November 30, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 5:56 PM


Here's the verdict on that 'terrible' Obama economy (Brett Arends, Nov 30, 2016, Marketwatch)
The Obama Economy
Third-quarter 2008Third-quarter 2016Verdict
Gross domestic product (2009 dollars)$14.892 trillion$16.713 trillionUp 12%
30-year mortgage loan rate6.46%3.54%Nearly halved
Nonfarm payrolls136.3 million145.0 millionUp 8.7 million
Uninsured (health)45 million27 millionDown 18 million
Exports (2009 dollars)$1.766 trillion$2.163 trillionUp 22%
Un- and under-employed rate (U6)11.8%9.5%Down 20%
Median household income$50,303$57,929Up 15%
Manufacturing output per worker (2009 dollars)$382,977$436,776Up 14%
Dow Jones Industrial Average9,31918,332Nearly doubled

Posted by orrinj at 4:52 PM


UN hits North Korea with toughest ever sanctions (ANDRE VIOLLAZ November 30, 2016, AFP) 

The United Nations Security Council on Wednesday unanimously imposed its toughest ever sanctions on North Korea, placing a cap on its key coal exports after the state's defiant nuclear tests.

The new sanctions resolution, which was spearheaded by the United States and came after three months of tough negotiations with fellow veto-wielding council member China, passed by a 15-0 vote.

Regime change would be more humane.

Posted by orrinj at 4:44 PM


Closer Moscow ties don't change Turkey's stance on Assad: Deputy PM (Karin Strohecker, 11/26/16, Reuters) 

Turkey's rapprochement with Russia has not changed Ankara's position that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must go to restore peace in the country, Turkish deputy prime minister Numan Kurtulmus said on Saturday. [...]

"We are in the same position, Assad has committed war crimes several times," Kurtulmus told Reuters. "We have of course with Russia some differences in our opinions for the future of Syria, but we see the Russian side much more willing to encourage the regime for a peaceful solution."

Posted by orrinj at 4:31 PM


The Department Of Energy's Efficiency-Based Reality Show Is Great Television (BEN SCHILLER 11.30.16, Co.Exist)

I'm beginning to think the Department of Energy's reality show--SWAP--should be on cable. Watching teams compete to find energy-efficiency improvements in each other's buildings is good entertainment. The production quality on the latest episodes of Better Buildings Challenge SWAP is high end. And the tension between the teams in the second season--the Air Force Academy vs. the Naval Academy--is appropriately collegial, yet pleasantly spiky. [...]

SWAP--which is in its second season; the first pitted Whole Foods against Hilton--proves that even organizations that are "doing a lot" can do more, notes Maria Vargas, head of the DOE's Better Buildings program, which commissioned the show. "An openness to continual improvement, and really letting the other team see behind the scenes, is core to the 'SWAP,'" she says.

The Air Academy was impressed with the Naval Academy's food waste bio-digester which produces enough methane to significantly offset heating bills at the campus. The Naval Academy was inspired by the Air Academy's discrete rooftop solar panels, which cover a third to a half of its electricity demand on a sunny day. "Lots of times, people don't want solar panels on roofs because it changes how the building looks. But these panels, flush with the roof, were something the Naval Academy thought was a huge opportunity for them," Vargas says.

Posted by orrinj at 4:27 PM



[A]ccording to a new study, America's lack of sleep may be costing us big--to the tune of $411 billion a year.

A team of economists, psychologists, and policy wonks from the Rand Corporation, a non-profit think tank, came up with this estimate after reviewing previous studies and plugging numbers into an economic model.

More than a third of American adults aren't getting enough sleep. That's not good. Besides making you more prone to accidents, insufficient sleep is linked with heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other health problems.
In analyzing previous studies, the Rand researchers estimated that a person who regularly sleeps less than six hours per night has a 13 percent higher chance of dying at any given time, compared to someone who sleeps seven to nine hours a night. Dying is a bit of a setback for you personally, of course, but it's also bad for the economy, which loses a worker when you go.

And even if when your sleepiness doesn't kill you, it kills your productivity. Based on the Britain's Healthiest Workplace survey of 66,000 workers, the Rand researchers calculated that someone who gets less than six hours of sleep per night loses 2.4 percent productivity compared to someone who got a full night's rest. That adds up to losing about 6 extra days of work per year, either through low productivity or the use of sick days.

Posted by orrinj at 4:21 PM


The Alt-Right's Jewish Godfather : How Paul Gottfried--willing or reluctant--became the mentor of Richard Spencer and a philosophical lodestone for white nationalists (Jacob Siegel, November 29, 2016, The Tablet)

Gottfried doesn't resolve the alt-right's contradictions so much as he embodies them. He's a sniffy traditionalist, a self-described "Robert Taft Republican," with a classical liberal bent, and a Nietzschean American nationalist who goes out of his way to exaggerate his European affect. He opposes both the Civil Rights Act and white nationalism. He's a bone-deep elitist and the oracle of what's billed as a populist revolt. "If someone were to ask me what distinguishes the right from the left," Gottfried wrote in 2008, "the difference that comes to mind most readily centers on equality. The left favors that principle, while the right regards it as an unhealthy obsession."

Inequality is the alt-right's foundational belief. In this view, there are inherent, irreducible differences not only between individuals but between groups of people--races, genders, religions, nations; all of the above. These groups each have their own distinctive characteristics and competitive advantages; accordingly, inequality is natural and good, while equality is unnatural and therefore bad and can only be imposed by force. In practice, it is typically a belief in white supremacy and a rejection of universalism.

To the ancient idea that the world is ordered by natural hierarchies the alt-right adds new wrinkles. It shows a nerdish enthusiasm for data-driven attempts to classify group cognitive abilities, an update on the social Darwinist "race science" popular before WWII that often resolves into a genes-are-destiny outlook. It also embraces concepts from the controversial field of evolutionary psychology, which attempts to explain the behavior of groups in terms of Darwinian natural selection.

Americans, on the other hand, are anti-intellectual and, therefore, never fell prey to Darwinism.

Posted by orrinj at 4:18 PM


'Ready for Michelle' PACs urge 2020 run (MEGAN R. WILSON, 11/29/16, The Hill)

Three new political committees have formed in the last month urging first lady Michelle Obama to run for president in 2020. [...]

The first PAC encouraging a Michelle Obama presidential run formed even before Election Day results were tallied.

Ready for Michelle, a super PAC that could raise unlimited sums from donors, filed its paperwork with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) on Oct. 31. 

Who else do they have?

Posted by orrinj at 4:13 PM


Defiance Thrusts Iranian Lawmaker Into Spotlight (Golnaz Esfandiari, 11/30/16, Radio Liberty)

Until recently, Mahmud Sadeghi was an obscure legal expert whose most conspicuous professional accomplishment was a two-year advisory stint with Iran's Education Ministry.

That changed with the 54-year-old's election to parliament in Iran's tightly controlled elections in February, as one of 133 relative moderates allied with reformist President Hassan Rohani to have won seats in the 290-seat legislature, known as the Majlis. [...]

He has aired defiant criticism of state repression and censorship, grabbing the spotlight late this month as the target of an abortive arrest after he expressed suspicions around the financial dealings of one of Iran's most powerful political figures, Judiciary head Sadegh Larijani. (Larijani has rejected the allegations as "lies.")

Sadeghi rebuffed the security officers who arrived at his home on November 27 by citing parliamentary immunity, but it was arguably the mobilization of supporters via digital media that set the incident apart from other such raids in Iran.

News spread quickly on social media, users shared his address, and colleagues and activists gathered outside his house to prevent his arrest.

The officers backed down, although Tehran's prosecutor has pledged that Sadeghi must turn himself in or face detention.

Sadeghi then vowed via Twitter that "pressure" would not prevent him and other lawmakers from "seeking transparency and fighting corruption in all [Iran's state] institutions.

Posted by orrinj at 3:57 PM


Overwhelmed Border Patrol Agents Stuck Serving Burritos to Illegal Immigrants (Adam Kredo, November 30, 2016, Daily Beacon)

Border Patrol agents are reporting that they are overwhelmed by a massive uptick in illegal immigration of unaccompanied foreign children, leaving some members of the force stuck serving food to kids and ordering various supplies such as baby wipes, according to Mark Morgan, chief of the Border Patrol, which operates within the Department of Homeland Security.

Posted by orrinj at 2:10 PM


Fusion energy: A time of transition and potential (Stewart Prage & Michael C. Zarnstorff, 11/29/16, The Conversation)

The progress in fusion can be measured in two ways. The first is the tremendous advance in basic understanding of high-temperature plasmas. Scientists had to develop a new field of physics - plasma physics - to conceive of methods to confine the plasma in strong magnetic fields, and then evolve the abilities to heat, stabilize, control turbulence in and measure the properties of the superhot plasma.

Related technology has also progressed enormously. We have pushed the frontiers in magnets, and electromagnetic wave sources and particle beams to contain and heat the plasma. We have also developed techniques so that materials can withstand the intense heat of the plasma in current experiments.

It is easy to convey the practical metrics that track fusion's march to commercialization. Chief among them is the fusion power that has been generated in the laboratory: Fusion power generation escalated from milliwatts for microseconds in the 1970s to 10 megawatts of fusion power (at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory) and 16 megawatts for one second (at the Joint European Torus in England) in the 1990s.

Under construction: the ITER research tokamak in France.  ITER
Now the international scientific community is working in unity to construct a massive fusion research facility in France. Called ITER (Latin for "the way"), this plant will generate about 500 megawatts of thermal fusion power for about eight minutes at a time. If this power were converted to electricity, it could power about 150,000 homes. As an experiment, it will allow us to test key science and engineering issues in preparation for fusion power plants that will function continuously.

ITER employs the design known as the "tokamak," originally a Russian acronym. It involves a doughnut-shaped plasma, confined in a very strong magnetic field, which is partly created by electrical current that flows in the plasma itself.

Though it is designed as a research project, and not intended to be a net producer of electric energy, ITER will produce 10 times more fusion energy than the 50 megawatts needed to heat the plasma. This is a huge scientific step, creating the first "burning plasma," in which most of the energy used to heat the plasma comes from the fusion reaction itself.

ITER is supported by governments representing half the world's population: China, the European Union, India, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the U.S. It is a strong international statement about the need for, and promise of, fusion energy.

From here, the remaining path toward fusion power has two components. First, we must continue research on the tokamak. This means advancing physics and engineering so that we can sustain the plasma in a steady state for months at a time. We will need to develop materials that can withstand an amount of heat equal to one-fifth the heat flux on the surface of the sun for long periods. And we must develop materials that will blanket the reactor core to absorb the neutrons and breed tritium.

The second component on the path to fusion is to develop ideas that enhance fusion's attractiveness.

Posted by orrinj at 2:05 PM


Health industry breathes easier as post-Obamacare path stabilizes (Caroline Humer, 11/30/16, Reuters)

[S]ome healthcare companies, including insurers, doctors groups and hospitals, said they were encouraged by the appointments of experienced healthcare insiders.

"From our standpoint, we want to make sure that as many people as possible maintain (insurance) coverage," said Dr. Mario Molina, CEO of Molina Healthcare, which provides Medicaid and Obamacare individual insurance plans. "I think the pieces of the healthcare puzzle are kind of coming together for us now."

That picture looks increasingly like lawmakers will bring Trump a "repeal" bill in January that lays out at least a two-year timeline for changing the law. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Tuesday that the House would start working on repealing and replacing Obamacare "right away," but with a transition period to allow changes to be phased in over time.

That period could be up to three years, warned Senate Finance committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, in order "to work through the problems."

Kathleen Harrington, chair of Policy of Government Relations for the Mayo Clinic, said so far she likes what she hears from Republicans on changes to health insurance.

"We are very encouraged with the approach we're hearing so far from President-elect Trump in terms of having a focused review and removing certain parts of it," she said.

Posted by orrinj at 7:15 AM


Company Earnings Show Strength as U.S. Growth Picks Up (BEN LEUBSDORF and  THEO FRANCIS, Nov. 29, 2016, WSJ)

Profit gains were reflected among large U.S. companies in most industry sectors as healthy consumer spending and other forces helped accelerate economic growth and set the stage for further expansion in the fourth quarter.

The U.S. is "the bright spot in the world right now," Dow Chemical Co. Chief Financial Officer Howard Ungerleider told analysts Tuesday.

November 29, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 6:12 PM


A horrifying look into the mind of 9/11's mastermind, in his own words (Washington Post‎, 11/28/16)

But perhaps the most riveting part of the book is what KSM told Mitchell about what inspired al-Qaeda to attack the United States -- and the U.S. response he expected. Today, some on both the left and the right argue that al-Qaeda wanted to draw us into a quagmire in Afghanistan -- and now the Islamic State wants to do the same in Iraq and Syria. KSM said this is dead wrong. Far from trying to draw us in, KSM said that al-Qaeda expected the United States to respond to 9/11 as we had the 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut -- when, KSM told Mitchell, the United States "turned tail and ran." He also said he thought we would treat 9/11 as a law enforcement matter, just as we had the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and the USS Cole in Yemen -- arresting some operatives and firing a few missiles into empty tents, but otherwise leaving him free to plan the next attack.

"Then he looked at me and said, 'How was I supposed to know that cowboy George Bush would announce he wanted us 'dead or alive' and then invade Afghanistan to hunt us down?'" Mitchell writes. "KSM explained that if the United States had treated 9/11 like a law enforcement matter, he would have had time to launch a second wave of attacks." He was not able to do so because al-Qaeda was stunned "by the ferocity and swiftness of George W. Bush's response." 

Posted by orrinj at 6:03 PM


Trump's Potential Treasury Secretary Headed A 'Foreclosure Machine' (John Ydstie, 11/29/16, NPR)

During the depths of the financial crisis, Mnuchin was looking to make profits from the ruins of the housing bust. In 2009, he put together a group of billionaire investors and bought a failed California-based bank, IndyMac. It had been taken over by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. after its sketchy mortgage loans went bad.

Mnuchin and his partners bought IndyMac on the condition that the FDIC agree to pay future losses above a certain threshold. They renamed the bank OneWest Bank and, after running it for 6 years, they sold it last year for a profit, estimated at close to $1.5 billion.

Kevin Stein of the California Reinvestment Coalition, a housing advocacy group, says that profit was made on the backs of suffering California homeowners. "In essence what they did is they bought a foreclosure machine," he says.

According to the coalition, OneWest foreclosed on more than 36,000 homeowners under Mnuchin. During that time, the FDIC made payments to OneWest totaling more $1 billion. Those payments went to the "billionaire investors of OneWest Bank," says Stein, "to cover the cost of foreclosing on working-class, everyday, American folks," many of whom lived in California.

Donald Trump will not be draining any swamps as president (Daniel W. Drezner, November 29, 2016, Washington Post)

Even during the campaign, Trump thought "drain the swamp" was a corny slogan. But since he won the election, we've been able to observe the following:

Trump chose, for his national security adviser, someone who sat in on classified intelligence briefings while serving foreign clients. That same national security adviser-designate told a Japanese official not to pay attention to Trump's campaign rhetoric on Japan.

Trump has continued to have business meetings with foreign partners.

He has had family members who will be running his business sit in on meetings and phone calls with foreign heads of state.

Trump's nonprofit foundation has admitted that it has violated the legal ban on "self-dealing."

Trump himself has acknowledged the massive conflicts of interest involving his overseas real estate holdings and American foreign policy, but also said "the law is totally on my side, meaning, the president can't have a conflict of interest."

Charges of hypocrisy in Washington are akin to charges of gambling in Casablanca. There's a fair amount of eye-rolling going on. And as I said, there were other reasons people voted for Trump. The notion that he was going to drain the swamp, however, seemed like a pretty potent theme during the campaign. And we can already be pretty sure that there will be no swamp-draining. Trump has merely added his own family and his retinue to the existing swamp.

Posted by orrinj at 5:44 PM



People with diabetes frequently suffer from a condition called diabetic retinopathy, where the tiny blood vessels at the back of their eyes (the retina) become damaged and start to leak. About one in three diabetics have this kind of damage, and if left untreated it can cause permanent blindness. With early detection, though, it's quite treatable.

The problem is that many people don't have access to an ophthalmologist who can diagnose them. There are 387 million diabetics worldwide who need to see specialists in order to catch the disease early, and our current prevention isn't working well enough -- diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of vision impairment and blindness in the working-age population.

So Google devised a way to use deep machine learning to teach a neural network how to detect diabetic retinopathy from photos of patients' eyes. They published their work in the Journal of the American Medical Association on Tuesday.

A neural network is kind of like an artificial brain, albeit a simple one. By showing it a huge set of images of patients with and without retina damage, engineers can train the network to distinguish between diseased and non-diseased eyes. After the training, the Google team tested the neural network to see if the algorithm could detect diabetic retinopathy as well as ophthalmologists, who had seen the same images.

Google's algorithm performed slightly better than the human ophthalmologists, which suggests that the neural network could help screen patients in the future, or at least assist doctors in the diagnosis process.

Posted by orrinj at 5:39 PM


New Milestone: The U.S. Is Now a Net Exporter of Natural Gas (STEPHANIE YANG and  ALISON SIDER, Nov. 28, 2016, WSJ)

The milestone comes less than a year after restrictions on most crude oil exports were lifted, allowing tankers of crude to be freely shipped overseas for the first time nearly half a century, and together they mark a significant and potentially permanent change in the way U.S. energy flows around the world. Overseas producers now have to deal with the growing clout of the U.S. energy industry, which is aggressively looking to ramp up its global market share to help offset a long period of low prices.

Posted by orrinj at 5:29 PM


I moved from England to America 10 years ago. These are the things I'll never get used to. (Lesley McCave, November 29, 2016, The Week)

3. The assumption that everyone is deeply religious. I'm not even shallowly religious. I don't believe in God, and the same is true for many of my countrymen (although we are fond of a church bake sale). Many Americans look at me aghast when I say I'm an atheist, as if I've just told them I've kidnapped their children. I must admit, though, it does make me wonder what I'd do if I was ever called to court as a witness and asked to swear on the Bible.

Posted by orrinj at 4:53 PM


Dem senator: I'll 'beat the hell out of you' for burning flag (MARK HENSCH, 11/29/16, The Hill)

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) lashed out at flag burning on Tuesday after President-elect Donald Trump raised the issue.

"It's a First Amendment right, but you do it in front of me, I'm going to beat the hell out of you," Manchin said, according to a Roll Call reporter.

Posted by orrinj at 4:48 PM


Get ready for 24-30% reduction in cost of wind power by 2030 (MEGAN GEUSS - 11/29/2016,Ars Technica)

The median response from experts was that wind power cost could be reduced by 24 to 30 percent by 2030 based on the advances in turbine technology that are either projected or already being seen today.

The authors of the study also acknowledge that estimates about wind power cost reductions have generally been conservative in the past--today in some areas wind energy is already competitive with fossil fuels.

Posted by orrinj at 4:42 PM


THE ATHENIAN LEGACY : Paul Cartledge talks ancient democracy, the English Revolution and the fate of people power. (spiked Review of Books, November 2016)

review: There's a great quote you use towards the end of Democracy, from your fellow classicist Moses Finley, which makes a very good pro-democracy criticism of technocracy: 'When I charter a vessel or buy passage on one, I leave it to the captain, the expert, to navigate it - but I decide where I want to go, not the captain.'

Cartledge: That's right. Moses was making the point that politics, in the richest sense, has an ethical dimension, which is above and beyond any purely technical question of how, in this case, you steer a ship so that it doesn't sink. Politics is not just about the means - it is also about ends. We're going to have very deeply divided views on those ends, for all sorts of reasons. So politics must also be a way of solving deep, personal and ideological disagreements in as harmonious a way as possible.

When Moses was making this argument, in the 1950s and 1960s, he was opposing those who said that because the world was changing so fast, and many people were ignorant, then understanding the world was only something very clever people could do. The masses shouldn't be invited to participate in policymaking. It should be left to the so-called eggheads. So political apathy and disengagement was the main problem Moses was warning against. Now we have less apathy, especially on social media, which entrenches and exacerbates antagonisms, and is replete in prejudice and animus, so I do wonder if Moses, were he alive today, might argue for much less mass involvement.

Posted by orrinj at 4:35 PM


Google's AI translation tool seems to have invented its own secret internal language (Devin Coldewey, 11/22/16, Tech Crunch)

 If the computer is able to make connections between concepts and words that have not been formally linked... does that mean that the computer has formed a concept of shared meaning for those words, meaning at a deeper level than simply that one word or phrase is the equivalent of another?

In other words, has the computer developed its own internal language to represent the concepts it uses to translate between other languages? Based on how various sentences are related to one another in the memory space of the neural network, Google's language and AI boffins think that it has.

This "interlingua" seems to exist as a deeper level of representation that sees similarities between a sentence or word in all three languages. Beyond that, it's hard to say, since the inner processes of complex neural networks are infamously difficult to describe.

It could be something sophisticated, or it could be something simple. But the fact that it exists at all -- an original creation of the system's own to aid in its understanding of concepts it has not been trained to understand -- is, philosophically speaking, pretty powerful stuff.

Posted by orrinj at 4:26 PM


Have Private Medicare Plans Bid Competitvely (Yevgeniy Feyman, NOVEMBER 29, 2016, NY Times)

A series of reforms can both bring costs in line and improve care for those using Medicare.

One short-term approach is to modernize Medicare's outdated cost-sharing structure and include an annual cap on beneficiaries' out-of-pocket spending. Combined with restrictions on supplemental plans, this would save $114 billion over 10 years while reducing what the sickest Medicare beneficiaries pay for their care. Another approach would focus on building up existing experiments under the Affordable Care Act -- like bundled payments for certain hospital services -- and making successful schemes permanent.

A more long-term approach would make use of an efficient and successful program within Medicare: Medicare Advantage. Under Medicare Advantage, beneficiaries can enroll in a private plan, often paying no extra premiums. Researchers have broadly concluded that these Medicare Advantage plans tend to offer better care for beneficiaries, often at lower cost. Areas with high penetration of these plans also tend to see these benefits spill over into traditional Medicare, lowering costs and improving outcomes for other beneficiaries.

Posted by orrinj at 4:21 PM


Cheap oil pushes Saudi Arabia into further budget cuts (CNN Money, 11/29/16)

Few places in the world have felt the pain of low oil prices like Saudi Arabia.

Cuts to the bloated public sector have changed the economic prospects for many Saudis. But one local industry is emerging as a winner from the oil bust.

The oil crunch is proving a "blessing in disguise" for the country's young tech sector, said Abdulrahman Tarabzouni, a former regional manager for Google (GOOGL, Tech30).

Saudi Arabia is pumping tens of billions of dollars into technology in an attempt to diversify its economy and become less reliant on volatile oil prices.

"Any individual has a shot now at creating something extremely valuable and accessible to the rest of the world," Tarabzouni told young entrepreneurs and business leaders at a recent forum in Riyadh, the Saudi capital.

Posted by orrinj at 4:17 PM


Trump Finds a Phone Friend in President Obama (Alexis Simendinger, November 29, 2016, Real Clear Politics)

Earnest said he was intentionally vague in responding to questions about the number of such calls and topics of conversation, which he refused to describe, to give the president and president-elect the ability to confer in private. He also said he didn't see the White House announcing future calls between the two men.

Trump's advisers, focused on efforts to select a cabinet, assemble a White House staff and craft a 100-day agenda with Congress for early 2017, are suddenly touting the president-elect's pleasure in conferring with the same man he denigrated for years as a potentially illegitimate and "failed" American president.

What do the phone calls signal? The private view inside the White House is that Trump needs all the help he can get while rocketing from private businessman to leader of the free world. In interviews and exchanges with reporters, Obama has diplomatically suggested that Trump's learning curve is steep, but he has commended him as practical and not ideological. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:14 PM


Federalism, the Constitution, and sanctuary cities (Ilya Somin, November 26, 2016, Washington Post)

Under the Constitution, state and local governments have every right to refuse to help enforce federal law. In cases like Printz v. United States (1997) and New York v. United States (1992), the Supreme Court has ruled that the Tenth Amendment forbids federal "commandeering" of state governments to help enforce federal law. Most of the support for this anti-commandeering principle came from conservative justices such as the late Antonin Scalia, who wrote the majority opinion in Printz.

Trump has said that he intends to break the resistance of sanctuary cities by cutting off all of their federal funding. The cities might continue resisting even if they do lose some federal funds. But Trump's threat is not as formidable as it might seem.

Few if any federal grants to state and local governments are conditioned on cooperation with federal deportation efforts. The Supreme Court has long ruled that conditions on federal grants to state and local governments are not enforceable unless they are "unambiguously" stated in the text of the law "so that the States can knowingly decide whether or not to accept those funds." In ambiguous cases, courts must assume that state and local governments are not required to meet the condition in question. In sum, the Trump administration can't cut off any federal grants to sanctuary cities unless it can show that those grants were clearly conditioned on cooperation with federal deportation policies.

The looming fight over sanctuary cities is an example of how federalism and constitutional limitations on federal power can sometimes protect vulnerable minorities - in this case undocumented immigrants. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:08 PM


$6.3 Billion Measure Aims to Cure Ailing Health Care Policies (JENNIFER STEINHAUER and SABRINA TAVERNISENOV. 28, 2016, NY Times)

 In one of the most sweeping and rare bipartisan acts of this Congress, lawmakers will move this week on a $6.3 billion bill to increase funding for research into cancer and other diseases, address problems in the nation's mental health systems and enact potentially far-reaching regulatory changes for drugs and medical devices.

The bill, known as the 21st Century Cures Act, is the product of years of debates over health care policy issues, including how to track the federal drug regulatory structure with the fast-paced world of biotechnology, streamline the unwieldy mental health care system, and stem the widespread and intractable problem of opioid drug abuse.

But critics say the act contains a number of regulatory changes that could profoundly reshape the way some drugs and medical devices are approved in the United States, making the process less costly and time consuming for companies, but also potentially less safe for patients.

"This is all in the category of dumbing down the criteria for drug approval," said Dr. Jerry Avorn, a professor of medicine at Harvard. "It's a lower bar and shorter race."

Democrats, conceding the legislation makes more changes to regulations than they sought, note that the bill has fewer changes than an earlier version out of the House, and far fewer than they would expect in the next Congress. People who support the bill say it simply codifies quicker pathways that the Food and Drug Administration was already using.

Posted by orrinj at 3:59 PM


US: Air strikes killing dozens of Syrian troops legal (Al Jazeera, 11/29/16)

An investigation has found air strikes by the US-led coalition that reportedly killed dozens of troops fighting for the Syrian government did not violate international law, the US military said.

The targets of the strikes near the Syrian city of Deir Az Zor were misidentified as ISIL fighters on September 17, but they turned out to be loyalists of the Syrian army, the US Air Forces Central Command said in a statement on Tuesday.

Posted by orrinj at 1:16 PM


U.S. banks see higher net income, fewer unprofitable lenders: FDIC (Reuters, 11/29/16)

U.S. banks' net income increased by $5.2 billion, or 12.9 percent, compared to the third quarter of last year as the number of struggling lenders fell, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation said. [...]

The FDIC noted that the share of unprofitable banks, 4.6 percent, was the lowest since the third quarter of 1997.

Posted by orrinj at 1:11 PM


Top congressional Republicans defend right to burn American flag (Becca Stanek, 11/29/16, The week)

Top Republicans don't seem to share President-elect Donald Trump's opinion that flag burning should be a punishable offense. After Trump tweeted Tuesday that burning the American flag, an act constitutionally protected as free speech, should result in jail time or a "loss of citizenship," both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) mildly -- yet clearly -- expressed their disagreement with the suggestion.

...violence and jury nullification.

Posted by orrinj at 1:07 PM


Goat Cheese Bacon Pops (Sabrina Modelle, 11/29/16, Simply Recipes)

6 slices bacon
4 ounces goat cheese
4 ounces cream cheese (lower fat is fine here, if you prefer)
1 tablespoon mild honey
Pinch dried chili flakes (optional)
1/3 cup dried cherries (cranberries, blueberries, or other tart dried fruit works well, too)
1/2 cup lightly packed fresh herbs (I used parsley and chives)
1/2 cup unsalted pecan halves

1 Cook the bacon: In a skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon until crispy. Drain on a paper towel. This can be done several days in advance; store in the fridge until needed.

2 Make the cheese mix: In a food processor, combine goat cheese, cream cheese, honey, chili flakes (if using), a pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper. Blitz for about 30 seconds, then scrape down the sides of the bowl and pulse a few more times to fully combine. Transfer to a small bowl and freeze for 10 to 20 minutes, until firm but not frozen solid. (The cheese can be mixed up to 2 days in advance; store in the fridge.)

3 Make the bacon topping: While the cheese mix is chilling, clean your food processor to make your filling. Place the dried cherries in the food processor and blend in 1-second pulses until they're chopped into tiny bits. Add herbs and pulse another 5 or so times. Add bacon and pecans and pulse until the mixture looks crumbly. Do not over-mix or you will end up with bacony nut butter. Transfer coating to a bowl.

4 Roll the cheese into balls: Remove the cheese mixture from the freezer and roll into twelve little balls (a scant tablespoon each). Wetting your hands in cool water helps to cut down on the mess.

5 Roll the cheese balls in the bacon topping: Gently press the coating into the cheese to make it stick.

6 Stick a small stick or skewer into your cheese balls and store in the fridge until you're ready to serve. The pops are best the day they are made, but will keep just fine in the fridge for several hours before serving.
from Simply Recipes ~

Posted by orrinj at 12:51 PM


African elephants are being born without tusks due to poaching, researchers say (Charlotte England, 27 November 2016, Independent)

An increasing number of African elephants are now born tuskless because poachers have consistently targetted animals with the best ivory over decades, fundamentally altering the gene pool.

In some areas 98 per cent of female elephants now have no tusks, researchers have said, compared to between two and six per cent born tuskless on average in the past. 

(via Eric Owens)

Posted by orrinj at 12:44 PM


U.S. Home Prices Have Set New A Record, Says S&P/Case-Shiller (Lauren Gensler, 11/29/16, FORBES)

Home prices continued to climb in September, setting a new all-time record and surpassing the highs from before the financial crisis.

On a national basis, single-family home prices increased by 5.5%, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index, which covers all nine U.S. census divisions. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:40 PM


Trump to nominate Elaine Chao for transportation post: source (David Shepardson, 11/29/16, Reuters)

President-elect Donald Trump plans to nominate former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao to head the Transportation Department, a source with knowledge of the decision said on Tuesday.

The source, who requested anonymity, confirmed the pick to Reuters. Chao, the wife of Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, served as labor secretary under President George W. Bush and was the first Asian-American woman to hold a Cabinet position. The formal announcement was expected Tuesday afternoon.

Posted by orrinj at 12:35 PM


Officials stunned to learn of Kyle Housing Authority and its problems (Taylor Goldenstein, 11/28/16, American-Statesman)

When Kyle Mayor Todd Webster received a scathing letter this month from the federal government suggesting rampant mismanagement at the city's independent housing authority, he was shocked by the findings -- particularly because he hadn't even known the agency existed.

"I didn't know very much about the Kyle Housing Authority, but what I will tell you is that we have one," Webster told the City Council, to its surprise, at a meeting this month.

The authority, which receives federal funding to manage two apartment complexes offering subsidized rent, is independent of the city. It is supposed to be overseen by a board of commissioners appointed by the mayor.

But it has apparently been operating without any mayoral appointees for an unknown period of time -- possibly since the agency's inception in 1977, Webster said.

Posted by orrinj at 8:56 AM


US Q3 growth revised higher to 3.2% annual rate (Adam Samson, 11/29/16, Financial Times)

US growth heated up more than initially thought in the third quarter, underscoring a brightening American economy after a disappointing start to 2016.

We're Gus Grissom-proof.
Posted by orrinj at 7:15 AM


Conway plays the outside game (ELIANA JOHNSON, ALEX ISENSTADT and KENNETH P. VOGEL 11/28/16, Politico)

Kellyanne Conway's Sunday broadsides against Mitt Romney have exacerbated an increasingly strained relationship with Donald Trump and his senior advisers, including son-in-law Jared Kushner, according to more than a half-dozen sources involved in the transition efforts.

Conway, who served as Trump's campaign manager, has slowly receded from the president-elect's innermost circle -- she is not included either in interviews with potential cabinet nominees or in the deliberations over those candidates, said two people briefed on the matter.

Posted by orrinj at 6:23 AM


Senate Republicans can save the country -- and their party -- from Trump (Ezra Klein, Nov 28, 2016, Vox)

Let's start with some simple math. Republicans are expected to hold 52 Senate seats in the 115th Congress. Of those 52 Republicans, 12 -- Susan Collins, John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Ben Sasse, Mike Lee, Rob Portman, Pat Toomey, Jeff Flake, Dean Heller, Lisa Murkowski, Cory Gardner, and Dan Sullivan -- either refused to endorse Donald Trump or rescinded their endorsement and never clearly restored it during the campaign.

Of the 40 remaining Senate Republicans who did endorse Trump, more than a few have voiced doubts about the president-elect. Rand Paul called him a "delusional narcissist." Ted Cruz said he was "utterly amoral" and "a pathological liar." Marco Rubio warned that Trump was a "con artist" who was too "erratic" to control nuclear weapons. Lamar Alexander said Trump was "driving the presidential campaign to a new low." Though all these Republicans eventually backed Trump out of loyalty to party, no one believes they changed their minds about his basic fitness for office.

Plenty of other congressional Republicans stayed quiet -- or as quiet as possible -- on Trump. But it breaks no confidences to say that in conversations with both Republican politicians and staffers, the dominant emotions I've heard have been despair, fear, and bewilderment. Those emotions are now joined by the unexpected pleasure of victory -- but they are not gone.

This, then, is where Trump's presidency begins: with a closely divided Senate, a supermajority of senators who refused to back his candidacy, and a super-super-majority who harbor grave doubts about his fitness to serve. Assuming Democratic unity, it will only take three Republican defections on any given issue or nomination to create an anti-Trump majority in the chamber. 

...they took away his wiggle room on judges.

Posted by orrinj at 6:18 AM

"...SO, YOU SEE?":

Plimpton, Papa, and Cuba (James Scott Linville November 28, 2016, Paris Review)

One day, at the office on East Seventy-Second Street, perusing the catalog of Grove Press's forthcoming books, I spotted a title about which I'd heard nothing--The Motorcycle Diaries, by Che Guevara, which had been published in Cuba in the sixties but had never appeared in English. It seemed a long shot, but from the description of it as a travelogue with an unusual provenance, I thought a piece from it might be something for the Review. 

The manuscript arrived a good six months before publication. The writing was fine, somewhat conventional but well observed, with vivid tableaux of people and land and cities in the Latin American countries where Guevara had traveled when he was training to become a doctor. I thought it could "work" for the magazine: it would, as the Boss liked to say, "cause a stir." The Cold War had ended, and with that the conflicts in Latin America had by and large been rolled up, as far as I knew. And it was interesting to watch the unfolding of Guevara's sensibility during his account. There was a humanist sensitivity, and it seemed devoid of the sub-Marxist dialectics for which, among other reasons, Guevara became known. (There's since been further debate about whether Guevara himself was the sole author of the book.)

I stitched together an excerpt and called my friend at Grove. There was little advance word on the book, and the people there were happy to the have the interest, as no one else was biting for the serial rights. I took the paper-clipped excerpt upstairs to the Boss, as I called him, and as he in turn jokingly used to call me. I found him at that moment flopped down off to the side from his workspace in his favorite spot, an Eames chair where he liked to watch his "teams"--the Detroit Lions, the Celtics, and the others who'd invited him to step on the field as a participatory journalist. As he looked up from some papers, I said I had something strange and good. As I started to tell him all about it, his smile faded, and then his face sunk.

I stopped my pitch and said, "Boss, what's the matter?"

"I'm sorry ... "

"For what?"

"I just ... No ... "

"Don't worry," I said, "It's not at all ... " He cut me off.

"James, I'm sorry."

I held it out to him and said, "Okay. Don't take my word for it."

A sad look overtook his face, and he began to explain: "Years ago, after we'd done the interview, Papa invited me down again to visit him in Cuba." (In the fifties, George had interviewed Hemingway for the magazine on the Art of Fiction, and now he always referred to him as Papa, as Hemingway encouraged his young friends to do.) "It was right after the revolution," George continued. After he arrived in Havana, he settled in at a hotel room above a bar. One afternoon, at the end of the day, Hemingway told him, "There's something you should see," and to come by the house.

When he arrived at Hemingway's house he saw they were preparing for some sort of expedition. Before they ventured forth, the elder writer made shakers of drinks, daiquiris or whatever, and packed them up. This group, including a few others, got in the car and drove for some time to the outside of town. Arriving at their destination, they got out, set up chairs, brought out the drinks, and arranged themselves as if they were going to watch the sunset. Soon enough, a truck came, and that, explained George to me, was what they'd been waiting for. It came, as Hemingway explained to them, the same time each day. The truck stopped and some men with guns got out of it. In back were a couple of dozen others who were tied up. Prisoners. The men with guns hustled the others out of the back of the truck and lined them up. And then they shot them. They put the bodies back in the truck and drove off.

I said to George something to the effect of, Oh my God. Then I said, "I don't believe you."

I wasn't sure why I didn't. Probably because I'd never read about such events, and their invisibility in the media, to my mind, somehow outweighed George's account as a firsthand witness.

Posted by orrinj at 6:14 AM


A GOP Rising Star in Indiana : Curtis Hill, Indiana's new attorney general, to take on regulation, drugs (Natalie Johnson, November 29, 2016, Free Beacon)

Republican state officials battling federal overreach recently gained another ally through Indiana's election of incoming Attorney General Curtis Hill.

Hill, who defeated Democrat Lorenzo Arredondo with nearly 62 percent of the vote, will become the state's first black attorney general. The former prosecutor set a record on Nov. 8 after receiving the most votes of any candidate in Indiana history, beating out President-elect Donald Trump by nearly 100,000 votes.

...everyone ran ahead of Donald.

Posted by orrinj at 5:27 AM


Tom Price's Plan to Replace Obamacare (ANDREW STILES, August 16, 2013, National Review)

The bill aims to provide affordable coverage for all through a series of tax credits and deductions designed to entice individuals into the insurance market with positive incentives, as opposed to Obamacare's solution of fining those who refuse to purchase health insurance. "It's a carrot instead of a two-by-four," Price says. "Regardless of where one fits in the economic spectrum, there is a financial incentive to purchase health coverage that the individual wants, not that the government forces them to buy."

The law would allow individuals to opt out of Medicare, Medicaid, and other federal health-care-benefit programs in favor of receiving a tax credit; an individual's health coverage would be "portable" -- no longer tied to an employer -- so losing a job wouldn't also mean losing insurance; individuals and small businesses would be able to access insurance pools that reduce risk for those with pre-existing conditions, and they could purchase plans across state lines. Tort reforms would cut down on physicians' practicing "defensive medicine" and driving up costs by ordering unnecessary procedures in an effort to avoid lawsuits.

Congress will add back the mandate--otherwise, you can't make coverage affordable--and, accordingly, more favorable treatment HSAs.


Trump is expected to officially announce his selection of Verma and Republican U.S. Representative Tom Price, an orthopedic surgeon who he will nominate to be secretary of health and human services, casting them as his "dream team" whose job will be to transform the U.S. healthcare system, the official said.

Charging poor people small premiums or fees for care -- long favored by conservatives who contend that "skin in the game" engages patients in their health -- has historically produced mixed results. [...]

Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said the Obama administration, which must sign off on new cost-sharing requirements, was open to more proposals from Republican governors. "We welcome the conversation," she said, calling Indiana's Medicaid plan "a big deal and a very important deal."

The stakes in these discussions are high. Medicaid now provides coverage to nearly 1 in 4 Americans at an annual cost to taxpayers of more than $500 billion.

The program is growing rapidly, thanks largely to the 2010 healthcare law, which provides federal aid to states to expand Medicaid to low-income, working-age adults. (Medicaid historically served poor children, mothers and the disabled.)

Though the coverage has provided a vital safety net, Medicaid faces challenges. Patients often fare worse than privately insured Americans. And 21 states, mostly in the South and interior West, have refused to expand their programs, citing concerns about Medicaid's effectiveness and cost.

"For us to be honest, we have to say that the Medicaid program is ... in need of fixing," said Vernita Todd, chief executive of Heart City Health Center, which operates two clinics in Elkhart serving patients who are uninsured or on Medicaid.

Todd, like many officials who work with Medicaid, has labored to get patients to checkups and other preventive care. "What we have learned is that our Medicaid population is not really very health-literate," she said.

For years, states have tried to nudge patients to make better choices. One strategy has been to make Medicaid look more like private insurance, charging premiums, co-pays and penalties for emergency room visits.

But billing poor patients, even in small amounts, often drives them from the doctor's office, studies show. [...]

Instead of premiums, the Healthy Indiana Plan requires patients to contribute to a health savings account used for their medical expenses. Monthly contributions, based on income, range from $1 to $27.

If patients make the contributions, medical care is essentially free. People can even lower their contributions by getting recommended preventive care, such as cancer screenings.

If patients don't contribute, they lose dental and vision coverage and must pay up to $8 to see a doctor or fill a prescription.

"The Healthy Indiana Plan ... is aspirational," said Brian Neale, the governor's health policy director. "We believe that individuals, if offered the opportunity, will make the right choices."

As of July 1, more than 297,000 people had enrolled; about 72% were making the required contributions, according to the state.

At Heart City Health Center, a squat brick building across the street from a factory, sign-ups have been brisk.

Joyner, who waited tables for more 40 years before her legs gave out two years ago, called the new coverage "a godsend."

"When you get older, you start to fall apart," she said. "I worked hard all my life, but I didn't expect any of these health problems until I was in my 80s.... Now I don't have to worry."

Once dependent on charity care at a local hospital, she can now get regular attention for her rheumatoid arthritis and a painful nerve condition in her legs. The $12.33 contribution is a small price to pay, even on her $633 monthly Social Security check, she said.

"The people who need care are not demanding that it be totally free," said Todd, the clinic director. "It takes away people's dignity."

Posted by orrinj at 4:39 AM


When Chess Was a Battle of Superpowers (SERGE SCHMEMANN NOV. 29, 2016, NY Times)

Ideology permeated Soviet sport, including chess. One story I wrote for The Times from Moscow, in June 1981, was about Boris Gulko, a Soviet champion who was excluded from major tournaments after he applied to emigrate to Israel. Allowed to compete in the Moscow open championship that June, he won, and then brought a hushed pall over the awards ceremony when he urged the Soviet Chess Federation to facilitate the emigration of the wife and son of Viktor Korchnoi, a Soviet grandmaster who had defected to the West.

Korchnoi twice challenged the Soviet champion Anatoly Karpov, a Kremlin loyalist who assumed the title after Fischer failed to defend it. Their matches are memorable largely for bizarre controversies, which ranged from demands that chairs be X-rayed to complaints of hypnotism and secret codes.

Karpov next ran into a Jewish Armenian challenger named Garry Kasparov, at 21 an aggressive player who had stormed through the ranks of Russian grandmasters. Both were Soviet players, so it was not quite an East-West sequel, but Karpov was the standard-bearer of the Soviet establishment, and Kasparov became the favorite of dissidents and the West as they slugged through a marathon series of matches, the first of which went to 48 games.

I covered that match for The Times in Moscow, and the tension was palpable in the hushed excitement that would sweep the crowd whenever Kasparov made a bold move and the K.G.B. types scattered through the audience to see who applauded.

...but they had to stop that match because Kasparov had exhausted Karpov after fighting back from a seemingly insurmountable early deficit..

November 28, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 6:08 PM


The misleading myth of the 'Middle Ages' (Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, November 28, 2016, The Week)

The very expression "Middle Ages" speaks of an era "in-between," when essentially nothing interesting happened. But the Middle Ages was actually an enormously momentous and inventive era. Early Medieval innovations in agriculture such as the iron plow, water and wind milling, and the three-field system enabled Europe to break out of the Malthusian trap that Rome had been stuck in for centuries, empowering it to withstand invasions that had felled its supposedly advanced predecessors. Everything we commonly associate with the Renaissance and the early Modern era, such as international trade and its handmaid of capitalist finance, scientific tinkering, classical culture, and philosophical inquiry, was in fact already present in the Middle Ages.

As an alternative, I propose that we say that after Antiquity, begins Christendom, or the Christian period. For more than a thousand years, across what we now call the West, Christianity was recognized and (largely) accepted, if only in theory or in word in many cases, as the dominant organizing principle of metaphysical, political, social, and moral reality. As such, our start date for this era has to be 380, the date of the Edict of Thessalonica, where Emperor Theodosius made Nicene Christianity the State Church and only officially recognized religion of the Roman Empire.

It is not "generic" Christianity that becomes dominant in this era, but the orthodox Christianity of the apostolic Christian Church, an organized entity. This does not change with the 1054 schism between the Western and Eastern churches, since that schism was seen by almost all participants except the most radical as a split within the apostolic, legitimate Christian Church.

Max Weber famously said that the state is the holder of the monopoly on legitimate violence. But what defines Christendom is that, for the first (and thus far last) time in the history of the West, the apostolic Christian Church had, if not a monopoly on violence (which it never sought), but a monopoly on legitimacy itself. the Enlightenment.

Posted by orrinj at 6:05 PM


India Wants a Cashless Society. But There's a High Cost. : A sudden government change has created chaos--and long ATM lines. (Hasit Shah, 11/28/16, Slate)

On Nov. 8, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a right-wing nationalist who had made the fight against India's endemic corruption a key campaign issue on his way to victory in the 2014 general election, stunned 1.25 billion people by going on television and telling them their 500- and 1,000-rupee notes (approximately $7.50 and $15, respectively) would be valid for only another four hours. After that, they would have to be exchanged at banks for newly designed 500- and 2,000-rupee notes, with a grace period of just a few weeks. This in a country where nearly half of the population doesn't even have a bank account, and 90 percent of transactions are made in cash. There has been utter chaos ever since. Actually, chaos may be an understatement.

This government is trying to fight corruption and move towards a more digital economy. In India, people have stashed away huge amounts of money--income that has never been declared and is then laundered through extravagant weddings, construction work, luxury vehicles, jewelry. Nobody knows exactly how much "black money" there is, but it's safe to say that there's a lot. By forcing people, apparently without warning, to go to banks and change the old notes for new ones, the government is trying to account for a huge quantity of money and bring it rapidly into the system.

Many in India agree with the principle of demonetization, as it's become known, because corruption has been so detrimental to the country's progress and limits opportunities for honest people. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:02 PM


Pope's possible deal with China would 'betray Christ', says Hong Kong cardinal (Benjamin Haas in Hong Kong and Tom Phillips in Beijing, 27 November 2016, The Guardian)

The most senior Chinese Catholic has slammed a potential rapprochement between the Vatican and Beijing, saying it would be "betraying Jesus Christ", amid a thaw in more than six decades of bitter relations.

Talk of a deal between the two sides has been building for months, with some saying the diplomatic coup for Pope Francis would be resolving the highly controversial issue of allowing China's Communist government to have a hand in selecting bishops.

But Cardinal Joseph Zen, the 84-year-old former bishop of Hong Kong, has been an outspoken critic, saying any agreement where Beijing would have a hand in approving clergy would be "a surrender".

Posted by orrinj at 3:29 PM


Mark Fidrych: The story of The Bird (Cory Fallon  Nov 28, 2016, Baseball Essential)

Not initially thinking scouts were looking at the six-foot-three right-hander, Fidrych joked that when he got the call he thought he'd been drafted into the military.

Fidrych was given his famous nickname, The Bird, from a coach while playing with the Lakeland Tigers, one of Detroit's minor-league farm teams. His appearance resembled that of Big Bird from the popular television show Sesame Street, thus earning him the nickname.

Fidrych made the Tigers roster out of spring training 1976, and he made his Major League Debut on April 20, 1976. Having only thrown one career inning prior, Fidrych made a spot start on May 15 and came away with a 2-1, complete-game victory against the Indians, firing six no-hit innings to start the game off. This start introduced the world to Fidrych and all of his quirky antics. After the game, Rico Carty said he thought that "Fidrych was trying to hypnotize them" during the game.

While in today's game we are used to player rituals with charismatic and enthusiastic players, baseball was not the same in the 1970s. Fidrych brought his own style when he pitched, making him a must watch. He became a national celebrity after defeating the New York Yankees, 5-1, in mid-June, which was nationally televised on ABC, one of the few games to be shown during that time, and showcased the very best of The Bird.

Fidrych would walk out to the mound before every inning and manicure the mound. He would crouch down and pat the dirt down to his liking, and remove all cleat marks and divots he felt shouldn't be there. He would yell at the ball if it didn't go where he wanted it to, and throw balls back to the umpire, which "had hits in them," as he said, insisting they be removed from the game. He would also yell at himself before, during, and after most pitches he threw. He was so superstitious that Tiger management refused to change out his rookie catcher for fear that it would mess him up.

Posted by orrinj at 3:27 PM


Religious extremism is spreading to inland China: official (Reuters, 11/28/16)

Religious extremism has begun to spread to inland China from its western Xinjiang region, long considered by the government to be at the forefront of its efforts to battle Islamist separatists, the country's top religious affairs official said.

China says it faces a serious threat from Islamist militants in Xinjiang, which borders central Asia, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and is home to the largely Muslim Uighur minority group.

Posted by orrinj at 3:24 PM


US commercial flight lands in Havana (AP, Nov. 28, 2016)

The first regularly scheduled commercial flight in more than 50 years from the United States to Havana has landed.

Passengers aboard the American Airlines flight arriving at 8:25 a.m. Monday cheered as the plane touched ground at Jose Marti International Airport.

Posted by orrinj at 3:22 PM


New Hampshire Is New England's Most Charitable State (Kyle Scott Clauss, November 28, 2016, Boston)

Deep down, under New Hampshire's gruff exterior of legal fireworks, tax-free liquor, and no motorcycle helmet laws, there's a heart of gold.

The Granite State is the most charitable in New England, good for seventh nationwide, according to a new report by personal finance social network Wallet Hub. [...]

New Hampshire had the third-highest percentage of population who donated time, and tied with Illinois for the second-most percentage of people who donated money. 

Posted by orrinj at 3:19 PM


The empty president (Paul Waldman, November 28, 2016, The Week)

[A]s his presidency is taking shape, we're beginning to see what it's going to be like to have a president who has no beliefs about anything.

I exaggerate slightly; there are some things Trump genuinely believes in. He believes that America is losing, that foreigners are trying to take advantage of us, that no criticism should be brushed off, that women should be judged on their physical attractiveness, and that there's no room that can't be classed up with generous application of gold leaf. But when it comes to policy and his decisions as president, it's all up for grabs.

Consider his recent decision -- after months of leading crowds in chants of "Lock her up!" -- that there's no reason Hillary Clinton should be prosecuted for her emails (the same conclusion the FBI came to). "I'm not looking to hurt's just not something that I feel very strongly about," he told The New York Times. Set aside the fact that the president doesn't get to decide who does and doesn't get prosecuted based on how merciful he's feeling. His supporters, whom he spent so much time convincing of Clinton's limitless criminality, might be a bit taken aback.

But that's not all he has changed his mind on. In that interview he backed away from his support of torture -- something he repeatedly and forcefully advocated on the campaign trail -- because retired Gen. James Mattis, whom he is considering naming as secretary of defense, told him it wasn't useful. "I met with him at length and I asked him that question. I said, what do you think of waterboarding? He said -- I was surprised -- he said, 'I've never found it to be useful.' He said, 'I've always found, give me a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers and I do better with that than I do with torture.' And I was very impressed by that answer. I was surprised, because he's known as being like the toughest guy."

So after spending months talking about how important it is that we start torturing prisoners again, all it took was one conversation with a former general to turn him around. He's also suggested he might stick to the Paris climate accord, which he had previously promised to walk away from. It seems that anything might be on the table, depending on who Trump talked to on a given day.

As with President Obama, the point was the title, not the job, and Congress will get to fill the empty vessel.

Posted by orrinj at 3:16 PM


Ukraine Has Made Great Progress, but We Need Our Allies (PAVLO KLIMKIN, NOV. 28, 2016, NY Times)

In the two years since the Revolution of Dignity, Ukraine has made more progress as a country than it had since declaring independence in 1991. We are finally tackling corruption in a meaningful way, and we have introduced a raft of reforms that will help the state to function better. After our economy contracted for two consecutive years, we now expect to see it grow again. And we have achieved all of this under the most challenging of circumstances: while fighting a Russian-led war that has cost thousands of lives, and with a Russian occupation of the Crimean peninsula and the Donbas region crippling our economy.

Yet Ukraine continues its journey to becoming a democratic, fair and prosperous country at the gates of Europe, a vision that so many of my fellow citizens died for during the Maidan Revolution in the beginning of 2014 and continue to die for defending our country against Russia.

What we have achieved in the last two years we could not have done without the hard work and sacrifice of our people at home and, critically, the staunch support of our partners abroad. The partnership and support of the European Union has been very important. But nowhere has Ukraine found a better friend and more committed ally than the United States. Without the huge support America continues to give us, we would not be making the progress that we are today. That continued support is more important now than ever.

Posted by orrinj at 3:15 PM


Iran Pulls Ahead in Race to Supply India With Oil (Dhwani Pandya, November 28, 2016, Bloomberg)

Iran is pulling ahead in the race for market share in the world's fastest-growing oil consuming nation, India, weakening the hold of rival OPEC members amid the group's struggle to agree on output cuts.

Posted by orrinj at 3:12 PM


Immigrants and Firms' Outcomes: Evidence from France (Cristina Mitaritonna, Gianluca Orefice, Giovanni Peri, November 2016, NBER Working Paper No. 22852)

Using micro-level data on French manufacturing firms spanning the period 1995-2005, we show that a supply-driven increase in the share of foreign-born workers in a French department (a small geographic area) increased the total factor productivity of firms in that department. Immigrants were prevalently highly educated and this effect is consistent with a positive complementarity and spillover effects from their skills. We also find this effect to be significantly stronger for firms with low initial productivity and small size. The positive productivity effect of immigrants was also associated with faster growth of capital, larger exports and higher wages for natives.

Posted by orrinj at 3:03 PM


NARAL chief takes step toward Democratic chair run (DANIEL STRAUSS, 11/28/16, Politico)

Ilyse Hogue, president of the abortion-rights group NARAL, took a step closer to jumping into the race for Democratic National Committee chair by laying out her vision for the party.

...killing babies.  It is the one issue that differentiates the two parties, so they may as well go all in.

Posted by orrinj at 2:58 PM


What James Comey Did (David Cole, DECEMBER 8, 2016, NY Review of Books)

Whatever else one might say about the just-concluded 2016 presidential election, one thing is certain: FBI Director James Comey played an outsized and exceptionally inappropriate part. His highly prejudicial announcement on October 28, just eleven days before the election, that he had reopened an investigation into Hillary Clinton's private e-mail server ensured that the final critical days of the campaign were taken up with innuendos and suppositions set off by his action.

When Comey then announced on November 5, just two days before the election, that upon further review he had again found no basis to believe that Clinton had committed any crime, it only underscored the impropriety of his October 28 announcement. Had he conducted the review in confidence, as Justice Department rules require, the entire matter would have been resolved without interfering with the election. As it was, his October 28 announcement dramatically shifted the trajectory of the campaign, deflected attention from Donald Trump's own considerable troubles, and inevitably influenced the choices of many early voters.

Comey made the renewed investigation public against Justice Department policy and rules, and over the objections of the attorney general and several other Justice Department officials, even though he had not even seen the new evidence, much less determined that it hinted at any wrongdoing on Clinton's part. 

Posted by orrinj at 2:53 PM


Trudeau's turn from cool to laughing stock : Terry Glavin on how Justin Trudeau's lament for the dictator Fidel Castro confirmed every lampoon of the prime minister's foreign-policy vacuity (Terry Glavin, November 27, 2016, Macleans)

It was Trudeau's maudlin panegyric on the death of Fidel Castro that kicked it off, and there is a strangely operatic quality to the sequence of events that brings us to this juncture. When Trudeau made his public debut in fashionable society 16 years ago, with his "Je t'aime, papa!" encomium at the gala funeral of his father in Montreal, Fidel Castro himself was there among the celebrities, as an honorary pallbearer, lending a kind of radical frisson to the event. Now it's all come full circle.

Times have changed, and the Trudeau family's bonds with the Castro family, first cultivated while Pierre Trudeau was prime minister and carefully nurtured during the years that followed, now seem somehow unhygienic. Greasy, even. Definitely not cool. that it was "cool" for Pierre to be pro-Fidel.

Posted by orrinj at 2:48 PM


Conway Texts 'Morning Joe' To Call Them 'Sexist' For Criticizing Her Romney Comments (HANK BERRIEN, NOVEMBER 28, 2016, Heat Street)

On Monday morning, President-elect Donald Trump's campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, in the middle of a brouhaha since she stated repeatedly on air as well as  tweeted that many of Donald Trump's supporters would be irate if Mitt Romney were selected as Secretary of State, actually messaged MSNBC's Morning Joe in the middle of the broadcast that the panel's criticism of her was "sexist."


Posted by orrinj at 2:41 PM


World Chess Has a Big Problem : While grandmasters earn millions, the sport still can't shake ties to tyrants and a leader under U.S. sanctions. (Carol Matlack, November 28, 2016, Bloomberg)

The championship, which runs from Nov. 11 until Nov. 30, is back in the U.S. for the first time since 1999.  Staging the 12-game showdown in New York is part of the latest push to make chess lucrative for its players and promoters. Bolstered by internet fame, the world's dozen or so top players now can make upwards of $500,000 annually, more than the world's best rodeo cowboys and surfers and way more than elite bowlers. Carlsen, who models for the luxury denim company G-Star Raw, reportedly makes more than $1 million. The prize for the World Chess Championship--‎€1 million euros ($1.06 million), split 60-40--was staked by the event's promoter and sponsors, a departure from tournaments of yore whose pots came from wealthy patrons and sovereign governments. 

Fans are ponying up, too. Tickets to the championship matches ranged from $75 to $300, but the real action has been online. U.S.-based says it has millions of subscribers, many of whom pay up to $99 a year to subscribe. For the championships, Agon Ltd., organizer of the New York tournament, offered fans a $15 pay-per-view live stream. More than 1 million people have followed the game play each day, according to Agon, although the company won't say how many have paid for live viewing.  

Modern chess has much going for it: millions of fans and players around the world, charismatic young stars, and a game uniquely suited for the internet age. It also has a substantial problem. The World Chess Federation, the game's official governing body and awarder of "grandmaster" status, keeps doing business with some of the world's worst regimes. Known by its French acronym FIDE ("fee-day"), the organization is in the firm grip of its eccentric president, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, a 54-year-old Russian businessman and ex-politician. He has flaunted his relationships with Bashar al-Assad, Saddam Hussein, and Muammar Qaddafi, having played chess under a tent with the Libyan leader a few weeks before Qaddafi's death. His ties to Vladimir Putin have raised suspicion that he secretly works for the Kremlin--an idea he dismisses as ludicrous. Ilyumzhinov also claims to have been abducted by aliens in 1997 and says extraterrestrials introduced chess to humans more than 2,000 years ago.

Posted by orrinj at 1:17 PM


How Iran, Russia Could Derail Oil-Production Deal (BENOIT FAUCON and  GEORGI KANTCHEV, Nov. 28, 2016, WSJ)

Russia, which isn't part of OPEC, said last week it was willing to hold its production steady but stopped short of agreeing to cut its output, which is the highest of any country. Iran said on Saturday it was negotiating an exemption from cutting its output, the third-highest in the 14-nation OPEC cartel behind Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

Saudi Arabian officials are concerned by the reluctance of those two countries to join cuts, OPEC representatives have said, worrying they will trim their own production and then watch other countries swoop in and steal the kingdom's former market share, as happened during the 1980s.

November 27, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 11:11 AM


Willing to oppose Trump, some Senate Republicans gain leverage (Ginger Gibson and Richard Cowan, 11/27/16, Reuters)

South Carolina's Lindsay Graham has started publicly outlining places he might be willing to oppose Trump. He is against the Mexican border wall and is delivering warnings against Trump's intention to revoke legal status for undocumented immigrants brought here as children - although that would not require congressional approval.

Graham, a traditional Republican foreign policy hawk, strongly disagrees with Trump's attempt to improve ties with Russia.

"I am going to be kind of a hard ass" on Russia, Graham told reporters recently. "We can't sit on the sidelines" and let cyber attacks blamed on Russia "go unanswered."

The early stirrings of opposition from Senate Republicans are a sign that the New York businessman, who has never held public office, might run into harsh political realities soon after taking office on Jan. 20.

Other Senators who might defy Trump are Arizona's John McCain and Jeff Flake, Nebraska's Ben Sasse, Florida's Marco Rubio, Maine's Susan Collins and Alaska's Lisa Murkowski, said senior Senate aides and lawmakers.

Posted by orrinj at 11:02 AM


The Kurds Are Nearly There (Christian Caryl, DECEMBER 8, 2016, NY Review of Boks)

And then there are the Kurds. For the past twenty-five years, since a crucial intervention following the first Gulf War by the United States to protect them from Saddam Hussein's killings, the 5.5 million Kurds of northern Iraq have been quietly running their own affairs. Currently some 40,000 Kurdish troops are taking active part in the effort to retake Mosul, and dozens have died since the operation began. But the peshmerga, as the Iraqi Kurdish militias are known, are not fighting to preserve Iraq. They are fighting to remove a major threat to their own homeland, the three northern provinces that make up the Kurdish Region of Iraq. The Islamic State, which is dominated by Salafist Sunni Arabs, has always regarded the Kurds as mortal enemies, and when the jihadists staged their surprise attack on Mosul in the summer of 2014, the momentum of their offensive brought them within just a few miles of the Iraqi Kurdish capital of Erbil. It took a series of hasty American air strikes to stop the jihadists from going further.

Since then the Kurdish region has shared an uneasy thousand-mile border with the territory controlled by the Islamic State to its south, and the Kurds are determined to put an end to this lingering security threat. There is an urgency to their mission. For the continued existence of the ISIS caliphate is, in effect, the last remaining obstacle between the Iraqi Kurds and their fondest wish: the creation of the first independent Kurdish state.

There are more than 30 million Kurds scattered across the Middle East, most of them in the four countries of Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria--a circumstance that helps to explain the label they are often given--"world's largest people without a nation." The Kurds in all of these countries have endured various forms of persecution. And yet, as the Turkish journalist Amberin Zaman notes in her report "From Tribe to Nation," "The Iraqi Kurds have endured far greater horrors and betrayal than any of their brethren across the borders." The government of Saddam Hussein repeatedly subjected his Kurdish population to acts of genocidal violence, including, most notoriously, the use of chemical weapons against Kurdish communities in 1988. Every Iraqi Kurd has long and searing tales of trauma: childhoods spent in refugee camps, relatives dispatched to the anonymity of mass graves, villages razed to the ground.

The dream of a national homeland is one that all Kurds share, no matter where they currently live. For the past century--ever since World War I brought about the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the subsequent creation of new nation-states that excluded Kurdish aspirations--they have yearned in vain. Yet now circumstances have conspired to bring the Kurds--or some of them, at least--closer to achieving a workable state than at any other time in recent memory.

Posted by orrinj at 10:52 AM


Donald Trump and the Sense of Power (Robert J. Shiller, 11/21/16, Project Syndicate)

Those on the downside of rising economic inequality generally do not want government policies that look like handouts. They typically do not want the government to make the tax system more progressive, to impose punishing taxes on the rich, in order to give the money to them. Redistribution feels demeaning. It feels like being labeled a failure. It feels unstable. It feels like being trapped in a relationship of dependency, one that might collapse at any moment.

The desperately poor may accept handouts, because they feel they have to. For those who consider themselves at least middle class, however, anything that smacks of a handout is not desired. Instead, they want their economic power back. They want to be in control of their economic lives. [...]

Katherine Cramer, author of The Politics of Resentment, gained some insight into this outcome in Wisconsin, where, like Trump, the state's governor, Scott Walker, has been popular among working-class voters. After he was elected in 2010, Walker cut taxes on higher incomes, refused to raise the state minimum wage above the federally-mandated minimum, and rejected the insurance exchanges created by President Barack Obama's signature 2010 health-care reform, which would benefit lower-income people. Instead, Walker promised measures that would take power away from labor unions, actions that usually are perceived as likely to lower working class incomes.

Cramer interviewed rural working-class voters in Wisconsin, trying to understand why they supported Walker. Her interviewees stressed their rural values and commitment to hard work, which have been a source of personal pride and identity. But they also stressed their sense of powerlessness against those perceived as unfairly advantaged. She concluded that their support for Walker, amid evidence of economic decline, reflected their extreme anger and resentment toward privileged people in big cities, who, before Walker, had ignored them, except to tax them. And their taxes went, in part, to pay for government employees' health insurance and pension plans, benefits that they themselves often could not afford. They wanted power and recognition, which Walker seemed to offer them.

Such voters are also almost certainly anxious about the effect of rapidly rising information technology on jobs and incomes. Economically successful people today tend to be those who are technologically savvy, not those living in rural Wisconsin (or rural anywhere). These working-class voters feel a loss of economic optimism; yet, admiring their own people and upholding their values, they want to stay where they are.

Trump speaks these voters' language; but his proposals to date do not seem to address the underlying shift in power. He stresses cutting domestic taxes, which he asserts will unleash a new flurry of entrepreneurism, and renegotiating trade deals in a protectionist direction, to keep jobs in America. But such policies are unlikely to shift economic power to those who have been relatively less successful. On the contrary, entrepreneurs may develop even more clever ways to replace jobs with computers and robots, and protectionism may generate retaliation by trading partners, political instability and, ultimately, possibly even hot wars.

To satisfy his voters, Trump must find ways to redistribute power over income, not just income itself, and not just by taxing and spending. He has expressed only limited ideas here, like subsidizing school choice to improve education. But powerful economic forces such as technological innovation and lower global transportation costs have been the main drivers of increasing inequality in many countries. Trump can't change this fact.

Nor can he change the fact that those voters also don't want jobs that require actual labor..They only want their sweet union sinecures back.

Posted by orrinj at 10:38 AM


Trump's media tactics are straight out of the Obama playbook (Kyle Smith, November 26, 2016, NY Post)

Presidential hostility to the media didn't begin Nov. 9. The Obama administration has denied or withheld more Freedom of Information requests than any administration in history. It is "the most secretive White House I have ever been involved in covering" according to former New York Times editor Jill Abramson.

Faking out the press pool as president-elect? Obama did that on Dec. 26, 2008, when he took his daughters to a marine amusement park in Hawaii. Calling in media bigwigs for off-the-record chats in order to steer more favorable coverage without being held accountable for any flubs that might emerge if exact quotation were allowed? Obama did so many times, usually with left-leaning columnists but sometimes with conservative ones as well (as a Jan. 3, 2016 New York Times report detailed).

Trump on Nov. 16 inspired a complaint from the White House Correspondents' Association that his behavior toward the media was "unacceptable" after he went out for a steak without telling reporters. That same WHCA complained about being cut off from Obama's leisure time, too. Following an Obama golfing trip to Florida in February of 2013, The Washington Post reported: "The White House Correspondents' Association lodged a formal protest with White House officials . . . after reporters were barred from seeing any part of Obama's activities, including a round of golf with Tiger Woods."

That same year the WHCA and 37 news organizations submitted a letter to the White House complaining about an ongoing process by the Obama administration to lock out news photographers from key events and instead distribute its own propaganda-style photos directly to the public. That, the photographers said, "amounted to the establishment of the White House's own Soviet-style news service, which gets privileged access to Mr. Obama at the expense of journalists," reported The New York Times.

If Trump were to adopt a policy of playing favorites with right-leaning outlets, Obama fans should be the last ones to complain. "When it comes to granting interviews," The Washington Post wrote of the current president, "he very often favors media that target particular slices of the electorate that are largely aligned with him already: left-leaning comedians, bloggers, YouTubers and podcasters. He is more reluctant to submit to questioning by mainstream news outlets and conservative publications that would push back harder on issues on which his opponents disagree with him."

Obama held fewer press conferences in his first term than either of the two Presidents Bush or President Clinton. He helped get Americans used to the idea that the president wouldn't regularly field questions he might not feel like answering, and Trump has taken that to an extreme: zero formal press conferences since being elected president. (Yet his on-the-record meeting with New York Times editors and writers on Tuesday was effectively a press conference.) presidents do themselves any good by avoiding the press? Why not avoid the scrum but meet with individual reporters from all forms of media daily?

Posted by orrinj at 10:31 AM


Iran awards key oil deal to Schlumberger (PressTV, Nov 27, 2016)

Iran says it has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Schlumberger - the world's largest oil field services company - over the development of several southern oil fields.  [...]

The projects would be carried out within the framework of Iran's new generation of oil contracts, Shana news agency reported.  

Schlumberger would be the second giant energy corporation to win a deal in Iran's oil industry.  Earlier this month, Total signed a contract to develop a major gas project in Iran's South Pars gas field. Total and Schlumberger now appear to have provided France with a strong foothold in Iran's oil industry given that both companies are headquartered in Paris. 

Posted by orrinj at 10:20 AM


You may be higher up the global wealth pyramid than you think (The Economist,Nov 23rd 2016)

IF YOU had only $2,220 to your name (adding together your bank deposits, financial investments and property holdings, and subtracting your debts) you might not think yourself terribly fortunate. But you would be wealthier than half the world's population, according to this year's Global Wealth Report by the Crédit Suisse Research Institute. If you had $71,560 or more, you would be in the top tenth. If you were lucky enough to own over $744,400 you could count yourself a member of the global 1% that voters everywhere are rebelling against.

Unlike many studies of prosperity and inequality, this one counts household assets rather than income. The data are patchy, particularly at the bottom and apex of the pyramid. But with some assumptions, the institute calculates that the world's households owned property and net financial assets worth almost $256trn in mid-2016. That is about 3.4 times the world's annual GDP.

And the average 401k alone holds $96k.

Posted by orrinj at 9:40 AM


Iraq's VP Nouri al-Maliki: Saudi Wahhabism has to be put in the international terrorist list (American Herald Tribune,11/27/16)

After Thursday's terrorist attack on the city of Hillah in Iraq, the Iraqi VP announced that the purpose of these attacks, operated by the ISIS and Saudi Wahhabism, are breaking the unity between Muslims.

Al-Maliki posted a note on his official Twitter page and stressed that the brutal crime which targeted some Shia pilgrims in Babel province, was an act against Islam and is part of a project for building discord among Muslims which is led by the ISIS and Wahhabism.

He added: "Muslims, among them Shia and Sunni, have clearly perceived that they're threatened by religious intrigue, therefore we ask the World to announce Saudi Wahhabism as a terrorist organization and put them in the international terrorist list.

Posted by orrinj at 9:31 AM


India grapples with the effects of withdrawing 86% of cash in circulation : A crackdown on India's black economy makes life harder for everyone (The Economist, Nov 26th 2016)

A NEW strain of trickle-down economics has been spawned by the decision, on November 8th, to withdraw the bulk of India's banknotes by the end of this year. As holders of now-useless 500-and 1,000-rupee ($15) notes rushed to deposit them or part-exchange them for new notes, an e-commerce site offered helpers, at 90 rupees an hour, to queue outside banks in order to save the well-off the bother.

Elsewhere, a chronic shortage of banknotes in a cash-dominated economy has left most trades depressed. Seven out of ten kiranas (family-owned grocers) have suffered a decline in business, according to a survey by Nielsen, a consultancy. Supply chains, in which wholesalers and truckers deal mostly in cash, have fractured. Some 20-40% less farm produce reached markets in the days after the reform. City folk admit to hoarding the 100-rupee note, the largest of the old notes to remain legal tender. Taxi drivers refuse to break the new 2,000-rupee note. Road-tolls have been suspended until at least November 24th, to prevent queues. Beggars have disappeared from parts of Delhi; no one has spare change.

India's prime minister, Narendra Modi, is gambling that this temporary pain will be worth it. His goal is to flush out "black money", stores of wealth that bypass the tax system, finance election campaigns and grease the wheels of high-level corruption. An enforced swap of high-value notes, say the reform's boosters, acts as a tax on holders of illicit wealth. The element of surprise is disruptive but without it, there would be time for black-money holders to launder their funds by purchasing gold, foreign currency or property. A tight deadline makes it hard for holders of large stashes of notes to swap or deposit them without alerting the tax authorities.

We have the luxury of getting rid of cash in a more orderly fashion.

Posted by orrinj at 9:26 AM


Damage done, Fidel Castro was irrelevant long before he died (MIAMI HERALD EDITORIAL BOARD, 11/27/16)

By the time his death at 90 was announced late Friday, Fidel Castro had become what he most feared during a prolonged and dramatic life -- an irrelevancy, a living museum piece trotted out for ceremonial occasions, but no longer the man in charge of Cuba's destiny. He was the living embodiment of the Cuban Revolution, to be seen and applauded in public functions, but real power had passed to his brother Raúl and others in the inner circle.

Well before Castro left the scene, the revolution he created was itself long since dead, an empty slogan few could believe in. Castro himself had become a pathetic, shuffling figure who outlived his own era while Cuba began to take the first steps toward a transition that its once fierce leader swore would never take place.

Posted by orrinj at 9:19 AM


Israeli military kills 4 IS militants in Syria after ambush (AP, 11/27/16)

Israeli aircraft struck a machine gun-mounted vehicle inside Syria Sunday, killing four Islamic State-affiliated militants inside after they had opened fire on a military patrol on the Israeli side of the Golan Heights, the Israeli military said.

It is the great gift of ISIS that all the players who wanted to stay out when it was us vs the Wahabbi have been drawn in on our side. 
Posted by orrinj at 9:03 AM


Can Paul Ryan actually privatize Medicare? : Thanks to Trump, Ryan finally has the chance to make huge policy changes. Now comes the hard part. (DANNY VINIK 11/27/16, Politico)

The tools appear to be in place. Even with the threat of a filibuster by Democrats in the Senate, GOP leaders could use a parliamentary maneuver to make big Medicare changes on a simple majority vote in both chambers. But the path remains fraught with challenges. Trump has never shown much interest in entitlement reform and, at times, even has spoken about protecting Medicare. And Ryan also must navigate a maze of competing interests among GOP lawmakers, including Senate Republicans who have voiced lukewarm support, at best, for Ryan's favored Medicare changes.

It's a game that Ryan has long played successfully. To earn his colleagues' support over the years, as POLITICO detailed earlier this year, the speaker has made a series of compromises, resulting in contradictory or mathematically tenuous proposals. But now that the GOP has a unified government, the stakes--and rewards--are much higher. To finally accomplish his dream of privatizing Medicare, Ryan must figure out how to reconcile these competing priorities--without losing the support of ever-cautious lawmakers or Trump.

Ryan has long been interested in addressing some of the biggest challenges facing the country, including the tax code and entitlement programs. He's a devotee of supply-side economics and a deficit hawk intent on reforming Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, which are responsible for the majority of federal spending. They are the linchpins of the safety net, but Ryan considers them too expensive. The very first bill he introduced in Congress, in February, 1999, was a resolution that Congress should take action to make Social Security sustainable. (It never received a vote.) But for most of Obama's presidency, using his perch as the top Republican on the Budget Committee, Ryan has focused on changing Medicare.

His preferred strategy, called "premium support," would change Medicare from a single payer system in which the government pays directly for seniors' health care to one where beneficiaries could use their government benefits to buy private insurance. Supporters say it would inject much-needed competition into the health care space, leading to lower costs and better coverage. Critics respond that this would end Medicare as we know it; instead of being able to count on basic health care after 65, seniors would be forced to navigate a maze of insurance options, like Obamacare customers today. They also argue that Medicare is less expensive than private insurance and that seniors would receive substandard care under a premium support system.

Nevermind repealing Obamacare, the big GOP idea is to turn Medicare into Obamacare. But the liberal president-elect is likely to oppose their Third Way plan. All comedy truly is conservative.

Posted by orrinj at 8:52 AM


Cuba's Glum Economic Forecast (Tyler Cowen, 11/26/16, Bloomberg View)

One way to approach Cuba's economic fate is to consider the Caribbean region as a whole. For the most part, it has seen mediocre results since the financial crisis of 2008. Economic problems have plagued Puerto Rico, Trinidad, Jamaica, Haiti and Barbados, with only Jamaica seeing a real turnaround.

The core problems of the region include high debt, weak commodity prices, lack of economies of scale and an inability to upgrade tourist facilities to compete with the U.S., Mexico and further-flung locales. Cuba cannot service its foreign debt, and losing most of its support from Venezuela has been a massive fiscal problem.

Perhaps the country most like Cuba in the Caribbean, in terms of history, heritage and ethnic composition, is the Dominican Republic. Currently, it has a nominal gross domestic product of somewhat over $6,000 per capita, depending which source you prefer. That's far from the bottom tier of developing economies, but it's hardly a shining star. And Cuba will take a long time to attract a comparable level of multinational investment, or to develop its tourist facilities to a comparable level of sophistication. Well-functioning electricity and air conditioning cannot be taken for granted in Cuba, especially after the major decline in energy supplies from Venezuela.

The most optimistic forecast for Cuba is that, after a few decades of struggle and reorientation, it will end up at the income level of the Dominican Republic.

If you are wondering, the World Bank measures Cuban GDP at over $6,000 per capita, but that is based on a planned economy and an unrealistic exchange rate. In reality, Cuba probably is richer than Nicaragua, where GDP per capital is approximately $2,000, but we don't know by how much. 

Cuba certainly missed out by getting stuck with Castro and communism instead of Trujillo and fascism, but even more useful though is to consider what would have happened had we actually colonized Cuba : Puerto Rico's GDP per capita is over $28k.

Posted by orrinj at 8:46 AM


Robots could diagnose your cough within the next ten years  (Brian Patrick Byrne, Geektime)

Medical professionals will be able to use artificial intelligence to diagnose patients and decipher the best method of treatment within the next 10 years, according to the co-founder of a company that provided health analytics tools to hospitals.

Allen Kamer, who helped found Humedica, a US-based company that later reportedly sold for "hundreds of millions," according to the Boston Business Journal, claimed that within the next decade, medical AI will be able to provide what he described as "personalized medicine."

Speaking at the eighth annual Geektime Conference in Tel Aviv, Kamer told the audience that, "In the long term, I imagine a scenario where when a patient goes to their physician with their symptoms, there's a lot of other external data that comes with that patient that's informing the physician. Everything from behavioral information, [to] how the patient will respond to particular types of treatment."

"I don't just mean pharmaceutical treatment, but I mean a digital intervention. I mean the type of clinician that would interact with that patient, and really, a whole profile of what's going to work best for this type of patient. AI comes to personalized medicine. I think it's a decade out but I think the toolsets ... are really starting to permeate the market."

Posted by orrinj at 7:45 AM


Chess Rivals Carlsen, Karjakin Tied Entering Last Game Of World Championship Match (Radio Liberty, 11/27/16)

Reigning champion Magnus Carlsen of Norway and Russian challenger Sergei Karjakin are in a dead heat with one game left in their World Chess Championship match in New York City.

A tense 11th game ended in a draw on November 26, leaving Carlsen and Karjakin with 5.5 points each.

The 12th and final regulation game is scheduled for November 28. If the players are tied at the end, a series of tiebreakers will begin on November 30.

November 26, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:39 PM


Russia's Silent HIV Epidemic (RYAN HOSKINS, NOVEMBER 22, 2016, Foreign Policy)

Today, there are an estimated 1.5 million people who have been diagnosed with HIV or AIDS in Russia, which has a population of 140 million. Although the spread of HIV has been stemmed in sub-Saharan Africa, in Russia the rate of HIV infection is rising 10 to 15 percent each year -- a pace comparable to the infection rate in the United States in the 1980s, when the basic biology of HIV was poorly understood and the antiretroviral drugs used to treat the disease were years away from discovery. And the uncontrolled rise of the disease is unlikely to abate in the foreseeable future, as the Russian government firmly rejects scientifically tested policies out of apathy and political expedience.

Posted by orrinj at 7:23 PM


Inside a Fake News Sausage Factory: 'This Is All About Income' (ANDREW HIGGINS, MIKE McINTIRE and GABRIEL J.X. DANCENOV. 25, 2016, NY Times)

TBILISI, Georgia -- Jobless and with graduation looming, a computer science student at the premier university in the nation of Georgia decided early this year that money could be made from America's voracious appetite for passionately partisan political news. He set up a website, posted gushing stories about Hillary Clinton and waited for ad sales to soar.

"I don't know why, but it did not work," said the student, Beqa Latsabidze, 22, who was savvy enough to change course when he realized what did drive traffic: laudatory stories about Donald J. Trump that mixed real -- and completely fake -- news in a stew of anti-Clinton fervor.

More than 6,000 miles away in Vancouver, a Canadian who runs a satirical website, John Egan, had made a similar observation. Mr. Egan's site, The Burrard Street Journal, offers sendups of the news, not fake news, and he is not trying to fool anyone. But he, too, discovered that writing about Mr. Trump was a "gold mine." His traffic soared and his work, notably a story that President Obama would move to Canada if Mr. Trump won, was plundered by Mr. Latsabidze and other internet entrepreneurs for their own websites.

"It's all Trump," Mr. Egan said by telephone. "People go nuts for it."

Posted by orrinj at 3:36 PM


Why I Left White Nationalism (R. DEREK BLACK, NOV. 26, 2016, NY Times)

I was born into a prominent white nationalist family -- David Duke is my godfather, and my dad started Stormfront, the first major white nationalist website -- and I was once considered the bright future of the movement. [...]

It surprises me now how often Mr. Trump and my 19-year-old self would have agreed on our platforms: tariffs to bring back factory jobs, increased policing of black communities, deporting illegal workers and the belief that American culture was threatened. I looked at my white friends and family who felt dispossessed, at the untapped political support for anyone -- even a kid like me -- who wasn't afraid to talk about threats to our people from outsiders, and I knew not only that white nationalism was right, but that it could win.

Several years ago, I began attending a liberal college where my presence prompted huge controversy. Through many talks with devoted and diverse people there -- people who chose to invite me into their dorms and conversations rather than ostracize me -- I began to realize the damage I had done. Ever since, I have been trying to make up for it.

For a while after I left the white nationalist movement, I thought my upbringing made me exaggerate the likelihood of a larger political reaction to demographic change. Then Mr. Trump gave his Mexican "rapists" speech and I spent the rest of the election wondering how much my movement had set the stage for his. Now I see the anger I was raised with rocking the nation. [...]

Mr. Trump's comments during the campaign echoed how I also tapped into less-than-explicit white nationalist ideology to reach relatively moderate white Americans. I went door-to-door in 2008 talking about how Hispanic immigration was overwhelming "American" culture, how black neighborhoods were hotbeds of crime, and how P.C. culture didn't let us talk about any of it. I won that small election with 60 percent of the vote.

Posted by Glenn Dryfoos at 10:33 AM


Ted Nash Big Band - Presidential Suite


Entire Suite (as performed by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra): 

Ted Nash is a man of wide-ranging and eclectic tastes and interests, musical and otherwise.  A survey of his recorded works as a leader over the past 15 years or so includes a tribute to the film scores of Henry Mancini; a couple of recordings with a standard jazz quintet, one in a post-bop, Wayne Shorter-Herbie Hancock vein, one an exploration into Ornette Coleman-influenced free jazz; and, as reviewed in ATJ #4, albums from his band Odeon, which features an unusual front line (Nash on saxes/clarinets/flutes along with accordion, violin and trombone/tuba) playing music that somehow manages to flow from Monk to Debussy to klezmer to tango...sometimes in the same tune. In his last recordings, though, Nash has moved away from small groups towards composing extended works for big band that are inspired by themes outside of the world of music. In Chakra, he explored in seven movements the Hindu philosophy of seven centers vital energy in the body. In Portrait in Seven Shades, he composed a musical "painting" of seven modern artists, including Monet, Dali, Picasso, and Pollock.  

Ted's goal with Presidential Suite was to compose a piece inspired by great 20th Century political speeches, and as he shortened his list of possible subjects he found that the ones he kept gravitating to had a common theme (and one that is near and dear to the operators of this website): Freedom.  After choosing his 8 speeches, Nash set about transcribing the pitches and rhythms of the original orations. With that base, he has composed a nine-movement suite (8 speeches plus an overture) that deftly mixes power and restraint, the familiar and the exotic, optimism and wistfulness, resolve and joy.

Although billed as the Ted Nash Big Band, the group is really the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (of which Ted is a long time member), with J@LC's musical director Wynton Marsalis appearing as a "special guest" on "The American Promise" (LBJ's speech, made shortly after the Bloody Sunday on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, in support of the Voting Rights Act).  Nash himself only plays on one cut, "Spoken at Midnight" (Nehru's speech on the occasion of Indian independence). 

Due to the nature of the source material, the main thematic statements of most of the movements are not exactly hummable tunes, yet Nash creatively uses them as springboards for his musical explorations, that reflect the spirit of the speeches but are never overt musical stand-ins for the speaker or the subject.  JFK's inaugural ("Ask Not What Your Country Can Do For You") is transformed into a swinging blues with great solos from  Walter Blanding on tenor and Kenny Rampton on trumpet... a fitting anthem to match the swagger and vitality of the young president.  "Spoken at Midnight," with its 7/4 time signature and Nash's soaring solo on soprano sax,  suggests the East without ever descending to snake-charmer cliché.

Following a bluesy opening by pianist Dan Nimmer and the ensemble, "The Four Freedoms" are represented by 4 solos, each with a different jazz feel: hard bop for Rampton on trumpet; down-home gospel for Vincent Gardner on trombone; free jazz for Sherman Irby on alto sax; and Basie-style swing for Carlos Henriquez on bass. 

The next two movements are the most elegiac of the work.  "Tear Down this Wall" features the trumpets and trombones as a brass choir, with a haunting trumpet solo from Marcus Printup. The brass then step aside in favor of the sax section for Churchill's speech "This Deliverance" (or "We Shall Never Surrender"), which was given in the dark days of June 1940 following the evacuation of Dunkirk. Joe Temperley's mournful baritone sax sets the initial tone, but the piece then moves through brief episodes which are, in turn, hopeful, martial (a marching snare drum capturing the spirit of Sir Winston's "We shall fight on the beaches...we shall fight in the fields and streets...we shall never surrender") and, at last, prayerful, with a hint of bagpipe from Temperley's native Scotland.  (Joe died shortly before this album was released).

The next movement, "Water in Cupped Hands," is not based on a speech, but rather on an essay written by the then-imprisoned Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Here Nash creates a Far East feel with the use of sustained line from the flutes over a syncopated pattern in the brass and rhythm.  Nimmer's piano solo ebbs and flows (like the water in the title) through the use of varying rhythmic patterns.

Nash begins the "The American Promise" puckishly, with a loping cowboy motif in honor of LBJ's Texas heritage. But the cowboy quickly gives way to the re-imagination of Johnson's speech in the free jazz style of a Texan even closer to Ted's heart, Ornette Coleman.  Marsalis follows with an incredibly eloquent, swinging solo.  

The last movement, based on Nelson Mandala's inaugural address "The Time for the Healing" is both inspiring and just plain fun. Anchored by a reggae backbeat, Chris Crenshaw alternates reciting lines from the speech with short, improvised trombone interludes. As beautiful as Mandala's words are (comparing the peoples' spiritual attachment to their country with the literal attachment of the jacaranda and mimosa trees), this one will have you dancing in your seat.  

A word about the packaging of this release. Almost all of the music I buy these days is delivered via download directly into my phone. But I received the physical package for Presidential Suite (thanks, Ted!), and it may be the most impressive packaging I've ever seen for a recording.  First, there are 2 CD's: one with just the music; on the other, each movement of the suite is preceded by a recitation of the associated speech by a political figure (Senator Joe Lieberman for JFK; Andrew Young for Mandala), actor (Sam Waterson for LBJ, Glenn Close for Suu Kyi); or other luminary (Deepok Chopra for Nehru; historian Douglas Brinkley for Reagan). The extensive liner notes by Brinkley and Kabir Sehgal provide a  history of the speeches and insight into the pieces themselves.  Finally, it should be noted that while the composition was commissioned by Jazz at Lincoln Center, Nash funded this production of this recording through a Kickstarter campaign.  Given the state of the music industry (and general musical taste), it may be that this type of financing may be the primary (if not only) way that productions of this sophistication and complexity will be released in the future.

The oratory of the recent election did little to stir our souls or to touch the better angels of our nature (to steal from another pretty good political speech). Presidential Suite reminds us of two things: first, that political speech is, indeed, an art form, and, second, that great music, like a great speech, can be uplifting, unifying and inspiring.

Posted by orrinj at 10:01 AM


This New Electric Bus Can Drive 350 Miles on One Charge (Aarian Marshall, 11/26/16, Wired)

The bus from Proterra, a leading North American manufacturer, is set to hit the streets next year. Musk's top of the line Model S gets 315 miles per charge. Proterra's newest? Up to 350 miles on city streets--enough, in many places, for a full day's worth of routes. Last month, this Goliath logged 600 miles on a Michelin track on one juice.

Posted by orrinj at 9:33 AM


Bahraini protesters support senior Shia cleric Sheikh Qassim (Press TV, 11/26/16)

Hundreds of people have taken to the streets in Bahrain to vent their anger at the ongoing crackdown by the ruling Al Khalifah family on dissent, demanding the immediate lifting of a regime ban on Friday prayers.  

The protesters staged a rally in the northwestern village of Diraz, situated about 12 kilometers west of the capital Manama, on Friday, expressing their solidarity with senior Shia cleric Sheikh Isa Qassim.

On June 20, Bahraini authorities stripped the 79-year-old cleric of his citizenship, less than a week after suspending the al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, the country's main opposition bloc, and dissolving the Islamic Enlightenment Institution, founded by Qassim, and the opposition al-Risala Islamic Association.

Protesters planned to convene in front of Sheikh Qassim's residence, but security forces prevented them from approaching his house.

Similar anti-regime demonstrations were held in a number of other villages, where the protesters condemned the Al Khalifah regime for its persecution of the Shia community.

The Shi'a are the majority, not a community.

Posted by orrinj at 9:19 AM


The Truth about the "Hollywood Ten" (Art Eckstein , 4/18/05,
Barzman, perhaps unintentionally, also reveals another side of the story; one that has been almost totally lost in the pieties about the Ten which have emerged over the past half-century. It is the main issue I wish to address: the stern intellectual control which the Hollywood Party exercised over its members.  This intellectual control makes the depiction of the Ten as somehow romantic "rebels," "non-conformists," or champions of free speech into nonsense. They were often quite the opposite.
Two examples come from Barzman herself. In the mid-1940s, while still in Hollywood, she and her husband became fascinated by classic Freudian psychoanalysis.  It was then a big fad among the Hollywood creative community, the Barzmans had a troubled marriage, and they wished to become involved in therapy.  The Party leadership, however, opposed psychoanalysis on ideological grounds, because Party leaders saw it as "the tool of the class enemy to justify inequities of society by attributing them to flaws in personality rather than the system."13  Barzman also cites a second important reason for the Party's opposition to psychoanalysis, one adduced as well by the most famous critic of HUAC and the blacklist, Victor Navasky: "since it is a rule of psychoanalysis that the patient reveals everything, the Party's security as a secret organization would be compro-mised."14  We are reminded then, that the Party in Hollywood not only attempted to control the minds of its members, but that it was a secret organization.15
In another example of the reach of the Party, Barzman remarked that in the 1940s Party couples in Hollywood adopted children from Appalachia. This was done not so much out of humanitarianism as to help prove the theory of Stalin's favorite geneticist, T. D. Lysenko, that environment and the exercise of will could quickly triumph over heredity. The theory appealed to Stalin because it reinforced his belief that a stern socialist system imposed from above by the government was certain to hasten the emergence of "the new Socialist Man."  Hollywood Party activists who faithfully followed this ideological line and adopted included the screenwriter Albert Maltz (This Gun for Hire, 1942) and his wife Margaret, and the screenwriter Herbert Biberman and his wife actress Gale Sondergaard.  According to Barzman, there were several others, demonstrating how far the prevailing Party ideology reached into the private lives of Party members.16
At this point in the discussion we should also begin to distinguish among the victims of the blacklist.  It is the Unfriendly Ten (and those around the Ten) who Hollywood memory has chosen to canonize as martyrs, making them into admirable American "rebels" and innocent, victimized heroes. In the order of priorities for our sympathy, I think this is the opposite of where sympathy for the blacklist victims should lie.17
Many people on the Left in the 1930s and 1940s were attracted to the various positions advocated at one time or another by the Communist Party of the USA. Some merely became involved in the many front groups with nice-sounding names that the Party secretly controlled (e.g. the Progressive Citizens of America, or the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League).  Some actually did join the Party itself. Yet the vast majority of those who joined the Party only lasted a relatively short time before leaving. Why did they leave? Because the Party's choking atmosphere of intellectual control drove them away, or because the Party's position on whatever social issue had originally attracted them suddenly reversed on orders from the Soviet Union. Tragically, many of these Leftists were persecuted later by the government, and/or blacklisted in Hollywood.18 The main point I wish to make, however, is that the average length of stay even for those Leftists who did join the Party in the 1930s was only about three years.19
The Ten, however, do not and cannot represent the relatively transient population that made up the Party rank and file. The latter were social idealists or radicals loosely tied to the Party and committed to specific issues rather than to the organization itself.  In the heyday of the 1930s and 1940s, they made up the Party's relatively unstable mass base. The Ten, by contrast, were mostly long-term Party militants, cadres, and functionaries.  Bessie, Biberman, Cole, Lardner, Lawson, and Polonsky had all been in the Party for ten years or more when the first HUAC investigation opened in 1947, and Trumbo only a little bit less. The very fact that they had not wavered at any point, despite the series of radical shifts and reversals in Party policy since 1935, set them apart from the vast majority of Party members, and the vast majority of blacklist victims.
Moreover, the radical shifts and reversals in the policy of the CPUSA did not reflect developments on the American socio-economic scene itself, and were not reactions to them. On the contrary, they had their source in a foreign country and its interests, in the specific responses of the government of the USSR to events in Europe. One classic case is of course the American Party's faithful support of the Hitler-Stalin Pact of 1939-1941. The alliance was a startling reversal after years of proclaimed Party dedication to ferocious "anti-Fascism." Instead, the line switched from "anti-Fascism" to "peace," i.e. a ferocious dedication to keeping the US from aiding the nations fighting Hitler ("The Yanks are NOT coming! We'll be for peace until the cows come home!" to quote Herbert Biberman). Yet just as the Party's staunch "anti-Fascism" ended the moment that Stalin became Hitler's friend, so the Party's staunch belief in "the peace movement" ended the moment the Soviet Union was attacked by the Nazis on 22 June 1941. Then the war against Hitler finally became justified.20
This means that most of the Ten, as long-term Communist Party militants, were people who (to paraphrase Lillian Hellman) were prepared to cut their consciences to fit the political fashions of the moment.  Such obedience to a notoriously changeable political line, such inability to stick to loudly proclaimed principles if the Party suddenly went back on those principles, is a fact.  Another is that there was one thing these men were not, and that was rebels.  It is wrong to see them that way and to give them that honorable appellation.21  Moreover, the political fashions to which they cut their consciences were the needs of the Soviet state, not the American. Thus, the very nature of their long-term Communist Party militancy points to their dependence upon the wishes of a foreign government.22
This situation was not unique to the American Party, but rather was a fundamental characteristic of all Communist Parties throughout the Stalin era.  On all major issues the "national" Communist Parties were controlled from Moscow, either directly or via the Comintern.  The subservience of the Communist Party of France to Soviet interests and orders is the classic example of the phenomenon, and it helps to underline the type of politics actually engaged in by the historical (as opposed to the mythical) Ten.  If American historians of the CPUSA were thoroughly trained in foreign languages, they would better be able to discern parallels between the behavior of the American Party and all other "national" Parties around the world, and they could put the CPUSA into its proper international context. American historians would see how closely the sudden and radical policy shifts of the American Party were exactly like those of every other "national" Communist Party, because the policies of all these organizations were dependent upon policy decisions made in Moscow.  But of course, most American historians nowadays are not trained in foreign languages, resulting in a bias toward seeing everything in a purely American context and perspective.23
Even Paul Jarrico, one of the Ten, has recently acknowledged that the American Communists were constantly forced into counter-productive politics by virtue of continually having to be the fervent guardians of Soviet (i.e. foreign) interests, and members of a Party whose policy was determined in Europe.  Not that Jarrico ever deviated from the Party line at the time.24

Posted by orrinj at 9:10 AM


Denmark says ready to invest in Iran (Iran Project, 11/26/16)

Denmark's Ambassador to Iran Danny Annan said the Danish companies are ready to transfer technology and invest in Iran's oil and gas industry.

He made the remarks during a meeting between a visiting delegation of Danish entrepreneurs and Morteza Emami, managing director of Industrial Projects Management of Iran (IPMI).

The Danish envoy called for enhancement of cooperation between Tehran and Copenhagen in the oil and gas sector and stressed that Denmark is ready for transfer of technology to Iran..

Posted by orrinj at 9:04 AM


Obituary: Cuban Revolutionary Leader Fidel Castro, 1926-2016 (RFE/RL, 11/26/16)

[I]t was the events of October 1962 -- the so-called Cuban missile crisis -- that would shake the world.

Speaking at the United Nations, U.S. Ambassador Adlai Stevenson demanded to know from Valerian Zorin, his Soviet counterpart, whether Moscow was deploying nuclear-tipped missiles in Cuba that could hit U.S. cities.

"All right, sir, let me ask you one simple question," he said. "Do you, Ambassador Zorin, deny that the USSR has placed, and is placing, medium and intermediate range missiles in sites in Cuba? Yes or no? Don't wait for the translation! Yes or no!"

Zorin refused to reply, much to Stevenson's chagrin, but Russian missiles had indeed been deployed on the Caribbean island. 

Taped records of conversations involving U.S. President John F. Kennedy show that the world has perhaps never been closer to a nuclear confrontation.

Posted by orrinj at 8:26 AM


'Moana' was Lin-Manuel Miranda's 'Hamilton' break, says Tony Award-winning composer (Mike Cidoni Lennox, 11/26/16, Associated Press)

Miranda is following up his Tony Award- and Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway hit by contributing seven original songs for "Moana," which is now in theaters. The writer-composer-actor was hired for the film before "Hamilton" hit and said working on "Moana" proved a respite from the Broadway frenzy.

"When I got sick of doing American history research, I'd go sail across the water with Maui and Moana," Miranda, 36, said in a recent interview. "And once the (stage) show was written and it was up and running, ['Moana'] was my oasis of calm in the 'Hamilton' phenomenon."

"Moana" tells the story of a teenager who is drawn to the open ocean despite her father's admonition that no one from their island village venture beyond the reef.

November 25, 2016

Posted by Glenn Dryfoos at 3:57 PM


Aaron Diehl - Space Time Continuum

The "Making of" video: 

As I look back on my previous ATJ posts, one of the (many) failings has been that most of the subjects have either been decades' old recordings by now-elderly or deceased musicians or tributes to the recently departed.  The obvious explanation for this is that it is easy for me to write about music I've been listening to my whole life, music that runs through my head at all hours of the day and that is as familiar to me as the sound of my own footsteps or my kids' voices. But it gives the impression that jazz belongs in a museum somewhere and is not a current, vital and engaging art form.  So, as an early New Year's resolution, I resolve to challenge myself to dig more deeply into the current jazz scene and to shift the balance of these essays a bit.

Having said that, all art, no matter how current or revolutionary, is most impactful when, to one extent or another, it preserves, incorporates or builds upon what came before it.  As ground-breaking as Charlie Parker's bebop was, it was meticulously built on the same popular songs and 12-bar blues that his predecessors had played and that were familiar to his audiences.

On his wonderful 2015 album, Space Time Continuum, 31-year old pianist Aaron Diehl creates exciting new music that is informed, but never enslaved, by the past.  Throughout the recording one hears his influences, from Ellington to Horace Silver, John Lewis, Bud Powell and beyond,  but not for a moment does the music sound like a tribute album or a history lesson.  Playing with musicians from past generations (Benny Golson and Joe Temperley) and from his own (bassist David Wong, drummer Quincy Davis, trumpeter Bruce Harris, and saxophonist Stephen Riley), Diehl creates music that is so original and devoid of musical cliché that an unremarkable short quote from Peter and the Wolf in the track Santa Maria, which would go unnoticed in any other jazz performance, jumped out at me.

The New York Times has described Diehl's playing as "scholarly and fastidious," but that doesn't mean it lacks in emotion or thrills (to be fair, the Times also notes that he is "jubilant, swinging").  The Temperley feature, The Steadfast Titan, is stately, yet noir-ish and world-weary, while Broadway Boogie Woogie, is an exhilarating Bud Powell-inspired sprint across the keyboard.   On Kat's Dance, an almost-classical-sounding duet with a driving 6/4 meter, Diehl's clean, propulsive attack is nicely balanced by Riley's breathy timbre, which sits somewhere on a continuum of tenor sounds beyond Ben Webster, Lester Young and Stan Getz.  Other than Kat's Dance, and the opening track, Uranus (a catchy swinger written by Walter Bishop, Jr., and long a favorite of the Jazz Messengers), all of the numbers are Diehl's original compositions.

In Piano Players, Ben Sidran's paean to his keyboard predecessors, he sings:

The music they made
is alive today, 
because when you hear Cecil Taylor
You hear Jelly Roll play. 

With Space Time Continuum Aaron Diehl consciously puts that concept into practice, and the result is a fresh, brilliant and enjoyable achievement.

Posted by orrinj at 8:34 AM


U.S. online sales tally more than $1 billion on Thanksgiving Day (Barbara Kollmeyer, Nov 25, 2016, MarketWatch)

That online sales tally marked a 13.6% increase over last year's holiday, according to data from Adobe Systems Inc., which analyzed data from 21 billion visits to retail websites.

Within that, a record $449 million in revenue came from mobile devices -- $322 million from smartphones and $127 million via tablets -- 58.6% more than last year. To put it another way, 39% of the purchases made Thursday were made from mobile phones.

Posted by orrinj at 8:08 AM


In Scotland, Trump Built a Wall. Then He Sent Residents the Bill. (KATRIN BENNHOLD, NOV. 25, 2016, NY Times)

David and Moira Milne had already been threatened with legal action by Mr. Trump's lawyers, who claimed a corner of their garage belonged to him, when they came home from work one day to find his staff building a fence around their garden. Two rows of grown trees went up next, blocking the view. Their water and electricity lines were temporarily cut. And then a bill for about $3,500 arrived in the mail, which, Mr. Milne said, went straight into the trash.

"You watch, Mexico won't pay either," said Mr. Milne, a health and safety consultant and part-time novelist, referring to Mr. Trump's campaign promise to build a "beautiful, impenetrable wall" along the border and force the Mexicans to pay for it.

The Milnes now fly a Mexican flag from their hilltop house, a former Coast Guard station that overlooks the clubhouse of Mr. Trump's Trump International Golf Links, whenever he visits. [...]

As many Americans are trying to figure out what kind of president they have just elected, the people of Balmedie, a small village outside the once oil-rich city of Aberdeen, say they have a pretty good idea. In the 10 years since Mr. Trump first visited, vowing to build "the world's greatest golf course" on an environmentally protected site featuring 4,000-year-old sand dunes, they have seen him lash out at anyone standing in his way. They say they watched him win public support for his golf course with grand promises, then watched him break them one by one.

A promised $1.25 billion investment has shrunk to what his opponents say is at most $50 million. Six thousand jobs have dwindled to 95. Two golf courses to one. An eight-story 450-room luxury hotel never materialized, nor did 950 time-share apartments. Instead, an existing manor house was converted into a 16-room boutique hotel. Trump International Golf Links, which opened in 2012, lost $1.36 million last year, according to public accounts.

Posted by orrinj at 7:46 AM


The Man Who Could Have Stopped the Islamic State : Almost 10 years ago, an al Qaeda emissary was sent to tell Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to tone down his terrorism. The journey, and its failure, gave birth to ISIS. (BRIAN FISHMAN, NOVEMBER 23, 2016, Foreign Policy)

When Ghul and Zarqawi met in January 2004, Zarqawi bluntly explained that his strategy in Iraq was to incite a sectarian bloodletting. He would assassinate Shiite political and religious leaders until that sectarian war began. Ghul relayed news of that plan to Abd al-Hadi, who, according to summaries of the conversation published by the Senate Intelligence Committee, replied that he was "opposed to any operations in Iraq that would promote bloodshed among Muslims." After Ghul was captured by Kurdish counterterrorism forces in 2004 on his way out of Iraq, he told CIA investigators that Abd al-Hadi "counseled al-Zarqawi against undertaking such operations."

Abd al-Hadi's concerns were twofold. He objected to Zarqawi's brutal and divisive strategic vision, but because of distance and communication failures did not have a clear picture of events in Iraq. It was hard to truly assess, let alone criticize, Zarqawi's approach.

Fortunately for Abd al-Hadi, there were many al Qaeda members eager to travel to Iraq to fight. The al Qaeda leader hoped that if he could embed trusted operatives on the ground, he would have a better picture of the operational environment and therefore more leverage over Zarqawi. So Abd al-Hadi ordered Ghul to broach this issue with Zarqawi, and develop a route for fighters to make the journey to Iraq. Zarqawi had a deep independent streak, so this was a sensitive subject, but he was open to the idea and even requested individuals with specific technical skills.

Perhaps inspired by Zarqawi's willingness to collaborate, Abd al-Hadi proposed something more radical: He would personally come to Iraq. But Zarqawi's interest in new recruits did not extend to al Qaeda leaders more senior than he, even if they were actually Iraqi. Perhaps worried about an implicit challenge to his leadership, Zarqawi rebuffed the suggestion, explaining to Ghul, per the Senate Intelligence Committee's report, that "this was not a good idea, as operations in Iraq were far different than those Abd al-Hadi was conducting in Afghanistan."

For the time being, Abd al-Hadi did not push the issue.

Zarqawi finally swore allegiance to bin Laden in October 2004, but on his own terms. He was bending the knee, Zarqawi explained, only because his "respected brothers in al Qaeda understood [his] strategy ... and their hearts opened to our approach." Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) was born, but the strategy of brutality and sectarianism that Abd al-Hadi warned against would continue.

Al Qaeda's effort to control Zarqawi continued as well. In a July 2005 letter, al Qaeda's then second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, warned him not to alienate Iraqis and to "avoid scenes of slaughter."

Zarqawi was unimpressed. After U.S. Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte released a copy of the letter in September 2005, Zarqawi's spokesman called it a fraud, arguing that it had "no foundation except in the imagination of the politicians of the Black House and their slaves."

The disconnect between al Qaeda and Zarqawi became a crisis in November 2005, when Zarqawi's foot soldiers bombed three hotels in Amman, Jordan, killing more than 60 Jordanians. Al Qaeda's leadership was furious. "Policy must be dominant over militarism," wrote Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, an al Qaeda commander in Iran, to Zarqawi three days after the Amman bombing. He ordered Zarqawi to halt all operations outside Iraq.

Atiyah reiterated Abd al-Hadi's concern about al Qaeda's ability to manage events in Iraq from afar, and was alarmed that Zarqawi apparently thought Zawahiri's July letter was fraudulent. The document was authentic, he wrote, and represented "the thoughts of the brothers, the sheikhs, and all of the intellectual and moral leadership here." He argued that improving coordination between al Qaeda and AQI was the group's highest priority. "Preparing [the brothers] to be messengers between you and the leadership here," Atiyah explained, "is more important than ... sending the brothers for some operations like ... the hotels in Amman."

Zarqawi finally fell in line, partially. In January 2006, he established a coalition of Iraqi jihadi groups, the Mujahideen Shura Council (MSC), which was designed to assuage some of al Qaeda's concerns. The group named an Iraqi as emir, and Zarqawi reduced his public profile.

But the MSC was still mostly window dressing. Most importantly, it did not include the second-largest jihadi group in Iraq, Ansar al-Sunnah, which has Kurdish roots and a mistrustful relationship with Zarqawi. Al Qaeda's central leadership was eager to unify the jihadi movement -- but Zarqawi distrusted Ansar al-Sunnah, so they engaged Ansar al-Sunnah's leadership directly.

On Jan. 26, 2006, Ayman al-Zawahiri wrote to Ansar al-Sunnah on behalf of al Qaeda's Special Committee for Iraqi Affairs that the committee favored unification between AQI and Ansar al-Sunnah. More strikingly, it acknowledged that such a step was possible only "after reforming the situation of AQI." Three days later, the committee sent another note urging that "all the obstacles standing in the way [of unification] must be removed."

One of those obstacles may have been Zarqawi himself.

Al Qaeda quickly moved to resolve that problem: It reported to Ansar al-Sunnah that it had taken a step to improve the conditions needed for unification "by sending an honorable brother and a virtuous sheikh" to Iraq. Al Qaeda did not name its emissary, but noted "you know him very well."

There is little doubt that al Qaeda's letter to the Kurdish leadership of Ansar al-Sunnah indicated that Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi, the ethnic Kurd from Mosul, was headed home.

In late 2003, Abd al-Hadi had asked Zarqawi whether he should travel to Iraq. Zarqawi said no. In January 2006, Zarqawi was not offered a veto.

The leadership of AQI would change long before Abd al-Hadi made it anywhere near Iraq. Zarqawi was killed in June 2006 by a U.S. airstrike and was replaced by an Egyptian called Abu Hamzah al-Muhajir. Despite his long ties to al Qaeda, Abu Hamzah continued AQI's drift away from the central leadership. On Oct. 15, 2006, the Mujahideen Shura Council announced that all of its component groups were being dissolved and folded into a new jihadi government named the Islamic State of Iraq. Long before the Syrian civil war and the Islamic State's rise to global prominence, the ISI's explicit goal was to govern and ultimately re-establish the caliphate.

Al Qaeda's leadership was blindsided. 

The conversion to the Near War was vital to our winning the WoT, as it unified everyone against the Salafi.

Posted by orrinj at 7:09 AM


Runaway dollar sends shiver through world markets (Sujata Rao and Patrick Graham, 11/25/16, Reuters)

The U.S. dollar's renewed surge and signs that it will build on current 14-year highs are leaving a trail of destruction through world currency markets and forcing policymakers to rethink mechanisms to deal with the fallout.

Currencies from the Indian rupee to the offshore version of the Chinese yuan have hit record lows to the greenback this week, and if history is a guide, another year or two of pain lies ahead for them.

Judging from the U.S. Federal Reserve's trade-weighted index, past dollar strength episodes have tended to last about seven years. So the current rally, dating from mid-2011 and averaging 4 percent annually, can be expected to run until 2018.

Think the rest of the developed world can fix its demographic implosion in two years?

Posted by orrinj at 7:04 AM


Swedish PM: Trump 'open-minded' on climate deal (The Local, 25 Nov 2016)

"It was a positive call. He acknowledged that our countries should continue to cooperate, he praised Sweden and had a very positive view on Sweden," Löfven told Aftonbladet TV.

"He confirmed his view that he wants to be 'open-minded' on the Paris agreement. I think it's very important that the USA hangs in there. Then we spoke very briefly on security work," he added.

Trump's comment to the Swedish PM echoed his refusal to repeat previous promises to abandon the climate accord in an interview with the New York Times earlier this week. "I'm looking at it very closely. I have an open mind to it," he told the newspaper.

Posted by orrinj at 6:52 AM


Indonesian President calls for closer cooperation with Iran (Iran Project, 11/25/16)

Iran's Minister of Communications and Information Technology Mahmoud Vaezi conferred on Friday with Indonesian President Joko Widodo on expansion of mutual relations and increase of cooperation between the two countries.

In the meeting, Vaezi conveyed the warm greetings of President Hassan Rouhani to his Indonesian counterpart and once again re-accorded the invitation to Indonesian president to pay an official visit to Iran.

Expansion of political, economic and cultural relations as well as expansion of cooperation between the two nations were at the top of his agenda in the country, Vaezi said.

Posted by orrinj at 6:48 AM


One by One, ISIS Social Media Experts Are Killed as Result of F.B.I. Program (ADAM GOLDMAN and ERIC SCHMITT, NOV. 24, 2016, NY Times)

In the summer of 2015, armed American drones over eastern Syria stalked Junaid Hussain, an influential hacker and recruiter for the Islamic State.

For weeks, Mr. Hussain was careful to keep his young stepson by his side, and the drones held their fire. But late one night, Mr. Hussain left an internet cafe alone, and minutes later a Hellfire missile killed him as he walked between two buildings in Raqqa, Syria, the Islamic State's de facto capital.

Mr. Hussain, a 21-year-old from Birmingham, England, was a leader of a band of English-speaking computer specialists who had given a far-reaching megaphone to Islamic State propaganda and exhorted online followers to carry out attacks in the West. One by one, American and allied forces have killed the most important of roughly a dozen members of the cell, which the F.B.I. calls "the Legion," as part of a secretive campaign that has largely silenced a powerful voice that led to a surge of counterterrorism activity across the United States in 2015 as young men and women came under the influence of its propaganda.

Posted by orrinj at 6:39 AM


There's a major problem with the way America measures productivity (Melody Hahm, 11/21/16, Yahoo Finance)

Dave Roux, partner at Silver Lake, a private equity firm that focuses on leveraged buyouts and investments in technology and tech-enabled industries, believes that we are actually a hyper-productive generation, and credits advanced technological developments for dramatically improving the welfare of our society.

"The most important problem is that we're missing hyper-productivity. It's so dramatic that you miss it because it's not priced," said Roux.

"Think of search photo-sharing sites like Instagram or dating apps like Tinder. How do you think about the success of such companies? Successful hook ups per hour? There's no money changing hands and it's not measured. Yet, think about how you're spending your time. These companies are a core part of it," Roux told Yahoo Finance. Time is money, after all.

The problem with measuring productivity has been around since computers were in their infancy. "You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics," Robert Solow, Nobel laureate in economics, said in 1987. He illuminated the chasm between the amount of money invested in information technology (IT) and how little that investment has contributed to the country's gross domestic product (GDP).

This inability for new technology -- apart from the era between 1996 and 2004 -- to reflect increased productivity in the economy is now fittingly known as the Solow paradox. Thirty years after Solow identified this perplexing predicament, we are still confronted with this inability to calculate how digital, intangible investments are leading to a more productive economy.

The US bureau of labor statistics (BLS) defines productivity as a way to measure how efficiently inputs are converted into output. The standard measure is GDP per hour worked. GDP was an concept created in the 1930s, when the Department of Commerce commissioned economists to develop a way to measure the total value of final goods and services, like bushels of wheat or housing services.

...why a detective in an old movie or tv show has to wait so long for the film to be developed so he can look at photographs.

Posted by orrinj at 6:32 AM


U.S. consumer confidence rises in December (Reuters, 11/25/16)

U.S. consumer confidence increased in December, bolstered by a brightening jobs situation that left perceptions about economic conditions at a high last seen in February 2008, according to a private sector report released on Tuesday.

Posted by orrinj at 6:23 AM


America's Dollar Store Generation Has No Shame (Polly Mosendz, November 10, 2016, Bloomberg)

She is not an outlier. The retail model that began more than a century ago as the "five-and-dime" is back, and it's gone big. Dollar store shopping is attracting consumers across multiple demographics, including America's wealthiest. Households with an annual income of more than $100,000 make up 19 percent of the spend at national dollar store chains, comparable to the 23 percent that comes from households with an annual income of less than $25,000, according to a July report from retail analytics firm NPD.

The main difference between the 1 percent and the 99 percent is how frequently they turn to dollar stores: Lower income shoppers come in more frequently and spend more. Considering that the average employed millennial earns just $34,100 annually, it's logical that this generation would drop more dollars on the discount products offered by the likes of Dollar Tree Inc., Dollar General Corp., and 99 Cents Only Stores LLC. 

Retailers are understandably eager to get their hands on a chunk of the $600 billion annual spending power of the millennial demographic. Though Dollar General didn't return a request for comment, the company's chief executive, Todd J. Vasos, said during a first-quarter earnings call that millennial shoppers make up about a quarter of the company's sales line. 

"The millennial shopper is a segment that I was particularly excited to see emerge as a core consumer for DG, as this segment is so important to the future of retail and Dollar General," Vasos said.

At 99 Cents Only, a West Coast-based dollar store chain, shoppers aged from 18 to 39 make up 36 percent of consumers. "With millennials, there is no stigma with them shopping at dollar stores because they grew up in a different environment than our parents, who covet things," said the chain's director of marketing, Erin Estelle. "We're more frugal because we've had to be ... There's no shame in that, and millennials know that."

Posted by orrinj at 5:36 AM


Donald Trump's Love of Evita Says a Lot About His Presidency (Isaac Butler, 11/24/16, Slate)

Although he's not much of a fan of the "overrated" Hamilton, Donald Trump has, according to the New York Times, "been a regular presence over the years at openings on Broadway, where he has said he prefers musicals and saw Evita as many as six times." What are we to make of his love for the Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice musical, which debuted on Broadway in 1979 and was made into a 1996 film starring Madonna and Antonio Banderas?

Evita tells the story of the rise and fall of Eva Perón (née Duarte), beginning with her penniless origins, continuing through to her political career as the first lady to President Juan Perón of Argentina, and ending with her death from cancer. The musical frames the story of the Peróns through the eyes of a sardonic everyman narrator, Che. The show wrestles with Evita's allure, simultaneously admiring her political genius and depicting her as gaudy, tasteless, and having made her career on her back. It also portrays her as the primary author of Juan Perón's sham populism.

Posted by orrinj at 5:31 AM


Time Present and Time Past (MARK JUDGE, 11/24/16, Liberty & Law)

Arrival is a near-flawless film. Although billed as a science fiction movie, it is a deeply spiritual and humanistic meditation on life, death, love, and time. Story, music, direction, and acting all combine to produce one of the best films of the year, a movie that provokes deep thought and rewards repeated viewings. Spoiler alert: I'm going to be giving away keep plot points in Arrival, so stop reading if you plan on seeing the film. [...]

[N]early every frame of Arrival is rich with art. The acting is superb, and the music, by minimalist Norwegian composer Jóhann Jóhannsson, with an additional song by Max Richter, offers space for the contemplation that the screenplay by Eric Heisserer offers. Bradford Young's dreamy cinematography focuses on the small moments of love, tenderness, and grief that we carry through our personal journeys through time. The moments where Louise Banks views her life and sees that, at the heart of everything, the grief and the joy alike, is an innate goodness--what Christopher Lasch called "the goodness of being"--are exhilarating.  Arrival is cerebral and soulful science fiction of a high order. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:26 AM


We Tracked Down A Fake-News Creator In The Suburbs. Here's What We Learned (Laura Sydell, 11/23/16, NPR)

Coler is a soft-spoken 40-year-old with a wife and two kids. He says he got into fake news around 2013 to highlight the extremism of the white nationalist alt-right.

"The whole idea from the start was to build a site that could kind of infiltrate the echo chambers of the alt-right, publish blatantly or fictional stories and then be able to publicly denounce those stories and point out the fact that they were fiction," Coler says.

He was amazed at how quickly fake news could spread and how easily people believe it. He wrote one fake story for about how customers in Colorado marijuana shops were using food stamps to buy pot.

"What that turned into was a state representative in the House in Colorado proposing actual legislation to prevent people from using their food stamps to buy marijuana based on something that had just never happened," Coler says.

During the run-up to the presidential election, fake news really took off. "It was just anybody with a blog can get on there and find a big, huge Facebook group of kind of rabid Trump supporters just waiting to eat up this red meat that they're about to get served," Coler says. "It caused an explosion in the number of sites. I mean, my gosh, the number of just fake accounts on Facebook exploded during the Trump election."

Coler says his writers have tried to write fake news for liberals -- but they just never take the bait.

Posted by orrinj at 4:50 AM


Donald Trump's pending lawsuits and his presidency (BBC, 18 November 2016)

Even by the standards of billionaire businessmen, Donald Trump is an unusually litigious man who has been involved in thousands of lawsuits - both those he has launched and those he has defended - over the years.
The president-elect has been party to some 4,000 lawsuits over the last 30 years and is currently facing 75 active lawsuits, according to analysis by USA Today newspaper. [...]

Mr Trump's companies face open cases of fraud, unpaid bills, contract disputes and sexual discrimination in the 75 lawsuits, according to USA Today.

For example, members of Mr Trump's golf course in Jupiter, Florida, are suing the businessman for $2.4m for taking fees and dues while allegedly blocking admission to the actual club.

A former employee of the same club also brought a lawsuit last month, alleging she was unlawfully fired after reporting sexual harassment by a colleague.

Mr Trump is also defending lawsuits tied to his campaign. In New York State, Republican political consultant Cheryl Jacobus filed a $4 million libel lawsuit claiming he "destroyed her career" by calling her "a dummy" on Twitter.

In another case, scheduled for 29 November in Chicago, it is alleged Trump's campaign violated consumer protection laws by sending unsolicited text messages to "Help Make America Great Again!".

The president-elect opened Trump International Hotel in the final weeks of his election campaign

One of Mr Trump's most high-profile lawsuits is against two celebrity chefs. He is suing Geoffrey Zakarian and Jose Andres after they backed out of a restaurant deal - at his recently opened luxury Trump hotel in Washington DC - over the president-elect's inflammatory statements about Mexican immigrants.

During the campaign, Mr Trump also threatened to sue all the women who have accused him of unwanted sexual advances, saying they were lying.

He also said he would sue the media, such as the New York Times, for printing the accusations.

Analysis of lawsuits by USA Today, however, shows Mr Tr ump rarely follows through with his threatened lawsuits and almost always loses when he does.

One of those great things about the election being over is Donald has admitted that he was guilty and that Hillary was innocent.

Posted by orrinj at 4:46 AM


World Chess Champion Carlsen Evens Score Against Russian Challenger Karjakin  (RFE/RL, 11/25/16)

Reigning world chess champion Magnus Carlsen of Norway has evened the score against Russian challenger Sergei Karjakin in the world championship match in New York City.

Playing with the white pieces, Carlsen defeated the Ukrainian-born Russian grandmaster in the 10th game of the match on November 24 to even the score in the ongoing FIDE World Chess Championship at 5-5.

Posted by orrinj at 4:42 AM


Small Businesses Lament There Are Too Few Mexicans in U.S., Not Too Many (MIRIAM JORDAN and  SANTIAGO PÉREZ, Nov. 24, 2016, WSJ

In Dallas, the King of Texas Roofing Co. says it has turned down $20 million worth of projects in the past two years because it doesn't have enough workers.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, Joe Hargrave is expanding his successful Tacolicious chain of restaurants, but says he is building smaller ones due to "a massive shortage of restaurant workers."

And in Florida, Steve Johnson, who harvests oranges for the citrus industry, says, "Right now, if I had 80 guys, I could put every one of them to work."

As hiring accelerates and the labor market tightens thanks to a steady U.S. recovery, employers who need low-skilled workers are increasingly struggling to fill vacancies. One big reason: Mexican workers, who form the labor backbone of industries like hospitality, construction and agriculture, are in short supply.

November 24, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 9:39 PM


Developed-Country Economic Growth Jumps (PAUL HANNON, Nov. 21, 2016, WSJ)

The rate of economic growth in developed countries doubled in the three months to September, figures from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development showed Monday, an indication that the global economy may be set for a modest pickup.

The third-quarter rebound was led by the U.S. and Japan, while the U.K. and Germany slowed. Among members of the Group of Seven largest developed economies, the U.S. fared best, despite some uncertainty ahead of the Nov. 8 presidential elections.

Posted by orrinj at 10:41 AM


5 Things You Need to Know About Francois Fillon -- The French Margaret Thatcher (Nahema Marchal, November 24, 2016, Heat Street)

Francois Fillon is an unbounded admirer of the Iron Lady, whom he credits with getting the United Kingdom back on track when it was on the brink of economic disaster in the 1980s.

"Some candidates wanted to be unkind by calling me Thatcherite, but it pleased me," he said recently, brushing off attacks from his rivals who wanted to cast him in a negative light, adding: "At least she left her mark as someone who straightened out her country."

For Fillon, who was himself Prime Minister for five years under former president Nicolas Sarkozy, the Conservative British Prime Minister is a symbol of an "inflexible political determination to stop a situation of decline."

Posted by orrinj at 10:32 AM


Since election, Trump has turned away all but two daily intelligence briefings (Greg Miller, Adam Entous, 11/23/16, The Washington Post)

President-elect Donald Trump has received two classified intelligence briefings since his surprise election victory earlier this month, a frequency that is notably lower - at least so far - than that of his predecessors, current and former U.S. officials said.

A team of intelligence analysts has been prepared to deliver daily briefings on global developments and security threats to Trump in the two weeks since he won. Vice President-elect Mike Pence, by contrast, has set aside time for intelligence briefings almost every day since the election, officials said.

Governor Pence essentially taking over this administration has been a hopeful sign.  

Posted by orrinj at 10:26 AM


Chicago Muslims give thanks, 5,000 turkeys (Manya Brachear Pashman, 11/22/16, Chicago Tribune)

As a line of schoolchildren obediently marched past the canary yellow lockers Tuesday morning at Woodlawn Community School, two more lines had formed at the end of the hallway -- an assembly line of volunteers unloading a semitrailer full of turkeys, and the mothers and grandmothers waiting to take one home to feed their families.

Volunteers also hung a banner advertising the Sabeel Food Pantry, a Muslim-run pantry on the city's Northwest Side. The mission of Sabeel -- an Arabic word meaning "way" -- is to give the poor a way to survive, a central obligation of the Muslim faith, volunteers say.

For 16 years, the Chicago Muslim community has distributed free Thanksgiving turkeys to underprivileged families on the South Side. But this holiday season, the group more than tripled the number of free birds from last year to 5,000 and expanded the project to eight elementary schools in three neighborhoods.

Posted by orrinj at 10:20 AM


Common Core Foes Are Really Worried About Trump's Ed Sec Choice (Blake Neff, 11/18/2016, Daily Caller)

Notably, Moskowitz, Rhee, and DeVos have all shown support for Common Core. [...]

Similarly, The Federalist editor and Common Core critic Joy Pullman said Trump would be totally repudiating his campaign rhetoric if he chose Rhee or any other person not committed to eliminating Common Core. In fact, she argued, the only true way to fulfill Trump's pledge is to try dismantling the Department of Education entirely.

Despite all the concern, though, it seems unlikely that Trump can actually do anything to eliminate Common Core. Adoption and continued use of the standards is entirely controlled by state and local governments; while the Obama administration used stimulus funds to encourage Common Core's adoption, those funds have been exhausted and nothing currently compels states to remain on Common Core. They all have the power to leave, and a few, such as Oklahoma, already have. Furthermore, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the current law governing education, prohibits the federal government from coercing states regarding the standards they use. (RELATED: Donald Trump's Common Core Pledge Makes No Sense)

In order to root out Common Core, then, Trump would have to replace or ignore ESSA and intervene at the state level to get rid of Common Core. That would hardly comport with Trump's rhetoric about having education controlled at the local level.

Posted by orrinj at 10:12 AM


Iran's mega deal with Airbus inches closer to finalization (Changiz M. Varzi, November 23, 2016, Al Monitor)

On Nov. 23, Shahrvand daily ran the article "106 Airbus [jets] on the way to Iran," which reported the new development to boost trade between Western companies and Iran. "Despite the attempts by the US House to revoke the permission [to sell aircraft to Iran], a delegation from Airbus is now in Tehran to finalize the deal between Iran and the aviation company," wrote Shahrvand.

Meanwhile, business daily Abrar-e Eqtesadi said that Iran had reached an agreement with an international leasing company to facilitate the purchase of 77 Airbus planes. According to the daily, Asghar Fakhrieh Kashan, deputy for international affairs at the Ministry of Roads and Urban Development, announced, "The final contract to buy 112 Airbus [jets] is ready to be signed."

Iran provisionally agreed to purchase 118 Airbus jets in January. This figure dropped to 112 after an order for six smaller Airbus jets was discarded over delays in OFAC licensing of the sale. The final number of plane deliveries may be around a hundred, given that Iran says it may not proceed with its option to purchase a dozen A380s, the world's largest jetliner.

The news about reaching a financing deal with a foreign leasing company is a breakthrough in efforts by Iranian companies to ink contracts with a major international firm. One of the main obstacles keeping international banks and business away from Iran is the ongoing hassle of transferring money to and from Iran due to remaining Western sanctions. Iranian officials have not disclosed the name of the leasing company, but industry sources have previously said that Iran has asked UAE company Dubai Aerospace for assistance with financing the purchase of the first 17 Airbus jets.

The beauty of it is, all Tehran has to do is approve a Trump hotel project and he'll lift all the remaining sanctions.

Posted by orrinj at 4:41 AM


Amy Adams in 'Arrival' is a pro-life heroine for the ages (Kyle Smith, November 19, 2016, NY Post)

When expert linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is called to communicate with aliens who are hovering menacingly over earth in several large aircraft, she coaxes from them inscrutable inkblot-like glyphs that amount to written language. Learning this language is essential to decoding the purpose of the aliens' visit, which in turn will determine whether humanity should attack the aliens, a move that could be such a disaster that it would risk our own extermination in the process.

Louise explains that learning a new language alters the internal architecture of the brain. In this case, the changes give her the power to foresee the feature.

Suddenly, Louise knows that she will have a child in the future and when she does, things will go awry. But instead of changing her fate and abstaining from motherhood, she goes ahead anyway. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:29 AM


Tuna's Declining Mercury Contamination Linked to U.S. Shift Away from Coal : Hard-won reductions in the environmental toxin could be erased if Trump proceeds with plans to resuscitate the coal industry and abandon climate initiatives (Richard Conniff on November 23, 2016, Scientific American)

Levels of highly toxic mercury contamination in Atlantic bluefin tuna are rapidly declining, according to a new study. That trend does not affect recommended limits on consumption of canned tuna, which comes mainly from other tuna species. Nor does it reflect trends in other ocean basins. But it does represent a major break in the long-standing, scary connection between tuna and mercury, a source of public concern since 1970, when a chemistry professor in New York City found excess levels of mercury in a can of tuna and spurred a nationwide recall. Tuna consumption continues to be the source of about 40 percent of the mercury contamination in the American diet. And mercury exposure from all sources remains an important issue, because it causes cognitive impairment in an estimated 300,000 to 600,000 babies born in this country each year.

The new study, published online on November 10 by Environmental Science & Technology, links the decline directly to reduced mercury emissions in North America. Most of that reduction has occurred because of the marketplace shift by power plants and industry away from coal, the major source of mercury emissions. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:11 AM


CONNIE CONVERSE'S TIME HAS COME (Howard Fishman , NOVEMBER 21, 2016, The New Yorker)

Phil Converse had moved to the Midwest, and the siblings began a decade-long correspondence that has echoes of the correspondence between the van Gogh brothers in its dedicated practice, its intimacy, and its dynamic of one acting as cheerleader for the other's artistic efforts. Converse was able to express herself in writing to her brother in ways that seemed to elude her in everyday life. "Being a complex and inward personality, I have always found it difficult to make myself known," she wrote him. "I generally conceal my own problems and listen attentively to those of others."

Converse enrolled her brother and Jean, his new wife, as members of her own private Song-of-the-Month Club. Beginning with a 1950 composition called "Down This Road," her first entirely original song, and ending with 1955's "Empty Pocket Waltz," she mailed them roughly three dozen "guitar songs," all self-recorded in her tiny Greenwich Village studio at 23 Grove Street.

The recordings reveal the result of her meticulous study and assimilation of virtually all American vernacular music to that point; either that or--like some sort of literary, New England parallel to Robert Johnson--she had made a deal with the devil. Somehow, Converse had become a master of the acoustic guitar, created a complicated and unique fingerpicking style, developed a keen understanding of harmony and complex chord voicings, and become conversant (bordering on virtuosic) in the stylistic hallmarks of rural blues, country, gospel, folk, pop, jazz, hillbilly, parlor songs, and early jazz.

In songs like "Playboy of the Western World," "Roving Woman," and "The Clover Saloon," she upends and transmutes the traditional format and subject matter of the song form. Each one makes the listener complicit in an unexpected narrative twist: a dashing lover dies ("Playboys die young, this one did too / all worn out making dreams come true"); a young woman sleeps around ("When I stray / away from where I've got to be / someone always takes me home"); a day drinker commits murder ("They're hangin' me tomorrow / in the middle of my thirst"). Converse had found a medium to express her idiosyncratic mind and personality. She communicates a complex and seemingly confusing inner life in a way that is simultaneously vulnerable and opaque. The recordings she made are spare and almost brutally intimate. This is the body of work on which her reputation, long delayed, has been made, though there would be more and different music to follow.

In 1954, Converse was ushered by a friend, guitar in tow, to a semi-regular music salon hosted by the animator and audio enthusiast Gene Deitch in Hastings-on-Hudson. Deitch liked to record his guests, but when Converse walked in he thought twice. She seemed standoffish, a bit arrogant, and apparently unconcerned with physical appearances; at a time when women were being culturally prompted toward glamour, Converse wore no makeup, favored long, shapeless dresses, and tied her hair back in a practical bun--"like she had just come in from milking the cows," according to one attendee. Reluctantly, Converse got out her guitar, Deitch rolled his tape machine, and she proceeded to stun those at the gathering with performances of her songs.

Likely through some connection made at the Deitch gathering, Converse was invited to appear on CBS's "Morning Show," hosted by a young Walter Cronkite. Though a few stills survive of the appearance (a nervous-looking Converse seated to Cronkite's right, her guitar cradled on her lap), almost everything in that era of television was shot live. There is no archival footage. It seemed to be a big moment for Converse. Deitch's son Kim, who was ten at the time, recalls watching the show and thinking, "We'll all say we knew her when." Instead, nothing came of it. Her songs had no contemporary context. Within just a few months, Converse abandoned wholesale her short-form songwriting and began to pursue another kind of composing altogether. She moved to an apartment in Harlem that had a piano, and, seemingly overnight, the style and sophistication of her music radically morphed.

As if to mark the sea change that had occurred, Converse self-recorded an omnibus tape of all her guitar songs to date. Titled "Musicks (Volumes I and II)," the recording project seems to be both a final look back at where she'd come from and a declaration of where she was headed. The tape reel ends with the only extant performance of Converse singing and playing one of her piano compositions, "Vanity of Vanities." An entirely new voice had emerged. Unrequited love, a theme that haunts the narratives of her entire musical catalogue, features prominently in the piano songs, an œuvre that would culminate in Converse's final and most ambitious compositional endeavor--a cycle of art songs inspired by the Cassandra myth.

In January, 1961, frustrated by her inability to find an audience for her music, Converse left New York. She was nearing middle age, with no significant professional, artistic, or romantic prospects. Her brother and his wife had made a life ensconced in the heady, liberal milieu surrounding the University of Michigan, and Converse chose Ann Arbor as a place to start over. She volunteered as a political activist, worked on a novel, and took a series of ever more demanding academic jobs that took a toll on her physically and mentally, eventually leading to a breakdown. In August, 1974, one week after her fiftieth birthday, she mailed a series of cryptic notes and letters to family and friends that spoke of a need to make a fresh start somewhere else, and quietly drove away. She was never heard from again.

November 23, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 6:34 PM


Questioning Donald Trump (THE EDITORIAL BOARDNOV. 22, 2016, NY Times)

[I]f President-elect Trump moderates his views, and then crystallizes those views in policies that, as he put it, "save our country," we will commend him on growth in office. "I am awed by the job," he said.

The problem is, as pleasant as it was to hear those remarks, it was alarming to confront how thinly thought through many of the president-elect's stances actually are. Consider climate change. Mr. Trump said that he valued clean air and water, but that he hadn't decided if combating climate change was worth the expense. "I have a totally open mind," he said, making a virtue of not knowing the issue.

Or take torture. In the campaign, he stoutly defended waterboarding, which is contrary to American values and illegal under international law. Yet one conversation, with Gen. James Mattis, a candidate for defense secretary, may have changed his mind. General Mattis told Mr. Trump what experts have been saying for years: Torture doesn't work. Mr. Trump said he was "impressed and surprised" by General Mattis's assurance that, "Give me a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers and I'll do better."

We would applaud any sensible change of position, however arrived at. Mr. Trump's apparent flexibility, combined with his lack of depth on policy, might be grounds to hope he will steer a wiser course than the one plotted by his campaign. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:04 PM


After the election, a Thanksgiving to unite us (Melanie Kirkpatrick, November 22, 2016, The Wall Street Journal)

To understand how Lincoln came to believe in the healing power of a national Thanksgiving, it is necessary to examine the remarkable life of the woman who made it happen. She used her position as editor of the most popular magazine of the pre-Civil War era to conduct a decadeslong campaign for a countrywide Thanksgiving holiday. She is often called the godmother of Thanksgiving. Her name was Sarah Josepha Hale.

Hale's story is a classic American saga of how one enterprising, hardworking individual with a good idea can have an impact in an open, democratic society. In this case, a penniless young widow from New Hampshire--subject to all the limitations attached to such a station in life in the early 19th century--rose to become the editor of the most widely circulated magazine of her era, Godey's Lady's Book.

As editor--or "editress," as she preferred to be addressed--Hale set out to publish American authors writing on American themes. This approach contrasted with that of other magazines of the day, which typically reprinted articles pirated from English publications. Hale lined up American writers such as Harriet Beecher Stowe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Washington Irving and Edgar Allan Poe. Her interest in culture extended to everyday aspects of American life--food, fashion, manners, child rearing and running a household.

Thanksgiving Day, a homegrown holiday, fit into Hale's mission of focusing on Americana. She saw it as a patriotic occasion along with the Fourth of July and Washington's Birthday. Thanks in part to Hale's campaign, by the time the Civil War began nearly every state marked its own Thanksgiving Day on dates ranging from September to December. Her goal was to have it established as a national holiday and observed on a uniform date throughout the country. George Washington had selected the last Thursday in November as the date of the first national Thanksgiving in 1789, so that was the date she chose.

Hale helped consolidate popular support for a national Thanksgiving by publishing editorials making the case for the holiday, fiction and poems set around Thanksgiving Day, and recipes for traditional Thanksgiving dishes such as roast turkey and pumpkin pie. Her hope wasn't simply to see Americans feast on the same foods on the same day, but she was shrewd enough to realize that the culinary appeal of Thanksgiving was another selling point for her vision of a shared celebration.

Meanwhile, she conducted a letter-writing campaign, soliciting support for her project from presidents, governors, congressmen and other influential Americans. On Sept. 28, 1863, Hale sent a letter to Lincoln. The subject she wished to lay out before the president, she wrote, "is to have the day of our annual Thanksgiving made a National and fixed Union Festival." The editor asked the president to "appeal to the Governors of all the States" to follow suit. "Thus the great Union Festival of America would be established." The result, as we know, was Lincoln's decision to declare a national day of Thanksgiving.

In his 1863 proclamation, Lincoln reminded Americans that the Civil War would eventually end. He asked them to look beyond the current horrors to a better day, when the country "is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom."

Posted by orrinj at 6:02 PM


Looks Like Most Voters Disagree With Trump on Just About Everything (Eric Pianin, November 23, 2016, Fiscal Times)

Perhaps the sharpest divide between the Republican president-elect and voters is over immigration policy, the issue that helped catapult Trump to victory. Trump rallied his core supporters with fiery vows to deport millions of illegal immigrants, oppose measures allowing undocumented aliens to obtain legal status or a path to citizenship, and build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

But according to the Quinnipiac University findings, voters by a margin of 55 percent to 42 percent are opposed to building a wall along the southern border, notwithstanding Trump's boast that he would persuade the Mexican government to pay for it. Moreover, 60 percent of all voters are in favor of allowing illegal immigrants to remain in the country and be offered a path to citizenship, compared with just 25 percent who say they should simply be deported.

The pollsters noted that the 60 percent share of voters in favor of a more humanitarian immigration policy was the largest percentage since Quinnipiac University first began asking that question four years ago.

Posted by orrinj at 5:56 PM

...AND SAFER...:

Crime in Decline : Innovative conservative solutions beyond mass incarceration are keeping crime rates low. (Ken Cuccinelli, Nov. 23, 2016, US News)

The most important takeaway from these numbers is that today, still, we are in a time of historically low crime. This increase in public safety has come at a time when dozens of states, mainly in conservative jurisdictions like Texas, Georgia, South Carolina and Mississippi, have found alternatives to incarcerating low-level offenders that decrease their likelihood of re-offending, thus keeping us all safer.

Let me restate that last point, as it may seem counterintuitive: States are innovating with programs that include alternatives to jail and result in lower crime rates by those offenders. That means less taxpayer dollars spent and safer communities - at the same time.

Smart, targeted use of incarceration of dangerous criminals preserves law and order. However, as we have seen, the correct prescription isn't always to lock up every offender and throw away the key. In fact, this has been shown to exacerbate the problem in the case of many low-level offenders.

Posted by orrinj at 5:52 PM


Shi'ite Militia Completes Encirclement Of Mosul, Cutting Off IS Militants In City (Radio Liberty, November 23, 2016)

Iranian-backed Iraqi Shi'ite militia fighters say they have completed the encirclement of the Islamic State (IS) stronghold of Mosul -- cutting off militants in the northern Iraqi city from the rest of the country and from Syria.

An umbrella group that brings together pro-government Shi'ite militia groups said their advance on the west side of Mosul linked up with the positions of Kurdish Peshmerga fighters on November 23.

Posted by orrinj at 5:21 PM


U.S. Treasury encourages Brazil trade with Iran - official (Reuters- Nov 23, 2016) 

The U.S. Treasury has reassured Brazilian banks they can finance trade with Iran without fear of sanctions, opening the way to billions of dollars in potential exports of jet planes, buses and equipment, a senior Brazilian official said on Wednesday.

Posted by orrinj at 4:50 PM


Nikki Haley Gets a Foreign-Policy Credential for Her Future Presidential Run (Ed Kilgore, 11/23/16, New York)

It's a perfect arrangement for Nikki Haley as well. She could become the Kellyanne Conway of Team Trump's global interface, earning regular credit for softening and humanizing the Boss's cruder and more dangerous pronouncements -- someone Trump haters can praise as an exception who proves the general rule of his bad character and unsteady views. In the longer run, this highly telegenic 44-year-old pol who has already given her party's response to the State of the Union Address and has made Veep short lists, will get the foreign-policy résumé line necessary to make her a national political figure for many years to come. I'd say the odds Haley will someday be a GOP presidential contender will go up to about 90 percent assuming she is confirmed for this very visible job.

Posted by orrinj at 4:47 PM


We are witnessing the end of the liberal era (Nile Gardiner, November 21, 2016, CNN)

The winds of change are sweeping through the West, challenging decades of conventional wisdom, overturning the dominant liberal consensus, and reviving a greater sense of national identity and self-determination. Without a doubt, the extraordinary victory by the Vote Leave campaign in Britain's EU referendum was a precursor to the November presidential election in the US, with an emphatic humbling of the political establishment against all odds and all expectations. Though the Brexit campaign was in many respects different to that of Mr. Trump in both style and messaging, both succeeded in delivering a political earthquake that shook the global political order.

Above all, the Brexit victory was a huge blow to the European Project and the idea of supranationalism. Europe's ruling elites, from Brussels to Paris and Berlin, fear its impact, with the potential unraveling of the entire EU over the next couple of decades. If Brexit is a success, as seems increasingly likely, others will follow. And the US will now likely play an important role in helping to ensure that Brexit works, with the new President and a Republican-dominated Congress in favor of a US-UK free trade deal. [...]

The Brexit win demonstrated that sovereignty matters and that attempts to suppress it will fail in the long term. It is hard to believe that the European Union will survive in its current form, with increasing tensions over the refugee influx, a mounting eurozone debt crisis, and a growing Islamist terror threat assisted by gravely inadequate border controls.

Supranationalism goes against the grain of history and human instinct, and will surely go the way of the dinosaur. But it must not be replaced by isolationism or protectionism, and to their credit the leaders of the Brexit movement presented a vision for Britain that revolved around free trade, free markets and assertive leadership on the world stage, centered upon core alliances. Those alliances include the Anglo-American Special Relationship and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Posted by orrinj at 4:42 PM


Carson accepts Trump's offer to head Housing and Urban Development: WSJ (Diane Bartz, 11/23/16, Reuters)

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, a former presidential rival, on Wednesday accepted an offer from President-elect Donald Trump to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing a Carson spokesman.

As recently as last week, Carson had told The Washington Post he was not interested in a Cabinet job, saying, "Having me as a federal bureaucrat would be like a fish out of water."

Which shows where inner cities fall on the priority list...

Posted by orrinj at 2:16 PM


The Alt-Right Movement Is in Disarray, Founder Claims It's Civil War (Lukas Mikelionis, November 23, 2016, Heat Street)

Mike Cernovich, who is described by the New Yorker as "the meme mastermind of the ALT-right" and a "troll," slammed Spencer after the Heil Trump incident, saying "this is what controlled opposition looks like." He suggested that throwing Nazi salutes at the event filled with journalists serves no other purpose than to deliberately discredit the alt-right movement.

Many fans of Cernovich saw his reluctance to embrace white supremacy as a betrayal, causing Cernovich's favorite insult -- that of insufficiently white nationalist conservatives being called "cucks" -- to be turned on him.

Speaking with Heat Street, Richard Spencer said that "Mike Cernovich's comments are ridiculous and insulting. ... I would want to avoid any unnecessary civil war, but it looks like we have one," he added, regarding tensions within the alt-right.

Earlier this year, Spencer also said that his movement is suffering from "entryism" by people who are "edgy" and willing to provoke. However, he said, they aren't really part of the movement.

Infowars' Editor at Large Paul Joseph Watson, another prominent figure within the movement, tried to save the reputation of the movement. He suggested that, actually, there are two "Alt-Rights". One that just likes to "wear MAGA hats, creates memes & have fun," while the other "faction" is obsessed with "Jews, racial superiority, and Adolf Hitler." He added: "the latter faction are incredibly obsessed with identity politics. 

One is openly anti-semitic, the other secretly.
Posted by orrinj at 2:09 PM


Saudi Arabia's sway in OPEC limited by resurgent Iraq and Iran (Anthony Dipaola, Sam Wilkin, 11/23/16, Bloomberg)

Iraq and Iran, shaking off shackles of sanctions and war, have raised oil output to record highs and are asserting themselves within the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. Together they produce more than 8 million barrels of oil a day, nearly a quarter of the oil pumped by the group, and both want to boost their output further.

The ambitions of OPEC's second- and third-largest producers are the main obstacle to the Saudi-backed effort to trim the group's output and buoy prices. Even if members reach a deal next week and accept production quotas, the reluctance of Iraq and Iran to cut output bodes poorly for their long-term cooperation with the kingdom -- and for stability in global oil markets.

Posted by orrinj at 2:00 PM


Trump Taps DeVos to Lead Education Department (Bill McMorris, November 23, 2016, Free Beacon)

DeVos is the chairman of the American Federation for Children, the nation's largest school choice advocacy group. The federation has worked at the state and local level to advance the expansion of charter schools and other education reforms. She and her husband, entrepreneur Dick DeVos, created the West Michigan Aviation Academy, a charter high school in Grand Rapids, in 2011.

Nearly 40 percent of the academy's student body is economically disadvantaged and more than one in three students are minorities. It has reached parity with other district schools and was one of just 93 Michigan schools to earn a Silver Medal from the US News & World Report's high school rankings. US News & World Report ranked the school among the top 70 schools in the state, which had about 900 public and charter schools in the 2015-2016 school year, and named it one of the 1,800 best schools in the country.

DeVos' selection to lead the Department of Education won plaudits from Michigan public policy experts. Ben DeGrow, director of education policy at the free market Mackinac Center for Public Policy, praised DeVos' record of school reform.

"Betsy DeVos has been a long-time champion of parental choice and educational opportunity, both here in Michigan and around the nation," DeGrow told the Washington Free Beacon. "It will be exciting to see how her appointment gives her a bigger platform to further advance this important cause."

Michigan mega-donor: Trump doesn't represent GOP (JASON RUSSELL, 3/7/16, Washington Examiner)

On Feb. 25, the family picked its horse in the 2016 GOP primary: Marco Rubio. Betsy DeVos spoke with the Washington Examiner about why Michigan is unique, how Rubio can beat Donald Trump and why education should be a bigger factor in the campaign.

"I think Rubio's campaign has continued to be competitive across the board in every state in which the primaries or caucuses have been held," Betsy DeVos said. (AP Photo)
Washington Examiner: You and your husband recently announced that you'll be supporting Marco Rubio in the Republican primary. Why did you wait so long to decide on a candidate, and why did you choose to back Rubio?

DeVos: We as a family decided to, as many did, see how things unfolded nationally. There were a number of candidates that we felt would be very capable, that we could easily embrace and support. As the field has continued to narrow, after Gov. [Jeb] Bush exited the race, we felt it appropriate and an important time to lend our voice, whatever impact that might have, particularly with Michigan's primary coming up. That was our impetus to embrace and publicly support Sen. Rubio. [...]

Examiner: Trump has now earned more than a quarter of the delegates he needs to clinch the nomination. How concerned are you Trump will be the Republican Party's nominee?

DeVos: I don't think Donald Trump represents the Republican Party. I continue to be very optimistic that as we get further along into the process, the more voters know about him, and the more informed they are, the more they're going to continue to break away. That's even held true in the primaries held to date. I think he has underperformed compared to public polls just days before the Super Tuesday contests. I think more and more people are going to realize that they really don't trust him. The more they learn about his record, they're going to break away and go to an alternate. I continue to think that Rubio is a very strong and viable candidate that will represent our party and the future for our country very, very well.

Posted by orrinj at 1:41 PM


Americans Have More to Be Thankful for than You'd Think (MICHAEL TANNER, November 23, 2016, National Review)

Consider the economy. In the aftermath of a long, negative campaign, you could be forgiven for assuming that the economy is terrible. But while there are certainly many Americans who are suffering, overall, median household income in the United States increased by 5.2 percent last year, to $56,516. Median incomes increased almost across the board in every region of the country. Of course there is still room for improvement, but this is undeniably good news. 

One reason for the income growth is that more Americans are working. Unemployment has been hovering around 4.9 percent this year, the lowest since 2008, and the labor-force-participation rate has actually ticked upward on a year over year basis.  [...]

Just as America's economy was painted in overly dire terms during the campaign, crime was made out to be a bigger problem than it actually is. In reality, with the exception of a handful of cities, crime rates are down. According to the FBI, the violent-crime rate has fallen by more than half in the last 25 years. The murder rate has fallen from 9.8 per 100,000 people in 1991 to 4.9 in 2015. There have been similar declines in the rates of rape, robbery, burglary, and theft.

And while terrorism catches the headlines, the chances that you will actually be killed in a terrorist attack remain absurdly low. Since 1975, 3,423 people in America have been killed by terrorists, including 2,983 on 9/11. The chances of dying in an attack committed by a foreign-born terrorist are 1 in 3.6 million per year. [...]

And for those concerned about the family, there's good news on that front, too: More Americans are getting married. According to researchers at Bowling Green State University, there were 32.2 marriages for every 1,000 unmarried women age 15 or older in 2015, up from 31.9 in 2014. Our marriage rate is now the highest it's been since 2009, and is showing signs of stabilizing after decades of decline. We are staying married, too. Last year, the U.S. divorce rate declined for the third year in a row, and is now at its lowest point in nearly 40 years.

So the two big things we've learned on the right since the election are that Hillary hadn't actually done anything wrong and the Obama years were pretty awesome?  No wonder it was the most Establishment election ever...

Posted by orrinj at 1:35 PM


Trump taps Nikki Haley to be UN ambassador : She's a rising star in the Republican Party and is Trump's first female appointee to a Cabinet-level post. (NAHAL TOOSI and ALEX ISENSTADT, 11/23/16, Politico)

Haley, 44, a rising star in the Republican Party and a daughter of Indian immigrants, has led South Carolina since 2011. She is Trump's first female appointee to a Cabinet-level post, and she would be taking on a position that requires intense diplomatic and navigational skills in an often-frustrating international bureaucracy. [...]

In 2015, Haley drew national praise and attention for her response to a mass shooting at an African-American church in Charleston, when she called for the Confederate battle flag to be removed from the grounds of the state capitol. "By removing a symbol that divides us, we can move forward as a state in harmony and we can honor the nine blessed souls who are in heaven," she said, while acknowledging that some saw the flag as a symbol of tradition.

During the Republican presidential primary, Haley was sharply critical of Trump's policies, especially his proposal for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States, which she called "un-American." Haley's parents are members of the Sikh faith, but she's a Christian and attends a Methodist church.

Haley endorsed Florida Sen. Marco Rubio ahead of the South Carolina primary, and campaigned with him vigorously throughout the state, which he lost by 10 percentage points to Trump. And when she delivered the Republican response to President Barack Obama's State of the Union address, Haley urged the party to reject the "angriest voices" -- a line widely seen as aimed at Trump.

November 22, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 6:13 PM


US: Air strike kills Abu Afghan al-Masri in Syria (Al Jazeera, 11/22/16)

The killing of Egyptian Abu Afghan al-Masri took place near Sarmada, located in Syria's Idlib province, on November 18, Pentagon spokesperson Peter Cook told reporters on Tuesday. [...]

Masri was a religious judge in Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, an armed group formerly known as the al-Nusra Front until its formal break with al-Qaeda earlier this year. 

The air strike was the latest in the US programme of targeted killings in Syria and Iraq. Earlier this month, the Pentagon announced that on October 17 it had killed Haydar Kirkan, who it said was a member of al-Qaeda and had been close to the late Osama bin Laden. 

In October, the Pentagon said a US air strike near Idlib had targeted a Nusra senior leader, Ahmed Salama Mabrouk, an Egyptian also known by his nom de guerre Abu Faraj.

Posted by orrinj at 6:02 PM


Canada Moves Ahead on Carbon Taxes, Leaving the U.S. Behind (Peter Fairley,  November 21, 2016, mit tECHNOLOGY rEVIEW)

The British Columbia tax started at C$10 (U.S.$7.40) per metric ton of carbon dioxide on fossil fuels consumed in the province, and it ratcheted up to C$30 per metric ton by 2012. The tax is revenue-neutral, with proceeds used to cut corporate and personal income taxes.

Most academic studies find that British Columbia's tax is reducing carbon emissions by 5 to 15 percent without hurting economic growth, and that a special tax break to offset its impact on low-income families has succeeded. "The tax appears to be highly progressive," says Nicholas Rivers, an expert in energy and economic modeling at the University of Ottawa.

Likewise, the Washington tax was to start next year at $15 per metric ton (adding, for example, about 15 cents to every gallon of gasoline), then rise to $25 in 2018 and grow annually thereafter by a further 3.5 percent plus inflation until it reached $100 per ton. Revenues were to cut existing taxes and provide tax benefits for low-income families.

The initiative garnered strong grassroots support as well as endorsements from Democratic and Republican legislators, including former Republican Senator Slade Gorton and Joe Fitzgibbon, who chairs the state legislature's environment committee. But the Washington initiative was opposed by both fossil fuel interests as well as advocacy groups that favored spending carbon revenues on development projects to ensure a "just" transition to a low-carbon economy.

In Canada, meanwhile, politicians from all major parties are pushing carbon taxes nationwide. Last month Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that his Liberal Party government will institute a national carbon tax plan in 2018. And last week a contender for leader of the official opposition in Parliament, Canada's Conservative Party, unveiled a more ambitious carbon tax.

Provincial leaders have done much of the heavy lifting already. Canada's two largest western provinces will have carbon taxes operating as of January 1, when Alberta follows British Columbia's lead with a C$20 per metric ton carbon levy that's set to rise to C$30 in 2018. And as of March, Canada's eastern heavyweights Ontario and Quebec will auction carbon credits under a cap-and-trade market that California kicked off in 2012.

Trudeau's national carbon tax plan encourages the remaining provinces to operate their own programs, and mandates that all attain a minimum carbon price that ratchets up from C$10 in 2018 to C$50 in 2022.

Conservative parliamentarian Michael Chong wants to push carbon taxes to C$130 per metric ton in 2030, providing the policy certainty that he says businesses need to plan investments. And whereas some provinces such as Quebec and Ontario are using carbon revenues to fund programs, Chong's plan mirrors the revenue neutrality of British Columbia's carbon tax. "Every last cent will be used to introduce one of the largest income tax cuts in Canadian history," vows Chong.

Posted by orrinj at 4:40 PM


Steve Bannon and the Last Crusade (Noah Smith, 11/21/16, Noahpinion)

Some of the malign energy of al-Qaeda, ISIS, and other radical Islamic groups has been directed against the West and against Christians, yes. But most of it has been directed at other Muslims in Muslim countries. Only a very small part of what we're witnessing is a continuation of the eternal clash between Europe and the Middle East. Most of it is an internal civil war within the Islamic Umma.

Let's look at the main wars currently being fought by radical Islamic forces. These are:

Syrian Civil War (~470,000 dead)
2nd Iraqi Civil War (~56,000 dead)
Boko Haram Insurgency (~28,000 dead)
War in Afghanistan (126,000 dead)
Somali Civil War (~500,000 dead)
War in Northwest Pakistan (~60,000 dead)
Libyan Civil War (~14,000 dead)
Yemeni Civil War (~11,000 dead)
Sinai Insurgency (~4,500 dead)

This is a lot of dead people - maybe about 2 million in all, counting all the smaller conflicts I didn't list. But almost all of these dead people are Muslims - either radical Islamists, or their moderate Muslim opponents. Compare these death tolls to the radical Islamist terror attacks in the West. 9/11 killed about 3,000. The ISIS attack in Paris killed 130. The death tolls in the West from radical Islam have been three orders of magnitude smaller than the deaths in the Muslim world.

Three orders of magnitude is an almost inconceivable difference in size. What it means is that only a tiny, tiny part of the wars of radical Islam is bleeding over into the West. What we're seeing is not a clash of civilizations, it's a global Islamic civil war. The enemy isn't at the gates of Vienna - it's at the gates of Mosul, Raqqa, and Kabul.

And radical Islam is losing the global Islamic civil war. In Syria and Iraq, ISIS is losing. In Nigeria, Boko Haram is losing. In all of these wars except for possibly Afghanistan, radical Islamic forces have been defeated by moderate Islamic forces.

Sometimes that's because of Western aid to the moderates. But much of it is just because a medievalist regime holds very, very little appeal for the average Muslim in any country. Practically no one wants to live under the sadist, totalitarian control of groups like ISIS. These groups are fierce, but their manpower is small and their popular support is not very large anywhere.

The great task facing the US after 9-11 was to direct the Islamicists away from the Far War to the Near War.  We could hardly have been more successful.

Posted by orrinj at 4:28 PM


U.S. Dementia Rates Are Dropping Even as Population Ages (GINA KOLATA, NOV. 21, 2016, NY Times)

"The dementia rate is not immutable," said Dr. Richard Hodes, director of the National Institute on Aging. "It can change."

And that "is very good news," said John Haaga, director of the institute's division of behavioral and social research. It means, he said, that "roughly a million and a half people aged 65 and older who do not have dementia now would have had it if the rate in 2000 had been in place."

Keith Fargo, director of scientific programs and outreach at the Alzheimer's Association, said the group had been encouraged by some of the previous research showing a decline but had also been "a little bit nervous" about drawing conclusions because the populations in the earlier studies were so homogeneous.

Now, he said of the new data, "here is a nationally representative study. It's wonderful news." [...]

Then there is the education question. On average, older Americans in 2012 had one more year of schooling than older Americans in 2000. And years of education were associated with decreased dementia risk in this study, as in many others.

It is still not clear exactly why education would reduce the risk of dementia. There is the cognitive reserve hypothesis: that education changes developing brains in a good way, making them more resistant to dementia, and that people with more education have brains that are better able to compensate for dementia damage.

But education also is linked to more wealth. People with more education often live in environments that differ from those of people who have less schooling, and they tend to have better health over all. They also are less likely to smoke.

Posted by orrinj at 4:13 PM


Trump's Neo-Nationalists : 'America first' is not a policy or a motto. It's an implicit accusation of disloyalty (BRET STEPHENS, Nov. 21, 2016, WSJ)

Mr. Bannon also says he's "America first," which--see if you can spot the difference--either is or isn't "America First." Either way, the animating impulse behind "America first" is that there are some Americans who put their country second, or last, presumably behind their ethnic loyalties, ideological affinities or economic interests. America first isn't a policy program or a political motto so much as it is an accusation of disloyalty. What real American, after all, wouldn't put "America first" in his political priorities?

Mr. Bannon's answer, along with that of the alt-right movement he has proudly championed through his Breitbart website, is "the globalists." The globalists are supposed to be the bankers at Goldman Sachs who paid Mrs. Clinton her handsome speaking fees. They are editorial writers at this newspaper, who champion the virtues of free trade and a liberal immigration policy. They are the "warmongers" demanding sanctions on Russia for invading Ukraine.

But the truth is that Wall Street bankers, recently naturalized immigrants and even mainstream journalists have as much right to advocate a view of the American interest as Mr. Bannon and his fellow travelers. That's the American way, which disavows traditional concepts of nationalism in favor of a broader ideal of citizenship--identity defined primarily by participation and aspiration, not ancestry. Nationalism may be a fine idea for Japan or Iceland. America is exceptional because it's built on a different premise.

As for Mr. Bannon's admiration for nationalist movements, that might explain the odd way in which Breitbart has deployed anti-Semitic tropes to denounce "globalist" Jewish writers such as the Washington Post's Anne Applebaum while being stalwart in its support for Israel. Whatever the case, the distinction between nationalism and ethno-nationalism is a slippery one.

As my colleague Bari Weiss pointed out in a recent article in Tablet, the foremost figure of today's alt-right, Richard Spencer, dreams of "a new society, an ethno-state that would be a gathering point for all Europeans. It would be a new society based on very different ideals than, say, the Declaration of Independence." 

Posted by orrinj at 4:05 PM

Golden Cheddar Cheese Crisps (Sally Vargas, November 21, 2016, Simply Recipes)

6 ounces sharp cheddar (about 2 cups grated)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of cayenne pepper, to taste (optional)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon black sesame, poppy, coriander, or cumin seed

1 Heat the oven to 350F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Using the large holes of a grater, grate the cheese.

2 Make the crisp mix: In a bowl, combine the flour, paprika, baking powder, and cayenne. Add the butter, and mix with a fork or your fingers until blended in. Stir in the seeds. Add the grated cheese and toss with your hands to combine.
Golden Cheddar Cheese Crisps

3 Form and bake the crisps: Mound tablespoon-size portions of the cheese mixture on the baking sheets, spaced 2 inches apart. Flatten them slightly with the back of the spoon.
It's not absolutely necessary, but you can also use a 2-inch round cookie cutter as a mold to keep the cheese tidy if you like. Place the cutter on the baking sheet and drop a spoonful of cheese mix into it. Lift the cutter, level the cheese, and repeat until you have made all the crisps.
Golden Cheddar Cheese Crisps

4 Bake for 9 to 12 minutes, or until golden.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 PM


Fight the 'blight' of windfarms near my golf courses, Trump urges Ukip leader (Robert Booth in London, Severin Carrell in Edinbugh, David Smith in Washington, 22 November 2016 , The Guardian)

The president-elect said he was "dismayed that his beloved Scotland has become overrun with ugly wind farms which he believes are a blight on the stunning landscape", according to a member of the delegation that came with UKIP leader Nigel Farage to meet Trump on the first weekend after his shock election win.

Andy Wigmore, the communications director for Leave.EU - the successful Brexit campaign led by Farage - said Trump urged the group, which included UKIP's major donor Arron Banks, to campaign against the spread of off shore wind in Scotland. [...]

The New York Post's editorial board wrote on Tuesday: "Of all the issues facing the president-elect and his brain trust, the question of how to avoid conflicts of interest with his global business may be the thorniest."

Trump has stated that he will hand over management of the Trump Organisation to his children but it was notable this his daughter Ivanka was present at a meeting with Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe.

In his discussion with the New York Times, Trump seemed to shrug off the potential conflicts of interest. According to Haberman's Twitter feed, he said: "The law's totally on my side, the president can't have a conflict of interest."

He added: "In theory I could run my business perfectly and then run the country perfectly. There's never been a case like this."

Posted by orrinj at 3:56 PM


Posted by orrinj at 3:51 PM


Donald Trump changes his mind on climate change, Clinton, the press in meeting with The New York Times (Jeva Lange, 11/22/16, The Week)

On climate change in November 2012: "The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive."
On whether humans contribute to climate change now: "I think there is some connectivity."

On the Paris climate accords in May 2016: "We're going to cancel the Paris climate agreement."
On the Paris climate accords now: "I have an open mind to it."

On The New York Times at 6:31 a.m. ET: "Perhaps a new meeting will be set up with the @nytimes. In the meantime they continue to cover me inaccurately and with a nasty tone!"
On The New York Times at 1:06 p.m. ET: "I would like to turn [our relationship] around. I think it would make the job I am doing much easier."

On "locking up" Hillary Clinton in October 2016: "If I win I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation, because there's never been so many lies, so much deception.
On "locking up" Hillary Clinton now: "It's just not something that I feel very strongly about."

Posted by orrinj at 3:48 PM


What If Trump Wanted More Illegal Immigration? Wait, He's On It! (Tyler Cowen, 11/22/16, Bloomberg View)

Imagine that a new U.S. president, different from the one we just elected, set out to maximize the number of illegal Mexican immigrants. Maybe he or she saw electoral advantage in this, or maybe just thought it was the right thing to do. But how to achieve that end? Imagine also that I was called into the Oval Office to give advice.

I would start by recommending an enormous new program of fiscal stimulus and construction. Let's rebuild our roads, bridges and power grids, and put up some new infrastructure as well, including perhaps an unfinished border wall. That will require a lot of labor, and Mexican labor, including that of the illegal variety, is common in the construction business. The financial crisis, and the resulting freeze-up in the housing market, was a major reason why Mexican migration to the United States went into reverse, so a new building program might counteract that trend. ­

But wait, that's not enough. When state and local governments hire people to perform labor, they insist on some pretty serious documentation of legal employment status. The federal government does the same. So the stimulus plan will have to be designed to evade such enforcement possibilities.

How? Well, profit-seeking private contractors are less concerned with the legal status of their workers, provided they have some kind of plausible deniability. They'll sometimes hire illegal immigrants on the basis of falsified papers, or seek out contractors who don't even ask for documentation. In other words, we'll have to run the stimulus program through private contractors to get the maximum inflow.

By the way, infrastructure programs will help illegals in other ways, more than would citizen-focused Social Security or Medicare benefits, for example. Illegal immigrants use roads and mass transit and electricity and other forms of infrastructure all the time. And they won't suffer much if subsidies for health insurance under Obamacare are reallocated to construction because it was so hard for them to get those subsidies in the first place.

Fiscal stimulus, however, is not enough. 

Posted by orrinj at 3:44 PM


Is Yak the New Cashmere? (SCOTT CHRISTIAN, Nov. 22, 2016, WSJ)

CASHMERE, ALPACA and merino wool. Come winter, these are the fibers that blend practicality with prestige. This season, however, a more exotic, high-status newcomer is turning the heads of adventurous sweater-wearers: Himalayan yak.

Similar in many ways to cashmere, yak is warm and light, prized both for its softness and its durability. "Yak is really interesting," said Luca Berga, merchandising director for Italian company Slowear, whose brand Incotex has been using yak for several years now. "It has the same performance as cashmere but a completely different story."

That story begins with altitude. Both the yak and the cashmere goat hail from the same harsh mountain terrain of the Himalayas, but the yak lives at higher levels and has developed an extremely thick and warm undercoat to withstand the crueler chill. While cashmere fiber measures between 14.5 and 17 microns, yak fiber averages a beefy 19 to 20 microns.

Posted by orrinj at 3:41 PM


Trump Foundation Admits To 'Self-Dealing' (HANK BERRIEN, NOVEMBER 22, 2016, Daily Wire)

The Donald Trump Foundation has admitted to the IRS that it violated a legal ban against "self-dealing," which prohibits nonprofit leaders from using their charity's money to help themselves, their businesses or their families.

Posted by orrinj at 3:23 PM


Dow tops 19,000 for the first time as stocks rise to new record highs (AP, 11/22/16)

U.S. stocks are rising Tuesday morning after most major indexes closed at record highs the day before. Food producers Campbell Soup and Hormel are trading higher after they reported strong quarterly results, and discount store chains Dollar Tree and Burlington Stores are climbing after raising their forecasts.

U.S. home sales reach strongest pace in nearly a decade (AP, 11/22/16)

Americans bought homes in October at the fastest pace in nearly decade, helped out by low mortgage rates that have since started to climb following the presidential election of Donald Trump.

OPEC to debate oil output cut next week but Iraq, Iran hesitate (Reuters, 11/22/16)

[S]ources also said the representatives of Iran, Iraq and Indonesia had expressed reservations about their level of participation in the proposed deal.

Posted by orrinj at 1:52 PM


Italy to push Iran trade ties, undaunted by Trump (REUTERS, 11/22/16)

Italy's industry minister pledged on Tuesday to support business deals with Iran potentially worth billions of dollars, undeterred by fears U.S. President-elect Donald Trump could put slowly thawing international relations back on ice.

Iran re-joined the global trading system in January after a multilateral deal between world powers, and Italian firms eagerly started drawing up commercial agreements.

Posted by orrinj at 1:46 PM


Conservationists herald bag tax impact on beach rubbish (BBC, 22 November 2016)

The charity's Great British Beach Clean report found just under seven bags per 100 metres of coastline cleaned.

That is a 40% drop from the average 11 bags found in 2015 and is the lowest number in 10 years.

Posted by orrinj at 1:42 PM


Asia Laments Trump Rejection of Pacific Trade Pact (ELAINE KURTENBACH, 11/22/16,AP)

President-elect Donald Trump says he wants to pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership but other Pacific Rim leaders are vowing to push market-opening efforts they say are vital for growth.

The possible decline of the 12-nation TPP could give a boost to alternative initiatives including one promoted by China in which the United States is not taking part.

Posted by orrinj at 1:29 PM


5 Things Trump Yelled At The Press About. #4 Will Make You Laugh Hysterically. (JAMES BARRETT NOVEMBER 22, 2016, Daily Wire)

4. Trump to NBC: Stop showing pictures of me with a double chin.

In the most hilarious moment of the contentious meeting, Trump turned to the members of NBC and blasted them for presenting him in as unflattering a light as possible, specifically noting that they couldn't even come up with an attractive photo of him during broadcasts. According to NPR's source, his main complaint was the networks use of "photographs showing him with multiple chins."

LA Times and Mother Jones Under Fire for Glamorizing White Supremacist (Masha Froliak, November 22, 2016, Heat Street)

Both stories attempted to decipher the alt movement through one of its main protagonists--the president of the Neo-Nazi group Richard Spencer. And this is where it got weird.

Mother Jones referred to Spencer as a "dapper white nationalist," while the LA Times called the group a "new think thank" and referred to Spencer as "the up-and-coming intellectual voice of the movement."

The Twitter outrage is unsurprising.

Yes, this is the guy who later in his interview with Mother Jones talks about racial supremacy of white people, who claims that Hispanics and African Americans have lower average IQs than whites and are more genetically predisposed to commit crimes. that they not pretend to "fair" coverage of these guys.

November 21, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 6:38 PM


Low Marks for Major Players in 2016 Election - Including the Winner (Pew Research, 11/21/16)

But voters' "grades" for the way Trump conducted himself during the campaign are the lowest for any victorious candidate in 28 years. Just 30% of voters give Trump an A or B, 19% grade him at C, 15% D, while about a third (35%) give Trump a failing grade. Four years ago, most voters (57%) gave Obama an A or B, and after his 2008 election, 75% gave him an A or B.

For the first time in Pew Research Center post-election surveys, voters give the losing candidate higher grades than the winner. About four-in-ten (43%) give Clinton an A or B, which is comparable to the share giving Mitt Romney top letter grades in 2012 (44%) and 13 percentage points higher than Trump's (30%).

Posted by orrinj at 5:56 PM


Sneakers show limits of trade policy in reviving jobs for Trump (Timothy Aeppel and Mai Nguyen, 11/21/16, Reuters)

Nike Inc (NKE.N) and its smaller, privately held rival New Balance Shoes Inc split over the question of whether the United States should back the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal. But if Trump and a Republican-controlled Congress nix that trade deal as expected, both companies and the analysts who track them agree Asia is poised to keep its dominance as the industry's manufacturing hub.

Companies like Nike have invested too much in those lower-wage economies to consider moving factories, even if tariffs rise and push up costs for American consumers, analysts say. Any new hiring in the United States will be years down the road and depend on refining production technologies like 3-D printing that could make it profitable to hire relatively small numbers of American production staff. The same dynamic applies to other industries, like auto parts, which have moved production to Mexico over the past two decades, executives say.

That suggests a problem that the Trump administration will bump against if it tries to pursue a harder line on trade agreements from NAFTA to TPP. Shoe companies, like other manufacturers, could be forced to pass on higher costs to consumers, but few executives see a serious case for new hiring in the United States because of a change in tariffs on imports.

Posted by orrinj at 5:49 PM


Jeff Sessions' Other Civil Rights Problem (THOMAS J. SUGRUE, NOV. 21, 2016, NY Times)

Eight years after his failed nomination, Mr. Sessions was elected Alabama's attorney general. While he held the position for only two years -- using it as a steppingstone for his campaign for the Senate -- he left an indelible mark. He used the power of his office to fight to preserve Alabama's long history of separate and unequal education.

Mr. Sessions became attorney general four decades after the Supreme Court struck down segregated schools in its landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision. In the intervening years, racial segregation diminished somewhat, but separate and unequal continued in another form. In 1956, as a way to sidestep Brown, Alabama voters amended the state Constitution to deprive students of a right to public education. Public support for school funding collapsed in its aftermath.

As a result, by the early 1990s, huge disparities in funding separated Alabama's haves and have-nots. Alabama's wealthiest school district (and also one of its whitest), Mountain Brook, in suburban Birmingham, spent nearly twice as much per student as the state's poorest, Roanoke, in a declining manufacturing town about two hours southeast. Poor schools often lacked even rudimentary facilities, including science labs. They struggled to pay teachers, even to repair dilapidated school buses. Half of Alabama's school buildings lacked air conditioning. Underfunded schools had a particularly hard time meeting the needs of disabled students, whom they were required to support under federal law.

Nearly 30 of Alabama's poorest school districts, with support from disability rights groups, civil rights organizations and the American Civil Liberties Union, filed suit against the state. The most vocal critics of school reform, including the far-right activist Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum, warned that it would bring "socialism" to Alabama.

After nearly three years of litigation, Judge Eugene W. Reese of the Alabama Circuit Court found the inequitable funding unconstitutional and ordered the state to come up with a system to remedy the inequity.

Attorney General Sessions led the battle against the decision. He argued that Judge Reese had overreached. It was a familiar war cry on the segregationist right: An activist court was usurping the power of the state's duly elected officials to solve the problem on their own. For the next two years, Mr. Sessions sought to discredit Judge Reese and overturn his ruling. In one of the twists of austerity budgeting in the mid-1990s, Mr. Sessions had laid off 70 lawyers in the attorney general's office, and had to find outside counsel to handle the case. Lawyers working on contract for the office were to be paid no more than $85 per hour, but for the challenge to the equity case, the fee cap was lifted.

Posted by orrinj at 5:44 PM


Good Luck Saudi Arabia, You're Going To Need It (Tim Daiss,  11/21/16, Forbes)

Depending on your political preference, you either have to feel sorry for Saudi Arabia or savor the moment . [...]

In a fever-pitched attempt to protect market share, particularly in Asia and Europe, they kept pumping and pumping, so much that they reached new output levels in July. The Saudis had also hoped to shut out as much U.S. shale oil production as possible, but that also backfired.

U.S. production did indeed drop, but its coming back. According to a Goldman Sachs report in September, U.S. shale oil production could increase as much as 700,00 barrels per day (bpd) by the end of next year - effectively wiping out the previous two-plus years of losses. Others, however, see U.S. shale oil coming back, but at a slower pace.

The results of the Saudi pump-at-all-costs decision has indeed been cataclysmic for the global oil industry, but also for Saudi Arabia itself, with problems ranging from historically high budgets deficits (nearly US$100 billion last year) to being forced to put in place its first ever and politically unpopular austerity measures.

Who prefers Wahabbism?

Posted by orrinj at 5:31 PM


Theresa May sets out grand bargain with business (George Parker, 11/21/16, Financial times)

Setting out her business strategy, the UK prime minister proposes in the Financial Times a pact with corporate Britain to work together to defend capitalism, free markets and free trade from populist attacks.

She promises to back business with a new industrial strategy that will include an extra £2bn a year by 2020 to support research and development.

Mrs May, who on Monday will address the annual conference of the CBI, Britain's biggest business lobby, says she wants the UK to become the world's "go-to place for scientists, innovators and tech investors".

Philip Hammond, the chancellor, will present his first Autumn Statement mini-budget this week and will announce more investment in road improvements, while Mrs May will tell the CBI that the government will support innovation through the tax system and deliver the "lowest corporation rate in the G20".

Corporation tax is already due to come down to 17 per cent in 2020 -- the lowest rate in the G20 -- but Mrs May's allies said Britain could drop the rate to 15 per cent if Donald Trump fulfilled his promise to cut US business tax to that level.

Mrs May is also planning to dilute one of her most contentious business proposals, that workers should be represented on company boards.

Why tax them at all?

Posted by orrinj at 5:26 PM


Iraq's ascendant Shiite militias take the fight to Tal Afar (BRIAN ROHAN, 11/20/16, Associated Press)

Currently a sideshow compared with the street-to-street fighting in Mosul, some 70 kilometers (44 miles) to the east, the battle for Tal Afar is certain to boost Shiite power. And its significance could be just as great -- if not greater -- for Iraq and the future of the region than the main battle for Mosul itself.

Officially, the Iraqi government and top militia leadership say that only Iraqi army units will enter Tal Afar, once dominated by Shiites but now primarily Sunni Turkmen, a minority in the country with cultural and historic links to nearby Turkey to the north.

But some of the militias' most powerful units, as well as field commanders and troops -- all backed by a newly empowered Iran -- tell a different story.

Jaafar al-Husseini, spokesman for Iraq's Hezbollah Brigades, said it is the militias backed by Shiite-heavy army units and Iranian weapons that will lead the charge into Tal Afar to drive out IS extremists.

"The Iranians are with us," he said, adding that Tehran was supporting the militias directly, including strategy from Revolutionary Guards commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who is in charge of a crescent of Shiite power stretching from Tehran to Beirut.

"Our mission and that of the (Iraqi Shiite) Badr Brigades is to encircle Tal Afar from the east. Then we will storm it," he said, adding that Soleimani visited a nearby staging ground three days ago.

Iraq's Shiite militias mobilized against IS in 2014. Since then, they have shown a growing determination to be a major force shaping the country.

Posted by orrinj at 2:20 PM


Nazi imagery on full display at alt-right event in Washington (ALEXANDER FULBRIGHT November 21, 2016, Times of Israel)

At an event of the alt-right National Policy Institute on Saturday night, attendees reportedly spouted Nazi propaganda and slogans, yelling "Heil the people! Heil the victory," and extended their arms in Nazi salutes, showcasing the extremist views of the white nationalist group that has been emboldened by Donald Trump's presidential run.

Speakers quoted Nazi propaganda in the original German and described Trump's election victory as "the victory of will," using the name of a famous Nazi propaganda film that championed Hitler and the Nazis' rise to power in 1930s Germany, The New York Times reported.

People at the event also referred to the media as the "Lugenpresse," a term used by Nazis that translates as "lying press." National Policy Institute head Richard Spencer, who has been described as a forerunner of the alt-right movement, implied that the press's opposition to Trump derives from a desire to defend Jewish interests. [...]

In a Wall Street Journal interview on Saturday, Bannon said that "our definition of the alt-right is younger people who are anti-globalists, very nationalist, terribly anti-establishment."

Economic Nationalist is the new Swiss.

How Stephen Bannon Promoted Racists and Anti-Semites to the Front of American Politics (Cathy Young, November 21, 2016, Heat Street)

The alt-right, or "alternative right," is a loosely knit movement that was born around 2010 and gained mainstream visibility last year -- thanks in no small part to Breitbart's efforts. It includes many different shades of right-of-center ideology that reject mainstream conservatism. But a look at alt-right websites, statements explaining its philosophical underpinnings, and its leading figures shows that the alt-right is predominantly a racist movement in the classic sense of the word: It rejects human universalism and believes that people and cultures are defined first and foremost by race and ethnicity. There are, no doubt, those who consider themselves alt-right and do not share this view. But at its core, the alt-right is folks who think that the spirit of America is found not in the Declaration of Independence with its proclamation that "all men are created equal," but in a 1790 law that limited United States citizenship to "free white person[s]."

To be sure, that's not an outlook you will find overtly expressed on Breitbart. But while Breitbart is not quite an alt-right website, there is no question that it began to court that fringe movement in the summer of 2015, shortly after the launch of Trump's presidential campaign -- mostly via the site's most visible contributor, flamboyant anti-political correctness crusader Milo Yiannopoulos. (Disclosure: I was on amicable terms with Yiannopoulos until last spring and was a guest on his Breitbart Tech webcast twice.) [...]

Several months later, Breitbart ran a lengthy essay by Yiannopoulos and his frequent co-author Allum Bokhari titled "An Establishment Conservative's Guide to the Alt Right." While Breitbart editor-in-chief Joel Pollak has defended the piece as "journalism" in a National Public Radio interview, it smacked more of unabashed boosterism. Yiannopoulos and Bokhari had nothing but praise for the alt-right's "dangerously bright" and "eclectic" thinkers, such as blogger Steve Sailer, whom they credited as a pioneer of "human biodiversity" (the belief that inherent racial and ethnic differences in intelligence, criminality, and moral judgment not only exist but should inform public policy). While they mentioned that alt-right websites such as VDARE, The Unz Review, and Alternative Right (now Radix Journal) had been "accused of racism," the clear implication seemed to be that such accusations were a politically correct reaction to heretical opinions. The authors also took a sympathetic view of the movement's rank-and-file followers who felt betrayed by mainstream conservatism and looked to the alt-right for a "new identity politics" championing the "tribal concerns" of white people.

Yiannopoulos and Bokhari acknowledged that a large contingent of alt-right posters on social media were trafficking in blatantly racist and anti-Semitic material, often using it to harass Jewish critics of Trump. But they not only hand-waved this conduct as mere rebellious antics by young people fed up with PC nannyism but lavished compliments on the alt-right "meme brigades" known for anti-Jewish caricatures and gas chamber jokes: "fresh, daring and funny," an "outburst of creativity and taboo-shattering." Real neo-Nazis, the article assured readers, were a tiny percentage of the alt-right, openly derided and scorned by the rest of the movement.

In fact, as I wrote at the time, a look at alt-right Twitter profiles shows that most of its active posters seem to be quite serious about their white supremacist and anti-Semitic beliefs. And it's not just a handful of marginal users: One of the leading alt-right accounts, "Ricky Vaughn," who made MIT's list of 200 top "election influencers" before being banned from Twitter in early October, tweeted regularly about "feral blacks" and the evil of Jews.

What's more, the websites mentioned by Yiannopoulos and Bokhari as the alt-right's intellectual hubs are full of blatantly bigoted content. Regular VDARE contributors include retired California State University-Long Beach psychology professor Kevin MacDonald, who believes that Judaism is an "evolutionary strategy" by which Jews seek dominance and that Jews living in majority-gentile societies pursue their collective interests by working to subvert and weaken their host cultures. Sailer, too, has suggested that Jews "use their influence over the media ... to depress, demoralize, and divide other groups' children." Richard Spencer, the founder and editor-in-chief of Alternative Right and later Radix Journal, advocates all-white "homelands" -- off-limits to Jews, whom Spencer does not regard as truly white.

Defending Bannon on NPR, Pollak asserted that the Yiannopoulos/Bokhari "Guide" was Breitbart's "only alt-right content." Yet a search of the website turns up numerous other items promoting and glamorizing the alt-right and even using its own jargon to mock its conservative critics as "cucked." In May, Breitbart also published a piece by an actual alt-right social media figure, "Pizza Party Ben," attacking Shapiro for his failure to board the Trump Train and mocking him for talking about his anti-Semitic harassment (of which a later study found he was the top target). "No one hates Jewish people," scoffed "Ben," who must not have been paying attention to his comrades-in-virtual-arms.

No one knows to what extent Bannon personally greenlit or supervised Breitbart's alt-right lovefest. But it is a fact that last July, he told Mother Jones' Sarah Posner, "We're the platform for the alt-right." He also insisted that the alt-right was not racist or anti-Semitic, conceding only that there were some racists and anti-Semites involved in the movement. Meanwhile, Spencer has told The Daily Beast that "Breitbart has acted as a 'gateway' to Alt Right ideas and writers."

Posted by orrinj at 2:09 PM


'Biggest invisible thing on earth?' - It's called Indonesia, and it's waking up (Elizabeth Pisani, 20 November 2016, The Guardian)

Indonesia's democratic rebirth came with what some see as a second wave of decolonisation. For the first five and a half decades of its existence, the nation was firmly ruled from the capital Jakarta, largely for the benefit of the 60% of Indonesians who are squashed in to the single island of Java.

The resentment this caused contributed to the 1998 downfall of the country's second leader, Suharto, after 32 years in power. There followed a "big bang" decentralisation that turned Indonesia's many geographic, cultural and ethnic fiefdoms from vassals of the central government in Jakarta into quasi-autonomous democracies.

Among the many votes Indonesians now cast, the one that affects their lives most directly is that for district head or mayor. Voters laughingly refer to these local potentates as "little Sultans" because they are so powerful. They make most of the important decisions about education, healthcare and local infrastructure; they dole out jobs and contracts, regulate entertainment, and negotiate the transport routes that are all-important in an island nation.

Though Indonesia's current president, Joko Widodo, known as Jokowi, has made much of his support for infrastructure development, it is driven less by a well-planned push from Jakarta than by active demand from politicians directly elected in district and provincial governments. Though progress is slow, those demands are gradually overcoming the hurdles raised by the country's geography.

Decentralisation has had an effect on innovation-squashing bureaucracy also, though not all of it good. In many areas, district governments have simply pasted cumbersome new layers on to an already dysfunctional administrative system.

But in a few districts, adventurous politicians have experimented with radical reforms: they require civil servants to show up on time, to treat citizens with respect, to do their jobs without being bribed. These individuals have become local heroes and media darlings: their popularity has in many cases provided a springboard to higher office, including the presidency. Jokowi rose from small-town mayor to governor of Jakarta and on to the presidency on the strength of his no-nonsense approach to local government.

Posted by orrinj at 1:47 PM


Romney at State Would Be Disastrous (DANIEL LARISON, November 21, 2016, American Conservative)

Putting Romney at State would be a poor choice on the merits, though it would certainly be no worse than picking Giuliani. Like Giuliani, Romney has no foreign policy experience to speak of, and he has consistently derided every effort at diplomatic engagement over the last eight years. I can think of few other top positions in government for which Romney is more poorly-suited. Unless Romney completely reinvented himself once again, his foreign policy views would be just as bad as Bolton's or Giuliani's, and I have a hard time believing that a Romney-led State Department would pursue improved ties with Russia. Romney would bring with him everything that was and is wrong with conventional Republican foreign policy, and he would presumably be an advocate for all of the confrontational policies that he supported during his last presidential campaign. Neither would be good for U.S. foreign policy. If the choice really is down to Giuliani or Romney, the next administration will have a very aggressive and hawkish Secretary of State, and there will be no point in pretending otherwise.

Did the Right really think Donald was going to be Isolationist any more than the UR was going to be when the Left devoutly hoped?

November 20, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:00 PM


Bannon rejects, and supplies ammunition to, those who label him anti-Semitic (Ron Kampeas, November 20, 2016, JTA)

[I]n both interviews Bannon doubled down on his worldview in which "globalists" are seeking control, and once again, wittingly or unwittingly, invoked echoes of movements that have been hostile to Jews.

"I'm an economic nationalist," he told the Journal. "I am an America first guy." "America First" was the World War II era isolationist movement that decried mounting calls for America's involvement in the war as Jewish manipulation.

Bannon acknowledged, as he has in the past, that the nationalists he admires have attracted anti-Semites and racists to their ranks...

Unwittingly? Please...
Posted by orrinj at 6:37 PM


The End Game (GEOFFREY NORMAN, 11/10/14, weekly Standard)

Atlanta had been holding out for some six weeks after Sherman's army had defeated the forces under J. B. Hood in a series of bloody battles that pushed the Confederates into defensive positions inside the city where they, and the civilian population, were supplied by a single rail line. When that was cut in the battle of Jonesboro, Atlanta was doomed, and Hood took his troops out of the city, lest they starve there as John Pemberton's army had at Vicksburg. On his way out, Hood put all useful military supplies to the torch, a scene that was dramatized 75 years later in Gone with the Wind.

A week after sending his message to the president, Sherman ordered that "the city of Atlanta, being exclusively required for warlike purposes, will at once be vacated by all except the armies of the United States."

In a wire to his superior in the War Department, General Halleck, Sherman went on record. "If the people raise a howl against my barbarity or cruelty, I will answer that war is war and not popularity-seeking."

And to the mayor of Atlanta, who did, indeed, protest an action that would make civilians homeless refugees with winter approaching, he said, in effect, that he agreed. That it was a hard and heartless thing, but, he added, "You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it."

He would do what he must, then, and Mayor Calhoun should do the same. Which meant he must leave Atlanta "and take with you your old and feeble, feed and nurse them .  .  . until the mad passions of men cool down and allow the Union and peace once more to settle over your old homes at Atlanta."

And this was just the beginning.

Posted by orrinj at 2:24 PM


Two cheers for democracy : A review of Toward Democracy: The Struggle for Self-Rule in European and American Thought by James T. Kloppenberg (James Piereson, New Criterion)

Professor Kloppenberg hits upon a couple of broad themes that were important in the rise of popular government but which are not sufficiently appreciated today. The first is the link between the Protestant reformation and the rise of popular government and of the mutually reinforcing spread of these two movements from the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries. He emphasizes the connections between the Christian virtues of benevolence, simplicity, and reciprocity and the rise of democracy. As Benjamin Rush, one of the American founders, wrote in a letter to John Adams: "The precepts of the Gospel and the maxims of republics in many instances agree with each other." Jefferson described Christianity as the religion "most friendly to liberty, science, and the freest expansion of the human mind." Still, Christianity dominated the European continent during the twelve centuries from the conversion of Constantine to the Protestant reformation without provoking any movements in the direction of democracy. It was the specifically Protestant interpretation of Christianity, with its various emphases on congregational government, the disestablishment of religion, the authority of individual conscience in matters of religion, the literal interpretation of the Bible, and the corruption of the Roman Church, that ignited the movements in Europe and North America toward popular government and away from monarchy and theocracy. The cause was strengthened in America by the fact that many of the early European settlers were Protestant refugees from religious oppression, though very little of it came from Roman sources. Professor Kloppenberg deftly follows the religious thread all the way through this period showing how Christian ideals--usually Protestant interpretations of those ideals--found secular expression in movements for popular rule.

A second theme in the book is the central roles played by revolutions and civil wars in the rise and eventual triumph of the democratic movement. The three great revolutions of that era--the English, American, and French--provide ample evidence for that point, as does the American Civil War, which Professor Kloppenberg sees as a culminating event in the three-century struggle for popular government. Perhaps it was inevitable, as he suggests, that a novel movement in the world had to make its way forward through revolution and civil war. At the same time, as he also emphasizes, the hatreds and lingering resentments that flowed from these events also slowed the further march of democracy in all three countries. His point about violence is entirely accurate, and one that he might have pressed further. After all, the rise of democracy as a governing ideal in our time would have been inconceivable absent those victories in the three great wars for democracy between 1861 and 1945--the American Civil War and the two world wars in the first half of the twentieth century. In view of this, it is a good question why Professor Kloppenberg ended his narrative with the U.S. Civil War instead of developing it further to take account of the world wars that proved so decisive to the triumph of democracy in the twentieth century.
Toward Democracy is an important and finely crafted book, but there is a muddle at the center of it. What is democracy? Professor Kloppenberg never provides a clear definition of what he means by it, or how his understanding comports with or departs from the traditional understanding according to which democracy is a flawed form of government. He does attempt a definition of sorts when he writes that democracy rests upon the pillars of popular sovereignty, equality, and autonomy, though this seems incomplete and unsatisfactory as a definition. The fact remains that none of the great popular governments of our time would qualify as a democracy as that term has been traditionally defined. The authors of the United States Constitution did not create a democracy but a constitutional republic based upon representation and formal checks on the power of majorities.

Posted by orrinj at 2:02 PM


For Trump adviser Stephen Bannon, fiery populism followed life in elite circles (Matea Gold, Rosalind S. Helderman, Gregory S. Schneider and Frances Stead Sellers, November 19, 2016, Washington Post)

He gave regular airtime to Milo Yiannopoulos, who was banned from Twitter after cheering on supporters who barraged "Ghostbusters" actor Leslie Jones with racist and sexist tweets. Bannon described an anti-Islamic activist who campaigns against what she calls "creeping sharia" in the United States as "a voice in the wilderness." A former Heritage Foundation staffer who had argued that Hispanic immigrants have lower IQs was "one of the smartest brains out there in demographics, demography, this whole issue of immigration," Bannon said.

From his perch as chief of the Breitbart News empire, which produced the satellite radio show, Bannon cemented his role as a champion of the alt-right, an anti-globalism movement that has attracted support from white supremacists and helped power Donald Trump's populist White House victory. [...]

Although Bannon and those close to him have said he is not racist, he has nonetheless shown a willingness to accommodate "fringe organizations," as he described the extremists attracted to populism in a 2014 address unearthed by BuzzFeed. Eventually, those elements would fall away, he assured the audience: "Over time, it all gets kind of washed out, right?"

Under Bannon's hand, Breitbart articles offered dire warnings of the threats posed by immigrants. Bannon's radio show provided a steady diet of apocalyptic warnings about radical Islam's rise, asserting that Europe had been subject to a "quasi-invasion." Breitbart stories ridiculed feminists, and Bannon once angrily denounced a female colleague as a "bimbo" in the 1990s, according to court records. An ex-wife's allegations that Bannon said he did not want his children to attend school with Jews -- comments he denied making -- have spurred accusations that he is anti-Semitic. [...]

For Bannon, the mission is to ignite a broader populist movement -- even if that means tolerating extremist viewpoints, associates say.

"He is not a racist," said Julia Jones, a self-described "Bernie Sanders liberal" who was Bannon's screenwriting partner for 16 years. "I think he is using the alt-right for political purposes." [...]

He said his approach was influenced by liberal filmmaker Michael Moore and Nazi propagandist Leni Riefenstahl.

Posted by orrinj at 10:33 AM


Military Experts: Trump Defense Spending Plans Would Break the Budget (PAUL MCLEARY, NOVEMBER 17, 2016, Foreign Policy)

Defense experts said the plans would cost almost $100 billion more than the Pentagon has currently budgeted for Trump's first term, an amount that would require Congress to change laws setting budget caps for the Pentagon.

Still unknown, however, is where that money would come from, given Trump's other plans to slash taxes while keeping many entitlement programs intact and also embarking on a $1 trillion infrastructure improvement program.

It's 1992, defense will be cut, not increased.

Posted by orrinj at 10:30 AM


Priebus: 'We're Not Going to Have a Registry Based On a Religion' (Weekly Standard, NOV 20, 2016)

Incoming White House chief of staff Reince Priebus said the government will not have a registry of people "based on a religion" but did say he would not rule out anything with respect to preventing radicalized people from entering the United States. Speaking with Chuck Todd on NBC's Meet the Press Sunday, Priebus said there are some people that should not enter the country because of their radical views.

Posted by orrinj at 10:24 AM


The Tories are now 12 points ahead of Labour (Jim Edwards, 11/20/16, Business Insider)

The Labour party is 12 points behind prime minister Theresa May's Conservative party in the most recent UK voter intention opinion poll, from Opinium...

And that's with UKIP still getting 12%, which would all be Republican votes here.  There is no future in returning Left.

Posted by orrinj at 10:14 AM


The End of Identity Liberalism (MARK LILLA, NOVEMBER 18, 2016, NY Times)

It is a truism that America has become a more diverse country. It is also a beautiful thing to watch. Visitors from other countries, particularly those having trouble incorporating different ethnic groups and faiths, are amazed that we manage to pull it off. Not perfectly, of course, but certainly better than any European or Asian nation today. It's an extraordinary success story. [...]

But the fixation on diversity in our schools and in the press has produced a generation of liberals and progressives narcissistically unaware of conditions outside their self-defined groups, and indifferent to the task of reaching out to Americans in every walk of life. At a very young age our children are being encouraged to talk about their individual identities, even before they have them. By the time they reach college many assume that diversity discourse exhausts political discourse, and have shockingly little to say about such perennial questions as class, war, the economy and the common good. In large part this is because of high school history curriculums, which anachronistically project the identity politics of today back onto the past, creating a distorted picture of the major forces and individuals that shaped our country. (The achievements of women's rights movements, for instance, were real and important, but you cannot understand them if you do not first understand the founding fathers' achievement in establishing a system of government based on the guarantee of rights.)

When young people arrive at college they are encouraged to keep this focus on themselves by student groups, faculty members and also administrators whose full-time job is to deal with -- and heighten the significance of -- "diversity issues." Fox News and other conservative media outlets make great sport of mocking the "campus craziness" that surrounds such issues, and more often than not they are right to. Which only plays into the hands of populist demagogues who want to delegitimize learning in the eyes of those who have never set foot on a campus. How to explain to the average voter the supposed moral urgency of giving college students the right to choose the designated gender pronouns to be used when addressing them? How not to laugh along with those voters at the story of a University of Michigan prankster who wrote in "His Majesty"?

This campus-diversity consciousness has over the years filtered into the liberal media, and not subtly. Affirmative action for women and minorities at America's newspapers and broadcasters has been an extraordinary social achievement -- and has even changed, quite literally, the face of right-wing media, as journalists like Megyn Kelly and Laura Ingraham have gained prominence. But it also appears to have encouraged the assumption, especially among younger journalists and editors, that simply by focusing on identity they have done their jobs.

Which is why the Common Core should focus on civics, not job skills.  Our republican conformity is our strength.

Posted by orrinj at 10:05 AM


Jobless Claims in U.S. Decline to Lowest Level in Four Decades (Patricia Laya, November 17, 2016, Bloomberg)

The fewest Americans since 1973 filed for unemployment benefits last week, a sign that the U.S. labor market is getting tighter.

Jobless claims dropped by 19,000 to 235,000 in the week ended Nov. 12, which included the Veterans Day holiday, a Labor Department report showed Thursday in Washington. The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey called for an increase to 257,000. Continuing claims fell below 2 million to a 16-year low.

We're gonna need a lot more immigrants.

Posted by orrinj at 9:44 AM



No one voluntarily watches the press conferences of Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader. Covering them is a form of civic duty. "A man with the natural charisma of an oyster," Gail Collins once called him. On Wednesday afternoon, the constitutionally taciturn McConnell took questions from the press for almost half an hour. The senator had spent the past six years stringing Washington along, devoting the upper house of Congress to a program of obstruction, delay, and non-compliance on the theory that this would benefit the Republican Party--and now he had been proved right. He opened on a "parochial matter," praising the success of Republicans in his home state of Kentucky, who won seventeen seats in the state legislature and would control the body for the first time in ninety-five years. The news, McConnell said, "only added a little more happiness to my evening."

McConnell's basic perspective is that political movements recede, and change is fleeting. "I think it is always a mistake to misread your mandate," he said. "Frequently, new majorities think it is forever." McConnell said flat-out that some of Donald Trump's proposals--a trillion dollars in new infrastructure projects, a Washington reform bill that includes term limits for members of Congress--would not be priorities for Senate Republicans. He spoke more warmly of other ideas--tax cuts for corporations and a correction to "overregulation," which he said was the reason the country never achieved three-per-cent annual economic growth under President Obama. Of Trump's voters, McConnell said, "They might not have put it this way, but the lack of growth is the reason for the lack of opportunity." Of plans to repeal Obamacare, he said, "I would be shocked if we did not move forward." McConnell said that the election had given Republicans a "temporary lease on power," and that he was concerned about overreach. That, he said, was the mistake the Democrats made after 2008, when they controlled a super-majority in the Senate. "And then they paid a big price for it two years later." [...]

Donald Trump is a cynic about human beings and McConnell is a cynic about political progress; the two perspectives are not exactly the same. At his press conference on Wednesday, McConnell was asked about Trump's skepticism about the nato alliance, and his suggestions that the United States could see Russia as a friend. McConnell simply ignored the statements of the President-elect, and spoke to Moscow. "I think Article 5"--nato's mutual-defense pact--"means something," McConnell said. "If you attack any member of nato, you have us to deal with. I want the Russians to understand that fully." At this early date, it is difficult to know what Trump's Administration will look like, or will aim to do. But, beginning in January, Trump will be in McConnell's town. And surely it means something that the Majority Leader is treating the President-elect as a conventional character--a Republican--whether or not Trump fully knows it yet.

Posted by orrinj at 9:38 AM


Pence not offended by comments to him at 'Hamilton' show (Reuters, 11/20/16)

"I wasn't offended," Pence said on "Fox New Sunday," declining to ask for an apology as President Donald Trump had demanded. Pence acknowledged that many Americans were disappointed and anxious after Trump's Nov. 8 election victory, but he sought to reassure Americans that Trump would be a president "for all Americans."

Posted by orrinj at 9:31 AM


Donald Trump's Art of the New Deal? (SAM TANENHAUS, NOV. 19, 2016, NY Times Magazine)

[T]hey have highlighted the curiously dual identity Mr. Trump has created for himself. There is the candidate who vowed to repeal the Affordable Care Act, deport all undocumented immigrants, rollback financial regulations, undo the Iran nuclear deal and repudiate the Paris agreement on climate change. But there is also the Trump who seldom espouses conservative ideology, especially its call to shrink the scope and scale of government. "I'm not going to cut Social Security like every other Republican and I'm not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid," Mr. Trump told The Daily Signal, a pledge he has since backed away from, but only haltingly. Since his victory he has spoken of bringing jobs to the heartland by spending $1 trillion on infrastructure.

This raises a question that has tantalized some observers during Mr. Trump's improbable campaign. As swiftly as he might try to dismantle President Obama's legacy, might he also emerge as a defender of F.D.R.'s?

It may sound far-fetched, but not necessarily to voters in Pennsylvania and Michigan, who, after voting Democratic in 2012, chose Mr. Trump this time. The conflict is brewing with another enclave of the party: its entrenched governing elite. Their leader is House Speaker Paul Ryan, who clashed repeatedly with Mr. Trump during the campaign and has since emerged as a rival architect of the new Republican Party. Mr. Ryan's free-market, anti-New Deal principles are spelled out in "A Better Way," a sheaf of ambitious proposals on issues ranging from jobs and education to health care and taxes. It has become the conservative blueprint, and a postelection survey showed that as many as two-thirds of Republicans think Mr. Ryan "should have more influence over policy" than Mr. Trump, Politico reported.

Thankfully we kept Congress, because Donald with a Democrat Congress would have done real damage, not least to the Court.

Posted by orrinj at 9:12 AM


Sorry Democrats, But Americans Are Remarkably Tolerant People (David Harsanyi, NOVEMBER 16, 2016, The Federalist)

[T]o say there's been a 67 percent surge in bias crimes against Muslims between 2014 and 2015 is factual but incomplete. To put the number in perspective, let's remember that in a nation of around 330 million people there were a total of 257 criminal incidents -- perpetrated by 228 offenders (not every police department reports hate crimes, but most do) -- that officials determined were motivated by anti-Muslim sentiment.

Victims of a hate crime suffer in ways that most of us can't comprehend. Some of these crimes were deadly serious. Most were misdemeanors, however. Among them were acts like vandalism, simple assault (assault that does involve physical contact), and intimidation. None of these crimes are tolerable, and the perpetrators should be fully prosecuted, shamed, and rejected by all decent Americans.

In any event, these numbers, flawed or not, hardly align with the hysterics we've been hearing from the Left these past few years. Hate crimes are a blip when we consider all criminal activity. Even if these numbers were quadrupled, they would still be a blip.

I already know what's coming: But how about this incident! And how about this one! Look what this one said!

No rational person would deny that racists and bigots exist. Believe it or not, as a Jew myself, this election cycle isn't the first time my background has been attacked. When you start likening contemporary political officials to Nazis, though, I tend to think you're shortchanging the people who decimated my family back in the Old Country.

It's also undeniable that over the past year some legitimately worrisome voices have found footing with Republicans. Maybe Steve Bannon is going to be bad news. I wasn't too crazy about Obama nominating someone who claimed her favorite political philosopher was Mao, either. Still, there was no Great Leap Forward.

If you believe one side is normalizing extremism, think about this: Rep. Keith Ellison, a guy whose political career was launched as a member the anti-Semitic and racist Nation of Islam, and who is one of the most radically left-wing members of Congress, may soon be running the DNC. Just juxtapose the stories and rhetoric surrounding Bannon and Ellison. Only one is treated as if he's outside the norm.

In the minds of many, the only reason someone could be critical of Ellison is that he's an African-American Muslim. Democrats have become so fixated on race and identity that they're unable to imagine anything else could matter. Hannah Arendt once wrote that Western intellectuals had adopted one of Communism's most effective tactics: they made all debate about motive rather than the merits of the argument. This outlook has consumed the American Left.

Is there any contemporary political dispute today that doesn't come down to accusing conservatives of harboring deep-seated motives about race or sex? Some (and I really, feel uncomfortable calling them "liberals" anymore) have convinced themselves Trump's victory confirms that half the country is made up of white supremacists -- as if voting and governance were that simple.

In truth, the reason racism is treated as a grievous social sin is because it is so rare and intolerable in everyday discourse. 

Not only did less than half the country vote for Donald, many of those who did view him unfavorably and think he's unsuited to the office and most oppose his immigration "plans."  It's just not a hateful country, except on the Left and the Right.

Trump's Voters Don't Support Deportation (William Saletan, 11/09/16, Slate)

4. Dislike of Trump wasn't enough to sink him. Each candidate won virtually all the voters who had a favorable opinion of that candidate. Clinton's favorable rating was higher, so she came out ahead. But 18 percent of voters had a favorable opinion of neither candidate, and those voters broke for Trump, 49 percent to 29 percent. That made the difference. Given a choice between two candidates they didn't like, they picked the outsider.

5. Bad temperament wasn't enough to sink Trump. Forty-three percent of voters said Clinton lacked "the temperament to serve effectively as president." A much higher number, 63 percent, said the same of Trump. That was expected to be a big advantage for Clinton. But while Clinton won only 5 percent of the 43 percent who flunked her temperament, Trump won 20 percent of the 63 percent who flunked his. So Trump came out well ahead. Many voters saw that his temperament was bad, but voted for him anyway. [...]

8. Trump's voters didn't support deportation. They agreed with him about building a wall on the Mexican border. But when they were asked whether "most illegal immigrants" should be deported or "offered a chance to apply for legal status," 53 percent chose legal status.

Posted by orrinj at 9:07 AM



Over the last decade physicists and mathematicians have been exploring a surprising correspondence that has the potential to breathe new life into the venerable Feynman diagram and generate far-reaching insights in both fields. It has to do with the strange fact that the values calculated from Feynman diagrams seem to exactly match some of the most important numbers that crop up in a branch of mathematics known as algebraic geometry. These values are called "periods of motives," and there's no obvious reason why the same numbers should appear in both settings. Indeed, it's as strange as it would be if every time you measured a cup of rice, you observed that the number of grains was prime.

"There is a connection from nature to algebraic geometry and periods, and with hindsight, it's not a coincidence," said Dirk Kreimer, a physicist at Humboldt University in Berlin.

Posted by orrinj at 9:03 AM


Donald Trump's next default lies dead ahead (BRETT ARENDS, 11/15/16, market Watch)

Indeed it's only a week after the election and it already looks like his campaign promises are being marked down well below par.

No, it seems he's not going to cancel Obamacare on Day One.

He's not going to build a wall along the entire Mexican border.

No, he's not going to deport all the illegal immigrants.

He's not going to stick it to Wall Street "elites" and big investment banks like Goldman Sachs. On the contrary, they're already making out like bandits.

No, he's not going to stick it to the Republican establishment either. He just made RNC boss Reince Priebus his chief of staff.

We can pretty much forget any pledge to wall off his financial interests. (Memo to fellow journalists: If you know what is in a blind trust, it is not a blind trust)

And we can write-off Trump's promise to release his tax returns when the "audit" is complete.

Oh, but it looks like privatizing Medicare might be on the table after all. Oops! Sorry seniors.

As the journalist Elizabeth Crown wrote on Twitter: "The 'Unlying' has begun." Perfect.

Posted by orrinj at 8:56 AM


Changing the rules of the game to close California's housing gap (Jonathan Woetzel, 11/10/16, LA Times)

Housing is a chronic pain point for California. The cost of shelter in the state is so high and wages overall are so low that half of the state's households struggle to make rent or mortgage payments.

The state's affordability crisis is the product of a housing drought: Too few units have been built for the number of people who live here, and there are too many barriers to developing more. Today, California ranks 49th out of the 50 U.S. states in housing units per capita (only Utah has fewer). In a new McKinsey Global Institute report, my coauthors and I estimate that California must build 3.5 million housing units by 2025 to satisfy pent-up demand and meet the needs of its growing population.

The easiest conditions in which to assume the presidency ever.

Posted by orrinj at 8:48 AM


Realist or neocon? Mixed messages in Trump advisor's foreign policy vision (William McCants, July 19, 2016, Brookings)

The book thus offers two very different views of how to exercise American power abroad: spread democracies or stand with friendly strongmen...[P]erhaps it mirrors the confusion in the Republican establishment over the direction of conservative foreign policy.

Some of Flynn's evidence for the alliance diverts into the conspiratorial--I've seen nothing credible to back up his assertion that the Iranians were behind the 1979 takeover of the Grand Mosque in Mecca by Sunni apocalypticists. And there's an important difference between the territorially-bounded ambitions of Iran, Russia, and North Korea, on the one hand, and ISIS's desire to conquer the world on the other; the former makes alliances of convenience easier than the latter. Still, Flynn would basically be a neocon if he stuck with his core argument: tyrannies of all stripes are arrayed against the United States so the United States should destroy them.

But some tyrannies are less worthy of destruction than others. In fact, Flynn argues there's a category of despot that should be excluded from his principle, the "friendly tyrants" like President Abdel-Fatah el-Sissi in Egypt and former president Zine Ben Ali in Tunisia. Saddam Hussein should not have been toppled, Flynn argues, and even Russia could become an "ideal partner for fighting Radical Islam" if only it would come to its senses about the threat of "Radical Islam." Taken alone, these arguments would make Flynn realist, not a neocon.

The book thus offers two very different views of how to exercise American power abroad: spread democracies or stand with friendly strongmen. Neither is a sure path to security. Spreading democracy through the wrong means can bring to power regimes that are even more hostile and authoritarian; standing with strongmen risks the same. Absent some principle higher than just democracy or security for their own sakes, the reader is unable to decide between Flynn's contradictory perspectives and judge when their benefits are worth the risks.

It's strange to find a book about strategy so at odds with itself. Perhaps the dissonance is due to the co-authors' divergent views (Ledeen is a neocon and Flynn is comfortable dining with Putin.) Or perhaps it mirrors the confusion in the Republican establishment over the direction of conservative foreign policy. Whatever the case, the muddled argument offered in The Field of Fight demonstrates how hard it is to overcome ideological differences to ally against a common foe, regardless of whether that alliance is one of convenience or conviction.

This same dynamic is why neocon Islamophobes can excuse anti-Semitism on the Right.

Posted by orrinj at 8:41 AM


White Nationalists Celebrate 'an Awakening' After Donald Trump's Victory (ALAN RAPPEPORT and NOAH WEILANDNOV, 19, 2016, NY Times)

For years, they have lurked in the web's dark corners, masking themselves with cartoon images and writing screeds about the demise of white culture under ominous pseudonyms. But on Saturday, in the wake of Donald J. Trump's surprising election victory, hundreds of his extremist supporters converged on the capital to herald a moment of political ascendance that many had thought to be far away.

In the bowels of the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, three blocks from the White House, members of the so-called alt-right movement gathered for what they had supposed would be an autopsy to plot their grim future under a Clinton administration. Instead, they celebrated the unexpected march of their white nationalist ideas toward the mainstream, portraying Mr. Trump's win as validation that the tide had turned in their fight to preserve white culture.

"It's been an awakening," Richard B. Spencer, who is credited with coining the term alt-right, said at the gathering on Saturday. "This is what a successful movement looks like."

The movement has been critical of politicians of all stripes for promoting diversity, immigration and perceived political correctness. Its critics call it a rebranded version of the Ku Klux Klan, promoting anti-Semitism, violence and suppression of minorities.

Intellectual leaders of the movement argue that they are merely trying to realize their desire for a white "ethno-state" where they can be left alone. Mr. Trump, with his divisive language about immigrants and Muslims, has given them hope that these dreams can come true.

"I never thought we would get to this point, any point close to mainstream acceptance or political influence," said Matt Forney, 28, of Chicago. "The culture is moving more in my direction."

Emboldened by Mr. Trump's takeover of the Republican Party, Mr. Forney said he expected people openly associated with the white nationalist movement to run as candidates in the 2018 midterm elections. The rise of populism and the decline of political correctness, he said, present a rare opportunity. [...]

[A]lt-right leaders said they planned to use their newfound influence to pressure Mr. Trump to take more "heretical" policy positions, such as a moratorium on net immigration for the next 50 years. White Europeans, Mr. Spencer said, would be given preference.

"In the long run, people like Bannon and Trump will be open to the clarity of our ideas," said Jared Taylor, the founder of the white nationalist publication American Renaissance.

Like Mr. Trump, Mr. Spencer, who has become the face of the alt-right, derided NATO as "clumsy and ineffective." He called for friendlier relations with the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, and for the deportation of undocumented immigrants, drawing chants of "build that wall."

Many on the Right seem confused about one aspect of this ; Donald is not guilty by association with these groups; he is guilty by advocacy of their ideas.  

Posted by orrinj at 8:34 AM


The Inspirational Trey Gowdy Speech You Have To See (AMANDA PRESTIGIACOMO, NOVEMBER 19, 2016, Daily Wire)

Conservatives are all well aware of Representative Trey Gowdy's knack for rhetorically obliterating liberals, thanks, in part, to his impressive knowledge of law and the Constitution. But Gowdy can also give impassioned, apolitical speeches sure to inspire us all.   

Last year, the representative gave such a speech at Liberty University, now fittingly deemed the "Pin Drop Speech," about persuasion, scripture and living a life of dignity, among other things. In light of this rough, dirty, mudslinging election between President-elect Donald Trump and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the video has resurfaced -- and it's a must-watch. 

The most moving portion of Gowdy's speech can be viewed below:

Posted by orrinj at 8:29 AM


Top IS Commander Reported Killed In Drone Strike In Afghanistan (RFE/RL, 11/20/16)

Afghan officials say a top commander of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group has been killed in a suspected U.S. drone strike in eastern Afghanistan.

A spokesman for the Nangarhar provincial governor said Mullah Bozorg, a leader of the IS group in Afghanistan, was killed along with seven fighters late on November 18.

The spokesman, Attaullah Khugyani, said the strike was carried out in the Lagharjo area of Kot district.

He added that weapons, ammunition, and explosives belonging to the group were also seized and destroyed.

Posted by orrinj at 8:20 AM


Trump Can't Hear What the Cast of "Hamilton" Tried to Tell Him (Robert Mackey, November 19 2016, The Intercept)

Despite the intensely civil tone of this act of dissent, Trump inaccurately claimed that Pence "was harassed" by the cast of the play, and then described their plea for tolerance as "very rude," before demanding an apology.

 Donald J. Trump ✔ @realDonaldTrump
Our wonderful future V.P. Mike Pence was harassed last night at the theater by the cast of Hamilton, cameras blazing.This should not happen!
8:48 AM - 19 Nov 2016
  31,953 31,953 Retweets   107,756 107,756 likes

That's comic gold right there, as Ms Conway should have told him.

Posted by orrinj at 8:11 AM


On the Benefits of Beards (Dwight Longenecker, 11/20/16, Imaginative Conservative)

I first grew a beard when I was an Anglican priest. The Church of England was going through its interminable round of debates concerning the ordination of women, and when a female parishioner asked why I was growing a  beard I retorted, "To show that there are certain things a woman cannot do." It was meant as a jocular jest, but the woman was inclined toward the feminist ideology, and she stomped off in a harrumph.

Since then I have had facial hair of one sort or another. Recently, I have adopted a full beard trimmed in the style of the tragic Tsar Nicholas. Such a beard takes some grooming and I have found two products that affirm both my ancestry and new-found faith. Honest Amish beard balm reminds me of my Mennonite and Amish heritage, while Barbatus Catholic Beard Balm sustains my Catholic identity.

What are the benefits of a beard? Firstly, it is common knowledge that to be "successful" in the establishment a man should be clean-shaven. Men of power do not grow beards. Therefore, to grow a beard is to display a sign of contradiction. A beard says, "I am not so ambitious and eager to succeed that I will shave my face every morning." A beard is a sign of defiance which says silently, "You quislings may shave your face to conform to society's expectations. But I march to a different drum."

In a society that is increasingly feminized, a beard also makes a statement about masculinity. Without being aggressive or overly assertive, a beard still makes a positive statement about sex. I was semi-serious when I joked that my beard reminds people that there are some things a woman cannot do. This is not to be misogynistic. To state that there are some things a woman cannot do is to also affirm all the things that women do that men cannot do. Women can have babies. How amazing is that?

Women cannot grow beards, and neither can boys. It is arguable that to grow a beard is to grow up. Speaking of women and boys, all the surveys show that women prefer unshaven men. They not only want a man, they want a bearded man.

If a beard is a sign of masculinity to the world, it is also a sign of proper masculinity to the man himself. What I mean is that when you look in the mirror you see a man, and this man makes you think again of the ideal man. That ideal man is one who is strong but tender. He is pure but not puritanical. He is prayerful without being pious, chaste without being scrupulous, and virtuous without being self-righteous.

They say manners make the man, but I contend that the beard makes the manners which make the man. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:55 AM


Trump's top Pentagon pick said settlements were creating 'apartheid' (ERIC CORTELLESSA, November 20, 2016, Times of Israel)

In July 2013, shortly after leaving his post running CENTCOM, Mattis said the current situation in Israeli was "unsustainable" and that settlements were obstructing the possibility of a two-state outcome between Israelis and Palestinians, comments that seem to fly in the face of Trump's position as reported by his Israel advisers.

"The current situation is unsustainable," Mattis told CNN's Wolf Blitzer during a panel discussion at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado when asked about the peace process. "It's got to be directly addressed. We have got to find a way to make the two-state solution that Democrat and Republican administrations have supported. We've got to get there, and the chances for it are starting to ebb because of the settlements, and where they're at, they're going to make it impossible to maintain the two-state option."

Mattis specifically warned that if Israel continued to expand its settlement presence, its long-term character as a Jewish and democratic state would be at risk, ultimately leading to Israel becoming an apartheid state.

"If I'm in Jerusalem and I put 500 Jewish settlers out here to the east and there's 10,000 Arab settlers in here, if we draw the border to include them, either it ceases to be a Jewish state or you say the Arabs don't get to vote -- apartheid," he said.

November 19, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 6:36 PM


Genetic breakthrough: Crops use more sunlight to grow (Victoria Gill, 11/17/16, BBC News)

Scientists have improved "the most important biological process on the planet" - photosynthesis.

The breakthrough, published in the journal Science, used genetic modification to increase the amount of sunlight energy crop plants can channel into food production.

That increased yield in an experimental crop by 15%.

Researchers say this is a critical step towards increasing crop production to feed a growing global population.

Posted by orrinj at 6:31 PM


The GOP's Trump Card in the States : Republicans took the White House in a shocker, but the party has been on a roll at the state and local level throughout the Obama years. (Steven Malanga, November 13, 2016, City Journal)

Dismayed Democrats, wondering if Bernie Sanders might have fared better against Donald Trump than Hillary Clinton did, should be sobered by what happened in Sanders's home state. True-blue Vermont, ranked by Gallup as America's most Democratic state, nonetheless elected a Republican governor on Tuesday, when small businessman and stock-car racer Phil Scott, the state's lieutenant governor, cruised to victory against Democrat Sue Minter, its former transportation secretary.

Scott's win was part of another significant Election Day at the local level for Republicans, who have made massive gains in the states throughout the Obama years. On Tuesday, in addition to Vermont, the GOP flipped party control of the governor's mansion in New Hampshire and Missouri, while defending every seat it held, except perhaps Pat McCrory's in North Carolina, where the election remains too close to call. In addition, the GOP seized control of the legislatures in Kentucky and Iowa. When the dust clears, Republicans will hold at least 33 governors' mansions, up from 22 when Obama took office. That's the most GOP governorships in 95 years. Republicans will also boast control of as many as 33 state legislatures, up from just 14 in 2008. In more than half of all states, Republicans now own a "trifecta," that is, control of the governorship and both legislatures. Democrats have a mere six trifectas.
Republicans are now winning big even in places that still vote Democratic in presidential elections.

Posted by orrinj at 6:27 PM


The Emerging Republican Supermajority (JAMES TARANTO, Nov. 14, 2016, WSJ)

[T]he bigger story, which FiveThirtyEight's Harry Enten noticed: In all 33 Senate races decided on Election Day, the winner was from the same party as the presidential candidate who carried the state. If, as expected, Republican John Kennedy wins the Louisiana runoff, it will be 34 out of 34. That did not happen in any of the 25 previous presidential elections since the 17th Amendment established popular election to the Senate--not even in 1920.

A similar pattern holds in the House. All 30 of the states Trump carried (assuming he holds on in still-uncalled Michigan) will have majority-Republican House delegations in the new Congress. Of the 20 states Mrs. Clinton carried, 17 House delegations will be majority-Democrat. Two (Colorado and Virginia) will be majority-Republican. Maine will be evenly split, with one representative from each party, and Trump took one electoral vote there, from the Second District of Republican Bruce Poliquin.

The Senate trend does not bode well for Schumer's hope of becoming majority leader. In 2012, Democrats won Senate races in five states Mitt Romney carried: Indiana, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota and West Virginia. (Republicans took one seat in a state President Obama carried, Nevada.) Those seats are up in 2018, as are Democratic seats in the Trump states of Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.

If 2018 is a repeat of 2016--that is, if all Trump states elect Republican senators and all Clinton states elect Democratic ones--Republicans will gain nine seats, giving them a total of 61 (or 60 in the event of a Louisiana surprise), a supermajority sufficient to stop a filibuster, assuming filibusters still exist, more on which below.

Posted by orrinj at 6:20 PM


Two-thirds of U.S. voters say they back some gun control: Reuters/Ipsos poll (Reuters, 11/08/16)

Two-thirds of Americans voting in Tuesday's presidential election favor moderate or strong gun control measures, according to an early reading from the Reuters/Ipsos Election Day poll, up from 59 percent who said so in 2012.

Posted by orrinj at 6:03 PM


Improve the Affordable Care Act, Don't Repeal It (John S. Toussaint, NOVEMBER 16, 2016, Harvard Business Review)

What's Working

Payment system changes. Most everyone in the industry believes the present fee-for-service system rewards the wrong behavior. It is a system that focuses on treating sickness and does not reward providers for keeping people healthy and out of the hospital. Hospitalization drives 80% of the overall cost of care. Reducing it can lead to large overall reductions in cost for caring for populations.

The ACA legislation addressed this by establishing different financing models. These new mechanisms have been aimed at paying for value, not volume of services. Administered by the recently created Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI), the models have created rewards for care-delivery organizations that deliver better health outcomes for populations of patients.

CMMI has introduced many payment model changes, including accountable care organizations (ACOs), medical homes, bundled payments, the Comprehensive Primary Care Initiative, and the Comprehensive End Stage Renal Disease Initiative. Other payment-model changes are on the way.

ACOs have grown rapidly, with over 800 now registered with CMMI. They are designed to bring hospitals and physicians together in a structure that delivers more-coordinated, less-wasteful care. The program is early in its life cycle, but the results are showing improved quality with a small but meaningful reduction in the overall cost of care. They are extremely important because providers are paid to avoid unnecessary care, reduce errors, and keep Medicare beneficiaries out of the hospital -- ACOs share in savings created over a pre-established target.

CMMI is now introducing full-risk-sharing models with providers in the Next Generation ACO Model. This can include a per member, per month payment for large populations of Medicare beneficiaries. Allowing providers to have the payment up front will remove the fee-for-service world completely and unleash the creativity of provider systems to design radically new care models that are patient centered.

If CMMI is dismantled, as some have recently suggested, it's imperative this pay-for-value work continues. The bipartisan Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA) legislation is a good example of how both the Republican and Democratic parties can work together in improving the care delivery system. MACRA set up a Physician-Focused Payment Model Technical Advisory Committee. Perhaps this committee can play an important role in threading the needle to show how both parties can work together to make the incentives work.

Public reporting of quality performance data. This is a powerful way to improve care. As a direct result of the ACA provision to publicly report hospital performance, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released overall rating systems for hospitals in July of this year. As its announcement explained, "The new Overall Hospital Quality Star Rating summarizes data from existing quality measures, publicly reported on Hospital Compare, into a single star rating for each hospital, making it easier for consumers to compare hospitals and interpret complex quality information."

MACRA also established similar public reporting activities for physicians. By releasing the Medicare data to certain qualified entities in states, the public has access to comparative reports on individual physicians. In addition, this act gives physicians incentives to move away from fee-for-service to alternative payment models like those described above. This aligns physicians and hospitals to deliver higher-quality, lower-cost care for the populations of patients they serve.

Focus on improvement. Collaborative learning networks have been established throughout the country and are producing encouraging results. CMS has facilitated these networks by committing resources to establish them. An example is the Hospital Engagement Network (HENs). Seventeen HENs were created in 2011, which include more than 3,000 hospitals. Together, they worked to reduce the rates of 10 types of harms, such as patient falls and pressure ulcers. This was part of CMS's Partnership for Patients Initiative, which was designed to improve the quality performance of hospitals. It was a partnership between the government and the private sector, including many consumer groups.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has touted the program's overall success. For example, it stated that 50,000 fewer patients died, 1.3 million adverse events were avoided, and $12 billion was saved at hospitals because of reductions in hospital-acquired conditions from 2010 to 2013. There has been some controversy as to the accuracy of these results, as there was some variation in measurement from hospital to hospital, but overall this improvement initiative delivered real results. The CMS renewed the effort in 2015 for one year.

Similar collaboratives were established for physicians -- for example, the Transforming Clinical Practice Initiative, which was designed to support clinician practices through nationwide collaborative, and peer-based learning networks that facilitate practice transformation.

Eliminating pre-existing conditions as a barrier to coverage. There are two elements of the ACA that appear to have clear bipartisan support. One is allowing people to purchase insurance even if they have a pre-existing condition. This has reduced the insurance rates for this group of people considerably. The other is allowing children up to the age of 26 to stay on their parents' insurance plan. Of course, the irony is that without a risk pool that includes everyone (discussed below), the uninsurable become so expensive that insurance premiums skyrocket -- something that just happened for people who purchase plans on the exchanges.

What Needs to Change

The exchanges. The most attacked provision of the ACA is the insurance exchanges. The cost of insurance is driven by the actuarial risk of the insured. The fundamental flaw of the ACA insurance exchanges was that people could easily opt in and out.

Posted by orrinj at 3:28 PM


The 55-year-old father of a Packers linebacker became the oldest Division I college football player ever (Cork Gaines, 2016 11 19, Business Insider)

Joe Thomas Jr. is a second-year linebacker for the Green Bay Packers. On Saturday, his father, Joe Thomas Sr., became the oldest Division I college football player on record when he carried the ball as a running back for South Carolina State.

The elder Thomas, 55,  joined his son at South Carolina State four years ago and until Saturday his only action had come in practice as a member of the scout team, according to Sports Illustrated. When his son went to the NFL two years ago, Thomas decided to stick with college hoping to eventually get into a game. 

  He was born poor and didn't like walking to school, so he'd take the broken bicycles the wealthier kids abandoned, fix them and keep them. He was driven to doctors across the state for years, but none could find a cure for his hearing, so he would steady himself in front of a mirror most nights and stick a hair clamp down his canals to clean them out. He was placed into a vocational program at his high school, so he set out to become the best damn carpenter and bricklayer he could. He played peewee football but never saw the field at tailback, so he switched to defense and started lifting weights and muscled his way into the rotation.

On the football field, he discovered that determination could overcome nearly any deficiency, even deafness. He began to see that friendships could be based on mutual admiration rather than intimidation. He learned, most importantly, that he could have an identity.

When he was 17 a doctor looked into Joe's ears and saw the build-up he'd accumulated from all those years of thrashing around in a dirt road. He procured a tool that Joe remembers looking like a squirt gun and out gushed decades-old gunk. "Suddenly, I could hear at least 200% better," Joe says.

The world was open to him again. And as his anger faded, his popularity grew. He got up the courage to ask out a girl named Sarah, who would become his wife. And in 1979, as a junior, he finished second on the Blackville High School football team in tackles. He put so much weight on his 5' 10" frame that kids around school took to calling him Hulk. In the final game of the season, he finally got a chance to run the ball. He finished with five touchdowns, so many that the cannon Blackville fired after each score ran out of powder and the opposing coach asked the referees to run the clock continuously in the second half so that he could get home early and hunt deer the next morning before church.

As a senior, Joe believed he would become a star. He continued to play both ways but started at fullback and was the team's second-leading rusher. He insists, to this day, that he was the second best back in the state, that he would have been even more dominant--that he could have made it in college football--had his coach played him more. "What I was doing in South Carolina," he says, without a hint of hyperbole, "was the same thing that Herschel Walker was doing in Georgia."

In the 1980 season, the Hawks marched undefeated into the state playoff semifinals, where they faced their archrivals at Williston, a high school 10 miles west. For decades, Joe has been telling the story of this game. In the long weekend I spend with Joe, he brings it up a dozen times at least. And he always lingers on one point--his coach, Tim Moore, didn't play him enough. "I only got one play at running back," Joe says. "I got the ball and was tackled on the hand off, and we lost the game. If I had run the ball more, we would have won, and we would have won the state championship."

Posted by orrinj at 3:21 PM


Swastikas Are Painted At Adam Yauch Park In NYC -- But Kids Win The Day (BILL CHAPPELL, 11/19/16, NPR)

One day after vandals hit their playground at Brooklyn's Adam Yauch Park, kids took it back Saturday, adorning a make-believe train with hearts and flowers and replacing a message of hate with one of love. [...]

Images from Saturday show the park's rightful occupiers -- kids -- playing on the equipment. Residents brought flowers and notes. A new message was chalked onto the playground's rubber mat: "Love Trumps Hate." Another said that the playground's train is a machine that stops fascists.

Posted by orrinj at 3:02 PM


The Kiwi kings : The current All Blacks are the most dominant rugby side ever. Why? (The Economist, Nov 18th 2016)

So how can we tell that New Zealand's 2016 vintage was the strongest ever? The most reliable measure of team quality comes from Rugby Vision, a predictive model assembled by Niven Winchester, an economist at MIT who also researches rugby probabilities. The system forecasts the results and margins of victory for all major international and most domestic matches. Had you used the model to place $100 spread bets on the scores of each of the 48 games at last year's World Cup, you would have earned a tidy profit of $548 (or 11.4%).

Mr Winchester's predictions are based on team ratings, which are constructed by exchanging points between opponents after a match. Conquering a strong rival means that you gain a large number of their ratings points: Ireland took 1.68 of them from New Zealand in Chicago. Beating a weak team, however, will earn you little. The All Blacks collected no ratings boost at all for their 68-10 thrashing of lowly Italy on November 12th, and actually lost 0.16 points when they edged past Wales by 36-22 on June 18th, a smaller margin of victory than the model expected.

Rugby Vision's system therefore rewards sides that consistently best high-quality opposition, while remaining unimpressed by those that beat up on weaklings. Crucially, the model provides historical probabilities of match outcomes. Mr Winchester has fed into his algorithm the result of every single international fixture since the second world war between teams from "tier one"-- Argentina, Australia, England, France, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Scotland, South Africa and Wales. This can tell us what chances any given team would have of beating the All Blacks at a neutral venue at any point since 1950 (the model uses five years of training data, and accounts for home-field advantage).

The result is that, before this month's batch of Autumn Internationals, the Kiwis were further ahead of their rivals than any other side in history (see chart). Their closest challenger, England, would have had just a 14.9% chance of vanquishing them. If you take the average probability of victory against New Zealand for South Africa, Australia, France and England--the only nations to have beaten them at least five times, and the only other teams to have appeared in a World Cup final--then that number stood at 10.1% at the start of November. Both measurements were the lowest ever seen.

The making of an All Black: how New Zealand sustains its rugby dynasty : A country of just four million is home to arguably the most dominant team in sport. But how do the All Blacks remain at the pinnacle more than 100 years after the 'Originals' established their supremacy? (Andy Bull, 11 September 2015, The Guardian)

Ponsonby was once a run-down neighbourhood, populated largely by Pacific islanders who moved here after the second world war. Then developers came and the demographics changed. A lot of those same families have sold up and moved on. Ponsonby RFC are still here, though, the oldest and most successful rugby club in Auckland. Just like Auckland grammar they are proud of their record of producing All Blacks. They boast 52, putting them equal first among the 520 clubs in the country. Added to that, another 29 men have played Test rugby for Samoa.

Ponsonby play at the Western Springs speedway stadium, their main pitch in the centre of the track, surrounded by steep grass banks on two sides. They run 56 junior and 12 senior teams. This Saturday there are three games on. Two junior matches, though you would never know it from the size of the players. The props must weigh 16 stone apiece. When those matches are over, the players gather around the main pitch to watch the seniors play Pakuranga.

Rieko Ioane is easy to spot. He's in the centre, moving with speed and power that make him just a little sharper than everyone around him. He scores two tries.

Ioane's father played for Samoa, his mother for New Zealand, and his elder brother, Akira, is with the Auckland Blues. At Ponsonby, Mum is the junior administrator and Dad helps manage the seniors.

Earlier in the season Ioane was playing for New Zealand sevens in London. He flew home on the Wednesday, trained on the Thursday, played in a crucial match for Ponsonby on the Saturday. And scored three tries.

After the match everyone gathers in the little clubhouse. There is a bar at one end and an astonishing collection of memorabilia at the other. Among it, sacred relics from the 1905 tour. The Originals' skipper, Dave Gallaher, was a Ponsonby man. Today, France and New Zealand play for the Gallaher Trophy. A 1905 jersey belonging to another player, George Nicholson, is in a glass case. One like it recently sold at auction for £22,000. Ioane and the other Ponsonby players grow up surrounded by this history.

Ponsonby's club ambassador is Bryan Williams. He's here almost every weekend. Williams played 38 Tests for the All Blacks in the 1970s. That was the era of dawn raids, when the government cracked down on "over-stayers", evicting Polynesian families who had been in the country longer than their visas allowed. Williams was one of the very first of Polynesian descent to play for New Zealand and his first tour was to South Africa, of all places. The apartheid government there granted him what it called "honorary white status". Otherwise he would not have been allowed to play.

Bryan Williams, a club ambassador for Ponsonby RFC, played 38 Tests for New Zealand and was one of the very first of Polynesian descent to do so. He is pictured in the clubhouse, which contains photos of old Ponsonby players who played for the All Blacks and George Nicholson's 1905 jersey from 'the Originals', the first team to be called All Blacks, displayed at Ponsonby RFC. Photograph: Scott McAulay for the Guardian

"I was 19 years old, so you can imagine how much anxiety and trepidation I felt," Williams says. "I actually suffered a panic attack when the plane touched down. Suddenly it all hit me and I just thought: 'I can't go through with this, I don't want to get off the plane.' I just sat there, stunned."

His team-mates dragged him from his seat. "I took it one step after another, and suddenly an hour has gone by, then a day, and suddenly you are pulling on a jersey getting ready to play." He was a sensation. Scored 14 tries in 13 games on the tour. "It was hugely satisfying."

Williams's success helped changed attitudes towards Polynesian islanders in New Zealand. "Because I was the first of the modern breed to not only make the All Blacks but stay in there for some time. And what started as a trickle became a flood. I was followed by lots of young Polynesians, second, third generation, people brought up here in New Zealand." Plenty of them are alongside him on Ponsonby's honours board: Joe Stanley, Olo Brown, Va'aiga Tuigamala, Junior Tonu'u. "That rich mix is one factor in New Zealand's success," Williams says.

"When I was growing up in the 1960s we had a great team but we were very conservative in the way we played. They were unbeatable but they weren't renowned for exciting rugby. They were renowned for winning. With the Polynesian influence our rugby has become more adventurous. The Polynesian boys like to throw it around, and step, and laugh and joke." Ponsonby retains that strong Polynesian character today.

Club rugby is not what it was in Williams's playing days. It has been superseded by Super Rugby above and school rugby below. "It is hard to make ends meet," Williams says. "Financially, it is a hard road to hoe." A lot of clubs are dependent on money generated by the gambling industry, which is funnelled back into the community.

Ponsonby are not rich but they are tight-knit. "We're a volunteer operation. We're about coming together, having fun, bringing up kids, setting standards." Because of the area's property boom, they have more new players now than ever.

On registration days at Ponsonby, when parents bring their children to sign up, the queues stretch out the door and down the road. "There are just heaps and heaps of kids," Williams says. Among them, his own grandson, Gianni. "He's four and a half, and he doesn't know which end of the field he is meant to run to. So recently I've been saying to him: 'Gianni, granddad's going to go and stand over there, and when you get the ball you run to granddad.'"

Posted by orrinj at 2:56 PM


Elon Musk says robots will push us to a universal basic income--here's how it would work (Catherine Clifford, 11/18/16, CNBC)

A 2013 study by Oxford University's Carl Frey and Michael Osborne estimates that 47 percent of U.S. jobs will potentially be replaced by robots and automated technology in the next 10 to 20 years. Those individuals working in transportation, logistics, office management and production are likely to be the first to lose their jobs to robots, according to the report.

In less developed countries, the potential for job loss is more severe. A 2016 analysis from the World Bank estimated that roughly two-thirds of all jobs in developing nations around the globe are susceptible to replacement by automation.

As the global workforce modernizes and low-skilled workers lose their jobs, momentum builds around the idea of a universal basic income, or a fixed, regular payment that all residents, no matter their employment status or wealth, would receive from the government.

Elon Musk , the founder and CEO of of SolarCity , Tesla , and SpaceX, recently declared that a universal basic income was a reasonable next step for the U.S. "There is a pretty good chance we end up with a universal basic income, or something like that, due to automation," Musk told CNBC. "Yeah, I am not sure what else one would do. I think that is what would happen."

The entrepreneur and futurist is not alone in his sentiments. While no country has fully implemented a universal basic income yet, individuals are experimenting with a version of the idea, as are several Scandinavian nations.

Posted by orrinj at 12:23 PM


Plans by far-right news website to launch in France thrills nationalist party of Le Pen (David Usborne, 15 November 2016, Independent)

The far right in France on Tuesday extended its welcome to the ultra-conservative Breitbart News Network which had earlier revealed plans to launch French and German versions of its site. 

Any French incursion by Breitbart, which has already used the ascent of Donald Trump dramatically to widen its US footprint, will be seen as a punt to boost support Marine Le Pen, the leader of the National Front party, as well as to build revenue. [...]

On Tuesday, Ms Le Pen's niece, Marion Marechal-Le Pen, who has her own seat in the French Assembly, voiced enthusiasm for Breitbart giving her party's supporters new voice in France.

"All alternative media are generally positive. Donald Trump is the demonstration of that... they're among the useful tools," she said during a visit to Moscow. Speaking to the Agence France Press, AFP, she added that there had been "some small contacts for some time" between the FN and the Trump campaign in the United States.

Of course, he also employs Geert Wilders, Jewish Watchdog Slams Dutch Politician Geert Wilders for Work With Foreign Rightists (Haaretz, May 07, 2014)

A Jewish watchdog group has criticized Dutch right-wing populist politician Geert Wilders for working with ultranationalist parties in other countries that have been labeled as anti-Semitic, such as France's National Front and Austria's Freedom Party.

"He has always said he will not join up with the extreme right but now this is happening," Dutch News quoted Esther Voet, the director of the Hague-based Center for Information and Documentation on Israel, or CIDI, as saying. "It is a slippery slope."

Wilders told the Telegraaf he is "not afraid" of being lumped together with the extreme right and refused further comment, said Dutch News, adding that Wilders is hoping to form an alliance of anti-EU parties, including the French National Front and Austrian Freedom Party, after the European elections later this month.

Responding To The Alt Right: Are They Bigots, Or Just Stupid Children? (BEN SHAPIRO MARCH 24, 2016, Daily Wire)

As those who follow this column or my Twitter feed know, I've been hit with a massive amount of anti-Semitism, some of it threatening, since making clear my distaste for Donald Trump. For just a taste, view my piece here. One of my most ardent anti-Semitic detractors has been former KKK honcho David Duke.

Many of those tweeting such bile reside on what they call the "alt right." This is a movement of online trolls, generally populists and nationalists, who revel in using taboo language. One of the great mouthpieces of the alt right is Milo Yiannopoulos of Breitbart News, whom I consider a friend and with whom I occasionally engage in spirited bouts of insult-fighting.

Milo appeared on Dave Rubin's podcast today to explain why people like me shouldn't be bothered by the apparent bigotry of those on the alt right. Here was his explanation:

Generation Trump, the alt right people, the people who like me, they're not anti-Semites. They don't care about Jews. I mean, they may have some assumptions about things, how the Jews run everything; well, we do. How the Jews run the banks; well, we do. How the Jews run the media; well, we do. They're right about all that stuff...It's a fact, this is not in debate. It's a statistical fact....Jews are vastly disproportionately represented in all of these professions. It's just a fact. It's not anti-Semitic to point out statistics....The anti-Semitism on the internet, which is really important, I want people to understand this because nobody seems to, when Jonah Goldberg of National Review is bombarded with these memes, and anti-Semitic "take a hike, kike" stuff, it's not because there's a spontaneous outpouring of anti-Semitism from 22-year-olds in this country. What it is is it's a mischievous, dissident, trolly generation who do it because it gets a reaction. Right? That's been the case for young people for generations....They can get to people in positions of power, and people in positions of power and keep biting, they keep taking the bait....It's a direct response to the language policing, it's a direct response to being told they can't say things.

So Milo seems to be making two points here. The first: not all stereotypes are rooted in falsehood (true). The second: trolling people with viciously nasty language is a positive good because it rips away taboos surrounding language (false). Then Milo wraps all of this in the mantle of political incorrectness.

As someone who despises political correctness with the fiery hatred of a thousand suns, I find this problematic. Here's why: I believe there's a difference between political incorrectness and bigotry, or political incorrectness and vulgarity. I have this problem with Trump, and I have this same problem with the alt right that simplistically embraces Trump because they mesh being a jackass with being politically incorrect. They're not the same thing. It is politically incorrect to point out that black Americans commit a wildly disproportionate share of crime, or that Jews comprise an outsized percentage of successful media moguls, doctors, and lawyers. It is also politically incorrect to point out that cultural stereotypes are sometimes rooted in reality -- Milo's right about that. It is racist, however, to tweet the word "n*****" at a black person, and it is anti-Semitic to tweet a meme of a stereotypical hook-nosed Jew controlling the world or greedily collecting shekels. There is a difference between the two.

And it actually does the cause of political incorrectness a grave disservice to merge the two. It makes it easy to dismiss solid information and data by writing it all off as the work of bigots. The alt right isn't tearing down taboos regarding language, if that's really what they think they're doing. All they're doing is re-enshrining in the American mind a basic falsehood about the right itself: that we are bigots who use selective data-picking to back our political viewpoints.

Here's What Donald Trump's New Chief Strategist Thinks of Women and Minority Groups (Claire Landsbaum, 11/17/16, New York)

He's spoken out against religious minorities. In a 2007 court declaration, Bannon's ex-wife said Bannon asked her how many Jewish students attended a school where she was considering sending their children. "He said that he doesn't like the way they raise their kids to be 'whiny brats' and that he didn't want the girls going to school with Jews," she wrote. A spokesperson for Bannon denied the allegations. And according to Mother Jones, Bannon frequently stacked his radio show -- "Breitbart News Daily" -- with guest speakers who decried Islam.

He's a favorite of the white-nationalist movement. Under Bannon, Yiannopoulos wrote an article that pretty much summed up Breitbart's stance on diversity politics. "Only rich, well-educated, well-connected heterosexual white males have the required detachment and lack of emotional connection to the issues at hand to make the right calls," it reads. In his messy breakup with Breitbart News, Ben Shapiro wrote that under Bannon, "Breitbart has become the alt-right go-to website, with Yiannopoulos pushing white ethno-nationalism as a legitimate response to political correctness, and the comment section turning into a cesspool for white supremacist mememakers." Leaders of the movement are positively gleeful about Bannon's appointment, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Trump's choice of Bannon as chief strategist drew criticism from the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Anti-Defamation League, and commentators on both sides of the aisle. "It is a sad day when the man who presided over the premier website of the 'alt-right' -- a loose-knit group of white nationalists and unabashed anti-Semites and racists -- is slated to be a senior staff member in the 'people's house,'" the Anti-Defamation League said in a statement.

Meanwhile, David Duke -- the former KKK grand wizard who's been outspoken about his support for Trump -- called Bannon's appointment "excellent" in an interview with CNN. He went on, "You have an individual, Mr. Bannon, who's basically creating the ideological aspects of where we're going. And ideology ultimately is the most important aspect of any government."

Posted by orrinj at 12:17 PM


U.S. Companies to Trump: Don't Abandon Global Climate Deal (HIROKO TABUCHI, NOV. 16, 2016, NY Times)

Hundreds of American companies, including Mars, Nike, Levi Strauss and Starbucks, have urged President-elect Donald J. Trump not to abandon the Paris climate deal, saying a failure by the United States to build a clean economy endangers American prosperity.

In a plea addressed to Mr. Trump -- as well as President Obama and members of Congress -- 365 companies and major investors emphasized their "deep commitment to addressing climate change," and demanded that he leave in place low-emissions policies in the United States.

"Failure to build a low-carbon economy puts American prosperity at risk," the companies said in a joint letter announced on Wednesday in Marrakesh, Morocco, where global leaders are determining the next steps for the Paris deal. "But the right action now will create jobs and boost U.S. competitiveness."

The companies also said that they would push ahead with their own targets to reduce their carbon footprints regardless of steps taken by Mr. Trump once he is in office. During his campaign, Mr. Trump, who has called climate change a hoax, pledged to leave the Paris accord, dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency and undo Mr. Obama's climate change policies.

Who Will Stand Up for Diversity, Inclusion, and the Environment Now? : The government won't. But Fortune 500 companies will. (Daniel Gross. 11/17/16, Slate)

This week, a large organization struck a deal to fuel a huge chunk of its operations with wind power. Another one conspicuously announced that its newest crop of future leaders would feature a larger number of women than ever before. And at several big institutions, top officials wrote to their rank and file to ensure them that despite the election of Donald Trump, they would hold firm on the values of inclusiveness, tolerance, and sensitivity.

These weren't universities, foundations, or social service organizations acting to reaffirm their progressive values in the wake of Trump's election. The entity buying the wind power was Microsoft. It was Goldman Sachs that announced a partner class that was 23 percent women--not great, but still a sign of progress. And some of the largest professional services and technology firms in the country have assured their employees that their policies aimed at promoting diversity and protecting minority rights remain intact.

An overt homophobe like Mike Pence can become vice president. An overt homophobe can't become a vice president at Apple.
All of which points to an irony in the age of Trump. Democrats have lost the White House and control neither chamber of Congress. The progressive values of the Obama coalition--recognizing climate change and resolving to do something about it, fighting for gay rights and equality for women, fostering a general sense of tolerance and inclusion--suddenly feel like they've been routed from public life in Washington. And yet: In Trump's America, in many respects, Fortune 500 companies will be far more progressive, and far more significant forces for progressive causes, than Washington. It's not across the board, to be sure: On taxes, trade, state power, and many aspects of regulation, America's largest companies remain largely regressive. But in the realms of sustainability, diversity, inclusion, and women's empowerment, they may well remain progressives' most prominent hope.

Posted by orrinj at 12:05 PM


Trump Picks Controversial Fired General Flynn for National Security Adviser (John T. Bennett, Nov 18, 2016, Roll Call)

The hawkish Flynn's own words show a career military officer who wants the United States to throw everything its military, intelligence and national security apparatus has at groups like the Islamic State and al-Qaida. That approach will provide a clear contrast to the Obama administration's more measured strategy, which it contends "is destroying" ISIS.

Like many U.S. generals and military officers, Trump's pick sees threats to the United States just about everywhere he looks. This worldview aligns with the president-elect's, but it appears Flynn is much more interventionist than his future boss who has talked of untangling America from its overseas conflicts and commitments.

Head of Pentagon intelligence agency forced out, officials say (Greg Miller and Adam Goldman April 30, 2014, Washington Post)

Flynn, who served as a top intelligence adviser to Gen. Stanley McChrystal in Iraq and Afghanistan, arrived at the DIA in July 2012 vowing to accelerate the agency's overhaul. Asked after a public speech how he would treat employees reluctant to embrace his agenda, Flynn said he would "move them or fire them."

He drafted a blueprint that called for sending more employees overseas, being more responsive to regional U.S. military commanders, and turning analysts' attention from the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan to a broader array of emerging national security threats.

"I think that Flynn's efforts to move the organization into a role supporting combatant commanders was spot on and it is where DIA should be heading," said Fred Kagan, a military historian and unpaid adviser to the DIA. "I think that he was trying to introduce a lot of valuable innovation into the organization."

Critics said that his management style could be chaotic and that the scope of his plans met resistance from both superiors and subordinates. At the same time, his tenure was marked by significant turbulence, including the fallout from the classified intelligence files leaked by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, as well as other emerging crises.

"His vision in DIA was seen as disruptive," said a former Pentagon official who worked closely with Flynn.

Posted by orrinj at 9:29 AM


In Their Coastal Citadels, Democrats Argue Over What Went Wrong : Epic loss reveals retreat of white working-class support across America's midsection; 'there are big parts of the country that just aren't hearing us' (Reid J. Epstein and Janet Hook, 11/18/16, WSJ)

The moment has been years in the making, masked by President Obama's singular ability to knit together a broad coalition of young people, women and minorities. The last Democratic presidential nominee to connect with the working class was Bill Clinton, whose most recent appearance on the ballot was 20 years ago. Al Gore and John Kerry, who each lost to Republican George W. Bush, were both seen as cerebral creatures of an economic and political elite.

"The coalition needs to be broader," said Sen. Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat. "The Democratic Party has a history that it's been about working Americans. We cannot be a party of the East Coast, West Coast and metropolitan areas."

Last week's presidential defeat revealed a Democratic Party that agrees on core principles, but remains divided over which issues to emphasize, how steeply to oppose Donald Trump 's incoming administration and how best to rebuild after years of statehouse losses to Republicans, interviews with dozens of elected Democrats, party activists, and officials at the state, local and federal level show.

The party-wide debate is reaching into Capitol Hill and the Democratic National Committee, provoking discord between liberal political activists and the pragmatists in elected office. Meanwhile, Mrs. Clinton's popular-vote victory has left some top party officials believing they still hold the keys to the electoral promised land, if only they could find the right vehicle to take them there.

For decades, Democrats have been losing support from the white working class. In presidential elections of the 1990s, those voters split evenly between the parties. By 2012, white voters without college degrees favored millionaire Republican Mitt Romney over Mr. Obama in all but one competitive state, Iowa. This year, 67% of non-college-educated whites nationwide voted for Mr. Trump, according to exit polls.

The Democratic Party's white working-class base has deteriorated with the diminishing ranks of organized labor. Even within that typically reliable voting bloc, fissures emerged. Exit polls show that 43% of voters in union households went for Mr. Trump, just 8 percentage points behind Mrs. Clinton.

The coasts and cities are home to the core coalition of women, minorities and young voters that powered Mr. Obama to two presidential victories, and had been expected to buoy the party for years to come. But without Mr. Obama on the ballot, the disparate elements of the party have lost elections in 2010, 2014 and 2016.

Democratic losses have come at all levels of government since Mr. Obama took office and his party controlled Congress. In Washington, it has been relegated to minority status with at least 60 fewer seats in the House and 12 fewer in the Senate.

The casualties have been worse in state capitols. Before the 2010 elections, 54.5% of all state legislators were Democrats, giving the party majorities in 60 of 99 chambers. Democrats controlled both legislative chambers and held the governor's office in 17 states.

Now, the party has majorities in just 31 of 99 legislative chambers, having lost 958 seats since Mr. Obama took office. Just 43% of elected state lawmakers will be Democrats when the new state legislatures are sworn in.

The geographic shift is clear in the political map of the House: When the new Congress takes office in January, about one third of all House seats held by Democrats will come from just three states--California, New York and Massachusetts.

The Non-Voters Who Decided The Election: Trump Won Because Of Lower Democratic Turnout (Omri Ben-Shahar,   11/17/16, Forbes)

The story of Hillary Clinton's defeat, then, is not the Trump Movement erupting in the ballots, nor the fable that some "Reagan Democrats" flipped again from Obama to Trump. The story is altogether different, and very simple: the Democratic base did not turn out to vote as it did for Obama. Those sure-Democrats who stayed home handed the election to Trump.

Take Michigan for example. A state that Obama won in 2012 by 350,000 votes, Clinton lost by roughly 10,000. Why? She received 300,000 votes less than Obama did in 2012. Detroit and Wayne County should kick themselves because of the 595,253 votes they gave Obama in 2012, only 518,000 voted for Clinton in 2016. Mote than 75,000 Motown Obama voters did not bother to vote for Clinton! They did not become Trump voters - Trump received only 10,000 votes more than Romney did in this county. They simply stayed at home. If even a fraction of these lethargic Democrats had turned out to vote, Michigan would have stayed blue.

Wisconsin tells the same numbers story, even more dramatically. Trump got no new votes. He received exactly the same number of votes in America's Dairyland as Romney did in 2012. Both received 1,409,000 votes. But Clinton again could not spark many Obama voters to turn out for her: she tallied 230,000 votes less than Obama did in 2012. This is how a 200,000-vote victory margin for Obama in the Badger State became a 30,000-vote defeat for Clinton.

This pattern is national. Clinton's black voter turnout dropped more than 11 percent compared to 2012. The support for Clinton among active black voters was still exceedingly high (87 percent, versus 93 percent for Obama), but the big difference was the turnout. Almost two million black votes cast for Obama in 2012 did not turn out for Clinton.

There's obviously an open question as to whether a second black nominee could inspire the kind of turnout that the first did. But there's an even more important threshold question ; does another Unicorn Rider even exist?

The truth that neither Left nor Right were ever able to acknowledge it that Barrack Obama was able to succeed so easily precisely because he stood for and had achieved nothing.  He was completely without definition, which allowed everyone to define him in their own minds.  That's why the Left could imagine that the quintessential Organization Man was some kind of Justice warrior and why the Right got so hysterical about a gay Muslim socialist. 

His victory was a great personal triumph, which was all he was ever interested in, and a wonderful symbolic moment for the world, the election of a black man to the presidency of a nation that sustained slavery and then Jim Crow until four decades earlier.  But other than that, it, like the nominee, was devoid of content.

So where do you go to find another such candidate and, even if you could, can that symbolism ever matter as much again?

You can see how disorganized their thinking is in the sudden elevation of Keith Ellison.  Sure he's black, but in what other conceivable sense does he resemble Barrack Obama?  For one thing, he actually is a Progressive and a cohort of Bernie Sanders, with an extensive voting record in Congress.  For another, where the UR jettisoned the Reverend Wright as soon as his offensive comments came out, Ellison defended Louis Farrakhan against charges of anti-Semitism and was, apparently, a Black Muslim himself for some period of time.  This is not how you recapture the magic.

The more you look at it the more it seems the only candidate the party could choose, if they want to try to win, instead of indulging in a frenzy of Corbynite blood-letting, is Michelle Obama.

Posted by orrinj at 8:57 AM


Steve Bannon Is Not a Nazi--But Let's Be Honest about What He Represents (IAN TUTTLE November 14, 2016, National Review)

[U]nder Bannon's aegis, something ugly has taken hold of the Right. 

In March 2012, Bannon -- an investment banker-turned-conservative documentarian -- became chairman of Breitbart News. Up to that time, the website had been mischievous but not malicious, reflecting the personality of its founder Andrew Breitbart (a personality that has been subject to gross left-wing revisionism since his death). But under Bannon's leadership, Breitbart News's impishness became something else. When it was not promoting Pravda-esque lies during the campaign season -- for example, reporting as "100% vindicated" Trump's claim that "thousands" of people in New Jersey celebrated the September 11 attacks -- the site built up its viewer base by catering to the alt-right, a small but vocal fringe of white supremacists, anti-Semites, and Internet trolls. In May, Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol was labeled a "Renegade Jew." In September, an article about Trump's "birther" press conference was accompanied by a picture of Harambe, the gorilla shot dead at the Cincinnati Zoo earlier this year. This summer, Bannon cheerfully informed Mother Jones that Breitbart News had become "the platform for the alt-Right." (And if you, like Newt Gingrich, believe that the alt-right does not exist, please consult my Twitter feed.) [...]

The alt-right is a hodgepodge of philosophies that, at their heart, reject the fundamental principle that "all men are created equal, endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights." The alt-right embraces an ethno-nationalism that has its counterparts in the worst of the European far-right: Golden Dawn in Greece, or Hungary's Jobbik. (It's no coincidence that Bannon spent time this summer praising "the women of the Le Pen family" on London radio, referring to the head of France's National Front and her niece, a FN member of the French Parliament.) And while this by no means excuses smashing shop windows to protest a legitimate election result, as rioters spent the weekend doing in the Pacific Northwest, it's also the case that not every Trump detractor is as devoid of cerebral matter as Lena Dunham. If ethnic and religious minorities are worried, it's in part because Donald Trump and his intimates have spent the last several months winking at one of the ugliest political movements in America's recent history.

Furthermore, as some on the left have been more attuned to than their conservative counterparts, the problem is not whether Bannon himself subscribes to a noxious strain of political nuttery; it's that his de facto endorsement of it enables it to spread and to claim legitimacy, and that what is now a vicious fringe could, over time, become mainstream. The U.S. is not going to see pogroms or "internment camps" spring up in January. But countries require bonds of trust among citizens -- including those citizens elected to be leaders. The Left gnawed at those bonds with its thoughtless commitment to cosmopolitan virtues. But the Right threatens to sever them entirely if it continues to court the proponents of ethno-nationalism, or trade in their rhetoric.

Principled conservatives, especially those in leadership positions, have a political and moral duty to condemn, and to work to eradicate, the animus that is the alt-right's raison d'être, and to uphold the pillars of the American project. That project is more than metaphysical abstractions; but it is also not a simple matter of blut und boden. No, Steve Bannon is not Josef Goebbels. But he has provided a forum for people who spend their days photoshopping pictures of conservatives into ovens.

The argument from the Right is hilariously similar to the one we used to hear from the Left: "We aren't Racist, we're Anti-Anti-Racist!"

Posted by orrinj at 8:43 AM


Van Hollen Named Chairman of Senate Democrats' Campaign Arm (Lindsey McPherson, Bridget Bowman, Niels Lesniewski, 11/18/16, The Hill)

Sen.-elect Chris Van Hollen of Maryland will chair the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee for the 2018 cycle, incoming Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer announced Friday. [...]

"Tough" is one word to describe what Senate Democrats face in 2018. The party will have 23 seats to defend, as well as two seats held by independents who caucus with the Democrats. By comparison, Republicans will only be defending eight seats. 

Ten of the states where Democrats will be up for re-election were won by Donald Trump in this year's presidential election, including Montana, represented by outgoing DSCC Chairman Jon Tester. [...]

[T]he job will be familiar to Van Hollen, who ran the Democrats' campaign operation on House side of the Capitol. He was chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2008, a banner year for the party, and again in 2010, when Democrats lost control of the House.

Van Hollen also revealed that he will serve on the Senate Appropriations Committee, in what some see as a reward for him taking the difficult DSCC job. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:43 AM


Trump Considers Petraeus - Who Pled Guilty To Classified Leaking - For Top Position (Joe Conason, November 19, 2016, National Memo)

But now Trump evidently believes that David Petraeus -- who pled guilty to charges that he intentionally revealed classified information to his mistress -- could be trusted to assume the highest position in the Pentagon or perhaps the State Department, according to news outlets. The retired general, who commanded US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan before serving as CIA director under President Obama, reportedly came very close to a felony conviction that would have sent him to prison for leaking classified documents to his mistress.

FBI investigators and Justice Department prosecutors wanted to indict Petraeus, and he only escaped that humiliating fate through a plea bargain -- a deal achieved, ironically enough, by David Kendall, the same Washington attorney who represented Hillary Clinton.

Posted by orrinj at 8:33 AM


Soul Singer Sharon Jones Dies at 60 (JOHN JURGENSEN, Nov 18, 2016, WSJ)

After decades on the margins of music and moonlighting as a singer, Jones had a middle-age career burst in the early '00s, fueled by her backing band the Dap-Kings. [...]

Jones was born in Augusta, Ga., in 1956, and grew up in Brooklyn. She worked as a corrections officer on Rikers Island, a Wells Fargo guard, and a singer in a longtime wedding band before getting her star turn.

The formation of the Brooklyn label Daptone Records led to the release of albums, starting with 2002's "Dap Dippin' with Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings," that lay the foundation for Jones's intense and celebrated run in the spotlight.

In 2013, Jones was diagnosed with cancer, and her battle with the disease was documented in the film "Miss Sharon Jones!," which premiered at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival.

Jones is survived by four siblings. Her album "Give The People What They Want" earned a 2014 Grammy nomination for best R&B album.

Posted by orrinj at 8:25 AM


Turkeys Away: An Oral History (Stephen Bowie, November 21, 2012, Classic TV History Blog)

CLARKE BROWN (radio executive): Hugh first started in the business as an account executive for Burton-Campbell Advertising.  He was about to get fired, and they said, "Wait a minute, don't fire this guy.  This guy could be a great writer."  They moved him into a copywriting position, and he became arguably the best copywriter that's ever been in Atlanta, Georgia.  Later he became the creative director, and ultimately he became the president of the agency.  Then he abruptly left.  He got a divorce, and without a job or anything, he moved to California and ended up almost immediately getting a job with Mary Tyler Moore.

HUGH WILSON: Grant Tinker, who was Mary's husband, let it be known one day in the most casual of ways that if anybody had any show ideas, they should tell him.  I know pilot season [now] is more important than Versailles, but in the day he just said that. Anyhow, I was working on a short-lived show, two seasons, called The Tony Randall Show.  Tony had had great success with The Odd Couple, and we did this.  It never quite worked, but that was what I was doing.  Anyhow, I got this idea for a radio station [series], and I told Grant, and we went over to CBS, and they all said, "Yeah, hey, great."  What was lucky for me was that most of those guys . . . had at one time or another been in the radio business.  I hadn't counted on having that kind of built-in affection for the idea.

So I went back to Atlanta, where I had some real good friends, at what was the number one rocker there, and I sat down with the station manager and told him what was going on.  He was very excited, because it was [about] radio and also because it was good publicity.

CLARKE BROWN: WKRP was based on the radio station WQXI in Atlanta, and there were several characters who were very much based on people at QXI, and the others were sometimes amalgamations and sometimes just completely fictionalized.  I was Herb Tarlek.

HUGH WILSON: Clarke Brown was a salesman at WQXI, and I based Herb Tarlek on him, although Clarke's a pretty cool guy.  But Clarke was dressing in these pretty bizarre polyester outfits back in the day.

CLARKE BROWN: Not to that extreme, but I was kind of known for dressing wildly, mod clothing and so forth.  But he was making fun of me, essentially.  It just made me laugh.

HUGH WILSON: The character of Johnny Fever, he was based on a guy I knew in Atlanta called Skinny Bobby Harper.  That was funny, because he was the morning guy, so Skinny had to get up at four in the morning to get in there.  But he also loved being in the bars at night.  He was like Fever - in the pilot, I said [to Howard Hesseman], "You've got to play it like you're sleepwalking, because you should be asleep by eight, but eight is just when you're going out."

CLARKE BROWN: Jerry Blum was "the Big Guy," Arthur Carlson, and there was another guy that some of his personality was in the character also.  His name was Doug Burton, and he was the Burton of Burton-Campbell.

HUGH WILSON: Jerry Blum was a little bit of Mr. Carlson, and Carlson is actually more of a wonderful man that I worked for in Atlanta advertising.  He was my boss.  He was a great, great guy.

CLARKE BROWN: The location was [changed to Cincinnati] because of its central location, with no accents.  And obviously, "WKRP," "W-crap" was the pun intended.

Hugh kind of worked with me in the mornings.  One day he'd go and sit in the control room, and then one day he'd sit in the sales office, and he absorbed the actual workings of a radio station firsthand in that manner.  Then, of course, he and I were drinking buddies, so he heard every story that was worth repeating over the years.  When Hugh was writing the show, a lot of the incidents were real.

HUGH WILSON: I was allowed to see everything, and then Jerry Blum, the station manager, told me about a promotion - I believe in Texas, and I want to say Dallas, but I'm not sure - in which he threw turkeys out of a helicopter, and they didn't fly.  They crashed to the ground, it was just a horrible disaster, and he wound up losing his job over it.  So I said to him at the time, "Jerry, I think you just won me an Emmy."

CLARKE BROWN: The turkey drop was actually a real incident.  It was at a shopping center in Atlanta; I think it was Broadview Plaza, which no longer exists.  It was a Thankgiving promotion.  We thought that we could throw these live turkeys out into the crowd for their Thanksgiving dinners.  All of us, naïve and uneducated, thought that turkeys could fly.  Of course, they went just fuckin' splat.

People were laughing at us, not with us.  But it became a legend.  There were other stories of this nature that were embellished [on WRKP]; that one was really not embellished that much.  Although the turkeys were thrown off the back of a truck, as opposed to how it was depicted on the [show].

HUGH WILSON: I didn't dream up the helicopter.  My memory is Jerry said a helicopter.

CLARKE BROWN: It just ended with, the joke's on us.  And of course, our guys played it up.  It turned out to be a great little unintended publicity gimmick, the fact that it failed the way that it did.  Probably got more mileage out of it being screwed up than had it not been.

HUGH WILSON: Since that time, a couple of people have claimed that story, but Jerry said it was him.  He's the one that said to me, "You know, Hugh, turkeys can't fly."

Posted by orrinj at 8:12 AM


After election, Americans try to pop their news bubbles : Many Americans, especially on the left, are trying to wean themselves off fake news and social-media feeds designed to show them what they want to see. (Harry Bruinius,  NOVEMBER 19, 2016, CS Monitor)

Indeed, after the election, a number of Americans, particularly those on the left still bewildered by the election of Mr. Trump, have begun to question the mainstream coverage that seemed to confidently assume that Hillary Clinton would emerge as the 45th president.  

At the same time, too, the proliferation of unreliable information has approached what many consider to be near-crisis proportions. In addition to the frustration many have felt with the mainstream press, there is growing concern social media, designed to entice engagement rather than offer factual information, has spawned the viral spread of deliberately misleading and fake news.

The problem of "news bubbles" is in many ways part of a larger social trend that some scholars have called "the big sort" - a troubling trend in which like-minded citizens, with mostly similar cultural preferences and political world views, cluster together in walled gardens - including neighborhoods, places of worship, and information sources.

And as over six out of 10 American adults now turn to their algorithm-driven social media feeds to get news, according to Pew Research, conservatives and liberals often have radically conflicting sources of information, as a Wall Street Journal side-by-side graphic analysis of blue feeds and red feeds recently showed.

It's a trend with troubling implications, scholars say. Long considered a bedrock of democracy, the "free press," enshrined in the US Constitution and considered an informal "fourth estate" of government, is supposed to cover and provide context for the actions of the three branches of government.

"Americans are ... likely to get what they do know, or think they know, from an echo chamber," says Krista Jenkins, professor of political science at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, N.J., via email.

Posted by orrinj at 8:02 AM


Watch The 'Hamilton' Cast Deliver A Powerful Message To Mike Pence (Carla Herreria, 11/19/16, HuffPost)

The cast of "Hamilton" didn't throw away their shot to speak directly to a very important member of their audience Friday night: Vice President-elect Mike Pence.

As Pence, who was booed loudly upon entering the theater, tried to leave the Broadway musical after the final curtain call, actor Brandon Dixon, who plays the part of Aaron Burr, asked him to stay.

"We have a message for you, sir. We hope that you will hear us out," Dixon said as the cast, assembled behind him, held each other close.

"We, sir, we are the diverse America, who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights," Dixon said to Pence.

"But we truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us," Dixon added, while gesturing to the musical's diverse cast and to the audience. 

Although Pence had already exited the orchestra section, the VP-elect stood in the hallway outside to listen to Dixon's impassioned speech, according to the New York Times' Patrick Healey.

November 18, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 6:02 PM


OBAMA RECKONS WITH A TRUMP PRESIDENCY : Inside a stunned White House, the President considers his legacy and America's future. (David Remnick, 11/28/16, The New Yorker)

When I joined Obama on a campaign trip to North Carolina just four days before the election, Hillary Clinton was hanging on to a lead in nearly every poll. Surely, the professionals said, her "firewall" would hold and provide a comfortable victory. David Plouffe, who ran Obama's 2008 campaign, said that Clinton was a "one hundred per cent" lock and advised nervous Democrats to stop "wetting the bed." In battleground states, particularly where it was crucial to get out the African-American vote, Obama was giving one blistering campaign speech after another.

"I'm having fun," he told me. But, thanks in part to James Comey, the F.B.I. director, and his letter to Congress announcing that he would investigate Clinton's e-mails again, the race tightened considerably in its final week. When Obama wandered down the aisle of Air Force One, I asked him, "Do you feel confident about Tuesday?"

"Nope," he said. [...]

As the plane headed to Charlotte, I sat with Roy Cooper, the attorney general of North Carolina and its Democratic candidate for governor, and David Simas, Obama's political director. Cooper, who had worked in the tobacco fields as a kid, now seemed as disconnected from the Trump voter in rural North Carolina as any pointy-headed quote machine in the CNN greenroom. "I'm as perplexed as the next person," he said.

Simas was more analytical. He was the numbers guy, who knew every twitch of voter movement in every county, or hoped he did. He was nowhere near as sanguine as Plouffe, and, as he went through the early-vote tallies in Florida, North Carolina, and Nevada, he was concerned about the somewhat modest African-American turnout, though emboldened by a "tsunami" of support from Hispanics. Meanwhile, he said, "the so-called hidden Trump vote" was not showing up in any outsized way.

I asked Simas why he seemed more confident than Obama. He smiled and said it was a matter of roles: "I haven't been the President of the United States for two terms and now looking to confirm my legacy." Yet Simas, too, knew that there was potential trouble ahead. "Within ten days of the Republican Convention, Trump consolidated the Republican base faster than Romney did in 2012," he said. "The base of the Republican Party is also different from what we thought. For movement conservatives, the assumption is that Democratic or Republican voters are ideological on issues. The Trump candidacy shows otherwise. They rally around the team and the antipathy to Secretary Clinton."

What frustrated Obama and his staff was the knowledge that, in large measure, they were reaching their own people but no further. They spoke to the networks and the major cable outlets, the major papers and the mainstream Web sites, and, in an attempt to find people "where they are," forums such as Bill Maher's and Samantha Bee's late-night cable shows, and Marc Maron's podcast. But they would never reach the collective readerships of Breitbart News, the Drudge Report, WND, Newsmax, InfoWars, and lesser-knowns like Western Journalism--not to mention the closed loop of peer-to-peer right-wing rumor-mongering.

"Until recently, religious institutions, academia, and media set out the parameters of acceptable discourse, and it ranged from the unthinkable to the radical to the acceptable to policy," Simas said. "The continuum has changed. Had Donald Trump said the things he said during the campaign eight years ago--about banning Muslims, about Mexicans, about the disabled, about women--his Republican opponents, faith leaders, academia would have denounced him and there would be no way around those voices. Now, through Facebook and Twitter, you can get around them. There is social permission for this kind of discourse. Plus, through the same social media, you can find people who agree with you, who validate these thoughts and opinions. This creates a whole new permission structure, a sense of social affirmation for what was once thought unthinkable. This is a foundational change."

That day, as they travelled, Obama and Simas talked almost obsessively about an article in BuzzFeed that described how the Macedonian town of Veles had experienced a "digital gold rush" when a small group of young people there published more than a hundred pro-Trump Web sites, with hundreds of thousands of Facebook followers. The sites had names like and, and most of the posts were wildly sensationalist, recycled from American alt-right sites. If you read such sites, you learned that Pope Francis had endorsed Trump and that Clinton had actually encouraged Trump to run, because he "can't be bought."

The new media ecosystem "means everything is true and nothing is true," Obama told me later. "An explanation of climate change from a Nobel Prize-winning physicist looks exactly the same on your Facebook page as the denial of climate change by somebody on the Koch brothers' payroll. And the capacity to disseminate misinformation, wild conspiracy theories, to paint the opposition in wildly negative light without any rebuttal--that has accelerated in ways that much more sharply polarize the electorate and make it very difficult to have a common conversation." [...]

[A]fter the sitdown with Trump, Obama told staff members that he had talked Trump through the rudiments of forming a cabinet and policies, including the Iran nuclear deal, counter-terrorism policy, health care--and that the President-elect's grasp of such matters was, as the debates had made plain, modest at best. Trump, despite his habitual bluster, seemed awed by what he was being told and about to encounter. [...]

Perhaps the more acute personal sadness for White House staffers was the vision of Obama and Trump sitting side by side in the Oval Office. A President who fought with dignity to rescue the country from economic catastrophe and to press for progressive change--from marriage equality to the alleviation of climate change--was putting on a mask of generous equanimity for a visitor whom he had every good reason to despise, an ethically challenged real-estate brander who had launched his political career by promoting "birtherism," and then ran a sexist and bigoted campaign to galvanize his base. In the Oval Office, the President was quick to comfort the young members of his staff, but he was, an aide told me, even more concerned about the wounding effect the election would have on the categories of Americans who had been routinely insulted and humiliated by the President-elect. At a social occasion earlier this year, someone asked Michelle Obama how it was possible for her husband to maintain his equipoise amid so much hatred. "You have no idea how bad it is," she said. His practiced calm is beyond reckoning.

...was how low grade the UR's VP pick and Cabinet appointments were.  Where Bill Clinton had picked a peer and natural successor as VP and W loaded his government with former governors who were eminently qualified to be president, the UR seemed genuinely afraid, as he assembled his team, of the contrast such folks would provide to his unpreparedness.  Combined with the shortage of credible Democrat governors, it left the party with no one to challenge Hillary, a historically unpopular candidate.

Posted by orrinj at 5:37 PM


Does Donald Trump Have a Mandate? (DAN MCLAUGHLIN, November 16, 2016, National Review)

The White House isn't the only source of power in Washington, of course. There's also the Republican Congress, which has a much greater claim to a mandate than the newly elected president. Republicans won a majority in the House of Representatives for the fourth consecutive cycle, and in the Senate for the second straight cycle. In so doing, they decisively laid to rest the popular Democratic claim that the GOP Congress is solely a creation of lower-turnout midterm elections. In the House, the GOP held 247 seats after the 2014 election, the largest Republican House majority since 1928, and successfully defended all but a handful of them in 2016: pending a runoff in Louisiana's fourth district (where no one candidate got a majority but Republicans got 68 percent of the vote) and the final call of Darrell Issa's race in California's 49th (at last check, Issa leads by over 4,000 votes), the GOP is likely to hold 241 seats. Republicans added three Democratic-held House seats while losing nine seats of their own, for a net loss of six seats. Their continued strength is not just a result of gerrymandering: Republicans won the popular vote in the House, at this writing by a majority vote (50 percent to 47.2 percent). Some 3.45 million more Americans voted for Republican House candidates than voted for Democratic ones. That margin is more than three times Hillary's margin over Trump in the national popular vote. The House GOP's popular vote victory is even more impressive when you consider that 34 House Democratic candidates ran unopposed, compared to 28 House Republicans.

Posted by orrinj at 5:30 PM


President-elect settles Trump University case for $25 million (Times of Israel, November 18, 2016)

"Today's $25 million settlement agreement is a stunning reversal by Donald Trump and a major victory for the over 6,000 victims of his fraudulent university," New York state attorney general Eric Schneiderman said in a statement.

"I am pleased that under the terms of this settlement, every victim will receive restitution and that Donald Trump will pay up to $1 million in penalties to the State of New York for violating state education laws."

Just wait until the IRS chimes in...

Posted by orrinj at 3:21 PM


Michael Flynn, Trump's new national security adviser, loves Russia as much as his boss does (Yochi Dreazen  Nov 17, 2016, Vox)

Flynn had also been considered for defense secretary, but his new appointment as national security adviser, which doesn't require congressional approval, allows Trump to sidestep what would have likely been a bruising, two-step confirmation battle on Capitol Hill.

Flynn, who ran the Defense Intelligence Agency until retiring in 2014, would have first needed a congressional waiver to get around rules requiring former military officers to be out of uniform for seven years before taking the top post at the Pentagon. He'd then have needed to win the approval of at least 51 lawmakers. Even with the Senate in Republican control, that wouldn't have been a sure thing.

Democrats would have lashed into Flynn because he broke with the longstanding tradition of retired officers avoiding direct criticism of presidents they had served. Republicans would have pressed Flynn about Trump's stated Russia policy, which is predicated on building closer ties with Putin despite the Russian strongman's human rights violations and annexation of Crimea.

Republican lawmakers would also likely have grilled Flynn about his decision to do a paid series of events in Moscow that included a speech and an appearance at an anniversary party for RT, a Kremlin-funded TV station, where he was photographed sitting next to Putin.

Posted by orrinj at 3:03 PM


Top Dem on House Intel Committee Praises Trump's Choice for CIA Director (Cameron Cawthorne, November 18, 2016, free Beacon)

Rep. Adam Schiff (D., Calif.) on Friday praised Donald Trump's decision hours earlier to pick Rep. Mike Pompeo (R., Kan.) to be the next CIA director, calling Pompeo "bright" and a "solid pick."

MSNBC anchor Andrea Mitchell asked Schiff, who works alongside Pompeo on the House Intelligence Committee as its ranking member, what he thought about the Kansas lawmaker's ability to serve as CIA director if he is confirmed by the Senate.

Posted by orrinj at 2:59 PM


Posted by orrinj at 11:54 AM


Theocratic troubles (The Economist, Nov 19th 2016)

Still, in the perennial struggle between hardliners and reformists, the reformists seem in some ways to be gaining the upper hand. Buoyed by gains in the parliament elected in the spring, President Hassan Rouhani has emerged from the hardliners' clutches. On November 4th he publicly denounced Mr Larijani's muzzling measures, and called for greater press freedom. He defied powerful ayatollahs in Iran's holy cities of Mashhad and Qom, insisting scheduled concerts (of traditional music) should go ahead despite their threats. "None of my ministers should give up in the face of pressure," he said.

Hardliners recently sought to arrest Abdol Rasul Dori Esfahani, an advisor to the team that negotiated last year's nuclear deal, for spying, but were quickly over-ruled. And the economy is showing signs of improvment as (non-American) foreign companies start to invest. Oil exports in October were up almost threefold on the previous year. Iran needs to generate 1.2m jobs a year to employ the young who join the workforce and manages only half of that. But at least now there is some hope.

Posted by orrinj at 11:49 AM


Far from Mosul, Islamic State close to defeat in Libya's Sirte (Patrick Markey, 11/18/16, Reuters)

After six months of heavy fighting, Libyan forces have advanced so deep into the strategic city of Sirte that they can pick out the Tunisian and Egyptian accents of their Islamic State enemies as they trade insults over the frontline.

Victory is imminent on this remote front of the war against Islamic State, with the last few militants staging a last stand in a small area of just one square kilometer (0.4 square mile), U.S. and Libyan officials say. [...]

Defeat in Sirte will damage Islamic State's ability to show it is expanding globally and deprive it of a foothold outside Iraq and Syria. Losing it and Mosul in quick succession would dent its morale and possibly its ability to recruit followers.

Posted by orrinj at 9:14 AM


Divorce Rate in U.S. Drops to Nearly 40-Year Low (Abigail Abrams, Nov. 17, 2016, TIME)

The U.S. divorce rate dropped for the third year in a row, reaching its lowest point in nearly 40 years, according to data released Thursday.

Marriage rates, on the other hand, increased last year. In 2015, there were 32.2 marriages for every 1,000 unmarried women age 15 or older, according to the National Center for Family and Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University. This represents a jump from 31.9 in 2014 and is the highest number of marriages since 2009, which suggests that marriage rates may be stabilizing after decades of decline.

We need not argue about whether the UR intended anything he accomplished nor whether he was good at his job, but by every statistical measure he had an absurdly successful conservative presidency.

Posted by orrinj at 9:04 AM


Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo is reported to have accepted Trump's offer of CIA director (LINDSAY WISE, CURTIS TATE AND BRYAN LOWRY, 11/18/16, McClatchy)

Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo has accepted Donald Trump's offer as CIA director in his new administration, according to multiple reports.

Pompeo, a three-term Republican from Wichita, met this week with Trump, and given the lawmaker's background on military and intelligence issues, it seemed likely that CIA director and Army secretary were two possibilities.

"He would be a great asset to the Trump administration," said Kansas Republican Chairman Kelly Arnold.

Pompeo originally supported Florida Sen. Marco Rubio's presidential bid. Like most of his Kansas colleagues, Pompeo backed Trump when it was clear the New York real-estate developer would become the Republican presidential nominee, 

But Pompeo was close to Trump's running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who served with Pompeo in the House.

The more loyalists to himself that Mike Pence can sneak in the better.

Posted by orrinj at 8:56 AM


Are Democrats Over-Learning the Lessons of Trump's Victory? : The new conventional wisdom is that Democrats need to woo white working class voters who have been hurt by globalization. Not so fast, some say. (ALEX SHEPHARD, November 17, 2016, New Republic)

As the Democrats seek to put the pieces back together again, progressives and leftists are calling for a populist economic platform to be at the center of the party's new agenda and identity. No less a figure than President Barack Obama appeared to ascribe to this idea. In his first press conference since Trump was elected, the president simultaneously laid out a new political playbook and subtweeted the Clinton campaign, saying, "The key for us--when I say 'us,' I mean Americans, but I think particularly for progressives--is to say your concerns are real, your anxieties are real; here's how we fix them." He added that Democrats, going forward, had to be "attentive to inequality and not tone deaf to it," and had to reach out to "folks that are in communities that feel forgotten."

But it's one thing to embrace economic populism on a conceptual level, and quite another to translate it into a political platform and a governing agenda. To name just one issue: How does it square with the neoliberal championing of free trade, an issue in which Trump campaigned to the left of Clinton? Even Obama seemed to hedge on this issue, saying, "Yes to trade, but trade that ensures that these other countries that trade with us aren't engaging in child labor, for example."

For some Democrats, that won't cut it. Jane Kleeb, who is the founder of Bold Nebraska and sits on Bernie Sanders's post-election organization Our Revolution, said Democrats needed to do more to differentiate themselves from Republicans. "I think some Democrats have tried to run as Republican-lite and when a voter sees a Republican or a Democrat pretending to be a Republican they're going to vote for the Republican," she said. "So Democrats have to create a new path and show voters what it actually means to be Democrat again."

Benjamin Jealous, the former head of the NAACP and a key backer of Bernie Sanders, largely agreed. "Moneyed interests in both parties don't want to come to terms with it," he told the New Republic. "They know the public has already been reckoning for a long time with the fact that our trade policies are not negotiated in the interest of the most impacted communities of every color--that unionized factory jobs, good pay, and benefits have been replaced by service jobs with low pay and often no benefits."

This is in line with a critique made against the Clinton campaign throughout the election, one that has gained new currency in its cataclysmic aftermath. She lost partly because of her husband's support for NAFTA and her own support of many free trade policies, notwithstanding her turnaround on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (which doubled as evidence that Clinton would take any position to get elected). Workers simply didn't trust her when it came to protecting their livelihoods. She was seen as being not on their side.

...the path back to political does not likely involve siding with the 40%,who oppose, over the 60%, who support, core neo-liberal ideas of the free movement of goods and people:

Majority of Voters Support Free Trade, Immigration: Poll (MARK MURRAY, 7/17/16, NBC)

In the national poll, 55 percent of voters agree with the statement that free trade with foreign countries is good for America, because it opens up new markets and because the United States can't avoid it in a global economy. That sentiment is shared by 60 percent of Democrats, 54 percent of independents and 51 percent of Republicans.

By contrast, 38 percent of voters think that free trade is bad for America, because it has hurt manufacturing and other key industries, and because there is no proof that trade creates better jobs. [...]

The poll also finds that 56 percent of American voters believe that immigration helps more than it hurts, including 73 percent of Democrats, 64 percent of independents, but just 35 percent of Republicans.

That's compared with 35 percent of all voters who say that immigration hurts more than it helps, including 55 percent of Republicans, but just 21 percent of Democrats and 27 percent of independents.

Posted by orrinj at 8:52 AM


Trump's Monetary Conundrum  (Nouriel Roubini, NOV 18, 2016, Project Syndicate)

Even if Trump does choose a hawk to replace Yellen, his appointee would be only primus inter pares on the Federal Open Market Committee. Yellen's successor would not be able simply to impose his or her view on the FOMC's seven-member Board of Governors and five Reserve Bank presidents.

While the Fed did resemble an absolute monarchy under former Chairman Alan Greenspan, it became more of a constitutional monarchy under Greenspan's successor, Ben Bernanke. Under Yellen, it might best be described as a democratic republic. This transformation cannot be reversed: each FOMC member holds strong views about which direction monetary policy should take, and each is willing to dissent when needed.

This means that a radical hawk appointed by Trump could end up in the minority, and would be consistently outvoted by the FOMC's dovish majority. Of course, Trump may be able to change the Fed Board's composition over time, by appointing new governors when Stanley Fischer, Lael Brainard, Daniel K. Tarullo, and Jerome H. Powell's terms end. But if he takes this route, the market will still police the Fed's actions. If continued low growth and low inflation do not justify rapid interest-rate increases, a hawkish Fed that raises rates anyway will face harsh disciplining by the market - and, by extension, so will Trump.

Moreover, premature and excessive hawkishness would strengthen the US dollar and sharply increase the US trade deficit, undermining Trump's stated goal of creating jobs and boosting incomes for his blue-collar, working-class electoral base. If Trump cares about his base - or if he at least wants to avoid a political backlash from it - he should appoint dovish Fed governors who will favor easy-money policies that weaken the dollar. Ironically, President Barack Obama's appointees, such as Brainard and Tarullo, are actually ideal for Trump's agenda.

To believe that you can weaken the dollar requires ignoring the rest of the world.

Posted by orrinj at 8:48 AM


Niall Ferguson: "Britain should have stayed out of First World War" (Emma Mason, 1/30/14, BBC History Magazine)

In an interview with BBC History Magazine, Ferguson said Britain could not only have lived with a German victory in the First World War, but it would in fact have been in its "interests to stay out in 1914".

Speaking to the magazine's editor, Rob Attar, ahead of his BBC Two documentary The Pity of War, Ferguson said: "The cost of the First World War to Britain was catastrophic, and it left the British empire at the end of it all in a much weakened state... Arguments about honour, of course, resonate today, as they resonated in 1914 but you can pay too high a price for upholding that notion of honour, and I think in the end Britain did."

Ferguson told Attar: "We should feel dismay that the leaders, not just of Britain, but of the European states, could have taken decisions that led to such an appalling slaughter.... I feel a sense of sorrow that 10 million people (more by some estimates) died prematurely and often violently because the statesmen of the European empires gambled on war for really quite low stakes."

The historian explained: "The right way for Britain to proceed was not to rush into a land war, but rather to exploit its massive advantages at sea and in financial terms."

He added: "A better strategy would have been to wait and deal with the German challenge later, when Britain could respond on its own terms."

Posted by orrinj at 8:36 AM


HOW THE DEMOCRATS CAN FIX THEMSELVES : The days of triangulation are toast. (JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ, NOVEMBER 17, 2016, Vanity Fair)

In the aftermath of the unexpected defeat suffered by the British Labour Party in 2015, the party engaged in a furious debate: was defeat a consequence of the fact that Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, had veered too far to the left, or the fact that he had not gone far enough to the left? The 2008 financial crisis was caused by under-regulated markets. The implication was that those who had advocated these policies would suffer--and many therefore thought that the future belonged to the Left. In Europe, these would be the social democratic parties. In America, it would be the Bernie Sanders wing of the Democratic Party.

Things, however, have turned out otherwise. A simple explanation is that, beginning in the 1970s, but even more so in the late 80s and early 90s, the center left started moving right. To use Bill Clinton's term, there was a need for a dynamic of tactical "triangulation," which simply meant that the left was moving toward the right's policies. Of course, this meant that the left often stood for nothing different than the right. (Differences kept opening up as the right moved ever further to the right.)

Bill Clinton pushed through financial-market deregulation; lowered capital-gains taxes (which benefited the rich and led to a regressive tax system); pursued trade agreements that contributed to the further deindustrialization of America; pursued investment agreements that have paved the way for regulatory "takings"; pursued intellectual-property agreements that reflected the interests of big corporations and were not focused on the advancement of science or the well-being of ordinary citizens; reformed the welfare system in a way that arguably eviscerated it; and strengthened criminal-justice and police systems in a way that arguably contributed to mass incarceration.

With a history of policies such as these in the background, there can be no debate about how to interpret Hillary Clinton's defeat. While she distanced herself from these policies, she failed to provide a strong enough alternative vision to what had come before. She and her allies in the Democratic Party were seen as simply too aligned with the neo-liberal agenda, which itself was too aligned with the bankers and the comfortable elites.

The dynamics of Third Way politics in the Anglosphere virtually require a "Progressive" rebellion in the Democratic Party and a nominee willing to run on the unadulterated Second Way.  This despite the fact that their neo-liberal nominee just carried the popular vote despite being widely loathed personally. Combined with the unprecedentedly positive economic atmosphere the GOP just inherited and the inability of a party so weak at the state level as the Democrats to produce a serious crop of qualified presidential candidates means we could certainly see them run their own celebrity in 2020, on a platform that harkens to the European socialism of the 70s.  we've already seen in the form of the British Labour Party how well that politics works in the English-speaking world.  

Posted by orrinj at 8:32 AM


Ivanka Prepares to Run Trump's Business by Meeting Japan's Prime Minister (Margaret Hartmann, 11/17/16, New York)

Donald Trump says we don't have to worry about conflicts of interest when he becomes president because his business will be put into a blind trust run by his three oldest children. No one knows what that means because that is not how a blind trust works, but on Thursday we got a preview. Ivanka Trump, who will be running her father's business in 62 days, sat in on his meeting with Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe.

At least we don't have to even pretend to take the Right's objections to Hillary seriously anymore.
Posted by orrinj at 8:21 AM


Leaving the Union: Could a State Successfully Secede Today? (John Marquardt, 11/18/16, Imaginative Conservative)

What then might be the solution to stabilizing the multitude of mounting cultural, ideological, political, and racial tensions that seem to be constantly straining the very seams of America's fabric and future? Since the quadrennial changes in the nation's political administrations, or the elections to alter the makeup of its national Congress appear to have little effect in finding a better path out of the country's current morass, or even try to alter the status quo, perhaps we should turn the clock back a century and a half and rethink the course taken by the South in 1860.

The original roadmap to regional independence and possible salvation is still valid. Contrary to what might be thought of as conventional wisdom today, as stated at the outset, there never was, and there still is, no actual section of the U.S. Constitution that would preclude states from putting referendums for or against secession on the ballot, and if duly approved, for such states then to attempt to depart legally from the Union, or to form a new regional grouping. That being said, it is certain that today's federal government would not allow such moves to proceed unchallenged, and would, at least, lay the matter before the Supreme Court--as should have been the case in 1860. On the other hand, it is also entirely possible that the government would eschew any legal action and if its orders to the states to cease and desist were ignored, would once again set itself immediately upon Lincoln's tragic road to fratricidal war. In either instance, however, given the gravity of today's ever-growing national dilemma, referendums on secession might be worth a try. For, as Donald Trump said during his campaign, what do you have to lose?

The cultural differences between places like the Pacific Coast states and the South an d the Rust Belt and New England and Hawaii and Alaska and so forth may become more pronounced over time--though we currently remain the most conformist country on Earth.  What is more likely to drive the eventual devolution into a set of smaller Americas are the facts that there are no longer any national security reasons driving unity and the inefficiency of trying to govern so many people centrally

Posted by orrinj at 8:16 AM


How Steve Bannon and Breitbart News Can Be Pro-Israel -- and Anti-Semitic at the Same Time (Naomi Zeveloff, November 15, 2016, The Forward)

There is actually "little correlation" between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, according Steven M. Cohen, a sociologist at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. To be sure, anti-Semitism is found among the anti-Zionist left. But it is also found among the Zionist right.

"Many people who dislike Jews like Israel and many people who are critical toward Israel are affectionate toward Jews," said Cohen.

Breitbart News isn't the only place where anti-Semitism and Zionism go hand in hand. Anti-Semitic attitudes abound in Poland, for example, even as Poland has a strong diplomatic relationship with Israel.

This duality is a central component of "Trumpism," said Yael Sternhell, a Tel Aviv University professor of history and American studies. Though Trump has flip-flopped on the Middle East, he has professed an ultra-right view of Israel that would seem to outflank even Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He also has a Jewish son-in-law, and a daughter who converted to Judaism. At the same time, many of Trump's followers spout anti-Semitism.

"As long as Jews are in Israel fighting the 'good fight' with the Arab world as a bastion of American ideals and values in the Middle East, then they are very useful and admirable allies," said Sternhell. "Once they are home demanding a multi-cultural democracy, demanding that the country accommodate their religion, their belief and their custom that is a different story."

Posted by orrinj at 8:08 AM


The Right Cure To Health Care (Scott W. Atlas, May 17, 2016, dEFINING iDEAS)

Facts show that private insurance is superior to government insurance for both access and quality of medical care. History shows that the best way to control prices is through competition for empowered, value-seeking consumers. Instead of shunting more people into insurance and care provided by the government, heavily subsidized by the government, or massively regulated by the government, reforms should focus on how to produce competition-driven markets that will deliver innovation and cost savings, thereby maximizing the availability and affordability of the best care for everyone. The key is to move away from centralized models based on misguided incentives necessitating more and more taxation to one of individual empowerment with personal responsibility.

The free market/private insurance model is, of course, centralized and depends on incentives, that's how you make consumers of health care act like consumers of every other commodity.

Posted by orrinj at 8:03 AM


Trump just took credit for stopping Ford from moving a plant to Mexico. But it wasn't planning to. (Jim Tankersley, November 17, 2016, wASHINGTON pOST)

Ford has never announced plans to move to Mexico either its Kentucky Truck Plant in Louisville, which produces the Lincoln Navigator, or the Louisville Assembly Plant, which produces the Lincoln MKC and the Ford Escape.

In a statement on Thursday night, following Trump's tweet, the company said it had told Trump it would cancel a plan to shift production of a single model -- the MKC -- from Kentucky to Mexico. The company last year indicated it would be moving MKC production out of Louisville, though it did not announce where it was going. At the time, union leaders said the shift would not cost any jobs in Kentucky, because Escape production would replace lost MKC production.

Posted by orrinj at 7:53 AM


Trump lawyers aim to delay fraud trial at hearing (Dan Levine, 11/18/16, Reuters)

Attorneys for U.S. President-elect Donald Trump will try at a court hearing on Friday to delay a civil trial involving allegations from students that they were defrauded by the now-defunct Trump University.

The former students say they were lured by false promises to pay up to $35,000 to learn the New York businessman's real estate investing "secrets" from his "hand-picked" instructors. Trump owned 92 percent of Trump University and had control over all major decisions, the students' court papers said. [...]

Curiel is presiding over two cases against Trump and the university. A separate lawsuit is pending, filed by New York's attorney general who has said over 5,000 students across the country were defrauded out of about $40 million.

Posted by orrinj at 7:35 AM


'The Most Important Takeover of Any Organization in History' : Inside the years-long push to perfect the presidential transition (RUSSELL BERMAN  APR 22, 2016, The Atlantic)

The imperative is to begin planning months before the election. A new law requires outgoing administrations to do just that, and President Obama has already named a top aide to coordinate the transition across the government. But the push is also aimed at forcing presidential contenders to begin thinking about governing long before they are done campaigning. They may still be focused on corralling delegates and winning their party nominations, but the preparations for running the government can't wait until the summer, much less the fall. "It's a little bit like planning the D-Day invasion," said Chris Lu, who began secretly working on Barack Obama's transition around this time eight years ago. "You can't start planning on the day after Election Day. You have to have a battle plan in place beforehand."

Joshua Bolten has as much experience as anyone turning on and off the White House lights over the last quarter-century. Bolten is best known as President George W. Bush's second (and final) chief of staff, and he worked in the White House both at the end of the first President Bush's administration and at the beginning of his son's. Before 2008, transitions were largely ad-hoc operations, and except for a few national-security briefings, nothing occurred before the election.

Walking through the offices in the West Wing on January 19, 1993, Bolten remembers it as something of a construction zone, as workers were making modifications requested by the incoming Clinton team. "It's quite striking that there is nothing on the walls, nothing on the bookshelves, computers on the desks but the hard drives have been replaced," Bolten told me in a recent phone interview. "The new White House team basically walks onto a blank playing field."

By the time Bolten returned to the White House as a deputy chief of staff eight years later, the transition process wasn't much different. The 2001 transition was unexpectedly abbreviated after the monthlong Florida recount, and from a public standpoint, it was memorable mostly for the pranks of junior Clinton staffers who removed the W's from their computers on their way out the door. "There had been no particular advance in planning or infrastructure," Bolten said. "The Clinton crew was courteous to us but had not undertaken any particularly strenuous effort to facilitate our effectiveness on Day 1. They just tried to turn it over in responsible condition for us to start our jobs."

Less than eight months later, on September 11, Bolten was sitting in his office when his phone rang. The inside line. This wasn't a call routed from his assistant, but from someone who knew the direct number, which, Bolten recalled, even he didn't know at the time.

The man on the other end was Steve Ricchetti, who had sat at his desk at the end of the Clinton administration. "Do you know about the bunker?" Ricchetti asked.

The man on the other end was Steve Ricchetti, who sat at his desk at the end of the Clinton administration. "Do you know about the bunker?" Ricchetti asked.
It turns out, the Bush White House did know about the now-famous emergency command center under the East Wing where the president would later convene his national-security team to plan the 9/11 response. Joe Hagin, another deputy chief of staff, had given top staffers a tour of the bunker shortly after Bush took office. But to Bolten, the fact that his predecessor believed it was possible that the Bush team did not know about such a critical crisis center more than eight months into the presidency was a telling sign about the lack of institutional transition planning.

In 2008, Bush resolved to do things differently, recognizing that, as the president told Bolten in a private meeting about a year before he left office, this would be "the first modern presidential transition at a time when the United States itself was under threat." Bush told Bolten to make transition-planning a priority and to ensure that not just the White House but the entire government got the message. Years later, it remains one of the few areas for which members of the Obama administration lavish unqualified praise for their predecessors.

"To the credit of the Bush White House, they could not have been better partners with us," said Lu, who served as executive director of Obama's transition team and is now deputy secretary of Labor. "The success of the transition planning," he added, "was in large measure because of the cooperation we got from the Bush White House."

And while there are plenty of critics of the policies that both administrations put in place in response to the financial crisis, the Bush-Obama handover is considered to be the most successful transition of the modern era. "The 2008 transition was an excellent one," said Martha Joynt Kumar, who has studied the history of presidential transitions and in 2015 published Before the Oath, a book on the transfer of power from Bush to Obama.

Even as then-Senator Obama was publicly railing against George W. Bush in his bid to win the presidency, senior officials from the Bush administration were meeting in secret with Lu and other members of the Obama team to prepare them to take over the government if they won the election. They were also meeting with advisers to Senator John McCain, sometimes in the same room. In the weeks and months before the election in 2008, the Bush administration sought input from the two campaigns on a new software system for personnel management that the government was planning, and they encouraged both Obama and McCain, the Republican nominee, to submit the names of people who would likely occupy roles on their national-security team so they could have the proper clearance to begin working in the weeks between the election and the inauguration. Knowing that the Democrats would be nervous about turning over names to a Republican administration, Bolten said they set up a system that shielding anyone outside the FBI from knowing whom Obama wanted to have cleared.

Bush may have endorsed McCain, but his advisers now say that Obama was more prepared to take office. While Obama had Lu and John Podesta, a former chief of staff in the Clinton White House, working on transition-planning, McCain was slower to name transition leaders and more reluctant--perhaps out of superstition, officials told me--to submit names to the FBI. "They definitely did not put the same level of attention or organization into constructing a transition team," Bolten said. "They were behind."

Obama, by contrast, had quietly tapped Lu to begin working on a transition in May of 2008, before he had even formally defeated Hillary Clinton. "We never told anyone we were doing it. We just kind of did it," Lu said. He was not officially named the executive director of the transition until the day after the election, even though he had informally held the job for months.

After the election, the Bush administration focused on preparing the incoming Obama team to take over the national-security apparatus. Bolten persuaded Rahm Emanuel, the incoming chief of staff, to get senior members of Obama's Cabinet to come to Washington in early January for a table-top exercise with the Department of Homeland Security that simulated a terrorist attack. The planning paid off on Inauguration Day, when officials received word of a "credible" plot to strike the National Mall during the inaugural ceremonies. Bolten had asked Michael Chertoff, the homeland security secretary, to stay in Washington through the inauguration, and Bolten pulled Emanuel out of a ceremonial coffee the Bushes were hosting for the Obamas. The two chiefs of staff went down to the Situation Room and participated in a video conference together.

"Imagine that scene without any planning," Bolten said.

Ultimately, the inauguration went off smoothly.

While the 2008 transition was considered a success by past standards, history had set a low bar. The Bush and Obama teams understandably focused much of their attention on national security, but the new administration still found itself woefully understaffed across the government as it inherited an economic crisis.

Former administration officials in both parties complain about the lengthy and invasive Senate confirmation process for presidential appointees, which has become so arduous that it discourages skilled people from government service and leaves new administrations short-handed for months. In 2009, the Treasury Department was at the center of Obama's response to the financial meltdown and economic recession, and while the White House filled political appointee posts in Treasury at a faster clip than other departments and than previous administrations, Secretary Timothy Geithner was still surrounded by empty desks during the most important period of his tenure.

"As well as you prepare, you can't prepare for the unexpected, and I think that's the problem," Lu said. "Obviously if you had known that was going to happen in May 2008, you would have structured your transition in a completely different way. That was just not knowable at that time."

It wasn't just the Treasury Department, Lu said, but the entire government that suffered from being short-staffed at the beginning of the Obama administration. After Congress passed the $800 billion economic stimulus package within a month of Obama taking office, it was up to the departments and agencies to disburse the money. And even if there had been enough "shovel-ready" projects across the country, it took the skeleton crews in Washington a while to find them. "At that point in the Department of Labor, there was basically one Senate-confirmed person, and that was the secretary of Labor," Lu said. "Imagine that in every single agency."

"People sort of forget that throughout the federal government, there really weren't a lot of people," he added.

Obama experienced some of the same hiccups in getting his Cabinet in place as did previous presidents. Geithner's nomination ran into trouble over tax issues, and two of his other nominees, Tom Daschle and Bill Richardson, were forced to withdraw. Ultimately, Obama succeeded in getting Cabinet secretaries and agency heads confirmed earlier than his predecessors. The main problem, according to Max Stier of the Partnership for Public Service, is that the Obama transition didn't aim high enough, and it lost momentum after the first wave of appointees were put in place.

The transition had built a team of 300 volunteers to usher in around three dozen top officials. "After that first wave occurred, that group of people--poof!--disappeared," Stier said. Obama, he said, should have set a goal of getting 100 people confirmed by the time he was inaugurated and 400 by the August recess, which is closer to what Mitt Romney's team was shooting for had he won in 2012. Studies of the 2009 transition found there was an average of 50 days between the Senate confirmations for agency leaders and the next highest ranking official. "As a result, you end up with agencies where the secretary is home alone," Stier said. "They don't have the complete set of people they really need to run the agency effectively."

The officials who orchestrated the 2008 transition were struck by how much of a fly-by-night operation it was. "We were kind of making it up as we went along," Bolten recalled.

With help from the Partnership for Public Service, a D.C.-based nonprofit, officials in the administration and in Congress ramped up efforts to formalize the process--to take what worked in 2008 and make it the standard for future transitions. The Partnership had convened a conference north of New York City in 2008 that drew former administration officials, good-government advocates, and representatives of the major campaigns that year. In 2010, it released a report called Ready to Govern with a series of recommendations for transition-planning, including measures that made it into new federal legislation, the Pre-Election Presidential Transition Act of 2010. That law boosted funding for the transition and for the first time authorized the General Services Administration to provide office space to the major-party candidates (and, potentially, a serious third-party contender) to begin planning their governments months before the election. It also allowed the outgoing administration to set up the kind of transition councils that Bush established by executive order in 2008. Recognizing that transition-planning would still be underfunded, however, the law allows campaigns to raise outside money as well.

In 2012, Mitt Romney made use of the new resources--and then some. Running as a management guru and turnaround expert, Romney shook off any concern about appearing presumptuous and named Mike Leavitt, a former Utah governor and Cabinet secretary in the Bush administration, to lead his transition planning soon after he clinched the Republican nomination in the spring.

Unlike four years earlier, Leavitt was charged with coordinating with an administration that his campaign was trying to unseat. When Leavitt spoke to Jack Lew, then the White House chief of staff, he said Lew acknowledged the awkwardness right away--that "we hope there is no transition and you hope there is one." But Leavitt said Lew and officials throughout the Obama administration conducted themselves professionally. Using the 2008 version as a template, the campaign and the administration signed a memorandum of understanding governing how the transition would go if Romney won the election; it covered things like what kind of access incoming designees would have to information and government office space, how to resolve disagreements, and how to ensure that incoming staffers were properly cleared to handle classified information.

Shortly after the Republican National Convention in late August, Leavitt set up shop in the GSA-provided space in Washington, traveling up to Boston once a week to meet with Romney and only a couple of senior campaign officials for an hour at a time. The limited interaction was by design. "They needed to not be distracted," Leavitt told me. "Their job was to win the campaign. Mine was to prepare." The transition created a couple of basic rules. First, it was not going to be a policy laboratory for the campaign. "The campaign made policy, and our job was to prepare to implement it," he said. The second was that no one who worked for the transition was given any guarantee of having a job in an eventual Romney administration. "What I didn't want was a lot of people trying to position themselves to play a particular role," Leavitt said. "We were very clear that this was not linked to employment."

By Election Day, the Romney transition--which had been dubbed the Readiness Project--had swelled to a staff of more than 600. As Leavitt put it: "We had built essentially a federal government in miniature." The Romney team had set a goal of filling the 150 most important positions by Inauguration Day and a total of 400 by the August congressional recess--an ambitious schedule by historical standards but one that would still leave hundreds of posts vacant for the entirety of President Romney's honeymoon. (There are more than 4,000 political appointees in the federal government.) By November, Romney, Leavitt, and the transition team had amassed enough material to fill an entire book on the Readiness Project and what-might-have-been, which they published in the spring.

They just didn't have a government to run. "We built a great ship," Leavitt said. "We never got a chance to sail it. And it's a grave disappointment. But somebody has that experience every four years."

November 17, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 9:12 PM


Fox News Poll: Primary Reason For Trump's Victory Was Hatred Of Clinton (HANK BERRIEN NOVEMBER 17, 2016, daily Wire)

Although the number of eligible voters increased 5.5% compared with 2012, from 215.1 million to 227 million, the number of votes only rose 1.5%. Even more shocking; Republicans and Democrats got 3.2 million less votes than in 2012, while third-party candidates garnered 5.5% of the vote.

Trump got 0.5% less of the vote than Mitt Romney did, but Clinton severely underperformed Barack Obama's 2012 total, getting 3.4% less.

Both candidates received less white votes than their respective party's candidates in 2012; Trump got 1.2 million fewer votes while Clinton came up short by 2.3 million.

Posted by orrinj at 9:08 PM



Though Flynn is not a lobbyist himself, his company, Flynn Intel Group, is registered with Congress as a lobbying organization, and has a registered lobbyist on its staff. A Flynn Intel Group client, Kamil Ekim Alptekin, a Turkish businessman with real estate, aerospace, and consulting interests, told The Intercept on Thursday that one of his companies, Inovo BV, paid Flynn's company "tens of thousands of dollars" for analysis on world affairs. On election day, Flynn published an opinion piece for The Hill urging U.S. support for Turkey's controversial strongman president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and pushing for the extradition of Erdogan's political rival, Fethullah Gülen, who now resides in Pennsylvania. "From Turkey's point of view, Washington is harboring Turkey's Osama bin Laden," Flynn wrote, on Nov. 8.

In a statement, Flynn said that he would sever ties with his own company if he entered Trump's administration. He did not say whether he would close the business, where his son is listed as chief of staff, or disclose his other clients.

Alptekin said that while he agreed with what Flynn wrote, he did not have any influence over his views. "There is no money in the world that could make General Flynn or anybody else who is being considered for a cabinet post write that article on election day," he said. "I don't think a billion dollars would make him do that."

The ties between Flynn Intel Group and Inovo BV, Alptekin's company, were previously reported by The Daily Caller and Politico. Robert Kelley, the Flynn Group's general counsel and the main point of contact with the Inovo account, told Politico that the company's duties included reporting on "the present situation, the transition between President Obama and President-elect Trump."

Posted by orrinj at 8:59 PM


US homelessness declines: What's working? (Amanda Hoover, NOVEMBER 17, 2016, CS Monitor)

A report released Thursday by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) shows a striking reversal of the problem, with chronic homelessness declining 7 percent in the past year, marking a total 35 decline percent from the 2007 rate. The overall homelessness rate saw a 3 percent decrease, although rates in cities such as Seattle, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., were up. In each of those three cities, the homelessness rate this year saw a rise from between 6 and 21 percent.

What do some cities know that others don't?

The decreases nationwide, especially those involving chronic homelessness, come in part thanks to a push for permanent housing options rather than temporary placements that are no longer seen as a good path to getting people "back on their feet." Communities, such as Boston, that have explored supportive, long-term options have seen more of their vulnerable citizens thrive, and some say an expansion of that plan could eradicate the issue of homelessness entirely.

Posted by orrinj at 6:27 PM


Oil prices fall as strong dollar wipes out OPEC cut optimism (Jane Chung, 11/17/16, Reuters)

Oil prices fell in early trading on Friday as the strengthening U.S. dollar snuffed out rekindled hopes that OPEC might agree production cuts.

Housing Starts in U.S. Surged to a Nine-Year High in October (Sho Chandra, November 17, 2016, Bloomberg)

U.S. new-home construction jumped to a nine-year high in October as an outsized advance in the number of apartment projects accompanied a strong pickup for single-family housing.

These are the best possible conditions in which to have an incompetent president.

Posted by orrinj at 6:20 PM


FBI's decision to reopen Clinton email probe enabled Donald Trump to win election, says former aide Corey Lewandowski (James Rothwell , 17 NOVEMBER 2016, The Telegraph)

The FBI's controversial decision to re-examine Hillary Clinton's emails enabled Donald Trump to win the election, his former campaign manager has claimed.

Corey Lewandowski, who is expected to be offered a key position in the Trump administration, described the move as "amazing" and said it gave the Republican candidate the "spring in his step" he needed to win the race.

The FBI had come under intense criticism for its decision to resurrect the investigation in the eleventh hour, as Democrats said it breached impartiality rules and tipped the odds in Mr Trump's favour.  
"With eleven days to go, something amazing happened," Mr Lewandowski said in a speech at the Oxford Union debating society on Wednesday evening.

Posted by orrinj at 6:08 PM


Bill Maher, Glenn Beck apologies, rethink red-hot rhetoric (Brian Lowry, November 16, 2016, CNN Money)

Several prominent voices have identified ratcheting up rhetoric prior to 2016 as contributing to the toxic environment that made Trump possible -- noting that when true alarms needed to be sounded, their "The sky is falling" warnings sounded a trifle hollow, unable or unpersuasive in terms of defining the unique threat that many saw in Trump's candidacy.

After all, we'd heard plenty of heated pronouncements before -- a partial byproduct of the pressure to garner attention in a world driven by ratings and (in a historically recent departure for print journalism) traffic.

On the November 11 edition of HBO's "Real Time," Maher confessed to having attacked President George W. Bush -- and later GOP nominee Mitt Romney -- "like he was the end of the world. And he wasn't. ... They were honorable men who we disagreed with, and we should have kept it that way. So we cried wolf and that was wrong. But this is real."

In a New Yorker interview before the election, Beck sounded similarly chastened for over-the-top diatribes he employed regarding President Obama during his Fox News days -- having suggested in 2009 that Obama harbored a "deep-seated hatred for white people."

"We've made everything into a game show," he said, "and now we're reaping the consequences of it."

Some conservative pundits and columnists who joined the "Never Trump" movement experienced their own epiphanies. The Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin called upon those near the political center, on the right and the left, to unite as "champions of moderation," hoping "to cool tempers and dampen resentments."

Posted by orrinj at 6:03 PM


Will Rick Perry Be Appointed Secretary of That Department He Couldn't Remember? (FRANK CAMP NOVEMBER 17, 2016, Daily Wire)

During a Republican presidential primary debate in 2011, then-candidate Rick Perry made an infamous gaffe. After stating he'd abolish three federal agencies, he wasn't able to remember all three... [...]

Now, in an ironic turn of events, Donald Trump is allegedly considering Perry as the man to run the very agency he "oopsed" on in 2011. According to The Wall Street Journal: "Former Gov. Rick Perry was being discussed as a potential Energy Secretary."

Posted by orrinj at 5:54 PM


Something to be thankful for: the cost of a 2016 Thanksgiving dinner is lower than last year and 20% lower than 1986 (Mark J. Perry, 11/17/16, AEIdeas)


Posted by orrinj at 5:47 PM


Trump Team Floats 'Infrastructure Bank' After Campaigning Against One (Eric Levitz, 11/16/16, New York)

Hillary Clinton campaigned on an infrastructure plan that included a $25 billion seed investment in an "infrastructure bank." Donald Trump's campaign assailed that proposal, describing it as a nefarious, wasteful entity that would be "controlled by politicians and bureaucrats in Washington."

But now, Trump's favorite politicians and bureaucrats in Washington -- the members of his transition team -- are floating the "infrastructure bank" idea as their own. Per Bloomberg:

Steven Mnuchin, a member of the team's executive committee who was recommended for the position of Treasury secretary, said in brief comments to reporters Wednesday that a "very big focus is regulatory changes, looking at the creation of an infrastructure bank to fund infrastructure investments." 

Posted by orrinj at 5:39 PM


Chevrolet Bolt named Motor Trend Car of the Year (Peter Valdes-Dapena, November 15, 2016, CNN Money)

The Bolt has an EPA-estimated 238 miles of driving range on a full charge. With prices starting at about $37,500 -- or $30,000 after federal tax incentives -- the Bolt is considered the first relatively inexpensive long-range electric vehicle.

It would have been a good small hatchback car even if it were gasoline-powered, Motor Trend editors wrote of the Bolt. It's surprisingly roomy on the inside despite its small size outside.

Electric drive gives the 200 horsepower Bolt quick-feeling acceleration and nearly silent performance.

Posted by orrinj at 5:31 PM


Secretary of State Mitt Romney? Trump To Meet With Former GOP Candidate This Weekend (JOSHUA YASMEH NOVEMBER 17, 2016, dAILY wIRE)

In a surprise turn of events, President-elect Donald Trump has scheduled a meeting with 2012 GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney this weekend to discuss the secretary of state position. A source close to the transition team reportedly leaked the information to NBC News.

It's important to note that over the past week, team Trump has expressed interest in a variety of Republican heavyweights, including former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, former UN ambassador John Bolton, and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker.

Posted by orrinj at 12:27 PM


Chuck Schumer Got More Money From Trump Than Any Other Senator (Brent Scher, November 17, 2016, fREE bEACON)

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.), who was elected on Wednesday to lead the Democrats in the Senate, has been on the receiving end of more political cash from Republican Donald Trump than any of his Senate peers.

Posted by orrinj at 4:47 AM


Ahead of Trump meeting, Abe told not to take campaign rhetoric literally (Reuters, 11/16/16)

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will seek reassurances from U.S. President-elect Donald Trump on U.S.-Japan ties on Thursday and a senior adviser to Abe said he had been told that campaign remarks calling the alliance into question should not be taken literally.

Posted by orrinj at 4:41 AM


EXPLAINED: Is Jared Kushner Family Feud With Chris Christie Torpedoing Trump Transition? (Daniel J. Solomon, November 17, 2016, The Forward)

More than a decade ago, the current New Jersey governor and former prosecutor put Kushner's father, the real estate developer Charles Kushner, in prison for witness tampering, illegal campaign donations and tax evasion. And if signs are to be trusted, the son has not forgiven the sins committed against the father.

Bloomberg News reported on Wednesday that Jared Kushner has been attempting to sideline Christie and his allies in the transition process, something that has slowed down the effort considerably. Earlier in the week, Jared Kushner helped oust the Christie-appointed Mike Rogers, the former head of the Intelligence Committee, as leader of the transition's national security team.

This comes on the heels of last Thursday's departure of Christie as the head of the transition. He was replaced at the top of the operation by Mike Pence following the president-elect's upset victory in last week's contest.

Christie has been clouded by scandal related to the Bridgegate controversy -- the incident in which Christie advisers shut down the George Washington Bridge three years ago to retaliate against a local mayor who refused to endorse his reelection campaign. Two of his aides were convicted this month for crimes related to this episode.

November 16, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 6:11 PM


Democrats Are Losing the Culture Wars : Party leaders are moving leftward, naively assuming they can win over working-class voters with a socialist-minded message. (Josh Kraushaar, 11/15/16, National Journal)

In the af­ter­math of the elec­tion, shell-shocked Demo­crats struggled to pin­point a reas­on be­hind their stun­ning loss to Don­ald Trump. Hil­lary Clin­ton blamed FBI Dir­ect­or James Comey. Demo­crat­ic op­er­at­ives cri­ti­cized the Clin­ton cam­paign team for tak­ing the Rust Belt for gran­ted. Bernie Sanders and his as­cend­ant left-wing flank of the party blames the party's close­ness to Wall Street.

No one is point­ing a fin­ger at the most glar­ing vul­ner­ab­il­ity--the party's cul­tur­al dis­con­nect from much of the coun­try. On is­sues ran­ging from the pres­id­ent's hes­it­ance to la­bel ter­ror­ism by its name to an un­will­ing­ness to cri­ti­cize ex­trem­ist ele­ments of protest groups like Black Lives Mat­ter to ex­ec­ut­ive or­ders man­dat­ing trans­gender bath­rooms, the ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fen­ded the sens­ib­il­it­ies of the Amer­ic­an pub­lic. Among lib­er­al-minded mil­len­ni­als, Pres­id­ent Obama's ac­tions were a sign that he was chart­ing "an arc of his­tory that bends to­wards justice." But to older, more-con­ser­vat­ive Amer­ic­ans, it was a sign that the ad­min­is­tra­tion's views were well out­side the Amer­ic­an main­stream.

Clin­ton tried to win over mod­er­ates by rais­ing red flags about Trump's for­eign policy and his ra­cially charged, miso­gyn­ist­ic rhet­or­ic. But she didn't have a Sis­ter Soul­jah mo­ment to cri­ti­cize the ex­cesses of the Left--as Bill Clin­ton fam­ously did dur­ing the 1992 cam­paign--for fear of ali­en­at­ing the Obama co­ali­tion. In fact, her line that "im­pli­cit [ra­cial] bi­as is a prob­lem for every­one" dur­ing the first de­bate was a mo­ment that couldn't have been more re­pel­lent to those white Rust Belt voters who deser­ted the Demo­crats this year.

As New York Times colum­nist Ross Douthat pres­ci­ently wrote in Septem­ber: "The new cul­tur­al or­tho­doxy is suf­fi­ciently stifling to leave many Amer­ic­ans look­ing to the vot­ing booth as a way to re­gister dis­sent." Op­pos­ing polit­ic­al cor­rect­ness was one con­sist­ent theme in Trump's very muddled cam­paign mes­sage.

Demo­crats will be spend­ing their time in the polit­ic­al wil­der­ness fig­ur­ing out how to re­build a shattered party. But early in­dic­a­tions sug­gest that party lead­ers are veer­ing even fur­ther to the left in­stead of mod­er­at­ing their rhet­or­ic. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:06 PM


Confusion over Trump's first talks with foreign leader (Alistair Bell, 11/16/16, Reuters)

One day before U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's first meeting with a foreign leader, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Japanese officials said they had not finalized when or where in New York it would take place, who would be invited, or in some cases whom to call for answers.

Uncertainty over the talks shows the difficulties in turning Trump from a freewheeling businessman into a sitting president with a watertight schedule and a fully functioning administration by his inauguration on Jan. 20.

Posted by orrinj at 5:59 PM


A Closer Look at Health Insurance Coverage Estimates (Joseph Antos, James C. Capretta, November 16, 2016 | AEI Economic Perspectives)

With the passage of the ACA, fewer than 10 percent of the remaining uninsured do not have a realistic path to securing health insurance. The future of the ACA is now uncertain, but any future policy changes will likely need to provide a sure path to insurance coverage for all Americans as well.

Posted by orrinj at 5:51 PM


Trump team's agency work stalls over missing paperwork (NANCY COOK, 11/16/16, Politico)

The Trump transition team has not yet made contact with its counterparts in federal agencies because it hasn't filed the proper paperwork with the Obama administration -- a move that's causing a huge lag for Team Trump in setting up its government.

To get access to the agencies and receive briefings, the Trump transition needs to give the White House its code of ethics, a list of its transition team members and an acknowledgment that the team members have signed the code. None of this has been filed -- and it leaves the federal agencies in limbo, wondering and waiting when the new boss and his people will show up.

Posted by orrinj at 5:47 PM

60 in '18:

Are You Dreaming of Democrats Taking the Senate in 2018? Time to Wake Up. (Suzanne Monyak, 11/16/16, Slate)

The Republicans currently hold a slim majority in the Senate, with 51 Republicans to 48 Democrats. For the Democrats to win the majority in the 2018 midterms, they would need to maintain the 48 seats they currently have and flip three Republican seats. However, just eight Republicans will be up for re-election in two years, and most represent solidly red states. The exception is Dean Heller from Nevada--the state voted for Hillary Clinton in the presidential election, and it also elected a Democrat, Catherine Cortez Masto, to fill the seat of retiring Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.

And to make matters even bleaker for Senate Dems, some of the seats they do hold belong to states that voted for Trump over Hillary Clinton last week. Of the 25 Democratic senators up for re-election in 2018, 10 come from states where Trump won: solid red states Indiana, West Virginia, Missouri, Montana, and North Dakota, along with traditional swing states Michigan (still recorded as likely Trump until all votes are counted), Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Wisconsin--which all voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. Tim Kaine also faces re-election in Virginia, a battleground state Clinton won only narrowly on Tuesday.

The math is simple: If the electoral map stays the same colors between now and 2018, the Democrats could stand to gain just one Republican seat while losing 10 of their own, leaving them with an even smaller minority than they held when they lost their majority in the 2014 midterms.

Posted by orrinj at 5:38 PM


Iraqi militia threatens Islamic State's supply route to Syria (Ahmed Rasheed, 11/16/16, Reuters)

An Iraqi Shi'ite militia said on Wednesday it was on the verge of driving Islamic State fighters from an air base west of Mosul, a victory which would threaten the Sunni group's supply route from Syria to its last major stronghold in Iraq.

Some Islamic State fighters have already pulled out of the Tal Afar base and moved to the town of the same name, said Jafaar Hussaini, a spokesman for Kata'ib Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed group.

"The battle will be finished today," he said.

Should Kata'ib Hezbollah succeed, it would be a significant development in the campaign to recapture Mosul, Islamic State's de facto capital since its forces swept through Iraq in 2014 and set up a self-declared caliphate in a swathe of Syria and northern Iraq.

...these are extremely easy times to be president.

Posted by orrinj at 5:22 PM


Trump's Proposals Won't Help The White Working Class -- Or The Urban Poor (Ben Casselman, 11/15/16, 538)

But many of Trump's white working-class supporters did cite economic issues as a significant concern. In his campaign, Trump pledged to bring back manufacturing jobs, get tough on foreign competitors and deport undocumented immigrants who, he said, push down the wages of American workers. Many of his voters have said they plan to hold him to those promises.

They are likely to be disappointed. Many of the economic grievances of the white working class are legitimate: Manufacturing jobs really have disappeared, and those that remain often don't pay as well or offer the same benefits as the union jobs that workers remember from decades past. Economists, who said for years that trade's downsides were minimal, have more recently begun to acknowledge that foreign competition has done lasting damage to many communities (though they still say trade is good for the economy as a whole). But despite his rhetoric, Trump offered few specifics during the campaign for how he would change trade policy to benefit workers; the plan his advisers did offer was widely panned by independent economists, some of whom warned it would cause a recession.

The larger problem for Trump and his supporters is that there is very little reason to think that any set of policies could meaningfully reverse the long-term decline in U.S. manufacturing jobs. That decline has been driven by a combination of globalization and automation -- forces that aren't likely to reverse any time soon. As I've argued in the past, politicians and policymakers would be better off focusing on how to improve the wages and working conditions of the service workers who now dominate the U.S. economy -- a subject Trump barely mentioned during the campaign. Trump had little to say about education, job training, entrepreneurship or other policy areas that might help workers in rural areas. And though Trump has said that lighter regulation will help the struggling coal industry, that will do nothing to change the low natural-gas prices that are coal's biggest enemy. Indeed, Trump has also pledged to ease regulation of fracking, which will tend to boost oil and gas production, which will in turn tend to keep prices low. (

Posted by orrinj at 5:17 PM

Dinner: Use a Bundt Pan to Bake a Pasta Pie (Justin Chapple and the Editors of Food & Wine  Nov. 3, 2016, TIME)

This pasta pie is a fun riff on mac and cheese. I use three types of cheese here: Fontina and cheddar, which melt beautifully, as well as Parmigiano-Reggiano to create the crispest edges.

Unsalted butter, for greasing
1 lb. spaghetti
6 oz. Fontina cheese, shredded (2 cups)
6 oz. sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded (2 cups)
1 ½ cups whole milk
¾ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 ½ tsp. pepper
2 tsp. kosher salt

1. Preheat the oven to 425°. Generously butter a 10-inch Bundt pan. In a pot of salted boiling water, cook the spaghetti until al dente. Drain well.

2. In a large bowl, mix the pasta with the remaining ingredients. Scrape into the prepared pan. Bake until the cheese is melted and bubbling, 35 to 40 minutes.

3. Transfer the pasta Bundt loaf to a rack and let cool for 15 minutes. Invert the loaf onto a platter, cut into wedges and serve.

Posted by orrinj at 1:41 PM


Trump adviser calls for tax reform as bipartisan 'jobs' bill (David Morgan, 11/16/16, Reuters)

A co-author of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's tax plan called on Congress Wednesday to pursue corporate tax reform as a bipartisan "jobs" bill that could finance a massive new infrastructure program while slashing business tax rates.

Posted by orrinj at 1:35 PM


GOP Foreign-Policy Power Brokers in Congress Could Foil Trump : On Russia, Syria, and other top security issues, Trump may find his campaign priorities hamstrung by Republican leaders in Congress. (MOLLY O'TOOLE, NOVEMBER 16, 2016, Foreign Policy)

Some of the most powerful foreign-policy makers in the U.S. government are outside of President-elect Donald Trump's control and are already signaling an early end to the honeymoon period over their fellow Republican's security and diplomatic stances.

No matter whom Trump picks for his cabinet -- and who might actually accept top posts implementing his "America First" foreign policy -- he'll have to contend with GOP congressional committee chairmen at the top of defense, intelligence, and diplomatic panels in both the House and Senate, many of whom are wary, at best, of his approach to issues ranging from Russia to the Syrian civil war to immigration.

Most of the sitting chairs on these panels will remain where they are next year -- and just emerged from an election season of defending, dancing around, or distancing themselves from the controversial GOP presidential candidate.

One of the problems with running behind the rest of your party : you need them; they don't need you.

Posted by orrinj at 1:31 PM


EU says to stick to Iran rapprochement despite Trump's criticism (Gabriela Baczynska, 11/15/16, Reuters)

The European Union said on Monday it would keep pushing to restore ties with Iran in line with last year's nuclear deal, which U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has said he will rescind. [...]

"The European Union reiterates its resolute commitment to the (Iran nuclear deal)," the bloc's foreign ministers said in a statement in Brussels.

"The European Union is committed to support the full and effective implementation ... by the lifting of nuclear related economic and financial sanctions and engaging with the private sector and economic operators, especially banks, to promote growth in trade and investment."

Posted by orrinj at 1:26 PM


Warming to Trump (DAN HANNAN, 11/14/16, Washington Examiner)

An odd thing has happened since last week. I've started warming to Donald Trump. Maybe it was his gracious acceptance speech or some of his appointments. Maybe it's that I want the best for America. But mainly, if I'm honest, it's the gibbering, drooling, pant-hooting rage of the other side.

It started a few hours after the polls closed when I read an article by the editor of the New Yorker, David Remnick, which contained, without irony, the following sentence: "Fascism is not our future -- it cannot be; we cannot allow it to be so -- but this is surely the way fascism can begin."

I can't believe this needs saying, but America is a pluralist democracy. It has just conducted a free and peaceful election, as a result of which power will be transferred in an orderly manner, without anyone being exiled or shot.

The winner reached out to those who hadn't voted for him, asking for their help and guidance; the loser made a fine concession speech; the outgoing president put his staff at his successor's disposal to ensure a smooth transition. Fascism? the hysterics on the Right and Left wish.  The current "Socialist" governed the same way as the prior "Theocrat" and so will the "Fascist." 

Posted by orrinj at 1:21 PM


Trump can't repeal the laws of economics (Lawrence Summers November 14, 2016, Washington Post)

While drastic changes in the proposed domestic program are necessary for it to work, the general direction of increasing public investment, reforming taxes and adjusting regulation is appropriate. The same cannot be said of Trump's global plan, which rests on a misunderstanding of how the world economy operates.

Consider the immediate effects of Trump's victory. The Mexican peso has depreciated about 10 percent relative to the dollar over fears of new protectionist policies, and many other emerging market currencies have also fallen sharply. The impact of this change is to raise the cost of anything the U.S. exports to Mexico and to lower the cost of anything Mexico exports to the United States.

It will also make Mexico and other emerging markets much cheaper relative to the United States for global companies. So U.S. workers, particularly in manufacturing, will face increased pressure.

The plan seems to assume that we can pressure countries not to let their currencies depreciate, as suggested by the intention to have the new treasury secretary name China as an exchange-rate manipulator. This is ludicrous. While there are reasonable arguments that China manipulated its exchange rate for commercial advantage in the past, the reality is that for the past year the country has intervened to prop up its exchange rate. The same is true of most emerging markets. Not even U.S. presidents with political mandates can repeal the laws of economics.

The dollar is only going to get stronger.

Posted by orrinj at 1:18 PM


The Price Of Sin May Be Going Up (Thomas Pellechia , 11/15/16, fORBES)

Right now, the excise tax on spirits is based on alcohol proof and it comes out at about 21 cents per ounce of alcohol. Both beer and wine are taxed not on alcohol content but on total liquid volume, a formula that taxes regular beer (up to 5% alcohol) at approximately 10 cents per ounce and wine (up to 12% alcohol) at about 8 cents per ounce of alcohol. The CBO recently called for changing the formulas, a move that would increase rather than lower the excise tax.

The CBO report stated the federal government's excise tax take for 2012 was $9.7 billion, the agency also said, " Last raised in 1991, current excise tax rates on alcohol are far lower than historical levels when adjusted for inflation ."

CBO recommends leveling the playing field by taxing alcohol proof on all beverage alcohol products, and raising the rate. The agency stated:"The tax would be raised to $16 per proof gallon, thus increasing revenues by $64 billion over the 2014-2023 period, the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation estimates." 

Posted by orrinj at 1:12 PM


Top tax-writing Republican says TPP trade deal not dead in Congress (Reuters, 11/15/16)

U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady on Tuesday said Republicans should defend free trade and the party should defend the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) in the new Congress.

"Republicans are going to continue to support the freedom to trade," the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee said.

November 15, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 6:57 PM


Trump Staff Shake-Up Slows Transition to Near Halt (JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, NOV. 15, 2016, NY Times)

 President-elect Donald J. Trump's transition operation plunged into disarray on Tuesday with the abrupt departure of Mike Rogers, who had handled national security matters, the second shake-up in less than a week on a team that has not yet begun to execute the daunting task of taking over the government. [...[.

In another sign of disarray, a transition official said on Tuesday that Mr. Trump had removed a second senior defense and foreign policy official from his transition team, Matthew Freedman, who runs a Washington consulting firm that advises foreign governments and companies seeking to do business with the United States government.

Mr. Freedman, who had been in charge of coordinating Mr. Trump's calls to world leaders after his election, is a former business associate of Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump's former campaign manager, who once worked on the re-election bid of Ferdinand E. Marcos, the Filipino dictator ousted in the 1980s.

Mr. Pence took the helm of the transition on Friday after Mr. Trump unceremoniously removed Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, who had been preparing with Obama administration officials for months to put the complex transition process into motion. That effort is now frozen, senior White House officials say, because Mr. Pence has yet to sign legally required paperwork to allow his team to begin collaborating with President Obama's aides on the handover. [...]

Still, the slow and uncertain start to what is normally a rapid and meticulously planned transfer of power could have profound implications for Mr. Trump's nascent administration. It challenges the president-elect's efforts to gain control of the federal bureaucracy and to begin building a staff fully briefed on what he will face in the Oval Office on Day 1.

Even as the president-elect worked to fill pivotal roles in his administration, the disarray caught the attention of some senior Republicans who criticized Mr. Trump during his campaign but said after he won that they would not necessarily rule out joining his administration or advising him.

Eliot A. Cohen, a former State Department official, said on Twitter that after having spoken to Mr. Trump's team, he had "changed my recommendation: stay away. They're angry, arrogant, screaming 'you LOST!' Will be ugly."

Posted by orrinj at 6:05 PM


Voters sent career politicians in Washington a powerful "change" message by reelecting almost all of them to office (Lee Drutman, Nov 15, 2016, Vox)

Of 393 House incumbents who sought reelection, only five lost in the primaries, and only eight lost in the general election. For those of you keeping score at home, that's 97 percent of incumbents reelected. Only two incumbent senators, Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), lost. And Kirk, a Republican in a deep blue state, was always a long shot to win reelection.

Of 466 seats up in both the House and the Senate, 445 stayed in the same party. Again, for those of you keeping score at home, that's 96 percent of congressional seats staying in the same party.

And once all the votes are counted, Hillary Clinton will have won the national popular vote by only a little less than Barack Obama won it in 2012.

For a so-called "change" election, this is a whole lot of status quo.

Posted by orrinj at 5:50 PM


Carson not interested in serving in Trump administration (BEN KAMISAR, 11/15/16, The Hill)
Business manager and close friend Armstrong Williams said Carson won't join the incoming Trump administration and would only serve as an unofficial adviser.  [...]

"Dr. Carson feels he has no government experience, he's never run a federal agency. The last thing he would want to do was take a position that could cripple the presidency."


Posted by orrinj at 5:35 PM


Simple Digital Technologies Can Reduce Health Care Costs (Alexander L. Fogel & Joseph C. Kvedar, NOVEMBER 14, 2016, Harvard Business Review)

Digital therapeutics are being increasingly validated in clinical trials published in peer-reviewed medical journals and are available or are being developed for most chronic diseases. They include diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, obesity, smoking and chronic respiratory disease, and chronic pain. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) now reimburses for digital therapeutics for diabetes prevention and management. Enrollment in digital therapeutic programs is growing: A digital therapeutic is now the largest diabetes-prevention program in the United States recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and millions of people have downloaded digital therapeutics apps for medication adherence.

Here are just a few examples of the scale of the problem and the possibilities offered by digital therapeutics:

Diabetes prevention. Diabetes affects 9.5% of the U.S. population, and a diabetic employee costs his or her employer $4,500 more per year in lost productivity and higher medical costs. An additional 32% of the population has "pre-diabetes" - meaning that they are at high risk of developing diabetes.

The best treatment for diabetes is prevention, which requires many continuous behavioral interventions, support, and education. Digital therapeutics are now offering these solutions. One example is Omada Health, which modeled its product after the landmark Diabetes Prevention Program study. Omada offers a 16-week, online, interactive, behavioral-intervention program that combines health coaches, social networks, and personalized plans to reduce the development of diabetes in pre-diabetic patients through weight loss and increased physical activity. Studies show that the average participant loses nearly 5% of his or her body weight, keeps it off, and is less likely to develop diabetes. Omada's programs are now recognized by the CDC and CMS.

Smoking cessation. Seventeen percent of U.S. adults smoke, and they cost their employers nearly $6,000 more per year in direct and indirect medical costs. Smoking cessation is difficult, requiring minute-to-minute support and behavioral change. Digital therapeutics are being developed and clinically validated for smoking cessation. One is 2Morrow's SmartQuit, a smartphone, app-based, smoking-cessation therapy that has demonstrated effectiveness in randomized clinical trials and is two to three times more effective than unaided smoking cessation.

Medication adherence. More than 83% of all prescriptions are filled by patients with chronic diseases, and the average patient with one or more chronic diseases fills more than 20 prescriptions per year. More than half of medications prescribed for chronic disease are not taken as directed, and between 20% to 30% of all prescriptions are never filled. This problem contributes to worse health outcomes and greater spending. Digital therapeutics are emerging to combat this problem.

One example is MediSafe's cloud-synced smartphone app that sends patients reminders to take medications at their scheduled time, along with a "virtual pillbox" with images of the size and shape of the patient's pills. MediSafe can then send summary reports to patients and doctors. Users report substantially greater medication adherence across a number of chronic conditions.

Posted by orrinj at 4:47 PM


Giuliani took money from Qatar, Venezuela, Iranian exiles : His foreign clientele could present conflicts of interest as secretary of state. (ISAAC ARNSDORF 11/15/16, Politico)

The same subsidiary, Giuliani Security & Safety, provided security advice to a Singapore gambling project on behalf of a partnership that included a tycoon close to the North Korean regime who is considered an organized crime figure by the U.S., according to a report in the Chicago Tribune. "I think the person involved, if it's correct, was a 1 percent owner that had no involvement with us, we never worked for, had nothing to do with," Giuliani told NBC's Tim Russert at the time.

Giuliani Partners also advised TransCanada, which sought to build the Keystone XL pipeline that President Barack Obama rejected but Trump has said he wants to approve. And Giuliani helped the maker of the OxyContin painkiller, Purdue Pharma, settle a Drug Enforcement Administration investigation with a fine.

The Houston-based law firm Giuliani joined as a named partner in 2005 lobbied in Texas for Citgo, the U.S. subsidiary of the Venezuelan state oil company then controlled by President Hugo Chavez, The New York Times reported in 2007. The firm also did work for Saudi Arabia's oil ministry, according to The Associated Press.

The law firm, Bracewell & Giuliani, lobbied at the federal level during Giuliani's time there for energy companies including Southern Company, Duke Energy, Energy Future Holdings, Arch Coal, Chesapeake Energy and NuStar Energy, records show. It also represented Cornell Companies, a private prison operator that later merged with GEO Group. [...]

The Clinton Foundation has been hounded by Republican suspicions of selling access to Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, and the nonprofit did accept big bucks from foreign governments. But Clinton's defenders point out there's no proof she ever made an official act to benefit a foundation donor, and, unlike Giuliani, she never personally profited from the foreign contributions to her charity.

Posted by orrinj at 4:39 PM


Can the GOP Overcome Demographic Change in Red States? (TIM ALBERTA, October 31, 2016, National Review)

Lee Stauffacher and Pam McKinney love their home state of California -- its paradisiacal climate, its sublime topography -- but they had to leave. The state had been overrun, first by immigrants legal and illegal, their cultures and traditions in tow, and then by liberal politicians who seized control of the government by catering to these constituencies and turning their communities into Democratic garrisons. The state became majority-minority in 2001; whites are now 39 percent of its population and dwindling. In turn, the GOP is essentially extinct, representing conservative enclaves around California but irrelevant in statewide elections. 

So Stauffacher and McKinney, a staunchly Republican couple in their 60s, moved last year to Kingman, an 82 percent-white town in Arizona's ultraconservative northwest corner. They figured, given the state's ideological reputation -- owing to hawkish immigration policies championed by generations of GOP officeholders as well as Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio -- it was the ideal regional antidote to California. 

But not for much longer. Over the last 25 years, the state's Hispanic population has tripled, and whites have gone from 74 percent of the population to 54 percent. Minorities will be the majority by 2022. Arizona's changing population means a changing electorate; and a changing electorate usually means a changing government. Stauffacher and McKinney, it seems, can't escape this cycle.

Posted by orrinj at 4:32 PM


Was Steve Bannon, Donald Trump's Attack Dog, Paid Illegally? (Betsy Woodruff, 11.15.16, Politico)

A campaign watchdog group filed a complaint with federal election officials that alleges Stephen Bannon--recently named one of Donald Trump's top White House advisers--may have gotten paid illegally during Trump's campaign by pro-Trump billionaires.

And now, a new set of Federal Election Commission filings that haven't yet been reported on may give the group's case some additional heft.

The skids are being greased to get this problem out of town.

Posted by orrinj at 2:50 PM


Trump advisers steamroll Christie's transition (ANDREW RESTUCCIA and NANCY COOK, 11/15/16, Politico)

The transition team has yet to publicly release a code of ethics for itself or for nominees. And an aide to a person being considered for a top Cabinet position said the person had not yet been asked to complete a detailed questionnaire to suss out red flags. [...]

"Obviously, Inauguration Day is not getting further away," transition spokesman Jason Miller told reporters waiting in Trump Tower Monday night. "And people need to get going. This is an absolute top priority understood by the president-elect and the vice president-elect."

By comparison, President-elect Barack Obama's transition team was deep into the vetting process by early November 2008 -- not just meeting with prospective nominees but also compiling fat dossiers on them, according to emails made public through WikiLeaks. The Obama team also released a code of ethics for transition team members just a few days after the election to limit the influence of special interests. The Trump transition team, meanwhile, is full of lobbyists and has not released such a code.

"It's a lot of new people coming in the door. I'm sure their heads are spinning, with security clearances and background checks," said one transition team source. "They're going from the footloose and fancy-free world of the campaign into the process of setting up a government. It's a little different."

Posted by orrinj at 2:45 PM


House GOP unanimously nominates Paul Ryan for Speaker (RACHAEL BADE and KYLE CHENEY, 11/15/16, Politico)

The vote sends a strong signal of GOP unity under President-Elect Donald Trump and puts to rest speculation that Ryan's speakership is in jeopardy. Ryan told the conference during a closed-door meeting Tuesday that he and the current leadership regime have the support of Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence, according to a source in the room.

Posted by orrinj at 2:17 PM


Democrats clash over the future of the Obama coalition (GABRIEL DEBENEDETTI, 11/15/16, Politico)

In the wake of Clinton's shock defeat, there is widespread skepticism among Democrats about whether the voters who elected Obama will be enough to carry the White House for any future Democrat after an election where Clinton lost by wide margins among white voters and in rural areas where Trump proved devastatingly popular.

"We've started to lose touch with white voters. They're still the majority out there, and we can't claim to be a big-tent party if we lose touch with working class voters, whether they're black, white, blue, or red," said DNC member Boyd Brown of South Carolina. "When you have Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer making the sale for you, that dog don't hunt. It's time to reshuffle the deck and get some younger folks in there with some more diverse backgrounds. It's time for a leadership shakeup."

After party members are done surveying Democrats' hollowed-out down-ballot landscape, and with the national party on the precipice of all-out brawl for the central committee's chairmanship, everything is suddenly on the table as Democrats try to determine whether it chose the wrong messenger, the wrong message, or the wrong audience.

...particularly when they guy who managed it governed as a Republican?  And when all the GOP has to do is pass immigration "reform" to resume making inroads with Latinos?

Posted by orrinj at 5:58 AM


Posted by orrinj at 4:43 AM


Insiders describe 'knife fight' over Trump cabinet picks (AFP November 15, 2016)

Making the vital choices for President-elect Donald Trump's White House cabinet has sparked intense infighting, CNN reported Monday, with one source calling it a "knife fight."

The jobs to be filled include national security positions and West Wing posts, the television news network said, as Trump gathered with transition team members in New York.

"The disagreements highlight the dilemma faced by Trump, who is now torn between a campaign promise to shake up Washington and the need to build a national security team with policy experience," the report said.

Among those mentioned as possible secretary of state are hawkish former diplomat John Bolton and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Trump May Name Iraq War Propagandist John Bolton As Top US Diplomat (Joe Conason, November 15, 2016, National Memo)

The dark comedy that will all too soon officially become the Trump administration is still in previews, but already we're learning that the cosmic joke is on every American who believed whatever the man we must call "president-elect" said. That beautiful big border wall?  It's probably going to be a fence. Those 11 million deportations? That number has been cut by about 80 percent, down to roughly what the Obama administration is doing to rid the country of non-citizen criminals now. Draining that Washington swamp of reptilian lobbyists? They're in charge of his transition.

And did you believe Donald Trump's claim that he was against the war in Iraq, as he falsely claimed over and over again? Did you assume that he opposed the neoconservative policies of the Bush administration? Did you think he would be more cautious about foreign intervention than Hillary Clinton, as Trump promised when he blamed her for misadventures in Iraq, Libya, and Syria?

During the past year plenty of crackpots, on the left as well as the right, declared a preference for Trump over the "globalist" Clinton on national security and foreign policy issues, citing her Iraq war vote and her vaguely hawkish demeanor. But that brand of analysis was exposed as pitifully naïve on Nov. 14, as credible rumors began to circulate that one of the top two candidates for Secretary of State is John Bolton, who served as UN ambassador during the George W. Bush administration.

Yes, that's the same John Bolton who demanded last year that the United States bomb Iran.

Trump probably won't much reverse the current clean energy policies (Tyler Cowen on November 15, 2016, Marginal Revolution)

The reality is that clean energy has been booming in the United States for a whole bunch of reasons that don't have much to do with climate change. Things such as health, security and innovation, which lead to high levels of support amongst Republicans - yes, Republicans - for harnessing the power of American water, wind and sun.

Those federal tax credits for wind and solar? They were passed last December by a Republican Congress with bipartisan support. Revoking them would require a legislative effort that may not be looked upon kindly by the many Republican lawmakers who have renewable energy manufacturing and development in their states. Lawmakers like Senator Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, who said this summer: "If he wants to do away with it, he'll have to get a bill through Congress, and he'll do it over my dead body." He won't be the only one: looking across the country - and the electoral map - the top-10 wind-energy producing congressional districts are represented by Republicans.

Besides, much of the renewable energy boom has been driven by state policy. 

November 14, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 6:32 PM


Trump's Top Military Adviser Is Lobbying For Obscure Company With Ties To Turkish Government (Chuck Ross, 11/11/2016, Daily Caller)
An intelligence consulting firm founded by retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Donald Trump's top military adviser, was recently hired as a lobbyist by an obscure Dutch company with ties to Turkey's government and its president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The revelation of that new lobbying contract, which has not been previously reported, raises several questions given that Trump is said to be considering Flynn, the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), to take over as either Secretary of Defense or National Security Advisor.

It also raises questions about disclosure.

Flynn wrote an op-ed for The Hill on Tuesday, just before Trump's stunning upset of Hillary Clinton, in which he heaped praise on Erdogan and called on the next president, whoever that would be, to accede his request to extradite the U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen back to Turkey. [...]

The piece does not include a disclosure that Flynn Intel Group, the consulting firm that Flynn founded in Oct. 2014, just after leaving DIA, was recently hired to lobby Congress by a Dutch company called Inovo BV that was founded by a Turkish businessman who holds a top position on Turkey's Foreign Economic Relations Board.

Happily, Donald and the worst of his cronies are incapable of ethical behavior, so they'll run afoul of the law and be tossed aside--see under Chris Christie.

Posted by orrinj at 6:29 PM


Republicans face divisions over ObamaCare repeal (ALEXANDER BOLTON, 11/13/16, The Hill)

But centrist Republicans are worried about millions of people being kicked off insurance rolls if ObamaCare is repealed. They're hoping to reach compromises with Democrats in hopes of transitioning as smoothly as possible away from the law. 

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) told The Hill last year that she was "very concerned" about the 160,000 people who were then receiving health insurance in her state through the law's Medicaid expansion. 

Similarly, Sen. Roger Wicker (R), whose home state of Mississippi has the highest poverty rate in the nation, said he's worried about hurting people who received insurance for the first time. He hopes to work with Democrats to find a replacement program to limit the chances of a major disruption. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:23 PM


What Do Academic Studies Have to Say About Americans' Retirement Saving? (aNDREW g. bIGGS, 11/12/16, fORBES)

The economist Franco Modigliani, along with co-authors such as Richard Brumberg and Albert Ando, proposed a new approach which became known as the "life cycle model." As with pretty much anything in economics, it can get complicated. But here's a simple way to think about it. Economists generally assume that the "marginal utility" or satisfaction derived from consumption is declining. Say, the first piece of pizza tastes fantastic; the third or fifth piece isn't nearly as good.

If you've only got so much money to last over your lifetime, you'll want to spread it out over time rather than consuming a lot in some years and very little in others. Households save in good years and draw down their savings in bad years to try to keep their real standard of living steady over time. The chart below, drawn from a paper by Alicia Munnell, Anthony Webb and Wenliang Hou, illustrates in simple terms how households maintain a steady level of consumption over time even as their incomes can vary considerably.

When Modigliani was awarded the 1985 Nobel Prize in Economics, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences' described the life cycle model as "a new paradigm in studies of consumption and saving, and is today the basis of most dynamic models used for such studies," saying that "it has proved an ideal tool for analyses of the effects of different pension systems." Practically every academic paper on retirement income adequacy will either explicitly or implicitly reference the life cycle model as a guidepost for how households think about saving for retirement.

And those academic studies tend to find a more encouraging picture than the "retirement crisis" that popular studies and the news media often portray.

Two studies by University of Wisconsin economists John Karl Scholz and Ananth Seshadri and their co-authors apply the life cycle model to data from the Health and Retirement Study. The Scholz-Seshadri articles, which won TIAA-CREF's Paul A. Samuelson Award for Outstanding Scholarly Writing on Lifelong Financial Security, project that 75% to 85% of U.S. households are saving adequately for retirement. Importantly, where saving shortfalls occur they tend to be pretty modest. 

...will drive savings levels far beyond anything we actually require.

Posted by orrinj at 6:18 PM


Spike in murders seen after Florida self-defense law: study (Kerry Sheridan, November 14, 2016, AFP) 

Florida saw a significant spike in murders after enacting a "Stand Your Ground" law allowing people to use lethal force in self-defense in public or on private property, international researchers said Monday.

The southern state's 24 percent rise in homicide from 2005 to 2014 stood in sharp contrast to nationwide homicide rates, which have been declining since the 1990s, according to research published in a special issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Internal Medicine.

Posted by orrinj at 6:14 PM


At Times, Trump May Tap Unlikely Ally in Congress: Chuck Schumer (Steven T. Dennis, November 9, 2016, bLOOMBERG)

At times, Trump's agenda lines up more closely with that of the New York Democrat than his own party's leaders. When Trump delivered his acceptance speech early Wednesday morning, the only policy proposal he mentioned was his desire to rebuild "our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals." Such a plan is at odds with the fiscal restraint enforced by congressional Republicans, but echoes Schumer's own statements.

Trump has also talked frequently about cracking down on China for manipulating its currency, something that Schumer has spent years trying to persuade presidents to pursue.

Later Wednesday morning Trump called Schumer, who congratulated his fellow New Yorker on his improbable victory.

"It is time for the country to come together and heal the bitter wounds from the campaign," Schumer said in a statement.

Posted by orrinj at 6:06 PM


Is Trump's tough plan on immigration cracking? (AP, Nov. 14, 2016)

During his campaign he insisted he would deport 11 million people living in the country illegally, with exceptions. But he distanced himself from that position as time went on, and in his first television interview since winning the presidential election, Trump said he's willing to deport or incarcerate 2 million to 3 million people living in the country illegally who "are criminal and have criminal records, gang members, drug dealers."

Earlier Sunday, House Speaker Paul Ryan, also told CNN's "State of the Union" that "we are not planning on erecting a deportation force." Ryan said "I think we should put people's minds at ease" on mass deportation because the top priority is really border security.

On that, both men agreed Sunday, with the president-elect emphasizing that securing the border is his first immigration priority.

Trump campaigned on a promise to build a wall and make Mexico pay for it. The promise elicited chants of "Build that Wall" from the thousands throughout the country who packed his rallies. Mexico has said it would not pay for the construction of a border wall.

Posted by orrinj at 5:52 PM

60 in '18:

The whole Democratic Party is now a smoking pile of rubble (Matthew Yglesias, Nov 10, 2016, Vox)

[A]t the sub-presidential level, the Obama years have created a Democratic Party that's essentially a smoking pile of rubble.

Republicans control the House, and they control the Senate. District lines are drawn in such a way that the median House district is far more conservative than the median American voter -- resulting in situations like 2012 where House Democrats secured more votes than House Republicans but the GOP retained a healthy majority. The Senate, too, is in effect naturally gerrymandered to favor Republicans. Two years from now the Democratic Party will need to fight to retain seats in very difficult states like North Dakota, Montana, West Virginia, Indiana, and Missouri along with merely contestable ones in places like Florida, Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

In state government things are worse, if anything. The GOP now controls historical record number of governors' mansions, including a majority of New England governorships. Tuesday's election swapped around a few state legislative houses but left Democrats controlling a distinct minority. The same story applies further down ballot, where most elected attorneys general, insurance commissioners, secretaries of state, and so forth are Republicans. [...]

Meanwhile, Democrats' very weakness down ballot threatens to breed more weakness. The 2010 midterm elections went very poorly for Democrats, pushing the blue-to-purple states of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio into total Republican control. In all three states, the new GOP regimes used their newfound clout to enact anti-union measures. Those measures, by weakening the progressive infrastructure in the states, helped contribute to an ongoing reddening trend that reached its fruition in Trump seizing those states' electoral votes.

This same basic pattern threatens to reassert itself across large swaths of the country.

In states where Democratic Party politics can't be anchored in a large cosmopolitan city or a burgeoning nonwhite population, a heavy labor union presence seems necessary. (In Nevada, the one state whose local Democratic Party has been getting stronger lately, there's both.) But Republican strength in state politics eats away at union strength, begetting further Republican strength.

More prosaically, an attorney general or an insurance commissioner is someone who could be a good future candidate for a Senate seat or a governorship. When you don't hold the lower offices, it's hard to move up to the higher ones. And when you don't hold a majority in the state legislature, it's hard for a legislator to author bills that pass and become a track record of accomplishment that can boost you in a race for House or an insurance commissioner gig.

And after they get waxed in the mid-terms, who do they look to for the next presidential cycle?  Their qualified candidates--Jerry Brown, Joe Biden, etc.--are too old.  The ones who appeal to the base--Elizabeth Warren--repel voters.  Wouldn't Michelle Obama be their best shot at this point?

Posted by orrinj at 5:33 PM


Donald Trump reportedly 'surprised at the scope' of the president's duties (Catherine Garcia, 11/14/16, The Week)

Donald Trump will be getting more help from the White House during the next several months than incoming presidents typically receive, The Wall Street Journal reports.

People with knowledge of Trump's meeting on Thursday with President Obama told the Journal Obama realized that Trump, who has no experience in government or the military, will need more guidance, and he will spend more time with him than previously expected. As Obama explained the duties that come along with running the country, "Trump seemed surprised by the scope," the Journal reports, and Trump's aides were also "unaware that the entire presidential staff working in the West Wing had to be replaced at the end of Mr. Obama's term."

Man, is this going to be fun...

Posted by orrinj at 5:23 PM


Hey, Trump voters! Paul Ryan is already coming for your Medicare. (Ryan Cooper, November 14, 2016, The Week)

One of the things that separated Donald Trump from his primary competitors -- and the rest of the Republican Party in general -- was his left-leaning stance on social insurance. Tossing aside a whole generation of conservative agitprop about the "unsustainability" of these programs, he said he would preserve Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid during the campaign.

But Speaker of the House Paul Ryan is a hardcore true believer in movement conservatism, which has been champing at the bit to slash these programs basically since the moment they were implemented. This is an unprecedented opportunity to do so, and it looks like Ryan is going to seize it -- and Trump might even go along with it. The people who voted for Trump because he seemed to be a route towards material security for the lower and middle classes got conned.

Posted by orrinj at 1:50 PM


What if we really can make America great again? (Michael Brendan Dougherty, November 14, 2016, The Week)

We don't know what sort of president Trump will be, largely because he campaigned out of both sides of his mouth. Will he seek peace in the Middle East or will he "knock the hell out of" ISIS and take the oil? Will he get bored and hand over legislation to fiscal conservatives like Paul Ryan and supply-siders like adviser Stephen Moore? Or will he pursue an expansionary fiscal policy, building big beautiful infrastructure projects? Does he really believe in free trade? Or will he resort to tariffs and punishing currency manipulators?

Or will it all collapse in a heap because Donald Trump is so personally inept?

Some conservatives openly worry that Trump has no patience for reading briefing material, or adjudicating arguments among his advisers. That's so much of what presidents actually do every day. At the same time, there is some humility about how much we've underestimated Trump before. And frankly, that feeling of humiliation is accompanied by some relief that Republicans will appoint Antonin Scalia's replacement on the Supreme Court, and that we've avoided Hillary Clinton.

Some conservatives are even beginning to say to each other, "I know it's crazy, but what if we really can make America great again?"

I'm one of them.

Maybe it's just the post-election concussion talking, but in this moment, I can almost squint and see a path whereby Republicans really can save Trumpism from Trump, and reinvigorate the country.

The country did just fine being governed from the Hill during the Clinton and Obama administrations.

Posted by orrinj at 1:44 PM


Who's Going to Pay for Trump's Huge Infrastructure Plans? (Marc Joffe, November 14, 2016, Fiscal Times)

If infrastructure investments could generate reasonable and relatively safe returns for public pension funds, they would provide an intriguing investment alternative. In a new California Policy Center study, my co-authors and I outline infrastructure investment alternatives for pension funds and private investors. We also discuss policy changes needed to encourage these investors to help rebuild America.

Let's be clear on how this option differs from federal funding. Politicians often call federal spending an investment, but that's just rhetoric. Real investors expect financial returns, in the form of interest, dividends and/or capital appreciation. If the federal government spends money to subsidize state freeways, it won't see a financial return on its "investment." There is no stream of toll revenues to provide dividends, nor does a freeway have any resale value.

While drivers dislike tolls, the ability to collect such revenue transforms highway spending into an investment -- one that may be attractive to pension funds. Toll revenues also provide road operators with both the incentive and the resources needed to maintain and improve their highways. If a toll road becomes congested or potholed, drivers may look around for alternatives, shrinking toll income available to investors. To avoid this situation, toll road operators may be expected to resurface their highways more frequently and to add new lanes more quickly.

In Canada, Europe and Australia, it is common for pension funds to invest in highways and other infrastructure. In 2011, for example, an Australian pension fund took over the Queensland Motorway. Since then, it has improved the highway and made a large profit. Earlier this year, an Australian-led consortium bought the Indiana Toll Road (a segment of I-90) out of bankruptcy, with the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) taking a 10 percent share.

Posted by orrinj at 4:42 AM


Trump team plays down fears of US trade war with China (Shawn Donnan in Washington and Tom Mitchell in Beijing, 11/14/16, Financial Times)

Advisers to president-elect Donald Trump have already begun playing down the prospect of a full-blown US trade war with China, amid concern that an era of US protectionism would damage the global economy.

Indeed, some analysts wonder whether the tough trade promises made on the campaign trail may take a back seat as Mr Trump focuses on tax cuts and an infrastructure programme designed to boost US growth, the prospect of which has buoyed markets since Tuesday's election.

November 13, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 6:58 PM


Trump Picks Reince Priebus as White House Chief of Staff (John Whitesides and Alana Wise, 11/13/16, Free Beacon)

President-elect Donald Trump on Sunday picked Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, the favorite of the party's establishment and a low-key Washington insider, to serve in the influential position of White House chief of staff.

Posted by orrinj at 6:50 PM


13 red, purple state Dems face re-election in age of Trump (ALAN FRAM, 11/11/13, Associated Press)

The election two years from now had already looked difficult for Senate Democrats, who must defend 25 seats compared to just eight held by Republicans. The Democrats' list includes two independents, Vermont's Bernie Sanders and Maine's Angus King, who align with them.

Of those 25 senators, 13 are from states Trump captured or nearly won. Among those are Maine, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, which hadn't backed a GOP presidential candidate since the 1980s, leaving both parties trying to discern how much Tuesday may have reordered the lineup of blue, red and swing states.

Five Democrats are from states Trump easily carried, by 19 percentage points or more -- Indiana, North Dakota, West Virginia, Missouri and Montana.

"They should be terrified," Ward Baker, executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the Senate GOP's political organization, said of the Democrats.

Posted by orrinj at 6:46 PM


A Throwback Showdown for Chess's New Generation (JONATHAN ZALMAN, Nov. 10, 2016, WSJ)

While the stakes of the 1972 showdown will likely never be matched, the World Chess Championship, which begins in New York on Friday, may represent the 21st-century's best chance to rekindle national intrigue in an slow-moving, ancient game that has struggled to gain an audience at its highest levels despite its popularity and ubiquity.

World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen begins his title defense Friday against Sergey Karjakin in lower Manhattan. The best-of-12 match represents the first time a world championship match has been held in the U.S. since 1995, when Garry Kasparov defeated Viswanathan "Vishy" Anand on the Observation Deck on the 107th Floor of the World Trade Center.

Carlsen, a 25-year-old Norwegian, is seeking his third straight title. He is, by and large, the face of worldwide chess and perhaps the game's first household name since Kasparov or Fischer, the last American world champion. The 26-year-old Karjakin, who was born in Ukraine and represents Russia, is the world's No. 9-ranked player and holds the record for the youngest grandmaster at 12 years, 7 months (Carlsen is third youngest).

Though Carlsen is the odds-on favorite, it's difficult to determine which player faces the most pressure going into the match. If anything, the contest represents less of a boon for Carlsen--already an established star within the game and outside of it, especially in his native Norway--than it does his challenger, who no doubt has his Russian compatriots salivating at the prospect of a return to the chess mountaintop. "I would be very proud and very happy [to bring the trophy back to Moscow]" said Karjakin on Thursday. "It would be my dream. All my life I'm looking forward to trying to do it."

Posted by orrinj at 6:06 PM


Why Wall Street and Liberals Are 'Bullish' on Trump's Stimulus Plans (Eric Pianin, November 13, 2016, Fiscal Times)

After years of halting and unpredictable federal spending on the nation's highways, bridges, waterways, mass transit and power grids, Sandbrook thinks the president-elect is just the person to throw open the spigot of infrastructure spending and rev up the economy. Sandbrook's company has laid concrete in major construction projects from New York City to the San Francisco Bay area and is salivating over the prospects of a major infusion of new construction funds.

"I believe it's a huge stimulus," he said in a telephone interview Friday from his headquarters near Dallas. "I've been lobbying Congress since 1992 on increasing infrastructure spending," yet Congress, for the most part, has taken a "Band-Aid" approach to funding.

Liberals are always eager to drive up the deficit, but the GOP is there to stop him.

Posted by orrinj at 5:57 PM


Despite his surprise victory, Trump still underperformed most Republican Senate candidates (Philip Bump, 11/09/16, Washington Post)

Trump still received a lower percentage of the vote than most Republican senators, but his victories in these states -- he won all but four -- meant that Republican Senate candidates could rely on support from their base.

It is the uniformity with which he underperformed the next tiers of the ticket that shows the race was just structural in the long run.  The models were right--it was a nearly unloseable race.
Posted by orrinj at 5:50 PM


Meet the Congress (Susan Milligan, Nov. 11, 2016, US News)

Adding to Trump's challenge is his lack of experience in politics and public policy. While Trump touted his business experience on the campaign trail, he is used to being a CEO, someone who makes the rules, delegates authority and fires people who aren't doing the job as he likes.

But a president can't fire Congress, choose its leaders or tell them what to do. Even an encroachment on an issue both branches care about can cause resentment. Then-first lady Hillary Clinton found that out in the early 1990s, when she led a health care reform panel and delivered a proposed plan to a skeptical (and Democratic-led) Congress.

"He may be used to giving orders and directives in his companies, but that isn't going to work with Congress, even Republicans," says former Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson, a Democrat. While the GOP kept control of the Senate, its advantage is small (52-48), and it's not so easy to keep an entire party caucus in line, notes Nelson, who served when the Senate was also very narrowly divided.

"It's not one of those situations where the president says, 'jump,' and they all in unison say, 'how high?'" Nelson says.

Trump also has displayed a lack of knowledge about how Washington works from a logistical and constitutional perspective. For example, in a session with GOP lawmakers during the campaign, Trump said, according to attendees, that he wanted to protect "Article XII" of the Constitution. There is no Article XII. He also said during the campaign that after the election, he would ask Congress to convene a special session to "immediately repeal and replace Obamacare." That would not be possible before Inauguration Day, since Barack Obama is still president. Congress will be in session anyway after Trump is sworn in, and would not need to have a "special session." And since Senate Democrats would likely filibuster any effort to undo the Affordable Care Act quickly, the GOP could only do it through a complicated process that involves adding it to a budget reconciliation bill, which cannot be filibustered. That process, however, is by definition not speedy, let alone "immediate."

"He's not clear on the separation of powers. His basic grasp of American political institutions is open to question," says Claremont College politics professor Jack Pitney, a former Republican House staffer. Nelson, the Democrat, agrees.

"I think he knows there are branches of government, but I don't think he understands how they are separate and equal," Nelson says. "That's going to be a lesson he needs to learn very quickly."

Congress has its internal conflicts as well, though those divisions may get papered over in the early months or years of the Trump administration. Centrist and establishment Democrats in the Senate, for example, are getting pressure from lawmakers such as Sens. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, and Bernie Sanders, a Vermont Democrat, to mount a more progressive agenda. But the shared goal of thwarting Trump and congressional GOP initiatives will likely keep those disagreements at bay.

On the House side, Speaker Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, will have an emboldened group of Tea Party movement followers who will insist on a more conservative agenda, says GOP consultant Matt Mackowiak. While there had been some talk that the group of conservative lawmakers would try to oust Ryan from a leadership job he had to be dragged into taking anyway, after Speaker John Boehner left, Ryan's position is probably safe, Mackowiak says - and Trump is going to need the soft-spoken Wisconsinite to get things passed.

The problem, Mackowiak and others say, is that some items - such as infrastructure spending, which many conservatives reject as too pricey, or unraveling trade deals, which runs counter to the free-trade ideology of many Republicans - may not go over well in the GOP caucus.

One of the things that will keep him harmless is that, it's not just that he's ignorant, he's also easily bored, so there's pretty much no change of him seeing tough legislation through.

Posted by orrinj at 5:50 PM


George Zimmerman Kicked Out of a Bar (AP, 11/11/16)

Citing an incident report, news outlets report the bar manager asked Seminole County deputies to remove Zimmerman on Wednesday because he yelled at a female employee, snatched a credit card from her and used a racial slur.

When deputies arrived, Zimmerman demanded that a black man be arrested for hitting him. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:45 PM


House Republicans test Trump on his U.S.-Mexico wall (Julia Edwards Ainsley, 11/10/16, Reuters)

A House Republican aide and a Department of Homeland Security official said a wall was not realistic because it would block visibility for border agents and cut through rugged terrain, as well as bodies of water and private land.

The House aide said House Republicans working on the alternative plan were waiting for Trump's transition team to be put in place before setting a date for the meeting.

A spokesman for Trump did not respond to a request for comment on the lawmakers' proposal or their desired meeting.

Mexico said on Wednesday that it would not pay for a border wall, as Trump has pledged.

Posted by orrinj at 5:42 PM


President Trump May Only Sort of Live at the White House (Chas Danner, 11/12/16, New York)

It turns out that one of the Trump transition team's many duties will be helping President-elect Trump decide just how many nights he'll have to sleep at the White House each week. The New York Times reports that Trump has told his advisors that he would like to continue to spend as much time as he can at his beloved Trump Tower penthouse in New York, and may retreat there, or to one of his other estates in New Jersey or Florida, on the weekends. The sudden dilemma for Trump, who labored to sleep at his New York home as much as possible during his campaign, has emerged as he recovers from his apparent shock at actually winning and comes to terms with how being president is going to completely upend his preferred lifestyle. 

...that he lived in his family mansion instead of the NJ governor's mansion. It will be interesting to see how willing Republicans are too see the White House disrespected.

Posted by orrinj at 5:38 PM


Obamacare sign-ups surge after Trump's election (Tami Luhby, November 11, 2016, CNN Money)

More than 100,000 selected plans through the federal Obamacare exchange,, according to the Department of Health & Human Services. It was the busiest day since open enrollment began on Nov. 1, when around 95,000 signed up.

Posted by orrinj at 5:36 PM


Trump considering outgoing Senator Ayotte for defense secretary: Washington Post (Reuters, 11/12/16)

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump is considering outgoing Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire for the post of defense secretary, the Washington Post reported on Friday, citing two sources familiar with the discussions.

...but it should be AG, instead of trying to get an anti-lfe nominee past the Senate.

Posted by orrinj at 5:34 PM


Trump aides said to tell Arab states to ignore his anti-Muslim campaign rhetoric (TIMES OF ISRAEL, November 10, 2016)

Three months after Donald Trump issued a controversial call on the campaign trail to ban all Muslims from entering the United States, his campaign staff reportedly reached out to a number of Arab states imploring them to disregard Trump's anti-Muslim rhetoric during the race for the presidency.

Posted by orrinj at 5:31 PM


Christie, Giuliani Intimate Trump May Not Prosecute Hillary (HANK BERRIEN NOVEMBER 10, 2016, Daily Wire)

[R]udy Giuliani and Chris Christie, both former prosecutors, intimated that Trump may break his vow to prosecute Clinton.

Posted by orrinj at 5:28 PM


Trump says he'd consider seeking Bill Clinton's advice' (AFP, November 12, 2016)

Donald Trump has said he would consider seeking advice from Bill Clinton, just days after besting the former president's wife, Hillary, in the upset US presidential election.

Posted by orrinj at 5:26 PM


Trump's wall to include fencing? (CBS News, 11/13/16)

LESLEY STAHL: So part wall, part fence?

DONALD TRUMP: -there could be some fencing.

LESLEY STAHL: What about the pledge to deport millions and millions of undocumented immigrants?

DONALD TRUMP: What we are going to do is get the people that are criminal and have criminal records, gang members, drug dealers...

No one but the Right and the Left took any of his campaign promises seriously.

Posted by orrinj at 5:15 PM


Conservatives vs. Trump's infrastructure plan (KATHRYN A. WOLFE and LAUREN GARDNER 11/11/16, Politico)

[T]rump's 10-year infrastructure proposal could offer an early test of how some of his more unconventional policy ideas will fly with conservative Republicans in Congress -- even though he hasn't made it clear whether much, or even any, of that $1 trillion would come from federal coffers.

Dan Holler, spokesman for the group Heritage Action for America, questioned the job-creation claims for such plans, in the same way that conservatives have scoffed at the benefits of President Barack Obama's $832 billion stimulus.

"Conservatives do not view infrastructure spending as an economic stimulus, and congressional Republicans rightly rejected that approach in 2009," said Holler, whose group is the political arm of The Heritage Foundation.

It matters most on the Court picks, but thankfully the GOP will ride herd on our liberal president.

Posted by orrinj at 5:08 PM


Donald Trump, in Exclusive Interview, Tells WSJ He Is Willing to Keep Parts of Obama Health Law (MONICA LANGLEY and  GERARD BAKER,  Nov. 11, 2016, WSJ)

President-elect Donald Trump said he would consider leaving in place certain parts of the Affordable Care Act, an indication of possible compromise after a campaign in which he pledged repeatedly to repeal the 2010 health-care law.

He'll reform it, not repeal it.

Posted by orrinj at 5:44 AM


Abigail and John Adams, "Remember the Ladies" (Library of America, 4/07/16)

"Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could. If perticuliar care and attention is not paid to the Laidies we are determined to foment a Rebelion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation."

It's one of the most extraordinary exchange of letters in early American history: Abigail Adams writing to her husband and urging him to remember the rights of women when drafting the laws of the new nation, and John Adams joking dismissively about the "Tribe more numerous and powerfull than all the rest" and "the Despotism of the Peticoat"--and both of them calling each other "saucy." To be sure, Abigail's petition was not for political equality but rather for legal protections for women, but she was (to say the least) disappointed by John's apathy--and wrote to her friend Mercy Otis Warren in complaint.

Posted by orrinj at 4:39 AM


'American Ulysses' is a game-changing biography of Ulysses S. Grant : We should be grateful to historian Ronald C. White for a thorough and nuanced biography of one of the most consequential figures in American history. (Kevin O'Kelly OCTOBER 4, 2016, CS Monitor)

White's account of Grant's two terms in office is compelling and heartbreaking.   His most admirable policies were doomed to failure: Grant was determined that African-Americans would enjoy all the rights guaranteed them by the Constitution. His administration also negotiated the annexation of Santo Domingo to provide Southern African-Americans a refuge from White violence. (The Senate refused to approve the treaty). He was also determined to change government policy toward native Americans. White public opinion in the North, South, and West was uniformly opposed to both those efforts.

In other respects, his administration was more successful: Grant's State Department participated in a Joint High Commission of US, Canadian, and British officials that resolved several conflicts between the two countries, ranging from US claims for damages in compensation for construction of Confederate warships in English shipyards to Canadian boundary disputes. The Commission's work de-escalated tensions with the world's sole superpower and was a major development in the practice of international diplomacy.

White's account of the corruption scandals that plagued Grant's administrations do ample justice to their complexities, both legal and personal. The bottom line is Grant was too trusting a man to grasp that his own appointees to office could be involved in, for example, helping whiskey distillers defraud the government of tax revenue. The other great scandal of the period, the Credit Mobilier fraud, in which railroad companies were found to have overcharged the government for millions in government contracts, actually predated Grant's time in office, but it was made public on his watch.

I've always thought that biographer Geoffrey Perret made a salient point about the historical view of the Grant administration as uniquely corrupt.  As the first post-war presidency, Grant simply presided over a substantially larger government than had ever existed before; there was more to steal and it was more difficult to supervise it all.  It was the "first" administration with real corruption problems, rather than the most corrupt.  

Posted by orrinj at 4:26 AM


The Devil and Father Amorth: Witnessing "the Vatican Exorcist" at Work : When he made his 1973 classic, The Exorcist, William Friedkin had never seen an exorcism. For decades he wondered how close he had come to reality. So, last May, he followed "the Dean of Exorcists" as he fought to expel Satan from an Italian woman. (WILLIAM FRIEDKIN, DECEMBER 2016, Vanity Fair)

Father Amorth was born Gabriele Amorth, the son of a lawyer, in the town of Modena, in the north of Italy. In his teens, during the Second World War, he joined the Italian Resistance, and then he became Giulio Andreotti's deputy in the youth wing of the Christian Democratic Party, a Roman Catholic centrist party. He left that position and was ordained in 1951. In 1986 he was assigned by the vicar of Rome to assist Father Candido Amantini, then the chief exorcist in Rome. When Father Amantini died, in 1992, Father Amorth was named his successor. In the years that followed he has variously been referred to as "the Vatican Exorcist," "Rome's chief exorcist," and "the Dean of Exorcists." He has performed thousands of exorcisms successfully, and in 1990, he founded and led the International Association of Exorcists. Currently there are 4 exorcists in Rome and some 300 around the world within the Catholic Church, Father Amorth said, many of them trained by him.

I had been curious to meet Father Amorth for many years. In the early 1970s, when I directed the film The Exorcist, I had not witnessed an exorcism. Maybe this would be an opportunity to complete the circle, to see how close we who worked on the film came to reality or to discover that what we created was sheer invention.

I am an agnostic. I believe the power of God and the human soul are unknowable. I don't associate the teachings of Jesus with the politics of the Roman Catholic Church. The authors of the New Testament--none of whom, it is now generally believed by historians, actually knew Jesus--were creating a religion, not writing history.

I had no particular interest in the spiritual or the supernatural when the writer Bill Blatty asked me to direct the film of his novel, The Exorcist. Six years before, I had told him one of his scripts was terrible. As a result, he believed I was the only director who would tell him the truth. We didn't know each other well at the time, and I had no credits that would suggest I could manage a difficult film such as The Exorcist. Then my film The French Connection opened successfully and the studio came on board.

Blatty had started writing his novel 20 years after hearing about a case of possession involving a 14-year-old boy in Cottage City, Maryland. The case had been chronicled at great length in 1949 by The Washington Post, which quoted Catholic sources saying that the boy had been possessed and was successfully exorcised. The reporter, Bill Brinkley, was given extraordinary access to the Washington, D.C., diocese. But Blatty, then an undergraduate at Georgetown University, couldn't get anyone involved to divulge the facts of the case, so he wrote it as fiction and out of his own deep faith.

Blatty and I wanted the film to be as realistic as possible, with the flavor of a documentary. We had a technical adviser for the exorcism scenes, Rev. John Nicola, assistant director of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. He was considered an expert on the ritual, though he had never seen or performed one himself--few people, including priests, have.

More than any film I've directed, The Exorcist inspired me to the point of obsession each day as I made it. I rejected all constraints, creative and financial. The studio, Warner Bros., thought I had taken leave of my senses. I may have. I made the film believing in the reality of exorcism and never, to this day, thought of it as a horror film.

Posted by orrinj at 4:03 AM


Five Delicious Dishes You Didn't Know You Could Make in Cast Iron (Claire Lower, 4/08/16, Lifehacker)

Cheesy Dips

In terms of versatility, a fondue pot is the opposite of a cast iron skillet. I happen to own both, and I bet you can guess which gets more play in the kitchen. You would think that melted cheese would be the one arena where the fondue pot would emerge victorious, but the skillet's ability to retain heat keeps cheesy dips melty and gooey, no candle required.

If it's easy, cheesy decadence you're after, the above video shows you how to make a super simple yet complexly flavored chorizo queso fundido, which combines roasted poblanos, delicious chorizo, and mozzarella into one tasty skillet of magic.

If you want something a little smoother, America's Test Kitchen has a great recipe for beer and cheddar fondue in their new book Cook It In Cast Iron, which combines 2 cups each of American and cheddar cheeses with 1 ½ cups beer of boiling beer, a clove of garlic, and some other tasty spices. The secret to keep everything nice and flowing? A bit of cornstarch, which is tossed with the shredded cheese before being added to the beer. If you don't have that book yet, give Ina Garten's baked fontina a try. (It's basically just a skillet of melted cheese, but really, how bad can that be?)

Posted by orrinj at 12:18 AM


Just how clever are ravens? I asked at the Tower of London : To their surprise, scientists have found that these birds are as brainy as apes (Mary Wakefield, 22 October 2016, The Spectator)

Until recently, neuroscientists had little time for birds. It was assumed that brain size (relative to body size) was the most significant factor in animal intelligence. What good could any bird brain be? Plus birds have no neo-cortex, which in mammals is vital for intelligence. A seven-year study at Duke University, North Carolina, tested 36 species for their ability to inhibit impulses (a significant part of being clever) and the results were presented, in 2014, as a league table of animal IQ: great apes top, dogs honourably middling, birds at the bottom.

But those scientists at Duke had not considered crow-kind. This year, researchers from Lund University in Sweden repeated the Duke experiment with corvids (jackdaws, crows and ravens) and found, to their shock, that these birds were the equal of apes. Ravens, Corvus corax, the smartest of all crows, scored 100 per cent on the Duke test. This was not an anomaly. All around the world scientists are discovering that ravens are alarmingly smart. They will make and use tools to get food; they can grasp abstract concepts and use imagination. Ravens will not only stash food in hidey holes to eat later, but, if they think another bird is watching, they'll fake-hide their food to fox the competition. This isn't pre-programmed behaviour -- this is considered strategy.

What's Merlin thinking there, tucked behind the yucca? How does she perceive the world? What goes on in the mind of a raven? Neuroscientists worldwide are puzzling away, testing tame birds with tubes, hooks and bits of string. But here on Tower Hill might lie the best chance of an answer. The Ravenmaster's birds are wild, but contained; they're under constant observation and he understands them almost from the inside out. In his book Mind of the Raven, the biologist Bernd Heinrich writes about those, like Merlin, who choose human mates. 'Observing the birds who had bonded with humans, with an intimacy they normally reserve for other ravens, gave me a different perspective,' he says. 'Perhaps one could not hope to appreciate the mind of a raven, any more than one could claim to know the sociobiology of a remote tribe, without first living with, if not marrying into, it.'

Posted by orrinj at 12:07 AM


The George Plimpton Story (Nathaniel Rich OCTOBER 13, 2016, NY Review of Books)

After two years at Cambridge, where Plimpton earned a master's in English, he moved to Paris to run a fledgling literary quarterly, while working in secret on various novels he would later abandon; one began with a long set piece in which a fire breaks out at a society party. As contemporaries and friends--Norman Mailer, Truman Capote, Gay Talese--began to revitalize the journalistic form, placing themselves in the middle of the story and writing with the depth, nuance, and narrative richness of novelists, Plimpton saw an opening.

In 1956 he began writing for Sports Illustrated, which Henry Luce had founded two years earlier with the hope of targeting men of leisure. The editors had as much interest in hunting, boating, and polo as in the major spectator sports; the main athlete profiled in the debut issue was the Duke of Edinburgh, an enthusiastic amateur archer, cricketer, and high jumper. The first significant paid writing assignment of Plimpton's career was a 30,000-word cover story, published over four consecutive issues, about Harold Vanderbilt's passions for yachting and bridge.

The refined approach required refined authors. Sports Illustrated's founding editor, Sid James, who had previously edited Ernest Hemingway at Life, sought novelists to serve as contributors: William Faulkner covered hockey and the Kentucky Derby, John Steinbeck wrote about fishing, Budd Schulberg about boxing, James T. Farrell was the roving baseball correspondent, and John P. Marquand wrote a series about country clubs. The editors also touted the return of Paul Gallico, who had been the highest-paid sportswriter in New York as a columnist for the Daily News before abandoning his post to write novels and screenplays (the best known today are The Poseidon Adventure and The Pride of the Yankees). Gallico got his start as a young journalist by sparring a round with Jack Dempsey, who knocked him out cold in about ten seconds. Gallico repeated the gag with many of the professional athletes he covered in order, he wrote, to understand more intimately "the feel" of the game. In the opening pages of Out of My League (1961), Plimpton writes of his admiration for Gallico:

He described, among other things, catching Herb Pennock's curveball, playing tennis against Vinnie Richards, golf with Bobby Jones, and what it was like coming down the Olympic ski run six thousand feet above Garmisch--quite a feat considering he had been on skis only once before in his life.... I wondered if it would be possible to emulate Gallico, yet go further by writing at length and in depth about each sport and what it was like to participate.

Thus marks the first appearance of "participate" in Plimpton's writing.

November 12, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 5:25 AM


THE BOCCE BOYS OF CORONA (James Boo, JULY 1, 2013, Narratively)

"When you go through the initial change, like when it's actually starting, that's the worst part," notes Vinnie Barbaccia, co-owner of the Lemon Ice King, where white and Hispanic youths now work the night shift together without missing a scoop. When his parents decided to sell their home, he realized that the Corona he grew up in might become an entirely different place. Like Jack Eichenbaum, though, he's developed a positive outlook about the pace of change and the new faces of the neighborhood.

"I've been here twenty-one years now. We've seen the stabilization of it," he says with confidence. "What saved this neighborhood is hard-working people. It sounds corny, but they want for their kids what our parents wanted for our kids, so they open small businesses, or they work for whatever jobs they work. They bought their homes, which is the key to everything, as far as keeping it solid."

The ice stand, one of New York's most congenial institutions, is fueled by this pride in neighborhood over race. Since Vinnie and his partner Michael took over the Lemon Ice King--in the same year that Manuel Mayi was killed just down the street--his business has only drawn a more diverse following from all over New York. Alongside Italian classics like lemon and pistachio are newer, more tropical flavors, a token of goodwill and good business for Hispanic customers. It's not unheard of for Vinnie's coconut ice to sell out before the day is over.

Down the street, Franco's Meat and Deli underscores a shift towards reconciliation, if not outright recognition of the neighborhood's more ominous moments. On one of the days that Nicky is threatening to quit a bocce game at the park, butcher Franco Mattei is hand-carving pork into thin slices and stacking them for delivery to Tortilleria Nixtamal, a popular Mexican restaurant and tortilla distributor just around the corner.

Pounding each slice with a mallet before adding it to the stack, Franco declares matter-of-factly, "They don't do veal like we used do. They don't do fresh Italian sausage. They don't do none of those things that we grew up with, so I have to sell Spanish-style products in order to survive, you know?"

Franco, who moved to Queens from a town just outside of Rome when he was eleven years old, took over the butcher shop at 104th Street in 1974. Even then, in the midst of Corona's demographic turnover, business was booming. Today, he composes e-mail using the handle "lastbutcher." The deal to supply Nixtamal with custom-carved pork, beef and lamb for taco fillings is one of the reasons his meat shop hasn't gone out of business.

Having sunk his life's savings into buying the small building that houses his shop on the first floor, Franco still works six twelve-hour days a week, tacking eight more hours onto Sundays to improve his margins.

In higher-income neighborhoods, sustainably sourced meat shops are supported by a rising consumer interest in the craft of butchery. In Corona, where no one is clamoring for grass-fed beef or free-range chicken thighs, Franco buys from the big processors. He applies considerable skill to pick out what he calls "cancers" in the meat, cutting out mysterious knots and discolored spots that untrained hands would never catch. Franco's lifetime of experience is a substitute for the higher-cost supply chain that most of his customers can't afford. His prices are lower than Key Food, and his take-out menu--which includes sandwiches specials named "Robo-Cop" and "Spanish Steak"--reads like a time capsule.

"Mi Amor!" calls a young Honduran woman, beaming at Franco and asking him questions about the meat case. The butcher chats with the woman in fluent Spanish, verbally diagramming cuts of beef and alternately giving instructions to Arturo, his assistant. He jokes that he's being phased out, and wants the customer--a former restaurant owner from Miami--to take over his shop.

"It's time for the old lions to retire and have the young lions come in," he comments with a chuckle. "There's no moral good or bad. It's a fact of life. You gotta learn to to adjust it, accept it, embrace it, go with it, play with it, change it."

A good game of bocce plays out like a conversation. Each team receives four balls (typically green or red) that barely fit into a grown man's palm. At the start of each round, one team rolls the pallino, a smaller white ball, to the opposite end of the court, a rectangular strip that's a few yards wide and over thirty yards long.

The pallino becomes a target. The object of each round is to land your team's four balls closer to the pallino than the opponents'. As soon as one of your balls is closest, your opponents get to throw until they reclaim the lead or run out of balls. When all throws have been made, you receive one point for the closest ball, two points if you also have the next closest, and so forth. A new round begins; the game ends when a team scores twelve points.

The mechanics are call-and-response. Scoring points requires careful placement, but "shooting" out your opponents' points at the right moment is essential to holding ground. Sharp players can either shoot out a ball with pinpoint accuracy or roll with enough finesse to brush the pallino aside, moving the court's center of gravity for a crafty win. The best performers draw on an intimate knowledge of the court, relying on keen awareness of players' strengths and weaknesses to get through each match.

"Actually, it's not really an Italian game," says John Pistone, a former city bocce champion who visits the park in Corona every now and then. Recounting opponents he's challenged throughout the state, John alludes to the French game boules (which plays like a cousin to bocce), and calls out other European and South American immigrants who play these games with just as much fervor as the Italians who popularized the game in New York.

The global heart of the game is surely on display in Corona, which Pistone is quick to call out. "It's better known as Spaghetti Park. Now we gotta change to 'Rice Park,' or 'Plantains,' you know?"

Each year, when the first balmy days hit New York, players from all neighborhoods of Queens step into the triangle for bocce marathons. In its heyday, the court would run games until four a.m. The park's curfew has receded, but on summer nights the balls keep rolling until the lights shut off, somewhere close to midnight.

Like the shifting pattern of balls on a bocce court, players at the park circle each other in a scrimmage that's more communal than oppositional. Spectators (which includes any player who isn't about to throw) often shout, "Punto!" ("point!") or "Pallino!" calling out the optimal move for every situation. When a shot is missed, rejoinders of "Mañana, mañana" float across the park, and everyone adopts the same, exaggerated wag of the finger when signaling that a shot is no good. Ices from the Lemon Ice King can be spotted from any corner, and Styrofoam containers of "comida tipica" are as commonplace as a slice from Corona Pizza.

"We get along great," says Pistone, greeting familiar players with a friendly, "como está?" as he observes the nighttime matches. "They don't speak English very well, a lot of them, as you can see. So we speak Italian, English, Spanish, and God knows what others. And maybe with our hands, too."

Posted by orrinj at 5:07 AM


The Mysterious Case of the Pacific Northwest's Vengeful Owls : A number of recent bloody encounters with aggressive raptors in the Pacific Northwest has frightened residents enough that they've started arming themselves with sticks and flashlights and strapping on hard hats before going out at night (Katherine Malmo  Nov 7, 2016, Outside)

Just after midnight on a cool, clear night in late April, Lance Douglas left my house on the remote Blakely Island, in Washington's San Juan archipelago, and started walking home through a half-mile section of Douglas fir and cedar trees. We'd just finished dinner and a few beers, and Lance was hardly out of my gravel driveway when he felt a hard push, like a hand against his shoulder. He turned around but saw nothing.

A few seconds later, something landed on Lance's head and began digging its sharp talons into his scalp. Warm blood flowed through his hair. As he flailed his arms in agony, a pair of feathered wings descended over his face, covering his eyes.

Lance thrashed until the bird withdrew, flying 20 feet ahead to a low branch. The two stared at each other in the pale light of the quarter moon. With blood dribbling down his scalp, Douglas pulled his phone from his pocket and snapped a photo, then hurried for home. He dodged four more swoops from the bird during the walk home.

Lance, who works as an oil cleanup specialist in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, sought a friend's help to clean his wounds the following morning. She found six half-inch lacerations on his scalp. "They hurt like hell," Lance says. They took weeks to heal.

"I'm not going to lie and say I don't think about it," he says. "Having spent most my life on this island, where nothing can hurt you, this changes the way you think. It took away some of the safety and joy of being on the island."

The picture on Lance's phone shows a two-foot-tall raptor, brown streaks running down its white feathered chest, its face pointed upward, away from the camera: a barred owl.

What happened to Lance, it turns out, wasn't an isolated incident. Karl Ostrom, a 77-year-old who co-directs a business development company, was clawed or hit on six separate occasions in the late fall of 2010 while running in the forested area of Bridle Trails Park near his home in Kirkland, Washington. Pat O'Rourke, a 56-year-old massage therapist from Seattle, was hit four times between 2008 and 2013 on the wooded trails in Seattle's Discovery Park. Justin Musada, a 47-year-old accountant and runner, was left bloodied by an owl in Lake Stevens, Washington. The local news covered the incident.

Further inland and south, in Salem, Oregon, a barred owl has attacked runners so frequently in a wooded park that locals named him Owl Capone. Park rangers there posted caution signs in the fall of 2015 depicting a stick figure shielding itself from an attack bird. The parks department in Anacortes, Washington, has received about 50 reports of owls hitting or striking people in the past decade, says Dave Oicles, a park ranger there. "We had one elderly gentleman who went to the hospital because he got scratched on his scalp and knocked down," he says.

Lance told me about his attack a few months after it happened. It sounded like something out of a Hitchcock horror film. I have two young children, and a skull-knocking raptor patrolling our front yard is concerning. I took to Facebook and wrote a post on the page of a local nature group: Hey, anyone been attacked by an owl? The response was surprising: six people replied, saying they'd been accosted in the way Lance had. A dozen more said they'd been hit by the wing of a swooping bird or had their hats snatched clean off their heads while walking around Seattle.

Posted by orrinj at 4:43 AM


CAMPUS SECURITY VS. THE MILLION-DOLLAR MAP THIEF : E. Forbes Smiley stole nearly a hundred rare maps worth millions of dollars--but met his match in the darkened halls of an Ivy League library.  (Michael Blanding, NOVEMBER 27, 2014,

E. Forbes Smiley III couldn't stop coughing. No matter how much he tried to suppress it, the tickle in the back of his throat kept breaking out into a hacking cough, drawing glances from the patrons sitting around him. The glass fishbowl of a reading room at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University was quiet except for the low hum of the air-conditioning and the clicking of fingers on keyboards, making Smiley painfully aware of the noise he was making. At one point, he pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket to muffle the sound. As he did, an X-Acto knife blade wrapped inside fell softly onto the carpeted floor. He folded the cloth and put it back in his pocket, oblivious to what had just happened.

When people thought of Forbes Smiley -- as he was universally known by friends, dealers, librarians and clients -- a few words inevitably sprang to mind: gregarious; jolly; larger-than-life. He spoke with the resonance of an Italian tenor mangled by a nasally Waspish affectation. His voice, like Daisy Buchanan's, was "full of money." When he made phone calls, he made sure to announce that he was calling "from the Vineyard." His upper-crust affectations, however, were tempered by a charming self-deprecation. He'd ingratiated himself with many a librarian by inquiring after her spouse or children, and reciprocated with entertaining stories of travels around the world or the progress of the new home he was building on the Vineyard.

Most of all, people thought of his laugh. For years, friends had reveled in Smiley's laugh, which rolled up out of his belly and wracked his body in a cackle that only increased in volume the longer it went on. It was the kind of laugh that in college had earned him free tickets from theater producers, who sat him in the front row to egg on the audience. And it generally caused people to excuse the pretension that crept into his voice when he was expounding on any of his obsessions -- architecture, New England history, the blues, and, of course, maps. Whether they liked him or not, his colleagues and rivals in the map business had all been seduced by his knowledge, which in certain areas exceeded that of anyone else in the world.

On the morning of June 8, 2005, however, none of the librarians at the Beinecke's public services desk recognized him. Had they known him, they would have been shocked at the transformation he'd undergone. In addition to a cough that had developed overnight, he was suffering from a splitting headache left over from a night of drinking. Smiley had been drinking a lot these days -- it was the only thing that took his thoughts away from the problems that multiplied in his mind whenever he was sober. As gifted as he was at remembering details about maps, he was abysmal at managing the details of the business through which he earned his livelihood. No matter how entertaining his stories, the truth was that he was overextended and hemorrhaging money.

As studious as he looked, he was feeling a fresh sense of desperation by the time he left to get lunch around eleven. While he sat pondering his predicament without reaching a conclusion, the situation in the reading room had changed radically in his absence. Smiley may have missed the X-Acto knife blade that fell from his pocket, but a librarian named Naomi Saito had not. The Beinecke's librarians make regular sweeps of the room to ensure that materials are handled properly -- and to subtly alert patrons they are being watched. As Saito had entered to make her check, she immediately spied the blade on the floor. Few objects could be more disturbing to someone who works in a building full of rare books than a tool that can separate the pages of a book from its binding. Saito picked up the blade in a tissue and walked back out of the room.

When her supervisor, Ellen Cordes, arrived shortly after noon, Saito showed her what she'd found. Cordes knew that custodians had cleaned the room in the morning -- so whoever had dropped the blade was probably still there. She scanned through several dozen reader cards and immediately focused on Smiley, who had by now returned to examine more books. Looking up his website and seeing he was a dealer of rare maps made her even more nervous. Cordes called over to Sterling Memorial Library, which houses Yale's main map collection, and wasn't reassured. The head of the department told her that Smiley had recently looked at some folders later found to be missing several maps, but the matter had been dropped for lack of proof. Finally, Cordes contacted the Beinecke's head of security, Ralph Mannarino, who kept watch over Smiley at the front desk while Cordes went into the back room to look at the materials Smiley had examined.

Posted by orrinj at 4:28 AM



My mother once told me that when she and her brother, my uncle Tim, were growing up, their father led them to believe he was the most famous writer who ever lived.

This was an absurdity, of course, but not to the degree it may at first seem. My grandfather MacKinlay Kantor wrote innumerable works of fiction, including 31 novels, one of which, Andersonville, won the Pulitzer Prize. Another novel, Glory for Me, was the basis for the movie The Best Years of Our Lives, which took seven Oscars, became the highest-grossing film since Gone with the Wind, and is often ranked among the greatest American movies of all time. These successes played out over more than three decades, during which Mack, as everyone called him, rose from near-starvation poverty to considerable wealth, performed on popular television shows, and made cameo appearances in movies. He "discovered" Oscar-winning actor and folksinger Burl Ives, mentored the crime novelist John D. MacDonald, and hung out with the likes of Grant Wood, Gregory Peck, Stephen Vincent Benet, Carl Sandburg, James Cagney, and Ernest Hemingway.

Posted by orrinj at 4:17 AM


BEING MENTALLY ILL: THE NEW NORMAL? : Everyday challenges are being rebranded psychological crises. (FRANK FUREDI, 3 OCTOBER 2016, SPIKED)

The principal driver of the constant increase in the diagnosis of mental illness is the set of cultural forces that normalise human vulnerability. As I argue in my forthcoming book What's Happened to the University?: A Sociological Exploration of its Infantilisation, current cultural and socialisation practices encourage young people to perceive themselves as vulnerable and emotionally fragile. The cultivation of vulnerability is a cultural accomplishment that transcends social and class differences. Once young people are encouraged to consider themselves vulnerable, they often interpret their experience of disappointment and distress through the prism of psychology. Indeed, being vulnerable often becomes an important part of an individual's identity.

Most accounts of the proliferation of the identity of vulnerability refuse to acknowledge the cultural influences that shape this outlook. For example, reports that universities are finding that 'more students arrive with existing psychological or mental-health conditions' blame factors that are extraneous to the influence of therapy culture. So one account claims that 'students are seeking help against a backdrop of mounting pressure to get the best possible degree, in order to secure a good job to pay off their debts from students loans'. Others point the finger at peer pressure, homesickness, feeling out of place in a strange environment, etc. The main reason why the cultural drivers of mental-health catastrophism are not acknowledged is because so many practitioners have internalised their underlying values and assumptions.

It is important not to confuse the growing numbers of mental-illness diagnoses with an increase in actual medical conditions. There are many contingent and cultural reasons why diagnoses are increasing. For many parents, for instance, a diagnosis of ADHD for their children provides reassurance that their child's behavioural problem is not their fault. Sometimes a diagnosis provides a claim for resources. And sometimes it gives meaning to people's sense of distress. That is why, quite often when people talk to each other about their mental-illness diagnosis, they are not so much making statements about their medical conditions as they are about who they are as a person.

Posted by orrinj at 12:52 AM


King-Killers in America (and the American Who Avenged the King) : When Charles II regained the throne, he launched a global manhunt for the judges who had sentenced his father to death. (Michael Walsh & Don Jordan | The King's Revenge: Charles II and the Greatest Manhunt in British History)

The excerpt below is adapted from The King's Revenge, by Michael Walsh and Don Jordan. [...]

The spring of 1661 was significant not only for the crowning of the king. Hitherto Charles had paid little attention to the capture of regicides abroad, but that was about to change. As carpenters sweated over the erection of those magnificent coronation arches with their dual themes of royal triumph and revenge, Charles unleashed his bloodhounds in America and Europe. Two royalists set out from Boston to lead a hunt across New England for Whalley and Goffe, and the most ruthless operator in the king's service was drafted in to spearhead a search across Europe for Ludlow and the other nineteen regicides who had escaped in 1660.

The American manhunt was launched on May 6 by John Endecott, governor of Massachusetts. Endecott had received an arrest order from the king which, dispensing with flowery courtesies, had been brutally curt:

Trusty and well-beloved,

We greet you well. We being given to understand that Colonel Whalley and Colonel Goffe, who stand here convicted for the execrable murder of our Royal Father, of glorious memory, are lately arrived at New England, where they hope to shroud themselves securely from the justice of our laws; our will and pleasure is, and we do hereby expressly require and command you forthwith upon the receipt of these our letters, to cause both the said persons to be apprehended, and with the first opportunity sent over hither under a strict care, to receive according to their demerits. We are confident of your readiness and diligence to perform your duty; and so bid you farewell.

The abrupt tone reflected Charles's fury at the welcoming reception accorded the regicides in America. Their unchallenged presence was not only an insult but a danger that threatened to undermine still further Britain's fragile hold on the colony. The two men were openly enjoying their freedom, sometimes challenged by the odd royalist, but admired and welcomed by the majority Puritans. In London the Council of Foreign Plantations was told that the two were holding public meetings, praying and preaching that the two were holding public meetings, praying and preaching and justifying the killing of the king. Whalley was quoted as saying that "if what he had done against the King were to be done again, he would do it again."

All changed after May 1661. Having received the menacing royal command, John Endecott had to be seen to respond decisively. He commissioned two ardent royalists to conduct a manhunt right across the territory. The two men--a young Boston merchant called Thomas Kirk and Thomas Kelland, an English sea captain--were furnished with the governor's authority to impress all the men and horse they needed and with letters requesting help to the governors of other English colonies. There was also one for Peter Stuyvesant, the governor of the neighboring Dutch colony of New Amsterdam, a bolt-hole for people fleeing the English colonies. The search party set off on May 25, launching a hue and cry that would fade then sound again for years.

The hunters had the outward support of the most senior colonial officials like Endecott. But it was reluctant backing, and they could scarcely have known when they set out the depth of the opposition they would encounter.

Princess Diana's brother wrote a fine book about the killers of the king too.

Posted by orrinj at 12:20 AM


Singer Aaron Neville's Rough Road to Salvation : The New Orleans icon on poetry, grief, and praying twice. (JACOB BLICKENSTAFF, OCT. 23, 2016, Mother Jones)

MJ: Tell me about your relationship with Larry Williams.

AN: Larry came to New Orleans around '56 and took the Hawkettes out on the road with him, but he told me, "I'll be back for you." When I got out of jail, he got me in the studio to record and took me on the road. He got tired of being misused, so he says he's going to be a pimp--he went to California and started pimping. When I went out there, he was going to manage me, but I had a contract with Minit records, so I did a few gigs with him and Etta James and Johnny Watson at the 5-4 Ballroom.

I had to do something to earn my keep. Since I didn't want to pimp, he said we've got this guy who will book some burglaries. We'd go and clean the place out, and we had rooms in a hotel out on the highway and we'd fill it up with clothes and suits and whatever. The whole time I'm saying to myself, "Lord, get me out of this, send me back home, please." So when I did get busted, I said, "Thank you, Jesus." I ended up doing time in '63 and part of '64 fighting forest fires. It was dangerous. That's when I first got into the weights. I was looking like the Hulk up in there. I was 22 years old.

MJ: The success of 1966's "Tell It Like It Is"--another local New Orleans production--caused problems in that the label, Parlo, couldn't keep up with the demand. Was that frustrating for you?

AN: They were trying to make it look like they knew what they were doing, but they didn't. They had to declare bankruptcy, so hey. I was fresh out on the streets with a hit record. I didn't have time to really think about that. I had people coming at me to manage me--they didn't have nothing to offer, they were just telling me crazy stuff. They were going to send me on the road with no music, no stage clothes, no nothing. This guy Joe Jones, who was managing the Dixie Cups and Alvin "Shine" Robinson, was a shyster, but he kinda saved the day because he came in and made sure that I had music, clothes, and pictures and stuff. He was a professional but, like I said, a shyster--he was looking out for his interests. At the time, Frank Sinatra wanted to do something with me but Joe didn't let me know about it, and messed it up. 

I never really got paid for "Tell It Like Is," but I look back at it and say God knew what he was doing; he probably figured that if I had got money back in them days I wouldn't be here now. That's okay. I'm here. And I'm still singing the song. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:05 AM

...AND SAFER...:

Flight response : An artificially intelligent autopilot that learns by example (The Economist, Sep 17th 2016)

ON JUNE 1st 2009, an Air France airliner travelling from Rio de Janeiro to Paris flew into a mid-Atlantic storm. Ice began forming in the sensors used by the aircraft to measure its airspeed, depriving the autopilot of that vital data. So, by design, the machine switched itself off and ceded control to the pilots. Without knowing their speed, and with no horizon visible in a storm in the dead of night, the crew struggled to cope. Against all their training, they kept the plane's nose pointed upward, forcing it to lose speed and lift. Shortly afterwards the aeroplane plummeted into the ocean, killing all 228 people on board.

French air-accident investigators concluded that a lack of pilot training played a big part in the tragedy. As cockpits become ever more computerised, pilots need to keep their flying skills up to date. But pilots are also in short supply. In July Airbus predicted that 500,000 more will be needed by 2035 to keep pace with aviation's expected growth. That means there is pressure to keep aircrew in their cockpits, earning money, rather than in the simulators, taking expensive refresher courses.

Help may be at hand, though, from artificial-intelligence (AI) experts at University College London (UCL). Inspired by the Air France tragedy, Haitham Baomar and his colleague Peter Bentley are developing a special kind of autopilot: one that uses a "machine learning" system to cope when the going gets tough, rather than ceding control to the crew.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The man who would be king of Kurdistan : Decades after warrior-king Sheikh Mahmud's overthrow, Kurds keep on fighting for a homeland. (Tanya Goudsouzian, 9/29/15, Al Jazeera)

By the time Sheikh Mahmud Barzinji declared himself king of Kurdistan in 1922, over an area that included the city of Sulaimania and its environs, he had already fought dozens of battles; some alongside the British against the Ottomans, others against the British alongside the Arabs, and then several more against the Arabs.

From March 1923 to mid-1924, the British retaliated against Sheikh Mahmud's perceived insolence with aerial bombardment, and thus ended the Kurds' first attempt at full-fledged sovereignty.

In 1923, the Treaty of Lausanne had dealt a definitive blow to Kurdish aspirations for self-determination in the aftermath of the Ottoman Empire's disintegration. Three years earlier, the Treaty of Sevres stipulated that the oil-rich Mosul Vilayet be given to the Kurds. But at Lausanne, the British and the French changed their minds and drew up a very different map, which gave rise to the modern state of Iraq.

The man who would be king of Kurdistan lived the rest of his years in relative obscurity, in a village near the city of Sulaimania, and died in 1956. Despite the errors committed by the valiant warrior - by most accounts, he was not a shrewd politician - Sheikh Mahmud remains an idolised figure and a source of inspiration for Kurdish leaders. An enormous mural-portrait of him lies at the entrance of the Sulaimania bazaar.

"They say Sheikh Mahmud didn't like the British, but that is not true. They promised him a state, but then they changed their minds and gave the Mosul Vilayet to the Arabs," says Sheikh Salar al-Hafeed, a lawyer and relative of Sheikh Mahmud.

Today, as the Kurds of Iraq, Syria and Turkey play a critical role in the war against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) as the only fighting force on the ground, Middle East watchers talk of a new Sykes-Picot in the making.

Some 150,000 Kurdish Peshmerga are on active dutyacross northern Iraq today. They are an integral part of the US-led coalition against ISIL, just as their forefathers were supportive of British forces at the end of World War I, spurred on by disingenuous promises of an independent Kurdish state carved out of an ailing Ottoman Empire.

They say Sheikh Mahmud didn't like the British, but that is not true. They promised him a state, but then they changed their minds and gave the Mosul Vilayet to the Arabs.

Sheikh Salar al-Hafeed, lawyer and relative of Sheikh Mahmud
No official source will confirm whether or not Iraqi Kurdish leaders have been promised an independent state in the event of ISIL's defeat - rumours of an independence deal actually gained momentum around the time of the Arab Spring, some say to appease the Kurdish public - but parallels abound with the conditions on the ground at the turn of the last century.

The line between insurgent and freedom fighter has always been blurry. Revered today as a Kurdish nationalist hero, Sheikh Mahmud was seen as an "insurgent" by the British authorities back in the day.

November 11, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 5:31 AM


MEET THE WORLD'S GREATEST BATTING STANCE IMITATOR :  Gar Ryness has spent his whole life perfecting spot-on impressions of the way baseball players stand. But can he turn "the least marketable skill in America" into an actual career? (John McDermott, MAY 19, 2016,

Ryness was allowed only seven hours of TV per week as a child, so he parceled his viewing judiciously: one baseball game (typically the NBC Game of the Week), "This Week in Baseball" every Saturday morning and some combination of "Diff'rent Strokes," "The Wonder Years," "Family Ties" and "The Cosby Show." If he was lucky, he'd catch a few innings of the occasional A's or Braves game.

When he wasn't watching games on TV, he sat alone with his baseball card collection, aping the players' photos and batting stances, simulating entire games for his own amusement.

Memorizing players' mannerisms proved effortless. To this day, he absorbs most players' stances subconsciously, only resorting to game footage when he needs to learn a player who was recently called up from the minor leagues. His memory has garnered comparisons to "Rain Man," which he takes as a compliment.

Posted by orrinj at 5:26 AM



But Jones did not present a light picture of his frailties. His songs demonstrated that he did not think of these things as frailties at all, as our therapeutic culture would have us to do. Yes, Jones sang with a wink in his eye often about liquor and pills and loneliness and divorce, but then he would turn around and sing of these things as Hell. The raw emotion of Jones' vocal chords communicated the anguish of a father who has lost his family in "Grand Tour," as he takes a stranger through every room in the house, including the empty nursery where the baby of a broken home once lay.

Yes he could sing about alcohol in a playful song comparing his love to the smoothness of Tennessee whiskey, the sweetness of strawberry wine, but he would then sing of living his life "Still Doing Time" in a "Honky Tonk Prison." He would sing honestly of his prison to alcoholism as a result of his broken relationships: " If Drinking Don't Kill Me, Her Memory Will ." This is not a glorification of alcohol; it is the scratchings against the door of a man in pain.

Some may see hypocrisy in the fact that Jones sang gospel songs. The same emotion with which he sang of drunkenness and honky-tonking, he turned to sing of "Just a Little Talk with Jesus Makes Things Right." He often in concerts led the crowd in old gospel favorites, such as "Amazing Grace" or "I'll Fly Away." But I don't think this is hypocrisy. This is not a man branding himself with two different and contradictory impulses. This was a man who sang of the horrors of sin, with a longing for a gospel he had heard and, it seemed, he hoped could deliver him. In Jones' songs, you hear the old Baptist and Pentecostal fear that maybe, horrifically, one has passed over into the stage of Esau who, as the Bible puts it, "could not find repentance though he sought it with tears."

I'm not sure whether Jones sought repentance with tears, but he certainly sang of the longing for it with a quavering voice. In that sense, Jones communicated exactly what Flannery O'Connor wrote of when she spoke of a "Christ-haunted South, a region with a ubiquitous gospel, but without the ubiquity of gospel power." Jones communicated what all of us, left to ourselves, seek to suppress. Life without Christ is leading us to a lonely grave. This is why of all of Jones' corpus, I find most powerful his rendition of " The Cup Of Loneliness ," a song about Jesus' agony in Gethsemane. This song still speaks to the hellishness of hedonism.

Posted by orrinj at 5:02 AM


The Throne Room Where It Happens : Shakespeare's Prince Hal, Lin-Manuel Miranda's Hamilton, and the art of the compromise. (Isaac Butler, 11/07/16, Slate)

Recently, a debate between historians and fans about Hamilton's approach to history, and thus its meaning, has bubbled up into the popular consciousness. Hamilton is a truly great work, brilliantly constructed and important, but lost at times in the stories about Hamilton-the-phenomenon--a discussion of what Hamilton represents--is a real inquiry into what Hamilton means, what choices Hamilton is making, and how those choices reveal its attitude towards politics, authority, history, and power. Looking at Hamilton through the lens of 1 Henry IV puts these choices in stark relief, revealing ways in which both Hamilton and 1 Henry IV avoid simple hagiography, and the ways in which the musical has a far more optimistic view of power than Shakespeare's.

1 Henry IV and Hamilton both use doubling to explore their central themes. In 1 Henry IV, Prince Hal's adversary is Henry Percy, called Hotspur, "a son who is the theme of Honor's tongue," in contrast to Hal, who spends all day partying and all night robbing with his best friend, the disgraced knight Sir John Falstaff. Shakespeare went so far as to change the ages of his two Henrys to make the parallel sharper, and to have Hal's father openly wish, "that it could be proved/ That some night-tripping fairy had exchanged/ In cradle-clothes our children where they lay," so he could be Hotspur's father instead.

What Hal knows, however, and Hotspur does not, is that "honor" is a kind of performance. Hotspur is incapable of adapting contextually to the situations in which he finds himself. When the king insults him, he fires angrily back at him because his honor is wounded. He alienates a key ally by mocking him for being a wizard instead of a soldier. He's unable to stop thinking of the thrill of battle, even when his wife beckons him to her bed. His inability to modulate flows from his mistaken belief that honor is an attribute. You either have it or you don't. Because of this, he is easily manipulated by his father and uncle (who he believes have honor), and vastly underestimates King Henry IV and his son (who he believes do not).

The King and Hal both understand that honor is not a quality of character. It is, rather, a public performance of masculine virtue. When the king upbraids his son for his party-boy ways, the substance of his scolding centers largely on critiquing Hal's performance in the role of heir to the throne. As Henry IV explains, back before he usurped Richard II and became king, "By being seldom seen, I could not stir/ But like a comet I was wondered at." Henry IV discusses himself in actor's terms, even discussing his regal bearing as a costume: "And then I stole all courtesy from heaven/ And dressed myself in such humility/ That I did pluck allegiance from men's hearts."

Often, this scene--much like the Henriad in general--is read as a step in Hal's transformation from feckless youth to virtuous king. This is the Hal we glimpse in Kenneth Branagh's Henry V, and it is also how I was taught 1 Henry IV in high school. Yet this essentially heroic view of Hal is belied by the text itself. Hal becomes a great leader and king because he is a brilliant performer. He even promises his father that his reformation will come in combat when he wears "a bloody mask/ Which, washed away, shall scour my shame with it." In his lone soliloquy in the play, which arrives minutes after we first meet him in Act 1, he explicitly declares his wastrel ways a strategic show for the public, saying of his offstage drunkard friends:

I know you all, and will awhile uphold
The unyoked humor of your idleness
Yet herein will I imitate the sun,
Who doth permit the base contagious clouds
To smother up his beauty from the world,
That, when he please again to be himself,
Being wanted, he may be more wondered at

As the scholar Tony Tanner notes in Prefaces to Shakespeare, this soliloquy has been interpreted myriad ways but "it is--I think--unarguably unpleasant, and if it is so for us it is simply calumny to think it wasn't for Shakespeare." If we do find any part of it admirable, it is in how Hal has such firm and constant control over the narrative of himself. Hal is able to build and maintain his legacy because all he cares about is his performance. He doesn't care about his friends (he exiles one and hangs another in later plays), and he doesn't care about principle (the war he fights in Henry V is a cynical PR move urged on him by his dying father). The Henriad presents us with a shockingly jaundiced picture of the ancestor of the queen it was performed in front of, and a troubling view of power: Perhaps, Shakespeare speculated, authority and humanity are mutually exclusive. Hotspur is too human to be king, too full of a constant self that Hal completely lacks. He, like Richard II before him, is doomed from the start by his own intemperate refusal to modulate his performance.

In Hamilton, it is Alexander who is often too hot-headed, too quick to express himself, too unwilling to follow his double Aaron Burr's advice that he "talk less, smile more" as he builds his legacy. Yet Alexander is also a brilliant performer, largely through the written word, which he tells us has gotten him "out of hell" and into the revolution, given him a wife and the command of a new vast financial system. His lexical genius is bolstered by something Prince Hal for the most part lacks: chutzpah.

Hamilton's double is Aaron Burr. Both are orphans. Both feel the weight of history on their shoulders. Both will fight in the Revolutionary War, become fathers, enter politics. Most importantly, both desire a legacy, and thus are filled with an unquenchable ambition to achieve.

Hamilton and Burr's primary difference is over tactics, not objectives. Aaron Burr is all restraint, terrified of giving offense to anyone. When, during their first meeting, Hamilton says to Burr that he's been looking for him, Burr responds, "I'm getting nervous." Hamilton is all audacity, incapable of stopping himself from "talking too loud." Hamilton will risk everything--including his life--on huge gambits, publicly speaking out for independence and stealing a cannon from the British.

Posted by orrinj at 4:53 AM



The simple goal in ACL fighting is to knock down all the combatants from the opposing side. Stabbing with a sword is illegal, as is striking in certain areas, including the back of knees, neck and groin. Otherwise, anything goes. Most players use a combination of smashing blows, cross-checks, punches, trips and kicks. Think MMA meets the Knights of the Round Table.

At the international championships, each round of fighting lasts no more than eight minutes, and the victorious team must win two rounds. Up to 32 contestants from two teams charge at one another across an open field, armed with dulled-but-still-deadly weapons. Players lose teeth; they suffer compound fractures. At a recent tournament in New Jersey, a player ended up in the emergency room after taking two ax hits to the face. At the 2014 world tournament in Spain, one contestant's finger was cut off in the heat of battle; in the spirit of feudalism, he awarded the digit to his foe in a Ziploc bag. Players on DiGrazia's team started wearing steel cups, imported from a special armorer in the Ukraine, after an ACL player from New Hampshire got his plastic cup embedded into his flesh like a cookie cutter.

Dressed in black track pants and a tight black T-shirt, DiGrazia looks down at his crotch, the metal shining against his pants. "These things do exist," he says. "People use them outside of funny little dungeons." As DiGrazia continues to put on his armor, a process that can take some players up to forty minutes, he notices a red smudge on his white belt. "That's blood," he says casually, as if pointing to some spaghetti sauce.

"There's something inside of me that feels comfortable when I'm on the field and things are violent," DiGrazia said a few days earlier. As a kid growing up in the then-rough Hell's Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan, DiGrazia was a "street rat," known for getting into trouble and drinking too much. He didn't initiate brawls, but he was always eager to jump in. In one fight, he says, he was almost stabbed with a broken bottle. In another, his head was repeatedly slammed into concrete. "Fear never really registered in my mind."

At twenty he joined the U.S. Air Force, but instead of following his lifelong dream of becoming a fighter pilot, DiGrazia prioritized living with his girlfriend. She didn't want him to see any action, so after boot camp, at his request, DiGrazia was sent to a base in Texas to train as an electrician. "Most of my life decisions have been centered around the women I'm with," he says. "I try not to do that now."

Three months later, DiGrazia broke his back while repairing a telephone pole. The injury spurred his addiction to alcohol and painkillers, and DiGrazia retired from the military in 2004. The pain was so bad he needed a cane to walk. The next year his girlfriend left him and he got a job as a bartender, drinking to excess every night. For a few months he had no apartment and slept on park benches, in stairwells and on subways, reading a Bible he stole from church to kill time. His father, disappointed in his alcoholic son, only let DiGrazia in his house to shave and shower between 8 and 8:30 a.m. In 2006, DiGrazia decided to sober up. He had rented a place a few months earlier and had just started taking college classes in hospitality management, which earned him five hundred dollars a month from the military. He had initially hoped to manage a bar, but his ambitions quickly became more scholarly; by 2014 he had an undergraduate degree in sociology from Columbia, a master's degree in finance from Harvard and a job as management consultant for a top investment bank on Wall Street.

DiGrazia started to get in better physical shape as well. He took up running, and by 2010 was doing one-hundred-mile ultramarathons, which take him between 25-30 hours to complete. He also trained in Krav Maga, the martial art developed for the Israeli army, but craved a more intense sport.

In 2012, DiGrazia went to a sword-fighting competition with a martial arts buddy and met a medieval combat fighter. DiGrazia's enthusiasm was immediate: "This exists? I'm there." Within a few months he had bought custom-made armor (eventually spending about ten thousand dollars on a helmet, metallic leg braces and a leather jacket with metal plates) and fought in his first tournament. DiGrazia channeled his addictive, fearless personality into training and quickly rose within the ACL ranks. His lightweight frame made him an excellent flanker - flankers are the fastest players, who run out along the outside of the field to tackle opposing players. By 2014 DiGrazia had made the international team, become captain of the New York Sentinels and started offering instruction to new players.

Posted by orrinj at 4:50 AM


LOVE AND CRICKET IN QUEENS COUNTY : For a team of Indian immigrants living without papers in New York City, the quest for belonging and true love is what holds them together--until it tears them apart. (Elizabeth Flock, 5/19/15,

On one of the first cool days of fall, I wandered into a sprawling city park in north central Queens to watch a team of recent Indian immigrants - many of them living in the U.S. without papers - play their regular Sunday cricket match in the park.

The United Cricket Club team was undefeated in their league, and their star player, Davinder, was a thing of legend. He was twenty-seven and uncommonly handsome, bearded with a square, athletic build, and that day he did not disappoint. During the match, he caught ball after ball as his team looked on in awe. When it was their turn to bat, he almost immediately hit a six, the cricket equivalent of a home run. "Beauty! Good batting!" shouted Pardeep, the captain, who has kind eyes and a twirly beard, and leapt out of his lawn chair when excited. And then Davinder hit a pull shot, swinging the bat around his body to knock the ball far down the pitch. The shot ended the game.

With Davinder at the front, the team's eleven players ran jubilantly off the dusty pitch in their bright lime green uniforms with their nicknames printed on the back, many of them misspelled. They celebrated their victory with Corona beer in plastic cups and bright orange tandoori chicken piled high on a portable grill. Someone put on Punjabi music. Davinder was practically strutting. "Man of the match!" someone shouted.

But I hadn't come to watch the match. Pardeep had invited me because he said the United Cricket Club was more like the lonely hearts club - that the players all had love stories I needed to hear. Love and cricket went hand-in-hand, he told me. "When you love this game, sometimes it's more than love," he said. "And when you love someone, nothing is more than important than this person."

After the match, I pulled Davinder aside to ask him if there was anyone he missed back home. As I did, his cocky confidence fell away. Davinder had a girlfriend back in India, whose face he hadn't seen in the three years he'd been in the U.S. "I don't have a picture, she doesn't have Facebook, we don't Skype, and she just has a simple phone," he told me. They talked every day for hours with the help of a calling card. "I tried dating other people but I can't. I love her."

Davinder came to the United States three years ago, following the same route many Indian immigrants take to get to here today: across the Mexican border, with the help of a human smuggler. His journey started in Reynosa, Mexico, and for thirty-six hours he walked with just a little tuna fish, bread and water. After that he hid out, terrified, in the smuggler's house just near the border, and then crossed over in a small boat with about fifteen other people.

Many players on the United Cricket Club team came to the U.S. this way, landing in Texas and then eventually moving north to New York. By some combination of contacts and word-of-mouth, they eventually found Pardeep's team, which plays in the Commonwealth League, the oldest recreational cricket league in New York. The league attracts immigrants from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, the Caribbean and wherever cricket is played around the world. Their team is made up entirely of Sikhs, followers of a monotheistic religion with origins in Punjab in North India.

At home, the players told me they won trophies for their villages - Davinder boasted of winning seventy. Back there, they were stars, and never had to fight baseball players for space. But here, they said, the ground was better, the umps were fair, and cricket was about a lot more than trophies.

Many of the players, including Davinder, arrived in the U.S. totally alone, leaving behind lovers, friends and family. And so the cricket team played surrogate for all three. Sunday cricket matches were about having fun, but it was also a place they could talk about their problems. They discussed jobs, housing and homesickness. And they discussed one thing most of all: girls.

It is something like a form of insanity to think America would be a better place without them and that we gain by not letting them bring loved ones.

Posted by orrinj at 4:40 AM


Collaborative Greatness: The Lesson of George Washington and Alexander Hamilton (Carson Holloway, October 5th, 2016, Public Discourse)

On the one hand, we often indulge the democratic tendency to tear down the great, to seek out and magnify their flaws, to minimize or deny their virtues. We do this to reassure ourselves--in the face of the evidence before our eyes--that we really are all equal not only in our rights, but in our capacities as well.

This tendency is to be resisted not only because it is false--it is obvious that some people make contributions to the common good that exceed those made by others--but also because it undermines the aspiration to the greatness that we need. The potentially great are still human, after all. Men like Lincoln and Churchill were not above human praise. On the contrary, they loved honor and wanted to make contributions for which they would be esteemed by their fellow citizens. Those souls who long for such honor will not rouse themselves to exertion on behalf of the common good if they see great statesmen belittled, and greatness itself debunked.

We can successfully resist this democratic, leveling tendency because admiration for human greatness is rooted in human nature. When our minds are not distorted by ideology or resentment, most human beings will admit, readily and gratefully, that some of their fellows excel in some important endeavor. We even take pleasure in doing so.

Here, however, we encounter the opposite danger. Our natural attraction to human greatness often leads us to exaggerate it. We are given to hero worship.

This error may tempt even those who pursue the philosophic study of politics. We read, for example, Aristotle's account in his Nicomachean Ethics of the magnanimous or great-souled man--the man who believes himself worthy of the highest honors of the community because he really does deserve them. In other words, such a man has confidence in his ability to care for the community's most important needs because he really does possess the ability. Charmed by the grandeur of Aristotle's portrait, we may imagine such a man to be utterly self-sufficient, having within himself all that is needed to serve and even save the nation. Perhaps we are inclined to project such completeness or perfection on great men because we are acutely aware of--and indeed frightened and humiliated by--our dependence, contingency, and fragility, and therefore want to believe in the possibility of human self-sufficiency.

This grandiose vision of political excellence, however, is no less hostile to the development of real greatness than the democratic denial of its existence. It sets a standard of greatness that no actual human being could achieve. It therefore must end in disillusionment. Ultimately, it discourages us from striving after the kind of greatness that a human being really can achieve.

The truth of the matter is found, as usual, somewhere between these false and pernicious extremes. Great individuals really do exist. There are human beings who excel in virtue and ability, citizens to whom the community owes far more honor than it owes to its ordinarily decent and useful members. On the other hand, such figures are not utterly self-sufficient. They owe their greatness in no small measure to the assistance of others.

Aristotle himself reminds us of this and thus corrects the misunderstanding that we might derive from his portrait of the great-souled man. To be humanly self-sufficient, he teaches, lies not in not needing anyone or anything but rather in having the things one needs for a fully human life--including other human beings: family, friends, fellow citizens.

This lesson in truly human, collaborative greatness is brought home to us in the context of our own regime and our own history by Stephen Knott and Tony Williams's excellent study, Washington and Hamilton: The Alliance that Forged America. Founding a new nation--founding, indeed, a new kind of nation: the first modern republic--is an act of political greatness by any measure. As Knott and Williams's title reminds us, and as their book amply demonstrates, this great achievement was possible only on the basis of the close cooperation of our first president and his chief minister, our first secretary of the treasury.

Posted by orrinj at 12:34 AM


THE CHAMELEON : The many lives of Frédéric Bourdin. (David Grann, 8/11/08, The New Yorker)

Before he was Benjamin Kent or Michelangelo Martini--before he was the child of an English judge or an Italian diplomat--he was Frédéric Pierre Bourdin, the illegitimate son of Ghislaine Bourdin, who was eighteen and poor when she gave birth to him, in a suburb of Paris, on June 13, 1974. On government forms, Frédéric's father is often listed as "X," meaning that his identity was unknown. But Ghislaine, during an interview at her small house, in a rural area in western France, told me that "X" was a twenty-five-year-old Algerian immigrant named Kaci, whom she had met at a margarine factory where they both worked. (She says that she can no longer remember his last name.) After she became pregnant, she discovered that Kaci was already married, and so she left her job and did not tell him that she was carrying his child.

Ghislaine raised Frédéric until he was two and a half--"He was like any other child, totally normal," she says--at which time child services intervened at the behest of her parents. A relative says of Ghislaine, "She liked to drink and dance and stay out at night. She didn't want anything to do with that child." Ghislaine insists that she had obtained another factory job and was perfectly competent, but the judge placed Frédéric in her parents' custody. Years later, Ghislaine wrote Frédéric a letter, telling him, "You are my son and they stole you from me at the age of two. They did everything to separate us from each other and we have become two strangers."

Frédéric says that his mother had a dire need for attention and, on the rare occasions that he saw her, she would feign being deathly ill and make him run to get help. "To see me frightened gave her pleasure," he says. Though Ghislaine denies this, she acknowledges that she once attempted suicide and her son had to rush to find assistance.

When Frédéric was five, he moved with his grandparents to Mouchamps, a hamlet southeast of Nantes. Frédéric--part Algerian and fatherless, and dressed in secondhand clothes from Catholic charities--was a village outcast, and in school he began to tell fabulous stories about himself. He said that his father was never around because he was a "British secret agent." One of his elementary-school teachers, Yvon Bourgueil, describes Bourdin as a precocious and captivating child, who had an extraordinary imagination and visual sense, drawing wild, beautiful comic strips. "He had this way of making you connect to him," Bourgueil recalls. He also noticed signs of mental distress. At one point, Frédéric told his grandparents that he had been molested by a neighbor, though nobody in the tightly knit village investigated the allegation. In one of his comic strips, Frédéric depicted himself drowning in a river. He increasingly misbehaved, acting out in class and stealing from neighbors. At twelve, he was sent to live at Les Grézillières, a private facility for juveniles, in Nantes.

There, his "little dramas," as one of his teachers called them, became more fanciful. Bourdin often pretended to be an amnesiac, intentionally getting lost in the streets. In 1990, after he turned sixteen, Frédéric was forced to move to another youth home, and he soon ran away. He hitchhiked to Paris, where, scared and hungry, he invented his first fake character: he approached a police officer and told him that he was a lost British teen named Jimmy Sale. "I dreamed they would send me to England, where I always imagined life was more beautiful," he recalls. When the police discovered that he spoke almost no English, he admitted his deceit and was returned to the youth home. But he had devised what he calls his "technique," and in this fashion he began to wander across Europe, moving in and out of orphanages and foster homes, searching for the "perfect shelter." In 1991, he was found in a train station in Langres, France, pretending to be sick, and was placed in a children's hospital in Saint-Dizier. According to his medical report, no one knew "who he was or where he came from." Answering questions only in writing, he indicated that his name was Frédéric Cassis--a play on his real father's first name, Kaci. Frédéric's doctor, Jean-Paul Milanese, wrote in a letter to a child-welfare judge, "We find ourselves confronted with a young runaway teen, mute, having broken with his former life."

On a piece of paper, Bourdin scribbled what he wanted most: "A home and a school. That's all."

When doctors started to unravel his past, a few months later, Bourdin confessed his real identity and moved on. "I would rather leave on my own than be taken away," he told me. During his career as an impostor, Bourdin often voluntarily disclosed the truth, as if the attention that came from exposure were as thrilling as the con itself.

On June 13, 1992, after he had posed as more than a dozen fictional children, Bourdin turned eighteen, becoming a legal adult. "I'd been in shelters and foster homes most of my life, and suddenly I was told, 'That's it. You're free to go,' " he recalls. "How could I become something I could not imagine?" In November, 1993, posing as a mute child, he lay down in the middle of a street in the French town of Auch and was taken by firemen to a hospital. La Dépêche du Midi, a local newspaper, ran a story about him, asking, "Where does this mute adolescent . . . come from?" The next day, the paper published another article, under the headline "the mute adolescent who appeared out of nowhere has still not revealed his secret." After fleeing, he was caught attempting a similar ruse nearby and admitted that he was Frédéric Bourdin. "the mute of auch speaks four languages," La Dépêche du Midi proclaimed.

As Bourdin assumed more and more identities, he attempted to kill off his real one. One day, the mayor of Mouchamps received a call from the "German police" notifying him that Bourdin's body had been found in Munich.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Inside the Lively World of Competitive Stone Skimming : Each fall, the world's greatest stone skimmers gather on a small Scottish island to try and outgun one another (Matt McDonald  Oct 17, 2016, OUTSIDE)

Fog shrouds Easdale Island, a windswept 62-acre chunk of slate, grass, and shrubs just off Scotland's west coast, as rain intensifies on the roof of the Puffer Bar and Restaurant. Four of Easdale's 60 residents guffaw over dominoes in the cramped dining area, and a fifth pours English-style IPAs behind the bar. Easdale is the smallest permanently inhabited island in the Inner Hebrides archipelago of Scotland, but its population is about to swell. The coming hordes descend not for whisky tours, mountain biking, or Highland games. They come for stone skimming.

Every fall for 20 years, Easdale has hosted the World Stone Skimming Championships. Originally dreamed up in a bar as a wee bit of fun, the event now draws 350 skimmers and a couple hundred more spectators. Proceeds keep the island's community hall, harbor, and museum running. Most competitors hail from Scotland, but others travel from Wales, Britain, the Netherlands, the United States--even Hong Kong and India.

This September, I decided to join them. At the pub, I hand an IPA to Hans Eshuies, a Holland-based landscape architect who's become a regular at the competition. In May, he participated with other elite skimmers in a Wales competition to determine an official stone-skip distance record for the Guinness Book of World Records. Englishman Paul Crabtree, a former stone-skimming champion, enters the bar. "Maybe Dougie's car broke down," he says.

Dougie Isaacs, a delivery driver from central Scotland, is the perennial champion. He's won this event seven out of the past 12 years and set the official world record for longest stone skip--351 feet--at the Guinness book toss-off. Eshuies describes Isaacs as a mystery man who arrives quietly and makes stones whoosh audibly when he throws them. He arrives quietly at sunset in a worn commando jacket, bantering with the ferry operators, and keeps a low profile. Year after year, Isaacs awes spectators and other skimmers. But everyone wants to see him challenged.

November 10, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 6:59 AM


The Competitive Landscape for Machine Intelligence (Shivon Zilis & James Cham, NOVEMBER 02, 2016, Harvard Business Review)

 Over the past year, machine intelligence has exploded, with $5 billion in venture investment, a few big acquisitions, and hundreds of thousands of people reading our earlier research. As with the internet in the 1990s, executives are realizing that this new technology could change everything, but nobody knows exactly how or when.

If this year's landscape shows anything, it's that the impact of machine intelligence is already here. Almost every industry is already being affected, from agriculture to transportation. Every employee can use machine intelligence to become more productive with tools that exist today. Companies have at their disposal, for the first time, the full set of building blocks to begin embedding machine intelligence in their businesses.

Posted by orrinj at 5:35 AM


LINCOLN'S EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION : a review of Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America by Allen C. Guelzo (George McKenna, June 2004, First Things)  

Lincoln's focus on saving the Union was in no way incompatible with his desire to end slavery. First of all, if the Union were not preserved, if the South were allowed to go its own way and do its own thing, all hopes for ending slavery in the foreseeable future would be ended. Second, Lincoln left open a radical option ("if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it") while hinting at what he was then planning to do in his Emancipation Proclamation ("freeing some and leaving others alone"). Third, Lincoln had never given up the idea, which he had first broached in 1855, of voluntary and compensated emancipation. He brought it up again in the fall of 1861, hoping to make tiny Delaware a laboratory to demonstrate its success and encourage other states to try it, and in 1862 he persuaded Congress to pass legislation extending the offer to all loyal states, but even this voluntary proposal produced a storm of indignation over interference in "states' rights." Its Delaware sponsors dropped it when the votes weren't there for final passage, and none of the other border states showed any interest in it. At his most cautious, then, Lincoln was still far ahead of most other white Americans in moving toward the abolition of slavery. 

What Lincoln could do unilaterally, as he understood it, was to use his military power as commander-in-chief to deprive the rebels of the slaves they were using to grow their crops. Yet he wanted to give the rebel areas an opportunity to return to the Union on their own. On September 22, 1862, he issued a Preliminary Proclamation, setting a deadline of January 1, 1863, for a return to the Union. If the areas in rebellion failed to comply by that date, their slaves would be "thenceforward and forever free." The armed services were ordered to protect and maintain "the freedom of such persons" and to do nothing to repress them "in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom." This last phrase set off a new uproar, even in the North, because it was viewed as an incitement to bloody slave rebellions. According to one Boston "moderate," it would make the slaves think that they "should be made free by killing or poisoning their masters and mistresses." In the Final Proclamation of January 1, 1863, Lincoln enjoined the slaves "to abstain from all violence, unless in necessary self-defense"; but this tacitly left open other means of self-liberation, including simply running away, which is what Lincoln hoped they would do. 

The Final Proclamation made good on the ultimatum Lincoln had delivered in his Preliminary Proclamation one hundred days earlier: "I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States, and parts of States, are, and henceforward shall be, free; and that the Executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons." The night before issuing it, Lincoln was getting last-minute telegraphic reports on the "parts of states" that had come under federal control. Referring to them, the Proclamation said, "These excepted parts are, for the present, left precisely as if this proclamation were not issued." Hence Seward's jibe about Lincoln's "emancipating slaves where we cannot reach them and holding them in bondage where we can set them free." (An editorialist in the London Times compared it to "a Chinaman beating his two swords together to frighten his enemy.") 

But Guelzo gives us reason to believe that this was no empty gesture. He quotes a Union officer in Virginia who saw slaves running into his camp from as far away as North Carolina; this officer said they "know all about the Proclamation and they started on the belief in it." Many slaves themselves later named the Proclamation as the instrument that motivated them to escape. "When the Proclamation was issued," one told a congressional committee, that was when he decided to flee his master. Another said, "I have been a slave from my childhood up to the time I was set free by the emancipation proclamation." In the summer of 1863, a Union officer noticed among "the negroes" a very different attitude from former times. He attributed it to the Proclamation: "a spirit of independence--a feeling they are no longer slaves." It is hard to keep people in slavery when they no longer think of themselves as slaves. 

There is much more about Lincoln in Guelzo's book, including his promotion of the Thirteenth Amendment, his use of black troops in the war, and his support for at least selective black suffrage at its conclusion. Indeed, we probably learn more about Lincoln in this book than we need to, given its limited scope. Guelzo reprises his earlier speculations about Lincoln's religiosity (Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President, 1999; reviewed in FT August 2000), portraying him as "a kind of secularized Calvinist" who feigned religiosity for political reasons until the summer of 1862, when the deepening crisis finally caused him to think seriously about God's purposes. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:20 AM


Animal Minds : The new anthropomorphism (Brandon Keim, OCTOBER 02, 2016, The Chronicle Review)

For most of the past century, the official answer leaned toward: nothing much, really. With a few notable exceptions, scientists defined animals as instinct-driven and incapable of thought, or else governed by simple stimulus-response conditioning. Human intelligence was treated as singular, differing from other animals not merely in degree, as Charles Darwin wrote in The Descent of Man, but in kind. To assert otherwise was to invite the invalidating taint of anthropomorphism: imputing human characteristics to objects that don't have them, not unlike a child playing with stuffed animals. It was unscientific.

How times have changed: What once was considered anthropomorphic thinking is now mainstream science. That's not to say researchers have come to see other animals as simply furred or feathered versions of ourselves. But they are increasingly attentive to the shared biology of human and animal consciousness. A consensus is emerging that to study animals is to appreciate not only their differences from us but also their deep similarities. As the primatologist Frans de Waal writes in Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? "anthropomorphism is not always as problematic as people think."

Posted by orrinj at 5:12 AM


John Muir's Yosemite : The father of the conservation movement found his calling on a visit to the California wilderness (Tony Perrottet, July 2008, SMITHSONIAN MAGAZINE)

Today, Muir has become such an icon that it's hard to remember that he was ever a living human being, let alone a wide-eyed and adventurous young man--a Gilded Age flower child. Even at the Yosemite Visitor Center, he's depicted in a life-size bronze statue as a wizened prophet with a Methuselah beard. In a nearby museum, his battered tin cup and the traced outline of his foot are displayed like religious relics. And his pithy inspirational quotes--"Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine into trees"--are everywhere. But all this hero worship risks obscuring the real story of the man and his achievements.

"There are an amazing number of misconceptions about John Muir," says Scott Gediman, the park's public affairs officer. "People think he discovered Yosemite or started the national park system. Others assume he lived here all his life." In fact, says Gediman, Muir lived in Yosemite off and on for only a short but intense period from 1868 to 1874, an experience that transformed him into a successor to Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Later in life, Muir would return to Yosemite on shorter trips, burdened with his own celebrity and the responsibilities of family and work. But it was during the happy period of his relative youth, when he was free to amble around Yosemite, that Muir's ideas were shaped. Some of his most famous adventures, recounted in his books The Yosemite and Our National Parks, were from this time.

"As a young man, Muir felt he was a student in what he called the 'University of the Wilderness,'" Gisel said. "Yosemite was his graduate course. This is where he decided who he was, what he wanted to say and how he was going to say it."

When he first strode into Yosemite in the spring of 1868, Muir was a scruffy Midwestern vagabond wandering the wilderness fringes of post-bellum America, taking odd jobs where he could. In retrospect, visiting Yosemite might seem an inevitable stop on his life's journey. But his later recollections reveal a young man plagued with self-doubt and uncertainty, often lonely and confused about the future. "I was tormented with soul hunger," he wrote of his meandering youth. "I was on the world. But was I in it?"

John Muir was born in Dunbar, Scotland, in 1838, the eldest son of a Calvinist shopkeeper father. When John was 11, the family immigrated to the United States, to homestead near Portage, Wisconsin. Though his days were consumed with farm work, he was a voracious reader. By his mid-20s, Muir seemed to have a career as an inventor ahead of him. His gadgets included an "early-rising bed," which raised the sleeper to an upright position, and a clock made in the shape of a scythe, to signify the advance of Father Time. But after being nearly blinded in a factory mishap in 1867, Muir decided to devote his life to studying the beauties of Creation. With almost no money and already sporting the full beard that would become his trademark, he set off on a 1,000-mile walk from Kentucky to Florida, intending to continue to South America to see the Amazon. But a bout of malaria in Florida's Cedar Key forced a change in plans. He sailed to San Francisco via Panama, intending to stay only a short time.

Muir would later famously, and perhaps apocryphally, recall that after hopping off the boat in San Francisco on March 28, 1868, he asked a carpenter on the street the quickest way out of the chaotic city. "Where do you want to go?" the carpenter replied, and Muir responded, "Anywhere that is wild." Muir started walking east.

Posted by orrinj at 5:04 AM


Iran offers hotel tax breaks in bid to boost tourism (ALI NOORANI, October 2, 2016, AFP) 

Iran offered up to 13 years of tax holidays to hoteliers at an international tourism summit on Sunday as it seeks to boost visitor numbers and revamp its dilapidated hotels.

"All economic activities related to... tourism will enjoy 100 percent tax holidays between five to 13 years depending on the region," deputy economy minister Mohammad Khazaei told hoteliers from 18 countries who had gathered in Tehran, many from Europe.

Since the lifting of international sanctions under last year's nuclear deal, the moderate government of President Hassan Rouhani has made tourism a top priority for rebuilding Iran's struggling economy.

Visitor numbers have already boomed in recent years thanks to a partial thaw in the country's relations with the world, rising from 2.2 million annually in 2009 to 5.2 million in 2015.

By 2025, they are hoping to reach 20 million visitors a year.

Posted by orrinj at 4:44 AM


Persuading Floridians That Hunting Invasive Pythons Is Fun : Jenny Novak, a state wildlife biologist, has trained more than a thousand locals to capture wild snakes in the Everglades. (ALEXIA FERNÁNDEZ CAMPBELL,  OCT 3, 2016, The Atlantic)

Campbell: Can you describe what you tell people about how to capture a python?

Novak: I tell them that when you come across a python, you want to get it out in the open. You want to make sure you know what you're dealing with. There are several steps you have to take before you're ready to approach the animal to see how it's behaving, but if the snake is just wanting to get away from you and go hide, that's what we call "flight mode," and that's when you can safely approach the animal from behind.

We use a snake hook. We use the rubber handle of the snake hook, not the hook end. We do pin the animal quickly at the base of the head, and then we show people how to, with the other hand, put their fingers around the neck of the snake and to hold it. It doesn't take a strong hold. It's just a very gentle almost loose hold around the neck to keep those animals under control and to keep them close to the ground. We show them with their free hand then to take the snake bag and get that bag worked over the snake. It's surprisingly an easy process to do. We've trained adults. We've even trained younger children to do this.

Posted by orrinj at 4:39 AM

7 One-Ingredient Upgrades for Apple Cider (Sheela Prakash, Sep 27, 2016, Kitchn)

7. Coconut Milk

Pour a little coconut milk into a glass of apple cider to add sweet coconut flavor and creaminess. Think of it as apple pie a la mode -- in a glass.

Posted by orrinj at 4:36 AM


Why renewable energy is booming in Iran (Maysam Bizær, October 4, 2016, Al Monitor)

Iran, with a population of over 80 million, has the fourth-largest oil reserves and the second-largest natural gas reserves in the world. But despite its rich hydrocarbon resources, the country is pursuing projects to construct more nuclear reactors as part of efforts to increase its reliance on renewable energy sources as it has an advantageous topography for renewables.

Under such a policy, Iran has in the past years taken measures to increase power capacity via sources such as wind, solar and geothermal. Projects to produce 600 MW of electricity through wind and biomass and the construction of a 50-MW geothermal power plant in the northwest of the country are among these measures.

According to official figures, Iran's existing power generation capacity stands at 74,000 MW, of which nearly 200 MW is currently produced via renewable sources, mainly solar and wind. However, the renewable energy production capacity is predicted to reach 5,000 MW in the next five years, under Iran's sixth Five-Year Development Plan that envisions the construction of new power plants with a total capacity of 26,000 MW.

The sixth development plan also requires the government to focus on clean energy to protect the environment. Rik Teeuwen, the project manager of Solarplaza's Renewable Energy Trade Mission Iran, told Al-Monitor that for Iran, which is among the nearly 200 countries committed to the 2015 Paris climate deal that calls for cutting emissions, renewable energy is a major tool to reduce impact on the environment as it reduces the use of fossil fuels and saves water.

"If you can get wind energy and solar energy cheaper than old ways of generating, you save money and you can sell the fuels you don't need to other countries at a premium," Teeuwen, the manager of the Netherlands-based private firm, said.

Teeuwen also believes that renewable energy helps Iran attract foreign capital, which benefits both its local industry and employment. With Iran already attracting foreign investment in renewable energy, he believes that the country "definitely is well underway" to become a regional electric hub that will significantly export electricity in the years to come.

November 9, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 5:32 PM


The Case for Republican Restraint in Congress (JOHN FEEHERY, Nov 9, 2016, WSJ)

At least at first, Republicans would benefit from insisting on an orderly process that seeks to build as much bipartisan consensus as possible under incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.).

Mr. Schumer is known as both a fierce partisan and an accomplished deal-cutter. Republicans stand to gain from testing the new Democratic leader's willingness to try to accomplish things in a bipartisan manner, or to see if he intends to emulate his predecessor, Harry Reid, in intensifying polarization within the Senate. Republicans only benefit from being seen trying to get things done; and actually accomplishing things through regular order could help the function of the Senate.

Before Democratic efforts to retake the Senate failed, there was some talk among Democrats of using parliamentary devices to break Senate deadlocks. This "nuclear option" would usher in a huge culture change in the Senate, making it even more difficult for the parties to find common ground.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is an institutionalist and is resistant to the idea of using the nuclear option. 

The first things to move on would be the ones that everyone agrees on : infrastructure, corporate tax cuts, TPP and immigration reform. And get Paul Ryan and Ron Wyden back to work on their Obamacare reforms..

Posted by orrinj at 5:18 PM


Exit Polls 2016: Voters Show a Deep Hunger for Change (LAURA MECKLER, Nov. 9, 2016, WSJ)

The exit polls show the campaign ended the way it began: with two unpopular candidates. About 44% said they had a favorable view of Mrs. Clinton, and just 38% had a favorable view of Mr. Trump. On Election Day 2012, both Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney had higher ratings than that.

More than half of voters said Mrs. Clinton was qualified to serve as president, and more than half said she had the right temperament for the job. Only about a third of the electorate said the same of Mr. Trump.

Unfortunately, running a candidate universally recognized as unfit did finally cost good people like Kelly Ayotte their seats.
Posted by orrinj at 5:10 PM


Team Trump Struggling to Fill National Security Jobs : Turned down by top talent, Trump's administration-in-waiting is trying to find someone to operate the agencies tasked with stopping hackers and terrorists. (KIMBERLY DOZIER & SHANE HARRIS, 11.09.16, Daily Beast)

Team Trump didn't expect to win until the campaign's internal polling a month before the election signaled a possible victory. That's when senior Trump officials went into overdrive, trying to build a bench of experienced national security candidates with top secret clearances willing to work for a Trump presidency--and they met resistance across the landscape of experienced GOP national security professionals.

One person who met last month with Trump's national security and homeland security transition team leader said that she confessed that many candidates had flatly rejected attempts to recruit them, believing that Trump was unfit to hold the office of commander-in-chief.

"She said that it was going to be very difficult to fill positions in that space because everybody that had experience was a never-Trumper," this person said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations. 

"She wasn't even sure that she was going to be able to fill a transition team," much less find people to serve in government positions, this person said. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:47 PM


Trump due in court before Oval Office (Karen Freifeld and Anthony Lin, 11/09/16, Reuters)

A hearing in federal court in San Diego is set for Thursday, and the trial is scheduled to begin on Nov. 28, barring any delays or if Trump decides to settle the case.

While presidents enjoy immunity from lawsuits arising from their official duties, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that this shield does not extend to acts alleged to have taken place prior to taking office. The 1997 ruling came in the sexual harassment lawsuit filed against President Bill Clinton by Paula Jones, which was settled before it went to trial.

Lawyers said they could think of no similar situation like the one now involving Trump.

"I'm certain there is nothing comparable to this," said Alan Dershowitz, professor emeritus at Harvard Law School.

Will Trump's first 100 days be spent in the White House - or in court? (Ellen Powell, NOVEMBER 9, 2016, CS Monitor)

At least 75 lawsuits against President-elect Trump and his businesses remained open two weeks before the election, a USA TODAY analysis of state and federal court records found. They include a defamation suit by a GOP political consultant, two cases relating to Trump's Jupiter, Fla. golf course, and a fraud case involving Trump University. This last case - brought by students who say they were charged up to $35,000 and lied to about the content of the course - is scheduled to go to trial the Monday after Thanksgiving.

And that's before Comey starts looking at his "charity."

Posted by orrinj at 4:36 PM


Trump Won Fewer Votes Than Romney Did (AARON BANDLER, NOVEMBER 9, 2016, Daily Wire)

The numbers are stunning: [...]

2012 Obama: 65.9m
2016 Clinton: 59.1m = -6.8m
2012 Romney: 60.9m
2016 Trump: 59m = -1.9m

Posted by orrinj at 4:28 PM


Conservative Case Against Rudy Giuliani (jhawkins, Aug 30, 2006, Human Rights)

Here's a short, but sweet primer on some of Rudy's many flaws.

Rudy's Strong Pro-Abortion Stance

As these comments from a 1989 conversation with Phil Donahue show, Rudy Giuliani is staunchly in favor of abortion:

"I've said that I'll uphold a woman's right of choice, that I will fund abortion so that a poor woman is not deprived of a right that others can exercise, and that I would oppose going back to a day in which abortions were illegal.

I do that in spite of my own personal reservations. I have a daughter now; if a close relative or a daughter were pregnant, I would give my personal advice, my religious and moral views ...

Donahue: Which would be to continue the pregnancy.

Giuliani: Which would be that I would help her with taking care of the baby. But if the ultimate choice of the woman - my daughter or any other woman - would be that in this particular circumstance [if she had] to have an abortion, I'd support that. I'd give my daughter the money for it."

Worse yet, Giuliani even supports partial birth abortion:

"I'm pro-choice. I'm pro-gay rights,Giuliani said. He was then asked whether he supports a ban on what critics call partial-birth abortions. "No, I have not supported that, and I don't see my position on that changing," he responded." --, "Inside Politics" Dec 2, 1999

It's bad enough that Rudy is so adamantly pro-abortion, but consider what that could mean when it comes time to select Supreme Court Justices. Does the description of Giuliani that you've just read make you think he's going to select an originalist like Clarence Thomas, who would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade -- or does it make you think he would prefer justices like Sandra Day O'Connor and Anthony Kennedy who'd leave Roe v. Wade in place?

Rudy's abortion stance is bad news for conservatives who are pro-life or who are concerned about getting originalist judges on the Supreme Court.

An Anti-Second Amendment Candidate

In the last couple of election cycles, 2nd Amendment issues have moved to the back burner mainly because even Democratic candidates have learned that being tagged with the "gun grabber" label is political poison.

Unfortunately, Rudy Giuliani is a proponent of gun control who supported the Brady Bill and the Assault Weapon Ban.

Do Republicans really want to abandon their strong 2nd Amendment stance by selecting a pro-gun control nominee?

The first big fight of the Trump administration looks likely to be trying to get his AG past the GOP Senate.
Posted by orrinj at 2:30 PM


President Obama vows a smooth transition of power: 'We are all on the same team' (Jeva Lange, 11/09/16, The Week)

"Everybody is sad when their side loses the election," Obama explained. "But the day after, we have to remember we're all on the same team. This is an intramural scrimmage ... We all want what's best for this country."

Trump win is boost for infrastructure spending (Paul R. La Monica, November 9, 2016, CNN Money)

Construction stocks were widely believed to be potential market winners regardless of who won the election. Clinton and Trump each promised to do more to repair highways and other critical infrastructure.

It wasn't exactly a good election for seriousness, but at the point where folks were trying to find policy differences between a liberal billionaire who's never lived outside of NYC and a Democrat from Westchester--who attended the former's wedding--it got deeply silly.  What really matters is that the Congressional Republicans--who carried him on their coattails--will serve as the check on him that a Democrat Congress would not have.  The GOP is going to be particularly tough on increased spending and the abortion views of the Court picks.

Meanwhile, Republican state house control is going to keep generating a deep presidential bench, whereas the Democrats are going to have to turn to a celebrity of their own at this rate.

Cheer Up (Ira Stoll, 11/09/16, Future of Capitalism)

Here are some post-election reasons to be optimistic, even if, like me, you have had or still have your reservations about Donald Trump:

Trump the tax-cutter. If taxes are headed in a direction, it's downward, rather than upward, both at the corporate and the personal levels [...]

Trump the open door on immigration. Trump's mother and wife are immigrants. People remember his talk about building a wall. But on August 6, 2015, in the Republican presidential debate on Fox News, he said, "I don't mind having a big beautiful door in that wall so that people can come into the country legally." On August 23, 2015, on CBS, he said, "This will be a wall with a big, very beautiful door because we want the legals to come back into the country."

Trump the free trader: Trump has consistently stressed that he is for free trade, he just wants better deals. Take him at his word, for now, at least.

Trump the progressive on gay rights. Remember, an openly gay Silicon Valley investor, Peter Thiel, spoke at the Republican National Convention and is a prominent Trump backer. Take it even from the vehemently anti-Trump New York Times: "Donald Trump's More Accepting Views on Gay Issues Set Him Apart in G.O.P."

Posted by orrinj at 6:17 AM


Can Obama Pardon Millions of Immigrants? (PETER L. MARKOWITZ, JULY 6, 2016, NY Times)

There is one area, however, where the president's unilateral ability to forgo punishment is uncontested and supported by over a hundred years of Supreme Court precedent: the pardon power. It has been consistently interpreted to include the power to grant broad amnesties from prosecution to large groups when the president deems it in the public interest.

Such pardons have been used by presidents including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson. Most recently, Jimmy Carter issued a pardon to around half a million men who had violated draft laws to avoid military service in Vietnam.

It's a common assumption that pardons can be used only for criminal offenses, and it's true that they have not been used before for civil immigration violations. However, the Constitution extends the power to all "offenses against the United States," which can be interpreted more broadly than just criminal offenses.

A pardon could not achieve everything the deferred deportation program aspired to -- notably, it could not deliver work permits. However, it has a certain operational elegance to it that would avoid many of the political battles surrounding the deferral program. No application process would be necessary. A pardon becomes immediately effective upon issuance by a president. With fewer than 300 words and a signature, President Carter's pardon became effective on his first full day in office.

Everyone accepts that this needs to be done--see the exit polls and Donald's own pre-campaign comments--but they're not likely to have more political will to do it after yesterday.  So President Obama should just do it for us, as W should have done in 2007 when Senator Obama helped kill reform.

Posted by orrinj at 5:46 AM


Republicans Dominate in Governors' Races (Center for Public Integrity / Michael J. Mishak and Ben Wieder, 11/09/16, TIME)

Despite an aggressive financial push from Democrats, Republicans cemented their dominance of the nation's governors' mansions in elections Tuesday, ending the night with their highest number of governorships since 1922.

The GOP flipped control of state executives in Missouri, Vermont and New Hampshire as of early Wednesday. That means the party will hold the governors' offices in at least 33 states, up from 31. In a stunning night for Democrats on the national stage, these additional losses pushed the party further into the political wilderness in the states, where they have been struggling to compete for years. the way Republicans in virtually every competitive Senate and gubernatorial race ran ahead of the top of the ticket, carrying the presidential nominee with them.  Kelly Ayotte and Chris Sununu may even manage to save Donald in NH.

With the election over and Donald pivoting back to his own liberal politics--but with a GOP Senate to force him to pick a pro-life Justice--and with the economy poised for continued growth, we may even escape without much damage to the brand.

Consider that on the economy we inherit the longest consecutive streak of monthly job growth ever and 5 million open positions, an already negotiated Pacific trade agreement (and a Britain eager for a deal) and a consensus in both parties to reform immigration and corporate taxes and do an infrastructure deal. The horrible mistake of 1992, when we let Bill Clinton get credit for the Cold War Peace Dividend has also been avoided as the WoT ends.

The Donald lucked into a nearly unscrewable pooch, if he can just stay out of his own way.

Posted by orrinj at 4:41 AM


Five things that explain Donald Trump's stunning presidential election victory (Anthony J. Gaughan, 11/09/16, the Conversation)

2. Celebrity beat organization

A longstanding assumption of political campaigns is that a first-rate "Get out the Vote" organization is indispensable. The conventional wisdom in 2016 thus held that Trump's lack of a grassroots organization was a huge liability for his campaign.

But as it turned out, he didn't need an organization. Trump has been in the public eye for over 30 years, which meant that he entered the race with nearly 100 percent name recognition. Trump's longstanding status as a celebrity enabled him to garner relentless media attention from the moment he entered the race. One study found that by May 2016 Trump had received the equivalent of US$3 billion in free advertising from the media coverage his campaign commanded. Trump seemed to intuitively understand that the controversial things he said on the campaign trail captured the voters' attention in a way that serious policy speeches never could.

Most important of all, he had highly motivated voters. Trump's populist rhetoric and open contempt for civility and basic standards of decency enabled him to connect with the Republican base like no candidate since Ronald Reagan. Trump didn't play by the normal rules of politics, and his voters loved him for it.

Trump's victory would seem to herald a new era of celebrity politicians. He showed that a charismatic media-savvy outsider has significant advantages over traditional politicians and conventional political organizations in the internet age. In the future, we may see many more unconventional politicians in the Trump mold.

Like the primaries, it ended up only ever being about whether people could adjust themselves to the guy who was taking up all the oxygen being a viable alternative. 

November 8, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 11:28 PM


Time to make our picks :

Presidential Race:

Clinton % of vote:

Donald % of vote:

Senate Races:

Republican Seats next Congress:

Democrat ( & "Independent"):

House Races:

Republican seats;


I'm going with 50%/44%; 48/52; & 231/204

Source: WalletHub

Posted by orrinj at 11:05 PM


Given the states Hillary is losing, it will be interesting to see how many black voters are missing from the totals the UR ran up.  Democrats probably should have nominated Michelle.
Posted by orrinj at 10:37 PM

Posted by orrinj at 10:13 PM

SO IT LOOKS LIKE...: matter who wins the presidency we'll have Mitch and Paul Ryan to ride herd on them, thankfully.
Posted by orrinj at 8:45 PM


Why Bettors Take a Flier on Trump (Leonid Bershidsky, 10/31/16, )

[H]ere are some serious and whimsical indicators to give Trump bettors hope.

Social network engagement and Google searches. "Big data" analysis is an increasingly popular crutch for investors and analysts who don't fully trust polls. More people are searching for Trump on Google, and "vote Trump" is a far more popular search request than "vote Clinton." On the USA Today/Facebook candidate barometer, Trump demonstrates much better Facebook engagement, seen as the combined number of likes, comments, shares and posts. Most of those who "like" and share posts mentioning Trump could be haters, not backers. Yet a study of Twitter activity, which uses content analysis, shows that Trump has a consistently better ratio of positive to negative tweets than Clinton. That's a warning to Clintonites: Brexit supporters dominated the social networks before the U.K. voted to leave the EU in June. An artificial-intelligence system that analyzes social network data, built by Shajiv Rai, founder of the Indian startup, in 2004, predicts a victory for Trump. It accurately called the last three U.S. presidential elections.

Economic indicators. Several econometric models that predict electoral outcomes based on the incumbent party's economic performance forecast a change of ruling party this year. Alan Abramovitz of the University of Virginia, whose model has accurately called the popular-vote winners since 1988, gives Clinton 48.6 percent of the two-party vote (with the caveat that Trump's personality may well move the needle in the Democrat's favor). A 2009 model by Yale's Ray Fair reflects the relationship between economic indicators (output growth and inflation) and votes cast for the incumbent party's candidate. This model has consistently predicted a loss for the Democrats this year. As of Oct. 28, Fair's model gives Clinton 44 percent of the vote in a two-way race. In 2012, Fair's equation gave Obama 49 percent; he ended up with 51 percent, within the model's 2.5 percentage-point margin of error. If Clinton wins, it will be the first time the model will prove inaccurate. Unemployment dynamics and the ISM Manufacturing index, which have been good predictors of election outcomes, also give an advantage to Trump as the change candidate.

Consumer confidence. The measure for October of the presidential election year has long been highly predictive of the outcome of the race, as Mitsubishi Bank vice president Michael Nemira argued in a 1992 paper. Nemira used a simple formula involving the University of Michigan's Index of Consumer Sentiment that has only failed in 2000 (when the incumbent party's candidate did win the popular vote but still lost the election) and in 2012 (when one could argue that consumer confidence hadn't recovered after the 2008 financial crisis). This year, the formula predicts a loss for Democrats. There's another, even simpler way to use consumer confidence to predict presidential race outcomes. Since 1968, the incumbent party has won nine of the 12 elections when the Consumer Confidence Index was above 100. The exceptions were 2012, 2000 and 1968, when President Lyndon Johnson decided to forego a re-election bid amid turmoil over the Vietnam War. It stands at 98.6 now, predicting a victory for the Republican nominee.

The fiscal model. Based on the observation that growing federal spending relative to the gross domestic product reduces the incumbent party's chances of winning, it failed to predict Barack Obama's re-election in 2012. Its author, Alfred Cuzan of the University of West Florida, has since adjusted it. The model predicts a loss for the Democrats, with 48.2 percent of the two-party vote.

Helmut Norpoth's models. The SUNY at Stony Brook professor has two. One is based on the candidates' primary performance: The one who does better in his party's early primaries wins the election. This has been true in every election since 1912 except the 1960 one. The model predicts a strong likelihood of a Trump win. The other one, based on the view that "like sunspots, elections run in cycles" -- an approach to politics reminiscent of the technical analysis traders use -- projects a victory for Trump with 51.4 percent of the popular vote. Norpoth is on record as saying that polls are "bunk" because they are about opinions, not actions. He is convinced Trump is headed for victory and has bet on him on the Iowa prediction markets.

Allan Lichtman's "13 Keys to the White House." The American University professor's previously accurate approach is also largely based on the outgoing administration's performance. Of the 13 indicators, including the state of the national economy, social unrest, scandals, the incumbent's foreign policy success and both top candidates' charisma, five should point in the challenger's favor for him to win. Lichtman predicts a Trump victory. that it was essentially unloseable for the GOP.

Posted by orrinj at 8:36 PM


Posted by orrinj at 7:23 PM


Posted by orrinj at 7:19 PM


Orthodox immigrant to US dedicates vote to late Muslim American soldier (GABE FRIEDMAN, November 9, 2016, JTA)

 In a tweet that has gone viral, an Orthodox Jewish immigrant dedicated his vote to Capt. Humayun Khan -- a Muslim American soldier killed in Iraq.

Both are the sorts of folks Trump supporters believe should not be our fellow Americans.

Posted by orrinj at 6:21 PM


SETH MASKET, 5:57 PM, 11/08/16, 538

Jonathan Bernstein posted an underreported statistic about the election the other day (citing Boris Shor): 73 percent of Democratic state legislators are endorsing Clinton, while 5 percent of Republican state legislators are endorsing Trump.

Posted by orrinj at 5:32 PM


Exit poll finds immigration not on top of voters' minds (AP, Nov 8, 2016)

Seven in 10 Americans going to the polls said they think immigrants now in the country illegally should be allowed to stay. Just a quarter said they should be deported.

More than half said they oppose building a wall along the Mexican border to stop illegal immigration, according to preliminary results of an exit poll conducted by the Associated Press and television networks by Edison Research.

But immigration isn't necessarily at the top of the minds of most voters. Just one in 10 said immigration is the most important issue facing the country.

Republican Donald Trump made cracking down on immigration a top item on his agenda.

...and found out just how unAmerican their emotions are.

Posted by orrinj at 5:24 PM


Asian-American Voter Turnout Doubles in Battleground States : In California, politicians long ago learned the importance of appealing to Asian-American voters. Now the rest of the country will have to figure it out too. (Francie Diep, 11/08/16, Pacific Standard)

In early voting, roughly twice as many Asian Americans have turned out in the battleground states of Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia, compared to the last general election, the Associated Press reported yesterday. Georgia has seen a rise of almost 300 percent in Asian-American votes. Although Asian Americans make up just 3 percent of the voting population -- and tend to register to vote at lower rates than black and white Americans -- that share is expected to grow in the future. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:01 PM


AUDIO INTERVIEW: Ted Nash : Saxophonist and composer (National Endowment for the Arts)

With Presidential Suite, Ted Nash transforms iconic political speeches into an inventive jazz composition.

Posted by orrinj at 4:57 PM


Robot Vacuums Are on the Rise (Madeline Farber, NOVEMBER 7, 2016, Fortune)

At one time, robots seemed like a futuristic luxury. Today, they make up 20% of the worldwide vacuum market.

Posted by orrinj at 4:53 PM


America has 5.5 million job openings  (Patrick Gillespie, 11/08/16, CNNMoney)

The Labor Department said Tuesday that America had 5.5 million job openings in September, close to the record high of 5.8 million openings set in April. There was even a small increase in federal government job openings.
It's a great sign that employers want to hire.

Maybe the only other president ever to inherit such a good economic situation was Bill.
Posted by orrinj at 4:33 PM


If Slate's live voter turnout forecaster is right, they'll call this election earlier than 1980.  Hillary is winning every "swing" state and already has more votes than the UR got in FL last time.

Traders Jump on 'Live' Polling Data, Send Stocks Higher (PAUL VIGNA, Nov 8, 2016, WSJ)

On Tuesday, though, websites Vice and Slate are providing what they are characterizing as "live" voting projections throughout the day.

To be sure, this is an experiment, and a controversial one. Regardless, the numbers are being put out there, and the market is noticing. With the Slate data showing Hillary Clinton leading in several key swing states, stocks have shot higher and bonds have fallen.

A number of traders say that people were either following the Slate data, or hearing colleagues in the market talking about it.

"That's what people I'm talking to are ascribing the spike to," Scott Frew of Rockingham Capital Partners said. He also noted that people are criticizing the site's methodology. The numbers from VoteCastr are projections based on samples polls and "real-time" tracking of Tuesday's vote. The numbers being presented are the latest projections of how many votes have been cast, rather than actual results.

Posted by orrinj at 4:23 PM

Posted by orrinj at 2:12 PM

POLITICS AIN'T NO THANG (self-reference alert):

Kean and Shapiro break bread (, April 28, 2013)

Trounced. Crushed. Hammered. Call it what you will, but in 1985, Gov. Tom Kean swamped his Democratic challenger, Peter Shapiro, 69.58 percent to 29.32 percent, the widest margin in a governor's race in state history.

Twenty-eight years later, Kean broke bread with Shapiro.

The Auditor was told the two men got together for dinner last month at a restaurant in Livingston in a meeting arranged by another former governor, Brendan Byrne, and his wife, Ruthi.

"We had a very enjoyable evening," Byrne told The Auditor. "They did not talk about particulars of the election or any aspect of it ... Peter has been very successful. It's the best election he's ever lost."

Kean told The Auditor he and Shapiro have remained friendly, but that this was the first time they sat down for dinner. "Peter and I are old friends," he said. "We managed to stay friends through that campaign, and we're still friends."

They'd served in the Assembly together and genuinely liked each other.  One day we were in Trenton at the State House and Peter had to use the facilities.  While he was in there, two of the Governor's aides came in discussing the campaign.  Peter popped up over the stall door and said, "Boo!," and they nearly dropped on the spot.

One of the great things about democratic politics is you can take an absolute drubbing like that one--in October 1985 the Governor hit an approval rating of 79%, bettered only by Ronald Reagan in the state--and not have it damage relationships, nevermind careers.

However today turns out, we do well to be thankful for the blessings of our system. 

Posted by orrinj at 1:50 PM


Orthodoxy by Gilbert K. Chesterton

IV--The Ethics of Elfland

I was brought up a Liberal, and have always believed in democracy, in the elementary liberal doctrine of a self-governing humanity. If any one finds the phrase vague or threadbare, I can only pause for a moment to explain that the principle of democracy, as I mean it, can be stated in two propositions. The first is this: that the things common to all men are more important than the things peculiar to any men. Ordinary things are more valuable than extraordinary things; nay, they are more extraordinary. Man is something more awful than men; something more strange. The sense of the miracle of humanity itself should be always more vivid to us than any marvels of power, intellect, art, or civilization. The mere man on two legs, as such, should be felt as something more heartbreaking than any music and more startling than any caricature. Death is more tragic even than death by starvation. Having a nose is more comic even than having a Norman nose.

This is the first principle of democracy: that the essential things in men are the things they hold in common, not the things they hold separately. And the second principle is merely this: that the political instinct or desire is one of these things which they hold in common. Falling in love is more poetical than dropping into poetry. The democratic contention is that government (helping to rule the tribe) is a thing like falling in love, and not a thing like dropping into poetry. It is not something analogous to playing the church organ, painting on vellum, discovering the North Pole (that insidious habit), looping the loop, being Astronomer Royal, and so on. For these things we do not wish a man to do at all unless he does them well. It is, on the contrary, a thing analogous to writing one's own love-letters or blowing one's own nose. These things we want a man to do for himself, even if he does them badly. I am not here arguing the truth of any of these conceptions; I know that some moderns are asking to have their wives chosen by scientists, and they may soon be asking, for all I know, to have their noses blown by nurses. I merely say that mankind does recognize these universal human functions, and that democracy classes government among them. In short, the democratic faith is this: that the most terribly important things must be left to ordinary men themselves -- the mating of the sexes, the rearing of the young, the laws of the state. This is democracy; and in this I have always believed.

Posted by orrinj at 1:36 PM


Clinton Gains, And The Polls Magically Converge (Nate Silver, 11/08/16, 538)

As a lot of you noticed, Nevada, North Carolina and Florida flipped from red to blue over the course of Monday. We don't think that's a particularly meaningful metric, because the forecasts are probabilistic -- Clinton's chances of winning Florida increased to 54 percent from 48 percent, for instance, which is nontrivial but not an especially large change. Still, we know it's something a lot of readers follow. It's unlikely that any further states will flip to Clinton in our final forecast, as she's too far behind in Ohio, the next-closest state.1 It's possible that Florida and North Carolina could flip back to Trump by tomorrow morning, though probably not Nevada, where Clinton's lead is a bit larger.

Mostly, though, the number I have on my mind today is "4." That's because it kept coming up over and over as national polls were released today: It seemed like every pollster had Clinton leading by 4 percentage points. 

I still don't really think that Hillary is supported by 50% of the country nor Donald by as much as 42%, but once Gary Johnson didn't make the debates it meant people eventually had to choose.

Posted by orrinj at 11:23 AM

November 7, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 4:38 PM



My father came to America undocumented, working two jobs--one was building pools, the other was as a taxi driver--none with benefits. He tried to get work in accounting, but was told that since his credentials were received in Jamaica, he had to start all over again. When he first wrote home to tell us he was alright, we pictured him in the America we saw on television, where everyone had a lawn with a white picket fence. But when I arrived at my father's home, he had neither lawn nor backyard. His tall apartment building was right next door to a strip mall that housed convenience stores, a laundromat, a liquor store, a beauty supply shop, and a Chinese restaurant. Though it might have appeared grim, with brown bricks and small windows crowded with window-guards arranged like burglar bars, the colorfulness of the neighbors--their languages (Spanish, Haitian creole, Jamaican patois), their music, the fragrance of the aromatic spices in their foods--made the building feel like a haven for difference.

It was an America I did not expect. It was an America where different languages were spoken in one building, one neighborhood. And it was from this neighborhood, and neighborhoods like this one, where people like my father would rise to internal clocks on just two-hours of sleep before the break of dawn to go to work. They all knew that the second generation would eventually thrive off their hard work, so they got up to scrub floors, mother other people's children, clean toilets, lay bricks without helmets or health insurance, help build towers, cook in restaurant kitchens, deliver food on bicycles through pouring rain and blizzards, drive taxis, and sweep train stations.

All of these so-called "Criminal Aliens" were driven by ambition, a secret prize that incited them to leave the financial and social constrictions of their home countries with absolute certainty that their children would survive, would do better than them. So, while the rest of America slept, these people shuffled to jobs that regarded them as disposable. But to give up would have been an embarrassment, and a greater cost--a child's tuition back home, an ailing mother's funeral arrangement, a brother's hospital bill--so they kept on working.

I once resented my father for working so many hours. I used to wish that he was more like Bill Cosby's character, Cliff Huxtable, in The Cosby Show (which I watched religiously back in Jamaica)--the type of father who was present though he worked; the type of father who didn't fall asleep every minute he got to himself; the type of father who would've probably taught me how to drive; the type of father who would've inquired about college applications; and certainly the type of father who would've attended all my graduations from schools he worked hard to pay for. Though he was proud of me when I got into Cornell to study medicine, I still nursed the void of his absence. Finally, he said to me before I left for school in Ithaca, determined not to return to Hempstead, Long Island--My name will mean something, someday. Wid you, ah know dat it will.

It took me years to realize the nature of his sacrifice, the courage in coming to a new country to start over for the sake of his family. Because of him, America was easier to navigate. Because of him, I got my citizenship, two Master's degrees, and the ability to vote for America's first Black president. Because of him, I have the luxury of calling myself a writer. Now, an established author. These days I watch second-generation teenagers hop inside cars, music on blast, to blur out their parents' accented warnings, Be careful! Like a younger me, those teenagers probably resent these people they think have no clout in the America we see on television; Trump's America, devoid of people of color and other cultures. "Make America great again!" He chants over the bowed heads of people who have taken on lives of servitude, fading out of their children's lives. I would later understand that these hard-working people help to build America, and appreciate that though I am more privileged because of them, I am one of them. If only Trump and his followers knew how much these people sacrificed. If only he acknowledged that their cheap labor helps fuel the American economy.

Posted by orrinj at 4:29 PM


In Trump's Most Important County, a Surge of Hispanic Voters : Trump officials believe the Florida county of Miami-Dade can tip the must-win state their way. But an analysis of early votes shows eye-popping Hispanic numbers. (JoshuaGreen, 11/06/16,   Bloomberg Businessweek)

Miami-Dade County is the most important county in the country for Trump's chances, according to a campaign official familiar with the simulations.  [...]

Whether Trump can win over enough voters in Miami-Dade is another question. Nothing will be settled until Election Day. But a study of Miami-Dade's early voters that Smith conducted for Bloomberg Businessweek suggests Clinton is poised to benefit from an unprecedented surge of Hispanic voters.

There are 1.5 million registered voters in Miami-Dade county (56 percent of whom are Hispanic), including nearly 30,000 added during a last-minute voter-registration drive in October, after Democratic Party officials went to court to extend the deadline in the wake of Hurricane Matthew. Through Saturday, according to Smith, 707,844 county residents had already voted: 44 percent were Democrats, 30 percent Republican, and 25 percent had "no party affiliation," a group that tends to skew younger and Hispanic, and thus toward Clinton. The demographic mix of early voters also looks highly favorable to Clinton: 58 percent Hispanic, 17 percent African-American and 20 percent white. 

But the late registrants, Smith says, give the clearest indication that sentiment in Miami-Dade is running strongly against Trump. Of the 29,657 voters who registered last month, 41 percent are Democrats, 44 percent are unaffiliated, and only 12.5 percent are Republicans. "That's nuts," said Smith. "These are the barometers that indicate the hostility toward the GOP candidate." 

Posted by orrinj at 4:19 PM


Stocks Soar as Investors Bet on a Clinton Victory (Brian Snyder, 11/07/16, Reuters)

By Monday morning, Rothschild's aggregation of betting market data was showing an 89 percent chance of a Clinton victory over Republican Donald Trump. The New York Times forecast held steady at an 84 percent chance of a Clinton victory. The Princeton Election Consortium effectively declared the race over, saying that it gives Clinton a greater than 99% chance of victory. Even FiveThirtyEight, which has been much more cautious about writing Trump off, boosted Clinton a few points, to 67.7 percent chance of victory.

The reaction in global markets plainly suggested that the increased likelihood of a Clinton victory was seen as good news. Stock futures started trending upward after the Comey release Sunday, and all the major U.S. stock indices opened sharply higher Monday, and continued climbing through morning. That followed nearly two weeks of day-on-day declines through last Friday.

Posted by orrinj at 4:14 PM


Is This Is the Best Reptile Documentary Footage Ever Captured? (MATT MILLER, NOV 7, 2016, Esquire)

Consider this scene from Planet Earth II, which stunningly captures an iguana running from a gang of snakes. It has more heart-stopping moments than a Fast and the Furious chase scene. As the iguana scrambles up a rock face with the suffocating threat of snake death just behind it, you'll consider yourself lucky that the only worry in your life is that a dystopian strongman might become the ruler of the free world. It's also clear why Planet Earth II is already the most popular nature show in 15 years.

Posted by orrinj at 2:00 PM


Have scientists side-stepped the Second Law of Thermodynamics? : Physicists have moved closer to a 'quantum perpetual motion machine' - at least on paper. (Cathal O'Connell, 11/07/16, Cosmos)

Isaac Asimov's short story The Last Question follows the human race over a trillion-year quest to circumvent the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Now, US and Russian physicists may have found a way to do just that.

In physics terms, this is the equivalent of finding a river that flows uphill, or chucking an ice cube on the fire to fan the flame.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that entropy (a measure of disorder) always increases. At root, that's simply because there generally are a lot more messy states than neat states.

Shuffle a fresh pack of cards, and its initial neat arrangement will get messed up. And if you start out with a neat desk in the morning, it will tend towards messiness as the day wears on.

But physicists, using quantum mechanics to describe particular scenarios of interacting particles where the order of the system increases, appear to have violated this rule, with big ramifications.

Posted by orrinj at 1:46 PM


The Devil and Paul Ryan : America's soul, and his own, at stake (Paul Berman, November 7, 2016, The Tablet)

Ryan, though, has been presented to us for many years as a thoughtful man. He is even said to be a man of ideas: a disciple of Milton Friedman and, in his youth, of Ayn Rand, who matured sufficiently to prefer Aquinas.  He wrote speeches for Jack Kemp. The burnish of intellect is upon him, if only in a speechwriter's version. And Ryan has been presented to us as the incarnation of the small-town dream, in its Republican version, than which nothing is dreamier--Janesville, Wisconsin's leading citizen, the impeccable family man and humble congregant. When Ryan poses for his photo-ops in front of wooden porches, dressed in crisp shirtsleeves and blue jeans and gazing with frank democratic ease at the camera, you are meant to think that here is the authentic descendant of Lincoln and Reagan, the sons of Illinois, even if Reagan moved to Hollywood. And the authentic descendant has made a point of displaying his ruminative sobriety.

In the early stages of the campaign, he plainly understood that something appalling was happening to the Republican Party, and he responded with a multiphase show of hesitation--his delayed and slightly tortured endorsement of the candidate in the columns of the Janesville Gazette, his dis-invitation of the candidate to a Wisconsin political fair, his announcement that he would not be campaigning for the candidate, and finally his announcement that he has already voted for the candidate, which was a way of signaling that everyone else in the Republican Party ought to overcome their own small-town and virtuous revulsion and vote likewise.

In this extended fashion, Ryan has shown us that he knows; and he doesn't care. He knows that he has called upon people to vote for everything that he is against. Sometimes he has even specified what he is against. It was Ryan who uttered the denuncation, "a textbook definition of a racist comment." The descendant of Lincoln called for Republicans to vote for the author of the racist comment, even so. Then again, Ryan called for Republicans to vote for the opposite of Reagan's greatest legacy, too. The Republican candidate is, after all, the only philo-czarist to run for president on a major party ticket in the history of the United States. But there is no point in tabulating the many ways in which the Republican candidate represents a rupture in the American political tradition.

The saddest part of this election has been watching decent conservatives contort themselves to support a racist.  At least the nativists are being despicable honestly.

Posted by orrinj at 1:38 PM


GLENN BECK TRIES OUT DECENCY : After the pundit watched Michelle Obama's speech about Trump's treatment of women, he rethought some things. (Nicholas Schmidle, 11/07/16, The New Yorker)

One recent morning, after the release of Donald Trump's Tic Tac tape and his subsequent mansplanation about locker-room talk, Glenn Beck clicked on a video of Michelle Obama campaigning for Hillary Clinton in a New Hampshire gymnasium. The First Lady ripped into Trump's comments, calling them "disgraceful" and "intolerable," and adding, "It doesn't matter what party you belong to--Democrat, Republican, Independent--no woman deserves to be treated this way." Beck was mesmerized. On his radio program that day, he heralded Obama's remarks as "the most effective political speech I have heard since Ronald Reagan."

"Those words hit me where I live," Beck said the other day. He was speedwalking up Eighth Avenue with his wife, son, and daughter, all in from Toronto. "If you're a decent human being, those words were dead on."

Decency is a fresh palette for Beck, who, at Fox, used to scribble on a chalkboard while launching into conspiratorial rants about looming Weimar-esque hyperinflation, Barack Obama's ties to radicals with population-cleansing schemes, and a Marxist-Islamist cabal itching to take over America. He once described Clinton as "a stereotypical bitch" and accused Obama of being a racist with a "deep-seated hatred for white people."

That was the old Beck, he insists: "I did a lot of freaking out about Barack Obama." But, he said, "Obama made me a better man." He regrets calling the President a racist and counts himself a Black Lives Matter supporter. "There are things unique to the African-American experience that I cannot relate to," he said. "I had to listen to them."

Posted by orrinj at 6:15 AM


November 6, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:08 PM


Saudi Arabia losing ground to Iran (Bruce RiedelPosted November 6, 2016, Al Monitor)

The kingdom has had a friendly regime in Iraq since Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait a quarter century ago and threatened to keep marching into Saudi Arabia's oil-rich Eastern Province. But for most of the 1980s, Saudi Arabia and Iraq were close partners in containing the revolutionary wave from Iran. King Fahd provided Saddam with tens of billions of dollars in aid during the Iran-Iraq War; without Saudi financial help, Iraq would have collapsed. Fahd also rallied the other Gulf states to help Saddam and promoted Saddam as a power to work with in Washington.

In 2003, King Abdullah thought the American decision to oust Saddam without having another Sunni strongman to succeed him was rash and dangerous. The Saudis were certain Iran would fill the vacuum. Riyadh was especially suspicious of the role Ahmad Chalabi played in the planning process of President George W. Bush's administration for postwar Iraq. The Saudis believed Chalabi was an Iranian agent.

Riyadh has been very reluctant to deal with any of the Shiite governments that have been in power since the invasion. The Saudis delayed opening an embassy for years and appointing an ambassador. Last month, they reassigned their ambassador out of Baghdad after reports of assassination plots. No replacement has been chosen and the post is likely to remain empty.

The Saudis support the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria but they worry its defeat will only be the next stage for further Shiite and Iranian domination of the Iraqi polity. [...]

Now the Saudis have suffered another setback in Lebanon. Once the bete noire of the Assads, Aoun is now their man. Even more, Aoun is the champion of Hezbollah. His election after two years of political stalemate is another indication of which way the wind is blowing in the Levant. Saad Hariri will face a difficult challenge as prime minister in trying to form a government with opposition from Hezbollah.

Hezbollah has become a major source of difficulty for Riyadh. Its success in Syria and Lebanon have been at the cost of Saudi interests. The advice and expertise Hezbollah provides the Houthi rebels in Yemen is another irritation for the kingdom.

The decline in Saudi influence is the result of many factors, many outside Riyadh's control. Demography has worked against the Saudis in Iraq and Lebanon. The Sunni minorities are losing the demographic struggle to the Shiites. In both states, the Sunni political forces are badly divided.

Sucks to be Wahabbi.

Posted by orrinj at 6:42 PM


President Obama to Bill Maher: 'If I watched Fox News, I wouldn't vote for me either' (Amy Kaufman, 11/05/16, LA Times)

"It is time," he said. "I'm not going to pretend that there haven't been moments of great frustration, but it is a singular privilege. I think I'm as good a president now as I've ever been. Because you learn stuff over eight years."

He did note, however, that he now sees "the wisdom of the founders," and that he's ready to let go of the title for "democracy to work."

"You have to have the humility to recognize that you're a citizen, and you go back to being a citizen after this office is over," Obama said. [...]

He revisited the subject of media later in the interview discussing the problematic "filters" that block potential conversations, "Look if I watched Fox News, I wouldn't vote for me either," Obama said. "You've got this screen, this fun-house mirror through which people are receiving information. How to break through that is a big challenge."

...which is one of the reasons she'll only get one term.
Posted by orrinj at 6:36 PM


U.S. stock futures surge after Clinton cleared by FBI (Reuters, 11/06/16)

The move came a few hours after the FBI said on Sunday that newly discovered emails had not changed its conclusion that no charges were warranted against presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Posted by orrinj at 6:06 PM


Bob Cranshaw, jazz bassist who spent five decades with Sonny Rollins, dies at 83 (Matt Schudel, November 4, 2016, Washington Post)

Bob Cranshaw, a versatile jazz bassist best known for his association with saxophonist Sonny Rollins, whom he accompanied on virtually every concert and album since 1962, died Nov. 2 at his home in Manhattan. He was 83.

The cause was cancer, said his wife, Bobbi Cranshaw.

Mr. Cranshaw never had an album as a leader, but he was on dozens of well-known jazz recordings, including trumpeter Lee Morgan's "The Sidewinder" in 1964. He toured for several years with singer Ella Fitzgerald and appeared on more recordings on the famous Blue Note jazz label in the 1960s than any other bass player.

With his early classical training and an ability to play in any style, Mr. Cranshaw proved to be so adaptable and dependable that he may have been the only musician who performed, at various times, with Bing Crosby, Paul Simon, Coleman Hawkins, Thelonious Monk, Rod Stewart, Peggy Lee, the "Saturday Night Live" orchestra and the studio band of "Sesame Street."

"I didn't ask to be a star," he said in a 2014 interview with jazz pianist Ethan Iverson on the Do the Math website. "I wanted to be a sideman. I wanted to be a super-sideman."

Posted by orrinj at 5:28 PM


Seeking the Truth with Orestes Brownson : a review of Seeking the Truth by Richard Reinsch (GERALD J. RUSSELLO, October 2016, Crisis)

Upon becoming a Catholic, Brownson argued on two fronts. The first was simple American nativism. Brownson became a Catholic when the Church of Rome was under deep suspicion of dual loyalty, superstition, and the general charge that Catholics could not be good Americans. Brownson turned that argument on its head and demonstrates that Catholicism reflects a better grounding than secular Deism or Protestantism for the American Founding. He makes this argument in an essay called "Catholicity Necessary to Sustain Popular Liberty." As Brownson understood, and argued in his classic 1865 work, The American Republic, generous portions of which are included here, philosophy cannot demonstrate the truths, for example, of the Declaration of independence that all men are created equal. And because of that, society must degenerate unless sustained by religious foundations, specifically Christianity's notion of a relational, personal God. Democracy, he writes, "is a beautiful theory, and would work admirably, if it were not for one little difficulty, namely, --the people are fallible, both individually and collectively, and governed by their passions and interest, which not infrequently lead them far astray, and produce much mischief." Something outside its own will must sustain the people.

We know of but one solution to the difficulty, and that is in RELIGION. There is no foundation for virtue but in religion, and it is only religion that can command the degree of popular virtue and intelligence requisite to insure to popular government the right direction and a wise and just administration. A people without religion, however successful they may be in throwing off old institutions, or in introducing new ones, have no power to secure the free, orderly, and wholesome working of any institutions. For the people can bring to the support of institutions only the degree of virtue and intelligence they have; .... We say, then, if democracy commits the government of the people to be taken care of, religion is to take care that they take proper care of the government, rightly direct and wisely administer it.

Brownson thought the best religious support to democracy was Catholicism, precisely because it was supposedly immune from the democratic or individualistic temptations of both secularism and certain forms of Protestantism. But Brownson did not think this meant a confessional state. Because of this, Brownson also had adversaries among his fellow Catholics. Some European Catholics argued that religious liberty was acceptable only until Catholics could support a confessional state. Brownson responded that the constitutional protection of all faiths allowed Catholicism to grow; moreover, the First Amendment reflected a better understanding of the human person. In this, Reinsch argues, he anticipates some of the arguments made decades later by John Courtney Murray, S.J. and reflected in Vatican II's declaration of religious freedom, Dignitatis Humanae.

Posted by orrinj at 4:40 PM


U.S. dollar jumps in Asia as FBI clears Clinton (Reuters, 11/06/16)

The U.S. dollar jumped in Asia on Monday after FBI Director James Comey said a review of newly discovered emails did not change the agency's conclusion that no charges were warranted in the case of Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server.

Posted by orrinj at 2:18 PM


Moderation and the Preservation of Democracy (Carson Holloway, November 2nd, 2016, Public Discourse)

We don't need more such partisan calls for moderation--extremists condemning other extremists for their immoderate politics. What we really need is something more demanding but also more fruitful: a quest for political moderation that transcends the partisan and ideological conflicts of the moment and seeks a loftier perspective. We can never achieve moderation as long as our minds are dominated by the political hopes and fears of the moment. Such moderation can emerge only from serious reflection on the nature of our regime and its permanent needs, which requires us to ascend to the level of the statesman and the political philosopher.

This much needed enterprise--serious thought in the service of true moderation--is advanced by Paul Carrese's excellent study, Democracy in Moderation: Montesquieu, Tocqueville, and Sustainable Liberalism. This book is, in the first place, an impressive work of scholarship. It explores a neglected question: what is the role of philosophic and political moderation in building modern democracy? It seeks insight into this question by considering not only the great modern philosophic proponents of moderation, Montesquieu and Tocqueville, but also an exemplary statesman, George Washington. It asks what a wise moderation would look like not only in domestic politics but also in foreign policy. Finally, it carries on, in its footnotes, a wide-ranging engagement with the scholarship on these great figures. The careful reader will come away from the book understanding not only Carrese's arguments, but alternative interpretations as well.

Much more important, however, is the book's defense of moderation as necessary to preserving the free and democratic regime we have inherited. Here is where Carrese's work should be of interest not only to scholars but also to thoughtful citizens and responsible statesmen. By linking moderation to a proper respect for the complexity of our regime, and to the hope of making it sustainable, he shows us that moderation is a high form of wisdom.

Moderation in its most obvious sense--the sense famously explicated by Aristotle in his Nicomachean Ethics--regulates our use of bodily pleasures. Taken in this ordinary sense, moderation might at first appear to be a rather pedestrian and unimpressive virtue. It is the virtue of the person who doesn't eat too much.

On reflection, however, we can see that even this commonplace form of moderation relies on and puts into practice a certain wisdom about the nature of the good. The moderate man knows that food is good--or that the sensations of pleasure experienced in eating are good. He also knows, however, that there is some other good, or other goods, that must limit his pursuit of these pleasures. Moderation, then, even in its ordinary sense, depends on an appreciation of the multifaceted nature of the good.

Carrese shows us that this is true of political moderation as well. Just as ordinary moderation depends on our realization that a good life involves a variety of good activities and pleasures that must be kept in balance, so political moderation depends on our realization that a good society depends on a variety of institutions, mores, and beliefs that must be kept in balance. The political moderation that we so badly need, Carrese teaches, requires a proper appreciation of the complexity of our free, democratic society. It cannot be reduced to a single principle. Those who try to do so, thinking they are perfecting it, are in fact laboring to destroy it.

...but the actual differences between the parties are generally trivial.

Posted by orrinj at 1:59 PM


Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton traverse the country in final push (LA Times, NOV. 6, 2016)

Not only are Latino voters set for record turnout this election, but a new poll Sunday shows Latino support for Donald Trump may be lower than for any Republican presidential candidate in more than 30 years.

Hillary Clinton has support from 76% of the Latino electorate, according to the Noticias Telemundo/Latino Decisions /NALEO Educational Fund poll.

That's a higher level of support than President Obama won in both of his elections. Latino Decisions' survey showed 75% of Latinos backed Obama in 2012. Exit polling put his support at 71%.

Just 14% of Latino voters backed Trump, the survey found, That's about half of Mitt Romney's 27% showing with Latinos and fewer than the GOP's low-point when Bob Dole won 21% of the Latino vote in 1996.

Polling in California found similar results, according to the final statewide USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times survey. Clinton was winning 73% of Latino registered voters compared with 17% for Trump in a two-way match up, the poll found. 

Exit data compiled by the Pew Hispanic Center shows no Republican candidate faring worse with Latinos in presidential elections dating to 1980.

Posted by orrinj at 1:20 PM


Latino voting surge rattles Trump campaign : 'A certain group' appears to be turning out in big numbers in several key states. (STEVEN SHEPARD 11/06/16, Politico)

Hispanic voters could be poised to deliver a historic rebuke to Donald Trump and the Republican Party.

Early-vote statistics from battleground states with large Hispanic populations show record turnout among a bloc that has voted at a lower rate than whites or blacks in past elections. If, as some polls suggest, Hispanic voters are supporting Hillary Clinton by blowout margins, these numbers could sink Trump in a handful of states that are essential to his path to 270 electoral votes.

In Nevada, Latino turnout propelled Democrats in Clark County -- the population center that's home to Las Vegas -- to a record-breaking close on Friday, driving up the Democratic lead in early ballots cast to 72,000. That's enough, according to veteran Nevada political analyst Jon Ralston, to essentially tie a bow on the state for Clinton.

Posted by orrinj at 1:01 PM


Tense Senate Tussle in New Hampshire Illustrates Murky Finish Line (JENNIFER STEINHAUER, NOV. 5, 2016, NY Times)

Ms. Hassan and Ms. Ayotte, both well known to voters here, are on a desperate hunt for every last vote in the state's grocery stores, taverns, Rotary clubs, Burger King drive-throughs and even town dumps, in one of the nation's tightest and most expensive Senate races.

Democrats' hopes had risen largely because of Donald J. Trump's weakness in some states and an overall disorganized Republican effort to rally potential voters. Now, at least four races -- in New Hampshire, North Carolina, Indiana and Missouri -- are considered dead heats, and Democratic prospects are only slightly better in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Nevada.

An even split or a bare minimum majority for either party in the next Congress, one with an aggressive policy agenda, no matter who sits in the White House, seems increasingly possible.

"I think Democrats have enough opportunities to get to 50," said Nathan L. Gonzales, the editor of The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report, a nonpartisan newsletter, "but I am still not clear what combination of states make that happen."

Democrats will need four more seats if Mrs. Clinton is elected, or five if Mr. Trump prevails, to regain control of the Senate.

NH will be interesting Tuesday night, because polls of the various races are all over the place, but in recent cycles it's been all or nothing every time.  You've got the presidential and senate in a dead heat, Chris Sununu with a three or four point lead over a guy with zero name recognition and both Democrats leading the congressional races by significant margins.  we simply have not split our tickets that way in a long time, though, in fairness, all of us in this household are Hillary and then straight GOP--except the eldest who's running for the State Senate from UNH as an independent.

On the bright side, the Daughter got to meet Bill Clinton at Dartmouth a couple weeks ago--she had to meet Kasich twice in the primaries to decide if she liked him--and the eldest will see the president on Monday. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:40 PM


Fighting crime with Daylight Saving Time (Jennifer L. Doleac and Nicholas J. Sanders, October 29, 2015, BROOKINGS NOW)

In a new paper forthcoming in The Review of Economics and Statistics, we find that shifting daylight from the morning to the early evening has pretty hefty returns for public safety. When DST begins in the spring, robbery rates for the entire day fall an average of 7 percent, with a much larger 27 percent drop during the evening hour that gained some extra sunlight.

Why might this time shift matter? The timing of sunset is pretty close to the time many of us leave work, and walking to our cars or homes in the dark makes us easier targets for street criminals. We feel safer when we're walking in the daylight, and it's easy to imagine why light might have a deterrent effect on crime: offenders know they're more likely to be recognized and get caught if they're fully visible. The timing of sunset matters because our daily schedules can't easily adapt to follow the daylight. Most people can't leave work before 5pm, even if it would be safer to do so.

Congress occasionally extends DST, often with the stated goal of reducing energy consumption. In 2007 it extended the policy by four weeks - three in the spring and one in the fall. This produced a useful natural experiment for our paper, which helped us isolate the effect of daylight from other seasonal factors that might affect crime. It turns out extending DST saved $59 million per year in avoided social costs by reducing the number of evening robberies. Even better, robbery rates didn't increase in the morning, even though those hours were darker - apparently, criminals aren't early risers.

Posted by orrinj at 12:21 PM


Pundits think Islamic State's Baghdadi is smart because he's cruel. That's nonsense (Max Abrahms, 11/06/16, LA Times)

I think the Islamic State CEO is an unusually stupid terrorist -- precisely because he's turned cruelty into a sort of brand.

For a decade, political scientists have known that terrorist groups suffer when they exercise too little restraint by attacking civilians. Civilian attacks carry substantial downside risks by strengthening the resolve of target countries, eroding their confidence in negotiations, lowering the odds of government concessions, reducing popular support for the group and, all in all, expediting its demise.

Of course there's no denying that a tiny slice of the world's population is lured to Islamic State because of its barbarism. For those itching to decapitate foreigners or cage Kurdish children or rape Yazidi girls, the group's marketing approach is awfully enticing. Simultaneously, however, Islamic State's radical branding has led to attrition; it has encouraged target countries to attack them, spurred desertions from their ranks and eaten away at local support.

It therefore doesn't surprise me at all that Islamic State is losing battles, territory, revenue and the cash to pay its dwindling fighters in its strongholds of Iraq and Syria. Meanwhile, competing Islamist groups, such as Ahrar al-Sham and Jabhat al Nusra, are trading on their more moderate branding strategies to expand their territorial control, membership rosters and material support, especially from Sunni Gulf countries and Turkey.

Other terrorist leaders generally have a better appreciation than does Baghdadi about the costs of extremism; they therefore present themselves as somewhat restrained. When Al Nusra fighters slaughtered 20 Druze villagers last year in northwestern Syria, for example, the leadership publicly announced these wayward killers would stand trial before an Islamic court. When Ahrar al-Sham was accused of mistreating Syrian minorities, its leadership penned an op-ed in the Washington Post, insisting that the group is actually "fighting for justice for the Syrian people."

Indeed, the historical record abounds with militant leaders warning their foot soldiers to refrain from attacking civilians because of the political fallout. 

Even after you separate out the fact that their theology is wrong and we can easily deny them the state that their ideology requires them to establish, they are the garden-variety sort of utopian movement in theory which introduces dystopia in practice.  Some in the West, of course, hold Islam in such contempt that they think this is what Muslims want from a caliphate, but it's the opposite of what prophecy promises.

Posted by orrinj at 11:14 AM


Indonesia's Challenge to Radical Islam : The country is emerging as a champion of tolerance amid the rise of the Islamic State. (Keith Loveard and Bastiaan Scherpen, November 04, 2016, The Diplomat)

[T]his vacuum has provided fertile ground for the emergence of the radicalism of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and all of its offshoots, it has also created opportunity for Muslim scholars elsewhere in the world to have their say. Surprisingly, the religious teachers of Indonesia are emerging as the champions of a more moderate and tolerant interpretation of what the Prophet taught, rejecting the austerity of the Salafi and Wahhabi schools and the violence of ISIS and al-Qaeda.
Leading the charge in the nation that has the largest Muslim population in the world but which has typically punched below its weight in Islamic discourse is Kyai Haji Yahya Cholil Staquf, general secretary of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the largest Muslim organization in the country and arguably the world, with at least 50 million adherents.

"Muslims must understand the ultimate ideals, goals, or mission of Islam," he states. "The Prophet Muhammad himself said he had no mission other than to improve the noble character of people. In the textual tradition of Islamic teaching there are five principles that comprise the goal of Shariah - preserve life, preserve mind, preserve religion, preserve posterity, and preserve property - any action that is to be considered in line with Shariah must lead to these five results."

Clearly, ISIS has a totally different interpretation and cares little about preserving life, mind, posterity, or property. The primacy of religion is its only apparent concern. According to Gus Yahya, as he's known to the Muslim faithful in Indonesia, this is the logical outcome of generations of misperceptions about the Prophet.

Yahya is the leading proponent of what Nahdlatul Ulama calls Islam Nusantara, the Islam of the archipelago. He and his allies argue that Islam in Indonesia is different from that in most other parts of the world because it did not arrive at the end of a sword, but peacefully. The preachers who arrived in Java starting in the 15th century - the Wali Songo - were prepared to incorporate local practices, including elements of animism, into the understanding and practice of Islam.

That is the essence of Islam Nusantara: Not that Nahdlatul Ulama's animist-flavored Islam should be a pattern for the rest of the world, but that Islam will naturally adjust to the society in which it exists. The Islam that teaches that Arab society in the 7th century is the only valid Islam is incorrect, it argues.

The gulf between the Salafis, Wahhabi, and more tolerant beliefs is the result of different interpretations of what Islam is. According to Yahya, insistence on what is written and the rejection of anything that is not written in the Quran and the Hadiths is wrong. 

Tom Holland's In the Shadow of the Sword is a nicely balanced look at why that reliance on such undependable sources--the Quran and Hadith--is so problematic.
Posted by orrinj at 11:06 AM


Try not to get emotional as 20,000 rodeo fans sing the 'Star Spangled Banner' a cappella (Mike Opelka, 11/06/16, The Blaze)

The Professional Bull Riders' legendary cowboy entertainer (rodeo clown to the uninitiated) Flint Rasmussen kicked off Saturday night's events at the PBR World Championships by leading the crowd of 20,000 rodeo fans in an emotional a cappella rendition of the American national anthem.

Rasmussen, stepped on stage at the packed T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas and opened the event by announcing, "At this moment of the show, we usually introduce an anthem singer to perform our national anthem," he said, adding, "But, tonight I am honored to stand before you, the greatest fans in the world, as we together, as one giant choir of 20,000 people, perform the greatest song that's ever been written."

Posted by orrinj at 10:49 AM


Rams players gain perspective after meeting families of fallen service members (Gary Klein, 11/05/16, Los Angeles Time)

Orlando Salazar described it as the best day ever.

Lucas McCaddon said it made him happy and proud.

The two boys, ages 11 and 10, were among more than 100 people in attendance at the Rams training facility on Saturday for an opportunity to meet players and honor and share stories about loved ones who had died in service to the United States.

As part of the NFL's Salute to Service initiative, the Rams coordinated with the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) so that families could attend a walk-through in preparation for Sunday's game against the Carolina Panthers at the Coliseum.

At the conclusion of the light workout, each player met with a family and received a photo button of their fallen service member. On Sunday, players will wear a decal with the initials of that person on their helmets, and families will help light the torch at the Coliseum.

Rookie quarterback Jared Goff, 22, will honor Israel Garcia, who died in 2008 at age 24 in Afghanistan.

"It was really eye-opening and special to meet [the family]," Goff said. "Most of the people that are lost are around my age.... The situation I'm in, I'm very thankful to be in it.

"It really puts life in perspective."

Posted by orrinj at 10:41 AM


The very American art of Steve Penley (David Morgan,

The 52-year-old Georgia artist makes a living painting iconic American images, symbols and statesmen. His Statue of Liberty is his best seller, along with George Washington, Ronald Reagan, and the Coca-Cola bottle.

Posted by orrinj at 10:38 AM


Watch Obama defend a Trump supporter's rights at a Clinton rally (Sarah Pulliam Bailey, November 4, 2016, The Washington Post)

President Obama on Friday defended the rights of a Donald Trump supporter after a crowd at a rally for Hillary Clinton in North Carolina erupted when the supporter stood up and started shouting.

As the president was saying Trump is "uniquely unqualified" to succeed him, a white-haired man wearing a beret and what appeared to be military patches held up a Trump sign and was shouted down with chants of "Hillary! Hillary!" according to the Reuters news agency.

"Hold up, hold up, hold up," Obama shouted several times, urging the crowd of 4,500 at a gym at Fayetteville State University to listen. "I told you to be focused and you're not focused right now. Listen to what I'm saying."

"Everybody sit down and be quiet for a second. Everybody sit down and be quiet for a second. Now listen up. I'm serious. Listen up," Obama said. "You've got an older gentleman who is supporting his candidate. He's not doing nothing. You don't have to worry about him."

Posted by orrinj at 10:32 AM


What's Causing the Surge of Illegal Immigration? Lawmakers Want Answers and Action (Rachel del Guidice, November 06, 2016, Daily Signal)

Four members of Congress are calling on the Obama administration to quickly address the recent spike in illegal immigration along the U.S.-Mexico border.

In a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, the four lawmakers ask the administration to "take immediate action and mobilize all available resources of the department to stop the ongoing surge of illegal immigration at the southwest border."

And not only are jobs plentiful but amnesty is imminent.

Posted by orrinj at 9:01 AM


Michael Medved suffers for his anti-Trump stance : The Salem Media conservative radio host loses his prime-time slot in Dallas, is left off national tour. (HADAS GOLD 11/06/16, Politico)

Medved has blasted Trump as "insecure, unprepared and angrily unhinged."

He's defended Hillary Clinton when callers call her "the most corrupt candidate in history."

He's said "I think Democrats are deluded. I think they're wrong. But I don't think they're evil."

As a result of his unwillingness to even be even a reluctant Trump supporter, he's angered his syndiator, many local affiliates, and many of Salem's listeners. He's also damaged his career, making him one of Trump's few conservative critics to literally put his livelihood in jeopardy.

"There's no question it would have helped my career to even be reluctantly on the Trump train," Medved said, noting that the people who have done well are the Trump supporters. "But the problem is I can't pretend. I really do see this as not just a job, it's a vocation."

Medved, 68, has had his own conservative-leaning show on Salem Media since 1996. And while he's been a steadfast conservative and used to guest host for Rush Limbaugh, he's long been a "squeaky wheel" compared to some other conservative radio hosts today -- he was always in favor of comprehensive immigration reform, blasted those who supported the "birther" movement, and hosts a regular segment shunning conspiracy theories.

Listening to their own echoes seems healthy, eh?

Posted by orrinj at 8:58 AM


Taliban Commanders Key to Peace With Afghanistan : A factionalized Taliban adds another dynamic to a complicated peace process in Afghanistan. (Shawn Snow, November 03, 2016, The Diplomat)
Since the revelation of the death of Mullah Omar in 2015, the Taliban has disintegrated into multiple factions, at times even warring against each other.  The selection of Mullah Mansour as supreme leader after Omar's death failed to heal rifts within the organization, and his sudden death in a U.S. drone strike in May has only added to the Taliban's existential crisis.

Various Taliban field commanders, disgruntled with the disarray of the Taliban and battlefield setbacks, have flocked to competing groups such as Islamic State (ISIS) and al-Qaeda, adding to the ever-confusing battlefield landscape that is Afghanistan.

Faced with a potential recruitment shortage and further splintering, former Taliban leaders such as Agha Jan Motasim, a former Taliban minister, and Sayed Muhammad Tayeb Agha, the former Taliban chief negotiator, have called on Haibatalluah Akhundzada, Mansour's replacement as Taliban supreme leader, to negotiate with the Afghan government and implement reforms in the movement.

Posted by orrinj at 8:53 AM


An infantry of new Latino voters marches against Trump's presidential dreams (The Canadian Press, November 6, 2016)

On the first day she was eligible to vote as a new American citizen, Nancy Osores left home before her pizzeria shift, got on a bus and rode it to a place in her new country's political history.

She joined a wave.

An unprecedented number of Latinos are voting in this election, casting early ballots with an enthusiasm that could sink the presidential hopes of Republicans in the must-win, always-close state of Florida.

Early in-person voting has more than doubled among Latinos in that state, as people like Osores, a Peruvian-born grandmother, rush to cast ballots against the man who's stirred new passions for civic participation.

She cut off a question about Donald Trump.

''No, no, no. No way," Osores said.

"The racism. The sexism."

Osores came to the U.S. to join her daughter in 2000. On the first day of early voting, the new U.S. citizen went to a union-organized gathering point, hopped on the psychedelic-painted "Love Bus," and rode to a Miami municipal building two weeks ago as advance voting opened.

She waited in line a half-hour before voting for Democrats up and down the ticket. As she walked out she offered a thumbs up.

Florida political science professor Dan Smith calculates there's been a 152-per-cent increase in early Latino turnout from this stage in 2012. Steve Schale, a former state director for Obama, said he believes it could save the party from a post-Obama decline in African-American turnout.

More than two million new people have become citizens since the last election. Democrats are also aided by younger Cubans who lean farther left than previous generations, and an influx of Puerto Ricans who are already eligible to vote as U.S. citizens.

Let Democrats win elections, we'll take our 33% of the electorate and go home!

Posted by orrinj at 8:43 AM


Tocqueville's English correspondence : On the French statesman's English language letters. (S. J. D. Green, November 2016, New Criterion)
It is reasonable but unremarkable to observe that the private writings of any public thinker ordinarily command our attention. There must be exceptions even to that unexceptionable rule. Gladstone's Diaries spring to mind. But of the intellectual significance of Tocqueville's correspondence there can be no doubt. In some cases, this was obvious from the start. The historical importance of Tocqueville's intimate communications with his lifelong companion, Gustave de Beaumont, and long-standing intellectual and political allies, such as Louis de Kergorlay or Pierre-Paul Royer-Collard, was and is self-evident. In other instances, remarkable things emerged from largely unplanned academic legwork. For instance, Tome Nine of the Oeuvres complètes is devoted entirely to Tocqueville's Correspondance with Count Arthur de Gobineau. That so close a connection existed between these two men was once relatively little known. It remains intriguing. Of course, Gobineau wrote about many subjects. He was as well traveled in the East as Tocqueville in the West. His exquisite appreciation of all things Asiatic is, however, now largely forgotten. Gobineau's Essay on the Inequality of the Races, first published in 1853, instantly and irrevocably secured for him the dubious distinction as a pioneer of pseudo-scientific racism. Tocqueville was not a racist. He attributed little or no intellectual or moral significance to ethnicity qua ethnicity. This is made clear in all his relevant work on the subject. But that he was aboriginally and unrelentingly opposed to so-called "racial science" from its very beginnings is made manifest only in these previously unpublished writings on the topic. That the two men nonetheless maintained a perfectly civil exchange of views, over so many years, about a matter that so deeply divided them, also says something about nineteenth-century social science that its successors might wish to ponder upon.

More generally, Tocqueville's correspondence completes our understanding of his work to a degree greater than does the personal writings of almost any other comparably significant nineteenth-century intellectual. This was not least because Tocqueville did not think of himself primarily as an intellectual: certainly not according to the post-Dreyfusard definition of that term. Though a member of innumerable learned societies, he was never an academic, unlike Guizot. He seldom wished to be conceived as a philosophe, in contrast to Constant. He planned no general oeuvre, wrote no self-consciously abstract treatise--whether on politics or society--and made absolutely no attempt to assault the psychological possibilities of the modern novel. Tocqueville was a serious thinker. But he always insisted upon a close relationship between thoughts and deeds. And, for the greater part of his adulthood, Tocqueville strove to be a man of action.

Posted by orrinj at 8:25 AM


Scotland's leader breaks with tradition, supports Clinton (AP, Nov. 6, 2016)

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has thrown political tradition aside to make her support for Hillary Clinton clear for all to see.

The popular leader of the pro-independence Scottish National Party says in a Sunday Mail column that she "fervently hopes" Clinton will best Republican rival Donald Trump in Tuesday's U.S. presidential vote.

Posted by orrinj at 8:12 AM


What It Took : How a lifetime of compromises and concessions brought one woman to the brink of history. (MICHAEL KRUSE November 04, 2016, Politico)

In early 1979, on a community access television program called In Focus, the wife of the new governor of Arkansas was peppered with question after question about all the ways in which she was an untraditional woman.

"The thought occurs to me that you really don't fit the image that we have created for the governor's wife in Arkansas," the host, a self-described "newsman," said to 32-year-old Hillary Rodham. "You're not a native, you've been educated in liberal Eastern universities, you're less than 40. You don't have any children. You don't use your husband's name. You practice law. Does it concern you that maybe other people feel that you don't fit the image that we have created for the governor's wife in Arkansas?"

She looked through her large, thick-lensed glasses and smiled.

"No," she began, "because just as I said before ... "

She had made a choice. In 1974, she had moved to Arkansas to be with her boyfriend, Bill Clinton. It was a decision that would dictate so many others, big and small, for decades to come--and here, in this spartan studio, on this rinky-dink show, was one of them. How to respond to this man?

This issue of wifeliness was being put to the first female lawyer at the finest firm in Little Rock. Rodham had been 1 of just 27 women among the 200-plus students in her law school class at Yale. She was one of only three on the staff of 44 attorneys on the Watergate impeachment team. She could have responded to the interviewer by pointing out any of these things. It was the '70s: She could have responded with an impassioned lecture about feminism, or chauvinism, or women's lib. But she didn't. She responded with an equanimity that must have been a challenge to muster. "That doesn't bother me, and I hope that doesn't bother very many people," she said.

Rodham by then was already hugely accomplished. But it also was true that she had arrived in the governor's mansion not as a governor but as the governor's wife. And when she arrived at the White House, 13 years later, it would be in the same way--as the unelected half of a couple, attracting more questions about her role, not only from traditionalists, who queried her all over again, but also from feminists--even some fellow Wellesley grads--who believed she should have gotten there under her own power. "We should not take a second seat to our life partners," one alum would write, "and Hillary should not be applauded for having reached her position by doing so."

So here, now, is Hillary Clinton--168 years after the first women's rights convention in Seneca Falls in New York, 96 years after women in America gained the right to vote, 37 years after that community-access interview--poised to be elected president. The 45th president of the United States. And the first woman. If the polls are right, she is on the verge of an outcome that would be no less historic than the election of Barack Obama. If she wins on Tuesday, she will be, forever, the woman who shattered the highest, hardest glass ceiling.

If she wins on Tuesday, she will be, forever, the woman who shattered the highest, hardest glass ceiling.

A deep look at her record of her pursuit of power and interviews with people who have known her throughout her adult life suggest that the Hillary Clinton who sits at that cusp--the guarded 69-year-old woman Americans have watched so closely on this year's campaign trail--is a personality forged through a career-long collision with the constantly shifting set of gender-based expectations people have put on her. To get here, she has done for so many years so many versions of what she did on In Focus: adjust, compromise and concede where necessary, never letting pure ideology interfere with the progress her ambitions required. She has done what she needed to for her husband to win elections, then for her to do the same, making repeated course corrections along the way.

...just imagine the 29-year-old Hillary meeting the 69-year-old.  Building a political career in a conservative state and then a conservative country has moved her so far to the right she'd barely recognize herself.

Inside Donald Trump's Last Stand: An Anxious Nominee Seeks Assurance (MAGGIE HABERMAN, ASHLEY PARKER, JEREMY W. PETERS and MICHAEL BARBARO, NOV. 6, 2016, NY Times)

In the final days of the presidential campaign, Mr. Trump's candidacy is a jarring split screen: the choreographed show of calm and confidence orchestrated by his staff, and the neediness and vulnerability of a once-boastful candidate now uncertain of victory.

On the surface, there is the semblance of stability that is robbing Hillary Clinton of her most potent weapon: Mr. Trump's self-sabotaging eruptions, which have repeatedly undermined his candidacy. Underneath that veneer, turbulence still reigns, making it difficult for him to overcome all of the obstacles blocking his path to the White House.

The contrasts pervade his campaign. Aides to Mr. Trump have finally wrested away the Twitter account that he used to colorfully -- and often counterproductively -- savage his rivals. But offline, Mr. Trump still privately muses about all of the ways he will punish his enemies after Election Day, including a threat to fund a "super PAC" with vengeance as its core mission.

His polished older daughter, Ivanka, sat for a commercial intended to appeal to suburban women who have recoiled from her father's incendiary language. But she discouraged the campaign from promoting the ad in news releases, fearing that her high-profile association with the campaign would damage the businesses that bear her name.

Mr. Trump's campaign is no longer making headlines with embarrassing staff shake-ups. But that has left him with a band of squabbling and unfireable advisers, with confusing roles and an inability to sign off on basic tasks. A plan to encourage early voting in Florida went unapproved for weeks.

The result is chaotic. Advisers cut loose from the campaign months ago, like Corey Lewandowski, still talk to the candidate frequently, offering advice that sometimes clashes with that of the current leadership team. Mr. Trump, who does not use a computer, rails against the campaign's expenditure of tens of millions on digital ads, skeptical that spots he never sees could have any effect.

Not even staff members who volunteer to be dismissed are let go. The senior communications adviser, Jason Miller, offered to resign after he was spotted at a Las Vegas strip club the night before the final presidential debate. The offer was rejected.

This inside account of the Trump campaign's final stretch is based on interviews with dozens of aides, operatives, supporters and advisers, many of whom were granted anonymity to describe moments and conversations that were intended to be confidential. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:06 AM


Trump And Clinton Both Want To Fix Infrastructure. But That Doesn't Mean They'll Succeed. (Andrew Flowers, 11/05/16, 538)

[M]any economists see infrastructure spending as a long-term investment that enhances productivity. By eliminating bottlenecks in energy, transportation and communications, they say, an infrastructure-spending boost would make the whole economy more efficient, which in turn would let it grow more quickly. (In economics jargon, it would raise the economy's potential growth rate, which has been lagging.) In this framing, the economic returns to upgrading our infrastructure won't materialize quickly, but will be realized over decades. The Congressional Budget Office recently estimated that it often takes 20 years for the full effects of federal infrastructure investment to be felt.

"I think of it as a long-term economic growth issue," said Keith Hennessey, a lecturer at Stanford and the former head of President George W. Bush's National Economic Council. "If it increases short-term employment, great -- but that's not as important."

Short-term employment is, however, important to politicians, who want results that will help them win re-election. That difference in emphasis can have practical implications: It gives politicians an incentive to push for projects that create the most jobs quickly, rather than ones that offer the best payoff in the long term.

Not all economists see a tension between short-term and long-term goals. Larry Summers, a Harvard economist who has become a prominent advocate of increased infrastructure spending, said that part of what makes such investments attractive is that they offer both immediate and longer-lasting benefits.

Another decision that policymakers face is whether to focus on building new projects or maintaining old ones. The nation's roads, bridges and airports have a massive backlog of deferred maintenance. Many economists see that backlog as a top infrastructure priority: A 2011 report from the Brookings Institution recommended redirecting all revenue from the federal gasoline tax to "repair, maintain, rehabilitate, reconstruct, and enhance existing roads and bridges."

Economists like spending on repairs and maintenance because it's cheaper in the long run to maintain existing infrastructure than to let it deteriorate and be forced to start over. Maintenance also takes out the guesswork -- we already know which bridges and highways are the most valuable. "One of the benefits of an emphasis on deferred maintenance is that it's done on the infrastructure that's heavily used," said Summers, who served in the Clinton and Obama administrations.

President Clinton can fairly quickly get an infrastructure bill, immigration reform, corporate tax reform and a major trade bill.  Whether that paves the way to collaborating on Obamacare reform will be the big question.  

Posted by orrinj at 8:01 AM


Secret Service says no gun involved in Trump rally commotion (AP, Nov. 6, 2016)

Donald Trump's son and a top campaign aide were falsely spreading the rumor that an incident at a Nevada rally was an "assassination attempt" against the candidate even though no weapon was found.

Posted by orrinj at 7:50 AM


Could Hillary Clinton Keep Daylight Savings Time Permanent? (David Atkins, November 6, 2016, Washington Monthly)

We do know, on the other hand, that switching between time cycles is not only a twice-a-year annoyance but also brings an array of negative health and welfare effects, including increased rates of heart attacks, work injuries and traffic accidents when clocks move forward, and possibly increased rates of depression when the long months of darkness set in. [...]

Oddly enough, though, most politicians are largely unaware of efforts to do something about this. Hillary Clinton herself was recently asked about it, and said that she had never confronted the issue before in the last two decades. Gratefully, though, she said she would be willing to look into it:

"I will certainly consider that," she told him. "I honestly think you may be the first person to do this in my 20 years of work who's ever asked me that. I will take a look. I mean, people have talked about it with regard to energy savings and things like that -- but getting teenagers up in the morning is hard under any kind of clock. And so let me take that back and think about it."

Whatever her faults, one of Clinton's biggest strengths is her wonkish obsession over policy details. Keeping DST year-round is one of those issues that she will hopefully take a long, hard look at. It may be difficult for her to get much done with a Republican Congress, but this is one non-partisan area where there might be some hope for a reasonable compromise that improves everyone's lives.

Posted by orrinj at 7:15 AM


U.S.-backed forces announce operation to seize Raqqa in coordination with U.S. (Reuters, 11/06/16)

The U.S.-backed Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) announced on Sunday the start of a campaign to retake the Syrian city of Raqqa, the militant Islamic State group's de facto capital, would begin within hours, with U.S. forces providing air cover.

Posted by orrinj at 6:57 AM


Trump closing campaign ad seen as striking anti-Semitic tones (TIMES OF ISRAEL, November 6, 2016)

The two-minute long ad features audio from Trump's West Palm Beach speech in mid-October, which was criticized by the Anti-Defamation league for "rhetoric and tropes that historically have been used against Jews and still spur antisemitism."

The video appears to go even further, illustrating Trump's accusation of a conspiracy against the American people with images of prominent Jews.

Philanthropist investor George Soros, Federal Reserve head Janet Yellen and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, all of whom are Jewish, appear onscreen as Trump inveighs against "levers of power in Washington" and "global special interests" both considered anti-Semitic dog-whistles. that if everything Hillary has ever been accused of is true, and nothing Donald has been accused of is, his politics of hate alone are reason enough to vote for her.

November 5, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 10:08 PM


Clinton Emails: Podesta Disses Axelrod From The Left (ROBERT KRAYCHIK, NOVEMBER 5, 2016, Daily Wire)

Hillary Clinton's campaign chair John Podesta - a long-term Clinton loyalist and political operative - criticized then President Barack Obama's top advisor David Axelrod as insufficiently committed to left-wing redistributionist economic doctrines in a 2010 email.

You shouldn't even be in politics if it took that long to figure out the UR isn't progressive.


Posted by orrinj at 8:22 AM


Iran's parliament shows its true colors (Rohollah Faghihi,  November 4, 2016, Al Monitor)

[T]he Nov. 1 parliamentary sessions debunked the hard-liners' claims of having gained a majority in the legislature. Indeed, all three of the nominees Rouhani presented to head the ministries of culture and Islamic guidance, education, and youth affairs and sports received votes of confidence.

Fakhreddin Ahmadi Danesh-Ashtiani was backed by 157 out of 290 legislators to become the new minister of education. Compared to the other two proposed ministers, Danesh-Ashtiani faced the most opposition, as 111 lawmakers voted against his appointment. This indicates that pro-Rouhani forces hold a parliamentary majority. Plus, the number of hard-line members of parliament is possibly less than 111, given that a number of legislators who opposed Danesh-Ashtiani were moderates and independents. Before the voting, Abolfazl Torabi, a member of the Velayat faction, which gathers both conservatives and moderates, hinted that the sentiment toward Danesh-Ashtiani within the parliamentary group was "negative." Meanwhile, Masoud Soltanifar, the new minister of youth affairs and sports, gained 193 "yes" votes, which highlights the real power and quantity of pro-Rouhani members of parliament. Reza Salehi Amiri became the new minister of culture and Islamic guidance, with 180 votes in favor.

Posted by orrinj at 8:11 AM


Behind Our Anxiety, the Fear of Being Unneeded (THE DALAI LAMA and ARTHUR C. BROOKSNOV. 4, 2016, NY Times)

[F]ewer among us are poor, fewer are hungry, fewer children are dying, and more men and women can read than ever before. In many countries, recognition of women's and minority rights is now the norm. There is still much work to do, of course, but there is hope and there is progress.

How strange, then, to see such anger and great discontent in some of the world's richest nations. In the United States, Britain and across the European Continent, people are convulsed with political frustration and anxiety about the future. Refugees and migrants clamor for the chance to live in these safe, prosperous countries, but those who already live in those promised lands report great uneasiness about their own futures that seems to border on hopelessness.


A small hint comes from interesting research about how people thrive. In one shocking experiment, researchers found that senior citizens who didn't feel useful to others were nearly three times as likely to die prematurely as those who did feel useful. This speaks to a broader human truth: We all need to be needed.

Being "needed" does not entail selfish pride or unhealthy attachment to the worldly esteem of others. Rather, it consists of a natural human hunger to serve our fellow men and women. As the 13th-century Buddhist sages taught, "If one lights a fire for others, it will also brighten one's own way."

Virtually all the world's major religions teach that diligent work in the service of others is our highest nature and thus lies at the center of a happy life. Scientific surveys and studies confirm shared tenets of our faiths. Americans who prioritize doing good for others are almost twice as likely to say they are very happy about their lives. In Germany, people who seek to serve society are five times likelier to say they are very happy than those who do not view service as important. Selflessness and joy are intertwined. The more we are one with the rest of humanity, the better we feel.

This helps explain why pain and indignation are sweeping through prosperous countries. The problem is not a lack of material riches. It is the growing number of people who feel they are no longer useful, no longer needed, no longer one with their societies.

...but your spouse, kids, neighbors, community, church, etc. do. The problem is we used to only pay you for your job.

November 4, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 6:56 PM


Barack Obama's Criminally Underrated Jobs Record (DEREK THOMPSON, 11/04/16, The Atlantic)

Since June 2015, the economy has created more than 3.2 million jobs-- more than the number of jobs in 38 separate states and roughly equal to the number of workers in states like Massachusetts or Washington. In the last 15 months, the labor force has added another Bay State.

When Barack Obama took office, the unemployment rate was passing 8 percent on its way to 10 percent. But U.S. unemployment has now been at 5 percent or below every month for a full year.

The economy created 11 million jobs under President Obama, which is (literally) quasi-infinitely more than the number of jobs created under President George W. Bush, since his jobs created total was about 400,000 below zero. The economy has now added jobs for 73 consecutive months, a record.

...who promised a less robust economy.

Posted by orrinj at 6:44 PM


Obama has Plans for the TPP during the Lame Duck--Here's what you Need to Know (Joe Firestone, 10/28/16, The Progressive)

President Obama is mobilizing a last-ditch effort to overcome opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and get it passed before leaving office. He is planning to present it to Congress just after the election so it can get a "no amendments allowed" yes or no vote, in accordance with the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) ("fast-track") Act, during the lame duck.

In a lame duck session, members of both the House of Representatives and the Senate are least accountable to their constituents. So this is the most difficult time for opponents of the TPP to block its passage, and the easiest time for the President and the pro-TPP lobbyists to sell the deal to Senators and members of Congress.

The most important thing to know is that neither he nor his successor are Progressive.

Posted by orrinj at 6:23 PM


Thousands of Donors Raise Nearly $170,000 to Rebuild Black Church Set on Fire, Vandalized With 'Vote Trump' (AVIANNE TAN,  Nov 3, 2016, ABC News)

A GoFundMe campaign started on Wednesday to help rebuild Hopewell M.B.Church has raised over $169,000 as of early this afternoon. The amount raised so far has exponentially exceeded the campaign's original $10,000 goal.

"I've truly been blown away," campaign organizer Blair Reeves told ABC News today. "Donations are coming in from all over the country."

Reeves said he is actually from New York and is not affiliated with the church at all, but he felt "compelled" to create the campaign because he felt the church deserved the same kind of monetary support that a North Carolina Republican Party field office got after it was recently firebombed.

"The animus of this election cycle combined with the potent racial history of burning black churches as a political symbol makes this event something we must not ignore," he wrote in the campaign's description. "Only two weeks ago, the internet came together to help repair a North Carolina GOP field office that had been burned by thugs. Justice demands we do the same now."

Posted by orrinj at 6:10 PM



Lenski, a professor of microbial ecology at Michigan State, is best known for his work on what's known as the long-term evolution experiment. The project, started in 1988, examines evolution in action. He and his lab members have been growing 12 populations of E. coli continuously for over 65,000 generations, tracking the development and mutations of the 12 separate strains.

The results have garnered attention and accolades--including a MacArthur "genius" grant, which Lenski received in 1996--both for the enormity of the undertaking and for the intriguing findings the study has yielded. Most notably, in 2003, Lenski and his collaborators realized that one strain of E. coli had evolved the ability to use citrate as an energy source, something no previous population of E. coli was able to do.

Lenski is also interested in digital organisms, computer programs that have been designed to mimic the process of evolution.

Posted by orrinj at 1:00 PM


Obama Hasn't Given Up On The TPP (Andrew Flowers, 11/04/16, 538)

[T]he Obama administration, which negotiated the treaty, isn't giving up on it. The White House is pressuring Congress to approve the 12-nation trade deal during the lame-duck session after the election. And on Thursday, Obama's Council of Economic Advisers published a report warning that if the TPP isn't passed, a China-backed trade agreement will takes its place. That could put U.S. manufacturers at a disadvantage when they try to sell to customers in Japan and other Asian nations. The report argues that if China's Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership goes into effect, at least 35 U.S. industries as diverse as plastics, fishing and footwear will be at risk of increased competition from China in the Japanese market.

Looks like Hillary and the rump GOP will get credit for this one.

Posted by orrinj at 12:55 PM


Exclusive: Saudis could raise oil output again as sparring with Iran returns - sources (Rania El Gamal, Alex Lawler and Dmitry Zhdannikov, 11/04/16, Reuters)

Old disputes between Saudi Arabia and rival Iran resurfaced at a meeting of OPEC experts last week, with Riyadh saying it could raise oil output steeply to bring prices down if Tehran refuses to limit its supply, OPEC sources say.

The trade deal could not have worked out any better.

Posted by orrinj at 12:48 PM


What's the point of education? : The idea has taken hold that state schools must treat all pupils equally, regardless of talent (Roger Scruton, 3 November 2016, The Spectator)

Why does the state take an interest in education? The prevailing view, at least since the end of the last war, has been that the state takes an interest in education because it is the right of every child to receive it. Hence the state becomes the universal provider, and as such must treat all its dependents equally, and make no special favours on grounds of wealth, talent or social status. From this, by a kind of creeping egalitarianism, we edge towards the conclusion that the state must make no distinctions, that children should not be sorted by their abilities and aptitudes, and that even exams should be downgraded or at least not made to look as though they were the final goal. When it comes to schooling, the educationists add, we, the experts, are bound to be better informed than the parents, who should feel no qualms in surrendering their children to the beneficent care of a state that acts always on our wise advice.

The assumption has been, in other words, that education exists for the sake of the child. In my view the state takes an interest in education only because it has another and more urgent interest in something else -- namely knowledge. Knowledge is a benefit to everyone, including those who do not and cannot acquire it. 

That's only a very partial answer:

"Religion, morality and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged."

Posted by orrinj at 12:39 PM


U.S. economy creates 161,000 jobs in October; wages get big boost (Don Lee, 11/04/16, LA Times)

The addition of 161,000 jobs, which is about double the number needed to absorb the growing population and new entrants to the labor force, came after upwardly revised gains of 191,000 jobs in September and 176,000 in August.    

So far this year, the economy has added 181,000 jobs a month on average, down from 229,000 in 2015. A slowdown was expected given that this is the seventh year of continuous job expansion and that employers are having more difficulty finding workers as the economy approaches full employment.

Atlanta Fed upgrades U.S. fourth-quarter GDP view to 3.1 percent (Reuters, 11/04/16)

The U.S. economy is on track to grow at a 3.1 percent annualized pace in the fourth quarter due to expected stronger consumer spending and equipment investments as well as a smaller trade gap, the Atlanta Federal Reserve's GDP Now forecast model showed on Friday.

Posted by orrinj at 12:33 PM


An Anchor or a Lifeboat? (Susan Milligan, Nov. 4, 2016, US News)

In the 2014 midterm elections, Democrats couldn't run fast enough away from President Barack Obama. Senate candidates in the president's party didn't campaign with him, worried that voter frustration over the slowly recovering economy and Obamacare, combined with the usual lower Democratic turnout in midterm elections, would doom them. Fast forward to this year, and the outgoing president isn't just being embraced by Democratic contenders. At least two imperiled Republicans have put images of Obama into their campaign ads - and in a positive way.

That turn of events would seem bizarre in a normal campaign year, when Republicans would point to the outgoing president as the warden presiding over their soon-to-be-ending, eight-year prison sentence, with the GOP nominee as their liberator. And Democrats, too, might celebrate the lame duck president's accomplishments, but still make it very clear they have an agenda of change. But this is not a normal election year. And faced with two of the least popular presidential nominees in modern history at the top of the ticket, down-ticket candidates are scrambling to find the balance that will get them to (or back to) a job in Washington. [...]

[A]t least two GOP candidates, Portman and California Rep. Darryl Issa, have featured Obama in their campaign ads, presenting themselves as bipartisan operators. That was particularly startling from Issa, who has spent a great deal of time investigating the Obama administration (a point Obama made in criticizing the Issa ads as "shameless").

The candidate not showing up in ads for Republicans in tight races? That would be their party's own pick for president, Trump. And that factor could cost the GOP its Senate majority, complicating the party's mission next year.

Posted by orrinj at 12:28 PM


Clinton Foundation May Not Be Indicted After All (HANK BERRIEN, NOVEMBER 4, 2016, Daily Wire)

After a media avalanche on Thursday in which NBC News, ABC News and CNN all reported that Baier was incorrect, Baier retreated, saying he had spoken "inartfully." NBC justice correspondent Pete Williams explained on Thursday:

There really isn't one, if you want to call it an investigation. That's a term of art in the FBI. There was an initial inquiry that was opened a couple of months ago based largely on media reports and a book called Clinton Cash, and there were some initial things done in that. But FBI officials tell me there's been virtually no movement on that case for the last several months. So this idea that there are indictments near or something like that, I am told, is just not true.

Posted by orrinj at 12:16 PM


Nativist crazies are attacking Chobani, so buy some Greek yogurt (Star-Ledger Editorial Board, November 04, 2016)

What the far-right cares about, apparently, is that among thousands of workers at Chobani, Ulukaya employs about 300 refugees, from Africa and the Middle East.
He's also started a foundation to help refugees, traveled to a Greek island to witness the crisis firsthand, and helped bring other companies like IBM on board to help integrate refugees into the American workforce.
For this, he's been singled out for the kind of vicious ire that hasn't been directed at other refugee-friendly businesses - hysterical posts like, "American Yogurt Tycoon Vows to Choke U.S. With Muslims."
Stories from Breitbart "News" - whose former executive chairman is now running Trump's presidential campaign - that wildly associate Chobani's hiring practices with sexual assaults and outbreaks of tuberculosis.
And of course, trolling. The mayor of Twin Falls, Idaho, received death threats simply for welcoming Chobani's new plant; as if his support for a local business is part of some massive conspiracy to bring sharia law to the United States.
Why pick on Chobani? Likely because its CEO is an immigrant, and instead of "stealing jobs," a favorite right-wing talking point, he's created thousands of them. Human Rights Watch just called him "a xenophobe's nightmare."
So not only do you support good corporate citizenship and eat good yogurt by buying Chobani. You get to thumb your nose at the bigots, too.

Posted by orrinj at 12:09 PM


In the End, Kahane Won : The evil spirit that is blowing from the corridors of the Knesset and government is based on supra-state principles - the biblical promise to the Jewish people trumps the Palestinians' terrestrial rights (Shaul Arieli Dec 25, 2011Ha'aretz)

The Israeli public's disregard for the freeze in negotiations with the Palestinians stems from a perception of reality opposite the one in 1993, when the Oslo Accords were signed. The willingness for compromise and dividing the land has been replaced by the faith that "it's all mine." The illusion that you can get the bride (the Land of Israel) without the dowry (the Palestinians) has returned and taken over the Israeli consciousness.

The danger of losing the Jewish majority between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River is obscured by soothing "facts" such as the disengagement's removal of Gazans from the ledger, the erasure of a million West Bank residents from statistics-bureau publications, and a "promise" that the next confrontation will enable a national "price tag" that will transform Jordan into the Palestinian homeland. There are also "democrats" among us who think they are authorized to offer the Palestinians Jordanian citizenship, or "Israeli citizenship contingent on allegiance to Zionism," so that Jews alone will maintain the right to decide about land on which Palestinians live. [...]

Ruling another people, deprived of civil rights, is no longer considered contrary to the democratic regime and a threat to Israeli society's moral strength. The evil spirit that is blowing from the corridors of the Knesset and government is based on supra-state principles - the biblical promise to the Jewish people trumps the Palestinians' terrestrial rights, the land transcends the state when it comes to realizing the messianic destiny, halakhic rulings vanquish the rule of law, the Knesset's laws defeat the rights of the minority and the individual, and the power to silence defeats the right to protest.

But as with South Africa and the Cold War, that time's almost up.

November 3, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:51 PM


Donald Trump Barely Wins in Israel Exit Poll -- Margin Down Dramatically From 2012 (Judy Maltz, November 3, 2016, The Forward)

Though early voting in Israel has reportedly gone in Donald Trump's favor, support for the Republican Party has taken a serious, almost unprecedented hit, early exit poll data presented on Thursday suggested.

According to so-called exit polls conducted by iVote Israel - a right-leaning group that helps American expats vote in Israel - Trump won 49 percent of the Israeli-American vote, while Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton claimed 44 percent, ahead of Election Day on November 8. 

In the 2012 presidential matchup between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, the GOP carried 85 percent of expats in Israel, while Obama got only 14 percent - indicating a precipitous drop in support for Republicans in the Jewish state. In 2008, Obama won 24 percent and Republican John McCain got 76 percent.

Posted by orrinj at 7:45 PM


Ghost soldiers: the Russians secretly dying for the Kremlin in Syria (Maria Tsvetkova and Anton Zverev, 11/03/16, Reuters)

The start of this year proved deadly for one unit of about 100 Russian fighters supporting President Bashar al-Assad's troops in northern Syria.

On Feb. 3, 38-year-old Maxim Kolganov was killed in a firefight with rebels near Aleppo when a bullet pierced his body armor and heart. Then, on March 9, the same unit came under shell-fire near Palmyra, and Sergei Morozov, also 38, was hit and died on the way to hospital.

Back in southern Russia, medals were delivered to their families: the order of bravery, with certificates signed by President Vladimir Putin. The medals, seen by Reuters, were intended to honor the sacrifice they had made for their country.

Except Kolganov and Morozov were not employed by the Russian state. They were in Syria as private contractors, a small part of an army of such people who are being deployed secretly by the Kremlin in Syria.

The deaths of Kolganov and Morozov, and others like them, have not been made public. Families say they were given little information and told not discuss the cases. In at least one case that Reuters uncovered, the family of a fighter killed in Syria received a payout of around $100,000 in compensation.

Officially, Russia is participating only in an air war over Syria with a small number of special forces on the ground. Moscow denies that its troops are involved in regular ground combat operations.

However, in interviews with more than a dozen people with direct knowledge of these deployments, Reuters has established that Russian fighters are playing a more substantial role in ground combat than that the role the Kremlin says is being played by the regular Russian military.

Posted by orrinj at 7:45 PM


Freaked Out by the Election? Check Your 401(k) : Take a break from the action to check your balance. Odds are it's good news. (Suzanne Woolley, November 2, 2016, Bloomberg)

You know it's bad when you turn to your retirement balance to take the edge off.

Now's that kind of a time. The average 401(k) balance gained for the second quarter in a row, inching up 2 percent, to $90,600 for the third quarter. That amount is a 7 percent jump from 2015's third quarter and up from an average of $64,300 five years ago, according to Fidelity Investments. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:39 PM


Republicans and Russian hackers have made Hillary Clinton the most transparent candidate in history (Ezra Klein, Nov 2, 2016, Vox)

"Clinton has a reputation for secretiveness, and yet she has a robust public record that goes well beyond what we know about Trump," says Steve Aftergood, head of the Federation of American Scientists' government secrecy program. "Even her attempts to conceal information, such as emails, have led to unprecedented disclosure. That is not necessarily to her credit, but it is nevertheless a real factor."

...does that mean we want it to be?  Hillary's campaign and career are both completely transparent and profoundly boring.  It shows how little we have to fear from open information and how little to gain in the absence of market mechanisms for valuing it.

Posted by orrinj at 7:35 PM


Sweden's 'strange epidemic' of fake food allergies (The Local, 03 Nov 2016)

Only a quarter of young people in Sweden who believe they have a food allergy of some form are actually intolerant, a study shows.

According to the children's allergy study BAMSE, which is carried out by the prestigious Swedish medical university Karolinska Institute (KI), 28 percent of the parents of 16-year-olds studied believe that their child suffers from some form of allergy.

But tests proved that only seven percent of the kids are actually allergy sufferers, TV4 Nyheterna reports.

Posted by orrinj at 7:29 PM


Why Vladimir Putin Fears A Hillary Clinton White House (Leah McGrath Goodman, 11/03/16, Newsweek)

On June 4, 2013, at the verdant plantation-style Inn at Palmetto Bluff in Bluffton, South Carolina, Hillary Clinton spoke in strikingly ambitious terms of her plans for America's energy boom to a private audience in a speech for the global investment bank Goldman Sachs. "The energy revolution in the United States is just a gift," she said in one of three speeches that year for which the bank paid her $675,000. "We can have a North American energy system that will be unbelievably powerful. If we have enough of it, we can be exporting and supporting a lot of our friends and allies."

Clinton meant exporting oil and gas to allies who are heavily reliant on Russian imports. The Democratic nominee's private positions on energy, as indicated in speeches released by WikiLeaks in October, suggest how she might use America's oil and gas industry as a bludgeon against Moscow. While her campaign declined to comment for this story, her speeches also made it clear that Clinton wants the U.S. to lead an environmentally friendly energy revolution to tackle climate change.

"I've promoted fracking in other places around the world, because when you look at the stranglehold that energy has on so many countries and the decisions they make, it would be in America's interest to make even more countries more energy self-sufficient," she said in a private speech to Deutsche Bank in April 2013. "So I think we have to go at this in a smart, environmentally conscious way, pursuing a clean-energy alternative agenda while we also promote the advantages that are going to come to us."

Clinton delivered many of the leaked speeches as America was becoming the world's top oil producer, overtaking Saudi Arabia. A few months after the U.S. hit this watermark in April 2014, Clinton made the direct link between America's energy fortunes and targeting Moscow. "We are now energy independent, something we have hoped for and worked for over many, many years," she said in a July 2014 speech. "That gives us tools we didn't have before. And it also gives us the opportunity not only to invest those resources in more manufacturing and other activities that benefit us directly here at home, but to be a bulwark with our supplies against the kind of intimidation we see going on from Russia."

No wonder analysts believe a Clinton presidency will result in icier relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

...having his butt handed to him by a gay socialist Muslim, but now a girl?

Posted by orrinj at 7:20 PM



The Federal Bureau of Investigations, which functions as the United States' top law enforcement body, has a Twitter account specifically set up to tweet information released from the FBI's archives. These stories, usually obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, are full of documents of interest to archivists and journalists on a slow news days. Typically, the FBIRecordsVault account tweets twice a month. Starting October 30th, the account tweeted 21 times over three days.

The first of this fresh batch of tweets was about Fred C. Trump, the father of Republican nominee Donald Trump. In the tweet, the FBI called Fred Trump a "real estate developer and philanthropist," which - while technically accurate - is hardly unbiased language. Real estate developer and philanthropist Fred Trump was also arrested at a Ku Klux Klan rally in Queens in 1927 and settled with the Justice Department in 1975 after an investigation into racial bias in his renting practices, as it happens.

Commenting at all on a case like this is an unusual move for a supposedly impartial Federal agency, especially since there's a specific law, the Hatch Act, that prevents federal employees from directly supporting political candidates.
Does tweeting out old documents about the father of a presidential candidate, framed in positive terms, constitute a violation of the Hatch Act? What about tweeting information about the foundation headed by another presidential candidate and her ex-president husband, which FBIRecordsVault also did?

The FBI thinks it's a serious enough violation that it's launching an investigation. Of its own Twitter account. What a time to be alive. 

Oh for the days when the agents were all Mormons....

Posted by orrinj at 7:13 PM


Forget Populism. 'The Establishment' Would Rule the Clinton White House (Ciro Scotti, November 3, 2016, Fiscal Times)

[I]t signals that a third Clinton administration will be business as usual. It's a stick in the eye to all the Americans grumbling for change who signed onto the out-of-nowhere candidacy of Bernie Sanders and the millions more who see (or saw) in Donald Trump a wild and crazy chance to defy the political Establishment of both parties and elect an outsider to run the country.

The Biden diversion isn't the only sign out there that we are about to get four more years of 'same old, same old' if Hillary is elected.

Intense pressure is being put on John Podesta, the top dog in the Clinton Campaign and the owner of the hacked email account from which Clinton Foundation revelations were flowing, to be her Chief of Staff. Not that there's anything wrong with that. But Podesta is the political Establishment. A founder (with his brother Tony) of the powerhouse lobbying firm Podesta Group, he served as Deputy Chief of Staff in the first Clinton White House and Chief of Staff in the second. He is about as inside an insider as it gets in Washington.

Then there is Ken Salazar. The former Senator and Interior Secretary in the first Obama Administration is the head of the Clinton transition team, which will present Madame President - should there be one -- with a list of choices for her Cabinet, as well as lesser posts. His day job is partner in WilmerHale, a big-name law and lobbying firm.

See a lot of change a-comin' here?

There has been great joy in watching even such an imperfect vehicle trounce the Left and the Right, showing just how Establishment we are as a people--inevitable in a democracy.

Posted by orrinj at 6:37 PM


The Early Vote In Nevada Suggests Clinton Might Beat Her Polls There (Harry Enten, 11/01/16, 538)

Nevada is fairly unusual among states that allow early voting because it releases data on the party registration of early voters. Most people in the state vote early, and it hasn't changed its early voting rules, giving us the 2012 election as a baseline. That means we can know if one party is voting in large numbers while at the same time understanding whether that large lead is going to hold through Election Day. Of course, it's always possible that the early vote can mislead, so some caution is warranted.

Still, many more Democrats than Republicans have voted in early balloting. Through early Tuesday, 43 percent of early and absentee votes have been cast by registered Democrats and just 37 percent have been cast by registered Republicans. Democrats have a lead in the number of raw votes of greater than 30,000 out of more than 500,000 votes cast, which is about 50 percent of all votes cast in the 2012 presidential election.

Indeed, the pattern in early voting looks pretty much the same as in 20121. After one week of early voting in 2012, Democrats made up 45 percent of early voters and Republicans made up 37 percent. Those numbers held through the second week of early voting and into the general election. Democrats had a 7-point edge after early voting that year and a 6-point edge after all the votes were counted. The fact that the registration numbers didn't change very much after early voting shouldn't be surprising, because absentee and early voters made up about 70 percent of all ballots cast.

The similarity to 2012 in the early numbers in Nevada is good news for Clinton. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:26 PM


Renewable Energy Topped Fossil Fuels in New Generation for the First Time Last Year: Report (Justin Worland, Oct. 25, 2016, TIME)

More than half of new power capacity added last year came from renewable energy sources like wind and solar power, beating fossil fuels for the first time, according to a new report.

The report from the Intentional Energy Agency called 2015 a turning point because renewables now represent 23% of global power generation. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:19 PM


FBI Based Potential Clinton Foundation Case On Debunked Right-Wing Book (Matt Gertz, November 3, 2016, National Memo)

The paper further reported that the Clinton Foundation inquiry "had not developed much evidence and was based mostly on information that had surfaced in news stories and the book 'Clinton Cash,' according to several law enforcement officials briefed on the case."

Clinton Cash: The Untold Story Of How And Why Foreign Governments And Businesses Helped Make Bill And Hillary Rich is a 2015 book authored by Peter Schweizer, a Republican activist and consultant who has worked for Sarah Palin, Bobby Jindal, and Breitbart News.

Schweizer has a disreputable history of reporting marked by errors and retractions, with numerous reporters excoriating him for facts that "do not check out," sources that "do not exist," and a basic failure to practice "Journalism 101." Clinton Cash is similarly a trainwreck of bogus research that included more than 20 errors, fabrications, and distortions, according to a Media Matters review. On the campaign trail, Trump has pushed conspiracy theories from the book, leading reporters to note that the book has been "discredited" and features "lies" and claims that "fell apart under scrutiny."

Schweizer is also the president of the Government Accountability Institute (GAI), a right-wing group that purports to investigate "government corruption." Stephen Bannon, who is taking a leave of absence from his role as chief executive of Breitbart News to serve the same role with the Trump campaign, is also the executive chairman and co-founder of GAI. 

To their credit, the Right at least recognizes that a pre-Tuesday indictment is their only chance of saving Donald.
Posted by orrinj at 6:08 PM


In America's 'Rust Belt,' more voters trust Clinton on trade: Reuters/Ipsos poll (Ginger Gibson, 11/03/16, Reuters)

Voters in Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania - three competitive states in the Nov. 8 election that form the bulk of a region dubbed the Rust Belt for its swaths of shuttered factories - favor Trump's Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, on the issue of trade, according to the polling, with some respondents citing how international trade can bring down prices.

Posted by orrinj at 5:57 PM


Because Courage Comes in Different Kinds (Marc LiVecche, November 3, 2016, Providence)

No sooner had his battalion finally gained a foothold on the plateau, then a heavy concentration of artillery, mortar, and machine gun fire crashed into them. The majority were driven back down the escarpment, but dozens were left trapped and dying on the battlefield. Doss refused to retreat. Over the course of the next twelve hours, first under a U.S. artillery barrage unleashed to cover the withdraw, and later while evading Japanese patrols that prowled the battlefield killing American wounded, Doss would carry his injured comrades from the combat zone to the cliff's edge. Improvising a rope harness, he lowered the wounded one man at a time. According to his Medal of Honor citation, by the end of the night Doss had singlehandedly rescued 75 men, an average of one soul every ten minutes.

Doss did all of this without firing a shot. From childhood, up to and through his military training, and over the entirety of his combat deployment to Guam, Leyte, and Okinawa, Pvt. Doss refused to handle a weapon. He wasn't even rifle qualified.

One of Hacksaw's producers, Terry Benedict, is also the writer and director of an award-winning documentary on Doss entitled The Conscientious Objector, which served as source material for Gibson. Taken together, the films bring into focus two morally formative moments from Doss' childhood.

The first is of his fascination with a framed illustration of the Ten Commandments that hung in his Seventh-day Adventist home. It was the image of the sixth commandment that most disturbed him: Cain standing, club in hand, over the lifeless corpse of Abel. Doss remembers lamenting aloud "How in the world could a brother do such a thing?" In that instant, he heard the voice of God declaring, "If you love me, you won't kill." From the moment on, Doss recalls, "I didn't ever want to take life."

The second formative moment involves a fight between Doss' drunken father and his uncle. The incident escalated until his father grabbed a pistol and threatened murder. Doss' mother was eventually able to intervene, giving young Doss the weapon to hide in the woods. He returned in time to see his father being escorted away by the police. The trauma was exacerbated for Doss by his realization that his father had nearly repeated the crime of Cain.

November 2, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:40 PM


These charts say bull market's 'best days' are still ahead (SUE CHANG, 11/02/16, Market Watch)
It may be hard to feel upbeat about the stock market with the S&P 500 falling for a sixth session on Tuesday, its longest losing streak since the end of August 2015. But don't count out the bulls just yet, said Stephen Suttmeier, chief equity technical strategist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. [...]

This is what he says in his report:

We viewed the April 2013 breakout from the 2000 to 2013 trading range as a secular bull market breakout, similar to the breakouts from 1980 and 1950. The early-2015 to mid-2016 trading range between 1820-1800 and 2100-2135 on the S&P 500 likely marked a cyclical correction or consolidation of the secular bull trend with the July breakout ending the consolidation and continuing both the secular bull trend from April 2013 and cyclical bull trend from March 2009.

Indeed, Suttmeier believes the market has the potential to rally 50% to 60% based on its performance during two previous secular bull markets in 1950 and 1985 when it broke through its upside targets without significant resistance.

"If the S&P 500 follows this secular road map, the index would test 2,330-2,425 sometime between February and November 2017 and likely continue well beyond that resistance," he said. that she'll get credit, as her husband did, for an economy we could have owned instead.

Posted by orrinj at 7:33 PM


"Vote Trump" painted on burned Mississippi black church (Jerry Mitchell, 11/02/16, The Clarion-Ledger)

Authorities investigating a historically black church burned Tuesday night in Greenville also found "Vote Trump" spray-painted on the side.

Mayor Errick D. Simmons called the attack on the century-old Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church "a heinous, hateful and cowardly act," which is being investigated as a possible hate crime.

"This act is a direct assault on people's right to freely worship," he said. "We will not rest until the culprit is found and fully prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law." the Trump fans to donate the money to rebuild the church the way Democrats raised money for the NC GOP headquarters that was torched.

Posted by orrinj at 7:28 PM


Miami-Dade County Shows GOP Struggles With the Hispanic Vote (ARIAN CAMPO-FLORES, Nov. 2, 20, WSJ)

Miami-Dade County has been a vote-production machine for the Democratic Party in Florida.

The biggest county in the nation's biggest swing state, it supplied President Barack Obama with a lead of more than 200,000 votes in 2012, an important boost in a state he carried by fewer than 75,000.

To blunt the Democrats' edge, Republicans need to attract more of the county's many Hispanic voters, such as 36-year-old Diego Vásquez. But GOP nominee Donald Trump's anti-immigrant rhetoric and shifts within the Latino electorate are making that task more difficult. The results from the Nov. 8 election will indicate how much more difficult.

Mr. Vásquez is a registered Republican, but he twice voted for Mr. Obama. Mr. Trump's incendiary remarks about immigrants threaten to cement his unhappiness with the GOP.

"Immigrants don't come here to destroy," Mr. Vásquez said. "We come here to struggle, to get ahead."

Mr. Vásquez, a naturalized citizen from Colombia, is a testament to the changing face of the electorate in Miami-Dade, where 67% of residents are Hispanic. Once dominated by conservative Cuban-Americans, the Hispanic community has turned more Democratic as young voters of Cuban heritage come of age and new waves of immigrants arrive.

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 PM


If This Poll Is Right, Trump Can't Win Florida -- or the Election (Rob Garver, November 2, 2016, Fiscal Times)

A new poll of Florida that identified respondents who have already cast their ballots for president contains some potentially alarming news for Republican Donald Trump. Not only does it find Democrat Hillary Clinton leading among early voters by 55 percent to 38 percent, it also suggests that Trump is suffering from massive defections among registered Republican voters, with 27 percent of GOP early voters crossing over to cast a vote for Clinton.

TargetSmart estimates that 3,695,359 people have already voted in Florida. In the 2012 presidential election, 8,474,179 votes were cast, so the early vote in 2016 already represents a substantial portion of the overall vote.

Posted by orrinj at 3:51 PM


Libertarian Vice-Presidential Nominee Bill Weld Vouches for Hillary Clinton (Steven Rosenfeld, November 2, 2016, National Memo)

Conservatives who saw the Johnson-Weld ticket as a principled alternative to voting for Trump cringed at Weld's remarks. [...]

 [Jim] Geraghty wrote:

"Weld graduated summa cum laude from Harvard with a degree in economics, studying the subject further at Oxford before returning to Cambridge, Mass., to earn his JD from Harvard Law School. Three years later, he was hired to work on the U.S. House of Representatives Impeachment Inquiry into Richard Nixon's Watergate scandal. 'If I was the first staffer, Hillary Rodham from Yale Law School was the second staffer,' Weld told the Nixon Library Oral History Program. 'She's just a very decent person, and if I recall correctly, on the occasion when I got in the middle and [special counsel to the Judiciary Committee] John Doar himself got frowny-faced with me--which he should not have, by the way, I was doing my duty--I think Hillary intervened and defended me on that and I've never forgotten that.'

"(Weld isn't kidding: Earlier this year, he dismissed the scandal surrounding Clinton's private email server as much ado about nothing. 'I've never bought that email thing,' he told Boston Herald radio on February 29. 'I don't think anything was classified when she did it, it got classified later. ... I don't think she would lay a lot of stuff on the table that she thought would compromise our national security.')"

Whether or not Weld's comments will sway young millennials who have been drawn to Johnson's candidacy is an open question. But it is striking that the vice-presidential nominee of a competing ticket is agreeing with Clinton that the FBI's latest disclosures in the email controversy are a smear based on a non-issue.

Posted by orrinj at 3:32 PM


Frustrated Europe hopes Clinton win can spur elusive Iran deals (Noah Barkin, 11/01/16, Reuters)

Business groups say this could help fuel a more aggressive push into the Iranian market in 2017, especially in the second half of the year, if a Clinton victory is followed by the re-election of moderate Iranian President Hassan Rouhani next May.

"If Clinton and Rouhani win, then we will have a political window of opportunity that is much bigger than we have now," said Matthieu Etourneau, who advises French firms on the Iranian market for MEDEF International, the French employers group.

"This is what the European banks and companies are waiting for," he said.

Posted by orrinj at 3:29 PM


'Robots' to replace 90,000 public sector workers by 2030, experts warn (Daniel Sanderson and Tom Gordon, 11/01/16, The Herald)

ONE in six public sector workers in Scotland will be replaced by a robot or machine within a decade-and-a-half, experts have predicted.

A report for Deloitte estimates that 88,000 jobs will be lost due to 'automation', with NHS, care workers and transport staff potentially in the firing line.

The NHS is planning to increase the use of technology in patient care, using monitors to check on patients at home and seeing consultations with doctors carried out through internet link.

Posted by orrinj at 3:25 PM


Hamas looks to join PLO, marking major unification step (DOV LIEBER, November 2, 2016, Times of Israel)

Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal made a rare plea on Wednesday for uniting his popular Palestinian Islamist movement with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), bringing it, for the first time, into the umbrella group recognized internationally and by Israel as the representative of the Palestinians.

A senior PLO member told The Times of Israel that the group wants to bring Hamas under its framework, while an expert on Palestinian politics said the move was likely to take place.

The call by Hamas -- considered a terror group by Israel, the US and most of the international community -- for inclusion in the PLO comes amid concerted efforts by the Palestinians to challenge the 1917 British Balfour Declaration, which promised the Jewish people a "homeland" in Palestine, and to establish an independent Palestinian state as soon as possible.

Posted by orrinj at 3:23 PM


How Health Care Hurts Your Paycheck (REGINA E. HERZLINGER, BARAK D. RICHMAN and RICHARD J. BOXER, NOV. 2, 2016, NY Times)

A minor tweak to our tax code could go a long way to bring more choice, affordability and personal control to how workers purchase health insurance. Current law allows individuals to avoid taxes on money spent on insurance premiums only if their employers purchase insurance on their behalf. What if employers transferred to their employees the amount they now spend on coverage and the law allowed employees to deduct that spending from their taxes?

And what if those laws allowed employees to opt not to spend that entire sum on health insurance, but instead take some home as wages? If an employee in a marginal tax bracket of 25 percent were given an $18,000 budget to purchase insurance, but opted for a plan that costs only $14,000, she could take an additional $3,000, post-tax, home to her family.

This slight change would turn the economic tables for the millions of Americans who get health insurance through their employers. Abundant research has shown that low- and middle-income workers have a strong preference for low-cost plans, much more than what their employers currently offer. If workers know they can increase take-home wages by purchasing less expensive insurance, they will demand more insurance options, and insurers are likely to respond. To avoid the chance that cash-strapped families purchase inadequate plans, insurance plans would have to meet the Affordable Care Act's minimum standards. The law's requirement to purchase insurance, with penalties for non-purchase, would lessen the possibility that workers would keep all the money rather than buy insurance.

Freeing workers' choices for insurance would also bring pressures on insurers to create new products that control costs, such as bundling of homeowners, auto and health insurances, or enabling people between 55 and 64 years old to access Medicare. State legislatures would feel similar pressures to adjust regulations to support competitive insurance marketplaces.

Stiffer competition and cost pressures on insurers, in turn, would force providers to offer more efficient care, such as by replacing outpatient and emergency room visits with telemedicine technology.

Posted by orrinj at 3:19 PM


How 3D Printing and IBM Watson Could Replace Doctors (Jen Wieczner, NOVEMBER 2, 2016, Fortune)

In addition to partnering with Celgene  CELG -0.79%  to better track negative drug side effects, IBM  IBM -0.33% is applying its cognitive computing AI technology to recommend cancer treatment in rural areas in the U.S., India, and China, where there is a dearth of oncologists, said Deborah DiSanzo, general manager for IBM Watson Health.

For example, IBM Watson could read a patient's electronic medical record, analyze imagery of the cancer, and even look at gene sequencing of the tumor to figure out the optimal treatment plan for a particular person, she said. [...]

"The human is wrong so freaking often, it's a massacre," said [Jonathan Bush] co-founder of Athenahealth, which sells cloud-based electronic health records software to hospitals and doctors' offices. "Nobody ever goes after the radiologist--they're wrong so often we don't blame 'em."

While less enthusiastic about artificial intelligence's current contributions to healthcare, Bush suggested a perhaps more radical vision of the future, in which machines do indeed supplant many rudimentary medical functions. "Forget brain scans and cancer silhouettes--what about plain film and broken bones? Wouldn't Watson be a lot more reliable with that?" he asked rhetorically. "And isn't that billions and billions of dollars of some radiologist looking at it and saying, 'Yup, that's a broken bone?'"

Posted by orrinj at 3:16 PM


Trump, Waking a 'Sleeping Giant,' Helps Clinton Build an Unlikely Firewall (JONATHAN MARTIN and ALEXANDER BURNS, NOV. 2, 2016, NY Times)

"He has woken up the sleeping giant," Ms. Lorenzo, a native of Venezuela, said as she stood in a local Democratic campaign headquarters here in the desert between Phoenix and Tucson.

By driving women, educated white voters and, most significantly, growing blocs of minorities away from the Republican Party, Mr. Trump has hastened social and political changes already well underway in two key regions, the interior West and the upper South, that not long ago tilted to the right.

Now, even as Hillary Clinton contends with inflamed Democratic anxiety over renewed scrutiny of her private email server, these once-red areas -- a string of states that voted twice for George W. Bush -- are providing an unexpected firewall for her campaign.

Democrats are already strongly confident of victory in three of them -- Colorado, Nevada and Virginia -- and believe that a fourth, North Carolina, is likely to break their way as well. 

Hatred of the majority is a losing proposition for a political party.

Posted by orrinj at 3:10 PM


The crisis of the Arab world : From Aleppo to Mosul (The Economist, Oct 8th 2016)

SURVEY the rubble of the Fertile Crescent, and a disturbing pattern emerges: from the Mediterranean to the Gulf, those bearing the brunt of war are for the most part Sunni Arabs. Though they form the largest ethnic group and are heirs of fabled empires, many of their great cities are in the hands of others: the Jews in Jerusalem; the Christians and Shias in Beirut; the Alawites in Damascus; and, latterly, the Shias in Baghdad. Sunnis make up most of the region's refugees. Where Sunnis hold on to power, as in the Gulf states, they feel encircled by a hostile Iran and abandoned by an indifferent America.

The malaise goes beyond sectarianism. The Arab state is in crisis almost everywhere, aggravated by decades of misrule, not least by Sunni leaders. Think only of Iraq's appalling ex-president, Saddam Hussein, the quintessential Sunni Arab strongman; or of Egypt's flawed leader, Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi. The Sunnis' sense that they are assailed from all sides helps to explain how the jihadists of Islamic State (IS), offering to restore the ancient caliphate, were able to take over vast Sunni-populated areas in Syria and Iraq. No battlefield victory against jihadists will be complete, and no diplomatic solution will be lasting, until the Sunnis' dispossession is dealt with.

Right now the future of the region is being decided in two venerable cities: Aleppo, the last urban redoubt of the Syrian rebellion against Mr Assad; and Mosul, IS's most prized possession in Iraq. The conduct of the battles, and the political order that follows them, will determine the course of the region's barbaric wars. The best hope for peace lies in federalism and decentralisation to give Sunnis, and others, a proper voice.

The entire war has consisted of liberating and empowering the naturally democratic Shi'a.  The Salafi Sunni are right that they are encircled.  The hard part is for us to accept that the Islamist parties--the Muslim Brotherhood--are also democratic and only the Islamicists--Salafi/Wahabbi--are the enemy.  

Posted by orrinj at 3:08 PM


A Christian Declaration on American Foreign Policy (The Editors, Summer 2016, Providence)

There is no perfect human political system, but we believe the liberal order is the least flawed of all presently available options and constitutes the best means for accomplishing the ends for which government was ordained. Politically, liberal order comprises accountable self-government, the rule of law, civil liberties, and religious freedom. Economically, liberal order means relatively open markets, freedom of the seas, the sanctity of contract, and peaceful rule-based dispute adjudication. Internationally, liberal order means nonaggression, mutual security, territorial inviolability--with limited exceptions for humanitarian intervention--and favors intergovernmental cooperation on issues of global concern. Liberal order is especially powerful where these overlap--as it does among the community of economically open liberal democracies that participate in mutual defense and cooperative security arrangements. Other goals at which governments aim--including providing for the poor and disadvantaged, and promoting the flourishing of all citizens--are most effectively pursued within the framework of liberal order.

America's Role

We believe the United States should continue to lead the world towards these goals--as it has done since the end of World War II--for two reasons. First, it is in America's own best interest because liberal order is the outer perimeter of American security. The American government is morally responsible for the safety of the American people, rightly prioritizes their security, and rightly maintains an effective military to deter and defeat those who would attack the United States. But the United States' safety and prosperity is most strongly assured in a world shaped by liberal norms of accountable governance, open economies, and cooperative security--a world in which military force is less likely to be called upon in the first place.

Second, the United States is still the leading power in the world, especially in partnership with its democratic partners and allies: No other nation or alliance has the economic, military, or political resources required to provide the organization, administration, and coordination required for global leadership. Without American and allied leadership, much of the garden of world order would go untended--evidence of which we have seen in recent years as actors with scant regard for the responsible use of power have stepped into the vacuum created by American passivity. While America's leadership is imperfect, we do not see a plausible alternative and are concerned about what kind of world would grow under different leadership. American leadership should not be taken as an excuse for other states to abdicate their own responsibilities. But the past century has amply demonstrated that if the United States does not do its part, other states will not do theirs. When the United States does step up, that increases the likelihood that others will do the same.

To accomplish this, the United States must use its power responsibly. This has been a source of considerable confusion. Americans have often erred in applying ethical principles to their national life. Some Christians tend to equate the United States with ancient Israel and argue the former shares the latter's unique providential tasks, a tendency which blurs the special status of Old Testament Israel and blinds Americans to the sins and errors in their own history and their own government's policies. Other Christians have erred by holding the state t