June 12, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 7:15 PM


ICE arrests in metro Detroit terrify Iraqi Christians (Kyung Lah, Joe Sutton, Carma Hassan and Joe Sterling, 6/12/17, CNN)

A family Sunday at the beach turned out to be a nightmare for the Barash family and for metro Detroit's Chaldean population -- Catholics who hail from Iraq.

Authorities seized Moayad Barash, 47, and whisked him away, his daughter Cynthia, 18, said.

Barash, a Baghdad native, was one of 30 to 40 people seized by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents on Sunday -- all of whom face the threat of deportation.

"My dad is Christian and Donald Trump is sending him back to a place that is not safe whatsoever," Cynthia Barash said, referring to the persecution of Christians in Baghdad, Mosul and across the largely Muslim nation.
The ICE action comes amid the Trump administration's crackdown on immigration.

Posted by orrinj at 7:09 PM


Trump's 7 guidelines for relaunching Israeli-Palestinian talks (Uri Savir, June 11, 2017, aL mONITOR)

The Palestinian leadership was very pleased with President Donald Trump's decision not to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem, and especially for the reason given: the need to aspire to a peace process. The PLO source said that President Mahmoud Abbas took credit for it and thanked President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt, King Abdullah of Jordan and King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia for their support. The source emphasized that after the Riyadh summit (during Trump's May 20 visit), coordination between the leaderships of the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia has strengthened; the four leaders aim to insert the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative into the American's terms of reference for the opening conference of the negotiations. The deep rift between the United States and the European Unit on the Paris Climate Accords generated greater Palestinian focus on their dialogue with Washington.

The PLO official added that according to current Palestinian assessment, the administration staff will upgrade its activity through the next months in order to propose to Trump a set of founding principles as a basis for a regional conference to launch the negotiations. It is also possible that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will visit the region in the near future in this context.

The Palestinian negotiating team believes that, unlike President Barack Obama, Trump will stay away from detailed terms of reference that will predetermine permanent status issues. The official believes that Trump's guideline principles will be relatively vague, creating a symmetry between Israeli and Palestinian interests. Possible guidelines as the Palestinians have heard from their sources at the US Consulate in Jerusalem may include seven or more elements.

A first principle would be that of peace between the two parties that puts an end to the conflict. Another element would be the right of each side to determine its future and character, in the context of peaceful coexistence. A third principle would be stringent security and anti-terror arrangements, especially regarding Israel's security and Palestinian demilitarization. The guidelines will also include a role for Jordan and the Arab League in security monitoring after a permanent agreement, backed by the United States; settlement building restraint by Israel during the negotiations; and normalization of relations by the Arab states with Israel in parallel to the negotiations. Finally, the guideline will determine that the negotiations need to deal with all permanent status issues, including Jerusalem and refugees.

Posted by orrinj at 7:04 PM


The Enduring Mystery of Jon Ossoff (GRAHAM VYSE, June 12, 2017, nEW rEPUBLIC)

The most common interpretation of Ossoff's success is that, to quote Handel, he "talks like a Republican." The Weekly Standard dubbed Ossoff "a political Janus, flirting with progressives while campaigning like a moderate." National Journal political editor Josh Kraushaar similarly attributed Ossoff's strength to "run­ning like a mod­er­ate Republican--hardly talk­ing about Pres­id­ent Trump":

For all the talk about the power of the in­creas­ingly-strident left-wing base, Demo­crat­ic op­er­at­ives re­cog­nize that the way to win elec­tions is through woo­ing in­de­pend­ents and per­suad­able voters. The key voters in up­com­ing con­gres­sion­al and gubernat­ori­al con­tests are sub­urb­an­ites, many of whom have little af­fin­ity for Trump but want to hear a pos­it­ive agenda from the op­pos­i­tion. They're also wary of a left­ward lurch--tone-deaf­ness on the ter­ror­ist threat, open­ness to single-pay­er health care, to name a couple of ex­amples--that seems to be gain­ing trac­tion with­in the Demo­crat­ic Party.

It's true that Ossoff hasn't distinguished himself as a populist firebrand or leftist ideologue, but rather as a "mild-mannered, centrist candidate," in the words of Ed Kilgore, a New York magazine columnist and former policy director for the now-defunct centrist Democratic Leadership Council. Ossoff's campaign ads focus on "working with anyone" and cutting wasteful government spending and the national deficit. He "has often eschewed progressive politics to campaign on fiscal responsibility and 'sense over nonsense,'" as The Washington Post put it. "He has appealed to progressive Berniecrats primarily by positioning himself against Trump," Mother Jones observed, "but without pushing their core platform positions like single-payer health care, free tuition, or steep taxes on the rich."

Posted by orrinj at 3:42 PM


Posted by orrinj at 2:55 PM


Trump slams media for failing to cover nonexistent energy stock boom (Matt Egan, June 12, 2017, CNN Money)

Trump said the "drilling & energy sector" is "way up" since the election.

But if Trump's Oval Office desk isn't covered with articles detailing a boom in drilling and energy stocks, it's because there isn't one. These stocks have done terribly since the election.

The S&P 500's energy sector is down more than 4%, even as the Dow has soared since November 8. Energy is actually the only sector among 11 in the S&P 500 to lose ground since Trump's win.

Posted by orrinj at 2:48 PM


Appeals court refuses to reinstate Trump travel ban (LYDIA WHEELER, 06/12/17, The Hill)

In a unanimous ruling Monday, a three-judge panel on the court said Trump's order does not offer a sufficient justification to suspend the entry of more than 180 million people on the basis of nationality.
Though the Immigration and Nationality Act gives the president broad powers to control the entry of foreigners, the judges said the president's authority is subject to certain statutory and constitutional restraints.

Trump stoked controversy last week by again labeling his order a "travel ban" on Twitter. White House officials had rejected that phrase, saying the administration action is not a ban, but is rather setting up a system of extreme vetting.

The judges on Monday cited Trump's tweets in defending its finding that the order does not provide a rationale explaining why permitting entry of nationals from the six designated countries under current protocols would be detrimental to the interests of the United States

"Indeed, the President recently confirmed his assessment that it is the 'countries' that are inherently dangerous, rather than the 180 million individual nationals of those countries who are barred from entry under the President's 'travel ban.'" they wrote in a footnote, citing Trump's June 5th tweet.

Posted by orrinj at 1:27 PM


...to one represented by the sycophant...
Posted by orrinj at 1:25 PM


Supreme Court rules to allow lower-cost biosimilars to market faster in Sandoz-Amgen case (ED SILVERMAN, JUNE 12, 2017, Stat)

In a highly anticipated decision, the U.S. Supreme Court reduced the time that companies will have to wait before selling lower-cost versions of expensive biologic medicines, a move that is expected to save the health care system piles of money.

The 9-to-0 ruling came in response to sharply contrasting views of the complex procedures found in the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act, which is supposed to determine when biosimilar drugs can be launched.

Posted by orrinj at 10:56 AM


Trump's Credibility Problem : The high price of Donald Trump's low character (KEVIN D. WILLIAMSON June 12, 2017, National Review)

Assume, for the sake of argument, that all of these claims end up being completely without merit. How should we go about investigating them?

It is impossible to get at that in a meaningful way without considering the unsettling question: What sort of man is the president of these United States? We know he is a habitual liar, one who tells obvious lies for no apparent reason, from claiming to own hotels that he does not own to boasting about having a romantic relationship with Carla Bruni, which never happened. ("Trump is obviously a lunatic," Bruni explained.) He invented a series of imaginary friends to lie to the New York press about both his business and sexual careers. He has conducted both his private and public lives with consistent dishonesty and dishonor. He is not a man who can be taken at his word.

Conservatives used to care about that sort of thing: Bill Bennett built a literary empire on virtue, and Peggy Noonan wrote wistfully of a time "When Character Was King." But even if we set aside any prissy moral considerations and put a purely Machiavellian eye on the situation, we have to conclude that having a man such as Trump as president and presumptive leader of the Republican party is an enormous problem for conservatives and for the country corporately. 

One's tolerance of Donald seems to be almost entirely a function of one's nativism and Islamophobia.

Posted by orrinj at 10:33 AM


From 'caliph' to fugitive: IS leader Baghdadi's new life on the run (Michael Georgy and Maher Chmaytelli, 6/12/17, Reuters)

Islamic State fighters are close to defeat in the twin capitals of the group's territory, Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria, and officials say Baghdadi is steering clear of both, hiding in thousands of square miles of desert between the two.

"In the end, he will either be killed or captured, he will not be able to remain underground forever," said Lahur Talabany, the head of counter-terrorism at the Kurdistan Regional Government, the Kurdish autonomous region in northern Iraq. "But this is a few years away still," he told Reuters.

One of Baghdadi's main concerns is to ensure those around him do not betray him for the $25 million reward offered by the United States to bring him "to justice", said Hisham al-Hashimi, who advises Middle East governments on Islamic State affairs.

"With no land to rule openly, he can no longer claim the title caliph," Hashimi said. "He is a man on the run and the number of his supporters is shrinking as they lose territory."

Allah favored the Christians and Shi'a over the Salafi.

Posted by orrinj at 10:28 AM


Marc Kasowitz, Call Your Lawyer (Paul Rosenzweig, June 12, 2017, Lawfare)

Today's New York Times contains this tidbit in an article about Marc Kasowitz and his role in the Trump White House: "In recent days, Mr. Kasowitz has advised White House aides to discuss the inquiry into Russia's interference in last year's election as little as possible, two people involved said. He told aides gathered in one meeting who had asked whether it was time to hire private lawyers that it was not yet necessary, according to another person with direct knowledge."

This minor detail seems to confiirm what Benjamin Wittes and Quinta Jurecic have already suggested more broadly--that Kasowitz, a real estate civil litigator from New York, is not familiar with the rules relating to criminal investigations.  

Posted by orrinj at 9:13 AM


Indian creator of $3,500 self-driving car: "Reaching Level 5 autonomy will take a decade in India" (ABHIMANYU GHOSHAL, 6/12/17, Next Web)

Back in 2010, when [Dr. Roshy John] was taking a cab home from the airport late at night in Kochi, he noticed that the driver was sleepy and driving callously as a result. That's when he decided to look into creating a solution so people wouldn't have to risk their lives to earn a living, and so passengers would be able to count on a safe ride home.

Over the next few years, John independently took upon the task of building a self-driving system from scratch.

Working with a team of engineers from his firm, John began, as people do with most robotics projects, by creating a simulation of the vehicle driving around a virtual city with roads, obstacles and conditions that human drivers encounter in the real world.

Next John's team set to work gather data from the field by mounting cameras onto real cars and driving the vehicles around town and on highways.

He then bought a Tata Nano, a tiny $3,500 hatchback that's barely 122 inches long, and took it apart so he could figure out how to steer and control the manual-transmission car remotely. John fitted it with sensors, actuators and cameras, as well as a system to automatically handle the steering, gas, brakes and gearbox.

The next step was to make the entire setup modular, so it could be fitted onto other cars quickly and deployed into tests on real roads as soon as the opportunities presented themselves.

Speaking to TNW at NASSCOM's Drive with IoT event last week, John, who's now the Global Practice Head at TCS, said that the company has now managed to achieve Level 4 autonomy with its driverless technology, and has made some strides in Level 5 autonomy (fully self-driving). It's now developing this tech further for clients including Tata Motors (which owns brands like Jaguar and Land Rover).

Posted by orrinj at 7:33 AM


Broadway Tickets, for the Price of an Economics Lesson (JAMES B. STEWART, JUNE 8, 2017, NY Times)

"At the most basic level, all pricing is about allocating scarce resources," said Robert Phillips, the head of marketplace optimization sciences at Uber, the car service that has pioneered surge pricing in local transportation. Surge pricing is another form of dynamic pricing. (Mr. Phillips previously headed Columbia University's Center for Pricing and Revenue Management.)

"I've worked in theater, concerts and sports," he said, "and they all have a similar problem: For extreme hits, demand at what people would consider a reasonable price far exceeds supply."

From an economics perspective, "this is simply a rationing problem," he added. "If you keep prices low, people will buy tickets and resell them on the secondary market. Someone is going to pay a market-clearing price, no matter how high. The only question is who should get the money: the investors and performers and creators, or a speculator who managed to snap up the tickets the moment the box office opened?" [...]

The Harvard economist N. Gregory Mankiw paid $2,500 apiece last fall for prime tickets to "Hamilton," which he bought two weeks before the performance via StubHub. As he put it in a subsequent column in The Times, "In a perfect world, everyone would have the opportunity to see a megahit like 'Hamilton.'"

But "it was only because the price was so high that I was able to buy tickets at all on such short notice," he added. "If legal restrictions or moral sanctions had forced prices to remain close to face value, it is likely that no tickets would have been available by the time my family got around to planning its trip to the city." [...]

[A]s I discovered, it helps to be flexible. While I started out this week looking for "Hello, Dolly!" tickets, I ended up at "Groundhog Day," a new show with seven Tony nominations, including best musical and best actor, for a small fraction of the price of seeing Bette Midler. Seats for "Groundhog Day" were available at TKTS for half-price and online for $50. (And I loved it.)

Dynamic pricing and super-premium prices may be relatively new, but the scarcity of tickets for hit shows has a long tradition. Mr. Schumacher cited "My Fair Lady," the "Hamilton" of the 1955-56 Broadway season. As Broadway lore has it, a man in the audience turned to his neighbor, an older woman, and asked why the fifth-row center seat next to her was empty.

"My husband died," she replied.

"Didn't anyone else want to come?" he asked.

"No," she answered. "They're all at the funeral."

Posted by orrinj at 7:19 AM


Trump's Economic Agenda Is Almost Dead : A once-in-a-generation opportunity is slipping away. (Barry Ritholtz, 6/12/17, Bloomberg)

Let's begin with the observation that the long-awaited "pivot towards being presidential" hasn't arrived, and by all indications never will. Those of us who harbored hopes for a comprehensive corporate tax reform, for repatriation of trillions of overseas dollars, for an infrastructure plan, and perhaps even for a lowered personal income tax rate, are coming to recognize the folly of our wishful thinking. That window of opportunity now looks like casements in South Florida during hurricane season.

The good news is that the global economy keeps expanding as corporate profits rise and the post-credit-crisis recovery continues apace. Left to its own devices, even as the Federal Reserve normalizes rates, the economy has the potential to grow for several more years before its next cyclical stumble.

The bad news is that the self-inflicted wounds of the most undisciplined presidency in history are increasingly likely to blow its chances of passing any of the aforementioned economic stimulus measures.  The trifecta of tax reform, repatriation and infrastructure investment could put the U.S. on very strong footing for the next several decades. Such was the legacy of Ronald Reagan, who oversaw a similar "once in a generation" economic boost that resonated for the next 30 years. 

Trump is no Reagan. The current president started with a generational opportunity, in the form of a GOP sweep of the White House and Congress. On November 9, I placed the odds of passing a robust economic legislative agenda at 96 percent. The day Trump took office, cracks in my optimism appeared.   By March, I had lowered the odds to a still healthy 75 percent. Now I'm thinking 25 percent, and even that might be optimistic.

Let the weight of that missed opportunity sink in for a minute.

To be fair, Reagan (and Thatcher and Volcker) broke inflation and then Reagan and Thatcher won the Cold War to boot, giving us the boom.  Taxes had little to do with anything (taxes as a percentage of GDP were little changed in his last year from his first).

What the GOP is blowing is a chance to reform what we tax--consumption instead of income, savings and profits.

Posted by orrinj at 7:16 AM


Congressional Baseball Game To Honor British Terror Victims (Alex Gangitano, 6/12/17, Roll Call)

British Ambassador Nigel Kim Darroch will throw out the first pitch at Thursday's Congressional Baseball Game as spectators at Nationals stadium recognize the victims of the Manchester and London terror attacks. [...]

"We are grateful to have Sir Kim join us to throw out the first pitch at the Congressional Baseball Game," Republican manager Rep. Joe Barton said. "As one of our most special allies, we stand with the British people and would like to honor the first responders and victims of the recent terror attacks."

All you need to know about Donald Trump's Washington : the British Ambassador will have thrown out a first pitch but the president won't have.

Posted by orrinj at 7:07 AM


WHAT EVERYBODY GETS WRONG ABOUT KUSHNER'S LEGAL WOES (Martin J. Sheil, retired branch chief of the IRS Criminal Investigation division, 6/12/17, WhoWhatWny)

[I]f prosecuting Kushner in 2017 under the Logan Act is not any more viable than prosecuting Logan was in 1799, what statute should DOJ and the special prosecutor be looking at?

The answer is the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), which is the primary law under which the US sanctions programs are issued. This federal law was signed by President Jimmy Carter on December 28, 1977.

IEEPA authorizes the president to regulate commerce after declaring a national emergency in response to any unusual and extraordinary threat to the US which has a foreign source. In this case, the relevant parts are as follows:

"It shall be unlawful for a person to violate, attempt to violate, conspire to violate or cause a violation of any license, order, regulation, or prohibition issued under this chapter." (emphasis added)

Criminal Penalty:

"A person who willfully commits, willfully attempts to commit, or willfully conspires to commit, or aids or abets in the commission of, an unlawful act described in subsection (a) shall, upon conviction, be fined not more than $1,000,000 or if a natural person, may be imprisoned for not more than 20 years, or both." (emphasis added)

The US has successfully levied huge fines on banks and corporations that tried to evade federal sanctions on foreign countries.

A list of recent IEEPA offenders and their penalties is as impressive as it is informative:

1.  In 2014, BNP Paribas & Commerzbank AG were required to pay almost $9 billion & $285 million respectively to resolve investigations into concealed transactions involving sanctioned entities.

2.  In 2015, Schlumberger Oilfield Holdings Ltd., the world's largest oilfield services company, paid a $237 million settlement and negotiated a criminal plea wherein DOJ charged a unit of Schlumberger with conspiracy to violate sanctions imposed against Iran & Sudan.

3.  On 3/18/17 ZTE a giant Chinese Telecommunications company plead guilty to criminal charges of violating US sanctions on North Korea & Iran and was required to pay $1.2 billion

What got banks into trouble was so-called wire transfer "stripping." This means that before performing a wire transfer, the bank removes pertinent information such as customer names and/or addresses to avoid economic sanctions violation detection.

If Kushner wanted to further US collusion with Russia in circumventing economic sanctions, either in Russia or Syria, concealment of any American involvement would certainly be required. VEB, which is the favorite bank of Russian President Vladimir Putin as well as that of Russia's oligarchs, would be more than capable of stripping the identity of any American individuals involved.

In the case of the Trump campaign's off-the-books meetings with Russians, we know that Flynn had at least 18 undisclosed communications with Sergey Kislyak  prior to Trump's inauguration. At least one of those discussions with the Russian ambassador reportedly concerned economic sanctions on Russia. Flynn lied to Vice President Mike Pence, saying that his conversation with Kislyak did not address economic sanctions, and was eventually fired as a result. Later it was discovered that Flynn did not disclose his travels and contacts in Moscow, nor his receipt of approximately $45k from the Kremlin-backed RT television network in Russia in December of 2015. Furthermore, it was found that he lied to the DOD about his contacts and the foreign payments.

As part of Russia's punishment for its annexation of Crimea, VEB was placed under sanctions in July 2014. The bank suffered extensive economic losses from the sanctions and Putin was compelled to bail out VEB with over $20 billion in government subsidies.

According to multiple media reports, it has recently come to light that Flynn arranged a meeting at Trump Tower in December of 2016 (prior to inauguration) with Kislyak and Kushner. Shortly after this meeting another meeting was arranged by Kislyak with Kushner and Gorkov. In January the secret Ukraine peace plan was delivered to Flynn's desk by Trump attorney Michael Cohen and, according to recent media reports, the State Department began plans to revoke economic sanctions against Russia.

Posted by orrinj at 6:58 AM


Was the Rise of ISIS Inevitable? (A. TREVOR THRALL and JOHN GLASER, 6/06/17, Cato)

In the latest issue of Survival, Hal Brands and Peter Feaver address an important debate in American foreign policy circles. Was the rise of ISIS inevitable, or was it the result of misguided U.S. policies? Most agree it is the latter, but the dispute gets fraught on the question of whether it was U.S. military interventionism or inaction that deserves the blame. Some say it was the invasion of Iraq that led to the rise of ISIS. Others insist it was Obama's decision to withdraw from Iraq in 2011.

Brands and Feaver use counterfactual analysis to assess whether different U.S. policy decisions at four "inflection points" could have nipped the rise of ISIS in the bud. The first of these points was the Bush administration's decision to invade Iraq in 2003. The other three occurred during the Obama administration and include the decision not to press Iraq to allow the United States to leave behind a significant number of U.S. troops, the decision not to intervene aggressively early on in the Syrian civil war, and the decision not to intervene more forcefully to help the government of Iraq defeat ISIS before it took the city of Mosul.

The authors take a middle road, arguing that, "the rise of ISIS was indeed an avertable tragedy," but that both restraint and activism share the blame. Had U.S. policymakers not invaded Iraq in 2003, or been more aggressive in Iraq and Syria from 2011-2014, they argue, "ISIS might not have emerged at all." [...]

The most problematic issue is their treatment of the invasion of Iraq. By bundling the invasion of Iraq with the other three inflection points, the authors introduce a false sense of equality among them, making it seem as if they were all the same sort of decision, and of equal magnitude. In so doing, they obscure the most critical lesson from not only the invasion of Iraq but from the entire war on terror: the fact that American military intervention creates more problems than it solves, leading to destabilization and the amplification of civil conflicts.

For the Realist, it is always worthwhile to keep even genocidal dictators in place because they provide "quiet."  America, on the other hand, exists to destabilize any regime where the citizenry is not allowed self-determination.

On the other hand, Brands and Feaver are nearly correct about the aggression required to prevent ISIS, but that aggression needed to be directed by the Shi'a, starting in 2003.

Posted by orrinj at 6:31 AM


What Is the Future of Conservatism? (SAMUEL GOLDMAN, 5/02/17, Liberty & Law)

The political theorist Mark Lilla provides a useful starting point in his recent book The Shipwrecked Mind (2016). He describes reaction as the yearning to overturn a present condition of decadence and recover an idealized past. The pursuit of social transformation distinguishes reaction from the conservative inclination to cherish and preserve what actually exists.

If reaction is temperamentally unconservative, it is also historically antiliberal. In the 18th and 19th centuries, reactionary thought challenged the public/private distinction, free markets, constitutional government, and the public authority of reason. These critiques were often brilliant and remain major accomplishments of political theory. For all their insight, however, the reactionaries struggled to propose appealing alternatives to liberalism. Some defended the old prerogatives of altar and throne. Others articulated a kind of aristocratic anarchism that held some literary appeal but was hard to accept as a guide to practical politics.

The historical opposition between liberalism and reaction has led some analysts to impose a sharp separation between an essentially liberal Anglo-American conservatism and a reactionary European Right. Because it is politically flattering as well conceptually clarifying, I have been tempted to make this distinction myself. But I now think the opposition between liberalism and reaction is only contingent. When reaction is defined as the attempt to recover a lost golden age rather than commitment to a specific historical order, it becomes compatible with liberalism.

Liberalism and reaction can overlap in a specific kind of decline narrative--one according to which private conduct used to be protected, government was properly limited, reason ruled. There was a veritable golden age of freedom. But this paradise was interrupted by a calamity that undermined liberalism and imposed different principles of social order. Unless confronted, the substitution threatens to become permanent.

This decline narrative is not just an abstract possibility. Although it can be presented in several versions, it provides a template for the self-understanding of American conservative thought. It does not matter precisely which period is identified as the golden age or what event serves as that intervening calamity. Whether the point at which things went wrong is the Civil War, the Progressive movement, the New Deal, or the Great Society, the basic structure is the same.

It might be objected that even if American conservative thought involves a reactionary pattern of historical reasoning, it does not seek classically reactionary ends. Few American conservatives admired early modern absolutism or ancient paganism (although more expressed affection for the antebellum South). But they have dabbled in the endorsement of non-liberal means to liberal ends.

In the American context, that usually means adopting populist strategies that cater to the prejudices of the public. Conservative intellectuals have been willing to accept support where they could find it, without inquiring too deeply into its sources. In particular, the role of conspiracy theories and racism in generating support for putatively liberal candidates and policies tends to be downplayed or ignored. Conservatives have also been less than vigilant about limited government when sympathetic figures are in office. Concerns about executive power, for example, have a way of disappearing when Republicans occupy the White House.

The divergences are not simply lapses from principle. Reaction is, in a paradoxical way, more hopeful than liberalism. Instead of placing its faith in the long-term salutary effects of countless private actions, it depends on the acquisition and assertion of power. Like Antonio Gramsci's Marxism, reaction could be characterized as pessimism of the intellect and optimism of the will.

Reaction, like Progressivism, is the opposite of Conservatism.

Ten Conservative Principles (Russell Kirk, Kirk Center)


Sixth, conservatives are chastened by their principle of imperfectability. Human nature suffers irremediably from certain grave faults, the conservatives know. Man being imperfect, no perfect social order ever can be created. Because of human restlessness, mankind would grow rebellious under any utopian domination, and would break out once more in violent discontent--or else expire of boredom. To seek for utopia is to end in disaster, the conservative says: we are not made for perfect things. All that we reasonably can expect is a tolerably ordered, just, and free society, in which some evils, maladjustments, and suffering will continue to lurk. By proper attention to prudent reform, we may preserve and improve this tolerable order. But if the old institutional and moral safeguards of a nation are neglected, then the anarchic impulse in humankind breaks loose: "the ceremony of innocence is drowned." The ideologues who promise the perfection of man and society have converted a great part of the twentieth-century world into a terrestrial hell.

Posted by orrinj at 6:18 AM


Why Trump Is Like This : The president's biographer explains the man, his motivations, and what made him this way. (Isaac Chotiner, 6/12/17, Slate)

To discuss Trump's formative years, as well as the current state of his presidency, I spoke by phone recently with Marc Fisher, a senior editor at the Washington Post and the author, with Michael Kranish, of Trump Revealed: The Definitive Biography of the 45th President. Fisher spent hours interviewing Trump for the book and has continued to analyze him in these early months of his presidency. [...]

Isaac Chotiner: What surprises you most and least about Trump's presidency thus far?

Marc Fisher: For a guy who takes great pride in being a provocateur and being unpredictable, he's remarkably consistent. The great satisfaction of covering him as president is that his behavior tracks the main themes of his life prior to the presidency quite beautifully. This is a guy who really does not change much. In fact, in one of our early interviews, he said, "I'm pretty much the same guy I was when I was 7 years old." The patterns of behavior through his life are shockingly consistent.

What are those?

It's everything from his unitary focus on himself and what's good for his bottom line to his very solitary, lonely nature as a man, to his willingness to run over and destroy anyone he sees as being in his way. He is quite consistently someone who likes to make mischief and thinks of himself as a jokester, and yet he's also someone who deeply believes that he can manage and fix just about anything.

Probably one of the most important aspects of his personality is that for Donald Trump there's really no tense other than the present tense. He doesn't think terribly much about the future, and he also doesn't at all acknowledge that the past exists. I think he almost uniquely, in my experience, doesn't really experience the past in his day-to-day life. When you ask him about things that took place earlier in his life, it's almost as if they come fresh to him every time you mention them.

Posted by orrinj at 6:07 AM


Competition for Offshore Wind Gets Serious in Massachusetts (Philip Marcelo, 6/11/17, Associated Press)

The state's electric utilities -- National Grid, Eversource and Unitil -- are slated to release by June 30 their requirements for projects seeking to develop the state's first ocean-based wind farm.

That sets in motion an ambitious effort to put Massachusetts ahead of states like New York, New Jersey and Maryland also seeking to establish their presence in the nascent U.S. industry. Here's a primer on where things stand:

A state law passed last year to boost Massachusetts' use of renewable energy outlines the process for developing offshore wind power.

The law calls for generating at least 1,600 megawatts of power, roughly enough electricity to power 750,000 homes annually, from offshore wind by 2027.

To accomplish this, the utilities are required to secure long-term contracts with wind farm developers in at least two phases: a bid request this month and another in 2019.

The law also calls for generating up to 1,200 additional megawatts from other clean energy sources, including hydropower, onshore wind power and solar power by 2027.

At least three companies have expressed interest in the bid: Rhode Island's Deepwater Wind, Denmark's DONG Energy and Vineyard Wind of New Bedford, Mass.

Posted by orrinj at 6:04 AM


U.S. Has a Large Number of Visa Overstays (Michael Matza, 6/11/17, The Philadelphia Inquirer)

Today, various studies show, overstays are the leading source of unlawful immigration, and make up more than 40 percent of the nation's estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants.

A Department of Homeland Security "entry-exit" report released last month showed that nearly 629,000 people who came to the United States on a visa in fiscal year 2016 stayed after it expired, and were still here at the end of the year.

The latest research undercuts President Donald Trump's claim that "a big, beautiful wall," at a cost of $20 billion to $40 billion, is the answer to illegal immigration.

"No dollar spent on a border wall will stop someone from overstaying a visa," said Philadelphia lawyer William Stock, a former national president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Almost everyone who "played by the rules" was out of visa at some point, like our First Lady.

Posted by orrinj at 6:00 AM


Top U.S. diplomat quits China post because of his faith. (Julia Duin, 6/11/17, Get Religion)

A few days ago, America's acting ambassador to China did a most curious thing. He resigned over President Donald Trump's decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement. Note that this person was posted in the capital of the world's largest carbon polluter while representing the world's second largest carbon polluter.

Posted by orrinj at 5:27 AM


Cooperstown offers escape into baseball lore (TROY E. RENCK, 6/09/12, The Denver Post)

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y.  -- Walking through the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is like following bread crumbs for 100 years.

The world is beautiful, ugly, memorable ... a living, breathing postcard collage. This wasn't my first time in Cooperstown, but it was my first time with my family. The difference in sharing is striking.

It's obvious by my job that I love baseball. Connecting the dots with them was much more rewarding.

With apologies to Abner Doubleday, everything starts with Babe Ruth. When they were growing up, my kids loved the movie "The Sandlot," so each turn helped place the Great Bambino in context. They marveled at statistics and more than anything, his size. His jersey could have served as a blanket for campers at Cooperstown Dreams Park. When my kids saw Ruth's bat, they paused in amazement. It was part piano leg, part tree trunk.

Suddenly, the moans about USSSA-approved BBCOR bats seemed hollow. When it comes to baseball history, there's Ruth and everyone else. My boys no longer wonder why he's considered the greatest after perusing Ruth's pitching stats. It would be the equivalent of Josh Hamilton working as the Rangers' No. 3 starter.

In museums (or in Las Vegas), we always wonder "if these walls could talk." At Cooperstown, they do. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:18 AM


The Motor City's Blight Busters : With a bottom-up approach, Detroit is making surprising progress toward turning around its neighborhoods. (BOB GRAVES | JUNE 12, 2017, Governing)
Housing blight was another visible sign of Detroit's decay. An estimated 78,000 structures, some 29 percent of all of those in the city, were in need of demolition or other intervention to restore neighborhoods, attract investment and end decades of decline. Today Detroit is running the largest blight-removal program of its kind in the nation. Tens of millions of dollars in state and federal funds are critical for the turnaround, but so is innovation by the city and a variety of stakeholders who are putting the funds to work more effectively through an online technology platform, the Detroit Demolition Tracker.

It's another example of the impact of a bottom-up approach. Brian Farkas, director of special projects for the Detroit Building Authority, explained in an interview that as recently as 2012 residents were not in the loop on the demolitions. There was a paper-based system with information limited to door hangers that included little more than a phone number to call for information. Demolitions weren't focused on specific neighborhoods but were taking place in scattered patterns throughout the city, which reduced the visual impact and impeded neighborhood revitalization efforts.

The Demolition Tracker upgraded both data inputs and outputs. Residents can type in their address and find an array of information about what is happening in the immediate block and neighborhood. "We were striving to give citizens an understanding of what's happening in their neighborhood," Farkas explained. "This was best done through map images rather than raw data."

The demolitions, Farkas noted, are erasing the underlying cause of "blight flight" and proving to be the foundation of rebirth for these neighborhoods. Research has shown that removing blighted structures not only raises the values of the housing that remains but also produces far-reaching effects. Where property values are rising, crime, unemployment and failing education all improve. Every blighted house that is knocked down, Farkas said, makes it easier to solve broader social problems.

...that demolition won't fix.