March 2, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 6:28 PM


Devices Seized in Yemen Raid Offer Some Clues to Qaeda Tactics (ERIC SCHMITT and DAVID E. SANGER, MARCH 1, 2017, NY Times)

The raid is a delicate issue in the Trump administration because the president authorized it five days into office, over dinner at the White House with Mr. Mattis and several other senior officials. But in an interview with "Fox & Friends" on Tuesday, Mr. Trump seemed to distance himself from the operation, saying that responsibility for the decision to go forward rested with his generals. "This was something that was, you know, just, they wanted to do," he said.

The information contained in the cellphones, laptop computers and other materials scooped up in the raid is still being analyzed, but it has not yet revealed any specific plots, and it has not led to any strikes against Qaeda militants in Yemen or elsewhere, officials said.

Posted by orrinj at 6:15 PM


Think You Can Do Better? The Obamacare Standard (David Kendall,  March 1, 2017, Third Way)

The question now is: will Republicans make these metrics better--or worse?

9 out of 10 working adults have health insurance.1

3 out of 4 working-age adults have no gaps in coverage over the course of a year.2

19 out of 20 children have health insurance.3

No Americans are denied coverage due to pre-existing conditions such as pregnancy or cancer.4

No American is dying or going bankrupt because they exhausted their health care coverage.5

Employer-sponsored coverage has held steady.6 [...]

Access to primary care through community health centers has increased steadily for the past five years, for a total increase of 25%.13

The number of primary care providers has grown steadily for the past five years, for a total increase of 18%.14

Hospitals have seen a steady decline in unpaid medical bills starting in 2012.15 [...]

Health care inflation over the last six years has averaged one-half of 1%.18

Posted by orrinj at 6:09 PM


Is the GOP's Tea Party Over? : Arizona was the poster child for Tea Party politics. Now the state's Republican leaders are focusing instead on core establishment issues. The shift there could signal what's to come across the country. (ALAN GREENBLATT, FEBRUARY 23, 2017, Governing)

In Arizona, as in other Republican-dominated states, there have been prolonged battles in recent years that pitted establishment-oriented Republicans -- those aligned with the chamber of commerce and large corporations -- against GOP legislators backed by the Tea Party and championing hard-line social issues. In Arizona, that battle is over for now. The establishment has won. "The legislature has been more careful about the bills being introduced," says Glenn Hamer, president of the state Chamber of Commerce. "I'm not aware of any mainstream legislators in the state who are eager to move off the road of economic development and education."

Posted by orrinj at 1:30 PM


Donald Trump Fiscal Irresponsibility: Lower Taxes, More Spending (Kevin D. Williamson, 3/02/17,  National Review)

Populism does not mean putting the American people first. Populism means telling the American people whatever it is they want to hear, even if it is bull and everybody knows it.

The courtiers and scribes spent the evening after President Donald Trump's big speech to Congress engaged in increasingly absurd metaphysical speculation over the nature of what it means to be "presidential" and the degree to which Trump has achieved this. Never has so much gibberish been uttered by so many over a reflexive adjective.

And there were exclamations of surprise: "He came out against . . . bigotry!" Well, raise my rent. What did you expect him to do, endorse the vandalism of Jewish cemeteries? End Black History Month by saying, "Hey, you know what, Joe Biden was right: We do want to put you back in chains!"

Preposterous nonsense. But that is what we must expect from our increasingly ceremonial presidency. Who applauded? Who didn't? Who was the first to stop clapping? What does it mean? It is difficult to imagine a self-respecting people's consenting to be governed by these people, and to be condescended to by their sycophants.

Posted by orrinj at 1:22 PM


Trump's World Increasingly Shaped by Fox News, and Fox by Trump (Shannon Pettypiece  and Gerry Smith, March 2, 2017, Bloomberg)

Donald Trump's TV viewing habits have changed since he became president -- networks he views as hostile have fallen out of favor, Fox News is in heavy rotation -- creating an unusually close relationship between a president and a news outlet.

Long a voracious consumer of cable news, Trump has cut back how much he watches CNN and MSNBC in recent weeks, having sworn off the latter network's "Morning Joe" after criticism from its hosts, according to a senior White House aide privy to the president's viewing habits.

Posted by orrinj at 9:35 AM


Donald Trump's First Congressional Address Was The Speech People Needed To Hear (Ben Domenech, MARCH 1, 2017, The Federalist)

The first month of Donald Trump's presidency has been marked by this repeated unending observation among media observers: "This is not normal. This is not normal. This is not normal." So it's possible that much of the ebullient praise for last night's address to a joint session of Congress is borne out of it being, well, normal - normal in tone and in manner. Boring, if you will, in a safe and responsible way. One could imagine John Kasich giving much of that speech, especially the parts about family leave; one could imagine Tom Cotton giving much of that speech, especially the parts about the evils of the sequester; one could imagine Mike Pence giving much of that speech, especially the parts about America. The point is that this was in large part a generic big-spending tax-cutting cop-and-military-defending Republican speech. Which is safe, and recognizable, and, well, normal.

You only had bunches of things to hate if you believe in free trade, fiscal responsibility, entitlement reform, and balanced budgets - things the Republican Party once stood for but it turns out were never part of its animating mission. So, essentially, Paul Ryan was put through 90 minutes of on-air waterboarding for him and his Reaganesque/Jack Kemp mission for the party. But he swallowed hard, and stood, and yes, he clapped. As someone who believes in all these things from the comfort of not being a member of Congress, I didn't have to - I just gripped hard on my copy of The Fountainhead, and wished him well.

Fortunately, Congress is in control and can just ignore him.
Posted by orrinj at 9:29 AM


Trump Taps Putin Critic for Senior White House Position : The selection of Brookings scholar Fiona Hill comes as the Trump administration draws fire for contacts with Russian officials. (JOHN HUDSON, MARCH 2,  2017, Foreign Policy)

The Trump administration has offered a well-respected scholar and sober critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin the position of White House senior director for Europe and Russia, a White House official told Foreign Policy. [...]

Since President Donald Trump's election in November, she has dismissed the possibility of a dramatic rapprochement with Russia given the inherent differences between Washington and Moscow. "The Russians will get all giddy with expectations, and then they'll be dashed, like, five minutes into the relationship because the U.S. and Russia just have a very hard time ... being on the same page," she told The Atlantic in November.

Posted by orrinj at 9:15 AM


Are We Living in the Matrix? (Joe Heschmeyer, 3/02/17, Strange Notions)

On Monday, the New Yorker suggested that "the bizarre finale to Sunday night's Oscar ceremony brought to mind the theory--far from a joke--that humanity is living in a computer simulation gone haywire." Lest you think that such a self-evidently absurd theory is a mere cry for attention from a dying publication, the idea that we're all in the Matrix was actually seriously debated at the American Museum of Natural History's 2016 Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate. 

The list of those partial to this theory include some of the most prominent scientific voices in our culture, and the debate was moderated by one of the most famous:

Moderator Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the museum's Hayden Planetarium, put the odds at 50-50 that our entire existence is a program on someone else's hard drive. "I think the likelihood may be very high," he said.

So how do people this smart end up advocating a theory this absurd? Simply put, because they're atheistic materialists smart enough to see the implications of their own religious and philosophical views. 

...resides in no small part in our rejection of Materialism and Europe's embrace of it.

Posted by orrinj at 9:11 AM


Top Republicans call on Sessions to recuse himself from Russia investigation (Karoun Demirjian, March 2, 2017, Washington Post)

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said during an appearance on MSNBC that Sessions should bow out to maintain "the trust of the American people."

Minutes later, House Oversight and Government Reform committee chairman Jason Chaffetz joined McCarthy's call, tweeting that "AG Sessions should clarify his testimony and recuse himself."

Posted by orrinj at 8:22 AM


Women Have 'Chick Flicks.' What About Men? (GLORIA STEINEM, MARCH 2, 2017, NY Times)

I was on a flight from New York to Seattle recently when a long delay on the tarmac prompted the airline to offer us a free movie. As the flight attendant read the choices aloud, a young man across the aisle said, "I don't watch chick flicks!"

I knew what he meant, and so did the woman sitting next to me. A "chick flick" is one that has more dialogue than car chases, more relationships than special effects, and whose suspense comes more from how people live than from how they get killed.

I wasn't challenging his preference, but I did question the logic of his term. [...]

Still, this was not the problem of the guy on the plane. He was just trying to find a movie he wanted to watch. His "chick flick" label might help him avoid certain movies, but shouldn't he have a label to guide him toward movies he actually liked?

The key difference, of course, lies in the type of relationship depicted.  If the guy ends up with the woman it's a chick flick.  If he ends alone (or dead, preferably in the obligatory crucifix scene, or with other men, which is the same thing) it's a guy flick:



The Maltese Falcon

The Magnificent Seven

The Searchers

The Great Escape

The Godfather


The Sand Pebbles

Bridge on the River Kwai

Double Indemnity

Sunset Boulevard

Lawrence of Arabia

Citizen Kane

Gone With the Wind

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Cool Hand Luke

On the Waterfront



Master and Commander



To Kill a Mockingbird

The Exorcist

Pulp Fiction

Posted by orrinj at 8:15 AM


Pakistan's cabinet green-lights tribal region reform (Al Jazeera, 3/02/17)

Authorities began the reform process in the northwestern region after fighters with al-Qaeda and the Taliban established sanctuaries there. The army regained control of the last of the territories in an offensive launched in mid-2014 that lasted until the end of 2016.

"We want to bring tribesmen in the national mainstream so that their deprivations could end," Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif told the cabinet. [...]

The set of constitutional, political, and administrative reforms are aimed at bringing the areas at par with the rest of the country, a spokesman for Sharif said.

A 10-year development programme will be introduced for all of FATA and the merger will be carried out over a period of five years. 

Amad Khan, from Bajaur Agency in FATA, told Al Jazeera the reforms will put a proper education system in place. 

"We have sacrificed a lot for Pakistan and for years we haven't been given our basic rights," he said.

"This reform will bring schools, colleges and a proper health system in our areas accessible to us. Even though it took years to be acknowledged by our country, we are thankful that it finally happened."

More than 1.8 million people from FATA  have been displaced by insurgency, counter-insurgency and other related violence in Pakistan. Most of them live in IDP camps in Peshawar and urban centres such as Karachi.

"People look at us as terrorists since we come from that area... No, that is not true. I myself have lost my uncle in a terrorist attack, we have suffered a lot, so this little change brings hope," said Khan.

Establishing sovereigns in the Tribal Areas, rural Afghanistan, Palestine, Western Iraq and Eastern Syria will allow us to hold them responsible for terrorists in their territory.

Posted by orrinj at 8:08 AM


Behind scenes, Ivanka encouraged Trump's change of tone: sources (Reuters, 3/02/17)

Behind the scenes at the White House, U.S. President Donald Trump's daughter Ivanka was a key advocate for the more measured, less combative tone he struck in his speech to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night, officials said. [...]

A senior White House official said Ivanka Trump made recommendations for the speech during a brainstorming session in the Oval Office on Sunday, helping her father decide on a new approach aimed at easing concerns over whether he had the right temperament to govern effectively.

Interesting how Bannon and Preibus fight over blame, but no one gets credit besides Ivanka and Jared.  And, of course, Donald himself is a prop.

Posted by orrinj at 7:44 AM


The truth about Obama's economic legacy and Trump's inheritance (Christian Weller, 3/01/17, National Memo)

The current economic expansion just became the third-longest on record. The economy has been adding jobs every month for more than six years, the longest winning streak since World War II. And the federal budget deficit has sharply declined from a high of 9.8 percent of GDP in the middle of the Great Recession to a manageable 3.2 percent last year.

...and it's the easiest time to become president ever.

Jobless claims sink 19,000 to 223,000 in new postrecession low (Jeffry Bartash, Mar 2, 2017, Marketwatch)

New claims, a measure of layoffs, have now been below the key 300,000 threshold for 104 straight weeks, according to government data.

The less volatile four-week average of initial claims dropped by 6,250 to 234,250. That's the lowest level since April 1973.

Posted by orrinj at 7:38 AM


Muslim veterans offer to guard Jewish sites across US (GABE FRIEDMAN, March 2, 2017, Times of Israel)

Following the recent wave of bomb threats against Jewish community centers and the vandalism of two Jewish cemeteries, some Muslims on Twitter are offering to help guard Jewish sites. [...]

This latest show of solidarity comes after an online fundraising campaign started by two Muslims -- and touted by "Harry Potter" author J.K. Rowling -- raised more than $150,000 to repair a vandalized Jewish cemetery outside of St. Louis last week. Some 170 gravestones were toppled at the Chesed Shel Emeth cemetery in University City, Missouri.

One of the founders of the campaign, Linda Sarsour, is a supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and a harsh critic of Israel. [...]

On Monday, a Muslim man who started an online fundraising campaign for a Florida mosque damaged in an arson attempt said that many of the donors to the campaign, which raised $60,000, were Jewish.

"I couldn't understand why people were donating in what seemed like weird amounts to the cause. There are sums of 18, 36, 72.00 dollars etc. then I figured out after clicking on the names Avi, Cohen, Gold-stein, Rubin, Fisher.... Jews donate in multiples of 18 as a form of what is called 'Chai'. It wishes the recipient a long life," Adeel Karim, a member of the Islamic Society of New Tampa wrote Monday in a Facebook post. "The Jewish faith has shown up in force to support our New Tampa Islamic community. I'm floored."

Posted by orrinj at 7:23 AM


Donald Trump's Inaugural Pastor Creates 'Safe Haven' for Immigrants (Elisabeth Dias, 3/01/17, TIME)

The Sacramento church of an evangelical pastor who led a prayer at Donald Trump's inauguration is offering beds for congregants who need a safe haven from immigration raids or domestic violence.

Pastors at New Season Christian Worship Center set up thirty cots in two large rooms just days after the President issued his January executive order that expanded federal deportation policy. Congregants spread the word that they were available for anyone who was afraid of the immigration policies' potential effect. Half a dozen families showed up in the past month. Most stayed just a couple of days. About half came with fears over immigration and half with fears of domestic abuse, according to church officials. [...]

Theologically conservative churches face different challenges from their liberal counterparts. Many evangelical churches have members who are strong Trump supporters as well as immigrants who are both legal and undocumented. NHCLC is a largely conservative network of evangelical Hispanic churches, and Latino evangelical congregations have been growing quickly in the U.S. Nearly a quarter of Assemblies of God churches, for example, are Latino, and much of the new growth has come from Hispanic communities. "This is a community that is not completely hostile to him," Rodriguez says. "It was the conservative evangelical community that played a dominant role in the election of our president."

Predominantly white evangelical congregations face a similar challenge. Rod Loy leads First Assembly North Little Rock in Arkansas, a theologically conservative church, and he estimates that 10% of his 5,000-congregant church is Latino. This week, Loy met with the Latino leadership of his church to talk about the "overwhelming" fear that families are feeling from Trump's policies. The church also gave a college student about $1500 to pay for her family's citizenship papers. Whenever a church member becomes a citizen, Loy says, the church celebrates during the Sunday service, giving them a standing ovation and a "basket of Americana," including a can of Coke, an American flag, apple piece and a baseball.

Loy hopes to start a church-based immigration program, and is sending a team to an upcoming immigration law training in Minneapolis with the Evangelical Free Church of America. He expects to soon have volunteers to represent congregants in immigration court. "We are all very concerned," Loy says. "We have to respect our president, we have to respect our leaders, but if you live in fear, there is no freedom."

Posted by orrinj at 7:07 AM


Trump administration has found only $20 million in existing funds for wall (Julia Edwards Ainsley, 3/02/17, Reuters)

The rapid start of construction, promised throughout Trump's campaign and in an executive order issued in January on border security, was to be financed, according to the White House, with "existing funds and resources" of the Department of Homeland Security.

But so far, the DHS has identified only $20 million that can be re-directed to the multi-billion-dollar project, according to a document prepared by the agency and distributed to congressional budget staff last week. [...]

An internal report, previously reported by Reuters, estimated that fully walling off or fencing the entire southern border would cost $21.6 billion - $9.3 million per mile of fence and $17.8 million per mile of wall.

Posted by orrinj at 7:02 AM


Justice Dept: Sessions spoke with Russian ambassador in 2016 (Eric Tucker, 3/02/17, Associated Press)

Attorney General Jeff Sessions had two conversations with the Russian ambassador to the United States during the presidential campaign season last year, contact that immediately fueled calls for him to recuse himself from a Justice Department investigation into Russian interference in the election.

Sessions, an early supporter of President Donald Trump and a policy adviser to the Republican candidate, did not disclose those communications at his confirmation hearing in January when asked what he would do if "anyone affiliated" with the campaign had been in contact with the Russian government.

Sessions answered that he had not had communication with the Russians.

He's the one the Senate should not have confirmed.

Posted by orrinj at 6:51 AM


The Mythical Link Between Immigrants and High Crime Rates (Mike Maciag, 3/02/17, Governing)

A large body of research, however, finds no link between immigration and high crime rates, with some studies suggesting places with more immigrants actually enjoy slightly lower crime rates. Still, critics often contend that illegal immigration leads to more crime as research has generally failed to distinguish such individuals from the vast majority of legal immigrants who've been vetted by authorities.

To shed light on this contention, Governing conducted an original analysis using recently released metro area population estimates from the Pew Research Center for "unauthorized immigrants" -- people who crossed the border illegally or overstayed visas. The analysis not only found no link with violent crime, but indicated concentrations of unauthorized immigrants were associated with marginally lower violent crime rates. A statistically significant negative correlation was also shown for property crimes. For every 1 percentage-point increase in the unauthorized immigrant share of a metro area's population, average property crime rates dropped by 94 incidents per 100,000 residents.

Estimates of undocumented immigrants and average annual crime rates over a three-year period for 154 metro areas were analyzed in a regression model, controlling for a dozen socioeconomic variables. Pew's unauthorized immigrant population estimates are the first set of regional-level figures the center has published. Nationally, they suggest this demographic accounts for a quarter of foreign-born residents, or about 3.5 percent of the total U.S. population.

Our analysis of the Pew data, while limited to a narrow time period, mirrors findings of broader academic research dismissing a relationship between foreign-born residents, regardless of legal status, and higher crime rates.

"The literature is pretty clear," says Robert Adelman, an associate professor at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Buffalo. "Results are strong and stable across time and place."

A recent study Adelman co-authored in the Journal of Ethnicity in Criminal Justice found increases in total foreign-born populations over time were associated with reductions in robberies, murder rates and all types of property crimes across metro areas. Some individual studies have reported contrary evidence, but they are in the minority. A forthcoming paper in The Annual Review of Criminology reviews more than 50 studies, finding that 2.5 times as many studies indicate a negative correlation between immigration and crime as those suggesting the opposite effect. Incarceration rates depict similar patterns, with an analysis by the advocacy group American Immigration Council reporting immigrant males ages 18 to 39 are incarcerated at roughly half the rate of native-born residents.

Despite decades of research casting doubt on any connection, emphasis on public safety risks that immigrants could pose remains a frequent talking point in the push to bolster immigration enforcement. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:38 AM


Falcons can only hope to avoid same fate as recent Patriots postseason victims (Jeff Howe, March 02, 2017, Boston Herald)

One by one, Patriots adversaries lined up yesterday at the scouting combine to unveil reasons why the future will reveal a different path.

But the fact of the matter is, over the past couple years, the Pats haven't just ended their opponents' seasons, they've crippled some foes, leaving them reeling for months and, in certain cases, years to come.

It is often held against the Pats that the AFC has been fairly weak in the Belichick era, but that fails to reckon with how their dominance forces teams into idiotic short term decision making.  The Falcons--who just blew up a coaching staff that had a Super Bowl won--are a perfect example of that.

Posted by orrinj at 6:26 AM


Ohio's voucher students fare worse than public-school peers, study finds ( Catherine Candisky, 7/07/16, The Columbus Dispatch)

Ohio's EdChoice program provides 20,000 students in low-performing public schools with tax-funded vouchers for private school tuition.

But parents would be wrong to assume their children are getting a better education, according to new study that found many students who used vouchers to attend private schools fared worse on state reading and math tests compared with their peers in public schools.

Chad Aldis, vice president for Ohio policy and advocacy at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, which commissioned the report and supports vouchers, called the results "disappointing," but he cautioned that researchers looked at a limited number of students and raised questions that warrant further exploration.