June 3, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 5:30 PM


When America Barred Italians (HELENE STAPINSKI, JUNE 2, 2017, NY Times)

Women like my great-great grandmother Vita Gallitelli came to America for more than simply a better job. Subject to the whims of their padroni -- the men who owned the feudal land upon which they toiled -- Italian women were commonly the victims of institutionalized, systematic rape. There was a practice known as "prima notte" that allowed the landowner to sleep with the virgin bride of his worker, which extended into the 20th century.

The husbands couldn't protest, since they would be barred from working the farm and their families left to starve. As it was, they were barely staying alive. In the 1800s, half the children born in Basilicata -- the instep of Italy's boot -- died before age 5. It's the reason Italian-American families hold big bashes for their 1-year-olds even today. [...]

So our desperate great- and great-great grandparents came in droves from Italy, spurred on by industrial barons in need of cheap labor who welcomed them with open arms to America. They would scrape together the 300 lire -- the cost of three houses at the time -- to book passage here, to the land of dreams, where menial, often dangerous jobs no one else wanted awaited them. Some, like my relatives, came here illegally, under false names. Or as stowaways. On one ship alone, 200 stowaways were found. [...]

The United States government used the theories of Cesare Lombroso, a 19th-century Northern Italian doctor, to stop more of his suffering, starving countrymen and women from immigrating.

Lombroso, a traitor to his own people, was convinced that there was such a thing as a "natural born criminal." He measured the heads and body parts of thousands of fellow Italians -- particularly Southerners -- and came up with a description that matched the description of most of the immigrants coming over at the time: short, dark, hairy, big noses and ears.

He compared them to lower primates and said they were more likely to commit violent crimes when they arrived in the United States than immigrants from Germany, Norway, Austria, Sweden, England and every other European country.

Lombroso -- and a growing sea of American nativists -- branded the Southern Italians savages and rapists, blaming them for the crime that was on the rise in the United States.

Posted by orrinj at 5:12 PM


A Revitalized Pittsburgh Says the President Used a Rusty Metaphor (KIM LYONS, EMILY BADGER and ALAN BLINDER, JUNE 2, 2017, NY Times)

"I was elected," the president said, "to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris."

But the president was hardly speaking about a place of domestic political strength: Although Mr. Trump carried Pennsylvania last fall, 75 percent of voters in Pittsburgh voted for Hillary Clinton.

In defiance of the president, city leaders vowed again on Thursday to pursue their own climate action. Pittsburgh, they point out, is the wrong metaphor anyway: The former steel hub has spent the last 30 years trying to remake its economy in precisely the mold that climate advocates envision.

Once among the most polluted cities in the country, Pittsburgh today is increasingly rebuilding around greener medical complexes, research universities and tech offices. In place of steel mills, the city now has its own Google outpost and test track for autonomous cars. The U.S. Steel Tower, the tallest building in town, now bears the name of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. The local renewable energy industry employs 13,000 people, according to the city.

Pittsburgh, Mayor Bill Peduto said Thursday, is an example of how environmentalism can also mean economic development. It was a very different message from the one the president delivered hours earlier at the White House, where he warned that the international climate pact would cost the American economy too much.

"To some, Pittsburgh is still the 1975 Pittsburgh, a steel mill town based on heavy industry, still struggling through the post-Depression," said Mr. Peduto, a Democrat, when asked why he thought the president had singled out his city (particularly in light of its reliably liberal politics). "I also think it's the first city they thought of that started with a 'P'."

Posted by orrinj at 3:45 PM



THE EMAILS PROVIDED so far to the The Intercept show a growing relationship between the United Arab Emirates and the pro-Israel, neoconservative think tank called the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD).

On the surface, the alliance should be surprising, as the UAE does not even recognize Israel. But the two countries have worked together in the past against their common adversary, Iran.

On March 10 of this year, FDD CEO Mark Dubowitz authored an email to both the UAE's ambassador to the United States, Yousef Al-Otaiba, and FDD Senior Counselor John Hannah -- a former deputy national security adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney -- with the subject line "Target list of companies investing in Iran, UAE and Saudi Arabia."

"Dear, Mr. Ambassador," Dubowitz wrote. "The attached memorandum details companies listed by country which are doing business with Iran and also have business with the UAE and Saudi Arabia. This is a target list for putting these companies to a choice, as we have discussed."

Dubowitz's attached memorandum includes a lengthy list of "non-U.S. businesses with operations in Saudi Arabia or UAE that are looking to invest in Iran."

The list includes a number of major international firms, including France's Airbus and Russia's Lukoil.

Presumably, the companies are being identified so that the UAE and Saudi Arabia can pressure them over investing in Iran, which is seeing an expansion of foreign investment following the 2015 nuclear deal.

Israel and the Gulf monarchies have grown closer in recent years, as both sides fear that Iran is moving closer to normalization with the West and will therefore increase its own influence and power in the region. But admissions of the alliance between the two are still rare in public. One high-level Israeli official, discussing the relationship on background for a previous HuffPost profile of Otaiba, laid out the politics of it. "Israel and the Arabs standing together is the ultimate ace in the hole. Because it takes it out of the politics and the ideology. When Israel and the Arab states are standing together, it's powerful," he said.

The hacked emails demonstrate a remarkable level of backchannel cooperation between a leading neoconservative think tank -- FDD is funded by pro-Israel billionaire Sheldon Adelson, an ally of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who is one of the largest political donors in the United States  -- and a Gulf monarchy.

None of the regimes can withstand self-determination.
Posted by orrinj at 1:49 PM


How the Natural Resources Business Is Turning into a Technology Industry (Jonathan Woetzel, Scott Nyquist, JUNE 02, 2017, Harvard Business Review)

Consider how the dynamics of demand are changing. The adoption of robotics, internet-of-things technology, and data analytics -- along with macroeconomic trends and changing consumer behavior -- are fundamentally transforming the way resources are consumed. Technology is enabling people to use energy more efficiently in their homes, offices, and factories. At the same time, technological innovation in transportation, the largest single user of oil, is helping to lower energy consumption as engines become more fuel efficient and the use of autonomous and electric vehicles grows.

As a result, demand for resources is flattening out. (Copper, often used in consumer electronics, is the exception.) At the McKinsey Global Institute, we modeled these trends and found that peak demand for major commodities like oil, thermal coal, and iron ore is in sight and may occur as soon as 2020 for coal and 2025 for oil. At the same time, renewable energies including solar and wind will continue to become cheaper and will play a much larger role in the global economy's energy mix. We estimated that renewables could jump from 4% of global power generation today to as much as 36% by 2035 in our accelerated technology scenario.

Posted by orrinj at 1:34 PM


Nunes-led House Intelligence Committee asked for 'unmaskings' of Americans (Adam Entous and Ellen Nakashima June 2, 2017, Washington Post)

According to a tally by U.S. spy agencies, the House Intelligence Committee requested five to six unmaskings of U.S. organizations or individuals related to Trump or Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton between June 2016 and January 2017. Officials familiar with the matter said that the committee's requests focused on the identities of U.S. organizations that had been hacked by the Russians in 2016. Officials declined to say how many of the requests came from Democrats vs. Republicans.

The chairman of the committee wields enormous control over the actions of its members and requests for more information from intelligence agencies. Officials said that committee rules require the chairman to sign off on the requests, even ones that are not his own.

Posted by orrinj at 9:25 AM


How Freud's Only Visit to America Made Him Hate the U.S. for the Rest of His Life (RAY CAVANAUGH, 6/03/17, Mental Floss)

The psychoanalyst's chief problem: stomach trouble, which he blamed on American cooking. There was one meal in particular that inflamed his stomach and his ire, a steak prepared by culinary "savages" at a campfire during an excursion in the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York. For the rest of his life, he would refer to this trip as the beginning of his "American colitis." (Some scholars, though, say his digestive problems long predated the cookout.)

Freud's ego was also bruised on a side visit to Niagara Falls, where a guide at the Cave of the Winds called him "the old fellow." (His mood improved when he saw a wild porcupine, one of the main objectives of his trip.) But a bigger problem was his own personal Niagara Falls, courtesy of prostate trouble and exacerbated by the lack of public bathrooms, even in New York City. Of the bathrooms that did exist, he complained, "They escort you along miles of corridors and ultimately you are taken to the very basement where a marble palace awaits you, only just in time."

Perhaps worst of all was his insomnia: American women were giving him erotic dreams and affecting his ability to get a good night's sleep. While in Worcester, he confided in Carl Jung, who had also been invited to speak, that he hadn't "been able to sleep since [he] came to America" and that he "continue[d] to dream of prostitutes." When Jung pointed out a rather obvious solution to this problem, Freud indignantly reminded him that he was married.

Freud also found Americans far too informal. As radical as his ideas seemed for the time, Freud was a highly proper man, and he could barely conceal his distaste when an amiable Yankee dared to address him by his first name.

Beyond lack of formality, Freud (or "Sigmund," as his improper American buddies called him) took issue with the coeducational system then more prevalent in the U.S. In his view, explained a few decades later, "The girls develop more rapidly than the boys, feel superior to them in everything and lose their respect for the male sex." The consequence was that American women "lead the men around by the nose, make fools of them, and the result is a matriarchy ... In Europe, things are different. Men take the lead. That is as it should be."

Nothing so becomes the Anglosphere as its hostility to intellectualism.

Posted by orrinj at 9:12 AM


PODCAST : Bjorn Lomborg: The U.S. Was Right to Withdraw From the Paris Climate Accord (Nick Gillespie, Jun. 2, 2017, Reason)

[A]s Lomborg stressed during an interview with Reason's Nick Gillespie, the Paris accord and the earlier Kyoto Protocol are terrible ways to tackle the problem and the United States was right to withdraw from the treaty. If you're interested in protecting the environment and helping the world's poor, says Lomborg, there are cheaper and more-effective ways to reach those goals.

Just increase taxes on coal and oil.
Posted by orrinj at 8:15 AM


Stocks just got a majorly bullish signal (Joe Ciolli, May 31, 2017, Business Insider)

US consumer sentiment has proved fickle in recent decades, gyrating unexpectedly and generally keeping investors on their toes.

But when it has stayed high for a prolonged period, it has historically unlocked massive gains for stocks.

That's exactly what is happening right now. In fact, we seem to be about halfway into one of those high-confidence periods, after University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index data last Friday kept the trend intact.

Sentiment has been this high for this long on just five other occasions since 1978, according to data compiled by Morgan Stanley. The S&P 500 saw a median return of 21% in the one year following each positive reading and a 42% gain over a two-year period, according to the firm's data.

The S&P 500's 17% rally since June 2016 is roughly in line with that history. And perhaps more important for market speculators, it signals that the index could have 21% to 25% left to climb over the next year.

Posted by orrinj at 7:45 AM


Trump's continued search for new FBI chief seen as chaotic: sources (Julia Edwards Ainsley, 6/03/17, Reuters)

President Donald Trump is still looking for a new FBI director more than three weeks after he fired James Comey, and sources familiar with the recruiting process say it has been chaotic and that job interviews led by Trump have been brief.

Three close associates of three contenders for the job, all of whom have been interviewed by Trump, said the candidates were summoned to the White House for 10- to 20-minute conversations with Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Those conversations, which followed initial interviews at the Justice Department, have been light on questions about substantive issues facing the agency, the three associates said.

While the department has compiled a long list of candidates for the White House, there has been no "clear framework or logic for who was interviewed and why," said one of the sources.

Another of the three sources described the process as chaotic and said that in one interview, Trump spoke mostly about himself and seemed distracted.

Posted by orrinj at 7:34 AM


An impossible task : James Mattis tries to reassure Asian allies about Donald Trump (Lexington, 6/02/17, The Economist)

There was something almost heartbreaking about the questions posed by the audience to the defence secretary, a lean man with a craggy face, the cropped silver hair of a Marine, and a laconic speaking-style. An Australian delegate noted Mr Trump's dismissive comments about NATO, and his withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a big trade pact, and from the Paris climate accord. Should the region worry that it is seeing the "destruction of the rules-based order", the Australian asked. A member of the Japanese parliament wondered aloud whether America still shares "common values" with its allies, or just security interests.

This being a blog rather than a newspaper article, readers may indulge the author for quoting Mr Mattis's replies at some length. The defence secretary is not a dissident within the Trump administration. He is a loyal servant of a democratically-elected president. But in his defence of the post-war order, he was trying to tell his Asian audience that some principles and instincts are so deeply rooted in the American spirit that they can survive the swings and counter-swings of electoral politics.

We surrounded Donald with generals precisely to prevent him from doing anything meaningfully destructive.

James 'Mad Dog' Mattis quotes Churchill to reassure allies over Donald Trump (Nicola Smith, 3 JUNE 2017, The Telegraph)

"To quote a British observer, from some years ago, bear with us, once we've exhausted all possible alternatives, the Americans will do the right thing," he said, referring to a quote often attributed to Churchill. "So we will still be there, and we will be there with you."

A clever way of saying your putative boss is choosing bad alternatives.

Posted by orrinj at 7:23 AM


INVISIBLE PRESIDENT : a review of We Are the Change We Seek: The Speeches of Barack Obama edited by e. j. dionne jr. and joy-ann reid (Barton Swaim, June 2017, First Things)

The speech's real solution wasn't any set of policies but Obama himself.

Which I guess is why the speeches by President Obama are even duller than those of Senator Obama. Often his presidential addresses led you to expect some crucial insight, only to give you routine political speechifying. In a 2015 speech to the National Prayer Breakfast, for instance, Obama enunciated two principles that should guide Americans of faith as they "counteract" the intolerance perpetrated by "hate groups." The first is humility: "I believe that the starting point of faith is some doubt--not being so full of yourself and so confident that you are right and that God speaks only to us, and doesn't speak to others." The second: We need to "uphold the distinction between our faith and our governments. Between church and between state. . . . Our government does not sponsor a religion, nor does it pressure anyone to practice a particular faith, or any faith at all."

Why was this and similarly feeble material included in a grandly titled book of presidential addresses? The only answer I can summon is that the people who admire Obama the most, the book's editors and purchasers, sincerely feel that the forty-third president is a great orator and a serious intellectual. And that, in essence, is the defining problem of the Obama presidency and Barack Obama himself: His admirers see in him what they want to see. Maybe this can be said of all politicians. Once you decide you like and admire a politician for a set of reasons, you interpret contrary evidence in the most favorable possible way. [...]

[O]bama's most fervent supporters have long insisted on seeing an imaginary version of the real thing: confident yet humble, transcending partisan rancor and ideology, and above all a brilliant intellectual able to think outside the old categories and explain it all to a nation in crisis. The editors of We Are the Change We Seek put it as well as anyone: "For his supporters--and, increasingly, as his term concluded, for Americans who had grown weary of the endless partisan wars--Obama remained a figure intent on evoking Abraham Lincoln's appeal to the 'better angels of our nature.'"

So distant is this observation from anything I recognize in the presidency of Barack Obama that I can't help thinking of Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man. Near the end of the book, the narrator realizes the whites who had purported to help him had never seen him for who and what he was. "They were very much the same, each attempting to force his picture of reality upon me and neither giving a hoot in hell for how things looked to me. I was simply a material, a natural resource to be used. . . . [I]t all came out the same--except I now recognized my invisibility." For the white liberals who idolize him, Obama has a gift, all right. He's invisible. 

The flip side, of course, is that those who hated the UR saw him the same way as those who loved him; they just opposed what the Left dreamt they saw in him.

But, at the end of his presidency, we can fairly confidently say that, other than the mere fact of his ethnicity, he will be remembered for only a few virtually invisible things : continuation of the Bush/Bernanke economy rescue (which he deserves credit for endorsing during the presidential campaign); the Heritage health care plan (which is just a way-stop between W's health reform act and the eventual universal law); passage and expansion of free trade rules; and the continuation of the WoT to defeat ISIS. He essentially served the third and fourth terms of W.

Posted by orrinj at 7:16 AM


Voormi's Plan to Revolutionize Our Outerwear and the Mountain-Town Economy (Axie Navas, Oct 15, 2015, Outside)

Since the 1970s, companies had been making shells the same way: by sandwiching a waterproof membrane between two pieces of fabric. Confined by overseas supply chains and textiles sourced largely from two companies--eVent and Gore-Tex--innovation was incremental at best.

So in 2010, English established Voormi, named for a fictional, yeti-like mountain-dwelling beast, in a rusty, flood-prone building in Pagosa Springs, Colorado. Setting up shop in, say, Boulder, which is home to dozens of outdoor companies, would have made life easier. But the team he assembled--his son, Dustin, a guide on Denali; Doug Lumb, who spent 43 years at Polartec developing fabrics used by Nike, Salomon, and the U.S. military; and Timm Smith, a former chemical engineer at Gore-Tex--worried that moving to a gear hub would only breed more cookie-cutter apparel. Pagosa Springs, a town of 1,700 surrounded by nearly three million acres of national forest and wilderness, seemed like the perfect undiscovered mountain playground. 

"Working in Pagosa allows us to focus on things that are needed rather than things that are trending," Smith says. 

What was needed, they decided, wasn't another new material but an entirely new approach to making it. "If you lay out all the garments in the industry, they're all made in one or two factories, and they all perform the same way," says Dustin English, who serves as Voormi's director of product integrity. "We wanted to make something unique from natural fibers using resources in the area we're playing in."

Instead of gluing pieces of fabric to a membrane, Voormi developed a way to knit a textile--in this case, wool--through it. The new method, patented under the name Core Construction, creates a single-layer jacket that's mostly weatherproof but wears like a fleece. The technology will debut in two shells this October--the men's Fall Line and women's High-E--which will be sold along with Voormi's other products in 40 retailers and at Voormi.com. In Outside's tests, Core Construction was adept at deflecting snow and wind, was warm enough to wear all day on a ski hill, and fit and felt like a sweatshirt. It didn't hold up in sleet, but according to Smith, it isn't meant to. "There are a lot of 100 percent seam-taped hard shells out there," he says. "I'm not sure the world needs another one."

The breakthrough fabric isn't the only way that Voormi is trying to change the way apparel companies work. Instead of outsourcing production, it built factories in small towns in Colorado. The wool comes from merino sheep raised in the Rocky Mountains, gets turned into yarn in North and South Carolina, and is stitched into apparel in Pagosa Springs and Rifle, Colorado. Think of it as the craft-beer approach to manufacturing, more Oskar Blues than Coors. 

Merino wool is remarkable not only because of the range of temperatures in which it remains comfortable and its water-shedding qualities but because it doesn't retain body odors the way most synthetic work out clothes eventually do.

Posted by orrinj at 7:04 AM


U.S. States, Cities, Businesses Pledge To Honor Paris Climate Accord (Radio Liberty, June 03, 2017)

"Americans don't need Washington to meet our Paris commitments, and Americans are not going to let Washington stand in the way of fulfilling it," Bloomberg said following a meeting in Paris with French President Emmanuel Macron on June 2.

Bloomberg, who is the United Nations secretary-general's special envoy for cities and climate change, said the United States had led the world on emission reductions over the past decade.

But most of the work was done by citizens, businesses, and cities, he said, not the federal government, aided by market forces that have made solar energy, wind energy, and natural gas cheaper to use in generating power than coal.

It's almost like acknowledging that capitalism matters more than transnationalism.

Tillerson faces task of defending Trump's decision to allies (JOSH LEDERMAN AND MATTHEW LEE June 3, 2017, Times of Israel)

Trump's climate reversal is the latest challenge he has presented to Tillerson, a newcomer himself to the world of diplomacy who is still working to establish his credibility as an advocate of American foreign policy. Not only did Trump appear to overrule Tillerson's advice concerning the Paris agreement, but the decision fanned fears of the US abdicating its global leadership role and shunning international consensus on the world's most pressing issues.

Tillerson wasn't the only Cabinet member to skip the Rose Garden ceremony where Trump announced his decision, but his absence was perhaps the most glaring. He met Trump only hours earlier in the White House. Tillerson's aides maintained that he decided to follow his own schedule, which had him in his seventh-floor office on Thursday afternoon as Trump was speaking.

Aides could not say if Tillerson watched the president on television. But he will be almost surely be required to recite the rationale for Trump's pullout from the agreement cutting carbon emissions, given that his agency led the Paris deal negotiations and will now have to manage the international fallout.

"I don't think we're going to change our ongoing efforts to reduce those emissions in the future," Tillerson said Friday, playing down the president's decision. "So hopefully people can keep it in perspective."

Posted by orrinj at 6:52 AM


Bogota's bibliophile trash collector who rescues books (Smriti Daniel, 6/03/17, Al Jazeera)

Finding Anna Karenina in the rubbish would change Jose Alberto Gutierrez's life.

It was 20 years ago, but Jose still remembers first glimpsing the Russian classic by Leo Tolstoy in the rubbish outside a home in Bogota's Bolivia neighbourhood. The rubbish collector loaded his truck with the rest of the waste, but took the book home. It was the start of a wonderful obsession.

Today, the 55-year-old lives on a steeply sloping road in the La Nueva Gloria barrio, in the southern reaches of Colombia's sprawling capital.

The outside of his modest two-storey house blends in with its neighbours, but inside, it couldn't be more different. This is the home of La Fuerza de las Palabras, Spanish for "The Strength of Words", a community library.

"In August, it will be 17 years since we created this library," Jose says.

Jose's family used to rent out the downstairs to tenants. They still live on the first floor, but books have invaded all three rooms on the ground floor. There, you cannot see the tiles, except for a narrow pathway that winds through the rooms. It is bordered with stacks of books which brush the ceiling - the last time Jose counted, there were some 25,000 - and it feels like every day more books find him. The library has begun to send tendrils into the upstairs family space as well. An entire wall and some new shelves in their dining area are covered in novels.