April 15, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 10:19 PM


Trump says he can't be sued for violence at his rallies because he won the election (Avi Selk, April 15, 2017, Washington Post)

[W]hile the lawsuit grinds on, with more accusations added last week, he claims he won immunity along with the election.

"Mr. Trump is immune from suit because he is President of the United States," his lawyers wrote Friday, rebutting a complaint filed by three protesters who claimed Trump incited a riot against them at a Louisville event in March 2016. [...]

And in another new filing in the same case, a Trump supporter accused of assaulting protesters agreed with the plaintiffs that Trump wanted a riot -- while denying he actually harmed anyone.

Alvin Bamberger, who was seen in a video pushing a protester through a jeering crowd at the Louisville convention center, "would not have acted as he did without Trump and/or the Trump Campaign's specific urging and inspiration," Bamberger's lawyer wrote.

...but where does he find the lawyers?

Posted by orrinj at 10:12 PM


US said preparing strike to 'utterly destroy' N. Korean nuclear program (TIMES OF ISRAEL AND AFP, April 16, 2017)

On Sunday, the UK's Sunday Times reported that top military advisers to US President Donald Trump have told their British counterparts that Washington was considering a preemptive strike against North Korea's nuclear program, and believed it had the firepower to neutralize it.

Citing "senior sources" in the British government, the paper said the US believed it was able to "utterly destroy" the key installations required to remove the threat the program posed to North Korea's neighbors and the US.

According to the paper, US Defense Secretary James Mattis discussed a US strike on North Korea with his British counterpart Michael Fallon some two weeks ago, and similar conversations have been held between British officials and Trump's national security adviser H.R. McMaster.

The VP should remain there until it's over.

Posted by orrinj at 7:42 PM


North Korea just tried to launch a missile, but failed (Zachary M. Seward, 4/15/17, Quartz)

North Korea attempted to launch a missile from its east coast, but it failed, according to the South Korean and US militaries.

"US Pacific Command detected and tracked what we assess was a North Korean missile launch at 11:21am Hawaiian time April 15," read a statement by the US military. "The missile blew up almost immediately."

Posted by orrinj at 5:29 PM


With Trump Appointees, a Raft of Potential Conflicts and 'No Transparency' (ERIC LIPTON, BEN PROTESS and ANDREW W. LEHREN, APRIL 15, 2017, NY Times)

President Trump is populating the White House and federal agencies with former lobbyists, lawyers and consultants who in many cases are helping to craft new policies for the same industries in which they recently earned a paycheck.

The potential conflicts are arising across the executive branch, according to an analysis of recently released financial disclosures, lobbying records and interviews with current and former ethics officials by The New York Times in collaboration with ProPublica.

In at least two cases, the appointments may have already led to violations of the administration's own ethics rules. But evaluating if and when such violations have occurred has become almost impossible because the Trump administration is secretly issuing waivers to the rules.

Posted by orrinj at 2:54 PM


Incubators of Islamic Supremacism  (ANDREW C. MCCARTHY, March 26, 2016, National Review)

Reacting to the latest jihadist atrocity in Brussels, in which 31 were killed and 230 wounded, Senator Cruz argued that to protect our national security against radical Islamic terror networks, it is imperative for law enforcement to conduct surveillance in Muslim communities. 

Cruz was not calling for a dragnet targeting all Muslims. In his presidential campaign (to which I am an adviser), he has stressed the importance of identifying the enemy as radical Islam. That is not campaign rhetoric; it is how we figure out who warrants surveillance -- and far from being anything new, it is how counterterrorism was done before President Obama came to power.  [...]

Following the 9/11 attacks, counterterrorism policy shifted away from the Clinton approach of treating radical Islamic terrorism as a law-enforcement challenge, which essentially meant prosecutions only after Americans had been killed. The new strategy regarded jihadism as a national-security challenge and aimed to prevent attacks from happening. Such a strategy must be intelligence-driven. It must be based on an understanding of the nature of the threat and surveillance of the places where the threat thrives.

If the Government Cannot Be Trusted, Can It Protect the Nation? (ANDREW C. MCCARTHY, April 15, 2017, National Review)

[B]ecause intelligence involves secrets and sources and life and death, we've accepted that the government cannot tell us its reasons for investigating. We trust that when the government tells us it is protecting national security, it is not actually scheming to spy on the incumbent administration's political opponents . . . and on us. But can we trust the government?

Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/446767/fisa-reauthorization-federal-intelligence-surveillance-act-trump-administration-spying-scandal-national-security

Posted by orrinj at 2:29 PM


Hamas leader hints prisoner exchange deal in the works (TIMES OF ISRAEL, April 15, 2017)

Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal indicated Saturday that members of the terror organization imprisoned in Israel will soon be released as a result of behind the scenes efforts by the group to secure their release.

"The release of all the Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons [will take place] soon," Hebrew media reports quoted him as saying at a conference on the issue. [...]

"We have set for ourselves a goal of cleaning all the Israeli prisons of Palestinians," he added, according to the Haaretz daily.

Posted by orrinj at 11:41 AM


Peter Navarro: Trump's Nutty Economics Professor Peter Navarro (KEVIN D. WILLIAMSON, April 14, 2017, National Review)

In the collected works of Peter Navarro, there is a peculiar paradox: Some of the dullest prose imaginable challenges the sharp edge of Hanlon's razor, the aphorism that advises us: "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity." Professor Navarro of the University of California at Irvine has hanging on the wall of an office or a den somewhere a doctorate in economics from Harvard; barring some Forrest Gump-level chain of coincidence, it does not seem likely that anything as innocent as stupidity explains his literary output, which consists of a few how-to-make-money-in-the-stock-market books (an actual title: "If It's Raining in Brazil, Buy Starbucks") from earlier in his career and a half dozen or so low-minded books about China with such talk-radio-ready names as "Death by China" and "The Coming China Wars," two books that contain 80 exclamation points between them, as well as several pamphlets summarizing the main points of his books. 

He is President Donald Trump's house China intellectual, the only one of his close advisers who is a credentialed academic economist, albeit one whose area of specialty is utility companies, not international trade. (Our most famous scholar of trade economics, Paul Krugman, apparently was not available for service in the Trump administration. Pity.) Navarro has been named head of the newly created National Trade Council, a position in which he is well positioned to do a great deal of damage to the Trump administration, to the United States and its economic interests, and, possibly, to the world. That's quite a step up for a man who was teaching undergraduate econ to business students until a few months ago. 

It will not escape your notice that his career bears more than a passing resemblance to that of Elizabeth Warren.

Posted by orrinj at 11:11 AM


The Miracle of Kershaw (Joe Posnanski, 4/15/17, The Medium)

You probably know that, by the best available data, Jackie Robinson hit .097 his one year of playing baseball at UCLA. It seems impossible to believe, but it has been repeated by so many sources and connects to so many other stories (including one college newspaper story which referred to something as "colder than Jackie Robinson's batting average") that it's probably true.

Jackie Robinson was a brilliant football player at UCLA, averaging 11 yards per carry in one of his seasons. If times had been different, he would unquestionably have been a high NFL draft pick and a potential star.

Jackie Robinson was an extraordinary track star. He was a real threat in the long jump for the 1940 Olympics, but those were canceled. He did not want to long jump in college, but he did anyway and won the NCAA title. If times had been different, he would unquestionably have been an Olympic star.

Jackie Robinson was a fantastic basketball player. He wasn't a particularly tall man -- 5-foot-11 was his listed height -- but he was a great shooter and twice led the Pacific Coast Conference in scoring. Local writers moaned that the Eastern elite did not appreciate that Robinson was the best player in the country. If times had been different, he might have had a shot to play in the NBA (this was before there even WAS an NBA).

Jackie Robinson reached the semifinal of what was then called the "National Negro Tennis Tournament," and he did so even though he rarely played tennis. Jackie Robinson won the Pacific Coast Conference golf tournament, even though he rarely played golf. He won various swimming championships while still in high school and could have followed that route too in a time different from his own.

And he hit .097 in college. Think about that for a moment.

Posted by orrinj at 11:03 AM


The Secret Life of Pitchers : What happens on the mound has more to do with the mind than the arm. (WILL LEITCH,  MAY 2017, The Atlantic)

A pitcher throwing to a batter is the most elemental event in baseball: Nothing can happen until the pitcher releases the ball. All the fielders, all the base runners--they're just bystanders like the rest of us. The drama out there on the field can't compare with the drama going on between those two men, one poised to pitch and the other to hit, each trying to outsmart the other. Mess with that delicate balance, and I'm not sure the sport will be baseball anymore.

Talk about pressure: A multibillion-dollar industry--one that has been a centerpiece of American popular culture for more than a century--rests on a figure standing alone in the grass with millions of eyes staring at him. Such a pivotal role can exact a high price, as Rick Ankiel discovered one day back in October 2000. The Cardinals phenom, who made his Major League debut at 20, was described as the next Sandy Koufax, blessed with a 95-mph fastball and a backbreaking curveball that Mark McGwire called "The Snapdragon." As a lifelong Cardinals fan, I felt that the whole world changed when Ankiel arrived in 1999. We had a new Bob Gibson, heck, a new Bobby Fischer or Mozart: a kid who could do the most difficult job in the world without even thinking about it, just because he had lightning-bolt talent straight from the gods.

On October 3, 2000, though, the magic vanished. Ankiel was making his first postseason start, against the future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux. The Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, himself a future Hall of Famer, was so concerned about the pressure that he lied to the press and told them someone other than Ankiel was starting. In his new autobiography, The Phenomenon: Pressure, the Yips, and the Pitch That Changed My Life, written with Tim Brown, Ankiel reports that he wasn't sure what the big deal was: It was just another game, right? Then, without warning and without reason, it wasn't.

Ankiel notes the exact moment that everything fell apart: "Forty-fourth pitch of the game. Third inning. One out. A one-strike count to Andruw Jones. Greg Maddux at first base. Cardinals 6, Braves 0. Throw strikes, keep the ball in the big part of the park, nothing crazy, we win. I win. The future wins." He winds up.

Everything was fine. I wasn't tired. Not too hot, not too cold ... Head was clear. No thoughts of anything other than a curveball, so natural there'd be no need to consider the mechanics of it.
He released the pitch a little late. Just a little late, but it went awry, a wild pitch, far away from the catcher, Carlos Hernández. "I stood near the front of the mound and watched all of it happen, sort of curious."

Suddenly, Ankiel could no longer pitch. He threw four more wild pitches in the inning, along with four walks. He left the field with, as he puts it, "one psyche forever hobbled." A friend of mine who was at Busch Stadium that day said the crowd's reaction was akin to 50,000 people reacting as one to the sight of their child being punched in the stomach, five times, by a bully. In subsequent seasons, Ankiel attempted comeback after comeback. But he couldn't recover the old command.

How could this happen? In Off Speed: Baseball, Pitching, & the Art of Deception, the reporter Terry McDermott quotes Hank Aaron saying, "The pitcher has got only a ball. I've got a bat. So the percentage of weapons is in my favor and I let the fellow with the ball do the fretting."

Posted by orrinj at 10:42 AM


Alt-Right Ringleader Mike Cernovich Threatens to Drop 'Motherlode' If Steve Bannon Is Ousted  (Ben Collins, 04.14.17, Daily Beast)

A week after President Donald Trump began to publicly distance himself from White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, alt-right ringleader Mike Cernovich threatened to release a "motherlode" of stories that could "destroy marriages" if Bannon is formally let go from the administration.

Cernovich made the claims that he'd release a series of "scoops" if Bannon is officially pushed out of the White House on an eleven-minute, self-recorded Periscope Thursday night.

"If they get rid of Bannon, you know what's gonna happen? The motherlode. If Bannon is removed, there are gonna be divorces, because I know about the mistresses, the sugar babies, the drugs, the pill popping, the orgies. I know everything," said Cernovich.

"If they go after Bannon, the mother of all stories is gonna drop, and we're just gonna destroy marriages, relationships--it's gonna get personal."

Posted by orrinj at 8:49 AM


THE INSIDE STORY OF THE KUSHNER-BANNON CIVIL WAR : West Wing sources come clean about the backstabbing, the bullying, the distrust, and the buzzing flies. (SARAH ELLISON, MAY 2017, Vanity Fair)

Unlike previous presidents, Trump has also neglected to appoint a professional staff with a high-level governing or White House background. This is due in part to ignorance. As reported in The Wall Street Journal, in his first meeting with Barack Obama, Trump seemed surprised by the scope of the president's duties, and his aides seemed unaware that there wasn't a permanent West Wing staff that he would simply inherit.

To get a sense of the current West Wing senior staff, I spoke with members of the administration, including some of those closest to the president, as well as with friends and former classmates of the senior team. Nearly all of them asked for anonymity in order to be able to speak freely. The West Wing right now is a place where the ground is always shifting. With the exception of two family members--Trump's daughter Ivanka, an unpaid assistant to the president, and her husband, Jared Kushner, a senior adviser to the president--no one on Trump's topmost White House staff has been with the new president for very long. That presents a sharp contrast with the teams around Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Trump's staff is as unbridled as the president himself. His advisers came together almost by accident and by default. They exhibit loyalty to their boss in front of the camera, only to whisper about him (and about their rivals, often in vicious terms) when the camera is gone.

Before they joined the campaign, many of the current staffers had shown no allegiance to Trump. Steve Bannon, at the moment still the chief strategist, and the self-styled intellectual leader of Trump's base of "deplorables," as Hillary Clinton called them, had tried on several other politicians--Sarah Palin, Rick Santorum, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz--before settling on Trump, whom Bannon referred to last year in Vanity Fair as a "blunt instrument" for his own cause. Reince Priebus, Trump's current chief of staff, is hardly a longtime loyalist. According to two senior administration officials, shortly before the election Priebus, then the chairman of the Republican National Committee, was heard telling aides that Trump was likely going to lose, and that if he did it should not be seen as the fault of the R.N.C. At the same moment, Trump's campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, who had previously worked on the Cruz campaign, was heard telling reporters that if Trump lost it would be the fault of the R.N.C. (This despite her clarification on Twitter on Election Day that she wasn't blaming the R.N.C. or Priebus.) The Priebus-Conway story circulates inside the Ivanka camp as a way of reminding everyone who Trump's real allies are. But even Ivanka has told friends, almost by way of apology, "I didn't ask for this." Senior administration officials told me that both Bannon and Priebus partisans have spent hours on the phone with reporters, planting stories about each other and their colleagues.

All West Wing staffs come to reflect the presidents they serve. Trump's West Wing is beginning to resemble the family real-estate business Trump grew up in, which has always had more in common with The Godfather than with The Organization Man. Trump has pulled family close. Kushner now occupies the office that is physically closest to the Oval Office. Ivanka Trump has taken on an official role despite her initial intention to simply be "a daughter." The appointees who have been championed by Ivanka and Jared seem at the moment to be on the rise--no surprise to some. "There is an asymmetry here. You can't compare family members to other staffers," the West Wing veteran told me. "You aren't going to fire your son-in-law or your daughter." A close associate of Trump's narrowed that safe zone even further: "Everyone is dispensable, except one person: Ivanka." But, this person warned, speaking of Jared and Ivanka, "at some point you get them out of this," because otherwise they are going to get destroyed. The best rule of thumb for survival may come from Thomas Barrack Jr., a longtime friend and ally of the president's: "Anyone who works for him and becomes victim to unfounded hubris will quickly be taken down to size." [...]

As everyone knows, the president himself is inordinately engaged with cable news, and his roots as an entertainer lie in reality television. And it may be that reality TV has lessons to offer. Sarah Gertrude Shapiro, a co-creator of the Lifetime series UnReal, told me that she found Trump to be eerily similar to her UnReal antihero, Quinn King, the female producer of a Bachelor-type reality show, Everlasting. Like King, Trump has a knack for expressing shocking sentiments that others may recoil from, Shapiro told me. And, like all great reality-TV personalities, Trump and many of his staff are "sound-bite machines" who share certain qualities: megalomania, a delusion of grandeur, a willingness to say anything, and little regard for what anyone else thinks: "They are this functionally dysfunctional ramshackle group of people who have come together through their own extremes." Shapiro is currently preparing the third season of her show, and I asked her the secret to maintaining interest season after season. She said, "A rotating cast of characters always helps." [...]

This White House team, for all its early policy failures and the administration's historically low approval ratings, is more visible to the public than perhaps any other presidential staff in history--testimony to the amount of time staff members spend talking about one another to the media they despise. Hate-watching is a key element of reality television: viewers get a surge of superiority and catharsis when watching characters they do not respect but in some strange way are drawn to. "It's incredibly satisfying to hate-watch [Trump]," Shapiro said--and the same goes for watching members of his staff. Senior West Wing aides, like the president himself, exhibit a trait that is essential for a successful reality-TV show: they are largely unself-aware, not fully realizing "how they are perceived, because they will keep stumbling into the same mess over and over again, and they are really easy to place in a cast of characters," said UnReal's Shapiro. They are, in part, reliable caricatures of themselves.

Seen in these terms, this particular White House reality show is a success. Although many of Trump's signature campaign promises--the repeal of Obamacare, the Muslim ban, the building of a wall along the Mexican border--have so far failed, the Trump presidency has propelled TV-news viewership to record numbers. Cable-TV news ratings in the first quarter of 2017 were even higher than those in the last quarter of 2016, which had the suspense of the actual election going for them.

Gauged against a different yardstick, though, the state of affairs in the West Wing is something we have never witnessed before. In every White House, there are competing loyalties and rivalries. That dynamic is normal. What is unusual about this presidency is that Trump himself is not a stable center of gravity and may be incapable of becoming one. He knows little, believes in little, and shows signs of regretting what has happened to him. Governing requires saying no to one's strongest supporters and yes to one's fiercest opponents. To have that presence of mind requires a clear and unified vision from the president. "Without an ideology or a worldview, all you have is a scramble for self-preservation and self-aggrandizement," a former West Wing aide told me.

Posted by orrinj at 8:47 AM

Posted by orrinj at 8:44 AM


Wireless price wars are cutting your phone bills (Jeffry Bartash, Apr 14, 2017, Business Insider)

Americans love their cell phones, but they also love unlimited plans that cost less. And that's putting more pressure on carriers to cut prices.

The government on Friday reported that wireless phone prices sank a record 7% in March, marking the ninth month in a row in which mobile costs declined. The last time that happened was in 1999-2000.

Over the past year, the cost of wireless phone service has tumbled 11.4%.

Posted by orrinj at 8:41 AM


Only 45% of Labour voters think Corbyn would be best PM: poll (Damien Gayle, 15 April 2017, The Guardian)

Fewer than half of Labour voters think Jeremy Corbyn would be the best prime minister, according to a new poll for the Observer that finds the Conservatives remain the most trusted party on all key issues except the NHS.

Research by Opinium suggests that, given a two-way choice between Corbyn and Theresa May, 14% of voters think the Labour leader would make the best leader of the country, compared with 47% for the prime minister. Among Labour voters asked the question, only 45% said they would like to see Corbyn in No 10.

Posted by orrinj at 8:35 AM


Pence's Medicaid experiment confounds expectations on the left and right : The program, which requires enrollees to contribute to their care, has emerged as a national model thanks to Pence's growing influence. (RACHANA PRADHAN 04/15/17, Politico)

When former Indiana Gov. Mike Pence embraced Obamacare's Medicaid expansion with conservative twists -- such as requiring enrollees to contribute to their care -- critics lamented poor people would be locked out while backers cheered the program's focus on personal responsibility.

Neither side's expectations were quite borne out. Two years later, as the program emerges as a national model thanks to Pence's role in the Trump administration, the reality on the ground shows what happens when political philosophy collides with the practical challenges of providing health care to tens of thousands of people, many of them in crisis.

Advocates for the poor in Indiana argue that liberal fears of depressed enrollment were overblown. More than 400,000 Hoosiers are enrolled, despite state requirements that low-income residents make nominal monthly contributions to their care or face stiff penalties.

Likewise, Republicans' contention that the system would promote personal responsibility and prod beneficiaries to ration their care and make better decisions about what treatments to seek also turned out to be overly optimistic.

By all accounts, the expansion -- known as the Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0 -- has made a difference. Health officials in Scott County, Ind., a poverty-stricken community about 30 miles from Louisville, Ky., paint a picture of a program that's bolstered a patchy social safety net -- especially during a major HIV outbreak triggered by the opioid epidemic -- without bankrupting the Hoosier State or punishing enrollees. [...]

If the liberal specter of a punitive system pushing out enrollees hasn't quite materialized, neither has conservatives' vision of a market-like system where patients with "skin in the game" make hard choices about their own health spending. That's because family members, health workers and nonprofits are helping cover their out-of-pocket costs.

"With some people, I think [personal responsibility] might be a little bit lost," Sanders said in her office at the Scott County Partnership, a nonprofit. "We try and do what we can in the little bit of time we have with them. But you can only give them so many pamphlets."

Try giving them money.

Posted by orrinj at 8:32 AM


Hitler Was Not a Christian (Mark Judge, 2017 04 14, Splice)

"Pantheism is the idea that all of nature is God," Weikart, a history professor at California State University, explained to me in a recent interview. "Because Hitler thought that nature was God, he thought that following the laws of nature was doing the divine will."

In the Judeo-Christian tradition, nature is a creation of God, not God himself. According to Weikart, Hitler believed that God was found in the power of nature, particularly the violent Darwinian struggle for survival. "Hitler thought that destroying people he thought as weak or inferior was in perfect accordance with what nature does," Weikart says. "After all, in nature, animals get killed, and certain species go extinct. Hitler thought the same thing should go on in human society because he thought certain races were inferior to others, so he thought destroying them was a good thing." This kind of ruthless theology can be found on both extremes of modern politics, from the laissez-faire survival-of-the fittest rants of free market conservatives to the abortion on demand evil of the left (there's also alt-right maestro Richard Spencer's sickening pro-abortion musings).

Which is why he also wasn't a fascist.

Posted by orrinj at 8:28 AM


How big a problem is crime committed by immigrants? (Julia Dahl, 1/27/17, CBS News)

Florida State University Professor of Criminology Daniel Mears says that "good data" focused on immigrant criminality - specifically undocumented immigrant criminality - is scarce. Determining definitively whether someone who has been arrested is in the country legally can take significant effort, and the result might not be noted in all law enforcement records. In addition, researchers often have to rely on arrest and conviction numbers, which may be misleading because they can reflect law enforcement priorities more than criminal behavior. A jurisdiction might see a spike one year, for example, if a police chief or prosecutor decides to prioritize enforcement against immigrants. 

Despite this, Mears and others who study this subject seem to agree that most research indicates immigrants actually commit crime at lower rates than native-born citizens.

According to analysis of the 2010 census and the American Communities Survey done by the non-profit  American Immigration Council, immigrants to the United States are significantly less likely than native-born citizens to be incarcerated. The authors found that 1.6 percent of immigrant males age 18-39 are incarcerated, compared to 3.3 percent of the native-born.

The divide was even sharper when the authors examined the incarceration rate among immigrant men the authors believe likely to be undocumented -- specifically less-educated men from El Salvador and Guatemala between age 18-29. According to AIC senior researcher Walter Ewing, there are very few ways for men in this demographic to emigrate legally. According to the analysis, these likely undocumented immigrants had an incarceration rate of 1.7 percent, compared with 10.7 percent for native-born men without a high school diploma.

One study published in the journal Criminology and Public Policy in 2008 looked at recidivism among inmates at the Los Angeles County Jail in 2002 and the authors wrote that their results "lend no support to the ubiquitous assertion that deportable aliens are a unique threat to public safety." 

This conclusion is no surprise to Christopher Salas-Wright, an assistant professor at Boston University who has studied antisocial behavior like drug use, gambling and fighting in immigrant and non-immigrant populations.

"The evidence is really compelling that immigrants are involved in these behaviors at a far lower rate than native-born Americans," Salas-Wright says.

A paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research in 2007 found that immigrants had incarceration rates about one-fifth that of native-born Americans, and that the difference actually increased between 1980 and 2000.

The reasons for this so-called "immigrant paradox" aren't fully understood, said Salas-Wright, but "one theory is people who choose to pick up their lives and move to a foreign country and set up a new life tend to be healthier people. And they tend to be interested in making this new life work."

In other words, he said, after undertaking the economic and social sacrifice necessary to emigrate, it doesn't make sense to imperil that new life by committing crime or engaging in risky behavior.

Posted by orrinj at 8:22 AM


Unleashing Arrogance, Complacency, and Mediocrity (THEODORE DALRYMPLE, 4/13/17, Library of Law & Liberty)

The reason that these philosopher-kings didn't object beforehand was that they were confident that the vision of the anointed (to use Thomas Sowell's pithy phrase) would triumph. So wedded to that vision is the author that he does not feel it even necessary to explain why Britain should have voted to remain in the EU. Beyond saying that serious economists, chief executives of large companies, the Governor of the Bank of England and the director of the International Monetary Fund were in favor of Britain remaining (which is, in essence, the argument from authority) he provided no arguments for his opinion--though, in fact, such arguments existed, the most convincing, at least to me, being Lord Falkland's famous principle that when it is not necessary to change, it is necessary not to change. Of course, when and whether change is necessary is always a matter of judgment, for no condition is perfect; but you don't wreck a room just because there is dust on the mantelpiece.

However, the main reason the author provides no arguments for his views is that he believes that there are simply no arguments against them, and that therefore everything goes by default. Apparently, anyone who is capable of reading a book must, almost by definition, agree with Mr. Oliver. Over and over again he says that the push to exit the EU was based purely on xenophobia and propaganda lies. One does not refute xenophobia or propaganda.

Unfortunately, to say that there were no arguments on the other side is itself a lie. It would be vain to deny, of course, that lies and xenophobia played no part in the campaign to leave, just as it would be vain to assert that Britain's manifold problems are principally caused by its membership of the European Union rather than by, say, the abysmally low cultural level of its population, including of the most highly educated class (as this book amply demonstrates). Culture is as much a matter of character as of education, and it is precisely character that our leaders lack.

But the most eloquent man on either side of the debate was Daniel Hannan, a man who speaks Spanish and French better than Oliver writes English, and who argued that leaving the European Union would make Britain more open to the rest of the world, not less; that far from being isolationist little Englanders, as alleged by their opponents, those in favor of the Brexit were not little Europeaners who had failed to notice that Europe was no longer the center of the world.

Part of the weakness of the book is that its author, though allegedly open to the outside world, shows no particular knowledge of it--not even of France, a mere 20 miles from our coast. If he had read its press during the campaign, he would have realized that the criticisms lodged by French commentators and even former French government ministers was just as scathing as that of Hannan and other articulate Brexiteers--namely that the EU is corrupt, bureaucratic, cumbersome, archaic, inhibitory of enterprise, economically dysfunctional, and undemocratic, and that its two most recent major innovations, the single currency and free movement across borders, had been disasters for many of its members. The only difference between the French critics and the British was that the former thought the EU was reformable, and the latter did not.

Though the author was Mr. Cameron's director of politics, whatever that might be (certainly not an elected position), he shows no interest in, or even awareness of, the political dimension of the question of Britain's EU membership. He writes as if the referendum was only about economics and immigration, ignoring that it was also a sounding of the public's view of the EU's self-proclaimed goal of ever-closer union. He therefore does not ask what the purpose is of that ever-closer union, what problem or problems it is supposed to solve, or where pursuit of this goal is likely to lead sooner or later.

This blithe unawareness of the political dimension is evident in the admiration Mr. Oliver expresses for a man called Bill Knapp, an American consultant (in what, exactly?) who came over "to sharpen lines for the PM's Question Time appearances and the wider TV debates"--a tacit admission that David Cameron is a dullard, left to his own devices a terminal bore. Knapp's "easy charm belies a razor sharp brain," he writes. "His thoughts are interesting. Almost fact free--appealing to common sense or emotion." And here is one of Mr. Knapp's  interesting thoughts: The purpose of the EU is the single market.

This establishes pretty conclusively that the consultant is either an unscrupulous liar or an ignoramus. The purpose of the EU has never been, and is certainly not now, the single market. Only someone completely lacking in political insight could take what such a man says seriously.

The notion that free people would willing choose a transnational institution ignores the universalization of self-government, capitalism and protestantism. The thought that this would happen at the heart of the Anglosphere was just delusional.

Posted by orrinj at 8:08 AM


CHINA'S NORTH KOREA PROBLEM (Hannah Beech, February 23, 2017, The New Yorker)

China and North Korea were once so close that Mao, whose elder son died on Korean soil during the Korean War, likened the relationship to an anatomical embrace between "lips and teeth." Kim Jong-il, the current Supreme Leader's father, travelled to China seven times between 2000 and 2011, even when he was ailing and near death. By contrast, the younger Kim has not met China's President Xi Jinping since taking power. "Xi Jinping does not trust Kim Jong-un at all," Wu Qiang, a political scientist at Tsinghua University, in Beijing, told me. The aversion appears to be mutual, with Kim sharing his grandfather's suspicion of the giant neighbor that long relegated Korea to tributary-state status. "This is about Kim establishing his power and legitimacy," John Delury, an expert on North Korea at Yonsei University, in Seoul, said. "Kim is a young leader of a nationalist regime, and the onus is on him to avoid kissing Xi's ring, so he can prove that he's not a pawn of Beijing."

China does have significant leverage over North Korea, as it remains the D.P.R.K.'s economic lifeline, piping in the oil needed to keep the workers' paradise operational. Shutting off that spigot could be catastrophic, even for a regime that has proven more than willing to sacrifice millions of its citizens to continue the Kim dynastic rule. For China, the prospect of economic collapse in the North, and with it the fall of the Kim family, brings a potential security nightmare to its border: a unified Korea led by the South, which currently hosts tens of thousands of American soldiers.

"The Chinese are deeply frustrated and want to do something, but they get stuck when they look at the options," said Paul Haenle, the director of the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy, in Beijing, and a former White House representative at the stalled six-party talks, which were aimed at curtailing North Korea's nuclear program. "If they put economic pressure on the North and it implodes, they lose the buffer zone and refugees flood in. If they apply political pressure, then China could become the enemy," at least in Kim Jong-un's eyes, "and then the missiles that were directed at the U.S. and its allies are suddenly pointed at them."

Posted by orrinj at 7:47 AM


Officials: No need for Trump's approval to use massive bomb (ROBERT BURNS April 15, 2017,  AP)

The US commander in Afghanistan who ordered use of the "mother of all bombs" to attack an Islamic State stronghold near the Pakistani border didn't need and didn't request President Donald Trump's approval, Pentagon officials said Friday.

The officials said that even before Trump took office in January, Gen. John Nicholson had standing authority to use the bomb, which is officially called the Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb, or MOAB, the largest non-nuclear bomb ever dropped in combat. The bomb, dropped by a special operations MC-130 aircraft, had been in Afghanistan since January.

The hard part of the WoT is getting as many of the Salafi to congregate in one place as possible, which requires a patience that we aren't great at.  Killing them is easy.  

Posted by orrinj at 7:36 AM


Observing Turkeys, and Nature's Rhythms (Jon Stableford, 4/15/17, Valley News)

It is mating season for wild turkeys, and lately a tom has been showing up to watch three hens feed beneath our apple trees. They come for the sunflower seeds that greedy blue jays have spilled from the feeders and for the chaff smaller birds have left behind. These hens appeared six weeks ago after a snowstorm, lean and hungry as they emerged from the deep woods. By the time the tom appeared, they had fattened up with what they managed to scratch from the snow.

The male keeps his distance as if he's waiting for a sign. Although he is nearly twice their size, I have never seen him eat. Each day he approaches a little closer, calling to them, and spreads his feathers into a pulsing fan. His head and neck flush a lurid red that suggests there's unruly passion beneath his stately calm. I have witnessed this behavior in other years, but this spring is different with three hens so closely bonded, a single tom, and the daily foreplay so close to the house.

There is order to this annual ritual of mating and renewal. The hens are drawn to our yard because it's safe and there is food, and the tom comes because there are hens. Beyond the apple trees there are predators in the woods. At night we hear the yip and howl of coyotes and occasionally the scream of a fisher cat, and after a snow we see their footprints criss-cross the yard. Yesterday a pair of red foxes trotted by in full daylight. In the woods we see a piles of feathers and scattered bones, so these hens are wary. They take flight whenever we open a door. Lately, since the tom arrived, they have been a little slower to scare.

How do they know what they know of the rhythm of seasons and the ritual of mating? Day after day the tom appears in the afternoon light and begins his dance with no encouragement from the indifferent hens who keep their heads to the ground. And yet, they all seem to know how this will end. When the mating is done, the tom will disappear and the hens will lay their eggs.

Posted by orrinj at 7:27 AM


Q&A: Dipoto discusses philosophy for Mariners (Mark Feinsand, 4/15/17, MLB.com)

MLB.com: Do you think Statcast™ is making fans look at the game differently?

Dipoto: If it hasn't, it will. I didn't think we've even really scratched the surface of what Statcast™ is capable of. Statcast™, even in the last two years, has changed the way that I or we look at building a Major League roster. I don't think that's going to go away. I think Statcast™ is going to enhance the way we watch the game on TV, just as a viewing pleasure much like an NFL game on Sunday or like we've seen in the postseason.

We see pitch tracker, not just that shows you velocity, but pitch tracker that's showing you horizontal and vertical break on a pitch. Pitch tracker that's showing you six pitches in a sequence leave a pitcher's hand and go in different directions. I find that wildly interesting. The visuals that they're able to create on TV with the ground coverage in the outfield, now you watch MLB Network coverage at the end of the game and they'll show you three different routes or angles that an outfielder took to a ball and how significant it was that the player was able to get there or not get there.

It's magical stuff, and I think we've only scratched the surface. We have now hired multiple people whose job is to sift through all the Statcast™ data, because it is mountains of information that we're still trying to fully understand.

Posted by orrinj at 7:23 AM


The Myth of the Alou Brothers (Phil Coffin, Jan. 16th, 1970, NY Times)

Baseball is full of legends, and one is that the Alou brothers -- Felipe, Jesus and Matty, who died Thursday -- started in the same outfield one day in 1963.

Some baseball legends, however, are myths.

The brothers did play together in eight games in 1963, when Felipe, then 28, was a regular outfielder for the San Francisco Giants; Matty, 24, was a defensive replacement (he started only six games) and pinch hitter; and Jesus, 21, was a September call-up. And they did play in the same outfield for a few innings in three games that September.

But they never started a game together.

Jesus made his debut on Sept. 10, and it was legendary in its own right: Manager Al Dark had the Alou brothers bat consecutively in the eighth inning, Jesus and Matty as pinch hitters before Felipe came up. The Alous went 0 for 3 against the Mets' Carlton Willey.

Posted by orrinj at 6:56 AM


"I Speak to God in Public": A Message from Chance to the Church (Devon Jerome Crawford, 02/24/2017, Huffington Post)

To be sure, the idea of God is as old as thought itself. The idea of an ultimate being upon which all other beings are grounded guides the way many in the Judeo-Christian tradition relate to one another and the "wholly other." However, Chance's unashamed and unapologetic invocation of God bears particular significance for the millennial generation. According to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center, the number of religious "nones" is surely growing. Approximately 23% of Americans identify as "atheists, agnostics, or nothing in particular." Nearly eight-in-ten millennials with "low levels of religious commitment" describe themselves as atheists, agnostics or nones. Compared to older adults, millennials are more likely to identify as nones. The generational divide is increasingly apparent as the Baby Boomer generation declines and the millennial generation garner a growing share of the population.

So, given the data, why is Chance able to do what he does? Why are his crowds equally as hyped for "How Great" and "Blessings" as they are for "No Problem" and "Smoke Break?" I submit that Chance, by using his platform as a Hip-Hop artist to communicate the import of his theological commitments, has revealed that it is not so much the idea of God that millennials reject, but the method by which that idea has been passed down and the institutions that have held the idea of God hostage from young creatives. God is not dead, but some of the institutions that represent God are on life support. The idea of a God that remains distant, dictatorial, and confined to the cathedrals of our world will no longer satisfy the religious imaginations of our generation. The God Chance speaks of, and reacquaints us with, is intimate, empowering, a "mutual fan," and, above all, the consummate expression of a love supreme.

Chance represents the need to update the way we talk and think about God. Martin Luther, a 16th century German reformer, theologian and hymn writer, suggests, "Music is the handmaiden of theology." Through his music, Chance positions himself as a public theologian who is helping us discover how we must equip our theological toolkits for this moment in history. The personal piety and institutional estrangement practiced by many Christian Churches is unfit to engage this prophetic moment in American religious life. There has always been a need - from Thomas Dorsey, Mahalia Jackson, Kirk Franklin, BJ the Chicago Kid, and now Chance the Rapper - to update the presentation of the Gospel for each generation. We have a generation that yearns for God, but rejects the traditional ambassadors and institutions that supposedly represent God. Millennials are more likely to be found giving glory to God in Chance's concerts than in your local church sanctuary. The people - particularly millennials - are ready for their Blessing. The question is whether the Church will repent and strip itself of oppressive ideologies and practices - its sexism, ageism, patriarchy, classism, homophobia, and silence - in order to be a conduit for that Blessing.

Posted by orrinj at 6:51 AM


Let's look less hard for cancer (H. Gilbert Welch, November 2015, Dallas Morning News)

Wouldn't it be better to simply not find these cancers in the first place? We need another new strategy: Look less hard for cancer. Call it low-impact screening.

Consider the search for prostate cancer. PSA screening has been discouraged because it causes many men to be diagnosed with prostate cancers that are not destined to ever bother them. It has become the poster child for cancer overdiagnosis. But the problem is less about the assay itself and more about how we chose to use it.

Screening is not one thing; it's a process. A colleague once compared it to a machine with a lot of dials to adjust. There is a dial for what age to start testing, a dial for what age to stop, a dial for how often to test and a dial for what constitutes an abnormal test, which controls how aggressively doctors look for cancer during each test.

If we want to find fewer prostate cancers, the dial for what constitutes abnormality is the one we most need to readjust. At first, the dial was set at a PSA of 4. Below 4 was "normal"; 4 or above was "abnormal." A little more than a decade ago, some urologists argued that the dial should be turned down to a PSA of 2.5. That was the wrong direction. It led to more overdiagnosis.

Turn the dial the other direction. A higher abnormal PSA threshold would mean fewer men would be told they need a biopsy, reducing false alarms and overdiagnosis.

Urologists can better hone the group who should be biopsied with further adjustments: age-specific PSA thresholds, adjusting the threshold for prostate size and, most important, making use of the diagnostic value of time, measuring how fast PSA is rising. Such adjustments should be guided by data, so that the number of men told they require intervention more closely approximates the number expected to develop serious cancer.

Because the PSA test produces a single number, it's easy to see where the abnormal test dial is set. It's harder for thyroid and breast cancer tests because they use images to search for cancer.

But the dial is clearly being turned the wrong way in breast cancer. Everyone seems to be trying to find more, with 3-D mammography, molecular breast imaging and MRI imaging. And yet we know statistically that many, if not most, of these additionally discovered cancers will not develop into serious health problems in the next decade.

The way to find a more appropriate amount of breast and thyroid cancer is to forget about the small stuff, the tiny abnormalities. Turn the dial to focus on the larger abnormalities, perhaps a centimeter or larger. As the data come in, adjust the target size so that, again, the number of patients told they will need intervention more closely approximates the number that can be expected to develop serious cancer.

Posted by Glenn Dryfoos at 6:00 AM


Jackie Robinson Day


Major League Baseball's Opening Day now falls about 2 weeks earlier than it did in the days of the 154-game schedule and when a "western swing" meant a trip to St. Louis and Chicago. For me it means that baseball now has 2 Opening Days - one on the first day of the regular season and a second on April 15, the anniversary of Jackie Robinson's 1947 debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers.  Jackie Robinson Day is wonderfully commemorated each year throughout MLB by having every player and umpire wear Jackie's number 42. What's the tie-in with this column? Robinson's skill and daring as a ballplayer are celebrated in Buddy Johnson's 1949 novelty "Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit That Ball?" Here are two versions, the first by Count Basie and his Orchestra, with the vocal by the great blues shouter, Jimmy Rushing. The second features Natalie Cole with a big band led by John Clayton.