May 15, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 5:36 PM


Did Rouhani sell 'grand bargain' with US to Iranian voters? (Arash Karami, May 15, 2017, Al Monitor)

"With a wall of sanctions, they created distance between 'half of the world' and the world," Rouhani said at a May 14 campaign rally in the historic city of Esfahan, once the capital of the Safavid Empire and in a proverb referred to as "half of the world." Rouhani added that tourism in 2013, before the deal lifted some sanctions, was less than that recorded in April this year.

Referring to the nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, by its Persian acronym, BARJAM, Rouhani said, "We established a bridge between Iran and the world with BARJAM. If the Iranian people allow it, if the supreme leader supports and guides it, with Dr. Zarif the rest of the sanctions can be removed."

Rouhani's statement was not a fluke. During the third and final presidential debate on May 12, Rouhani made similar comments on being prepared in his second term to remove the remaining sanctions against Iran. For someone who served as secretary of the Supreme National Security Council for 16 years, Rouhani was well aware of what he was saying: Any negotiations concerning the broad list of US sanctions on Iran, whether in regard to Iran's missiles program or human rights, will need Khamenei's permission to proceed.

Posted by orrinj at 5:34 PM


Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian foreign minister and ambassador (Greg Miller and Greg Jaffe, May 15, 2017, Washington Post)

President Trump revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in a White House meeting last week, according to current and former U.S. officials, who said that Trump's disclosures jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State.

The information Trump relayed had been provided by a U.S. partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government, officials said.

The partner had not given the United States permission to share the material with Russia, and officials said that Trump's decision to do so risks cooperation from an ally that has access to the inner workings of the Islamic State. After Trump's meeting, senior White House officials took steps to contain the damage, placing calls to the CIA and National Security Agency. one can even pretend he understood what he was doing.

Posted by orrinj at 5:31 PM


Shouting Match Erupts After Trump Official Says Western Wall Is 'Not Your Territory' (Aiden Pink, May 15, 2017, Forward)

Planning for President Trump's upcoming trip to Israel descended into chaos Monday when a U.S. official reportedly told Israeli counterparts that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could not accompany the president on his visit to the Western Wall.

The American official suggested that the holy site is "not your territory. It's part of the West Bank," Israel's Channel 2 reported Monday.

The controversy erupted as Israel's right-wing government becomes increasingly nervous about Trump's inexperience and unique personality, his new peace push and his backing away from a campaign pledge to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.

"It's a Trump show. The rest are extras, including Prime Minister Netanyahu," Israelis involved in the discussions told Channel 2.

Bibi is getting shafted worse than Vlad.

Posted by orrinj at 1:14 PM


How Culture Shapes Human Evolution (Kevin Laland, 5/15/17, Project Syndicate)

Developmental psychologists have established that when it comes to dealing with the physical world (for example, spatial memory and tool use), human toddlers' cognitive skills are already comparable to those of adult chimpanzees and orangutans. In terms of social cognition (such as imitating others or understanding intentions), toddlers' minds are far more sophisticated.

The same gap is observed in both communication and cooperation. Vaunted claims that apes produce language do not stand up to scrutiny: animals can learn the meanings of signs and string together simple word combinations, but they cannot master syntax. And experiments show that apes cooperate far less readily than humans.

Thanks to advances in comparative cognition, scientists are now confident that other animals do not possess hidden reasoning powers and cognitive complexity, and that the gap between human and animal intelligence is genuine. So how could something as extraordinary and unique as the human mind evolve?

A major interdisciplinary effort has recently solved this longstanding evolutionary puzzle. The answer is surprising. It turns out that our species' most extraordinary characteristics - our intelligence, language, cooperation, and technology - did not evolve as adaptive responses to external conditions. Rather, humans are creatures of their own making, with minds that were built not just for culture, but by culture. In other words, culture transformed the evolutionary process.

Posted by orrinj at 12:59 PM


Career Leaders & Records for Total Zone Runs (Baseball Reference)

Statistic Description: Total Zone Total Fielding Runs Above Avg The number of runs above or below average the player was worth based on the number of plays made. This number combines the Rtz, Rdp, Rof, Rcatch numbers into a total defensive contribution. See the glossary section for a more complete explanation. Provided by

Note that seasons prior to 1876 are not included in single-season marks, but are included in career marks.

Minimum of 1000 IP, 3000 PA, 500 games (fielding, 500 IP for Ps), 200 stolen base attempts (catchers) or 80 stolen base attempts (baserunners only since 1951) or 100 decisions for career and active leaderboards for rate statistics.

This statistic is computed from play-by-play data which is only complete from 1974 to the present. From 1930-1973, the data is incomplete, though for most seasons only less than 20 games per season total are missing. Please see our page on data coverage for a full view of the data used to create these lists.

The all-time list is pretty much who you'd expect, with Brooks Robinson (293), Andruw Jones (242), Mark Belanger (241), Ozzie Smith (239) & Roberto Clemente (205) the top 5, the only ones over 200 runs for a career.

Here's the great thing though, Derek Jeter is -182 for his career.

Posted by orrinj at 12:44 PM


Why Russia's cyber defenses are so weak (Ivana Kottasová, May 15, 2017, Money)

Russia's reputation as a cyber-savvy nation that churns out computing experts has been undermined by this weekend's WannaCry ransomware attack.

The country had the largest number of computers infected in the massive cyberattack that has swept across the globe since Friday, according to security firm Kaspersky Lab. Avast, an antivirus company, said more than half of the 200,000 attacks it tracked targeted Russian users.

Experts said that Russia is particularly vulnerable to this kind of attack because of its aging computing infrastructure and lax approach to cybersecurity. There is also a huge amount of pirated software in circulation.

Posted by orrinj at 11:26 AM


Ann Coulter Is Worried The 'Trump-Haters Were Right' (Alex Pfeiffer, 05/14/2017, Daily Caller)

So there's no wall, and Obama's amnesties look like they are here to stay. Do you still trust Trump? 

Uhhhh. I'm not very happy with what has happened so far. I guess we have to try to push him to keep his promises. But this isn't North Korea, and if he doesn't keep his promises I'm out. This is why we voted for him. I think everyone who voted for him knew his personality was grotesque, it was the issues.

I hate to say it, but I agree with every line in my friend Frank Bruni's op-ed in The New York Times today. Where is the great negotiation? Where is the bull in the china shop we wanted? That budget the Republicans pushed through was like a practical joke... Did we win anything? And this is the great negotiator?

Posted by orrinj at 9:38 AM


Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones said refugees ravaged an Idaho town with disease and crime. The town says folks get along just fine (DAVID MONTERO, MAY 6, 2017, LA Times)

The refugees have been coming here for decades, settling in this Idaho town on the edge of a deep canyon carved out by the Snake River.

There were Cambodians. Then Bosnians arrived after the collapse of Yugoslavia. Rwandans fleeing genocide found haven here. Recently, it's been Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans.

They've opened stores and restaurants in Twin Falls, a community of 47,000 that loves its high school rodeos and takes great pride in its biggest natural attraction: the Shoshone Falls, dubbed "the Niagara of the West." Dairy farms, cornstalks and potato fields sprawl out on both sides of Interstate 40. The open sky is uninterrupted for miles.

Eshef Jasarevic, who had fled Bosnia, liked it all right away. He opened Emma's Cafe three years ago ("Sixty-four Yelp reviews -- all five stars," he boasts with a broad smile). Across town, Sokry Heng's family started an Asian market 15 years ago. Business was good enough that they expanded to a larger location three years ago, also opening an Indian-Asian restaurant and a U-Haul franchise. She employs eight people now.

Twin Falls Mayor Shawn Barigar sees them as a continuation of the story of his city. It reminds him of his heritage -- Dutch and Bohemian ancestors who came to Idaho five generations ago to start a new life.

But now he sees the city's image under siege -- caught in the crossfire between far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and one of the area's largest economic drivers, the yogurt company Chobani, and the debate over refugees spurred by President Trump's proposed travel bans.

Barigar believes Jones went too far by saying the city is being infiltrated by Muslim terrorists spreading disease and committing violent crimes.

"When people who have never been here -- who don't understand the fabric of the community -- try to tell a story about it without facts, that's detrimental to all of us," Barigar said.

Posted by orrinj at 9:30 AM


Stocks just did something they haven't done since 1995 (Joe Ciolli , 5/15/17, Business Insider)

Friday marked the 13th straight day that the S&P 500 failed to move more than 0.5% in either direction on a closing basis, the longest such streak since 1995. [...]

It's possible investor concerns about the durability of the eight-year bull market has been assuaged by impressive S&P 500 earnings growth. Companies in the index are on pace to see 14% profit expansion for the period, the most since the third quarter of 2011, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Donald essentially inherited an even healthier economy than the one GHWB left Clinton which the latter juiced by approving free trade agreements and cashing in the Peace Dividend.  

Posted by orrinj at 8:48 AM


1 fun thing: live from the Vatican, Newt Gingrich! (Jonathan Swan, 5/15/17, Axios)

Now that CNN is reporting that Trump will likely appoint Callista Gingrich the next ambassador to the Vatican, I have an excuse to serve you a delicious anecdote I've been hoarding for weeks.

About six weeks ago, the President was kibitzing about the Vatican ambassador role. Trump told our source he was reluctant to send Callista to the Vatican because he likes seeing her husband Newt defending him on TV. Our source told the President they were sure satellite hook-ups could be arranged for Newt at the Holy See.

Posted by orrinj at 8:44 AM


Trump Just Did Something Good on Trade (The Editors, May 15, 2017, Bloomberg)

The mini-deal on U.S. trade with China announced by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross last week deserves a cautious welcome. It's narrow in scope, and the reasoning behind it, as related by Ross, is questionable at best, but it gets the main thing right: It expands rather than contracts the opportunities for mutually beneficial commerce. One can only hope that the rest of President Donald Trump's trade initiatives work out the same way.

The deal is described as the first installment of a wider effort to reform U.S.-China trade relations. If fully implemented, these initial measures will give U.S. producers better access to China's markets for natural gas, financial services and beef. In return, Chinese producers of cooked poultry will be allowed to export to the U.S. market, Chinese banks will get the same treatment from U.S. regulators as other foreign banks, and the U.S. won't discriminate against direct investment by Chinese entrepreneurs.

That's right, it's trade liberalization -- admittedly on a small scale, but any kind of opening is better than the tightening the Trump administration had led people to expect.

Posted by orrinj at 8:21 AM



Fortunately, there is solution at hand, one with an impeccable conservative pedigree. That solution is universal catastrophic coverage (UCC), which would protect newborns with heart defects, adults with cancer, and everyone else with catastrophic medical bills, while preserving the advantages of market-based solutions for routine health care expenses.

Universal catastrophic coverage was proposed as long ago as 1971 by Martin Feldstein, the Harvard economist who would go on to serve as Ronald Reagan's chief economic adviser. In 2004, Milton Friedman endorsed UCC in a piece that he wrote as a Fellow at the Hoover Institution. An up-to-date version, specifically designed to address the problems of the ACA, is outlined by Kip Hagopian and Dana Goldman in National Affairs.

Under the Hagopian-Goldman version of UCC, all people not eligible for Medicaid or Medicare would receive a uniform high-deductible health insurance policy from a private company, subject to federal guidelines. The level of the deductible would vary according to the "surplus income" of each household, defined as the difference between actual income in the preceding year (or averaged over a few years) and the threshold income for Medicaid in the state of residence. The deductible would be set at 10 percent of surplus income for each individual, with a maximum of 20 percent for the combined costs of all members of the household.

Suppose, for example, that the Medicaid threshold for a family of three in a certain state is $30,000. If their household income is $35,000, they would be responsible for the first $500 of each family member's health care costs, or $1,000, at most, for the family. If household income was $85,000, the deductible would be $5,000 per individual. If Household income were $1 million, the deductible would be $96,500.

Nothing would prevent families from purchasing supplemental insurance for expenses not covered by their UCC policies, just as many people on Medicare now buy supplemental insurance. The premiums, however, would be radically lower than those for policies now sold on ACA exchanges, because UCC would cap maximum claims. Supplemental policies that themselves had small deductibles or co-pays would be even more affordable. Supplemental premiums would, of course, vary with the level of a family's UCC deductible, so they would be higher for higher-income families.

Presumably, many middle-class families with moderate UCC deductibles would choose not to buy supplemental insurance. After all, as Hagopian and Goldman point out, people do not buy insurance to cover oil changes or the cost of painting their houses. Health savings accounts would make it easier for families without supplemental insurance to manage routine medical expenses.

Together, income-related UCC deductibles, supplemental insurance (if purchased), and health savings accounts would ensure that people had enough "skin in the game" to make them wise shoppers for healthcare services, while protecting them against financial ruin in the event of serious illness.

People don't want health care so much as they want the security of knowing they are covered for health care costs.  We can either provide universal coverage or national health.

Posted by orrinj at 7:56 AM



The application of a foreign substance to a baseball causes disturbances in the airflow around the ball when it is thrown; the disturbance alters the spin of the ball, often in erratic ways. The ball might break sideways, or down, or even sail above its expected trajectory. Usually, though, the action of a spitball is very much like the action of a modern-day split-fingered fastball--coming straight to the plate with little movement, then diving at the very end.

Pitchers had discovered this in the first years of the game, and in the early decades of the 20th century doctored baseballs were an integral part of the game. There is no generally accepted evidence on who first came up with the pitch.

Faber regained his winning form at Pueblo with, a local sportswriter claimed, "an assortment of curves and shoots that can't be excelled." He continued to work on his spitter, and by the end of that summer had regained much of his strength. Late in the season, he threw both ends of a doubleheader and closed the year with a four-hitter. Though he regained his fastball, he realized that he should throw the spitter, with less than maximum effort, for the best result.

"A spitter has to be thrown moderately fast and the ball slips away from under the two front fingers of the pitching hand and sails up to the batter rotating very slowly," he said.

Then it breaks down and to one side. What is there unnatural about that or hard on the arm? I have been using a spit ball for some years and I have never been able to discover. They say it is unsanitary. Well I won't argue about that.

I never wet the ball but merely the ends of the first two fingers on my right hand. The whole theory of the spit ball is to let the ball slide away from a smooth surface. Wetting the fingers gives this smooth surface. By the time the ball has traveled through the air, met the bat and been driven to some infielder it is perfectly dry. No infielder needs to make an error on such a ball. Of course, I can't say that some spitball pitchers haven't misused the privilege. But they didn't need to and that disposes of the myth that the spitter causes a lot of errors by infielders. It may have done so, but it didn't need to, properly handled. A spit ball pitcher always chews something. It's an odd thing, but I have had to experiment with things to chew. Some spit ball pitchers use slippery elm. Slippery elm doesn't work with me. It's too slippery and I can't control the ball. I have tried chewing gum. But that wasn't quite slippery enough. So I have had to fall back on the good old custom, now much abused, of chewing tobacco. Tobacco juice fills the bill. And I don't chew it because I like it either. In fact, I never chew except when I am pitching. But it seems to be an indispensable part of my business like a mason's trowel or a carpenter's hammer.

Posted by orrinj at 7:51 AM


Senate Republicans are planning to replace ObamaCare with ... ObamaCare (Jeff Spross, May 15, 2017, The Week)

In their effort to repeal and replace ObamaCare, Senate Republicans appear to have finally landed on a market-based solution that will keep everyone insured: ObamaCare.

Wait, what?

Well, when the House GOP passed its health-care reform bill earlier this month, even most Republican senators considered it too draconian. Among other things, many are reportedly concerned that the bill's flat tax credit to help people afford premiums would leave millions of Americans without coverage. So instead of taking up the House bill at all, Republican senators are starting from scratch and reportedly coalescing around a refundable tax credit that adjusts up and down in response to household income.

This is precisely what ObamaCare already does.

Obamacare was conservative health care reform.

Posted by orrinj at 7:14 AM


Germany's Ideas-Deficit Opposition (JUDY DEMPSEY, May 15, 2017, Strategic Europe)

The Social Democrats and the Greens have so far been unable to persuade Germans to change course. These two parties support Merkel's refugee policy. They support Germany's switch from nuclear energy to renewables. They support the EU. They support Europe having strong security and defense policies. And, despite some misgiving from sections of the Social Democrats, they support Merkel's policies toward Russia and the EU's sanctions that were imposed in 2014 after Russia's annexation of Crimea.

But as left-wing parties--a term that is increasingly losing its meaning--the Social Democrats and Greens have been unable to enunciate policies about how to deal with the social, political, and economic consequences of globalization.

The populist approach articulated by Marine Le Pen, the leader of France's National Front, which is in effect the country's main opposition party, played on the politics of fear and hopelessness. She did not offer a coherent economic and social agenda to meet the challenges of globalization and France's low growth and high unemployment.

Germany's Left party has tried to home in on these issues, but the party failed to get reelected to North Rhine-Westphalia's regional legislature. In short, the established center-left parties have, as yet, no platform to challenge Merkel's Christian Democrats. Unless they explain what they really stand for between now and Germany's federal election in September, they could go the way of other left-wing parties in Europe.

Tory plans for workers' rights deliver golden headlines at knockdown prices (Chaminda Jayanetti, 5/15/17,

"Workers offered new deal by Tories", proclaims the i. "Workers get leave to care for elderly", declares the Telegraph. "May gives all workers new rights to time off", shouts the Times. The Mail bills it "a revolution in the workplace", presumably having been assured it's not a Marxist one.

The Tories couldn't have secured better front page coverage had they bought wraparound ads. No longer are the Conservatives the bosses' party, the narrative goes. They will now defend the rights of hard-working people rather than just banging on about them. [...]

Labour's draft manifesto was a heaving raft of workers' rights, designed to bolster their bargaining power when dealing with employers. The Conservatives have adopted a fundamentally different strategy - legal rights above collective might. One of the Tories' better measures - statutory time off for training - sums up this difference in approach between individual and collective advancement.

There is a lesson here for Labour, however. Limited though the plan for carers' leave is, it constitutes something largely absent from Jeremy Corbyn's wide-ranging manifesto - a policy for people who feel they don't need the state. A policy aimed at the 'private individual'.

Just as the number of people who claim benefits is larger than the number who think they do, the number of people who feel they are wholly self-reliant will be larger than the number who actually are. Labour's policy levers always involve providing benefits and services. That's fine - those work. But if it is ever to return to power, it will need to win the votes of those who don't feel they need benefits or means tested public services. Universalising these services is expensive and not necessarily a voter priority - so then what? Labour currently has no system of thinking that addresses this blind spot in its agenda.

As for the Conservatives, this is a dream scenario. A policy that costs the government little and mostly helps natural Conservative voters - middle class families with two earners and savings - is sold as a revolutionary new pro-worker agenda. New rights that need money to enforce sound like rights for those without the money to enforce them. The Tories are now the workers' party - as long as those workers don't get ideas above their station.

The greatest danger to any party is letting its opponent steal the Third Way mantle.
Posted by orrinj at 7:12 AM


 How Trump gets his fake news : The president rarely surfs the web on his own, but his staff have made a habit of slipping news stories on to his desk--including the occasional internet hoax. (SHANE GOLDMACHER, 05/15/17, Politico)

White House chief of staff Reince Priebus issued a stern warning at a recent senior staff meeting: Quit trying to secretly slip stuff to President Trump.

Just days earlier, K.T. McFarland, the deputy national security adviser, had given Trump a printout of two Time magazine covers. One, supposedly from the 1970s, warned of a coming ice age; the other, from 2008, about surviving global warming, according to four White House officials familiar with the matter.

Trump quickly got lathered up about the media's hypocrisy. But there was a problem. The 1970s cover was fake, part of an Internet hoax that's circulated for years. Staff chased down the truth and intervened before Trump tweeted or talked publicly about it.

The episode illustrates the impossible mission of managing a White House led by an impetuous president who has resisted structure and strictures his entire adult life.

The real takeaway here is the low regard in which even his own staff holds him.

Posted by orrinj at 6:55 AM


Marvel Cancels Ta-Nehisi Coates' Black Lives Matter Comic Due to Poor Sales (Ian Miles Cheong, May 14, 2017, Heat Street)

No one is buying Marvel's lineup of social justice-themed comics. It's no surprise, given that few readers want politics to be forced down their throats. Thus liberal darling Ta-Nehisi Coates and Yona Harvey's Black Panther & The Crew is getting the axe after poor sales, just two issues after its launch. Its cancellation comes just weeks after a Marvel VP revealed that comics with forced messages of "diversity" were responsible for the publisher's sales slump.