagram photo of himself grouped with alt-right symbol Pepe the Frog (JTA, September 12, 2016)

Donald Trump Jr. posted to Instagram a movie poster parody of himself heroically grouped with others deemed "The Deplorables," including a cartoon frog that has become a popular symbol for white supremacists. [...]

Pepe is a cartoon frog who has been ubiquitous on the internet over the last decade, but who in the last year or so has become popular as the flag-bearer of the alt-right, which advances an insular conservatism favoring white people. [...]

In the picture, too, are Alex Jones, the radio host and conspiracy theorist, and Milo Yiannopoulos, a writer who has celebrated the rise of the alt-right as it has attached itself to Trump's candidacy, despite the nominee's occasional expressions rejecting the movement.

Posted by orrinj at 4:49 PM


NFL Week 1 Recap: The Patriots Just Won't Die (Robert Mays, 9/12/16, The Ringer)

Especially with New England's patchwork offensive line, the Cardinals came into Week 1 holding two distinct advantages: Their solid front four would face another reworked Patriots line featuring second-tier options like Cameron Fleming, Ted Karras, and Marcus Cannon, and cornerback Patrick Peterson would likely smother whichever receiver the Pats were willing to sacrifice to his side. McDaniels responded by taking both matchups out of the equation. New England's receivers ran routes that were specifically designed to exploit the man coverage that Arizona loves, and a majority of the Patriots' plays were aimed at rookie cornerback Brandon Williams.

By giving his QB quick throws dictated almost entirely by the coverage, McDaniels both simplified Garoppolo's approach and made any offensive line deficiencies irrelevant. Wideout Julian Edelman's ability to win early on routes when singled up on cornerbacks is remarkable, and with tight end Rob Gronkowski nursing a left hamstring injury back in Boston, Edelman was the focal point of New England's passing game. He caught all seven of his targets for 66 yards, and made three grabs for first downs on the Patriots' opening drive of the game. His value to this offense will probably never get its due given the planet-destroying potency of Brady and Gronk, but it was on full display.

Having a steady weapon like Edelman was crucial in getting Garoppolo acclimated, but in his first meaningful action, the 24-year-old quarterback did more than simply lean on the Pats' no. 1 receiver. Williams was caught staring into the backfield on the 37-yard touchdown that Garoppolo threw to Chris Hogan on New England's opening drive, but the ball placement and decision to take a shot against single coverage would have been on point either way.

For most of the game, Garoppolo embodied the "Do what we tell you to do, and it'll work out just fine" ethos that defines Belichick's Patriots. But as Arizona made second-half adjustments, the quarterback showed off enough improv ability to make it clear that New England will remain in good hands even when things don't go perfectly according to plan in these next three weeks without Brady.

Arizona's choice to play more zone in the second half meant that Garoppolo had fewer instant decisions, but he was still up to the task when it mattered. His subtle mobility is the one advantage Garoppolo has over his two-time MVP predecessor, and it will serve him well playing behind New England's line for the rest of the month. It also led to his defining play of the night, a 32-yard strike that Garoppolo delivered to Danny Amendola on a third-and-15 after dodging the rush and moving up and out of the pocket. That fourth-quarter drive culminated with a Stephen Gostkowski field goal that put the Patriots ahead by two points. Despite Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald's predictable, late-game heroics, that lead would prove to be enough.

The lesson here is twofold: First, Las Vegas should never list the Pats as 9.5-point underdogs, even if Belichick benches Garoppolo and starts himself at quarterback. Second, New England is well positioned not only to survive in Brady's four-game absence, but to cruise in the AFC East. The Jets, Bills, and Dolphins all lost Sunday.

They were a better team with Matt Cassell--because of the increased mobility at QB--too.  If they win these 4, they'll be 15-5 without Brady.

Posted by orrinj at 4:42 PM


Do Half of Trump's Supporters Really Belong in a "Basket of Deplorables"? (Jamelle Bouie, 9/12/16, Slate)

"[H]alf" wasn't wrong. "Half" wasn't a gross generalization at all. "Half" was by all indications close to the truth.

When pollsters and researchers want to measure racial bias, they don't ask if respondents are "racist"; the stigma of being a racist is strong enough that most people won't answer honestly, to say nothing of the fact that racial prejudice exists on a continuum. A binary answer doesn't capture the complexity of bias and bigotry. Instead, they ask proxy questions that try to capture attitudes associated with racism. One such question--asked in multiple surveys by Public Policy Polling, a Democratic polling firm--is whether respondents believe President Obama was born in the United States and whether they believe he's a Muslim. These questions begin to scratch the surface of racial bias. And what are the results? In one survey, two-thirds of Republicans with a favorable opinion of Donald Trump said that Obama is a Muslim, and 59 percent said he wasn't born in the United States.

There's other data too. In June, Reuters measured the racial attitudes of Clinton, Trump, Ted Cruz, and John Kasich supporters. A significant number of supporters for each candidate voiced negative attitudes about black Americans. But Trump backers stood out in their animus. Nearly 50 percent said blacks were "more violent" than whites; almost as many said that blacks were "more criminal than whites." More than 40 percent said that blacks were "more rude" than whites, and more than 30 percent said that blacks were "lazier" than whites.

Perhaps the best data on questions of race and Trump comes from political scientist Jason McDaniel of San Francisco State University and Sean McElwee, a research associate at Demos, a left-leaning think tank. Using the 2016 pilot of the American National Election Study, conducted in January, they drill down on racial attitudes among Trump supporters. Given what we already know, their results shouldn't come as a shock. More than 40 percent of all Republicans and more than 60 percent of Trump supporters say that Barack Obama is a Muslim. Compared with those who backed other candidates in the GOP primary, Trump supporters have cooler feelings toward blacks, Hispanics, Muslims, and LGBTQ Americans, and warmer feelings toward whites. By sizable margins, according to McElwee's analysis of ANES, Trump supporters are more likely than non-Trump supporters to believe that blacks, Hispanics, and Muslims are lazier and more violent than whites. More than 60 percent of Trump supporters believe black people are more violent than whites; nearly 50 percent of non-Trump Republicans say this. More than 70 percent of Trump supporters believe Muslim people are more violent than whites; roughly 60 percent of non-Trump Republicans say this. These are deplorable views, and they represent the consensus opinion not just of Trump supporters but of all Republicans in the survey. If the study is at all reflective of the population at large on this score, we're going to need a bigger basket.

Despite this readily available information, many reporters and pundits are still skeptical that any large number of Americans could hold explicitly racist views. "Saying racists are racists isn't bigoted. Calling a quarter of the country racist is [obviously] discriminatory," tweeted Josh Kraushaar of National Journal, overstating the percentage of Trump backers in the general population. (In the RealClearPolitics average of the presidential race, Trump takes support from 42.9 percent of registered or likely voters. Half of that, given more than 146 million registered voters, is about 31 million people--right around 13 percent of all voting-age adults.)

The other half should just be ashamed of themselves.

Posted by orrinj at 4:35 PM


Wars in Iraq, Afghanistan Have Cost the US Nearly $5 Trillion (Ciro Scotti, September 12, 2016, Reuters)

In a new update on the devastating economic cost, the Watson Institute's Costs of War Project says the U.S. has spent or is on the hook for $4.8 trillion and could wind up paying out almost $8 trillion when the final accounting is done.

The $4.8 trillion includes "direct congressional war appropriations; war-related increases to the Pentagon base budget; veterans care and disability; increases in the homeland security budget; interest payments on direct war borrowing; foreign assistance spending; and estimated future obligations for veterans' care.

Sure, that's chump change to defeat the Wahabbi/Salafists, given an $18 trillion GDP, but there are lots of good things we can spend the next $8 trillion on.

Posted by orrinj at 4:19 PM


Fed's Kashkari sees cure for slow growth in immigration, tax reform (Reuters, 9/12/16)

"Monetary policy is largely doing what it can to support a robust recovery, and what remains are fiscal and regulatory policies," Kashkari wrote in the essay, published on the last day before Fed officials enter a weeklong communications blackout prior to each policy-setting meeting. [...]

[T]he government could boost spending on basic research, rebuild worn-out infrastructure, streamline regulations and the tax code, and otherwise take small steps with little downside risk and plenty of potential.

"Another promising policy is immigration reform, especially for high-skilled workers," Kashkari wrote.

Posted by orrinj at 4:06 PM


In apparent split with PM, Liberman calls for moving Arab Israelis to future Palestinian state (JUDAH ARI GROSS September 12, 2016, Times of Israel)

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman called Monday for the transfer of Israel's Arab population to a future Palestinian state as part of any peace plan, in an apparent split with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who last week claimed "no one would seriously" consider such a move.

September 11, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:23 PM


Noise: How to Overcome the High, Hidden Cost of Inconsistent Decision Making (Daniel Kahneman, Andrew M. Rosenfield, Linnea Gandhi, Tom Blaser, October 2016, Harvard Business Review)

At a global financial services firm we worked with, a longtime customer accidentally submitted the same application file to two offices. Though the employees who reviewed the file were supposed to follow the same guidelines--and thus arrive at similar outcomes--the separate offices returned very different quotes. Taken aback, the customer gave the business to a competitor. From the point of view of the firm, employees in the same role should have been interchangeable, but in this case they were not. Unfortunately, this is a common problem.

Professionals in many organizations are assigned arbitrarily to cases: appraisers in credit-rating agencies, physicians in emergency rooms, underwriters of loans and insurance, and others. Organizations expect consistency from these professionals: Identical cases should be treated similarly, if not identically. The problem is that humans are unreliable decision makers; their judgments are strongly influenced by irrelevant factors, such as their current mood, the time since their last meal, and the weather. We call the chance variability of judgments noise. It is an invisible tax on the bottom line of many companies.

Some jobs are noise-free. Clerks at a bank or a post office perform complex tasks, but they must follow strict rules that limit subjective judgment and guarantee, by design, that identical cases will be treated identically. In contrast, medical professionals, loan officers, project managers, judges, and executives all make judgment calls, which are guided by informal experience and general principles rather than by rigid rules. And if they don't reach precisely the same answer that every other person in their role would, that's acceptable; this is what we mean when we say that a decision is "a matter of judgment." A firm whose employees exercise judgment does not expect decisions to be entirely free of noise. But often noise is far above the level that executives would consider tolerable--and they are completely unaware of it.

The prevalence of noise has been demonstrated in several studies. Academic researchers have repeatedly confirmed that professionals often contradict their own prior judgments when given the same data on different occasions. For instance, when software developers were asked on two separate days to estimate the completion time for a given task, the hours they projected differed by 71%, on average. When pathologists made two assessments of the severity of biopsy results, the correlation between their ratings was only .61 (out of a perfect 1.0), indicating that they made inconsistent diagnoses quite frequently. Judgments made by different people are even more likely to diverge. Research has confirmed that in many tasks, experts' decisions are highly variable: valuing stocks, appraising real estate, sentencing criminals, evaluating job performance, auditing financial statements, and more. The unavoidable conclusion is that professionals often make decisions that deviate significantly from those of their peers, from their own prior decisions, and from rules that they themselves claim to follow.

Noise is often insidious: It causes even successful companies to lose substantial amounts of money without realizing it. How substantial? To get an estimate, we asked executives in one of the organizations we studied the following: "Suppose the optimal assessment of a case is $100,000. What would be the cost to the organization if the professional in charge of the case assessed a value of $115,000? What would be the cost of assessing it at $85,000?" The cost estimates were high. Aggregated over the assessments made every year, the cost of noise was measured in billions--an unacceptable number even for a large global firm. The value of reducing noise even by a few percentage points would be in the tens of millions. Remarkably, the organization had completely ignored the question of consistency until then.

It has long been known that predictions and decisions generated by simple statistical algorithms are often more accurate than those made by experts, even when the experts have access to more information than the formulas use. It is less well known that the key advantage of algorithms is that they are noise-free: Unlike humans, a formula will always return the same output for any given input. Superior consistency allows even simple and imperfect algorithms to achieve greater accuracy than human professionals.

Posted by orrinj at 7:10 PM



When Trump kicked off his campaign, last year, he accused Mexico of sending "rapists" and criminals to America. This was a patently outrageous claim, and there was no evidence behind it. According to Robert Sampson, a sociologist at Harvard and the former scientific director of the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods, communities with high concentrations of immigrants do not suffer from outsized levels of violence. The opposite is the case. In his exhaustively researched 2012 book, "Great American City," Sampson noted that, in Chicago, "increases in immigration and language diversity over the decade of the 1990s predicted decreases in neighborhood homicide rates." Other scholars have turned up similar findings. In 2013, a team of researchers published a paper on Los Angeles that found that "concentrations of immigrants in neighborhoods are linked to significant reductions in crime." A 2014 study examining a hundred and fifty-seven metropolitan areas in the United States found that violent crime tended to decrease when the population of foreign-born residents rose.

One reason for this may be that immigrants have helped revitalize formerly desolate urban neighborhoods, starting businesses and lowering the prevalence of vacant buildings, where violence can take root. Another possible factor is that, contrary to Trump's bigoted rhetoric, many immigrants are ambitious strivers, who are highly motivated to support their families and make a better life for their children. Undocumented immigrants may also be more fearful than legal residents of attracting police attention, which could get them deported. Whatever the answer, the research helps make sense of the fact that, during the nineteen-nineties, the foreign-born population in the U.S. grew by more than fifty per cent, and cities such as New York, El Paso, and San Diego, where many of these newcomers settled, did not become cauldrons of violence. They became safer. While numerous factors may have contributed to this--most notably, a stronger economy--it is now widely agreed that immigration played a role, too.

Posted by orrinj at 4:12 PM


Anti-Wahhabism spreading in Muslim world (Ali Mamouri, September 11, 2016, Al Monitor)

Sheikh Abdulaziz Al Sheikh, the Saudi grand mufti and head of the Council of Senior Scholars, spoke to Makkah newspaper Sept. 6, saying, "We must understand that those are not Muslims. They are Majus [Zoroastrians], and their enmity to Muslims -- specifically to the Sunni community -- goes way back."

Although Sheikh was addressing the Iranian political regime, his choice of words and the context of his response gave the impression that he was targeting Iranian Shiites in general. He used the pronoun "they" in his reply to the message of Khamenei, who is only one of many Iranians. He also focused on Zoroastrianism, the historical religion of Iranians before Islam, and his reference to historical enmity with Sunnis is further proof that the international media got the story right -- this was an attack on Iranian Shiites in general.

Such a tone is not new in the Salafi-Wahhabi discourse. It dates back to the old history of Wahhabism in the kingdom continuing to the present time. When Abdul-Aziz bin Baz was grand mufti from 1962-1999, he deemed Shiites apostates on several occasions, including in official fatwas and speeches. Ibn Jibreen, the oldest member of the Council of Senior Scholars when he died around age 76 in 2009, issued several fatwas stating that Shiites are polytheists who have deviated from Islam, saying they "deserve to be killed" if they reveal their beliefs. The council is the highest religious authority in the kingdom. Other fatwas from influential and living clerics in the kingdom such as Sheikh Abdul Rahman al-Barrak called for considering Shiites apostates, secluding them, treating them with hatred and banning humanitarian aid from reaching them.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif replied to Sheikh on his official Twitter page, writing, "Indeed; no resemblance between Islam of Iranians & most Muslims & bigoted extremism that Wahhabi top cleric & Saudi terror masters preach."

In a speech before the families of the victims of the hajj stampede on Sept. 7, 2015, Khamenei described the ruling Saudi family as "a cursed malicious tree." He said that it has deviated from the Muslim world and Islam and has allied with Islam's enemies who must be deterred and whose aggression on Muslims and Islam must be halted.

The religious divisions were not limited to the political Shiite-Wahhabi conflicts. Internal skirmishes between the different Muslim currents broke out, given the fateful setbacks resulting from the ongoing regional political disputes.

For instance, there are clear sensitivities against Wahhabis from Muslims outside Shiite Islam due to Wahhabis' bad reputation following the rise of radical jihadi currents such as al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS) that have adopted Wahhabism as their principal influence.

An Islamic conference was held Aug. 25-27 in Chechnya's capital, Grozny, and senior Sunni scholars from various Sunni schools attended. The meeting was sponsored by Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov. The conference aimed at introducing "Sunni identity" and determining its adherents.

The closing statement limited the Sunni community to "Ash'aris, Maturidis by belief, followers of the four jurisprudential schools of Sunnism (Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi'i and Hanbali) and followers of pure Sufism in terms of ethics and chastity. Any other sects are not included in the Sunni community." This clearly indicates that, in the participants' view, Wahhabism is not considered part of Sunni Islam, but rather an emerging innovation (Bid'ah) in Islam.

The closing statement also restricted the big Islamic schools to deep-rooted religious institutions in "Al-Azhar University (Cairo, Egypt), University of Al-Quaraouiyine (Fez, Morocco), Al-Zaytoonah University (Tunisia) and Hadhramaut University (Yemen)." The statement did not mention Islamic centers and religious institutions in Saudi Arabia.

The conference provoked Wahhabi scholars and Saudi officials who considered it a conspiracy from kuffār (nonbelievers) against Saudi Arabia, and an attempt to make a coalition between Saudi Arabia's enemies -- Shiites and Sufis in particular.

We've had plenty of missteps along the way, and will surely have more, but W and the UR and our allies deserve enormous credit for getting us to this point.

Posted by orrinj at 4:05 PM


The alt-right emerges joyous into the light -- and then they argue. About Jews. (Ron Kampeas, September 11, 2016, JTA)

A journalist asked if there were women among the alt-right leadership; there were a few, Taylor said, but male leadership was likelier, because it was. Spencer said there were plenty of women "fans" - not activists or contributors, mind you, but "fans", in all its intimations of ebullience and unalloyed groupie-love.

There were mild disagreements. Taylor wanted the instruments of government removed as a means of encouraging like races to gravitate toward one another and self-sovereignty, believing that outcome was a natural evolution. Spencer wanted to formally establish a white ethno-state.

These were quibbles, fodder for a friendly argument later in the Willard bar, where the trio said they could be found after the formal part of the day was through.

And then there was the Jewish question.

"I tend to believe that European Jews are part of our movement," Taylor said. "I think it is unquestionable there has been an over-representation by Jews (among) individuals that have tried to undermine white legitimacy," he said, but the same is true of Episcopalians, he said. "Does that mean all Jews are enemies of the white race? I reject that."

Taylor insisted there was no room for Jews in his white ethno-state - he was happy to work with the Jewish ethno-state, he said, a tiresome reduction of what Israel signifies, but Jews would not assimilate. "I think most on the alt-right recognize that Jews have their identity, and they're not European," he said. "Jews have a very different history."

Brimelow tried to mediate between Spencer and Taylor, saying that Jews seemed all right, but that Jewish organizations were on "the wrong side." Soon, however, he was digressing back to his imagined dystopia. "Jews are disproportionately represented in every kind of craziness," he continued, and "if my pessimism about the future of the country is correct, they will pay for it," presumably at the hands of his three armed little girls, including the brunette.

Spencer was unswayed, continuing, "Europeans are Europeans and Jews are Jews, to call Jews European is to insult them."

Taylor, his modulated tones slightly unmodulating, rejoined: "I don't think that a Jewish person who identifies with the West or with Europe is something we should deny," he said. Not many Jews would think of themselves that way, he said, "but I don't think it's an insult to them" to give them the option.

The talk quickly returned to an area of assent, white identity, and feathers were unruffled.

"I want my grandchildren to look like my grandparents," Taylor said, "not like Fu Manchu or Whoopi Goldberg or Anwar Sadat."

There were nods of agreement and more pledges to continue the conversation in the Willard bar.

Posted by orrinj at 1:51 PM


Anti-India Sentiment Hardens in Kashmir's Summer of Unrest : Death toll rises as protests enter third month, pressing for self-determination (RAYMOND ZHONG, Sept. 11, 2016, WSJ)

A mounting death toll in Kashmir, where street protests erupted after security forces killed a well-known separatist fighter this summer, is stoking long-smoldering public anger with Indian rule in the Himalayan region.

Efforts by New Delhi to calm tensions across the mostly Muslim section of Kashmir it controls--neighboring Pakistan administers another--have foundered as the violence stretches into a third month, fueling resentment and raising the prospect of a return to armed struggle. [...]

Separatist leaders say the government isn't taking their demands seriously. They refused to negotiate with Indian politicians who traveled last week to Srinagar, the state's summer capital, saying the delegation wasn't ready to discuss the core issue of Kashmiri self-determination.

Posted by orrinj at 12:09 PM


Catalonia separatist leader urges binding independence vote (The Associated Press, 9/11/16)

The leader of Spain's powerful northeastern region of Catalonia has said he plans to propose a government-approved binding independence referendum to secede from Spain by next year.

Brexit is a pretty minor manifestation of a universal trend towards self-government by peoples who understand themselves to be a distinct polity.
Posted by orrinj at 11:56 AM


Remarks by the President Obama at the 9/11 Memorial Observance Ceremony (President Barrack Obama, 9/11/16, The Pentagon - Arlington, Virginia)

Good morning.  Scripture tells us, "Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you...write them on the tablet of your heart."

Secretary Carter, Chairman Dunford, outstanding members of our Armed Forces, and most of all, survivors of that September day and the families of those we lost -- it is a great honor, once again, to be with you on this day, a day that I know is still difficult, but which reveals the love and faithfulness in your hearts and in the heart of our nation.    

We remember, and we will never forget, the nearly 3,000 beautiful lives taken from us so cruelly -- including 184 men, women and children here, the youngest just three years old.  We honor the courage of those who put themselves in harm's way to save people they never knew.  We come together in prayer and in gratitude for the strength that has fortified us across these 15 years.  And we renew the love and the faith that binds us together as one American family.

Fifteen years may seem like a long time, but for the families who lost a piece of their heart that day, I imagine it can seem like just yesterday.  Perhaps it's the memory of a last kiss given to a spouse, or the last goodbye to a mother or father, a sister or a brother.  We wonder how their lives might have unfolded, how their dreams might have taken shape.  And I am mindful that no words we offer, or deeds we do, can ever truly erase the pain of their absence.

And yet, you -- the survivors and families of 9/11 -- your "steadfast love and faithfulness" has been an inspiration to me and to our entire country.  Even as you've mourned, you've summoned the strength to carry on.  In the names of those you've lost, you've started scholarships and volunteered in your communities, and done your best to be a good neighbor and a good friend and a good citizen.  And in your grief and grace, you have reminded us that, together, there's nothing we Americans cannot overcome. 

The question before us, as always, is:  How do we preserve the legacy of those we lost?  How do we live up to their example?  And how do we keep their spirit alive in our own hearts?

Well, we have seen the answer in a generation of Americans -- our men and women in uniform, diplomats, intelligence, homeland security and law enforcement professionals -- all who have stepped forward to serve and who have risked and given their lives to help keep us safe.  Thanks to their extraordinary service, we've dealt devastating blows to al Qaeda. 

We've delivered justice to Osama bin Laden.  We've strengthened our homeland security.  We've prevented attacks.  We've saved lives.  We resolve to continue doing everything in our power to protect this country that we love.  And today, we once again pay tribute to these patriots, both military and civilian, who serve in our name, including those far away from home in Afghanistan and Iraq. 

Perhaps most of all, we stay true to the spirit of this day by defending not only our country, but also our ideals.  Fifteen years into this fight, the threat has evolved.  With our stronger defenses, terrorists often attempt attacks on a smaller, but still deadly, scale.  Hateful ideologies urge people in their own country to commit unspeakable violence.  We've mourned the loss of innocents from Boston to San Bernardino to Orlando. 

Groups like al Qaeda, like ISIL, know that [...] they will never be able to defeat a nation as great and as strong as America.  So, instead, they've tried to terrorize in the hopes that they can stoke enough fear that we turn on each other and that we change who we are or how we live.  And that's why it is so important today that we reaffirm our character as a nation -- a people drawn from every corner of the world, every color, every religion, every background -- bound by a creed as old as our founding, e pluribus unum.  Out of many, we are one.  For we know that our diversity -- our patchwork heritage -- is not a weakness; it is still, and always will be, one of our greatest strengths.  This is the America that was attacked that September morning.  This is the America that we must remain true to.

Across our country today, Americans are coming together in service and remembrance.  We run our fingers over the names in memorial benches here at the Pentagon.  We walk the hallowed grounds of a Pennsylvania field.  We look up at a gleaming tower that pierces the New York City skyline.  But in the end, the most enduring memorial to those we lost is ensuring the America that we continue to be -- that we stay true to ourselves, that we stay true to what's best in us, that we do not let others divide us.

As I mark this solemn day with you for the last time as President, I think of Americans whose stories I've been humbled to know these past eight years -- Americans who, I believe, embody the true spirit of 9/11.

It's the courage of Welles Crowther, just 24 years old, in the South tower -- the man in the red bandana who spent his final moments helping strangers to safety before the towers fell.  It's the resilience of the firehouse on Eighth Avenue -- patriots who lost more than a dozen men, but who still suit up every day as the "Pride of Midtown."  It's the love of a daughter -- Payton Wall of New Jersey -- whose father, in his last moments on the phone from the towers, told her, "I will always be watching over you."

It's the resolve of those Navy SEALS who made sure justice was finally done, who served as we must live as a nation -- getting each other's backs, looking out for each other, united, one mission, one team.  It's the ultimate sacrifice of men and women who rest for eternity not far from here, in gentle green hills in perfect formation -- Americans who gave their lives in faraway places so that we can be here today, strong and free and proud.  It's all of us -- every American who gets up each day, and lives our lives, carries on.  Because as Americans, we do not give in to fear.  We will preserve our freedoms and the way of life that makes us a beacon to the world.

"Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you...write them on the tablet of your heart."  And how we conduct ourselves as individuals and as a nation, we have the opportunity each and every day to live up to the sacrifice of those heroes that we lost.  May God bless the memory of the loved ones here and across the country.  They remain in our hearts today.  May He watch over these faithful families and all who protect us.  And may God forever bless the United States of America.

Posted by orrinj at 8:39 AM


How Donald Trump retooled his charity to spend other people's money (David A. Fahrenthold, September 10, 2016, WSJ)

Donald Trump was in a tuxedo, standing next to his award: a statue of a palm tree, as tall as a toddler. It was 2010, and Trump was being honored by a charity -- the Palm Beach Police Foundation -- for his "selfless support" of its cause.

His support did not include any of his own money.

Instead, Trump had found a way to give away somebody else's money and claim the credit for himself.

Trump had earlier gone to a charity in New Jersey -- the Charles Evans Foundation, named for a deceased businessman -- and asked for a donation. Trump said he was raising money for the Palm Beach Police Foundation.

The Evans Foundation said yes. In 2009 and 2010, it gave a total of $150,000 to the Donald J. Trump Foundation, a small charity that the Republican presidential nominee founded in 1987.

Then, Trump's foundation turned around and made donations to the police group in South Florida. In those years, the Trump Foundation's gifts totaled $150,000.

Trump had effectively turned the Evans Foundation's gifts into his own gifts, without adding any money of his own.

On the night that he won the Palm Tree Award for his philanthropy, Trump may have actually made money. The gala was held at his Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, and the police foundation paid to rent the room. It's unclear how much was paid in 2010, but the police foundation reported in its tax filings that it rented Mar-a-Lago in 2014 for $276,463.

The Donald J. Trump Foundation is not like other charities. An investigation of the foundation -- including examinations of 17 years of tax filings and interviews with more than 200 individuals or groups listed as donors or beneficiaries -- found that it collects and spends money in a very unusual manner.

For one thing, nearly all of its money comes from people other than Trump. 

No wonder the Right criticizes Hillary for actually donating to her charity.

Posted by orrinj at 8:21 AM


The house is on fire! : On the hidden horrors of Soviet life. (Gary Saul Morson, September 2016, New Criterion)
Eventually some eighteen countries were to fall under Communist rule. In 1999, Time magazine proclaimed Einstein the "man of the century"--the person who "for better or worse most influenced the last 100 years"--but Einstein did not remotely affect so many lives as Lenin. Bolsheviks were never very good at material inventions, but they excelled at political technology, inventing an entirely new system we call totalitarian. As they say today, it went viral. There is still no vaccine.

Of course, lots of conquering groups have annihilated or enslaved other groups--just think of the Trojan war or Tamerlane's mountains of skulls--but no form of government had ever been so brutal to those it regarded as its own people. Soviet Russia was far crueler than its tsarist predecessor, which had long been proverbial as "the gendarme of Europe." Between 1825 and 1905, the tsars executed 191 people for political reasons--not for mere "suspicion" as under the Soviets but for actual assassinations, including that of Tsar Alexander II. In The Gulag Archipelago, Alexander Solzhenitsyn remarked that between 1905 and 1908 the regime executed as many as 2,200 people--forty-five a month!--"calling forth tears from Tolstoy and indignation from Korolenko and many, many others." By comparison, conservative estimates of executions under Lenin and Stalin--say, twenty million from 1917 to 1953--yield an average of over ten thousand per week. That's a tsarist century every few days.

Western public opinion has never come to terms with the crimes of Communism. Every school child knows about the Holocaust, Apartheid, and American slavery, as they should. But Pol Pot's murder of a quarter of Cambodia's population has not dimmed academic enthusiasm for the Marxism his henchmen studied in Paris. Neither the Chinese Cultural Revolution nor the Great Purges seem to have cast a shadow on the leftists who apologized for them. Quite the contrary, university classes typically blame the Cold War on American "paranoia" about communism and still picture Bolsheviks as idealists in too great a hurry. Being leftwing means never having to say you're sorry.

In 1997 Stéphane Courtois published (in French) The Black Book of Communism, an anthology in which experts document, country by country, how many people Marxist-Leninists killed. With suitable academic equanimity, contributors ask whether the deliberate starvation of millions of Ukrainians, or the deportation of all Chechens to central Asia that took the lives of one person in three, qualifies as "genocide." The only sign of real emotional urgency occurs in Courtois's introduction, which breaks intellectual taboos by drawing parallels with Nazism, questioning Socialists' frequent alliances with Communists, and, above all, wondering why intellectuals continue to apologize for Communist murders.

Some figures speak for themselves. The volume's scholars estimate twenty million deaths in the ussr, sixty-five million in China, two million each in Cambodia and North Korea, 1.7 million in Mengistu's Ethiopia and other African countries, and so on, to a total of about one hundred million. (Eerily, the chief revolutionary in Dostoevsky's novel The Possessed predicts that the cost of perfect equality will be "a hundred million heads.") So far as I can tell, these estimates are understatements. For example, the most authoritative study of Stalin's war against the peasantry in the early 1930s, Robert Conquest's Harvest of Sorrow, arrives at a figure twice the one in this volume. The difference between the two estimates--the margin of error--equals the number of Jews killed by the Nazis.

Posted by orrinj at 8:12 AM


Sexuality and Gender Findings from the Biological, Psychological, and Social Sciences : Executive Summary (Lawrence S. Mayer, Paul R. McHugh, Atlantis)

This report presents a careful summary and an up-to-date explanation of research -- from the biological, psychological, and social sciences -- related to sexual orientation and gender identity. It is offered in the hope that such an exposition can contribute to our capacity as physicians, scientists, and citizens to address health issues faced by LGBT populations within our society.

Some key findings:

Part One: Sexual Orientation

● The understanding of sexual orientation as an innate, biologically fixed property of human beings -- the idea that people are "born that way" -- is not supported by scientific evidence.

● While there is evidence that biological factors such as genes and hormones are associated with sexual behaviors and attractions, there are no compelling causal biological explanations for human sexual orientation. While minor differences in the brain structures and brain activity between homosexual and heterosexual individuals have been identified by researchers, such neurobiological findings do not demonstrate whether these differences are innate or are the result of environmental and psychological factors.

● Longitudinal studies of adolescents suggest that sexual orientation may be quite fluid over the life course for some people, with one study estimating that as many as 80% of male adolescents who report same-sex attractions no longer do so as adults (although the extent to which this figure reflects actual changes in same-sex attractions and not just artifacts of the survey process has been contested by some researchers).

● Compared to heterosexuals, non-heterosexuals are about two to three times as likely to have experienced childhood sexual abuse.

Part Two: Sexuality, Mental Health Outcomes, and Social Stress

● Compared to the general population, non-heterosexual subpopulations are at an elevated risk for a variety of adverse health and mental health outcomes.

● Members of the non-heterosexual population are estimated to have about 1.5 times higher risk of experiencing anxiety disorders than members of the heterosexual population, as well as roughly double the risk of depression, 1.5 times the risk of substance abuse, and nearly 2.5 times the risk of suicide.

● Members of the transgender population are also at higher risk of a variety of mental health problems compared to members of the non-transgender population. Especially alarmingly, the rate of lifetime suicide attempts across all ages of transgender individuals is estimated at 41%, compared to under 5% in the overall U.S. population.

● There is evidence, albeit limited, that social stressors such as discrimination and stigma contribute to the elevated risk of poor mental health outcomes for non-heterosexual and transgender populations. More high-quality longitudinal studies are necessary for the "social stress model" to be a useful tool for understanding public health concerns.

Part Three: Gender Identity

● The hypothesis that gender identity is an innate, fixed property of human beings that is independent of biological sex -- that a person might be "a man trapped in a woman's body" or "a woman trapped in a man's body" -- is not supported by scientific evidence.

● According to a recent estimate, about 0.6% of U.S. adults identify as a gender that does not correspond to their biological sex.

● Studies comparing the brain structures of transgender and non-transgender individuals have demonstrated weak correlations between brain structure and cross-gender identification. These correlations do not provide any evidence for a neurobiological basis for cross-gender identification.

● Compared to the general population, adults who have undergone sex-reassignment surgery continue to have a higher risk of experiencing poor mental health outcomes. One study found that, compared to controls, sex-reassigned individuals were about 5 times more likely to attempt suicide and about 19 times more likely to die by suicide.

● Children are a special case when addressing transgender issues. Only a minority of children who experience cross-gender identification will continue to do so into adolescence or adulthood.

● There is little scientific evidence for the therapeutic value of interventions that delay puberty or modify the secondary sex characteristics of adolescents, although some children may have improved psychological well-being if they are encouraged and supported in their cross-gender identification. There is no evidence that all children who express gender-atypical thoughts or behavior should be encouraged to become transgender.

Posted by orrinj at 7:46 AM


Black Voters Are So Loyal That Their Issues Get Ignored (Farai Chideya, 9/09/16, 538)

Are black voters really "captured"? They certainly meet one part of the definition: In recent elections, more than 90 percent of the black vote has gone to the Democratic candidate for president.

Determining how well black interests are represented -- or even what those interests are -- is tougher. In his book, Frymer examined which groups campaigns targeted and how well the agenda of the Congressional Black Caucus fared, among other things. A recent study, "50 Years of the Voting Rights Act: The State of Race in Politics," looked at how often government action (in this case, spending) matched voters' policy preferences (based on survey data from 1972-2010) and concluded that "black voices are less equal than others when it comes to policy." Other studies have shown that modern presidential campaigns make direct arguments about remediating racial problems far less than in the 1970s and 1980s.

You can also point to specific examples of Democrats who gained office thanks in part to African-American support but who enacted some policies that arguably hurt black Americans. Bill Clinton's welfare and 1994 crime bills, for example, had a disproportionately negative effect on black communities. Obama clashed with the Congressional Black Caucus during his first term, though relations warmed during the second.

More generally, a 2015 report called "Political Powerlessness" by Nicholas Stephanopoulos at the University of Chicago Law School found that black support for Congressional legislation actually decreased its chances of passage. As he writes, "As white support increases from 0% to 100%, the likelihood of adoption increases from about 10% to about 60%. As black support rises from 0% to 100%, though, the odds of enactment fall3 from roughly 40% to roughly 30%." [...]

[Frymer] adds, "There are other groups that vote heavily Democratic -- Jewish voters, for instance -- that are not ignored by either party. Both parties make strong appeals to Jewish voters with regards to Israel, for instance, without fear of destabilizing their broader coalition." It is the fear of turning off other constituencies with appeals to black Americans that shifts the playing field.

Just as blacks are fundamentally voting against the Republican Party--which is why even a candidate like W couldn't win meaningful support--so too are Republicans prone to vote against the Back Caucus because it is nothing more than a subsidiary of the Democratic Party.  Neither side ever reaches the merits in most cases.

On the other hand, when there is a powerful Republican constituency for an issue that the Black Caucus is interested in, it's easy enough to form an alliance, as witness prison reform, where Evangelicals are the change leaders.

Posted by orrinj at 7:26 AM


Our Language Has 'Interesting Little Wrinkles,' Linguist Says (John McWhorter, NPR, 9/05/16)

How the word "literally" has changed

Originally literally meant "by the letter," and we kind of like the idea that that's what it would always be used to mean. But over time, instead of meaning "by the letter," what people really just meant was "really." And so now, literally doesn't have that "by the letter" meaning; it's something that people use to figuratively reinforce. So that means that we have this word that you can say means both one thing and then its opposite -- and that seems to really get up people's nose, and I can see how that would seem frustrating because it can seem unusual -- but the thing is, it isn't.

It's something called a contronym. And so, for example, you can seed a watermelon, and everyone knows that that does not mean that you are laboriously putting the seeds into it -- you're taking them out. But then you can seed something by putting a seed in the ground and watching something green come up.

Contronyms, let's face it, are neat. We should rejoice that our language has interesting little wrinkles as long as they don't interfere with comprehension.

Contronyms are neat, saying you are so thirsty you could literally drink Lake Erie makes you sound ignorant, literally ignorant. 
Posted by orrinj at 7:18 AM


Colin Kaepernick's protest is working : Amid the controversy, there has been positivity. (Dieter Kurtenbach, Sep 9, 2016, Fox Sports)

When you remove all the projection, strawmen arguments, and labyrinths created by the unoppressed that limit who can protest and when and what for, you actually have a serious, meaningful, and substantial conversation -- you have the early workings of change.

Other NFL players are joining in on the protest. Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall kneeled during the National Anthem Thursday night in Denver. The entire Seahawks team might kneel in their season opener on Sunday. What started with Kaepernick has spread. 49ers teammate Eric Reid kneeled with him before San Francisco's fourth preseason game; Seahawks cornerback Jeremy Lane has sat during the anthem in the preseason and has said he will continue to not stand; and Megan Rapinoe, the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team star, is also kneeling -- if she gets the chance.

Not everyone is in agreement with the protest. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell isn't a fan of the action, while President Obama is -- but any protest that lacks detractors isn't much of a protest.

Furthermore, Kaepernick has shown a willingness to engage and listen to those detractors. In one-on-one situations, he's finding accord and bringing people into his camp.

Kaepernick said he plans to give his time and the first $1 million of his salary to organizations that help minority communities. 49ers CEO Jed York said Thursday that he too will cut a $1 million check to two Bay Area community organizations for the "cause of improving racial and economic inequality."

Kaepernick's jersey sales have skyrocketed since his protest started, and he has said he'll donate all proceeds from the jersey sales back to the minority communities.

It remains to be seen what organizations Kaepernick will work with or how the money will be used, but, at the moment, who could be against him putting his money where his mouth is?

...crime impacts too few Americans for us to tolerate needless shootings by the police anymore.

September 10, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 5:03 PM


Inside the collapse of Trump's D.C. policy shop (Josh Rogin, September 8, 2016, Washington Post)

The Trump campaign built a large policy shop in Washington that has now largely melted away because of neglect, mismanagement and promises of pay that were never honored. Many of the team's former members say the campaign leadership never took the Washington office seriously and let it wither away after squeezing it dry. [...]

"It's a complete disaster," one disgruntled former adviser told me. "They use and abuse people. The policy office fell apart in August when the promised checks weren't delivered."

Three former members, all of whom quit in August, told me that as early as April they were promised financial compensation but were later told that they would have to work as volunteers. They say the leaders of the shop, Rick Dearborn and John Mashburn, told many staffers that money was on the way but then were unable to deliver. Dearborn is Sen. Jeff Sessions's (R-Ala.) chief of staff, while Mashburn is the former chief of staff for Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C).

"I heard it from Dearborn, I heard it from Mashburn. It was understood that we would be paid. The campaign never discussed how much the pay would be. It was never in writing," said one staffer, who quit last month. "There were some people who were treating it as a full-time job. I suspect that those people were quite astonished when the pay didn't come through."

One former adviser told me promises of pay were made when Corey Lewandowski was campaign manager, but then in July, after Paul Manafort took over, he said the policy shop positions would remain unpaid. Dearborn tried repeatedly to get a budget approved by New York headquarters for staff, but failed.

Posted by orrinj at 4:55 PM


Ruth Reichl's Grilled Cheese is Genius, and Completely Out of Control (Kristen Miglore, August 10, 2016, Food 52)

First, Reichl grates up a bunch of cheese for even melting--simple enough, right? But then she goes her own way and mixes in many members of the onion family. A transcript from that episode of A Moveable Feast back in 2009 has her saying, "We're going to start with leeks, scallions, red onions, shallots, garlic, sweet onions, and white onions." Start with!

All these raw, crunchy, oniony bits seem treacherous: If the constant challenge of grilled cheese is getting the internal cheese to melt thoroughly before the bread burns, how is that same just-melted cheese supposed to cook a bunch of onions, too? Even Brooks Headley, an otherwise daring chef, sautéed them anyway. Of the sandwiches, he declared, "None left over."

But you truly don't need to cook the alliums, as long as you cut them finely. They'll steam and soften in the melting cheese, losing their crunch but keeping some of their aggressive freshness and funk. (Though as Headley proved, if you don't want any of that, sautéing is always an option.)

Cheese and onion mountain attained, Reichl then smears the outsides of the bread with mayonnaise, which--thanks to Gabrielle Hamilton--we already know leads to sandwiches that are crispier, more evenly golden, and less likely to burn than butter does.

But Reichl, the madwoman, adds a shaggy layer of grated cheese on top of the mayo too, which melts and fuses into a crispy cheddar crust when it hits the griddle, much like a cheese tuile or frico. It's a totally different, deeper, toastier cheese flavor and texture than the gooey party unleashed inside.

It should be noted that she also, for no clear reason--other than, maybe, better cheese retention?--adds a swipe of butter to the insides of the bread, too. But at this point, why not?

Ruth Reichl's Diva of a Grilled Cheese

Any combination of shallot, leek, scallions, onion (any color)

1 clove garlic

1/4 pound cheddar cheese, divided


2 slices thickly sliced, sturdy sourdough bread


Posted by orrinj at 4:53 PM


Second mortar shell of day hits Golan Heights (TIMES OF ISRAEL AND AFP, September 10, 2016)

A second mortar shell fired from Syria struck the Golan Heights on Saturday evening, Channel 2 News reported, hours after a shell that exploded in the area led to retaliatory Israeli strikes. [...]

Earlier a mortar shell had exploded inside Israeli territory. It too did not cause harm. A military spokeswoman said the projectile was most likely unintentional "spillover" from the internal fighting in Syria.

A short time later, the Israeli Air Force struck artillery targets belonging to the Syrian army, the army said.

Posted by orrinj at 1:08 PM


15 Years of Donald Trump's 9/11 Lies, Insults, and Slights : The New Yorker has a huge history of indifference and contempt for the darkest day in his city's history. (Michael Daly, 09.09.16, Daily Beast)

Six months after Donald Trump claimed to have lost "hundreds of friends" in the 9/11 attacks, his campaign continues to ignore a request from The Daily Beast that he name even one.

His silence becomes all the more shameful as we come to the 15th anniversary of the day 2,983 innocents were murdered in downtown Manhattan.

"If he has hundreds of friends, he should be able to tell us about them," remarked a Port Authority police officer who has felt a duty to learn as much as he can about as many of the victims as possible. "If he can tell us about the hundreds of friends he lost, who they were, what kind of [people] they were, I might have some respect for him."

The only time anybody can remember Trump being down at the September 11 Memorial and Museum was this April, when he made what seemed more like a campaign stop. Those who escorted him noted that he did not seem to pay particular attention to any of the names around the memorial pools or pictures of the victims displayed in the museum. His own math would say that at least a tenth of these people were his friends.

Trump's then-campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, reacted as might be expected of anybody who had lost even one friend. A museum staffer later reported that Lewandowski had seemed greatly moved as he paused before a picture of Brian Kinney, who had been a passenger aboard the ill-fated United Airlines Flight 175. Kinney had been one of Lewandowski's best friends and had married a young woman named Alison Hardy whom Lewandowski had dated in high school. Lewandowski and Hardy had subsequently become one of the many post-9/11 romances in which shared loss became love. They are now married.

Trump proceeded past the faces with no manifest interest. He breezed by a haunting photo of a woman standing at the edge of the monstrous charred hole that an airliner had punched in the uptown side of the North Tower. That is the same façade that faced Trump's penthouse apartment four miles uptown. 

Along with saying he lost hundreds of friends and that he saw news footage of "thousands and thousands" of Muslims in New Jersey cheering the attack (he was the only one to see that footage if so) Trump had spoken of standing at his apartment window and possessing such remarkable eyesight that he could see the jumpers four miles south.

Posted by orrinj at 12:48 PM


Twenty Percent of Seafood Is Mislabeled : A new Oceana report offers further proof that fish fraud is everywhere. (KANYAKRIT VONGKIATKAJORN, SEP. 10, 2016, Mother Jones)

Do you ever wonder where the seafood on your plate really came from? Or whether it's the species of fish that was advertised? New evidence proves you have every reason to be concerned: A report has found that one in five samples of seafood are mislabeled worldwide. And the mislabeling happens at every sector of the supply chain--from how the fish is sold, distributed, imported and exported, packaged, to how it's processed.

The report, released Wednesday by the conservation agency Oceana, analyzed 200 studies on fish fraud from 55 countries. It found fraud in (wait for it!) every investigation except one. The deception happens in different ways: for instance, disguising a cheaper, farmed fish as a pricier, wild-caught variety; mislabeling packaging; or lying about the origin of the fish.

The one thing we can say with absolute certainty is that no one can taste the difference.

Posted by orrinj at 9:28 AM


Donald Trump's Bind in Swing States: GOP Governors Are Touting Turnarounds (NEIL KING JR., Aug 30, 2016, WSJ)

Four years ago, Mitt Romney faced a problem in his quest for the White House: His portrayal of a weakened, staggering economy kept running up against the reality of strong job growth in the swing states.

At the same time, in many of those states--Virginia, Ohio and Florida--it was Republican governors who were praising their homegrown turnarounds while Mr. Romney spoke darkly of the overall economy.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is caught in the same bind now. He portrays an economy in crisis, talking frequently of wastelands and disaster areas, while many of the states that will determine if he wins or loses are doing distinctly well.

Seven key toss-up states--New Hampshire, Virginia, Colorado, Iowa, Florida, North Carolina and Ohio--all now boast an unemployment rate below the 4.9% national average.

And all 11 of the most important swing states--including, for Mr. Trump, the all-important state of Pennsylvania--have added significantly to their overall jobs tallies since the recovery from the last recession began in 2009.

Posted by orrinj at 9:23 AM


Bush has been vindicated on stem cell decision (Christopher White, August 29, 2016, CRUX)

The debate over stem cells concerns the derivation of them, namely whether or not they require the destruction of human embryos or if they come from elsewhere (such as adult stem cells) and to what extent they may or may not be used for the purposes of regenerative medicine.

While critics of Bush's policy were eager to label him as "anti-science," tone deaf, and unsympathetic to folks like Christopher Reeve (who they claimed would be able to walk again with the aid of embryonic stem cells), other prominent figures, including leading scientists and ethicists, urged both caution in the destruction of life in its earliest stages and also pushed for other means to be pursued that they believed could be just as effective.

That's why when Bush made his decision, he also announced that he was doubling federal funding for research to explore alternative methods-and in November 2007, James A. Thomson (along with Shinya Yamanaka), the same scientist to first isolate human embryonic stem cells which sparked this whole debate, announced that he discovered an "embryo-free way to produce genetically matched stem cells."

Writing in the Washington Post at the time, Dr. Charles Krauthammer, a handicapped doctor (who arguably had the most to gain from any advances from embryonic stem cell therapy) and a one time critic of Bush's policy, proclaimed: "The verdict is clear: rarely has a president-so vilified for a moral stance-been so thoroughly vindicated."

Since that time, adult stem cells have been used to grow a beating heart, cure cataracts and reverse blindness, and to treat numerous cancer patients and support individuals with autoimmune diseases. To date, over 1.5 million people have been treated using adult stem cell therapy.

But as Krauthammer also noted, Bush wasn't vindicated simply for pushing for scientific alternatives, but for his willingness to take a moral stand. "What Bush got right was to insist, in the face of enormous popular and scientific opposition, on drawing a line at all, on requiring that scientific imperative be balanced by moral considerations," he concluded.

Posted by orrinj at 9:15 AM


This self-driving robot tractor could revolutionize farming (The Week, September 10, 2016)

A "seriously intimidating-looking" robotic tractor has been drawing crowds at Iowa's annual Farm Progress Show, said George Dvorsky at Gizmodo​. Unlike a conventional tractor, this futuristic piece of farm ­equipment -- called the Auton­o­mous Con­cept Vehicle -- doesn't have a cabin for a driver. Instead, the tractor, built by agricultural equipment firm Case IH, finds its way using built-in cameras, radar, and GPS.

Posted by orrinj at 8:11 AM


Populism, I: American conservatism and the problem of populism : On the genesis and current trials of the American conservative movement. (George H. Nash, September 2016, New Criterion)

In the late 1950s and early 1960s the three independent wings of the conservative revolt against the Left began to coalesce around National Review, founded by William F. Buckley Jr. in 1955. Apart from his extraordinary talents as a writer, debater, and public intellectual, Buckley personified each impulse in the developing coalition. He was at once a traditional Christian, a defender of the free market, and a staunch anticommunist (a source of his ecumenical appeal to conservatives).

As this consolidation began to occur, a serious challenge arose to the fragile conservative identity: a growing and permanent tension between the libertarians and the traditionalists. To the libertarians the highest good in society was individual liberty, the emancipation of the autonomous self from external (especially governmental) restraint. To the traditionalists (who tended to be more religiously oriented than most libertarians) the highest social good was not unqualified freedom but ordered freedom grounded in community and resting on the cultivation of virtue in the individual soul. Such cultivation, argued the traditionalists, did not arise spontaneously. It needed the reinforcement of mediating institutions (such as schools, churches, and synagogues) and at times of the government itself. To put it another way, libertarians tended to believe in the beneficence of an uncoerced social order, both in markets and morals. The traditionalists often agreed, more or less, about the market order (as opposed to statism), but they were far less sanguine about an unregulated moral order.

The argument became known as the freedom-versus-virtue debate.
Not surprisingly, this conflict of visions generated a tremendous controversy on the American Right in the early 1960s, as conservative intellectuals attempted to sort out their first principles. The argument became known as the freedom-versus-virtue debate. It fell to a former Communist and chief ideologist at National Review, a man named Frank Meyer, to formulate a middle way that became known as fusionism--that is, a fusing or merging of the competing paradigms of the libertarians and the traditionalists. In brief, Meyer argued that the overriding purpose of government was to protect and promote individual liberty, but that the supreme purpose of the free individual should be to pursue a life of virtue, unfettered by and unaided by the State.

As a purely theoretical construct, Meyer's fusionism did not convince all his critics, then or later. But as a formula for political action and as an insight into the actual character of American conservatism, his project was a considerable success. He taught libertarian and traditionalist purists that they needed one another and that American conservatism must not become doctrinaire. To be relevant and influential, it must stand neither for dogmatic antistatism at one extreme nor for moral authoritarianism at the other, but for a society in which people are simultaneously free to choose and desirous of choosing the path of virtue.

In arriving at this modus vivendi, the architects of fusionism were aided immensely by the third element in the developing coalition: anticommunism, an ideology that nearly everyone could share. The presence in the world of a dangerous external enemy--the Soviet Union, the mortal foe of liberty and virtue, of freedom and faith--was a crucial, unifying cement for the nascent conservative movement. The life-and-death stakes of the Cold War helped to curb the temptation of right-wing ideologues to absolutize their competing insights and thereby commit heresy.

Politically, the postwar, Buckleyite Right found its first national expression in the campaign of Senator Barry Goldwater for the presidency of the United States in 1964. It was not long after that election that a new impulse appeared on the intellectual scene, one destined to become the fourth component of the conservative coalition: the phenomenon known as neoconservatism. Irving Kristol's definition conveys its original essence: "A neoconservative," he said, "is a liberal who has been mugged by reality." One of the salient developments of the late 1960s and 1970s was the intellectual journey of various liberals and social democrats toward conservative positions and affiliations. Their migration was manifested in such journals as The Public Interest, co-edited by Kristol, and the magazine Commentary, edited by Norman Podhoretz. By the early 1980s many of these neoconservatives (as they came to be labeled) were participating in the "Reagan Revolution."

The stresses that produced this transition were many. In part, neoconservatism may be interpreted as the recognition by former liberals that good intentions alone do not guarantee good governmental policy and that the actual consequences of liberal social activism in the Sixties and Seventies, like the so-called War on Poverty, were often devastating. In considerable measure neoconservatism was also a reaction by moderate liberals to the cultural upheavals of the 1960s, particularly on college campuses, and to the eruption of the so-called New Left, with its tendency to blame America first for world tensions and its neoisolationist opposition to a vigorous prosecution of the Cold War.

To the already existing conservative community, the entry of chastened liberals and disillusioned socialists into its precincts was to have many consequences. One of these was already discernible in the 1970s. Since the days of the New Deal, American liberals had held a near monopoly on the manufacture and distribution of prestige among the intellectual classes. From a liberal perspective the libertarian, traditionalist, and Cold War conservatives of the 1950s and 1960s--the Buckleyites, if you will--were eccentric and marginal figures, no threat to liberalism's cultural hegemony. The emerging neoconservatives, however, were an "enemy within" the liberal camp who had made their reputations while still on the Left and who could not therefore be so easily dismissed. By publicly defecting from the Left, and then by critiquing it so effectively, the neoconservatives helped to undermine a hitherto unshakable assumption in academic circles: the belief that only liberalism is an intellectually respectable point of view. By destroying the automatic equation of liberalism with intelligence, and of progressivism with progress, the neoconservative intellectuals brought new respectability to the Right and greatly altered the terms of public debate in the United States.

Meanwhile another development--one destined to have enormous political consequences--began to take shape in the late 1970s: the grassroots "great awakening" of what came to be known as the Religious Right or (more recently) social conservatives. Initially the Religious Right was not primarily a movement of intellectuals at all. It was, rather, a groundswell of protest at the grassroots of America by "ordinary" citizens, many of them Protestant evangelicals, fundamentalists, and pentecostals, with some Roman Catholics and Orthodox Jews as well. While early Religious Right leaders generally shared the foreign policy and economic perspectives of other conservatives, their guiding preoccupations lay elsewhere, in what became known as the "social issues": pornography, drug use, the vulgarization of mass entertainment, and more. Convinced that American society was in a state of vertiginous moral decline, and that what they called secular humanism--in other words, modern liberalism--was the fundamental cause and agent of this decay, the populistic Religious Right exhorted its hitherto politically quiescent followers to enter the public arena as a defense measure, in defense of their traditional moral code and way of life. Above all, the religious conservatives derived their fervor from an unremitting struggle against what most of them considered the supreme abomination of their time: legalized abortion on demand. [...]
The conservative intellectual movement, of course, did not vanish in the 1990s. Nevertheless, it is undeniable that unyielding anticommunism supplied much of the glue in the post-1945 conservative coalition and that the demise of Communism in Europe weakened the fusionist imperative for American conservatives.

One of the earliest signs of this was the rise in the 1980s and early 1990s of a group of conservative traditionalists who took the label "paleoconservatives." Initially, paleoconservatism was a response to the growing prominence within conservative ranks of the erstwhile liberals and social democrats known as neoconservatives. To angry paleocons, led by Patrick Buchanan among others, the neocons were "interlopers" who, despite their recent movement to the Right, remained at heart secular, crusading Wilsonians and believers in the welfare state. In other words, the paleos argued, not true conservatives at all.

As the Cold War faded, paleoconservatism introduced a discordant note into the conservative conversation. Fiercely and defiantly "nationalist" (rather than "internationalist"), skeptical of "global democracy" and post-Cold War entanglements overseas, fearful of the impact of Third World immigration on America's historically Europe-centered culture, and openly critical of the doctrine of global free trade, Buchananite paleoconservatism increasingly resembled much of the American Right before 1945--before, that is, the onset of the Cold War. When Buchanan himself campaigned for president in 1992 under the pre-World War II, isolationist banner of "America First," the symbolism seemed deliberate and complete. [...]

This brings us to the phenomenon of the hour: insurgent populism on the Left and the Right. In its simplest terms, populism--defined as the revolt of ordinary people against overbearing and self-serving elites--has long existed in American politics. In its most familiar form, populism has been leftwing in its ideology, targeting bankers, wealthy capitalists, and corporations as villains--the "millionaires and billionaires" in Bernie Sanders's parlance. From Andrew Jackson's feud with the Second Bank of the United States to William Jennings Bryan's crusade against the gold standard, from Franklin Roosevelt's appeal to the "forgotten man at the bottom of the economic pyramid" in 1932 to the demagogic theatrics of Huey Long and Father Charles Coughlin (in his early days) during the Great Depression, populism has quite often been a leftwing phenomenon, vocalizing the anger of those at the bottom of the economic ladder toward those sitting pretty at the top.

But populism in America has sometimes taken a conservative form as well, particularly since 1945. In the early 1950s Senator Joseph McCarthy and his conservative allies denounced liberal Democratic politicians and pro-New Deal elites as dupes and even enablers of Communist espionage and subversion at home and of Communist aggrandizement abroad. In the 1960s William F. Buckley Jr. famously declared that he would rather be governed by the first 2,000 names in the Boston telephone directory than by the entire Harvard University faculty. In 1969 President Richard Nixon, under fire from a militant, leftwing antiwar movement during the Vietnam conflict, appealed on national television to the "great silent majority" of the American people to support him. Nixon's first vice president, Spiro Agnew, was more colorful. Taking aim at the antiwar Left--much of it based in and around the universities--he thundered: "A spirit of national masochism prevails, encouraged by an effete corps of impudent snobs who characterize themselves as intellectuals." Criticism of an allegedly smug and decadent Liberal Establishment became a staple of conservative discourse in the 1960s and persisted long thereafter.

Populism, conservative-style, achieved its greatest success in the 1970s and 1980s under the leadership of Ronald Reagan, who brilliantly articulated a populistic, libertarian aversion to meddlesome and unaccountable government--an aversion long ingrained in the American psyche. Consider these words from Reagan's Farewell Address in 1989: "Ours is the first revolution in the history of mankind that truly reversed the course of government, and with three little words: We the people. 'We the people' tell the government what to do, it doesn't tell us. 'We the people' are the driver, the government is the car. And we decide where it should go, and by what route, and how fast." No conservative has ever said it better.

Criticism of an allegedly smug and decadent Liberal Establishment became a staple of conservative discourse.
But notice the crucial distinction between these two manifestations of anti-elitism so long imbedded in our politics. Leftwing populism has traditionally aimed its fire at Big Money--the private-sector elite entrenched on Wall Street. Rightwing populism of the Reaganite variety has focused its wrath on Big Government--the public-sector elite ensconced in Washington (and its votaries in Academe). Leftwing populism was most popular in America when powerful financiers and captains of industry appeared to control the nation's destiny. Rightwing populism gained traction when the capitalist establishment was displaced by a competing establishment centered in the ever more bureaucratic and intrusive administrative state.

A few years ago, American conservatives experienced a revival of Reaganite, populistic fervor in the form of the Tea Party movement, with its slogan "Don't tread on me!" In some circles there has been a tendency to dismiss this phenomenon as either the artificial creation of rightwing billionaires or as the ugly expression of the racial anxieties of white people. The truth is more complicated. Rightly or wrongly, a powerful conviction has arisen among virtually all conservatives that public policy in the United States has in some profound sense gone off the rails since the Great Recession of 2008. Rightly or wrongly, conservatives of all persuasions increasingly believe that ours has become a government not of and by the people but only for the people: government by edict from above. The much criticized "inflexibility" of the political Right during the two terms of President Obama was a direct response to its perception of inflexibility and autocratic hubris on the political Left.

The great symbol of this for conservatives is the Affordable Care Act of 2010 and the manner in which it was enacted and implemented. At the time the bill was enacted, a cnn poll revealed that 59 percent of the American people opposed it, and only 39 percent supported it. It passed anyway, by a convoluted parliamentary procedure, on a bitterly divided, virtually party-line vote. No other comparably ambitious, federal economic or social legislation in the past one hundred years was enacted in this way, and the consequences for America's social fabric have been severe. If the polls in 2010 were accurate, the Affordable Care Act was passed in willful defiance of the majority sentiment of the American people. To understand the fury and ferment on the Right since Obama took office, historians must take into account this sobering fact.

The leftward lurch of the Obama administration--it soon transpired--was not the only source of Tea Party discontent. The populist-conservative revolt of 2009-10 quickly morphed into a bitter struggle, not only against the perceived external threat from the Left, but also against a perceived internal threat from the conservative movement's imperfect vehicle, the Republican Party. Despite massive Republican victories in the Congressional elections of 2010 and 2014, many Tea Party populists felt frustrated and betrayed by what they saw as the inability and, even worse, the unwillingness, of elected Republican officials in Washington to fight effectively for the conservative agenda. Many at the grassroots--encouraged by populist sympathizers on talk radio--began to suspect that some of their elected leaders were not merely craven or inept but essentially on the other side, particularly on the question of dealing with illegal immigration. The mounting anger of "grassroots" conservatives--often derided by their critics as rubes and nativists--became part of the tinder for the firestorm that was about to occur.

Note that nearly every strand of conservatism above is defined by what it opposes/opposed : Socialism; Communism; internationalism; government regulation; integration; immigration; inner city crime; affirmative action; Islamicism; etc.

With the exception of folks like George W. Bush, Jeb Bush and their fellow governors (and, at times, Reagan and GHWB)--the figures who had actually governed the American people--precious few on the right have accepted the need for a positive vision of conservatism; the progressive element that Burke and Kirk held to be necessary for it to appeal to the electorate.  Indeed, successful Democratic politicians have, likewise, articulated progressive conservative positions.  Meanwhile, it is vital to recognize that--for all our desire to be seen as exceptional--this is not solely an American phenomenon but is present throughout the Anglosphere/Scandinavia.
What is meant by progressive conservatism? The Third Way.

Just as the Depression put paid to the notion--whether fairly or not--that unrestricted capitalism (the First Way) was an adequate organizing principle for society; so too did the economic dislocations of the '70s (Stagflation) put paid to the notion that statism (the Second Way) was adequate.  Beginning first in hinterlands like Chile (with the Chicago Boys), New Zealand, Australia and Sweden, experiments began which sought to provide the social safety net that democratic voters in developed economies demanded after the 30s but to fund it via market mechanisms, the necessity for which the 70s had demonstrated.  And once Margaret Thatcher began instituting the same sorts of reforms the process accelerated rapidly and both parties of left and right began offering up imitators--Tony Blair, Ian Duncan Smith, Gordon Brown, David Cameron, John Howard, John Key, Bill Clinton, Jack Kemp, Newt Gingrich, John Kasich, George W. Bush, Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush, Mitch Daniels, Paul Ryan, etc.  It soon became obvious that in any contest between the two parties anywhere in the English-speaking world and in Northern Europe, that party won whose leader was most closely associated with the positive program of the Third Way.

A question naturally arises as to why parties did not simply outbid each other then and why every party does not always nominate its most Third Way candidate.  But the answer is simple : significant portions of the party infrastructure and voters not surprisingly remain intellectually wedded to the First Way, on the one hand, or the Second Way, on the other.  But, even more so, they remain emotionally wedded to their historic opposition to the Second Way, in the case of the Right, and the First Way, in the case of the Left.  And they can't help but seeing a politics that fuses the two as anything but a betrayal of principles.  This produces fierce reactions and renders up retrograde figures like Bernie Sanders, Jeremy Corbyn, Pat Buchanan and Donald Trump who are defined by their refusal to compromise with the modern settlement.  From their perspective it is absolutely true that our leaders are "essentially on the other side," though the reality is that they, along with some leaders from the other party, are in actuality on a third side, with Left and Right both having been rejected as inadequate. Typically, after purging the reactionary poison from their blood and getting destroyed in a few national elections these parties then reconcile themselves to the need to return to the Third Way and offer up a reformist nominee, often returning straight back power as the other party engages in its own self-destructive episode.

So much for where we've been and where we are, what does looking at the future through this lens suggest? 

In the first instance, the backwards characters like Sanders, Corbyn and Trump are not changing their parties.  They are not causes but effects and such pass quickly from the scene when their parties decide they'd prefer relevance to ideological purity.  The next successful leaders of Labour and the GOP will be more Third Way than David Cameron and Hillary Clinton (who gets a Third Way halo from Bill, regardless of her policies). And while a Hillary or a Cameron may produce a backlash within their own parties for awhile, they will eventually return to the middle path; just as Donald Trump will be succeeded by a Bush/Ryan type nominee.

Thus the politics, as to the policies, we are going to see ever freer trade; ever fewer immigration restrictions; more taxation on consumption and less on business, savings and income; fewer (more rationalized) regulations on business; more public school choice; and an increasing reliance on personalized investment accounts to fund the various strands of the social welfare net.

Note that the last--increased investment in the economy by every member of the polity--will serve as a driver of all the former.  Such is the subtle genius of the Third Way, that by giving every citizen an ownership (capital) stake in the economy it is effectively capitalism on steroids.

 BULWARKIANISM: Libertarianism and Libertinism? (Frank S. Meyer, 1969, National Review)

Hillary Forgets the Lessons of Bill's Presidency (Steve Chapman, August 28, 2016, RCP)

Partly because his administration was so successful, Democrats have won the popular vote in four of the five presidential elections since his 1996 re-election. The thriving economy of his era created nearly 23 million jobs, cut the unemployment rate below 4 percent, kept inflation low, rescued 6.3 million Americans from poverty and set a record for the longest peacetime expansion in U.S. history.

Clinton knew that a booming economy is the closest thing to a cure-all. He pursued it with a combination of fiscal discipline, free trade and a light regulatory hand. Jimmy Carter, a Democratic president synonymous with economic chaos, had proved the folly of federal interference in wages and prices. A big part of Clinton's wisdom lay in what he didn't do.

September 9, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:40 PM


Danish team removes 500 tons of chemical weapons from Libya  (AP, 8/31/16) 

A Danish-led international operation to rid Libya of its chemical weapons has removed 500 tons of chemicals from the North African country, Denmark said Wednesday.

The government said the chemicals were picked up Saturday at the Libyan port of Misrata and are now on their way out of the Mediterranean Sea toward Germany.

"We have now removed the chemical remnants from Libya and have ensured that they will not fall into the wrong hands," Foreign Minister Kristian Jensen said.

Posted by orrinj at 7:35 PM


Trump charity gave $100,000 to David Bossie's Citizens United that helped fund lawsuit against mogul's foe (Michael Isikoff, September 9, 2016, Yahoo)

Donald Trump's charitable foundation gave $100,000 in 2014 to a conservative activist group that was used to help finance a federal lawsuit against New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman -- the same public official who was suing the real estate mogul for fraud over the operations of Trump University.

The size and timing of the donation to the Citizens United Foundation, an arm of the sprawling conservative network run by David Bossie, who is now Trump's deputy campaign manager, could raise fresh questions about whether Trump has used his tax-exempt charity to further political and personal causes.

It is a claim, actively promoted by Hillary Clinton's campaign, that got new attention this week after Trump's foundation acknowledged paying a penalty to the IRS for an improper $25,000 donation to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi's reelection campaign during a time her office was considering whether to join Schneiderman's lawsuit against Trump University.

A review of tax returns filed by the Trump Foundation shows that the 2014 donation to Bossie's Citizens United Foundation was by far the largest it gave to any organization that year, substantially exceeding its contributions to more traditional charities, such as the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (which got $50,000), the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute ($25,000) and the Police Athletic League ($25,000).

It was also the first time the Citizens United Foundation had ever received funding from Trump's charity.

Posted by orrinj at 7:21 PM


Where to See the Best Fall Foliage in the U.S. (Marisa LaScala and Allison Williams, September 09, 2016m Conde Nast Traveler)

THE LONGEST SEASON: New Hampshire's Lakes Region

When to go: Late September through late October

Why go: The secret to finding a lingering foliage season is steering clear of the weather that knocks leaves from their branches. "I would choose those locations away from the wind of the coast and at higher elevations," says Jerry Monkman, co-author of The Colors of Fall Road Trip Guide. This New Hampshire region--which encompasses more than 273 lakes including Lake Winnipesaukee, Squam Lake, Lake Ossipee, Mirror Lake, Newfound Lake, Lake Wentworth, and Lake Winnisquam--is protected from the harsh winds of the coast and doesn't rise more than 600 feet above sea level, giving you the best chance for a long leaf season.

Where to get the best view: Obviously, from the middle of a lake (pick one). Bring a kayak and tone your paddling arms. "You can see red maples along the waterways showing their bright colors on the trees, and then reflected down into the water as well," says Tai Freligh, the former communications manager for New Hampshire's Division of Travel and Tourism Development.

Insider tip: If boating and hiking feels like too much exertion for a good view, tour the lakes region from a fall foliage train. The Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad (603-745-2135,, $17 to $19) runs through October 21, and a one-to-two-hour round-trip ticket entitles you to a lakeside tour along tracks that were once a part of the Boston & Maine Railroad.

Posted by orrinj at 12:35 PM


A reminder of the permanent wars: Dozens of U.S. airstrikes in six countries (Missy Ryan September 8, 2016, wASHINGTON pOST)

In Iraq and Syria, between Saturday and Monday, the United States conducted about 45 strikes against Islamic State targets. On the other side of the Mediterranean, in the Libyan city of Sirte, U.S. forces also hit fighters with the militant group. On Sunday in Yemen, a U.S. drone strike killed six suspected members of ­al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. The following day, just across the Gulf of Aden in Somalia, the Pentagon targeted al-Shabab, another group aligned with ­al-Qaeda. The military also conducted several counterterrorism strikes over the weekend in Afghanistan, where the Taliban and the Islamic State are on the offensive.

Posted by orrinj at 8:56 AM


In Retail, The World Is On Fire (Richard Kestenbaum, 9/06/16, Forbes)

It used to be true that if you asked a merchant why a consumer buys a product, they would tell you it's about two things: great product and a great brand. But today that's not the end of the story, it's only the beginning. Consumers today want more. They want to know that the products they buy are contributing to the world with ethical behavior. They want to know that a product is relevant to their lifestyle. They prefer that a product be made locally. They want it to be made of environmentally-sensitive materials. They want the purchase of the product to be a good experience, with service that is accommodating and not troublesome. They don't want products that are sold all over the world, they want to be unique, they want their products to be individualized, special and personal to themselves.

They want it cheaper.

Posted by orrinj at 8:39 AM



One of Manziel's unique skills was the ability to throw the ball down the field while on the run. That skill took something like a year off Alabama coach Nick Saban's life as Johnny dropped a combined 907 yards and seven touchdowns on the vaunted Crimson Tide defense over two years.

What has gone largely unexplored from Manziel's run of success--and yes, after all these years of Manziel Overload, there are some things about him that are under-discussed--was his background as a baseball player. He excelled at the sport in high school and was even drafted by the San Diego Padres, in the 28th round of the 2014 draft, although he never signed a contract. In addition to his absurd quickness, baseball's impact on Manziel's game is most evident in his comfort throwing the ball accurately, on the move and without his feet set [...]

That's the kind of throw an infielder has to make to beat a runner to first. Football has always regularly put quarterbacks in situations where they needed to be able to make a throw without everything else on the field stopping to provide them the space and time they need to set their feet and deliver the perfect toss. This is particularly true for drop-back passing teams and spread teams that can't always create a perfect pocket for their quarterbacks. Baseball, too, requires that young athletes develop a skill for throwing off balance and accurately. When Manziel was Manziel, it was easy to see how that skill translates to the gridiron.

Four years later, Manziel's original coach, Kliff Kingsbury, is developing another young phenomenon who grew up playing baseball. Now the head coach at Texas Tech, Kingsbury has tabbed Patrick Mahomes to run the Air Raid. Patrick is the son of Pat Mahomes, who spent 11 seasons as a pitcher in the Major Leagues. Up until this past year, Mahomes was spending his offseasons playing baseball, but he gave up that pursuit to focus on the 2016 football season. All of which means that this year the Big 12 will have to reckon with another Air Raid quarterback with a background in baseball, and another offense that could put unique stress on opposing defenses.

As a ballplayer, Patrick Mahomes was a promising pitching prospect with a fastball in the low 90 mile per hour range. That arm strength, which is still evident on the gridiron when Mahomes is operating without a firm base, is probably the most lethal part of his game. It's also a major boon to Kingsbury's efforts to wear out defenses with his spread system.

The Air Raid is the focus of the book we're giving away in the NFL pool this week.  It's interesting to me how much the story resembles the one in Brilliant Orange, about the other football.

Spread Awakening : Most NFL coaches are still predisposed to resist the spread offense. The problem? They're increasingly drafting players used to nothing but, forcing them into an era of hybrid attacks that embrace both spread and pro-style techniques. (Kevin Clark, 8/24/16, The Ringer)

Before you can understand why marrying spread and pro-style schemes is so challenging, you must first understand the differences.

While each iteration varies slightly depending on coach or program, the pillars of the spread offense usually stay the same: Teams operate from the shotgun formation; stretch out four or five receivers; run hurry-up plays to tire out defenders; primarily keep offensive linemen in crouching positions instead of placing their hands in the dirt; and usually feature a mobile quarterback.

In pro-style systems, things are very different. Teams typically huddle so that quarterbacks can bark out complicated play calls; bunch blockers to protect the passer instead of placing them wide; and keep the QB under center to facilitate the run game (since this formation enhances the angles for a handoff out of the backfield and positions the back to receive the handoff closer to the line of scrimmage, helping the play develop faster after the snap).

How, then, to introduce key spread elements into the pro game without also introducing new concerns? "Nobody here is going to expose their quarterbacks to that kind of mentality because the quarterback is the value of the franchise," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said of a pure spread concept, where there are few blockers around the passer.

There have always been some ideas shared between the college and pro games. Patriots coach Bill Belichick, for example, picked Chip Kelly's brain when Kelly was still at Oregon, and Belichick remains close friends with Ohio State boss Urban Meyer. That hasn't aided the spread's mass-scale absorption in the NFL, however, because innovative coaches like Belichick and Kelly aren't the ones who need to be convinced that the things happening at the college level are worth adopting in the big leagues.

The first and most pressing part of the NFL's ability to grapple with spread athletes, then, is figuring out exactly who can play in the pros. This was always tough, but it's now even harder because the NFL demands techniques that spread athletes aren't trained to perform.

Posted by orrinj at 8:02 AM


Competition Works Best to Control Drug Prices (Megan McArdle, 89/02/16, Bloomberg View)

The Adrenaclick, which can be found for as little as $140 with the right discount coupon, according to Consumer Reports, is not on a lot of insurance formularies. And perhaps in part because of that, physicians don't write prescriptions for it. They prescribe the EpiPen. Thanks to strict rules about substitution, if pharmacists get a piece of paper telling them to dispense an EpiPen, they cannot say: "Very good, Moddom. Would you like our top-of-the-line, gold-plated epinephrine-dispensing device, or would you like to take a look at some of our lower-priced offerings?" They have to give you an EpiPen. With no generics available, well, enjoy your $600 device that will only last a year before the drug inside degrades and you have to replace it.

These artificial barriers to entry are why we keep seeing huge price spikes for various drugs. Now, it's worth noting that these spikes don't necessarily last very long. With the exception of some new, expensive and very valuable drugs, such as Opdivo for cancer or Sovaldi for Hepatitis C -- drugs for which there isn't a good alternative -- competition eventually becomes a problem for price-hiking drugmakers. Patients and doctors will eventually switch to another product if the price gets too high, and I'm sure that in the wake of all these news stories, there are now a lot more doctors asking patients whether they want an EpiPen or an Adrenaclick. Eventually, that competition should push the price down even if the government doesn't do anything.

But if you're a patient who's looking at paying $600 for an EpiPen that you need to save your life, that's probably not very comforting. You want a solution now.

Is Hillary Clinton's solution the right one? Sort of. I tend to think that it overcomplicates things. Our health care system already has too many overlapping panels of bureaucrats trying to tweak the market. And I don't favor either of the two simple, obvious solutions that I've seen proposed -- a price-control board, or allowing re-importation of U.S. drugs from Europe (which is basically just re-importing European price controls) -- because the relatively free pricing of the U.S. market provides the profits that support pharmaceutical R&D. Which has given us great, valuable drugs like Sovaldi and Opdivo.

What I do favor is the economist Alex Tabarrok's proposal for drug reciprocity with Europe: If a drug or device may be sold there, then it should be approved for the U.S. as well. We don't need to import their price controls, or impose ones of our own. We just need to import their competition. (Europe has many epinephrine pens on the market).

Beyond that, we should have a good long think about what the FDA does. A lot of the reason that it can be so hard to get new drugs and devices approved is that the FDA too often wants those drugs and devices to be perfect -- at least as good as anything already on the market and preferably better. And it does not really consider factors such as "It's cheaper," or "It will keep the other companies honest" when passing judgment.

Like Death Panels, the key is to consider effectiveness and cost on at least the same level as safety.

Posted by orrinj at 7:49 AM


Don't Blame A 'Skills Gap' For Lack Of Hiring In Manufacturing (Ben Casselman, 9/08/16,  538)

This "skills mismatch" theory is a favorite of corporate executives and the think tanks they fund. But it is based on scant evidence. Individual companies may be struggling to fill specific jobs, but the data shows little sign of an industrywide shortage of skilled workers. In fact, it's not clear that companies are really trying hard to fill many of these jobs at all.

For starters, it's worth defining what "skilled" means in this context. Even today, manufacturing jobs rarely require a college degree. Some 62 percent of manufacturing production workers have no education past high school, and 80 percent have neither an associate nor a bachelor's degree.1 Those numbers are pretty much the same for younger workers,2 suggesting manufacturers aren't replacing less-educated older workers with more-educated young ones.3 Manufacturing jobs don't generally require formal certifications, either. Just 11.5 percent of manufacturing workers have either licenses (issued by the government) or certificates (issued by a private group), one of the lowest certification rates of any industry.

Rather than degrees or licenses, what employers say they are struggling to find are workers with industry-specific skills, such as how to program the machines that do much of the physical work in modern factories. But according to a new paper by economists Andrew Weaver and Paul Osterman, companies looking for workers with specialized computing skills don't have any more trouble filling their vacancies than anyone else. (Advanced math was more of a stumbling block.) And three-quarters of manufacturers that Weaver and Osterman studied weren't having trouble finding workers at all. Other researchers have similarly found little evidence for a serious skills gap, either in manufacturing or in other sectors.

The latest economic data doesn't show much sign of a skills mismatch, either. If finding qualified workers is so hard, for example, then companies should be offering higher pay to attract and retain precious workers. That isn't happening. Average hourly earnings for manufacturing workers were up 2.5 percent in August from a year earlier, before adjusting for inflation; that's the same rate of growth as for workers in the rest of the private sector. Nor are companies pushing their existing employees to work overtime; weekly overtime has trended down since the start of the year.

Similarly, if qualified workers are such hot commodities, we would expect to see companies poaching them from each other. But the number of factory workers voluntarily quitting their jobs (whether to take new ones or for some other reason) has risen only slowly in the recovery and remains well below its prerecession level.

Posted by orrinj at 7:45 AM


How Donald Trump destroyed the anti-amnesty movement (Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, September 9, 2016, The Week)

[T]ne thing seems clear: Donald Trump has killed the anti-amnesty movement. A recent CNN poll shows that six in 10 Americans oppose building a wall along the entire border with Mexico, 66 percent say the government should not attempt to deport all people living in the country illegally, and an astonishing 88 percent say illegal immigrants who have been in the country for some time, speak English, and are willing to pay back taxes should be able to remain in the country and eventually apply for citizenship -- exactly the provision that destroyed previous attempts at so-called "comprehensive immigration reform" under the Bush and Obama administrations.

What's going on?

In short, Trump has made opposition to amnesty tantamount to a kind of racism or bigotry. While his supporters had hoped that putting immigration front and center, and wrapping opposition to amnesty up with nationalism, that Trump would force American politics towards an immigration policy that might be open in some ways (all those doctors and engineers can stay!) but would not tolerate low-skilled or illegal immigration.

Instead, Trump's anti-amnesty movement backfired.

What attracted nativists to Trump in the first place wasn't his specific policy proposals, which have been all over the map. It was his apocalyptic rhetoric. A sampling: Mexicans are rapists and thugs (although "some, I assume, are good people"). Mexico is deliberately sending its worst people to the United States. We need to get immigration under control or "we don't have a country anymore." And, of course, there was the naked pandering to racists, like the flirtation with David Duke, which certainly gave a nice finishing touch to the whole tableau.

But it's this exact rhetoric that turned Trump into the caricature of the racist nativist, which now sticks to the entire anti-amnesty movement.

Posted by orrinj at 7:34 AM


Why Europe failed to match America's tech boom (James Pethokoukis, September 9, 2016, The Week)

Venture capitalist Michael Mortiz of Sequoia Capital likely spoke for many in Silicon Valley when he wrote in a recent op-ed:

Over the past five years, the eight most valuable technology companies developed in Europe have assembled a combined market value of around $32 billion. That's not a figure to be sneezed at any more than the admirable young European technology entrepreneurs who, despite all odds, are more inclined to take a risk than members of their parents' generation. But EU legislators should be wondering why Europe's eight most valuable companies are only worth about 10 percent of Facebook or 6 percent of Google. [Financial Times]

Europe is wealthy and well educated, certainly more so than China, which has the same number of tech firms on the Forbes list. So what's its problem? There are a few obvious answers: lack of access to venture capital, inflexible labor markets, and a heterogeneous home market of distinct language, cultures, and regulations.

One French tech entrepreneur has described America's edge this way: "The confluence of a large pool of capital, world-class talent, vibrant support infrastructure, and a risk-loving culture has bred a self-fulfilling cycle of innovation and entrepreneurship."

Don't skip over that bit about culture. A European Commission study found Europeans more skeptical of entrepreneurship than Americans, and possessing a higher level of uncertainty avoidance. The churn of American society -- companies starting and dying, workers switching firms -- is also key to America's innovative capacity. In a new analysis, San Francisco Federal Reserve economist John Fernald notes that America's "economic fluidity and dynamism" helps spread ideas throughout the private sector. It's why Europe invested a lot in computers in the 1990s but never got a tech boom that boosted productivity, Fernald explains.

One of the many ways in which Trump is unAmerican is that he's running against that culture.

September 8, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 10:09 PM


Top Commander Of Al-Qaeda Affiliate In Syria Killed In Air Strike (Radio Liberty, September 09, 2016)

The top military commander of Syria's rebranded Al-Qaeda offshoot was killed in an air strike that targeted a meeting of the group's leaders, rebel sources said on September 8.

Fateh al-Sham Front, formerly known as Al-Nusra Front, announced on Twitter that commander Abu Omar Saraqeb was "martyred" in the countryside of Aleppo where the group has been playing an instrumental role in ongoing battles against the Syrian army and Iranian-backed Shi'ite militias. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:38 PM


The GAO buries the lede on retirement saving (Andrew G. Biggs, September 8, 2016, Forbes)

There's a newspaper term called "burying the lede," in which an article highlights information of secondary importance while missing something truly interesting. A recent study by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on retirement saving does exactly that. The GAO used a sophisticated computer model to project how much Americans may save in 401(k)-style retirement plans, warning that "Low defined contribution savings may pose challenges." But the GAO's computer model was capable of also projecting benefits from Social Security and traditional defined benefit pensions. When those other sources of income are included, the typical retiree is likely to have a total income that exceeds the average salary he earned during his working years. That's a "lede" that shouldn't have been buried.

Posted by orrinj at 7:33 PM


Trump, In TV Event With Clinton, Says Putin Better Leader Than Obama (Steve Holland and Jeff Mason, 9/08/16, Reuters) 

Donald Trump declared on Wednesday that Russia's Vladimir Putin had been a better leader than U.S. President Barack Obama, as the Republican presidential nominee used a televised forum to argue he was best equipped to reassert America's global leadership.

He's not a democrat, nevermind a Republican.

Posted by orrinj at 7:28 PM


Israelis have nothing to fear from IS but fear itself (AVI ISSACHAROFF, September 8, 2016, Times of Israel)

IS, or the groups like the Khalid ibn al-Walid Army that purport to represent it on the Syrian side of the border, are not going to conquer the Israeli Golan Heights anytime soon.

Quite the opposite. IS, which announced the establishment of its worldwide caliphate in June 2014, enjoyed a few months of ecstasy that included victories and tremendous territorial conquests. But for more than a year now, IS has been busy in unsuccessful attempts to stop the advance of enemy forces which are piece by piece reconquering territory.

On the Golan Heights, the IS situation is not great, to put it mildly. Its predecessor, the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade, fell to pieces after its commander Muhammad "Abu Ali" al-Baridi and some of his senior colleagues were killed in a suicide bomb attack by the Nusra Front. The remnants united with two other jihadist groups and from that was born the Khalid ibn al-Walid Army.

But the Golan Heights is the smallest of the headaches that IS is dealing with at the moment. Three weeks ago, the Kurds conquered from IS the town of Manbij; Fallujah, held by IS since the beginning of 2014, was taken in June by the Iraqi army; and in recent days the Turkish army managed to conquer from IS some villages on the Syrian border. On top of all of that are the targeted killings of senior IS figures in airstrikes, such as that of IS spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani last month, along with a reduction in financial income, a drop in volunteers lining up to fight, and various other problems.

The Islamic State group has responded to all of these setbacks in two of the ways in which it still excels: firstly, by suicide attacks like those carried out Monday in areas across Syria, including Hasakah City, Homs, Tartus, and Damascus, in which more than 40 people were killed. And secondly, via videos on the internet.

Posted by orrinj at 7:16 PM


The Not-So-High Costs of Brexit (Daniel Gros, SEP 8, 2016, Project Syndicate)

The United Kingdom's vote to "Brexit" the European Union is on course to become the year's biggest non-event. Beyond a weaker pound and lower UK interest rates, the referendum has not had much of a lasting impact. Financial markets wobbled for a few weeks after the referendum, but have since recovered. Consumer spending remains unmoved. More surprising, investment has remained consistent, despite uncertainty about Britain's future trade relations with the EU.

Posted by orrinj at 7:01 PM


Megan Rapinoe will play for national team but won't stand for the U.S. (Harry How, 9/08/16, Goal)

 U.S. Soccer had our attention, though, when the 21 players chosen for games against Thailand and the Netherlands were announced.

Megan Rapinoe is on the roster. That's no surprise. But it is a big deal.

Because Rapinoe recently has chosen to join the protest begun by the NFL's Colin Kaepernick by refusing to stand as the Star-Spangled Banner is played before games. She knelt during the national anthem when the Seattle Reign played a road game Sunday in Chicago. She planned to do it again Wednesday, but the owner of the Washington Spirit preempted the protest by having the anthem played before the teams entered the field.

Rapinoe told Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl her intent is to kneel again during the anthem Sept. 15 when the U.S. plays Thailand in Columbus. If she follows through on that promise, it would be quite the hypocritical stance.

The game at MAPFRE Stadium will not just be played in the United States. It will be played for the United States. The uniform will include a crest designed to approximate the American flag. The letters U-S-A are emblazoned in deep blue on that logo, with a series of red and white stripes underneath.

It would be easier to take her seriously if she chose not to be a symbol of our oppressive regime. But playing for the national team is how she cashes in. #Priorities 

Posted by orrinj at 6:56 PM


Colin Powell: Using private email same as private phone call (MICHAEL BIESECKER, 9/08/16, Associated Press)

Powell's antiquated AOL account, which worked over a phone line in his office at the State Department, might have been more vulnerable to attack by hackers than the private email server the Clinton used during her tenure as secretary.

Powell said in a statement he viewed his use of private email to communicate with foreign leaders and senior U.S. officials as private conversations similar to phone calls. He said he was unaware of any requirement that those messages be preserved as government records, potentially subject to public release.

Posted by orrinj at 6:49 PM


Russian polling agency is victim as Kremlin opts to shoot the messenger (Fred Weir, SEPTEMBER 8, 2016, CS Monitor)

 With less than two weeks to go before parliamentary elections, and the ratings of the ruling United Russia party dropping fast, the Kremlin has apparently decided to shoot the messenger.

The Levada Center, Russia's only independent public opinion agency, was forced to stop work this week, a move that critics of the Kremlin read as an effort to block public perceptions that the ruling party's popularity is plunging - even though nobody is directly disputing the highly respected organization's findings.

Posted by orrinj at 3:52 PM


U.S. jobless claims fall as labor market remains strong (Lucia Mutikani, 9/08/16, Reuters)

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits decreased 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 259,000 for the week ended Sept.3, the lowest level since mid-July, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Economists had forecast first-time applications for jobless benefits rising to 265,000 in the latest week. It was the 79th straight week that claims remained belowthe 300,000 threshold, which is associated with robust labor market conditions. That is the longest stretch since 1970, when the labor market was much smaller.

Posted by orrinj at 3:47 PM


Trump's shrinking swing state map (KYLE CHENEY and KATIE GLUECK 09/08/16, Politico)

Interviews with more than two dozen Republican operatives, state party officials and elected leaders suggest three of the 11 battleground states identified by POLITICO -- Colorado, New Hampshire and Virginia -- are tilting so heavily toward Hillary Clinton that they're close to unwinnable for the GOP presidential nominee.

Posted by orrinj at 3:43 PM


'What Is Aleppo?' Gary Johnson Asks, in an Interview Stumble (ALAN RAPPEPORTSEPT. 8, 2016, NY Times)

Gary Johnson, the former New Mexico governor and Libertarian Party presidential nominee, revealed a surprising lack of foreign policy knowledge on Thursday that could rock his insurgent candidacy when he could not answer a basic question about the crisis in Aleppo, Syria.

"What is Aleppo?" Mr. Johnson said when asked on MSNBC how, as president, he would address the refugee crisis in the war-torn Syrian city.

300 million Americans wonder the same thing.

Posted by orrinj at 3:35 PM


$9 trillion and counting: How central banks are still flooding the world with money (Ivana Kottasova, September 8, 2016, CNN Money)

The world's four most powerful central banks have pumped more than $9 trillion into the global economy since the financial crisis in a bid to boost growth, inflation and employment.

That's a huge number, equivalent to the value of all the goods and services the U.S. produces in six months.

"If you brought a group of economists from 2008 to the present day and told them that central banks had bought $9 trillion in assets and were still looking for ways to boost inflation, I don't think they would believe you," said Michael Pearce, global economist at Capital Economics.

Deflation can not be overstated.

Posted by orrinj at 3:29 PM


Welcome, Robot Overlords. Please Don't Fire Us? : Smart machines probably won't kill us all--but they'll definitely take our jobs, and sooner than you think. (KEVIN DRUMMAY, JUNE 2013, Mother Jones)

 We've moved from computers with a trillionth of the power of a human brain to computers with a billionth of the power. Then a millionth. And now a thousandth. Along the way, computers progressed from ballistics to accounting to word processing to speech recognition, and none of that really seemed like progress toward artificial intelligence. That's because even a thousandth of the power of a human brain is--let's be honest--a bit of a joke. Sure, it's a billion times more than the first computer had, but it's still not much more than the computing power of a hamster.

This is why, even with the IT industry barreling forward relentlessly, it has never seemed like we were making any real progress on the AI front. But there's another reason as well: Every time computers break some new barrier, we decide--or maybe just finally get it through our thick skulls--that we set the bar too low. At one point, for example, we thought that playing chess at a high level would be a mark of human-level intelligence. Then, in 1997, IBM's Deep Blue supercomputer beat world champion Garry Kasparov, and suddenly we decided that playing grandmaster-level chess didn't imply high intelligence after all.

So maybe translating human languages would be a fair test? Google Translate does a passable job of that these days. Recognizing human voices and responding appropriately? Siri mostly does that, and better systems are on the near horizon. Understanding the world well enough to win a round of Jeopardy! against human competition? A few years ago IBM's Watson supercomputer beat the two best human Jeopardy! champions of all time. Driving a car? Google has already logged more than 300,000 miles in its driverless cars, and in another decade they may be commercially available.

The truth is that all this represents more progress toward true AI than most of us realize. We've just been limited by the fact that computers still aren't quite muscular enough to finish the job. That's changing rapidly, though. Computing power is measured in calculations per second--a.k.a. floating-point operations per second, or "flops"--and the best estimates of the human brain suggest that our own processing power is about equivalent to 10 petaflops. ("Peta" comes after giga and tera.) That's a lot of flops, but last year an IBM Blue Gene/Q supercomputer at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory was clocked at 16.3 petaflops.

Of course, raw speed isn't everything. Livermore's Blue Gene/Q fills a room, requires eight megawatts of power to run, and costs about $250 million. What's more, it achieves its speed not with a single superfast processor, but with 1.6 million ordinary processor cores running simultaneously. While that kind of massive parallel processing is ideally suited for nuclear-weapons testing, we don't know yet if it will be effective for producing AI.

But plenty of people are trying to figure it out. Earlier this year, the European Commission chose two big research endeavors to receive a half billion euros each, and one of them was the Human Brain Project led by Henry Markram, a neuroscientist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne. He uses another IBM super­computer in a project aimed at modeling the entire human brain. Markram figures he can do this by 2020.

Posted by orrinj at 3:20 PM


Republicans And Democrats Live In Different Economies (Ian Anson, September 5, 2016, National Memo)

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.

Partisans may not see eye to eye on the state of the economy for this reason, but surely they can agree on some of the most basic economic facts, like whether the stock market has gone up or down in recent months.

In a second paper recently published in the Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties, I show that this is indeed the case: An analysis of a large number of public opinion polls reveals partisans tend to agree on the state of the stock market. The ubiquitousness of this economic indicator allows it to bypass even the most intense agenda-setting efforts.

We would normally expect partisans to feel the mental discomfort known as cognitive dissonance when knowledge of stock market performance conflicts with their biased economic judgments. As the stock market soars to record highs, this news conflicts with the idea that the economy is still stuck in post-Great Recession doldrums. Partisans should adjust their beliefs.

However, to echo the title of a recent paper by Danish political scientist Martin Bisgaard, I nevertheless show in survey analyses that "bias will find a way." Partisans perform mental gymnastics by changing the way they think the economy works. When stock market performance runs in conflict with the partisan economic narrative, partisans become less likely to say the stock market matters at all for the broader economy.

Posted by orrinj at 3:14 PM


U.S. says Libya close to eliminating Islamic State from Sirte (Reuters, September 7, 2016)

U.S.-backed Libyan forces are close to vanquishing Islamic State from its last holdouts in the city of Sirte, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on Wednesday.

Carter said forces aligned with Libya's U.N.-backed government, who have been aided by U.S. air strikes since the beginning of August, had cornered Islamic State in one small section of the city.

Posted by orrinj at 3:09 PM


Fresh US sanctions to hit Russian shipyards and chipmakers (Deutsche-Welle, 9/08/16)

After the US Department of the Treasury had updated its list of Russian companies targeted by the sanctions last week, the Department of Commerce followed suit on Wednesday, imposing bans on dozens of Russia-based entities. The Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) added a total of 81 companies new to its Entity List that had been introduced in 2014 after Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine.

The US authorities noted the banned companies were acting against "the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States."

"BIS is taking this action to ensure the efficacy of existing sanctions on the Russian Federation for violating international law and fueling the conflict in eastern Ukraine," the bureau said in the Federal Register, an official daily journal of the US administration.

Posted by orrinj at 2:46 PM


European Central Bank weighs stimulus as inflation lags (DAVID McHUGH, 9/08/16,Associated Press)

Draghi and the ECB are faced with inflation of only 0.2 percent annually, far below the bank's target of just under 2 percent. Chronically low inflation suggests the economy is not hitting on all cylinders, even though the currency union is enjoying a moderate economic upswing. 

In other words, it suggests nothing of the kind.

Posted by orrinj at 6:43 AM


Colin Powell Gave Hillary Clinton Tips on How to Avoid Email Scrutiny (BYRON TAU, Sept. 7, 2016, WSJ)

In an email response to a friendly note Mrs. Clinton sent dated Jan. 23, 2009, Mr. Powell said he used both a "personal computer" and a device he described as a "PDA"--likely short for "Personal Digital Assistant," the name used for early smartphone-like devices. Mrs. Clinton had sought Mr. Powell's advice for how to bring her BlackBerry smartphone along at the State Department, describing herself as an "addict."

The newly released emails appear to show Mr. Powell, who served as secretary of state between 2001 and 2005 under President George W. Bush, acknowledging he exchanged work-related emails with foreign leaders and State Department officials using a personal computer or by corresponding with the personal accounts of senior government staffers. The setup enabled Mr. Powell's correspondence to bypass the government's computer network, he said.

"I didn't have a BlackBerry. What I did do was have a personal computer that was hooked up to a private phone line (sounds ancient.) So I could communicate with a wide range of friends directly without it going through the State Department servers," Mr. Powell wrote to Mrs. Clinton, now the Democratic nominee for president.

"I even used it to do business with some foreign leaders and some of the senior folks in the Department on their personal email accounts. I did the same thing on the road in hotels," he said.

Yeah, but she's Hillary!

September 7, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:20 PM


The Many Scandals of Donald Trump: A Cheat Sheet (DAVID A. GRAHAM, 9/07/16, The Atlantic)

Washington Post reporter David Fahrenthold has been reporting for months on the dearth of actual giving that Trump has done, despite repeated vows to donate to charity over the decades, but the story that's broken through concerns a donation that Trump made to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, a Republican, in 2013. At the time, Bondi's office was deciding whether or not to pursue a fraud case against Trump University and the Trump Institute. According to an aide, Bondi personally spoke with Trump, soliciting a donation to And Justice for All, a group backing her reelection. The Trump Foundation cut And Justice for All a $25,000 check, and four days Bondi dropped the investigation.

There are two questions at play here. One is the appearance of a quid-pro-quo. While Trump and Bondi say there was none, this is also precisely the mode Trump has described in the past. "As a businessman and a very substantial donor to very important people, when you give, they do whatever the hell you want them to do," Trump told The Wall Street Journal in July 2015. "As a businessman, I need that." He reprised those boasts early in the GOP primary, positioning himself as the only candidate honest enough to say how the game was played--and the only one rich enough to be exempt from it. Now, however, he's singing a different tune.

Improper influence or not, the donation was illegal. The Trump Foundation, as a nonprofit, cannot give to political causes. Making things more complicated, the Trump Foundation recorded the incorrect recipient as the gift. Eventually, it had to pay a $2,500 penalty to the IRS. Even then, it has not recouped the money, as is required.

That's not the end of the story. The liberal watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has filed a complaint with the IRS, accusing the Trump Foundation of violating another rule by using charity to benefit a group's leader. Meanwhile, The Huffington Post reports that Trump's help for Bondi didn't stop with that $25,000 donation. His family gave more to her, and he also hosted a fundraiser at his tony Mar-A-Lago in Florida--charging less than market rate, and less than he charged his own campaign to host events there.

Posted by orrinj at 7:14 PM


Obama Admin Wants to Cut Army's Force Size by 25,000 by 2018 (Adam Kredo, September 7, 2016, fREE bEACON)

The Obama administration is seeking to cut the U.S. Army's total force size by 25,000 soldiers by 2018, bringing America's force strength down to 450,000 from its current size of 475,000, according to a new congressional report that shines a spotlight on a growing debate over how large the force should be.

Posted by orrinj at 7:07 PM


Apache Has High Hopes for New Oil-Field Discovery in Texas (BRADLEY OLSON and  ERIN AILWORTH, Sept. 7, 2016, wsj)

Apache Corp. said it has discovered the equivalent of at least two billion barrels of oil in a new west Texas field that has the promise to become one of the biggest energy finds of the past decade.

The discovery, which Apache is calling "Alpine High," is in an area near the Davis Mountains that had been overlooked by geologists and engineers, who believed it would be a poor fit for hydraulic fracturing. It could be worth $8 billion by conservative estimates, or even 10 times more, according to the company. [...]

The company has begun drilling in the area and says the early wells, which produce more natural gas than oil, are capable of providing at least a 30% profit margin at today's prices, including all costs associated with drilling.

Some are so prolific that they can break even at a price of 10 cents per million British thermal units, according to the company. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:39 PM


Miss Japan won by half Indian Priyanka Yoshikawa (BBC, 6 September 2016)

A half-Indian woman has been crowned Miss World Japan, the second year in a row a biracial person has won a beauty pageant in the country.

Priyanka Yoshikawa, 22 and who also has an elephant training licence, said she would use her win to "change perceptions".

Last year, Ariana Miyamoto was the first mixed-race person to win the Miss Universe pageant.

Critics complained then that a "pure" Japanese should have won.

Posted by orrinj at 2:45 PM


Maybe Supply-Side Economics Deserves a Second Look (Tyler Cowen, 9/07/16, Bloomberg View)

Maybe it's time to start paying more attention to other approaches, specifically those based on the supply side. Supply-side economics has been discredited since the Bush tax cuts failed to boost economic growth, but there is another way of thinking about the problem. It is not enough for funds to be left in the hands of the wealthy; rather they must be invested in risk-bearing equity capital, focused on innovation.   

So argues Edward Conard in his new book, "The Upside of Inequality: How Good Intentions Undermine the Middle Class." Think of it as a revamp of supply-side economics but with the concept of risk-bearing at the core, a fitting perspective for an author who was a founding partner of the private equity firm Bain Capital and a former business associate of Mitt Romney.

In this view, traditional demand stimulus is at best defensive in nature. It may limit further collapse, but it won't much revitalize risk-taking. For Conard, "Weak demand is not a cause in and of itself. It is a symptom of a shortage of equity willing and able to bear risk." 

Continentalist, no. 5 (Alexander Hamilton, 18 Apr. 1782)

They can have no temptation to abuse this power, because the motive of revenue will check its own extremes. Experience has shown that moderate duties are more productive than high ones. When they are low, a nation can trade abroad on better terms--its imports and exports will be larger--the duties will be regularly paid, and arising on a greater quantity of commodities, will yield more in the aggregate, than when they are so high as to operate either as a prohibition, or as an inducement to evade them by illicit practices.

Posted by orrinj at 2:41 PM


Mitt Romney's Rich Backers Turn to Hillary Clinton (Alec MacGillis, 09.07.16, Daily Beast)

One might reasonably expect Clinton's campaign contributions from private equity to suffer as a result of her stance, and for the money to flow overwhelmingly to the Republicans, as it did in the last presidential election.

That hasn't happened. In fact, Clinton is receiving all of the industry's support.

As of the end of July, the executives and employees of the four biggest private equity firms--the Blackstone Group, Carlyle Group, KKR, and Apollo Global Management--had given her campaign a combined $182,295 in direct contributions, according to the database compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Their combined contributions to her opponent's campaign? Zero. Not a cent.

The reason for this swing, of course, is that Clinton's opponent is not just any Republican, but Donald J. Trump.

Posted by orrinj at 2:37 PM


Syrian opposition vision for post-Assad era could work: UK's Johnson (Reuters, 9/07/16)

A blueprint for a political transition in Syria, due to be presented by an opposition group in London on Wednesday, offers the first credible picture of a peaceful Syria without President Bashar al-Assad, Britain's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said.

The High Negotiations Committee, the main Syrian opposition group at stalled U.N.-mediated peace talks, will propose a gradual transition, starting with six months of negotiations accompanied by a total ceasefire and full humanitarian access.

The plan then foresees the setting up of a transitional administration made up of opposition and government figures which would run Syria for 18 months, during which time Assad would depart. Then there would be elections.

Posted by orrinj at 2:33 PM


Our Online Sales-Tax Loophole : A new proposal to close it is promising. (ROBERT VERBRUGGEN • September 6, 2016, American Conservative)

Our online sales-tax system has relatively few defenders, aside from those in the hardline anti-tax crowd who'd support anything that made it harder for the government to collect revenue. If you buy something from a local store, the store collects any applicable sales tax and sends it to the state. If you buy something online, and the store has no physical presence in your state, a tax still applies--but the business doesn't have to collect it or tell your state how much you spent. To avoid the tax, all you have to do is "forget" your online purchases when you fill out your tax forms at the end of the year.

Not only does the system facilitate tax evasion, but it twists economic incentives, giving online retailers an unfair advantage. Until now, federal lawmakers have struggled to find a solution. But a new proposal from Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) might point the way forward.

Unfortunately, the issue does need to be handled at the federal level. Online purchases that cross state lines are pretty much the textbook definition of "commerce ... among the several states," an area the Constitution gives to the national government. The Supreme Court has confirmed this, forbidding states to unilaterally tax businesses that lack a physical in-state "nexus." Such taxes can be collected only if Congress explicitly authorizes them.

Decades into the internet era, lawmakers haven't managed to do so. "Tax increases"--which in this case, of course, just means shutting down a tax-cheating scheme--are always unpopular, and e-commerce giants like Amazon long fought any attempt at reform. But the tide may be turning. Many states are facing budget crises, and others are taking matters into their own hands, passing laws of dubious constitutionality in an attempt to force the Supreme Court to revisit the issue. And in a hilariously brazen display of crony capitalism, Amazon itself switched sides a few years ago.

Just offset consumption taxes by reducing/eliminating income taxes.

Posted by orrinj at 2:28 PM


Israelis more pro-Clinton than Americans -- poll (TIMES OF ISRAEL, September 7, 2016)

In a phone poll of 500 Jews and 100 Arabs conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute, in response to the question, "And whom would you want to win the US presidential elections: Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton?" 43.1% of Jews preferred Clinton and only 34.2% wanted Trump as president.

Posted by orrinj at 2:24 PM


Kremlin laments new US sanctions after Putin-Obama meeting (AP, Sept. 7, 2016)

Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Wednesday that Russia regrets that the sanctions followed the Monday meeting between the U.S. and Russian presidents on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Hangzhou.

All they can do is whine.
Posted by orrinj at 2:21 PM


Obama Is Cutting Clinton No Slack on the TPP Trade Deal (Rob Garver, September 6, 2016, Fiscal Times)

Perhaps it's a factor of Hillary Clinton's consistent lead over Donald Trump in both national polls and in expert assessments of the likely breakdown of the electoral vote in November's presidential election. Or perhaps President Obama has simply decided that there is a line he will not cross when it comes to supporting his preferred successor. But whatever the cause, the president showed once again this weekend that even in the face of opposition from his own party's presidential nominee, he is not going to budge on the question of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.

Posted by orrinj at 2:18 PM


Shiite alliance against Saudis grows tighter (Ali Mamouri, September 6, 2016, Al Monitor)

In his annual message addressed to pilgrims on Sept. 5, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei attacked the Saudi alliance and described the Saudi leaders as strife instigators in the region. He blamed them for the chaos and destruction across the Muslim world, naming Iraq, Syria, Bahrain, Yemen and Libya as affected areas.

Iran had made an announcement about forming a Shiite liberation army to face Saudi and Israeli threats, as Iran believes the two countries are allies. On Aug. 18, Brig. Gen. Mohammad Ali Falaki, a commander of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) who spearheaded several operations in Syria, announced the formation of a Shiite liberation army including men of different nationalities -- Iraqis, Afghans and Lebanese, among others.

He said that Gen. Qasem Soleimani, the head of Iran's elite Quds Force, will lead the army whose forces are currently fighting in Iraq, Syria and Yemen. Soleimani hopes to open new fronts in other regions in the Middle East.

Iraq is playing a key role in the formation of the Shiite alliance against Saudi Arabia. To seek Shiite support against Saudi Arabia, a high-ranking Houthi Yemeni delegation, including official Ansarullah spokesman Mohamed Abdel Salam, visited Iraq between Aug. 27 and Sept. 1. The delegation held intensive talks with Iraqi officials, and it met with Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, who expressed his country's firm refusal of Saudi military intervention in Yemen. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi later welcomed the delegation and said, "Iraq has supported the Yemeni people since the beginning and objected to their oppression and to unjustified aggression on Yemen."

Abadi revealed during the talks that Iraq sent aid to the Houthis during Saudi Arabia's attacks on Yemen. The delegation also met with President Fuad Masum before leaving Iraq for Muscat. The delegation is also planning on visiting Lebanon and Iran as part of its regional tour.

Meetings were also held with leaders and figures affiliated with Shiite militias under the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), such as the militant known as Abu Azrael. The visit was clearly sectarian, as the delegation did not meet with any Sunni Arabs, such as Iraqi parliament Speaker Salim al-Jabouri. The delegation was not interested in meeting with Sunni figures, and Sunni political leaders resented the meetings that negatively affected the friendly relations with Saudi Arabia.

Posted by orrinj at 2:14 PM


The NFL Has an Age Problem (Kevin Clark, 9/07/16, The Ringer)

If you're worried about the level of play in the NFL, you have an unlikely ally: coaches and executives. "Everything from defensive linemen not knowing where their eyes should be looking, not knowing where blocks are coming from," said Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh. "Defensive backs not recognizing routes, not knowing how to burst, stop, start, and change direction so they don't tear their ACLs. Offensive linemen not knowing where blitzers are coming from. Just not a lot of technique anywhere."

It's rare for NFL coaches and executives to agree en masse on anything, but these days, nearly all of them seem to be fretting about a new and game-changing trend: The NFL is getting dangerously young due to changes at both ends of the age spectrum, with record numbers of less experienced rookies entering the league and veterans getting the boot.

"This is a real serious concern," Harbaugh said. "Not just for the quality of the game, but for the well-being of these young guys coming into the NFL."

Football Outsiders tracks a statistic called "Snap-Weighted Age" that averages the age of the players on the field based on snaps. In 2015, the league-wide average age hit its lowest mark since the site started keeping track a decade ago. In 2006, the average age of the players on the field was 27.2; in 2015, it was 26.6. On offenses alone, the average age of players on the field dipped almost a full year, from 27.6 in 2006 to 26.8 last year.

Posted by orrinj at 2:10 PM


Dallas Morning News Endorses A Democrat For The First Time In Over 75 Years (Anjali Sareen, September 7, 2016, National Memo)

The editorial board at the paper didn't mince words in their endorsement of Clinton, saying, "There is only one serious candidate on the presidential ballot in November."

The paper acknowledged that their endorsement constituted a significant break in tradition. The Dallas Morning News has not endorsed a democrat for president since before World War II. "If you're counting," the editorial read, "that's more than 75 years and nearly 20 elections."

In fact, the last time a Republican nominee wasn't endorsed by the paper, a Democratic one wasn't either. In 1964, the year that Lyndon B. Johnson was running against Barry Goldwater, the paper's editor and publisher were at odds over the candidates, so the paper decided not to print any endorsement at all.

The Dallas Morning News acknowledged that their views are generally at odds with the Democratic party, and that they've been critical of Clinton in the past.

"But unlike Donald Trump," they wrote, "Hillary Clinton has experience in actual governance, a record of service and a willingness to delve into real policy."

Posted by orrinj at 1:59 PM


Iraq militia fighters join battle for Syria's Aleppo (Angus McDowall and Ahmed Rasheed, 9/07/16, Reuters)

Aleppo has been divided for years into government and rebel sectors, but President Bashar al-Assad's army has put the opposition areas under siege and now hopes to capture the whole city in what would be a devastating blow to his enemies.

Government forces are backed by Russian air power and battle-hardened Lebanese and Iraqi Shi'ite militia fighters under the apparent oversight of an Iranian general.

The arrival of reinforcements from Iraq, where Shi'ite militia are fighting their own war against the Islamic State group, shows how the Syrian and Iraqi conflicts have leapt borders, to become a broad sectarian war across the Middle East.

Posted by orrinj at 1:54 PM


America's Uninsured Rate Hits Historic Low (Eric Levitz, 9/07/16, New York)

[T]he law has still drastically reduced the number of Americans who are too poor, sick, or unemployed to access health insurance. Which is to say, there are now far fewer people in this country who have to worry about financial ruin every time they cough.

According to new data from the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics, America's uninsured rate fell to 8.6 percent in the first three months of this year, the lowest such figure ever recorded. At the time "Obamacare" went into law, that rate stood at 16 percent.

Posted by orrinj at 1:45 PM



GOOGLE HAS BUILT a half-trillion-dollar business out of divining what people want based on a few words they type into a search field. In the process, it's stumbled on a powerful tool for getting inside the minds of some of the least understood and most dangerous people on the Internet: potential ISIS recruits. Now one subsidiary of Google is trying not just to understand those would-be jihadis' intentions, but to change them.

Jigsaw, the Google-owned tech incubator and think tank--until recently known as Google Ideas--has been working over the past year to develop a new program it hopes can use a combination of Google's search advertising algorithms and YouTube's video platform to target aspiring ISIS recruits and ultimately dissuade them from joining the group's cult of apocalyptic violence. The program, which Jigsaw calls the Redirect Method and plans to launch in a new phase this month, places advertising alongside results for any keywords and phrases that Jigsaw has determined people attracted to ISIS commonly search for. Those ads link to Arabic- and English-language YouTube channels that pull together preexisting videos Jigsaw believes can effectively undo ISIS's brainwashing--clips like testimonials from former extremists, imams denouncing ISIS's corruption of Islam, and surreptitiously filmed clips inside the group's dysfunctional caliphate in Northern Syria and Iraq.

"This came out of an observation that there's a lot of online demand for ISIS material, but there are also a lot of credible organic voices online debunking their narratives," says Yasmin Green, Jigsaw's head of research and development. "The Redirect Method is at its heart a targeted advertising campaign: Let's take these individuals who are vulnerable to ISIS' recruitment messaging and instead show them information that refutes it."

Posted by orrinj at 1:39 PM


No Big Revelations in Unearthed Benghazi Emails (BYRON TAU, Sep 7, 2016, wsj)

The State Department made public three emails related to the Benghazi attacks on Wednesday that were forensically recovered as part of an investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a personal email server, all of which contained only mundane correspondence with the former secretary of state. [...]

"The email is from Tom Shannon to Cheryl Mills. Shannon was complimenting Secretary Clinton on her January 2013 Hill testimony. Ms. Mills then forwarded it to Secretary Clinton. The email doesn't change the facts that have previously been made clear about the Benghazi attacks," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement.

Mr. Shannon at the time was serving as U.S. ambassador to Brazil and now is serving as under secretary for political affairs at the State Department. In the 2013 note, he wrote to Mrs. Clinton's top aide Cheryl Mills: "Please extend to the Secretary my congratulations for her her testimony today before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. I watched with great admiration as she dealt with a tough and personally painful issue in a fair, candid and determined manner."

Posted by Glenn Dryfoos at 6:50 AM


Happy Birthday, Sonny Rollins

Sonny Rollins, aka The World's Greatest Living Jazz Musician, turns 86 today.  Sonny has been mentioned frequently in these ATJ posts, and was featured in ATJ #7, ATJ #23, and ATJ #31.  

I've got nothing new to say about this remarkable musician, so I'll just point you to some of my favorite Sonny recordings, going back to 1949.  

Bouncing With Bud: 

I'm an Old Cowhand: 

Who Cares?:  

I've Never Been In Love Before: 

And, finally, a great live performance: 

September 6, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:34 PM


Donald Trump: Israel will be destroyed unless I'm elected (JTA AND TIMES OF ISRAEL, September 7, 2016)

No one can be surprised that he has such a low opinion of the Jews.

Posted by orrinj at 7:30 PM



It took a while, but Hot Wheels has released its own artificial intelligence package. It's similar to Anki's, in that it's a slot-cars-without-the-slots toy set, but it's both less "intelligent" and more open-ended than Anki's system. It's also not entirely original: It uses technology from Real FX, an erstwhile Kickstarter project that launched its own racing system last year. To the Real FX platform, Hot Wheels has added redesigned controllers and swappable car shells.

First, the similarities between this system and Anki's: Both use specially encoded tracks and infrared sensors under each car to guide the vehicles around the course. In Hot Wheels AI, you can race against the "computer" or another human; in the computer-driven mode, the cars will just stay on the road no matter what.

Posted by orrinj at 7:14 PM


How Kaepernick came to kneel (Peter King, 9/05/16, MMQB)

When former Army Green Beret Nate Boyer met with Colin Kaepernick in San Diego last Thursday around noon, a few hours before the Niner quarterback's important preseason test against the Chargers (he passed and will start the season as the backup to Blaine Gabbert), Boyer showed Kaepernick a text message from a fellow Ranger who was still serving overseas. Boyer shared the text with me but not the name of the soldier in the special forces--and he shared it with Kaepernick last Thursday too. It read:

Hey buddy. At first I was with you on this Kaepernick issue. However, I just stood in formation while one of our brothers was pulled off a plane with our nation's flag draped over his coffin. I had to fight back tears as I saw the pain in the eyes of Staff Sgt. Thompson's wife and family. While I would like to sit here and tell you I rose above it all, I have to be honest, my heart filled with rage--rage for anyone who takes for granted the ideals and symbol of what we fight and die for.

After reading the text, sitting in the lobby of the San Diego Westin Hotel with Boyer, Kaepernick was moved. According to Boyer, Kaepernick said: "How can I express my feelings better, without hurting guys like this so much?"

"Maybe," Boyer told him, "there's a way for you to show respect for those fighting and dying for this country." Sitting, to some people, is an extreme act of disloyalty to the country.

Boyer suggested he stand and simply bow his head. That wasn't for Kaepernick, presumably because he'd said he wasn't going to stand for the anthem. Kaepernick decided to take a knee instead, because often people take a knee to show reverence. "I told him if he took a knee I would stand next to him," said Boyer. "So that's how I ended up on the field next to him."

But Boyer also told Kaepernick anything he did before the anthem would be an empty gesture unless it was accompanied by taking action himself. Kaepernick announced he would donate the first $1 million of his salary to a community organization with goals consistent to his.

Posted by orrinj at 7:07 PM


Save the Republican Party: Vote for Clinton (JAMES K. GLASSMAN, SEPT. 6, 2016, NY Times)

Last month, 50 former officials from G.O.P. administrations issued a scathing indictment of Mr. Trump, saying he would be the "most reckless president in American history." Yet only a few of these Republicans have so far said they will vote for Mrs. Clinton.

I have some sympathy with this position, but it is a cop-out. If you think Mr. Trump is so lacking in experience and judgment that he shouldn't have his finger on the nuclear trigger, then you are saying he is not just a bad candidate; you are saying he is a threat to the nation. You have an obligation to defeat him, no matter what you think of Mrs. Clinton.

I'm voting for Mrs. Clinton because, despite her deficiencies, she will make a better president. But I have another reason. Defeating Mr. Trump soundly will help save the Republican Party. If he wins, a party built on freedom and internationalism will become entrenched as a party of authoritarianism and isolation, which means that within a few years it will atrophy and die.

This year, Republican Senate candidates who should be winning are instead in deep jeopardy. I'll be working to elect these candidates, and after Mr. Trump loses, I'll work to rebuild the party in hopes of running a strong and sensible nominee against Mrs. Clinton in 2020.

Unfortunately, the Trump campaign has already cost the Republican Party its credibility. Out of some twisted notion of loyalty, party leaders previously seen as devoted to conservative ideals and policy are now viewed widely as unprincipled cynics. And they deserve to be. How do you recover from that?

For a Republican to vote for a Democrat -- and publicly declare it -- involves a cost. You can lose business, or lose friends. You won't get a job in a Clinton administration, and certainly not in a Trump administration.

But if you really think that Mr. Trump is a threat to your country, the right thing to do is to take the next step. Don't just say you won't vote for him. Vote against him.

Posted by orrinj at 2:33 PM


Signs Are Pointing to a Stronger Economy (Simon Constable, Sept. 6, 2016, US NEWS)

A better jobs market. "We are relatively constructive on the economy," says Jason Dillow, chief investment officer at Halcyon Capital Management in New York. "The best way to see that is to look at the jobs data."

He notes that first-time claims for unemployment benefits totaled 263,000 for the week ended August 27, the 78th consecutive week that they have been less than 300,000.

Such a long period of such low levels of claims hasn't been seen since 1970, according to the government.

It's the sign of a robust jobs market, and that should filter through to improved consumer spending, Dillow says. When people have jobs they collectively spend more money and so the economy grows even faster.

Such spending often drives profits of companies selling goods and services that are desired, but not essential, the so-called consumer discretionary sector. A basket of such stocks are held in the Consumer Discretionary Select Sector SPDR exchange-traded fund (ticker: XLY). It has annual expenses of 0.14 percent, or $14 per $10,000 invested.

Low inflation, stable housing. "Inflation is low, but stable. Housing is a mild strength," says Stephen Guilfoyle, chief market economist at Stuart Frankel & Co. in New York. Both are key to a smoothly growing economy.

The Core Personal Consumption Expenditure Deflator, which measures inflation but excludes food and energy prices (which are considered too volatile), has remained well below the Fed's 2 percent target for the past few years.

That means that when the Fed does start raising the cost of borrowing the moves will likely be small and measured, rather than big and fast. In other words, the economy probably won't get stalled by rate moves.

Sales of new single family homes totaled an annualized 654,000 in July, according to data from the government. It marks a 31 percent jump from the same month a year ago.

Not only is the housing data the best in years, but it is also an indicator of future economic activity. Typically houses are sold before they are built, which means that every sale points to hiring of construction workers and spending on materials over the next few months. In addition, when people finally move into a completed home they typically spend money on furnishing it with chairs, curtains and other knickknacks. Retailers such as Target Corp. (TGT) tend to benefit from such spending.

Furthermore, without a strong housing sector, it is hard to see how the economy could grow as fast as it did when President Bill Clinton was in office during the 1990s. So this piece of data is actually very good.

But the biggest push will come from Amnesty, Construction worker shortage weighs on hot U.S. housing market (David Randall, 9/06/16, Reuters)

Eight years after the housing bust drove an estimated 30 percent of construction workers into new fields, homebuilders across the country are struggling to find workers at all levels of experience, according to the National Association of Homebuilders. The association estimates that there are approximately 200,000 unfilled construction jobs in the U.S. - a jump of 81 percent in the last two years.

The ratio of construction job openings to hiring, as measured by the Department of Labor, is at its highest level since 2007.

"The labor shortage is getting worse as demand is getting stronger," said John Courson, chief executive of the Home Builders Institute, a national nonprofit that trains workers in the construction field.

The impact is two-fold. Without enough workers, residential construction is trailing demand for homes, dampening the overall economy.

And with labor costs rising, homebuilders are building more expensive homes to maintain their margins, which means they are abandoning the starter home market. That has left entry-level homes in tight supply, shutting out many would-be buyers at a time when mortgage rates are near historic lows.

Posted by orrinj at 2:29 PM


Japan, Israel upgrade relations as Arab oil influence wanes (Tova Cohen, 9/06/16, Reuters)

Japanese executives say they are increasingly drawn to investments in Israel as the price of oil falls and, with it, the influence Arab oil suppliers have on Japan's decision-making.

Over the past two years, Japan and Israel have strengthened business ties, signing a series of economic agreements on the back of a visit by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Israel in 2015 and Benjamin Netanyahu's trip to Tokyo in 2014.

Posted by orrinj at 2:24 PM


UN: Palestinian economy could double without 'occupation' (AP, Sept. 6, 2016)

The U.N.'s development agency estimates the Palestinian economy could be twice as large as it is now if it were freed from Israeli control. [...]

The report cites limits on movement, destruction of assets, expansion of Israeli settlements, and confiscation of land, water and natural resources among the "channels through which occupation deprives the Palestinian people of their human right to development."

Ironically, most of its external economic activity will be with Israel.

Posted by orrinj at 2:14 PM


Turkey says 2 of its soldiers killed in IS attack in Syria (ZEYNEP BILGINSOY, 9/06/16, Associated Press)

Two Turkish soldiers were killed and five were wounded in a missile attack Tuesday by the Islamic State group in northern Syria -- the first Turkish casualties caused by the militants in Turkey's two-week-old incursion into Syria.

Posted by orrinj at 2:08 PM


Donald Trump is no Republican (Dallas Morning News Editorial,  06 September 2016)

Donald Trump is no Republican and certainly no conservative.

Individual liberty? Trump has displayed an authoritarian streak that should horrify limited-government advocates. This impulsive, unbridled New York real estate billionaire and reality-TV star wants to deport people who were born in the U.S. and don't meet his standard for loyalty. He has proposed banning all Muslims from entering the country, even those escaping Islamist rule, and won't rule out creating a database of Muslims already living here.

His open admiration of Russia's Vladimir Putin is alarming.

Free markets? Economic conservatism? Ronald Reagan once said that "protectionism is destructionism." Trump, on the other hand, has called the Trans-Pacific Partnership "a rape of our country." [...]

Strong national defense? Trump pledges to make our military "so big, so powerful, so strong that nobody -- absolutely nobody -- is going to mess with us." But what does he want to do with that military? He says he supports killing the families of Muslim terrorists and allowing interrogation methods "a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding." And if the military balks at obeying such orders?  "If I say do it, they're gonna do it," he says.

His isolationist prescriptions put sound bites over sound policy: Invite the Russians into our elections. Bomb the Middle East into dust. Withdraw from NATO.

Posted by orrinj at 1:59 PM


Phyllis Schlafly, 'First Lady' of a Political March to the Right, Dies at 92 (DOUGLAS MARTIN, SEPT. 5, 2016, NY Times)

In her time, Mrs. Schlafly was one of the most polarizing figures in American public life, a self-described housewife who displayed a moral ferocity reminiscent of the ax-wielding prohibitionist Carry Nation. Richard Viguerie, who masterminded the use of direct mail to finance right-wing causes, called her "the first lady of the conservative movement."

On the left, Betty Friedan, the feminist leader and author, compared her to a religious heretic, telling her in a debate that she should burn at the stake for opposing the Equal Rights Amendment. Ms. Friedan called Mrs. Schlafly an "Aunt Tom."

Mrs. Schlafly became a forceful conservative voice in the 1950s, when she joined the right-wing crusade against international Communism. In the 1960s, with her popular self-published book "A Choice Not an Echo" (it sold more than three million copies) and a growing legion of followers, she gave critical support to the presidential ambitions of Senator Barry Goldwater, the hard-right Arizonan who went on to lead the Republican Party to electoral disaster in 1964, but who planted the seeds of a conservative revival that would flower with the rise of Ronald Reagan.

And in the 1970s, Mrs. Schlafly's campaign against the Equal Rights Amendment played a large part in its undoing. The amendment would have expanded women's rights by barring any gender-based distinctions in federal and state laws, and it was within hailing distance of becoming the law of the land: Both houses of Congress had passed it by a vote of more than 90 percent, and 35 state legislatures -- only three shy of the number required for adoption -- had approved it.

But the amendment lost steam in the late 1970s under pressure from Mrs. Schlafly's volunteer brigades -- mainly women, most of them churchgoing Christians (Mrs. Schlafly was Roman Catholic) and not a few of them lugging apple pies to cajole legislators. Despite an extension of the deadline, the amendment died, on June 30, 1982. [...]

Even liberals conceded her impact. "If political influence consists in transforming this huge and cantankerous country in one's preferred direction," the political scientist Alan Wolfe wrote in The New Republic in 2005, "Schlafly has to be regarded as one of the two or three most important Americans of the last half of the 20th century" -- although he hastened to add that "every idea she ever had was scatterbrained, dangerous and hateful."

For all her political heft, it was Phyllis Schlafly the person who often animated discussion. With her pearls, perfect posture and Daughters of the American Revolution pedigree, she basked in depictions of herself as the perfect wife and mother. She let it drop that she breast-fed all six of her babies and that she had taught all her children to read before they started school.

Feminists said it was her husband's wealth -- he was a lawyer from a rich Illinois family -- that had liberated her to politick.

Ms Schlafly doesn't even really have any competition for the most influential American woman of the last 60 years--and only Margaret Thatcher worldwide. 

Posted by orrinj at 1:50 PM


Freedom Isn't What You Think It Is (Douglas Williams, SEPTEMBER 5, 2016, The Federalist)

The concept of freedom is now erroneously championed as "I can do whatever I want." Freedom has been reduced to a completely self-serving ideal that proclaims because I am free I am guaranteed to do and have particular things in life. This concept and the actions and attitudes it produces are key components in the "me and mine" attitude our nation is struggling with. Many are even interpreting freedom to mean that no one should disagree with or fight their views.

Freedom has to be bigger, deeper and more than this. Freedom at its core is the ability to do what I ought, not simply what I want.

September 5, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 6:28 PM


A Short History of The Times's Shortest Story (DANIEL VICTOR, SEPT. 2, 2016, NY Times)


That one word was the entirety of an article I wrote that was published online Thursday and in print editions on Friday. I haven't scoured The Times's archives, but I feel comfortable calling it the shortest article in the history of The New York Times.

I mean, it'd be pretty hard to beat.

To understand how it came about, you should first understand what Express does. We're a small team focused on breaking news and other stories that we think will appeal primarily to our digital audience, regardless of the subject area. We've been encouraged to experiment with voice, tone and story format to see what resonates with our online readers. We do a lot of serious news, but we also have the freedom to occasionally get a little weird.

Times Insider delivers behind-the-scenes insights into how daily news, features and opinion pieces come to life at The New York Times. Visit us at Times Insider and follow us on Twitter. Questions or feedback? Email us.

The "No" story started when The Times's newsroom was struck by an email thread that went off the rails. The first email, about an upcoming ad campaign, was sent at 12:04 p.m. by someone who works in product, and for some reason it went out to what seemed like the entire company. Then the reply-all responses began: "Please remove me from this list," "Off please," "Remove me," "I don't belong in here," et cetera.

As someone who deeply enjoys chaos in all of its darkest forms, I was thrilled. I giddily tweeted in all caps. In an internal chat room where members of the Express Team pitch story ideas and make dumb jokes to each other, I wrote:

Smarter Living: What to do when you're on a reply-all chain
It would be a one-word story

I meant it entirely as a gag for the chat room only. But Jonah Bromwich, a reporter on our team, egged me on: "DO THAT PLEASE." I thought about it longer, and was excited -- and a little surprised -- when my editor, Yonette Joseph, signed off on the idea.

Posted by orrinj at 5:26 PM


The Continentalist No. I, [12 July 1781]

[Fishkill, New York, July 12, 1781]

Mr. Loudon.

I send you the first number of a series of papers2 which I intend to publish on matters of the greatest importance to these States; I hope they will be read with as much candour and attention as the object of them deserve, and that no conclusions will be drawn till these are fully developed.

I am, Sir,   Your most obedient humble servant,


the continentalist. no. i.

It would be the extreme of vanity in us not to be sensible, that we began this revolution with very vague and confined notions of the practical business of government. To the greater part of us it was a novelty: Of those, who under the former constitution had had opportunities of acquiring experience, a large proportion adhered to the opposite side, and the remainder can only be supposed to have possessed ideas adapted to the narrow coloneal3 sphere, in which they had been accustomed to move, not of that enlarged kind suited to the government of an INDEPENDENT NATION.

There were no doubt exceptions to these observations--men in all respects qualified for conducting the public affairs, with skill and advantage; but their number was small; they were not always brought forward in our councils; and when they were, their influence was too commonly borne down by the prevailing torrent of ignorance and prejudice.

On a retrospect however, of our transactions, under the disadvantages with which we commenced, it is perhaps more to be wondered at, that we have done so well, than that we have not done better. There are indeed some traits in our conduct, as conspicuous for sound policy, as others for magnanimity. But, on the other hand, it must also be confessed, there have been many false steps, many chimerical projects and utopian speculations, in the management of our civil as well as of our military affairs. A part of these were the natural effects of the spirit of the times dictated by our situation. An extreme jealousy of power is the attendant on all popular revolutions, and has seldom been without its evils. It is to this source we are to trace many of the fatal mistakes, which have so deeply endangered the common cause; particularly that defect, which will be the object of these remarks, A WANT OF POWER IN CONGRESS.

The present Congress, respectable for abilities and integrity, by experience convinced of the necessity of a change, are preparing several important articles to be submitted to the respective states, for augmenting the powers of the Confederation. But though there is hardly at this time a man of information in America, who will not acknowledge, as a general proposition, that in its present form, it is unequal, either to a vigorous prosecution of the war, or to the preservation of the union in peace; yet when the principle comes to be applied to practice, there seems not to be the same agreement in the modes of remedying the defect; and it is to be feared, from a disposition which appeared in some of the states on a late occasion, that the salutary intentions of Congress may meet with more delay and opposition, than the critical posture of the states will justify.

It will be attempted to shew in a course of papers what ought to be done, and the mischiefs of a contrary policy.

In the first stages of the controversy it was excuseable to err. Good intentions, rather than great skill, were to have been expected from us. But we have now had sufficent time for reflection and experience, as ample as unfortunate, to rectify our errors. To persist in them, becomes disgraceful and even criminal, and belies that character of good sense and a quick discernment of our interests, which, in spite of our mistakes, we have been hitherto allowed. It will prove, that our sagacity is limited to interests of inferior moment; and that we are incapable of those enlightened and liberal views, necessary to make us a great and a flourishing people.

History is full of examples, where in contests for liberty, a jealousy of power has either defeated the attempts to recover or preserve it in the first instance, or has afterwards subverted it by clogging government with too great precautions for its felicity,4 or by leaving too wide a door for sedition and popular licenciousness. In a government framed for durable liberty, not less regard must be paid to giving the magistrate a proper degree of authority, to make and execute the laws with rigour,5 than to guarding against encroachments upon the rights of the community. As too much power leads to despotism, too little leads to anarchy, and both eventually to the ruin of the people. These are maxims well known, but never sufficiently attended to, in adjusting the frames of governments. Some momentary interest or passion is sure to give a wrong biass, and pervert the most favourable opportunities.

No friend to order or to rational liberty, can read without pain and disgust the history of the commonwealth6 of Greece. Generally speaking, they were a constant scene of the alternate tyranny of one part of the people over the other, or of a few usurping demagogues over the whole. Most of them had been originally governed by kings, whose despotism (the natural disease of monarchy) had obliged their subjects to murder, expel, depose, or reduce them to a nominal existence, and institute popular governments. In these governments, that of Sparta excepted, the jealousy of power hindered the people from trusting out of their own hands a competent authority, to maintain the repose and stability of the commonwealth; whence originated the frequent revolutions and civil broils with which they were distracted. This, and the want of a solid fœderal union to restrain the ambition and rivalship of the different cities, after a rapid succession of bloody wars, ended in their total loss of liberty and subjugation to foreign powers.

In comparison7 of our governments with those of the ancient republics, we must, without hesitation, give the preference to our own; because, every power with us is exercised by representation, not in tumultuary assemblies of the collective body of the people, where the art or impudence of the ORATOR or TRIBUNE, rather than the utility or justice of the measure could seldom fail to govern. Yet whatever may be the advantage on our side, in such a comparison, men who estimate the value of institutions, not from prejudices of the moment, but from experience and reason, must be persuaded, that the same JEALOUSY of POWER has prevented our reaping all the advantages, from the examples of other nations, which we ought to have done, and has rendered our constitutions8 in many respects feeble and imperfect.

Perhaps the evil is not very great in respect to our constitutions; for notwithstanding their imperfections, they may, for some time, be made to operate in such a manner, as to answer the purposes of the common defence and the maintenance of order; and they seem to have, in themselves, and in the progress of society among us, the seeds of improvement.

But this is not the case with respect to the FOEDERAL GOVERNMENT; if it is too weak at first, it will continually grow weaker. The ambition and local interests of the respective members, will be constantly undermining and usurping upon its prerogatives, till it comes to a dissolution; if a partial combination of some of the more powerful ones does not bring it to a more SPEEDY and VIOLENT END.

The New-York Packet, and the American Advertiser, July 12, 1781.

Alexander Hamilton and the Politics of Impatience (and Immigrants): Part II : a review of Albert Gallatin, Alexander Hamilton, The Continentalist, The Founders and Finance  (HANS EICHOLZ, 2/14/13, Liberty & Law)

Hamilton's views in his earliest revolutionary writings reveal a fairly orthodox Whig. He was concerned about corruption from the Imperial center--from Parliament and King. He counseled resistance for the sake of preserving liberty. It was his experience as Washington's aide-de-camp that brought on a different perspective: the miserable conditions of the army, poor supplies and rations, the bickering of Congress, the indolence and lack of coordination among the states. His embrace of activist national government was fully expressed shortly after his resignation from the army in the "The Continentalist" essays of 1781-82. He certainly did suggest that independence hung in the balance as McCraw notes, but there was a bit more to it than that. In fact that really was the least of his fears, if we read the essays more closely.

It really was not the idea that without the powers to regulate trade; to consolidate the national debt; to actively manage the nation's finances and currency; to charter a national bank, that everything would just fall apart into chaos and ruin.  It was rather, that muddling through might just work--that largely, internally self-governing states would eventually handle their own debts--that Congress would continue restrained in its abilities to set grand strategy or, yes, to make war. That, in fact, we would be content just to settle back into our old habits--the old ways of self-government that had preceded the troubles with Parliament--our comfortable colonial prejudices and proclivities.

Posted by orrinj at 3:27 PM


Feminist Magazine: It's 'Sexual Harassment' To Talk To A Woman Wearing Headphones (AMANDA PRESTIGIACOMO, SEPTEMBER 2, 2016, Daily Wire)

In their latest stunt aimed to neuter men while simultaneously infantilizing women, feminist magazine Bust blogger Patricia Affriol warns all those with a Y chromosome that they mustn't ever speak to a woman who is wearing headphones. (This was apparently written after the feminist was triggered by a male blog post which offered advice to men attempting to approach such women.) Don't ask her how she is doing. Don't pay her a compliment. Don't you dare ask her on a date. You know what, don't even look at her. 

...ever try to get a woman who isn't talking to start?

Posted by orrinj at 12:59 PM


Iran and Russia's Uncomfortable Alliance (Mohsen Milani, 9/05/16, Foreign Affairs)

Russia, for its part, understands that, if Iran were given the choice between it and the West, it would surely choose the West because of Iranians' historical mistrust of Russia and the knowledge that Russia can provide neither the advanced technology nor the investment capital that Iran desperately needs for its modernization programs. Russia has therefore striven to keep tensions between Washington and Tehran high enough to prevent normalization of ties but not high enough to lead to war or serious confrontation.

The two countries' relations are further complicated by the ongoing struggle in Iran over the direction of its foreign policy in the post-nuclear deal era. Moderate elements that seek a rapprochement with the West desire to have friendly but not too extensive relations with Moscow. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:51 PM


How Google and other tech giants are betting big on clean energy (Joe Myers, 26 August 2016, World Economic Forum)

The Norwegian project, consisting of 50 turbines near Stavanger, will be ready late next year. The 22 turbines near Mariestad in Sweden, are set to be completed in early 2018.

The announcement is the latest in a series of power purchase agreements completed by the Silicon Valley giant. With seven agreements in place in Europe, and 18 deals across the globe, Google is set to have 2.5 gigawatts of energy at its disposal.

This is "the equivalent of taking over 1 million cars off the road," said Marc Oman, EU Energy Lead, Google Global Infrastructure, in a blog post.

Posted by orrinj at 12:48 PM


Havana's dirty truths: rubbish-strewn streets spark anger at city's failings (Naomi Larsson, 5 September 2016, The Guardian)

On a street corner in Vedado, Havana's most affluent suburb, pedestrians have had to manoeuvre around a metre-wide hole in the pavement on Calle 10 for months. Smashed concrete spills on to the road, encircling what has since turned into a pit of rubbish - a pockmark on the face of Havana's fading grandeur.

This is, according to residents, "the way things are" in the Cuban capital. As the city, its people and its architecture has aged, so too have its public services. While on the face of it, the city is getting a new lift through the easing of Cuban-US relations, municipal support structures are failing badly in many parts of the city. As residents get tired of these inefficiencies, they're expressing their anger - and pointing to the breakdown of Cuban socialism.

"When Obama came [in March] they cleaned the whole street; they put the beggars and homeless in a special asylum," says Hamlet Lavastida, a 33-year-old artist who lives in Havana. "They made new roads, they painted many buildings, just in the areas where Obama was going to be. People joked that now we're going to have to wait another 50 years for the next US president to come, to make another new road ..."

These may just be lighthearted jokes for now, but Lavastida suggests there is a growing discontent among Cubans about the state of public services: the dirty streets, the broken infrastructure.

Posted by orrinj at 12:39 PM


Robots Are Taking Divorce Lawyers' Jobs, Too : Online tools that are cheaper than lawyers improve access to justice. (Carol Matlack, 6/30/16,  Bloomberg Businessweek)

Buyers and sellers on EBay use the site's automated dispute-resolution tool to settle 60 million claims every year. Now, some countries are deploying similar technology to let people negotiate divorces, landlord-tenant disputes, and other legal conflicts, without hiring lawyers or going to court.

Couples in the Netherlands can use an online platform to negotiate divorce, custody, and child-support agreements. Similar tools are being rolled out in England and Canada. British Columbia is setting up an online Civil Resolution Tribunal this summer to handle condominium disputes; it will eventually process almost all small-claims cases in the province. Until now, says Suzanne Anton, the province's minister of justice, "if you had a complaint about noise or water coming through your ceiling, you might have to go to the Supreme Court," spending years and thousands of dollars to get a ruling.

These online legal tools are similar to EBay's system, which uses algorithms to guide users through a series of questions and explanations to help them reach a settlement by themselves.

Posted by orrinj at 12:37 PM


The Five Best Explanations for Why Donald Trump Wore a Jewish Prayer Shawl at a Church Event on Saturday : We leave the gentiles alone for just one day and stuff like this happens (Yair Rosenberg, September 4, 2016, The Tablet)

2. Trump was finally embracing his role as a fringe candidate.

1. Trump wanted to put on tefillin (phylacteries), but they didn't have any that fit his tiny, tiny hands. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:29 PM


States opposed to Obama more dependent on federal government (Reid Wilson, 08/29/16, The Hill)

States that voted against President Obama twice are more dependent on the federal government, according to an analysis of new data released by the Pew Charitable Trusts on Monday.

All told, the average state that voted against Obama twice relied on federal funding for an average of 33.8 percent of its budget, the report found.

The Tea Party/Trump is just a function of white fear that the coloreds will take all the welfare money.

Posted by orrinj at 12:23 PM


Donald Trump Jr. retweets psychologist who believes Jews manipulate society (RON KAMPEAS, September 2, 2016, Times of Israel)

Donald Trump Jr. retweeted an attack on Hillary Clinton by Kevin MacDonald, a psychologist notorious for his theories of Jewish manipulation and control. [...]

The retweet by Trump Jr., first reported by political commentator Charles Johnson on his website, Little Green Footballs, has drawn unfavorable attention. Deborah Lipstadt, the Holocaust historian, on Wednesday linked to the Little Green Footballs entry on her Facebook page, and noted that MacDonald testified on behalf of David Irving when the Holocaust denier unsuccessfully sued Lipstadt for defamation.

Posted by orrinj at 12:14 PM


South America has had enough of socialism (Deutsche Welle, 9/05/16)

When Hugo Chavez died on March 5, 2013, all twelve South American states - with the exception of Colombia and Paraguay - were ruled by socialists or social democrats. Now, three and half years later, after 18 years of socialism, the country is ruined. Child hunger has reached its highest level since the early 1980s and the political climate is marked by threats, spying and violence against dissidents.

Venezuela is an extreme example. At the same time, the mood in other South American countries has darkened as purchasing power is diminishing and people are looking for the culprit of the downturn. What peopled overlooked in euphoric times was the fact that many economies were based on the export of raw materials. In return, Latinos imported branded goods from the USA and cheap manufactured products from China. Finances dried up when the price of commodities fell and unfavorable exchange rates had the price of imported goods soaring.

Since the crash, leftist parties in South America have only managed to achieve narrow majorities at best. Of course many leaders try to brush off the blame for the crisis. But South Americans do not only blame the crisis on the promises made by leftist politicians. People are also disappointed because the champions of the average person are no less corrupt than the old elites.

The same holds true for Brazil's Workers' Party, PT. Their decline began before the crisis was tangible in people's wallets. In the Menselao scandal, high-ranking party members were tried and sentenced to years of imprisonment for buying votes in parliament; the revelations irrevocably shook the people's faith in the ruling party. Dilma Rousseff herself had nothing to do with it, yet as a supervisory board member of Petrobras, she obviously had turned a blind eye to the mass filling of key positions by PT officials. Now, the partially state-held oil company has become the hub of the next historic corruption scandal in Brazil.

The fact that Rousseff has been ousted from office on obviously unproven allegations of having tinkered with the stated budget to achieve her reelection shows how strong her political opponents have become. The fact that the majority of now highly politicized Brazilians supports - or at least, tolerates - the impeachment shows that they have awakened from the socialist dream of a just world.

Posted by orrinj at 11:07 AM


The Case Against Cash (Kenneth Rogoff, 9/05/16, Project Syndicate)

With the growth of debit cards, electronic transfers, and mobile payments, the use of cash has long been declining in the legal economy, especially for medium and large-size transactions. Central bank surveys show that only a small percentage of large-denomination notes are being held and used by ordinary people or businesses.

Cash facilitates crime because it is anonymous, and big bills are especially problematic because they are so easy to carry and conceal. A million dollars in $100 notes fits into a briefcase, a million dollars in €500 notes (each worth about $565) fits into a purse.

Sure, there are plenty of ways to bribe officials, engage in financial crime, and evade taxes without paper currency. But most involve very high transaction costs (for example, uncut diamonds), or risk of detection (say, bank transfers or credit card payments).

Yes, new-age crypto-currencies such as Bitcoin, if not completely invulnerable to detection, are almost so. But their value sharply fluctuates, and governments have many tools with which they can restrict their use - for example, by preventing them from being tendered at banks or retail stores. Cash is unique in its liquidity and near-universal acceptance.

The costs of tax evasion alone are staggering, perhaps $700 billion per year in the United States (including federal, state, and local taxes), and even more in high-tax Europe. Crime and corruption, though difficult to quantify, almost surely generate even greater costs. Think not just of illegal drugs and racketeering, but also of human trafficking, terrorism, and extortion.

Moreover, cash payments by employers to undocumented workers are a principal driver of illegal immigration. Scaling back the use of cash is a far more humane way to limit immigration than building barbed-wire fences.

Posted by orrinj at 10:57 AM


Young activists ride anti-China mood to win Hong Kong vote (KELVIN CHAN September 5, 2016, AP) 

A new wave of young Hong Kong activists seeking to change the way the southern Chinese city is governed by Beijing emerged Monday as the big winners of legislative elections.

Record turnout in Sunday's vote helped sweep the newcomers into office, most notably Nathan Law, a 23-year-old former student leader of massive pro-democracy protests that rocked Hong Kong in 2014. He garnered the second-highest number of votes in his six-seat Hong Kong Island constituency.

Law's party, Demosisto, founded earlier this year with teen protest leader Joshua Wong, advocates a referendum on "self-determination" on the future status of Hong Kong, which is in the middle of a 50-year transition period to Chinese rule.

Hong Kong is an Anglospheric island.  It will govern itself.
Posted by orrinj at 10:51 AM


Prominent Activist Freed In Iran (RFE/RL, September 04, 2016)

Prominent student activist and women's rights advocate Bahareh Hedayat has been released in Iran after spending more than six years in jail, her husband says. 

Posted by orrinj at 10:25 AM


Obama makes trade deal top priority in remaining months (KEVIN FREKING, 9/05/16, Associated Press)

Despite formidable opposition across the political spectrum, President Barack Obama is using his final months in office to fight for congressional approval of a 12-nation free trade pact called the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Obama plugged the trade agreement Monday in China, saying it is "indisputable that it would create a better deal for us than the status quo." He said he doesn't have to sell the deal to Asian leaders who were part of the negotiations because "they see this as the right thing to do for their own countries."

Posted by orrinj at 10:16 AM


Islamic State claims Syria blasts that kill dozens (Lisa Barrington, 9/05/16, Reuters)

Six explosions claimed by the Islamic State group hit government-controlled areas and a province held by a Kurdish militia in Syria on Monday, killing dozens of people, state media and a monitor said.

The blasts took place in the morning in the cities of Homs and Tartous and at the entrance to a town west of Damascus, all held by the government, and in Kurdish-held areas in Qamishli and Hasaka in northeastern Syria.

Suspected U.S. drone strike kills six Qaeda militants in Yemen (Reuters, 9/04/16)

A suspected U.S. drone strike killed six al Qaeda fighters in Yemen's central Marib province on Sunday, residents said, as Washington continues its years-long campaign against militants who have exploited an 18 month civil war in the country.

US hits IS targets with 'newly deployed' mobile rocket (AFP September 4, 2016)

US forces have hit Islamic State group targets along Syria's border with Turkey using a "newly deployed" mobile rocket system, American officials said Saturday.

Posted by orrinj at 10:12 AM


US spy agency posts cheeky tweet over China tarmac tiff (AFP September 5, 2016)

"Classy as always China," read the Defense Intelligence Agency tweet, which linked to a New York Times article about the incident.

Posted by orrinj at 9:35 AM


UK food prices see biggest fall on record in August (Karthick Arvinth, September 5, 2016, IB Times)

Food prices in the UK saw their biggest ever fall in August as overall shop prices continued to slide, a fresh survey has revealed.

Citing a report from the British Retail Consortium (BRC), the Reuters agency said shop prices fell 2% from a year earlier in August, faster than the 1.6% drop in the previous month.

Good News For Motorists, Gasoline Prices Drop to 12-Year Labor Day Lows (Tim Daiss ,  9/05/16, Forbes)

Good news for American motorists preparing to travel this Labor Day. A report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration said that gasoline prices are at 12-year Labor Day lows.

The U.S. average retail price for regular gasoline was $2.24 a gallon on August 29, the lowest price on the Monday before Labor Day since 2004, and 27¢/gal lower than the same time last year, the EIA said.

Posted by orrinj at 9:31 AM


Why Jeremy Corbyn And His Supporters Are Deluded (John McTernan, September 5, 2016, Heat Street)

Over the weekend one of those rallies was held in Ramsgate in Kent - deep in Tory territory - the implication being that Corbyn and the 'new politics' can win even here. Now, as any seasoned observer knows, Ramsgate is in the parliamentary constituency of Thanet South and its recent voting history tells the story of middle Britain and its voters. The coastal town has only rarely elected a Labour MP - just three times in its history, and those were all when Tony Blair was Labour leader.

It was the mark of New Labour and its 'big tent' politics that it could win - and keep - the trust and support of middle ground voters. That hard-won trust was thrown away completely by Ed Miliband and in 2015, just five years after last having a Labour MP, the party ended up third in the seat behind the Tories and UKIP.

There could be no starker illustration of the fallacy at the heart of the Corbyn campaign. To his supporters, Tony Blair is a 'Red Tory' and, they allege, only won election by adopting 'Tory' or 'Tory-lite' policies. (Notwithstanding the fact that the Tories vigorously opposed the National Minimum Wage, devolution for Scotland, the abolition of the homophobic Section 28 and the Human Rights Act among other policies.)

For Corbynistas, Gordon Brown was obviously a 'Red Tory' too - he was, after all, central to the New Labour project. And even Ed Miliband is regularly denounced by Corbynites on social media. His sin? Not being left wing enough. That, in the end, is their fundamental political analysis - voters gave David Cameron the first Tory majority for a quarter of a century to send Labour the message that they weren't left wing enough.

September 4, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:41 PM


Tom Wolfe's 'The Kingdom of Speech' Takes Aim at Darwin and Chomsky (DWIGHT GARNER, AUG. 30, 2016, NY Times)

Mr. Wolfe, now 85, shows no sign of mellowing. His new book, "The Kingdom of Speech," is his boldest bit of dueling yet. It's a whooping, joy-filled and hyperbolic raid on, of all things, the theory of evolution, which he finds to be less scientific certainty than "a messy guess - baggy, boggy, soggy and leaking all over the place," to put it in the words he inserts into the mouths of past genetic theorists.

Secondarily, this book is a rebuke of the work of the linguist Noam Chomsky, whom Mr. Wolfe refers to as "Noam Charisma." Rebuke is actually too frivolous a word for the contumely Mr. Wolfe looses in his direction. More precisely, he tars and feathers Mr. Chomsky before sticking a clown nose on his face and rolling him in a baby stroller off a cliff.

Mr. Wolfe does not complain about evolution on religious grounds; in fact, he is an atheist. He begins by declaring the notion of the big bang to be vaguely ridiculous, and likens it to a mythopoetic bedtime story. Everything came from nothing?

Most essentially, Mr. Wolfe employs new research from the controversial anthropologist Daniel Everett to argue that the power of speech -- man's signal attribute -- is not the product of evolution at all but rather a tool that man created. "Bango!" Mr. Wolfe writes. "There is a cardinal distinction between man and animal." He wonders how airtight the theory of evolution can be if it does not account for such a thing. "What is it," he asks, "that has left endless generations of academics, certified geniuses, utterly baffled when it comes to speech?"

Hard to believe that just fifteen years ago there were still people arguing that Darwinism was a science, rather than a political ideology.  Fittingly enough, its adherents--like Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, etc.--did more damage than the opponents.

Posted by orrinj at 7:36 PM


Dabney Montgomery, Tuskegee Airman who safeguarded Martin Luther King Jr., dies at 93 (Cleve R. Wootson Jr., September 4, 2016, Washington Post)

For Dabney Montgomery, the indignities at home stung more because of the noble tasks he performed for his country abroad -- serving with the Tuskegee Airmen to help win World War II in a role that would eventually earn him a Congressional Gold Medal.

But at a train station in Atlanta in 1945, carrying an Army duffel bag over his shoulder after receiving his honorable-discharge papers, he was abruptly confronted with Jim Crow America.

"Before I could get in, a white officer threw up his hands [and said]: 'You can't come in this door, boy. You got to go around the back,'" Montgomery told Alice Bernstein in a video interview. "'You can't come in here; you're black. You got to go around the corner.'"

Montgomery, who served as a member of the all-black fighter group and, decades later, as a bodyguard to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. died at age 93 of natural causes Sept. 3, his wife, Amelia Montgomery, told the Associated Press.

Montgomery protected King during the famous 1965 march to Montgomery from Selma, Ala. -- Montgomery's home town.

Posted by orrinj at 7:30 PM


So what exactly could be wrong with having taco trucks on every corner? (Steve Lopez, 9/04/16, LA Times)

On Friday morning, at my own risk, I drove into the heart of the dominant culture.

In Boyle Heights, I parked behind a bright red taco truck with "El Monchis" painted on it.

Ramon Flores, 23, told me the days are long and the work is hard, but he likes being in the business and hopes to take it over when his dad retires.

"I'm out at 6 a.m. every day," said the East L.A. resident, who drives to downtown Los Angeles in the morning to buy food for the day. "Then I have to open the truck and cook the meat."

Flores, a Garfield High School graduate, parks in his regular spot on Cesar Chavez Avenue, next to an Auto Zone and across from Station 2 of the L.A. Fire Department. The bright red truck has the names of family members painted on it. 

Flores's father and brother operate the family's other truck, which is anchored in East L.A.

On a typical day, Flores said, he and his assistant chef will shut down and clean the truck in the early evening, and he gets home around 8 p.m.

So how many days a week does he pull such a long shift?

"Seven," he said. "We have to work every day to make enough money."

You'd think any Trump supporter would appreciate rather than loathe this kind of initiative. It's the American entrepreneurial spirit on display.

And the tacos are made in America, unlike some of the clothing sold under Trump's name [...]

A mile south of the hospital, Leo Llamas of Leo's Mariscos Colima was flying American flags from his truck, as if it were Fourth of July.

How long has he been in business?

"Forty years," he said, telling me he raised a family on sales of seafood cocktails.

I figured I needed to hit one last taco truck and order lunch, so I drove west. When I got to MacArthur Park, I spotted a brightly painted truck with religious figurines propped up in the front window. The name of the truck?

"Love & Peace Seafood and Mexican Grill."

It was parked outside a Bank of America. I moved in close enough to hear the owner speaking in Spanish to his customers, and when he was free for a moment, I asked if he had heard the taco truck comments.

"No," he said. "I'm too busy working to pay attention to politics."

I asked if he was from Los Angeles.

"No," he said. "Egypt."

He told me he came to this country seven years ago, learned to speak Spanish and made friends with someone who taught him how to cook Mexican food. Three years ago, he said, he bought his own truck, and the woman cooking at the grill was his Guatemalan wife.

Which might be the most American tale ever.

Posted by orrinj at 7:14 PM


Israel shells Syria in retaliation for mortar hitting Golan (JUDAH ARI GROSS, September 4, 2016, Times of Israel)

Israel targeted Syrian Army artillery in the Golan Heights Sunday night, hours after a mortar shell landed on the Israeli side of the DMZ.

Israel bombing the Syrians because they bombed Syria may be the most Middle Eastern moment ever.

Posted by orrinj at 6:51 PM


OBAMA THE CONSERVATIONIST : Despite Congress's opposition, he has put more acreage under protection than any other President. (Elizabeth Kolbert, 9/12/16, The New Yorker)

Last month, Obama designated eighty-seven thousand acres in central Maine as a new national monument. He bypassed Congress to make the designation, invoking the Antiquities Act, which was signed into law by Roosevelt in 1906. (The act allows the President to create national monuments "by public proclamation.") And, on August 24th, he added almost three hundred million acres to the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, northwest of Hawaii; the additional acres made Papahānaumokuākea (pronounced "Papa-ha-now-moh-koo-ah-kay-ah") the largest ecological preserve on the planet. Obama has now put more acreage under protection than any other President, though the bulk of it is underwater. The historian Douglas Brinkley recently dubbed him "a 21st-century Theodore Roosevelt."

They wanted Franklin, but got Teddy.
Posted by orrinj at 5:12 PM


Former Canadian PM rebukes Trump on NAFTA, predicts his defeat (Reuters, 9/04/16)

Former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney on Sunday criticized Donald Trump's potential plan to scrap the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and said the U.S. presidential candidate will likely lose the Nov. 8 election.

Speaking on CTV's "Question Period" politics talk show, Mulroney, who in the 1980s signed a Canada-U.S. free trade deal, said scrapping NAFTA will hurt the United States.

"Millions and millions of jobs in the United States depend directly upon their trade with Canada and Mexico," Mulroney said. "You tear that up - my mother used to say, 'You're cutting off your nose to spite your face.'"

Posted by orrinj at 3:38 PM


Turkey Ejects Islamic State Forces From Segment of Syrian Border (MARGARET COKER, Sept. 4, 2016, WSJ)

Turkey's military has flushed Islamic State from its 60-mile foothold along the Syrian border after launching a second front against the jihadist group over the weekend, the Turkish state news agency Anadolu reported Sunday.

Posted by orrinj at 11:33 AM


America's Awesome Military (Michael O'Hanlon and David Petraeus, 7/22/16, Foreign Affairs)

The United States has the best military in the world today, by far. U.S. forces have few, if any, weaknesses, and in many areas--from naval warfare to precision-strike capabilities, to airpower, to intelligence and reconnaissance, to special operations--they play in a totally different league from the militaries of other countries. Nor is this situation likely to change anytime soon, as U.S. defense spending is almost three times as large as that of the United States' closest competitor, China, and accounts for about one-third of all global military expenditures--with another third coming from U.S. allies and partners.

Posted by orrinj at 11:23 AM


Can Clinton turn Georgia from red to blue? It's a matter of black and white (Mark Z. Barabak, 9/04/16, LA Times)
When Donald Trump first announced his run for president, Karl Booker was intrigued.

From where he stood, behind a barber's chair in a gentrifying neighborhood near downtown Atlanta, the thought of a political outsider shaking things up seemed promising. Perhaps, he thought, the Manhattan businessman could make government more responsive to people like his own mostly black clientele.

Then, Booker said, Trump "started pandering to the racist side of it" -- disparaging Mexicans, insulting Latino Americans, portraying African American life as a hellish slough of crime, poverty and other grim pathologies.

Now, comb and scissors in hand, the 49-year-old Booker draws a red line through the bustling Off the Hook barbershop, with its Barack Obama posters, sports memorabilia and pennants celebrating Georgia's historic black colleges.

We in here are going to do everything we can to stop Donald Trump.
-- Karl Booker
"We in here are going to do everything we can to stop Donald Trump," Booker declared in a hard, gravelly voice that brooked no doubt.

Until this summer, a black voter in Atlanta didn't matter much in the race for president. Georgia was as Republican red as its famous clay soil, having backed the GOP nominee in seven of the last eight presidential contests, including the last five in a row.

But as the presidential race reaches the Labor Day weekend -- once the beginning of the general election campaign but now the beginning of the end -- Democrats are considering a serious run at Georgia's 16 electoral votes.

That's a measure of Trump's weakness and of long-term shifts in the politics of states along the southeastern coast from Virginia to Florida that have grown more hospitable to Democrats.

Posted by orrinj at 11:11 AM


The Formula for a Richer World? Equality, Liberty, Justice (DEIRDRE N. McCLOSKEY, SEPT. 2, 2016, NY Times)

The Great Enrichment began in 17th-century Holland. By the 18th century, it had moved to England, Scotland and the American colonies, and now it has spread to much of the rest of the world.

Economists and historians agree on its startling magnitude: By 2010, the average daily income in a wide range of countries, including Japan, the United States, Botswana and Brazil, had soared 1,000 to 3,000 percent over the levels of 1800. People moved from tents and mud huts to split-levels and city condominiums, from waterborne diseases to 80-year life spans, from ignorance to literacy.

You might think the rich have become richer and the poor even poorer. But by the standard of basic comfort in essentials, the poorest people on the planet have gained the most. In places like Ireland, Singapore, Finland and Italy, even people who are relatively poor have adequate food, education, lodging and medical care -- none of which their ancestors had. Not remotely.

Inequality of financial wealth goes up and down, but over the long term it has been reduced. Financial inequality was greater in 1800 and 1900 than it is now, as even the French economist Thomas Piketty has acknowledged. By the more important standard of basic comfort in consumption, inequality within and between countries has fallen nearly continuously.

In any case, the problem is poverty, not inequality as such -- not how many yachts the L'Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt has, but whether the average Frenchwoman has enough to eat. At the time of "Les Misérables," she didn't. In the last 40 years, the World Bank estimates, the proportion of the population living on an appalling $1 or $2 a day has halved. Paul Collier, an Oxford economist, urges us to help the "bottom billion" of the more than seven billion people on earth. Of course. It is our duty. But he notes that 50 years ago, four billion out of five billion people lived in such miserable conditions. In 1800, it was 95 percent of one billion.

Posted by orrinj at 11:04 AM


The freedom lover's case for the welfare state (Will Wilkinson, September 1, 2016, Vox)

Here's the puzzle. As a general rule, when nations grow wealthier, the public demands more and better government services, increasing government spending as a percentage of GDP. (This is known as "Wagner's law.") According to standard growth theory, ongoing increase in the size of government ought to exert downward pressure on rates of growth. But we don't see the expected effect in the data. Long-term national growth trends are amazingly stable.

And when we look at the family of advanced, liberal democratic countries, countries that spend a smaller portion of national income on social transfer programs gain very little in terms of growth relative to countries that spend much more lavishly on social programs. Peter Lindert, an economist at the University of California Davis, calls this the "free lunch paradox."

Lindert's label for the puzzle is somewhat misleading, because big expensive welfare states are, obviously, expensive. And they do come at the expense of some growth. Standard economic theory isn't completely wrong. It's just that democracies that have embraced generous social spending have found ways to afford it by minimizing and offsetting its anti-growth effects.

If you're careful with the numbers, you do in fact find a small negative effect of social welfare spending on growth. Still, according to economic theory, lunch ought to be really expensive. And it's not.

There are three main reasons big welfare states don't hurt growth as much as you might think. First, as Lindert has emphasized, they tend to have efficient consumption-based tax systems that minimize market distortions.

When you tax something, people tend to avoid it. If you tax income, as the United States does, people work a little less, which means that certain economic gains never materialize, leaving everyone a little poorer. Taxing consumption, as many of our European peers do, is less likely to discourage productive moneymaking, though it does discourage spending. But that's not so bad. Less consumption means more savings, and savings puts the capital in capitalism, financing the economic activity that creates growth.

There are other advantages, too. Consumption taxes are usually structured as national sales taxes (or VATs, value-added taxes), which are paid in small amounts on a continuous basis, are extremely cheap to collect (and hard to avoid), while being less in-your-face than income taxes, which further mitigates the counterproductively demoralizing aspect of taxation.

Big welfare states are also more likely to tax addictive stuff, which people tend to buy whatever the price, as well as unhealthy and polluting stuff. That harnesses otherwise fiscally self-defeating tax-avoiding behavior to minimize the costs of health care and environmental damage.

Second, some transfer programs have relatively direct pro-growth effects. Workers are most productive in jobs well-matched to their training and experience, for example, and unemployment benefits offer displaced workers time to find a good, productivity-promoting fit. There's also some evidence that health care benefits that aren't linked to employment can promote economic risk-taking and entrepreneurship.

Fans of open-handed redistributive programs tend to oversell this kind of upside for growth, but there really is some. Moreover, it makes sense that the countries most devoted to these programs would fine-tune them over time to amplify their positive-sum aspects.

This is why you can't assume all government spending affects growth in the same way. The composition of spending -- as well as cuts to spending -- matters. Cuts to efficiency-enhancing spending can hurt growth as much as they help. And they can really hurt if they increase economic anxiety and generate demand for Trump-like economic policy.

Third, there are lots of regulatory state policies that hurt growth by, say, impeding healthy competition or closing off foreign trade, and if you like high levels of redistribution better than you like those policies, you'll eventually consider getting rid of some of them. If you do get rid of them, your economic freedom score from the Heritage Foundation and the Fraser Institute goes up.

This sort of compensatory economic liberalization is how big welfare states can indirectly promote growth, and more or less explains why countries like Canada, Denmark, and Sweden have become more robustly capitalist over the past several decades. They needed to be better capitalists to afford their socialism. And it works pretty well.

The reason the party most closely identified with the Third Way wins every election in the Anglosphere/Scandinavia is that it just consists of using capitalist means (markets) to achieve socialist ends (social welfare).

Posted by orrinj at 10:20 AM

WHITE HOODS AND BLACK FLAGS (profanity alert):

Why ISIS Is Rooting for Trump : Islamophobic Politicians Make the Best Enemies (Mara Revkin and Ahmad Mhidi, 9/04/16, Foreign Affairs)

[J]ihadists are rooting for a Trump presidency because they believe that he will lead the United States on a path to self-destruction. Last week, an ISIS spokesman wrote on the ISIS-affiliated Telegram channel, Nashir, "I ask Allah to deliver America to Trump." Meanwhile, an ISIS supporter posted on one of the numerous jihadist "channels" hosted by the Telegram messaging application, "The 'facilitation' of Trump's arrival in the White House must be a priority for jihadists at any cost!!!"

Analysis of ISIS chatter on social media and conversations with 12 current and former supporters of the group do indicate that ISIS strongly prefers Trump over the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton. When asked to explain their preference for Trump, interviewees offered several reasons. First, Trump's anti-Muslim rhetoric plays into ISIS' narrative of a bipolar world in which the West is at war with Islam. Second, ISIS hopes that Trump will radicalize Muslims in the United States and Europe and inspire them to commit lone-wolf attacks in their home countries. Third, ISIS supporters believe that Trump would be an unstable and irrational leader whose impulsive decision-making would weaken the United States. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:57 AM


September 3, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:03 PM


The price of money has tumbled. Here's why the world should be worried (Yanis Varoufakis, 25 August 2016, World Economic Forum)

Objects of desire come at a cost. [...]

Once the price of money (interest rates) hit zero, central banks tried buying mountains of public and private debt from commercial banks to give them an incentive to lend freely. The ECB went so far as to pay banks to lend to business while, at the same time, punishing them for not lending (via negative interest rates for excess reserves).

But bankers and businesses, viewing these measures as desperate responses to self-fulfilling deflationary expectations, went on an investment strike, while using the central-bank money to inflate the prices of their own assets (stocks, art, real estate, and so forth). This did nothing to defeat the Great Deflation; it only made the rich richer, an outcome that somehow reinforced central bankers' belief in central bank independence.

Not all central bankers, thankfully, are incapable of responding creatively to the Great Deflation. Andy Haldane, Chief Economist at the Bank of England, has courageously suggested that all money should become digital, which would permit real-time negative interest rates to be imposed on all of us, thus forcing everyone to spend at once. John Williams, President and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco,recently argued that the Great Deflation could be beaten only by targeting the price level and nominal national income simultaneously - a New Deal-like approach featuring joint action by the Fed and the government.

What separates these central bankers from the herd is their readiness to jettison the myth of independent monetary policy, to accept that money is the most political of commodities, to challenge the sanctity of cash, and to concede that defeating the Great Deflation requires a progressive policy agenda.

Simone Weil once said, "If you want to know what a man is really like, take notice of how he acts when he loses money." Likewise, if we want to know what our societies are really like, we must take notice of how they react to negative interest rates.

Given that deflation means that the money we hold is gaining value, rather than losing it, Ms Weil, at least, would have expected negative rates, though she would have noticed how odd it is for us to accept that banks are fighting the increasing value of our money. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:45 PM


#TacoTrucksOnEveryCorner: Why that threat backfired (Christina Beck, SEPTEMBER 3, 2016, CS Monitor)

Not only did many critics immediately dismiss Gutierrez' remarks as racist, but several also remarked upon the love that many Americans have for Mexican food. By midnight, the #TacoTrucksOnEveryCorner was the No. 1 hashtag on Twitter. 

Posted by orrinj at 10:01 AM


Thanks to Brexit, London is U.S. travelers' top international destination (Hugo Martin, 9/03/16, LA Times)

The city has become the top international destination among U.S. travelers this year, and Londoners have Brexit to thank for that.

That is the finding of a survey of more than 1,000 travel agents, managers and agency owners conducted by Travel Leaders Group, a Minnesota-based travel agency.

London rose to become the most popular international destination this year, up from the third-most popular international destination last year, behind the Caribbean and Mexico. The rise to the top position followed Britain's vote in June to leave the European Union.

Posted by orrinj at 9:47 AM


Assassinating al-Qaeda's leaders crushed its power. Will the same happen with Isil? (DAVID BLAIR, 9/03/16, The Telegraph)

[I]t seems incontestable that Osama bin Laden's original al-Qaeda network was gravely weakened by the remorseless elimination of one figurehead after another - including bin Laden himself - at the hands of US drones and commando raids after 2009.

If "core al-Qaeda" is a shadow of its former self, then the heavy toll inflicted by Predators and Reapers is a big part of the explanation.

So why do targeted assassinations damage al-Qaeda but have little effect on the likes of Hamas and Hizbollah? The answer lies in the differing nature of these groups. Rather than being a movement firmly grounded in a society, al-Qaeda was a network, built around individuals with charisma and expertise.

Once those kingpins were toppled by missiles falling from a clear sky, the network around them crumbled. Whatever technical or other expertise the targets had built up over the years proved extremely difficult to replace.

Hamas, by contrast, is not the brainchild of one man, but a product of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. It has been shaped by the deeper currents within Palestinian society, particularly the growing appeal of radical Sunni Islam. So individuals are not vital to Hamas; those who are killed can be replaced.

If an operative with particular expertise, such as a master bomb-maker or rocket designer, happens to be eliminated, then Hamas may become temporarily less dangerous. The reprieve will last only until a replacement can learn those skills.

So the question of whether killing Adnani will weaken Isil depends, at root, on whether the movement is closer to al-Qaeda or Hamas.

Hamas and Hezbollah are popular nationalist movements.  The Salafists repel the populace when they try to govern it.
Posted by orrinj at 9:40 AM


Trump pays IRS a penalty for his foundation violating rules with gift to aid Florida attorney general (David A. Fahrenthold, 9/01/16, Washington Post)

Donald Trump paid the IRS a $2,500 penalty this year, an official at Trump's company said, after it was revealed that Trump's charitable foundation had violated tax laws by giving a political contribution to a campaign group connected to Florida's attorney general.

The improper donation, a $25,000 gift from the Donald J. Trump Foundation, was made in 2013. At the time, Attorney General Pam Bondi was considering whether to investigate fraud allegations against Trump University. She decided not to pursue the case.

Posted by orrinj at 9:36 AM


Turkey-backed Syrian rebels say launched new attack against IS from the west (Jerusalem Post, 9/03/16)

Turkey-backed Syrian rebels on Saturday launched a new operation against Islamic State near the border which aims to advance eastwards against the jihadists from the town of al-Rai, a rebel commander said.

Posted by orrinj at 9:30 AM


Longer Commutes May Add Calories And Hurt Your Health (Robert Glatter, MD ,   8/24/16, Forbes)

The next time you jump in your car, grab a subway or catch a bus to work, be careful about the types of foods you bring with you, as results of a new report point to the risks of longer commutes adding calories to your diet and inches to your waistline.

A new report released by the Royal Society for Public Health describes how commuters who consume foods high in fat and sugar-typically triggered by stress-can potentially add up to 800 calories weekly to their overall intake.

The report revealed that those living in England and Wales specifically face some of the longest commutes throughout the world, according to data from 2013. The average commute in both countries was 56 minutes that year, spent in cars, trains or buses.

According to the report, those living in London had the longest average commute at 79 minutes, exceeding average times in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.

Posted by orrinj at 9:17 AM


Can American Colleges Be Fixed? : Review: Peter Lawler, 'American Heresies and Higher Education' (Micah Mattix, August 27, 2016, Free Beacon)

It may be true, Lawler argues in his latest collection of essays, American Heresies and Higher Education, that some professors at American universities use their positions for ideological activism, do very little work, and inflate grades to earn positive course evaluations from students. Still, it's unlikely that they are single-handedly responsible for the dumbing-down of undergraduate education, nor are they responsible for skyrocketing tuition.

The real culprits are the twin evils of federal student loans and accreditation. The availability of a seemingly endless supply of federal cash for students who, until recently, were willing to drop $50,000 to $100,000 for a credential that is still required for most well-paying jobs, has led to an "amenities race" for students, according to Lawler. Dorms are now like hotels. Concierge services are provided to students via "student affairs" offices to maximize "health, safety, and choice" on campus. On-site "amateur" sports entertain students on the weekends and supposedly build community.

The string attached to this federal cash is accreditation. In order to receive federal funding or accept students with federal loans, colleges must be accredited by a recognized regional body. These bodies are not federal agencies. They are independent and managed by other professors and university administrators. Still, the bureaucratic demands increase every year. Almost everything learned in every course must now be stated and demonstrated with "learning outcomes." Schools must show "continual improvement," develop "quality enhancement programs," constantly measure "institutional effectiveness," and so forth. It used to be that a school was evaluated every 10 years. Now it is more or less ongoing.

The number of administrative staff it takes to provide the lifestyle students expect and oversee the increasing amount of paperwork for accreditation is huge. Lawler doesn't provide any figures, but they are relatively well-known. To give just one example: The number of full-time faculty in the California State University system increased slightly between 1975 and 2008, from 11,614 to 12,019, while the number of administrators nearly quadrupled during the same period, from 3,800 to 12,183.

In short, American colleges are suffering from administrative bloat, which increases every year at the hand of career managers who value standardization and procedures above all else, and who already put a great deal of trust in technology and market solutions. If the relative reduction in the number of full-time faculty per students over the past 30 years did not lead to a more efficient and affordable college education, it's unclear how further reducing it could. Furthermore, it is unclear how increasing the use of technology--online education--already embraced at most schools will change anything.

Lawler isn't against technology, nor is he against market solutions. What we need, he argues, are market solutions to fix the actual problems. His solution to the crisis in American higher education is to greatly reduce the amount of work required for accreditation, which would partially reduce the need for an army of administrators. Instead of a multi-year process, make accreditation a spot-check, where a small team of peers arrives unannounced on a college campus to check the books, faculty credentials, visit a few classes, and look over course syllabi. Whether or not this would be enough is unclear, and it seems that changing how much funding is available to students would have to be addressed as well, but it would be a step in the right direction. It might even curtail the pandering to students we see at a number of colleges--the provision of "safe spaces" and renaming of buildings--to the extent that it's mostly college administrators who view students as "consumers" and espouse the view that "the consumer is always right."  

...given that they are in the business of providing diplomas, not educations?

Posted by orrinj at 9:12 AM


The Disgusting Breitbart Smear Campaign Against the Immigrant Owner of Chobani : Chobani yogurt head Hamdi Ulukaya is a wildly successful capitalist. So what did he do wrong, by alt-right standards? He hires Muslim refugees. (James Kirchick, 09.02.16, Daily Beast)

Hamdi Ulukaya is the model American immigrant success story.

In 2005, the Turkish-born Kurdish entrepreneur purchased a defunct Kraft foods plant in upstate New York with an $800,000 loan from the Small Business Administration. In just a few years, his Chobani yogurt went from selling a few containers at a Long Island kosher grocery to being the No. 1 selling yogurt brand in the country with annual revenue topping $1.5 billion. In addition to employing more than 2,000 people directly--all of whom earn above minimum wage and enjoy generous benefits--the company purchases 4 million pounds of milk from American farmers every day.

Ulukaya dotes on his employees like a parent. "To me, there are two kinds of people in this world," he told The New York Times. "The people who work at Chobani and the people who don't." Earlier this year, he gave shares amounting to 10 percent of Chobani to his workers; a rare move for a CEO to make after the value of his highly profitable company has been established. Chobani is also a corporate sponsor of the U.S. Olympic Team. Not bad for a Turkish guy selling Greek yogurt--that in itself a subtle rebuke to centuries of enmity between the two countries.

In addition to earning a raft of honorary Ph.Ds., Ulukaya has been named a World Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young, is the recipient of the United Nations Global Leadership Award, and has committed himself to Warren Buffett's "Giving Pledge," promising to donate at least half of his wealth to charity. To that end, Ulukaya founded an organization called Tent, which assists refugees in achieving new lives. Ulukaya, who grew up in a town near the Syrian border, says he was inspired in his activism by the plight of the some 2 million Syrians now living in Turkish refugee camps.

And that's where the nativist forces supporting Donald Trump's presidential campaign enter the picture.

Posted by orrinj at 9:00 AM


Colin Powell Warned Hillary Clinton to Be 'Very Careful' About Using Personal Email for Business (LIZ KREUTZ  Sep 2, 2016, ABC News)

The FBI notes state that Clinton contacted Powell on January 23, 2009 via email to ask about his use of a BlackBerry while he was secretary of state. Powell, according to the FBI notes, replied by warning Clinton that "if it became 'public' that Clinton had a Blackberry and she used it to 'do business,' her e-mails could become 'official record[s] and subject to the law.'"

"Be very careful. I got around it all by not saying much and not using systems that capture the data," Powell advised.

You'd think that, given what we published about her husband, she'd have known better than to even pretend she could have privacy.

Colin Powell's foundation and Hillary Clinton's are treated very differently by the media (Matthew Yglesias, August 30, 2016, Vox)

In 1997, after a distinguished career in military service that culminated with stints as national security adviser under Ronald Reagan and chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, Colin Powell launched a charity. Named America's Promise, it's built around the theme of Five Promises to America's children. And while I've never heard it praised as a particularly cost-effective way to help humanity by effective altruists, it was surely a reasonably good cause for a famous and politically popular man to dedicate himself to.

Needless to say, however, Powell continued to be involved in American political life. His sky-high poll numbers ensured he'd be buzzed about as a possible presidential or vice presidential nominee, either as a moderate Republican or as an independent. Realistically, that wasn't in the cards, and Powell was smart enough to know it. But his support for George W. Bush during the 2000 campaign lent him valuable credibility, and his recruitment to serve as Bush's first secretary of state was considered an important political and substantive coup by Bush.

So what about the charity? Well, Powell's wife, Alma Powell, took it over. And it kept raking in donations from corporate America. Ken Lay, the chair of Enron, was a big donor. He also backed a literacy-related charity that was founded by the then-president's mother. The US Department of State, at the time Powell was secretary, went to bat for Enron in a dispute the company was having with the Indian government.

Did Lay or any other Enron official attempt to use their connections with Alma Powell (or Barbara Bush, for that matter) to help secure access to State Department personnel in order to voice these concerns? Did any other donors to America's Promise? I have no idea, because to the best of my knowledge nobody in the media ever launched an extensive investigation into these matters. That's the value of the presumption of innocence, something Hillary Clinton has never been able to enjoy during her time in the national spotlight.

Posted by orrinj at 8:18 AM


René Girard and Secular Modernity : a review of René Girard and Secular Modernity: Christ, Culture, and Crisis, by Scott Cowdell (Thaddeus Kozinski, 9/03/16, Imagginative Conservative)

 In the remainder of this review, I would like mainly to add my own Girardian reflections on secular modernity. What follows is essentially a summary of the second half of Dr. Cowdell's book (the first half is just a build up to it, providing background on Girard's life and the development of his theory of mimetic desire, violence, and culture), by way of my own analysis of secular modernity, particularly, what I shall call modernity's soteriology, as this term captures the heart of Girard's thought.

In a recent work, Girard provides an outstanding summary of the entire gamut of his work, from his treatment of the origins of man, "hominisation," to the apocalypse, which he considers a man-made event, as will be explained presently. Any summary from either Dr. Cowdell or me could not compare with the richness of this one, so please bear with its length:

My work has often been presented as an investigation of archaic religion, through the methodology of comparative anthropology. This approach aimed at elucidating what has been called the process of hominisation, this fascinating shift from animality to humanity that occurred so many thousands of years ago. My hypothesis is mimetic: it is because humans imitate each other more than animals that they had to find a way of overcoming a contagious similitude, prone to causing the complete annihilation of their society. This mechanism--which reintroduces difference at the very moment when everyone becomes similar to one another--is sacrifice. Man is born of sacrifice and is thus a child of religion. What I call, following Freud, the foundational murder--namely, the killing of a sacrificial victim, responsible for both the disorder and the restoration of order--has constantly been reenacted in rites and rituals, which are at the origin of our institutions. Millions of innocent victims have thus been sacrificed since the dawn of humanity to allow their fellow men to live together or, more precisely, to not destroy themselves. Such is the implacable logic of the sacred, which the myths dissimulate less and less as man becomes more self-aware. The decisive moment of this evolution is Christian revelation, a sort of divine expiation in which God in the person of his Son will ask man for forgiveness for having waited so long to reveal to him the mechanisms of his violence. The rites had slowly educated him; now he was ready to do without them. It is Christianity that demystifies religion, and this demystification, while good in the absolute, proved to be bad in the relative, for we were not prepared to receive it. We are not Christian enough. One can formulate this paradox in another manner and say that Christianity is the only religion that will have foreseen its own failure. This prescience is called the apocalypse.

What Girard means by the apocalypse is not the event of divine judgment and retribution at the end of the world before the Second Coming of Christ, though he does not dismiss this way of reading the event. Girard himself interprets it, as he does most things, anthropologically, as the ever-escalating, mimetic violence unto self-destruction that men ineluctably inflict upon themselves in their rejection of both the archaic, violence channeling, sacrificial scapegoating of the pagan city, and the violence destroying sacrifice of the Divine Scapegoat. Modernity is, for Girard, the graveyard of man's futile attempts to control his own violence, attempts occasioned by his growing awareness of his inability to generate and preserve culture through violence. Instead, man has staved off the escalating violence by his own artifices: These are the katechons of the modern era: literally, "that which restrains," such as the peace-making nation-state, the venedetta-canceling, impartial judiciary, the free market of victimless exchanges, and an endless supply of mass-produced consumer products and violence-and-sex-channeling entertainments.

Surprisingly, Girard claims that the real possibility of apocalyptic violence was occasioned by the Incarnation, Death, and Resurrection of the Son of God, for he defeated the ancient model of channeling violence, but gave no quarter to any other mimetic model but Himself. And this apocalyptic possibility has been actualizing itself ever since, to an exponential degree in late modernity. Modernity's soteriology is thus twofold, depending on one's perspective: for those who reject the Divine Scapegoat, modernity, with its programmatic rejection of all religious violence and its relentless, even fanatical, ideological concern for victims, is precisely what saves us from the apocalypse; for those who accept His non-violent atonement (and on this Girard insists), modernity is nothing else but the apocalypse's inevitability.

In spite of modernity's katechons having performed their restraining function for hundreds of years, there is still much mimetic violence in today's world, indeed, more than ever before. But to the true believers in these katechons, any violence done by, on the one hand, the devotees of modernity, can only be the result of a deficient application of these katechons: a not-free-enough market, a not-centralized-and-powerful-enough state, too-many-hierarchical-and-morally-absolutist institutions. The contemporary violence enacted by the enemies of modernity, on the other hand, such as the September 11, 2001 attacks, can only be explained as the result of those few, surd elements of what should now be an entirely extinct, archaic-religious scapegoating culture. These violent religious dinosaurs simply have not yet been fully modernized by the peace-making influence of the secular state, the globalist economy, the World Bank, the IMF, NATO, the United Nations, democratic nation building (through "peace-making" violence, if need be), or the blandishments of consumerism. As the modern, secular, anti-scapegoating state and the modern, victim-concerned culture it embodies have become more pervasive and influential, religious violence has indeed radically decreased, modernity's devotees insist, and terrorist attacks such as 911 are merely the last gasps of a terminally ill, pre-modern model that only persists due to the West's anemic tolerance of and complacency towards the futile resistance of those fundamentalists and fanatics who are not yet resigned to modernity's inevitable triumph.

The democratic nation-state, the free market, international law and transnational organizations, a commercialist, non-violent, bourgeois culture, life-enhancing technology, medicine, science, the depoliticization of religious belief and practice, the declaration of and enforcement of human rights and the dignity of every human, the universal concern for victims institutionalized in law and government--in other words, secularization--all of these katechons, according to modernity's soteriology, prove modernity's moral superiority, even its more perfectly Christian character, for these institutions and practices require no scapegoats: no human sacrifices, on the one hand, no suppression of religious freedom, on the other--and they have brought about an unprecedented material prosperity to boot! Girard maintains that these mechanisms, constituting the secularization of modern life, are indeed the result of the Gospel, as Dr. Cowdell points out, for they have produced undeniably good temporal effects; as Jacques Maritain argued, whatever good there is in modernity's practices and institutions are due to the Incarnation's historical fructification in western culture due to the sacralization of the image of God in every human. Differing from Maritain (and, generally from Thomists), Girard would say the good of modernity is primarily its refusal to resurrect the violent archaic sacred, a refusal caused by, as well as the cause of, its universal concern for victims; and he would attribute this refusal and concern to Christ's unmasking and thus dismantling of the scapegoating murder and cover-up at the heart of human culture. The dynamic that this Christ-inspired secularization has set forth in the West requires the eradication of all dehumanizing hierarchies, repressions, taboos, and proscriptions; such is the good of modernity vis-à-vis medieval and ancient culture.

But what is the upshot of these Gospel-influenced mechanisms when belief in and submission to Christ is either absent or rendered private, subjective, and politically and culturally sterile? The answer to this is precisely where Girard's thought is essential for a Thomistic theory of culture. What could be integrated into the latter is the understanding of modern culture and politics as essentially hidden scapegoating, the prolongation and escalation of archaic violence, but now, millions upon millions of human sacrificial victims--the unborn, the elderly, the handicapped, the poor and middle class in the first world, the vast majority in the third world, religiously, culturally, and intellectually starved souls, brave-new-world soma addicts, the so-called collateral damage in perpetual, epic-scale wars.

Except that violence, from abortion to "epic-scale war" has been in precipitous decline since the late '80s/early '90s, when globalization began forcing Christian norms--democracy/capitalism/protestantism--on the whole world.  

Note, for instance, that the last war in the Western Hemisphere--which is completely Christianized--ended this week.

And the poor minority of the First World and the vast majority in the Third World are getting wealthier rapidly and living longer and healthier lives, benefiting rather than being damaged.

In order to argue that they are victims, we need to hold that imperfectly understanding the tenets of the religion that is bringing them such benefits does more damage than peace, health and wealth are worth. This is a notion that only we wealthy white folk could ever enunciate and on one actually believes.

No one has ever died of intellectual starvation.


September 2, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 3:51 PM


Hillary hatred is a reckless indulgence (Gabriel Schoenfeld, August 26, 2016, USA Today)

Bush Derangement Syndrome was the name of the malady conservatives ascribed to those who heaped obloquy on our last Republican president. Now Hillary Derangement Syndrome has struck Giuliani and quite a few other Republicans hard.

This is by no means a new affliction. Ever since she entered public life as America's first lady, a barrage of allegations, many fair but quite a few preposterous, have been hurled against President Clinton's wife. Without any foundation, she is said to be implicated in the "murder" of her friend Vincent Foster, to have caused the fiasco in Benghazi, and to be covertly promoting the Muslim Brotherhood. Trump has gone so far as to call her "the devil," to which his supporters responded with thunderous applause. For those of us not subsumed by Hillary hatred, the level of anger is a mystery. What accounts for it?

First and foremost, one must point to the deepening polarization of our politics, exacerbated in recent years by the strains and stresses of the post-9/11 era. Given how divided the country has become on fundamental issues, anyone seeking the White House in this environment would be subject to severe disapprobation from the other side.

But the extraordinary intensity of Hillary hatred suggests it is based upon impulses extending well beyond disagreement over policy. 

Posted by orrinj at 3:47 PM


When women are the breadwinners they are far happier. More surprisingly, so are their partners (Danielle Paquette, 8/23/16, Washington Post)

Since they surged into the U.S. labor force, quadrupling in number since 1970, female breadwinners have lived under a cultural microscope. Can they have it all -- the spouse, the baby, the corner office?

Christin Munsch, a sociology professor at the University of Connecticut, said this puzzle is outdated and, frankly, exclusive. She wanted to understand what life is like for heterosexual men who juggle work and family.

So, she looked at 14 years of data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, which seeks to gauge the well-being of young adults nationwide. About 3,100 respondents, ages 18 to 32, took the survey on the last day of 1996 and answered the same questions every year until 2011.

Munsch noticed a startling gender divide: Men who took on larger shares of household income had lower physical and mental health scores. Both men and women, it turned out, were happier when women made most of the money.

Posted by orrinj at 3:43 PM


Russia Spending $150M Monthly on Syria Mercenaries - Report (Moscow Times, Aug. 25 2016)

Russia is spending up to $150 million every month on mercenaries fighting in Syria, the RBC newspaper reported Thursday.

Funds for the mercenaries come from the state and unnamed "private investors," RBC reported, citing a source who wished to remain anonymous.

Posted by orrinj at 3:33 PM


ISIS Fighters South of Mosul Reportedly Calling In Sick (Paul D. Shinkman, Sept. 2, 2016, US News)

It's been a tough week for the Islamic State group. First, one of its top leaders was killed in a coalition airstrike. Now reports have surfaced that its fighters are literally calling in sick over fears they might die.

Islamic State group militants near the Iraqi town of al-Shirqat, roughly 75 miles south of the key extremist stronghold of Mosul, are filing fake "sick notices" trying to convince their commanders they're suffering from incurable diseases, according to reports from Shiite militias fighting there, also known as the Popular Mobilization Units or PMUs. Low morale and a lack of faith in their commanders have prompted these fighters to do anything they can go get out of assignments to the crumbling front lines, the militia members say.

The news was first reported by Iranian news service Fars, run by the central government in Iran, which backs most of the PMUs.

Posted by orrinj at 3:29 PM


Was It a Mistake for Trump to Focus on the Economy? (DAVID A. GRAHAM, 9/02/16, The Atlantic)

These sorts of warnings tend to ring a little bit false when the economy continues to grow, if more slowly than anyone would like. But this has a been a consistent theme for Trump. He has centered his campaign around doomsday predictions about the economy. He paints the country as cratering, with offshoring accelerating, jobs disappearing, and growth cratering. The problem is that there's little to support the idea of accelerating offshoring; job creation is up; and the economy is growing.

Tom Edsall noted this week that Trump's bleak message doesn't make a great deal of sense in swing states like New Hampshire, "where the unemployment rate in July was 2.9 percent, well below the 4.9 percent national rate. Nor does it ring true in other battleground states where Trump is behind. In North Carolina, the unemployment rate is 4.7 percent; according to RealClearPolitics, Clinton has a 1.7 point lead. In Colorado, the unemployment rate is 3.8 percent; Clinton leads Trump by 11.8 points. In Virginia, unemployment is 3.7 percent; Clinton is ahead by 12.8 points."

There have been darker currents to Trump's approach to the economy. His immigration stance, which has frequently taken on a racist cast, is centered around the supposed threat that undocumented immigrants pose to the American economy. It has also led him to wild conspiracy theories. Arguing that the most commonly used top-line unemployment rate paints too rosy a picture, he has called it "one of the biggest hoaxes in American modern politics," while his son Donald Jr. has asserted without proof that the rate is manipulated for political purposes.

One can see why Trump would want to focus on the economy. As a businessman, he sees commerce as one of his major selling points (Mitt Romney also arguably fell into this trap, stung by bad timing), and besides, voters tell pollsters over and over that the economy is the most important issue to them in this election. But the fact is that the indicators that helped Barack Obama so much in 2012 appear to be helping his party and its nominee, Hillary Clinton, this year. As John Sides and Lynn Vavreck wrote in The Gamble, "Candidates disadvantaged by the economy ... must find an issue on which their position is more popular than their opponent's and on which the opponent is committed to an unpopular position." Trump has not done that.

Posted by orrinj at 3:22 PM


The Revenge of Roger's Angels : How Fox News women took down the most powerful, and predatory, man in media. (Gabriel Sherman, September 2, 2016, New York)

It took 15 days to end the mighty 20-year reign of Roger Ailes at Fox News, one of the most storied runs in media and political history. Ailes built not just a conservative cable news channel but something like a fourth branch of government; a propaganda arm for the GOP; an organization that determined Republican presidential candidates, sold wars, and decided the issues of the day for 2 million viewers. That the place turned out to be rife with grotesque abuses of power has left even its liberal critics stunned. More than two dozen women have come forward to accuse Ailes of sexual harassment, and what they have exposed is both a culture of misogyny and one of corruption and surveillance, smear campaigns and hush money, with implications reaching far wider than one disturbed man at the top.

It began, of course, with a lawsuit. Of all the people who might have brought down Ailes, the former Fox & Friends anchor Gretchen Carlson was among the least likely. A 50-year-old former Miss America, she was the archetypal Fox anchor: blonde, right-wing, proudly anti-intellectual. A memorable Daily Show clip showed Carlson saying she needed to Google the words czar and ignoramus. But television is a deceptive medium. Off-camera, Carlson is a Stanford- and Oxford-educated feminist who chafed at the culture of Fox News. When Ailes made harassing comments to her about her legs and suggested she wear tight-fitting outfits after she joined the network in 2005, she tried to ignore him. But eventually he pushed her too far. When Carlson complained to her supervisor in 2009 about her co-host Steve Doocy, who she said condescended to her on and off the air, Ailes responded that she was "a man hater" and a "killer" who "needed to get along with the boys." After this conversation, Carlson says, her role on the show diminished. In September 2013, Ailes demoted her from the morning show Fox & Friends to the lower-rated 2 p.m. time slot.

Carlson knew her situation was far from unique: It was common knowledge at Fox that Ailes frequently made inappropriate comments to women in private meetings and asked them to twirl around so he could examine their figures; and there were persistent rumors that Ailes propositioned female employees for sexual favors. The culture of fear at Fox was such that no one would dare come forward. Ailes was notoriously paranoid and secretive -- he built a multiroom security bunker under his home and kept a gun in his Fox office, according to Vanity Fair -- and he demanded absolute loyalty from those who worked for him. He was known for monitoring employee emails and phone conversations and hiring private investigators. "Watch out for the enemy within," he told Fox's staff during one companywide meeting.

Taking on Ailes was dangerous, but Carlson was determined to fight back. She settled on a simple strategy: She would turn the tables on his surveillance. Beginning in 2014, according to a person familiar with the lawsuit, Carlson brought her iPhone to meetings in Ailes's office and secretly recorded him saying the kinds of things he'd been saying to her all along. "I think you and I should have had a sexual relationship a long time ago, and then you'd be good and better and I'd be good and better. Sometimes problems are easier to solve" that way, he said in one conversation. "I'm sure you can do sweet nothings when you want to," he said another time.

Posted by orrinj at 3:12 PM


Israel police chief says it is natural to suspect Ethiopians of crime (Peter Beaumont, 31 August 2016, The Guardian)

Israel's most senior police officer has provoked outrage by suggesting it is "natural" for officers to suspect Israelis of Ethiopian origin - as well as Arabs - of being more involved in crime than other Jews.

Roni Alsheich, Israel's police commissioner, made the comments in response to a question at a conference of the Israeli bar association, suggesting more widely that research worldwide showed that "young people and immigrants" were disproportionately involved in crime.

His remarks come against a growing background of complaints by Ethiopian Jews over policing of their community - including accusations of crude profiling - which has led to recent street protests.

Asked about allegations of Israeli police violence against Ethiopians, Alsheich said: "In all criminological studies around the world it is proven that immigrants are more involved in crime than others, and this should not surprise us.

"In addition, all studies prove that young people are more involved in crime. When these two things converge, a situation is created in which a particular community is involved in crime.

Posted by orrinj at 3:06 PM


Is Turkey falling into its own Syrian trap? : The sentiment in Turkey is that, with "Operation Euphrates Shield," the country has made a thunderous return to the Middle East. But in a topography where nobody knows who is fighting who and what will tomorrow's alliances look like, there are serious traps awaiting Turke (Fehim Taştekin, September 1, 2016, Al Monitor)

Kurds may be upset with the US pressure on them to withdraw from Manbij, but they don't want to destroy their bridges to the United States while they are surrounded by enemies. Kurds are bound to come up with some pragmatic schemes to throw Turkey off balance.

But if Turkey's operations expand toward Rojava, the YPG may have to give up its four-year-long restraint and resist. Such a scenario may be the harbinger of a conflagration that will also pull in Turkey.

What if the Turkish operation halts on the edge of Manbij and turns against IS? This, too, will pose serious risks to Turkey.

Looking at the mindsets of Turkey's rulers, the operation has other objectives that are not openly mentioned:

To create a de facto buffer zone in the Jarablus-Azaz-Marea triangle.

To mobilize Turkey's Housing Development Agency to build satellite towns in the buffer zone to house Syrian refugees.

To open a corridor for anti-Assad armed groups currently stuck in Aleppo.

It won't be easy for Turkey-supported armed groups to hold the de facto buffer zone. Their capabilities and capacity are limited. They can advance or hold on to a position only if there is an army like the TSK behind them.

If the buffer zone is to be secured by increasing TSK's presence on the ground, that would put Turkey in the position of occupier, ushering myriad of problems it would have to cope with both on the ground and in the international arena. The Syrian government took no time in accusing Turkey of crimes against humanity and in filing a complaint with the UN Security Council. When compared with the troubles that Turkey will have to deal with on the ground, the Syrian complaint would be but a minor headache.

Building a town for refugees without coordinating with the Syrian administration will only consolidate Turkey's occupier status. Moreover, settling refugees in a risky area is bound to provoke humanitarian and legal arguments.

Meanwhile, a corridor to Aleppo first requires securing the Azaz-Marea line and then expelling IS from al-Bab.

Extending the TSK operation 50 to 60 kilometers from the Turkish border doesn't guarantee anything. IS is not expected to abandon Dabiq and al-Bab easily (it ascribes special importance to those towns) as it did with Jarablus. Moreover, such an operation will require Turkey's partnership with major field forces such as Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham, which are shunned by the CIA. And then there is the Syrian army, which is engaged in a major war in Aleppo with the support of Russia, Iran and Hezbollah. Going deeper into Syria may bring the TSK face to face with these forces. Russia is likely to make use of its deterrent powers before that point is reached.

Nobody knows what contingency scenarios Ankara has in mind. The general feeling is that the government is not acting based on well-studied strategic plans but according to its sense of opportunities and gut feelings.

Only our Republican President has stayed out of the trap.

Posted by orrinj at 3:04 PM


This small Indiana county sends more people to prison than San Francisco and Durham, N.C., combined. (JOSH KELLER and ADAM PEARCE, SEPTEMBER 2, 2016, NY Times)

Dearborn County represents the new boom in American prisons: mostly white, rural and politically conservative.

A bipartisan campaign to reduce mass incarceration has led to enormous declines in new inmates from big cities, cutting America's prison population for the first time since the 1970s. From 2006 to 2014, annual prison admissions dropped 36 percent in Indianapolis; 37 percent in Brooklyn; 69 percent in Los Angeles County; and 93 percent in San Francisco.

But large parts of rural and suburban America -- overwhelmed by the heroin epidemic and concerned about the safety of diverting people from prison -- have gone the opposite direction. Prison admissions in counties with fewer than 100,000 people have risen even as crime has fallen, according to a New York Times analysis, which offers a newly detailed look at the geography of American incarceration.

Just a decade ago, people in rural, suburban and urban areas were all about equally likely to go to prison. But now people in small counties are about 50 percent more likely to go to prison than people in populous counties.

The stark disparities in how counties punish crime show the limits of recent state and federal changes to reduce the number of inmates. Far from Washington and state capitals, county prosecutors and judges continue to wield great power over who goes to prison and for how long. And many of them have no interest in reducing the prison population.

"I am proud of the fact that we send more people to jail than other counties," Aaron Negangard, the elected prosecutor in Dearborn County, said last year. "That's how we keep it safe here."

He added in an interview: "My constituents are the people who decide whether I keep doing my job. The governor can't make me. The legislature can't make me." [...]

Those choices have started to reverse -- if only modestly -- longstanding racial disparities in American prisons, where blacks and Hispanics are incarcerated at drastically higher rates than whites. The annual number of new black prison inmates fell by about 25 percent from 2006 to 2013, and the number of Hispanic inmates fell by about 30 percent, while the number of new white inmates fell by only about 8 percent, according to the most complete federal data.

The number of black prisoners is still "shockingly high," said Marc Mauer, executive director of the Sentencing Project. "Nonetheless, these numbers are encouraging. It suggests that this is not necessarily an intractable problem."

But rural, mostly white and politically conservative counties have continued to send more drug offenders to prison, reflecting the changing geography of addiction. While crack cocaine addiction was centered in cities, opioid and meth addiction are ravaging small communities like those in Dearborn County, where 97 percent of the population is white.

Posted by orrinj at 3:01 PM


I'm a Republican, and I'm with Hillary Clinton (MIKE FERNANDEZ, 9/01/16, Miami Herald)

I am a firm believer in the fundamental tenets of the Republican Party: individual freedom, small government, local control of issues, free speech, strong national defense and the broad vision that America is an exceptional country that gives exceptional opportunities to everyone.

I take my civic responsibilities very seriously. None more so than the solemn duty to elect the president of our country. Donald Trump is neither representative of our values nor qualified to lead the nation.

Of all the elections in which I have participated, none has become more transcendental to the definition of "We the people" and the very nature of our democracy than the one we face today.

No longer can we seek solace in wishful thinking or the illusion that this is just an election cycle and that by divine intervention all will be better after we vote. There is no basis in thinking that our democracy is so strong, our checks and balances so finely hedged, that no single person can lead us off the precipice. Trump can.

No longer can we hide behind the excuse that party loyalty is paramount, and that a bad candidate of our own is always better than any candidate of theirs. Blind loyalty in this case is the ultimate definition of disloyalty to our beliefs. Loyalty to our nation must be the ultimate arbiter of our choice.

Trump is none of those things.

Posted by orrinj at 2:56 PM


Conservatism Trumps Populism (Matthew Continetti, September 2, 2016, Free Beacon)

Mainstream conservative down-ballot Republicans are doing surprisingly well in an environment roiled by populism and nationalism. They certainly haven't been upended by anti-incumbent sentiment. It wasn't a crusading ideology but local dissatisfaction and redistricting that lost primaries for House Republicans Tim Huelskamp, Renee Elmers, and Randy Forbes. The populist, anti-trade, anti-immigration candidates taking on mainstream conservative incumbents have all lost. Whatever is driving Republicans to support Trump has not helped his imitators.

The most high profile challenge to a member of the GOP elite has come from Wisconsin businessman Paul Nehlen, who took on House speaker Paul Ryan earlier this summer. The basis of Nehlen's campaign was opposition to Ryan's stances on immigration and trade. Ryan happens to like both.

Nehlen had the support of Ann Coulter, appeared on Laura Ingraham's radio show, and enjoyed favorable coverage from, whose CEO later joined the Trump campaign as chairman. "While Paul Nehlen has spoken out in favor of immigration control and has advocated on behalf of the American victims of illegal alien crime," Breitbart wrote in its typical understated prose, "Paul Ryan has ignored these victims as he's continued to push his open borders agenda." Trump himself thanked Nehlen for his "kind words."

A few days before the primary Coulter announced that she was off to Wisconsin to defeat Paul Ryan. Maybe she was being sarcastic. Ryan demolished Nehlen by a margin of 70 points, 85 percent to 15 percent.

John McCain supports Trump despite being attacked by him last year. But the Arizona senator's tepid endorsement of the New York billionaire wasn't enough to forestall a primary challenge from state senator Kelli Ward. Ward called for an "America First" national security policy, blamed McCain for creating ISIS, and said the 80-year-old former P.O.W. might die in office. Pro-Trump hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer, who is also an investor in, gave $200,000 to a Super PAC aligned with Ward. The day before the primary Breitbart ran a story with the headline, "Exclusive--Breitbart/Gravis Arizona Poll Shows Razor Thin Margin Between John McCain, Kelli Ward Heading Into Election." That was more than a little off. McCain defeated Ward 52 percent to 39 percent.

After losing the presidential nomination, Marco Rubio, another frequent target of the populists, reversed his pledge not to run for reelection to the Senate. He cleared the field of mainstream conservative challengers, leaving real estate developer Carlos Beruff as his sole opponent.

Beruff, like Trump, ran as a wealthy outsider immune to the corruption of the political system. He supported the Great Wall of Trump and called for a temporary ban on travel from the Middle East with the exception of Israel. The only things missing from his pitch were references to "Little Marco" and bottles of water. A July article in Roll Call asked, "Is Carlos Beruff for Real?" He was not. Rubio beat him by 72 percent to 19 percent.

Trump is a freak, not a force.

Posted by orrinj at 2:50 PM


Donald Trump's Immigration Speech-and His All-In Bet on White Working-Class Voters (DAVID KOCHEL, Sep 1, 2016, WSJ)

Mr. Trump cleared up the confusion once and for all: There will be a wall. Mexico will pay for it. Sanctuary cities will be defunded. Criminals will be deported starting immediately at noon, Jan. 20, 2017. And all 11 million people thought to be in this country illegally are "subject to deportation."

So much for the "softening" Mr. Trump previewed last week. He seems to have made the calculation that he can't expand his base to include supporters of immigration reform. Those voters, many of them suburban, college-educated Republicans, have been trouble for Mr. Trump since he came down the escalator in June 2015. Whatever disagreement existed within the campaign has been clarified: They're betting it all on the white working-class vote that delivered Mr. Trump the Republican nomination.

As the share of white voters drops by two percentage points every election cycle, Mr. Trump is making a risky wager. 

'He Used Us as Props': Conservative Hispanics Deplore Donald Trump's Speech (ALAN RAPPEPORT, SEPTEMBER 1, 2016, NY Times)

Donald J. Trump faced a backlash on Thursday from some of his top conservative Hispanic supporters, who said their hopes that he was softening his immigration policy had been dashed by his fiery speech Wednesday night, which they said was anti-immigrant.

Mr. Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, had shown signs in recent weeks that he was prepared to take a more conciliatory approach to immigrants who had entered the country illegally, dropping talk of a deportation force and instead speaking of treating those immigrants in a fair and humane fashion.

Less than two weeks ago, he held a meeting with his Hispanic advisory council in Trump Tower, leaving attendees with the impression that he was working on a new plan that included a path to citizenship.

That impression faded in Phoenix on Wednesday night.

"There was so much hope," said Jacob Monty, a member of the Hispanic advisory council who was at the meeting with Mr. Trump. "He used us as props."

Whereas he normally only uses you for construction and Housekeeping....

Posted by orrinj at 2:41 PM


Obama's swan song in Asia: how he changed China's backyard (Howard LaFranchi, SEPTEMBER 2, 2016, CS Monitor)

From the Philippines to Vietnam, Malaysia and Laos, Mr. Obama has strengthened US ties with the smaller countries in the region that are feeling the pressure of Beijing's rise as an economic and military great power.

In some cases, most notably those of Burma and Laos, Obama has been instrumental in "flipping" once-closed and China-dependent countries to closer ties with the US and the rest of the world, many Asia experts say.

When historians "look closely at the so-called rebalance or pivot ... the most significant legacy for the president is going to be engagement of Southeast Asia," says Michael Green, senior vice president for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Security Studies (CSIS) in Washington.

Japan, South Korea inch towards better bilateral ties (Julian Ryall, 9/02/16, Deutsche welle)

Ties with China have deteriorated since South Korea announced that it intends to deploy the US Army's Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system to defend against North Korean's ballistic missile threat. Despite assurances to the contrary, China sees THAAD as a threat to its own defenses and has retaliated through a number of small-scale actions, such as increasing paperwork for South Korean tourists.

"South Korea is learning that China always demands its pound of flesh and Seoul is not entirely comfortable with the way in which Beijing is taking on the role of regional hegemon," Okumura told DW.
Forging better ties with Japan, as well as the United States, which has acted as a protector ever since the days of the 1950-'53 Korean War, is the obvious solution, Okumura added.

Posted by orrinj at 10:08 AM


Latinos for Trump Founder Warns of 'Taco Trucks on Every Corner' Under Clinton (Charley Lanyon, 9/02/16, New York.

As if we needed another reason to vote for her.

September 1, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 8:45 PM


Why Mitch McConnell's strategy to quash the tea party is working (Paul Kane September 1, 2016, Washington Post)

Senate Republicans, for the second straight election cycle, have surrendered none of their primary fights to conservative challengers.

In doing so, they left conservative hard-liners without a single banner victory to claim as their own in recent years. And Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) increased his chances of keeping the Senate in Republican hands in 2017 by ensuring that his crop of nominees is more palatable to general-election voters.

The handy victories by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) in primaries Tuesday completed the sweep for the Republican establishment, duplicating a feat McConnell first set as a goal during the 2014 election season.

The dominance by Senate Republicans could provide the road map for GOP strategists in other races, particularly future presidential campaigns. It could also mean the overall weakening of the conservative movement's ability to raise money and pressure senators to vote their way for fear they will draw a strong primary threat.

Time and again, Senate Republicans have quashed challenges from fringe conservatives -- candidates who on paper sound a lot like Donald Trump, who overwhelmed establishment candidates in the presidential primary but has struggled to expand his message and gain traction in the general election against Hillary Clinton.

After seeing three senators fall during primaries in 2010 and 2012 and insurgents knock off establishment-backed Republicans in key seats, GOP strategists adopted an overwhelming-force doctrine for handling primary challenges. They leveraged their financial edge and set out to define the opponents early, before they could gain momentum among the conservative grass roots, using modern technology and also spending heavily on positive TV ads to improve the incumbent's standing among conservative voters.

The only party failure was really the presidential, where Trump's unintentional media saturation overwhelmed money, organization and actually qualified candidates.

Posted by orrinj at 7:41 PM


The Campus Left and the Alt-Right Are Natural Allies (JASON WILLICK, 9/01/16, American Interest)

The alt-right is more diffuse, and diverse in its tactics and objectives, than the PC left. It encompasses sophisticated neo-reactionary Silicon Valley engineers like Curtis Yarvin, 1990s-style white nationalists like Jared Taylor, and legions of race-baiting online trolls with Pepe the frog as their Twitter avatars. But they are united by their contempt for pluralistic liberal democracy, their view that Western Civilization is in a profound and perhaps irreversible state of decline due to the empowerment of women and minorities, and their open embrace of white identity politics, and even white separatism, as the only solution.

This is a precarious cultural moment. How can it be that it is impossible to really understand the 2016 U.S. presidential election without reference to anti-liberal ideologies developed in the dark corners of 4chan and the inner sanctums of once-marginal campus bureaucracies?

Many commentators have observed that the radicalisms of the right and left feed on one another, teaming up to suck the liberal center dry. On the one hand, excessive left-wing speech policing and cultural brinksmanship on issues of race and gender was bound to make Milo-style ideological transgression more appealing. On the other hand, the alt-right's newfound cultural power seems to vindicate some of the assumptions of the PC left: that racism and misogyny are deeply embedded in America's cultural fabric, just below the surface, ready to erupt unless controls on thought and language are continuously tightened.

But what if instead of thinking of the campus left and the alt-right as mortal enemies, each bringing out perpetually heavier firepower in a long-running war of attrition, we thought of them as allies in a battle for the fate of liberalism? Because despite what they might say about each other, the radicalisms of 2016 actually align with one another more than they align with the Anglo-American Enlightenment tradition that has always occupied the American political center.

Posted by orrinj at 4:40 PM


A new drug that could save the US billions just got approved (Lydia Ramsey August 30, 2016, Yahoo)

The FDA just approved a version of Enbrel, the blockbuster arthritis drug made by Amgen that brought in $5 billion in sales in 2015.

The newly approved drug, made by Novartis' Sandoz division, will go by the marketed name Erelzi. It's a type of drug called a "biosimilar," which is like a generic version of a biologic medication, a medicine produced by living cells. [...]

Having more biosimilars in the US would be a big deal: It might be the best way to drive down the cost of (generally very pricey) biologic medications that have been around for a while. The savings of putting people on less costly biosimilars -- even just new patients who have never taken the original -- are estimated to be billions of dollars.

Posted by orrinj at 2:48 PM


Americans' Life Evaluations Improve During Obama Era (Dan Witters, 9/01/16, Gallup)

In the nearly eight years since President Barack Obama took office in January 2009, the percentage of U.S. adults who evaluate their lives well enough to be considered "thriving" has improved by nearly four percentage points. The 55.4% who are thriving so far in 2016 is on pace to be the highest recorded in the nine years Gallup and Healthways have tracked it.

Posted by orrinj at 2:45 PM


Ship Operators Explore Autonomous Sailing (ROBERT WALL in London and  COSTAS PARIS in New York, Aug. 31, 2016, WSJ)

Ship designers, their operators and regulators are gearing up for a future in which cargo vessels sail the oceans with minimal or even no crew. Advances in automation and ample bandwidth even far offshore could herald the biggest change in shipping since diesel engines replaced steam.

Ship operators believe more automation will enable them to optimize ship use, including cutting fuel consumption. "The benefit of automation is as an enabler of further efficiency across the 630 vessels we operate," said Palle Laursen, head of Maersk Line Ship Management, a unit of cargo-ship giant A.P. Moeller-Maersk A/S.

Posted by orrinj at 2:40 PM


Fed's Fischer Says Negative Rates Seem to Work in Today's World (Jeanna Smialek and Jana Randow, 8/31/16, )

Fischer's comments on negative rates come days after Chair Janet Yellen left the subject out of a speech on the future U.S. monetary policy toolkit, suggesting that they're not an option that's up for discussion at the Fed. Fischer is a former Bank of Israel governor and a prominent figure in international economics, so his remarks constitute an important acceptance that the unconventional and often controversial policy might be working in other jurisdictions.

"We're in a world where they seem to work," Fischer said, noting that while negative rates are "difficult to deal with" for savers, they typically "go along with quite decent equity prices."