October 31, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 8:47 PM


Why There Was a Civil War : Some issues aren't amenable to deal making; some principles don't lend themselves to compromise. (YONI APPELBAUM, MAY 1, 2017, The Atlantic)

[T]he Civil War was fought over slavery. "Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery--the greatest material interest of the world," Mississippi declared as it seceded. "The people of the slave holding States are bound together by the same necessity and determination to preserve African slavery," said Louisiana. "The servitude of the African race, as existing in these States, is mutually beneficial to both bond and free, and is abundantly authorized and justified by the experience of mankind, and the revealed will of the Almighty Creator, as recognized by all Christian nations," insisted Texas.

And Lincoln understood it, too. "All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war," he said. "To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war, while the Government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it."

The entirely uncontroversial consensus among professional historians is that slavery caused the war, although this conclusion has not reached much of the general public. Leaders like Jackson, then, only postponed the inevitable reckoning. It's still tempting, though, to believe that the Civil War might have been avoided, the loss of three-quarters-of-a-million lives averted, the bloodiest conflict in our history forestalled. And for a century, many of America's political leaders did everything in their power to turn a blind eye to the carnage of slavery, staving off sectional crises.

The first century of American history, in fact, can be told through the long litany of deals struck by strong leaders working to suppress, or at least delay, open conflict over slavery. The delegates in Philadelphia were deal makers; the Constitution they produced strengthened the federal government, but at the price of shielding slavery. The three-fifths compromise ensured the South would wield disproportionate power in the House and in presidential elections; the document protected the international slave trade for 20 years.

If some at the convention had hoped that compromise might buy enough time for slavery to pass out of existence on its own, they were disappointed. Instead, slavery--in all its horrifying brutality--became a cornerstone of American economic development. An ever-increasing number of human beings were held in bondage, their labor forcibly extracted, and their financial worth heavily leveraged.

Posted by orrinj at 7:38 PM


The Papadopoulos plea has blindsided Republicans (Jennifer Rubin, October 31, 2017, Washington Post)

In August 2016, Clovis responded to efforts by Papadopoulos to organize an "off the record" meeting with Russian officials. "I would encourage you" and another foreign policy adviser to the campaign to "make the trip, if it is feasible," Clovis wrote.

Clovis is now reportedly cooperating with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. As my colleague Aaron Blake points out, Clovis's excuse, provided by his lawyer, that he was being "polite," makes no sense:

So basically, Clovis told someone to do something he opposed and was against campaign rules because he was only being a polite Midwesterner and he couldn't technically prevent him from doing it. (As a Minnesotan, I'll gladly try to use this excuse going forward.)

The strained explanation speaks to just how problematic this could be for Clovis. The campaign and the Trump transition team claimed over and over again that it had no contact with Russians during the campaign. Here we have a former Trump foreign policy aide actively setting up a potential meeting with the Russians, and Clovis giving him the thumbs-up. At one point, Papadopoulos specified that the meeting was requested by the Russian MFA (Ministry of Foreign Affairs), so there was no mistaking who was requesting the meeting.

Plainly, Papadopoulos doesn't fit the Trump talking point that Mueller is somehow "proving" no connection between the campaign and the Russians, and Clovis's involvement makes the entire talking point irrelevant. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:35 PM


IRGC commander rules out war between Iran, US (Al-Monitor, October 31, 2017)

Jafari said, "These days, the US is planning to start imposing the sanctions called CAATSA [Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act] under the pretext of Iran's missile capability. While the IRGC and [Iran's] missile capability are [just a] pretext, Iran's economic capacity is the [real] target."

On the possibility that the United States might try to kill the nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Jafari asked, "What was the benefit of the JCPOA for us?" He noted, "The Iranian nation has repeatedly experienced Americans' not honoring their commitments."

The IRGC commander further said, "The people of Iran know the United States well, and if they relatively trusted [it] during the last four years, [that] was for the sake of the JCPOA. [Now] Iranians have lost their trust in the US for not honoring [its commitments] and [for] deception."

Posted by orrinj at 3:55 PM


Trump's Policy on Terrorism Suspects Looks Like Obama's (KRISHNADEV CALAMUR, 10/31/17, THE ATLANTIC)

[T]he Trump administration's practice with newly captured terrorism suspects hews closely to its predecessor's policy.

In July, Ali Charaf Damache, a dual Irish-Algerian citizen who is suspected of being an al-Qaeda recruiter, was transferred to the U.S. from Spain, and later appeared in federal court in Philadelphia. Damache was accused of being part of a plot to kill a Swedish cartoonist who depicted Islam's Prophet Muhammad in a cartoon. He became the first foreign citizen to be brought to the U.S. for trial in the Trump era. But his transfer to the U.S. could have also been linked to the opposition of a European country, Spain, to transfer a European citizen to Guantanamo, a facility many European view with disdain. Still, civil-rights groups praised the Trump administration for its decision to give Damache a civilian trial.

Posted by orrinj at 3:52 PM


What Did Thomas Barrack Know, and When Did He Know It? (Martin Longman, October 31, 2017, Washington Monthly)

The Iowa caucuses took place on February 1st. A couple of weeks later, Barrack and Manafort had a meeting at the Montage hotel in Beverly Hills where they discussed a packet of memos Manafort had prepared to put forth his credentials to handle the delegate fight. On February 29th, Barrack forwarded the packet to Trump along with "an effusive cover letter" that "described Mr. Manafort in terms that Mr. Trump would like, calling him 'the most experienced and lethal of managers' and 'a killer.'"

This must have seemed like a great idea to Barrack, as he could make two good friends happy at the same time. What he almost definitely didn't then realize is that Manafort had an ulterior motive and was a desperate man.

It's been known for some time that Manafort was deeply in debt when he approached Barrack about working for Donald Trump. Specifically, the New York Times reported in July that Manafort owed as much as $19 million to a Russian oligarch with mob connections named Oleg V. Deripaska.

When Barrack and Manafort made their pitch to Trump, Manafort wrote "I am not looking for a paid job," and Barrack reiterated the point in his cover letter: "[Manafort] would do this in an unpaid capacity." It wouldn't become clear until later why a man who owes millions to a mobbed-up Putin connected Russian oligarch would be looking to work for free.

On March 28th, Trump hired Manafort without pay. Soon after, this happened:

On the evening of April 11, 2016, two weeks after Donald Trump hired the political consultant Paul Manafort to lead his campaign's efforts to wrangle Republican delegates, Manafort emailed his old lieutenant Konstantin Kilimnik, who had worked for him for a decade in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev.

"I assume you have shown our friends my media coverage, right?" Manafort wrote.

"Absolutely," Kilimnik responded a few hours later from Kiev. "Every article."

"How do we use to get whole," Manafort asks. "Has OVD operation seen?"

The initials OVD obviously stand for Oleg Vladimirovich Deripaska. What Manafort was hoping is that by landing his position with Trump, he could somehow free himself from the millions and millions of dollars of debt he owed to Deripaska.

Posted by orrinj at 3:26 PM


Seeking 'Dirt' from Foreign Powers Is an Impeachable Offense (Cass Sunstein, 10/31/17, TIME)

In the summer of 1787, the delegates to the constitutional convention in Philadelphia vigorously debated the question whether the president should be impeachable. James Madison, the wisest of them all, insisted that impeachable was "indispensable," because the president "might pervert his administration into a scheme of peculation or oppression."

But the most eloquent was George Mason: "Shall any man be above Justice? Above all shall that man be above it, who can commit the most extensive injustice?" Mason feared "the man who has practised corruption & by that means procured his appointment in the first instance." [...]

Viewed in light of the founding debates, Papadopoulos' conduct was traitorous -- the kind of conduct that would raise legitimate impeachment questions if it had been undertaken by a candidate personally. Recall George Mason's words. No aspirant to high office, and no adviser to any such aspirant, should engage with Russian officials about how to obtain "dirt" on a political appointment.

Posted by orrinj at 3:20 PM


Mayonnaise is disgusting, and science agrees (Kendra Pierre-Louis, 10/31/17, Popular Science)

"Feces is the universal disgust, like the first disgust," says Paul Rozin, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania who has researched disgust since the 1980s. In addition to being an expert on disgust Rozin is also the researcher who coined the phrase "benign masochism" to explain why some humans enjoy the burn of chili peppers.

Disgust, theorizes Rozin, originally evolved as a way to keep humans safe. Hanging around each other's excrement, for example, is an excellent way to spread diseases so we learned pretty early to avoid the stuff.

"Disgusting foods are contaminating," says Rozin. "If you put a little bit of it in something, other people won't eat it." [...]

As far as Rozin knows nobody has ever done a study specifically on mayonnaise disgust, but based on his previous research on disgust he posits that it's mayonnaise's texture that's the culprit. It's viscous quality is the sort of thickness that you'd get from fluid oozing out of a rotted carcass as anyone who has ever poked a rotted squirrel with a stick can attest. Disgust also tends to align strongly with our revulsion about bodily fluids. We don't exactly market lemonade by saying that it looks like pee. And the creamy appearance of mayonnaise isn't dissimilar from what would emerge from say a popped zit. Delicious.

Of course the fact that mayonnaise triggers my sense of disgust, doesn't really matter to any company's bottom line. Stores like Ready should only care about my condiment vendetta if there are more of me.

"The percentage of people who don't like mayo it's probably close to 20 percent--it's not trivial," says Herbert Stone a food sensory consultant. I'd called Stone to figure out whether I was unique in my mayonnaise aversion. While he can't put a precise number on how many of us just dislike mayonnaise versus experience disgust, the big take away is that I'm not alone. Even a quick survey of Popular Science's office found that at least one other staff member doesn't really like mayo but she'll eat it when she has to, while another, like me, wholly avoids eating Ready's sandwich selections because the ubiquity of mayonnaise on their menu. And a quick Google search reveals websites and songs, devoted to people's hatred of this ubiquitous condiment.

"You will find this kind of polarization in other countries around the world," adds Stone, who has among other thing consulted with the Hellmann's (Best Foods) brand of mayonnaise. "And it's not just Western Europe--you will find a similar degree of like dislike in Asia as well."

Posted by orrinj at 3:17 PM


Consumer confidence hits highest level since December 2000 (Michael Sheetz, 10/31/17, CNBC.com)

Consumers were even more optimistic in October than economists polled by Reuters expected.

Consumer confidence rose to 125.9 in October, according to the Conference Board.

The index "increased to its highest level in almost 17 years," Lynn Franco, Director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board, said 

Posted by orrinj at 3:00 PM


WPI Study: NFL Teams Should Use New Draft Strategies (WPI, May 7, 2014)

The study, released this week, once again contrasts with the popularly held view that first-round picks provide the best value. It also raises questions about the accuracy of the draft pick value table that has traditionally been used by teams in making trades. The 79th annual NFL draft takes place May 8-10 in New York City.

The WPI team analyzed the 2012 and 2013 draft classes, and found that second round picks represent the best performance relative to a player's selection in the draft with about 70 percent of the production of first-round picks but at just 44 percent of the salary. Similarly, third-round picks provided close to 70 percent of the production of first-round picks but at just 28 percent of the salary.

Posted by orrinj at 8:55 AM


Half of all internet traffic comes from bots (Sara Fischer, 10/31/17, Axios)

More than half of internet traffic is bots. Bots have always played a major role in our internet ecosystem, although not all bots are bad. (Some, for example, are used to make our search experiences more accurate.) But the bots used to spread fake news are usually bad, and bad bots make up roughly 29% of internet traffic.

Posted by orrinj at 6:33 AM


Russia Says May Host Talks To Reform Syria's Constitution Next Month (Radio Free Europe, October 31, 2017)

Lavrentyev said Assad would be willing to participate in the proposed talks with other Syrians, which he said would include groups both for and against the government.

Assad "has confirmed his readiness for...the preparation of a new constitution and the holding of new parliamentary and presidential elections on this basis," Lavrentyev said, adding that Assad's acceptance of such a constitutional reform process is "a very important announcement."

Lavrentyev said the United Nations envoy for Syria, Steffan de Mistura, had also supported the idea of holding a Congress of National Dialogue "in principle."

Posted by orrinj at 6:31 AM


UN Nuclear Inspections Chief Sees No Problems Checking Facilities In Iran (Radio Free Europe, October 31, 2017)

United Nations nuclear inspectors have encountered no problems in checking facilities in Iran to determine whether Tehran is complying with the 2015 nuclear deal, the head of the UN's atomic energy agency has said.

"Our inspectors are discharging their responsibilities without problem," International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano told reporters in Abu Dhabi on the sidelines of a conference on nuclear power on October 30.

Posted by orrinj at 6:28 AM


Most Obamacare enrollees could pay less for policies next year (Tami Luhby, October 31, 2017, CNN)

While it's true that premiums for the popular silver Obamacare plan will shoot higher for 2018, most enrollees will actually end up paying less for coverage next year.

In fact, more consumers will be able to snag policies that will cost them nothing each month.

How can that be?

It's because premium subsidies are soaring too, making many plans on the exchanges more affordable. [...]

Even the Trump administration found that Obamacare plans will be more affordable next year. Some 80% of enrollees will be able to find a policy for $75 a month or less -- up from 71% this year and the highest share so far.

Posted by orrinj at 6:26 AM


The rise of artificial intelligence means doctors must redefine what they do (BRYAN VARTABEDIAN, OCTOBER 16, 2017, STAT)

Much of what we once did with our eyes, hands, and ears has been replaced by machines. In my corner of the United States, a child who comes to an emergency department with abdominal pain is likely to have a CT scan before ever being examined by a physician. The stethoscope, the very tool that shaped and defined the bedside examination, began to be phased out as a way to examine the heart sometime at the end of the last century. Other more sensitive diagnostic modalities have dulled our capacity to understand and depend upon what we see and hear.

As the medically mundane is being replaced by machines, we are entering a post-human era of medicine. In "The Innovator's Prescription," Clayton Christensen and Jason Hwang describe the landscape of medicine as evolving from one of intuitive guesswork and pattern recognition to one of precise, targeted medicine -- care well-suited, it seems, for automation and artificial intelligence.

Posted by orrinj at 5:45 AM


After Mueller Indictments, John Kelly Revives Civil War, Gold Star Phone Call Controversies (Margaret Hartmann, 10/31/17, New York)

Incredibly, that wasn't the most controversial part of the interview. When asked about a church in Virginia that recently removed plaques honoring parishioners George Washington and Robert E. Lee, Kelly gave a predicable answer about not holding historical figures by the standards of today. Then he offered this assessment of the Confederate general, and the history of the Civil War:

... It shows you how much of a lack of appreciation of history and what history is. I would tell you that Robert E. Lee was an honorable man. He was a man that gave up his country to fight for his state, which 150 years ago was more important than country. It was always loyalty to state first, back in those days, and now it's different today. But the lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil war. And men of women of good faith on both sides made their stand.

Was Kelly trying to make sure that Tuesday's headlines would focus on the White House chief of staff suggesting the North and South just needed to "compromise" on whether it's okay to enslave people, rather than the Russia probe?

October 30, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 9:41 PM


John Kelly: I'll 'Never' Apologize for Rep. Frederica Wilson Comments (Daily Beast, 10/30/17)

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly said he stands behind his false statements about Rep. Frederica Wilson. In an interview with Laura Ingraham during the debut broadcast of the Fox News program The Ingraham Angle on Monday, Kelly said he did not feel the need to apologize to Wilson, whom he falsely accused earlier this month of bragging about securing funding for an FBI field office.

That's just embarrassing.

Posted by orrinj at 9:31 PM


Upstairs at home, with the TV on, Trump fumes over Russia indictments (Robert Costa, Philip Rucker and Ashley Parker October 30, 2017, Washington Post)

Initially, Trump felt vindicated. Though frustrated that the media were linking him to the indictment and tarnishing his presidency, he cheered that the charges against Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates, were focused primarily on activities that began before his campaign. Trump tweeted at 10:28 a.m., "there is NO COLLUSION!"

But the president's celebration was short-lived. A few minutes later, court documents were unsealed showing that George Papadopoulos, an unpaid foreign policy adviser on Trump's campaign, pleaded guilty to making a false statement to the FBI about his efforts to broker a relationship between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The case provides the clearest evidence yet of links between Trump's campaign and Russian officials. [...]

[T]rump's anger Monday was visible to those who interacted with him, and the mood in the corridors of the White House was one of weariness and fear of the unknown. As the president groused upstairs, many staffers -- some of whom have hired lawyers to help them navigate Mueller's investigation -- privately speculated about where the special counsel might turn next.

"The walls are closing in," said one senior Republican in close contact with top staffers who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly. "Everyone is freaking out."

Gotta love feeling vindicated when your campaign manager is indicted.

Posted by orrinj at 7:13 PM


Tony Podesta stepping down from lobbying giant amid Mueller probe : Podesta announced his decision during a firm-wide meeting Monday morning and is alerting clients of his impending departure. (ANNA PALMER 10/30/2017, Politico)

The investigation into Podesta and his firm grew out of investigators' examination of Manafort's finances. Manafort organized a PR campaign on behalf of a nonprofit called the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine. Podesta Group was one of several firms that were paid to do work on the PR campaign to promote Ukraine in the U.S.

Podesta Group filed paperwork with the Justice Department in April stating that it had done work for the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine that also benefited the same Ukrainian political party that Manafort once advised. Podesta Group said at the time it believed its client was a European think tank untethered to a political party.

Posted by orrinj at 6:24 PM


Sarah Huckabee Sanders just read a viral email forward from 2011 to reporters to explain the White House's position on tax reform (The Week, 10/30/17)

In order to explain why tax reform is needed, Sanders gave an almost word-for-word recitation of a viral email forward that has been circulating since at least 2011. "Suppose that every day, 10 people -- for our purposes, we'll say 'reporters' -- go out for beer, and the bill for all 10 comes to $100," she began. "If these 10 reporters paid their tab every night the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this: The first four, the poorest, would pay nothing. The fifth would pay $1. The sixth would pay $3. The seventh would pay $7. The eighth would pay ... "

Sanders quickly lost everyone...

The tweets are priceless.

Posted by orrinj at 6:19 PM



THE BIGGEST NEWS of Mueller Monday -- the rollout of a money-laundering indictment against Donald Trump's former campaign adviser, Paul Manafort and campaign aide Rick Gates, and the unsealing of a false-statements plea deal by another campaign volunteer, George Papadopoulos -- may involve someone not named explicitly in either indictment: Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

That's because Sessions has repeatedly testified to the Senate that he knows nothing about any collusion with the Russians. (Though in his most recent appearance, he categorized that narrowly by saying he did not "conspire with Russia or an agent of the Russian government to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.")

But the Papadopoulos plea shows that Sessions -- then acting as Trump's top foreign policy adviser -- was in a March 31, 2016, meeting with Trump, at which Papadopoulos explained "he had connections that could help arrange a meeting between then-candidate Trump and President Putin." It also shows that Papadopoulos kept a number of campaign officials in the loop on his efforts to set up a meeting between Trump and Putin, though they secretly determined that the meeting "should be someone low level in the campaign so as not to send any signal," itself a sign the campaign was trying to hide its efforts to make nice with the Russians. 

Posted by orrinj at 3:14 PM


Robert Mueller's Show of Strength: A Quick and Dirty Analysis (Susan Hennessey, Benjamin Wittes  Monday, October 30, 2017, Lawfare)

The first big takeaway from this morning's flurry of charging and plea documents with respect to Paul Manafort Jr., Richard Gates III, and George Papadopoulos is this: The President of the United States had as his campaign chairman a man who had allegedly served for years as an unregistered foreign agent for a puppet government of Vladimir Putin, a man who was allegedly laundering remarkable sums of money even while running the now-president's campaign, a man who allegedly lied about all of this to the FBI and the Justice Department.

The second big takeaway is even starker: A member of President Trump's campaign team now admits that he was working with people he knew to be tied to the Russian government to "arrange a meeting between the Campaign and the Russian government officials" and to obtain "dirt" on Hillary Clinton in the form of thousands of hacked emails--and that he lied about these activities to the FBI. He briefed President Trump on at least some them.

Before we dive any deeper into the Manafort-Gates indictment--charges to which both pled not guilty to today--or the Papadopoulos plea and stipulation, let's pause a moment over these two remarkable claims, one of which we must still consider as allegation and the other of which we can now consider as admitted fact. President Trump, in short, had on his campaign at least one person, and allegedly two people, who actively worked with adversarial foreign governments in a fashion they sought to criminally conceal from investigators. One of them ran the campaign. The other, meanwhile, was interfacing with people he "understood to have substantial connections to Russian government officials" and with a person introduced to him as "a relative of Russian President Vladimir Putin with connections to senior Russian government officials." All of this while President Trump was assuring the American people that he and his campaign had "nothing to do with Russia."

Posted by orrinj at 1:40 PM


Bannon declares war on Singer in call with Trump (Jonathan Swan, 10/29/17, Axios)

In a Friday night phone call, President Trump's former chief strategist and enforcer Steve Bannon told Trump he was going "off the chain" to destroy Paul Singer, a New York hedge fund billionaire who is one of the most influential donors to the Republican Party. [...]

Bannon spoke to Trump shortly after the New York Times broke the news that a Singer-funded conservative website first paid for anti-Trump research by the firm, Fusion GPS, that later produced the infamous Russia dossier. The dossier alleges that the Trump campaign conspired with the Russian government to influence the 2016 presidential election. [...]

Bannon has long despised Singer. In Bannon's worldview, Singer belongs to a "globalist" cabal that favors open borders and includes other bogeymen and bogeywomen such as George Soros and Hillary Clinton.

Posted by orrinj at 1:28 PM


Kevin Spacey apologizes, comes out as gay after allegation of sexual advance on 14-year-old (KARMA ALLEN  Oct 30, 2017, ABC)

Actor Kevin Spacey said that he has "loved and had romantic encounters with men" and that he chooses "now to live as a gay man," after being accused of a sexual advance on a 14-year-old.

Dude, you're supposed to pretend that doesn't mean you prey on boys not that it's an excuse for doing so.

Posted by orrinj at 1:19 PM


Why George Papadopoulos' guilty plea is a much bigger problem for Trump than the Manafort indictment (Chris Cillizza, 10/30/17, CNN)

This paragraph from the FBI's guilty plea agreement with Papadopoulos is incredible:

"In truth and in fact, however, and as set forth above, defendant PAPADOPOULOS met the Professor for the first time on or about March 14, 2016, after defendant PAPADOPOULOS had already learned he would be a foreign policy advisor for the Campaign; the Professor showed interest in defendant PAPADOPOULOS only after learning of his role on the Campaign; and the Professor told defendant PAPADOPOULOS about the Russians possessing" dirt" on then-candidate Clinton in late April 2016, more than a month after defendant PAPADOPOULOS had joined the Campaign."

So, Papadopoulos copped to lying to the FBI about the timing of his contacts with Russians. In his initial interview in January 2016, Papadopoulos was insistent that he had reached out to his foreign contact "The Professor" (amazing!) before he had formally joined the Trump presidential campaign. He was arrested in July, pleaded guilty in October and appears to have been cooperating in between.

And, most importantly the "Professor" only showed interest in Papadopoulos after it became known that he was employed by the Trump campaign.

That. Is. A. Very. Big. Deal.

The obvious question is why Papadopolous initially lied to the FBI -- despite being warned that doing so would have major consequences. Why, if there was nothing to hide about his relationship -- or attempted relationship with Russian officials -- would Papadopoulos feel the need to put himself in serious legal jeopardy by lying about the timing of his conversations with "the Professor"?

We don't know the answer to that question. But, we do know one reason why Papadopoulos was pursuing the relationship with the Russians; he believed they had "dirt" on Hillary Clinton. This, again from Papadopoulos' plea agreement, makes that plain:

"On or about April 26, 2016, defendant PAPADOPOULOS met the Professor for breakfast at a London hotel. During this meeting, the Professor told defendant PAPADOPOULOS that he had just returned from a trip to Moscow where he had met with high-level Russian government officials. The Professor told defendant PAPADOPOULOS that on that trip he (the Professor) learned that the Russians had obtained "dirt" on then-candidate Clinton. The Professor told defendant PAPADOPOULOS, as defendant PAPADOPOULOS later described to the FBI, that "They [the Russians] have dirt on her"; "the Russians had emails of Clinton"; "they have thousands of emails."

The broad goal of the Russian contact with Papadopoulos was to get Trump to visit Russia during the campaign -- a visit where he would huddle with Russian officials and maybe even meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Truth and fact, no wonder the Trumpies got stuck in the noose.

Posted by orrinj at 9:20 AM


Reports: Former Trump Campaign Chairman Manafort Told To Surrender In Russia Probe (Radio Free Europe, October 30, 2017)

The New York Times and CNN, citing unnamed sources, are reporting that U.S. President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort has been ordered to turn himself in to U.S. authorities in connection with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion by associates of Trump.

Manafort and a former business associate, Rick Gates, were told to surrender to federal authorities on October 30, The New York Times reported.

His ties to Russia were his only qualification.

Posted by orrinj at 8:10 AM


The Islamic State and the Limitations of Cruelty (Victor Davis Hanson, October 26, 2017, IBD)

In recent years, ISIS has horrified global audiences with video clips of unspeakable atrocities. What sort of humans could behead, incinerate, drown, torture and blow up innocent civilians, mock and record such horror, and then narrate their macabre videos for a world audience?

How could such pre-modern psychopaths ever be defeated, given that in a matter of months ISIS had managed to overrun vast swaths of Iraq and Syria? [...]

But recently, the entire Islamic State project began going up in smoke almost as abruptly as it was born. It turned out that squadrons of American bombers were not impressed by ISIS threats and bombed to smithereens its command centers and headquarters.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis relaxed the rules of U.S. engagement and made it a veritable open season on Islamic State jihadists, while American forces trained entire new cadres of anti-ISIS fighters. Specialized drones and GPS-guided Western munitions made it almost impossible for ISIS leaders to escape constant attack.

Their past horrors had earned Islamic State jihadists only ill will. Tens of thousands of Iraqi and Syrian victims volunteered to fight ISIS with a ferocity that they had rarely exhibited in the past.

The net result is now mass ISIS surrenders. Half-starved jihadists in rags and in tears beg their captors for forgiveness -- and not to show them the same savagery that had so often had fueled ISIS slaughtering.

The fate of ISIS reminds us that throughout history those who posed as superhuman savages, without any limitations to their cruelty, were often bullies who could not stand up to the determined payback of their finally aroused and outraged victims.

..is that it doesn't occur to you until well after the fact that ISIS was fatally flawed by their desire to impose an anti-Islamic regime. Apocalypitic Islamic thought requires that the caliphate bring about a fair, just and generous society, not a brutal and repressive one.

Posted by orrinj at 7:57 AM


U.S. oil exports boom, putting infrastructure to the test (Catherine Ngai, Bryan Sims, 10/30/17, Reuters) 

Tankers carrying record levels of crude are leaving in droves from Texas and Louisiana ports, and more growth in the fledgling U.S. oil export market may before long test the limits of infrastructure like pipelines, dock space and ship traffic.

U.S. crude exports have boomed since the decades-old ban was lifted less than two years ago, with shipments recently hitting a record of 2 million barrels a day. 

Fortunately, Donald has not been able to undo the work of the most free trade presidency ever.
Posted by orrinj at 6:59 AM


Astana-hosted Syrian peace talks to focus on de-escalation zones, humanitarian issues (TASS, October 30, 2017)

The Astana meeting will pass the baton to the intra-Syrian talks in Geneva, which will begin on November 28. According to UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura, the emphasis will be placed on two key issues, that is, preparations for the next elections under UN supervision and the drafting of the new Syrian Constitution.

Referring to Astana, the envoy noted that the biggest challenge to the process is ensuring a ceasefire in Syria, normalizing the situation in the de-escalation zones where there is still no full humanitarian access and progress in prisoner exchange and demining efforts.

During his talks with de Mistura in Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov highlighted the importance of intensifying the political process amid the approaching final victory over terrorism in Syria.

Because only self-government is legitimate.

Posted by orrinj at 6:21 AM


You thought Game 2 was the craziest World Series game ever? Try Game 5 (David Schoenfield, 10/30/17, ESPN)

We settled in at 7:21 local time, expecting a tense, classic World Series pitchers' duel between Dallas Keuchel and Clayton Kershaw.

We ended five hours and 17 minutes later after witnessing a game that was simultaneously an exhilarating baseball adventure and something Caligula invented. If you had a rooting interest in this game, you're not even reading this column because you're probably out of energy.

The Houston Astros beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 13-12 in a 10-inning slugfest of epic proportions as the Astros hit five home runs. They became just the fifth team in World Series history to rally from three separate deficits and just the second to rally from two three-run deficits -- and after all that, they still had to score the winning run off the best closer in baseball.

"Just when I thought I could describe Game 2 as my favorite game of all time, I think Game 5 exceeded that and more," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said after the game. "It's hard to put into words all the twists and turns in that game, the emotion, doing it at home, in front of our home crowd. Just exactly what you expect to come to the park with Keuchel and Kershaw pitching."

Did it really happen? Sweet mother of all that's pure and good, this insanity most definitely did happen, as the 43,000-something Astros fans in attendance at Minute Maid Park will tell their kids and their grandkids and their neighbors and the woman in line at the grocery store and the co-worker at the office they haven't talked to in two years. Games like this bring us together. The entire city of Houston will be talking baseball on Monday morning.

"I can't tell you how many times I've said this is the craziest game of my life," winning pitcher Joe Musgrove said about this postseason. "This was the craziest game of my life."

When I fell asleep, in the 4th, Dan Schulman (or whoever) said the Astros had a 1% chance to win the game and Kershaw was coming to the mound after sitting for a half hour...

October 29, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 7:32 PM

IDIOTS ONLY NEED APPLY (profanity alert)

John Boehner Unchained : The former House speaker feels liberated--but he's also seething about what happened to his party. (TIM ALBERTA, November/December 2017, Politico)

Boehner worries about the deepening fissures in American society. But he sees Trump as more of a symptom than the cause of what is a longer arc of social and ideological alienation, fueled by talk radio and Fox News on the right and MSNBC and social media on the left. "People thought in '09, '10, '11, that the country couldn't be divided more. And you go back to Obama's campaign in 2008, you know, he was talking about the divide and healing the country and all of that. And some would argue on the right that he did more to divide the country than to unite it. I kind of reject that notion." Why is that? "Because it wasn't him!" Boehner replies. "It was modern-day media, and social media, that kept pushing people further right and further left. People started to figure out ... they could choose where to get their news. And so what do people do? They choose places they agree with, reinforcing the divide."

He continues: "I always liked Rush [Limbaugh]. When I went to Palm Beach I would always meet with Rush and we'd go play golf. But you know, who was that right-wing guy, [Mark] Levin? He went really crazy right and got a big audience, and he dragged [Sean] Hannity to the dark side. He dragged Rush to the dark side. And these guys--I used to talk to them all the time. And suddenly they're beating the living [***]t out of me." Boehner, seated in his favorite recliner, lights another cigarette. "I had a conversation with Hannity, probably about the beginning of 2015. I called him and said, 'Listen, you're nuts.' We had this really blunt conversation. Things were better for a few months, and then it got back to being the same-old, same-old. Because I wasn't going to be a right-wing idiot."

Boehner believes Americans are ill-informed because of their retreat into media echo chambers, one of two incurable causes of the country's polarization. Another is inextricably related: the unwillingness of lawmakers to collaborate across the aisle, for fear of recriminations from the base. Boehner says the fact he and Obama golfed together only once--and agreed that it was usually better for him to sneak into the White House--speaks to how the two parties punish compromise. He doesn't foresee this toxic political climate improving, ticking off potential fixes--term limits, redistricting reform--that he says won't make a bit of difference. "It's going to take an intervening event for Americans to realize that first, we are Americans," he says. An intervening event? "Something cataclysmic," he responds, gazing upward.

Boehner often felt more welcome among Democrats than he did within his own party. When he made his retirement announcement, he told me, Obama called him and said, "Boehner, you can't do this, man. I'm gonna miss you." Biden feels the same way. "The only way we're going to get this back together again," he says, "is with some more John Boehners."

The starkest divide in recent Washington has been between longtime pols like Boehner and Biden who yearn for a more amicable time, and newcomers who view the bitter acrimony of the Bush and Obama years as normal. The fever might have broken in 2016, Boehner says. But the parties chose the two most polarizing nominees in modern history. "The only Republican who Hillary Clinton possibly could have beaten was Donald Trump, and the only Democrat that Trump possibly could have beaten was Clinton," Boehner smirks. "Three hundred and thirty million Americans, and we got those two." [...]

As a young House member, Boehner was instrumental in cleaning up Congress. As a committee chairman, he wrote and ushered through one of the premier policies of the Bush administration--even if the results were not what he envisioned. And as speaker, Boehner accomplished more than conservatives will ever give him credit for: winning significant spending cuts under a Democratic president; protecting the overwhelming majority of Americans from a tax hike; keeping earmarks banned despite having every reason to bring them back; and his proudest accomplishment, finding a permanent "Doc Fix," which solved a nagging problem with the Medicare payment formula and could produce nearly $3 trillion in savings over the next three decades.

"He came to Congress wanting to burn it to the ground," says Sommers, his former chief of staff. "And by the time he left, he was the ultimate institutionalist."

Posted by orrinj at 5:14 PM


Faculty Statement on Silent Sam (UNC School of Law)

The undersigned UNC School of Law faculty respectfully request that the UNC administration take immediate action to remove the monument of an armed Confederate soldier, known as Silent Sam, looming at the heart of UNC's main campus. While we do not favor shutting down the ability of individuals to voice disagreeable opinions, we believe that the statue sends a message of white supremacy that the university should refuse to endorse.

On June 2, 1913, at the monument's public dedication, Confederate war veteran Julian S. Carr said, "The present generation, I am persuaded, scarcely takes note of what the Confederate soldier meant to the welfare of the Anglo Saxon race. . . . if every State of the South had done what North Carolina did . . . the political geography of America would have been re-written." He then told this story: "less than ninety days perhaps after my return from Appomattox, I horse-whipped a negro wench until her skirts hung in shreds, because upon the streets of this quiet village she had publicly insulted and maligned a Southern lady, and then rushed for protection to these University buildings."

From the moment of its dedication, Carr's racist words cemented the monument as a symbol of white supremacy, violence and indignity. Even today, UNC's website acknowledges that many see Silent Sam as "a glorification of the Confederacy and thus a tacit defense of slavery."

Posted by orrinj at 5:10 PM


There Was No Reason To Hire Manafort Except to Collude with Russia (David Atkins October 29, 2017, Washington Monthly)

It's hard to remember sometimes given the insanity that has occurred since, but eyebrows were raised across the spectrum when Manafort was initially hired as Trump's campaign manager back in 2016. Manafort was an ancillary player in Republican politics and already clearly compromised. My colleague Martin Longman noted earlier this year that Manafort was closely connected to Roger Stone, himself a disgraced crackpot with his own insalubrious ties and connection to likely Russian hacker Guccifer 2.0.

Manafort was a terrible choice for campaign manager, both in terms of competence and optics. It was neither a pick designed to buoy his populist credentials, nor was it a sop to the GOP establishment that Trump desperately needed at the time. The only thing Manafort had in his favor was his close ties to Putin, and there is no conceivable reason to have hired him except to leverage those ties.

If Manafort is indeed the primary target of Mueller's probe, it's a guarantee that the Trump campaign absolutely intended to collude closely with Russia as a longshot path to a difficult election.

Posted by orrinj at 3:06 PM


Europe's Border Problem (George Friedman, October 23, 2017, Real Clear Politics)

In 1991-92, two things happened. First came the fall of the Soviet Union; then came the signing of the Maastricht Treaty and the creation of the European Union. Border issues began to drive events again. The border of the Soviet Union collapsed, and a multitude of countries popped up to reclaim their past. There were many questions about borders that were mumbled about. The border of Ukraine and Belarus had moved far to the west in 1945. The borders in the Caucasus were poorly defined. The borders in Central Asia were theoretical. And the borders between Eastern European countries had been the subject of suspended dispute.

For Eastern European countries, other problems took precedence: establishing national sovereignty, finding their place in a Europe that they longed to join, and building a new life for their people. They let the border issue drop - for the most part.

Yugoslavia and the Caucasus were exceptions that drove home the lesson of European borders. There, outside the framework of the EU and of little consequence to others, more than 100,000 people died. Compare this to the Velvet Divorce of the Czechs and Slovaks, which took place within the context of future European states and left no one dead. After this, and with Yugoslavia and the Caucasus in mind, the European Union tried to reinstate the principle that borders were sacrosanct. It provided what it had promised - peace and prosperity - and treated borders as anachronistic. No one was supposed to care where the lines were drawn.

But there was a problem. The European Union had affirmed the principle of national self-determination while avoiding the question of what a nation actually was. A nation was, under the bloc's definition, any political entity that was in place when the EU was formed. There was little consideration after that.

This is why Catalonia is so important, along with Scotland. The Scots rejected a divorce by a startlingly narrow vote. One would have expected 90 percent of Scots to want to remain in the United Kingdom. Slightly more than 55 percent wanted to, which means secessionists are within striking distance of secession - which would not only divide Scotland from England, but would also maintain the divide among the Scots.

Add to this another critical element. Catalonia has been part of Spain for a long time, but it has considered itself a unique nation apart for an even longer time. Spain will not legalize an independence vote. The underlying questions are the ones the Europeans tried to bury, particularly after Yugoslavia: What is a nation, and what rights does it have? Both Scotland and Catalonia are nations. Do they therefore have a right to national determination or have they lost that right? And what are the consequences if the Catalans disagree?

This is not the only such issue festering in Europe. Hungary was partitioned between Romania and Slovakia. Does it have a right to reclaim these lands? Belgium was a British invention binding the Dutch and French in an unhappy marriage. Can they divorce? Lviv used to be a very Polish city, and now it is part of Ukraine. Can western Ukraine secede and its people rejoin the countries they were citizens of before 1945?

Posted by orrinj at 1:27 PM



At some point since 2000, I noticed that the right-wing chorus pontificating from screens in bars and shops was filled by men with names like Hannity, O'Reilly, and Buchanan. Nobody else seemed to care, so I let it go as one of those oddities that interested only me.

Then came Bannon's ascension as Trump's eminence grise , and it seemed impossible to ignore. This can't be accidental. Why have these white men come to the fore, rather than a more multicultural Catholic cohort --a Pole, an Italian, a German, and so on?

The origins of the sneering, baiting, biting style of O'Reilly et al are obvious. All of them can be traced to Joe McCarthy's rise to stardom, propelled by his gift for lurid innuendo and theatrical outrage. He set the precedent for a paranoiac ethno-populism that equates conventional power elites with treasonous conspiracy, much as Robert Welch, Jr., founder of the John Birch Society, labeled President Eisenhower a "conscious, dedicated agent of the Communist Conspiracy" and the "Birther" movement insisted President Obama was a Kenyan Muslim infiltrator.

One thing you can say for McCarthy, however, is that he avoided attacking specific races and religions. His epigones have changed all that, beginning with Pat Buchanan, McCarthy's self-designated successor, as he makes clear in Right From the Beginning , his 1988 memoir.

At the Republican convention in 1992, Buchanan called for a "culture war" and it was pretty evident who was in his sights. Ever since, he has trafficked in barely veiled racism and anti-Semitism.

The next stage came when the O'Reilly Factor premiered on Fox News in 1996, followed in the 2000s by Sean Hannity's various shows. Until his defrocking last spring, O'Reilly had a fabulous career as a beady-eyed Grand Inquisitor. Beefy Hannity, in contrast, is the runner-up in viewership, but Trump's closest ally among the reactionary pundits.

Collectively, these men couldn't be more different from the proverbial grace of the old Irish American liberals like Tip O'Neill, full of poetic allusions and noble ideals. What motivates them is a passionate antipathy to the "liberals" who destroyed the America of the 1940s and 50s.

That vanished world created space for their fathers and uncles to achieve a modest prosperity, and it's worth remembering how hard-won material success and social respectability was for the Irish.

Although they built enclaves of ethnic political power back in the nineteenth century, well into the post-World War II era they remained outsiders in the Ivy League, the State Department, or the White House.

By the 1960s, however, Catholics, especially Irish Catholics, had finally made it and become fully "white," a long process indeed. Having fought their way to full inclusion, many were intent on pulling up the drawbridge.

Posted by orrinj at 1:16 PM


The progressive case for immigration : Whatever politicians say, the world needs more immigration, not less (The Economist, 3/18/17)

Among economists, there is near-universal acceptance that immigration generates huge benefits. Inconveniently, from a rhetorical perspective, most go to the migrants themselves. Workers who migrate from poor countries to rich ones typically earn vastly more than they could have in their country of origin. In a paper published in 2009, economists estimated the "place premium" a foreign worker could earn in America relative to the income of an identical worker in his native country. The figures are eye-popping. A Mexican worker can expect to earn more than 2.5 times her Mexican wage, in PPP-adjusted dollars, in America. The multiple for Haitian workers is over 10; for Yemenis it is 15.

No matter how hard a Haitian worker labours, he cannot create around him the institutions, infrastructure and skilled population within which American workers do their jobs. By moving, he gains access to all that at a stroke, which massively boosts the value of his work, whether he is a software engineer or a plumber. Defenders of open borders reckon that restrictions on migration represent a "trillion dollar bills left on the pavement": a missed opportunity to raise the output of hundreds of millions of people, and, in so doing, to boost their quality of life.

Posted by orrinj at 12:54 PM


Trump's Approval Rating Hits New Low as He Loses Support in Key Demographic (Daniel Politi, 10/29/17, Slate)

The decline in support is particularly notable among several groups that have long been seen as a key part of Trump's base. Support from whites declined from 51 percent to 47 percent, and it was even more steep among whites without a college degree--from 58 percent to 51 percent.

Posted by orrinj at 11:38 AM


Billionaire Republicans Privately Diss Trump (Michelle Celarier, 10/29/17, nEW yORK)

Frequent GOP donor Seth Klarman, CEO of $30 billion Baupost Group hedge fund, had already warned his investors about Trump's protectionist policies and the deficits his tax plan would produce. But at Robin Hood, Klarman -- who is widely revered in investing circles -- offered a much harsher assessment of Trump to his peers.

"The president is a threat to democracy. He has attacked journalists and he's threatening to take away NBC's license," Klarman said, according to an audio recording of his remarks. "He's attacking judges. He's violating all sorts of democratic norms, from the emoluments clause to questioning the election and threatening to lock up his opponent. People don't focus on this but Nazi Germany had a constitution before Hitler came to power and at the end of the war they had the exact same constitution. It lasted all the way through, but democracy didn't."

Klarman continued: "The country is getting divided, whether it's immigrants, whether it's transgender people, whether it's blacks, whether it's Mexicans. It's awful."

Seven months ago, Sternlicht was on CNBC talking about how Trump's moves were inspiring the business community -- but that wasn't his message last week. Sternlicht wryly noted that he was waiting for Trump's promises to materialize, noting that "deregulation has not really taken place yet" and "we haven't seen much in the way of infrastructure spending." Sternlicht, whose Miami-based Starwood Capital Group is opening a new chain of high-end hotels (including One New York and One Brooklyn) with the message to visitors to "live green," also said Trump's "stance on the environment is just inconceivable to me."

As a real-estate investor, Sternlicht thinks about future demographic trends, and that's another area where Trump worries him. The president's immigration views will hurt growth, he said, noting that the one million refugees Angela Merkel let into Germany are revitalizing the economy there. "It's amazing; there's no angst," he said. "They reworking. They own soccer teams. They are in stores. That's why Angela Merkel let them in. She needed the labor."

Posted by orrinj at 11:36 AM


Posted by orrinj at 11:20 AM


Texans plan pregame protest of Bob McNair's comments (ESPN.com, 10/29/17)

Houston Texans players are planning to protest as a unit before Sunday's game against the Seattle Seahawks in the wake of team owner Bob McNair's controversial "inmates running the prison" comment, a league source told ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Posted by orrinj at 11:14 AM


Trump spreads more fake news on Hillary's 'uranium deal' (BRETT ARENDS, 3/29/17, Business Insider)

In 2010 the stockholders of a Canadian mining company, Uranium One, accepted a bid from the Russian nuclear-energy agency, Rosatom, for a majority of their shares. They cashed out.

There is a very good reason no politician or organization tried to halt the uranium deal. It wasn't controversial.

The decision was taken by pension-fund managers, other institutional investors and private investors from Canada, the U.S., Europe and elsewhere.

The deal had previously been approved by company management and independent directors on the board.

This is what's known as "private property," "commerce" and "capitalism." Trump should read up on it.

The burden of proof for a U.S. government official to intervene in a Canadian stock-market transaction would have to be pretty high.

• No, Hillary didn't "approve" the sale, either. She was just one of 14 -- count 'em, 14 -- people who sat on a U.S. government committee that might, in theory, have intervened but didn't.

The others on the committee included the secretaries of the Treasury, homeland security, energy and defense; the White House budget director; the attorney general; and the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers.

So, as far as we know, none of them said peep.

The committee could have intervened if it thought the deal threatened U.S. national security.

Others who could also have intervened in the deal, but saw no reason to, included the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and regulators in Canada and elsewhere.

• There is a very good reason none of those people or organizations tried to halt the deal. It wasn't controversial. And if it weren't for Trump's cynical demagoguery, it wouldn't be now.

America is a bit player in worldwide uranium production, and the amount involved was about half a percent -- yes, really -- of global supply.

Furthermore, uranium has been a drag on the international markets for years. There's too much of it around. Miners are giving it away for less than it costs to dig up. There was no reason to think of it as an especially precious resource.

In 2010, when Russia agreed to this deal, the price of uranium had already fallen by 75% in three years. And since then it's halved again.

Posted by orrinj at 8:05 AM


Posted by orrinj at 7:59 AM



It is impossible for us to fully grasp the cataclysmic cultural shift that was created by World War I. Each of us has lived and moved and had our being shaped by the world that emerged from that rubble. The War to End All Wars did not succeed in ending war, but it did herald the final blow to the unparalleled optimism of the 18th and 19th centuries, destroyed the remaining vestiges of the Medieval world, and ushered in worldwide despair, angst, and nihilism.In other words, Modernity was born.

In the century leading up to that Great War, the world--especially in the West--was dominated by an intense optimism that is difficult for us to comprehend. The world was changing extraordinarily rapidly. There were advancements in medicine and food production. The Industrial Revolution had raised the standard of living for most people, and technology was booming. Prince Albert launched the Crystal Palace exhibition to showcase the world of the future via British advancements. And, emboldened by a new "rational" approach to the world, promoted by Enlightenment philosophers, political leaders redrew the map. Ignoring millennial-old ethnic, religious, and cultural ties, they created new nations and dissolved empires with the stroke of a pen--utterly confident that they were solving the problem of war.

Poverty, illness, disease, war: it truly appeared that mankind was on the cusp of conquering every foe. Even death could be defeated. With the right combination of technology, scientific advancement, and rational common sense, the world was set to usher in a golden age of peace and prosperity.

But, instead of achieving Heaven on Earth, the world imploded on itself and became a living hell. And twenty years later, it did it again.

A death toll surpassing the Black Plague, worldwide famine, crushing economic depression: these were the fruits of man's optimism. That technology which appeared to be the savior of mankind was harnessed to unleash unprecedented destruction. The whole world was devastated, birthing a tremendous global cultural angst. Hope and optimism were replaced by alienation, isolation, and despair. And the whole of creation groaned.

Erich Fromm, in his afterword to Orwell's 1984, describes it this way:

"This hope for man's individual and social perfectibility, which in philosophical and anthropological terms was clearly expressed in the writings of the Enlightenment philosophers of the eighteenth century and of the socialist thinkers of the nineteenth, remained unchanged until after the First World War. This war, in which millions died for the territorial ambitions of the European powers, although under the illusion of fighting for peace and democracy, was the beginning of that development which tended in a relatively short time to destroy a two-thousand-year old Western tradition of hope and to transform it into a mood of despair." 

It seemed as if the whole world had been turned upside down overnight. In a blink, thousands of years of culture and tradition were cast off and a brave new world emerged in its place. [...]

[I]n the midst of this darkness there were voices of hope. Voices which called us back to a transcendent reality, which tried to reintroduce mystery and wonder as an antidote to despair and angst. C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien both began to write stories that deliberately countered Modernity. Science fiction and fantasy became increasingly effective means to show readers a reality which reoriented hearts to Truth, Beauty, and Goodness and offered an answer to the hopelessness and chaos of the modern world.

Fantasy attempts to reintroduce transcendent meaning to the universe through the use of magic, fairies, supernatural creatures, mythological elements, and epic battles of good versus evil. There is something not just magical but also mysterious and unknowable in Lewis and Tolkien. The fantasy world is alive with meaning and things are rarely as they seem. And this strange and foreign world is beautiful and appealing, both answering and cultivating a longing within us for a greater reality.

But there is another genre that is just as effective at challenging the prevailing modern mindset, one which we perhaps overlook. Many mystery writers fought against the swell of Modernity just as fiercely as Lewis and Tolkien. And while fantasy achieves this aim in some other world--such as in Narnia or Middle Earth, the mystery novel does it in the here-and-now, in our own familiar place. 

When I used to submit questions for the BBC World Book Club they had Ian Rankin on and I asked him if he ever felt like Rebus was the last Calvinist in Scotland.  
Posted by orrinj at 7:48 AM


A look at the reporters behind the Trump dossier (Steve LeVine, 10/29/17, Axios)

Simpson left the Journal at a time two forces were changing what he did as an investigative reporter: the distressed economics of journalism was shrinking the budgets available for the free-wheeling, spend-anything fly-anywhere style of investigative reporting for which he was known; and Rupert Murdoch, the paper's new owner, wanted spot scoops and not the deeply reported investigations that were his trademark. Fritsch, by now an editor in the Journal's Washington bureau after coming home from abroad, followed and joined up with Simpson for the same reasons.

I have no idea what Simpson and Fritsch charge, but I understand it's a lot, and that seems to be driven by the market: They are seriously savvy at finding extremely hard-to-locate -- and even more difficult to understand and contextualize -- documents and other intelligence on globally powerful people and organizations. People who know what they are talking about want to speak with them, in large part because they understand that -- either immediately or some time in the future -- they themselves can learn something from them.

Their expertise is rare. Most people in the investigative game, whether reporters or former government agents, are more skilled at name-dropping or sounding scary than at actually knowing something telling. [...]

In September 2015, the Washington Free Beacon, whose main funder is Republican hedge fund manager Peter Singer, at the time a Rubio backer and a fierce Trump critic, hired Simpson and Fritsch to look at Trump, according to a person familiar with the investigation. They began with a document dump -- collecting all the voluminous legal papers related to Trump's four bankruptcies. Using Pacer, the federal government's repository for legal cases, they began to track lawsuits naming Trump, and companies and people close to him. And they tracked cases and firms to Iceland, the Cayman Islands and Ukraine.

Among the key companies that surfaced was Bayrock, a Kazakh- and Russia-connected New York-based real estate firm with an intriguing Trump connection: its former chief operating officer, Felix Sater, was a mob-connected, Russian-born Trump adviser, and former manager of Trump Soho, a later foreclosed condominium project on Spring Street.

Help from a former British intelligence agent came in spring 2016, when Simpson and Fritsch sought some more specialized expertise on Russia, and hired an old acquaintance -- Christopher Steele, the former premier Russia expert for British intelligence, and now a private investigator. The documents were suggesting that Trump's businesses were heavily weighted to Russia and Russians; could Steele ask around for some details? [...]

What Steele emerged with makes up what is now known as the Trump dossier: a 35-page document of raw intelligence out of Moscow on Trump and his businesses. In September 2016, Fusion summoned reporters from top media organizations. Before them was Steele, visiting the U.S. from London. They introduced him by his credentials, and let him explain what he had found.

October 28, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 5:49 PM


@haileys_hand throws out the first pitch at the World Series with her 3D-printed hand 🙏

A post shared by Bleacher Report (@bleacherreport) on

Posted by orrinj at 1:18 PM


Saudi promise of 'moderate Islam' shifts power (AYA BATRAWY, 10/28/17, AP)

The man who may soon be king of Saudi Arabia is charting a new, more modern course for a country so conservative that for decades there were no concerts or film screenings and women who attempted to drive were arrested.

Since catapulting to power with the support of his father, the king, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has pushed forth changes that could usher in a new era for one of the United States' most important allies and swing the kingdom away from decades of ultraconservative dogma and restrictions. He's introduced musical concerts and movies again and is seen as the force behind the king's decision to grant women the right to drive as of next year.

Opposition to the changes has so far been muted, but some critics of the prince have been detained. When social openings in the kingdom were taking place four decades ago, Sunni extremists opposed to the monarchy laid siege to Islam's holiest site in Mecca.

Prince Mohammed's agenda is upending the ruling Al Saud's longstanding alliance with the kingdom's clerical establishment in favor of synchronizing with a more cosmopolitan, global capitalism that appeals to international investors and maybe even non-Muslim tourists.

This is, obviously, the big enchilida--ending Saudi support for Salafism is the key to the Reformation.

Posted by orrinj at 1:08 PM


Former President Obama called to jury duty in Cook County and plans to serve (Steve Schmadeke, 10/28/17, Chicago Tribune)

Former President Barack Obama has been called for Cook County jury duty -- and plans to serve next month, the county's chief judge said Friday.

Chief Judge Tim Evans told county commissioners during a budget hearing that Obama, who owns homes in Washington, D.C., and Chicago's Kenwood neighborhood, will serve next month.

Posted by orrinj at 9:21 AM


Posted by orrinj at 9:12 AM


Review: The ultra-elegant art of trumpeter Tom Harrell (Howard Reich, 10/28/17, Chicago Tribune)

Harrell opened with a venerable standard, Jerome Kern's "The Song Is You," producing a pure, golden timbre on fluegelhorn. If this was a bit of nostalgia from a soloist who more typically spotlights original compositions, it was beautifully wrought. For Harrell began by playing the tune in fairly straightforward fashion before inventing alternate melodies on its famous chord changes.

Here was the essence of Harrell's art: melodic strands that sounded at once surprising and inevitable. Danny Grissett's shimmering pianism, bassist Ugonna Okegwo's soft-and-buoyant lines and drummer Adam Cruz's hushed-but-driving accompaniment added ambience without disturbing the delicacy of Harrell's sound. A sure indication of the regard in which these musicians hold the bandleader. [...]

The centerpiece of the set changed the evening's tonal vocabulary once again, as Harrell played trumpet and fluegelhorn in a duet with pianist Grissett in "Vibrer." Also drawn from "Moving Picture," "Vibrer" suggested a classical sonata, complete with multiple themes and sections, plus carefully scripted interchange between the two players.

In some moments, Harrell's steeped-in-blues lines were accompanied by Grissett's streaked-in-dissonance riffs. At other times, Harrell and Grissett rode the same rhythm while going their own ways melodically. In still other passages, they played cat-and-mouse, one chasing the other. Through it all, Harrell achieved profundity through economy, saying a great deal with a few well-chosen notes.


Posted by orrinj at 8:50 AM


A Wisconsin man got locked in a walk-in beer cooler. He had 'everything that he needed,' police say. (Rachel Siegel October 27, 2017, Washington Post)

Ten minutes to midnight on Tuesday, Jeremy J. Van Ert stepped into a walk-in beer cooler at a Kwik Trip convenience store in Marshfield, Wis.

When the doors locked behind him at midnight, he decided that rather than shout for help, he would just camp out, police say.

[Marshfield Police Chief Rick Gramza said:] "He just decided to run it out for the night. It had everything that he needed."

Posted by orrinj at 8:37 AM


The World's Poorest People Are Getting Richer Faster than Anyone Else (Alexander Hammond , 10/27/17, FEE)

The speed of poverty alleviation in the last 25 years has been historically unprecedented. Not only is the proportion of people in poverty at a record low, but, in spite of adding 2 billion to the planet's population, the overall number of people living in extreme poverty has fallen too.

If it takes you five minutes to read this, another 480 people will have escaped the shackles of extreme of poverty by the time you finish.

As Johan Norberg writes in his book Progress, "If you had to choose a society to live in but did not know what your social or economic position would be, you would probably choose the society with the lowest proportion (not the lowest numbers) of poor, because this is the best judgement of the life of an average citizen." Well, in 1820, 94 percent of the world's population lived in extreme poverty (less than $1.90 per day adjusted for purchasing power). In 1990 this figure was 34.8 percent, and in 2015, just 9.6 percent.

In the last quarter century, more than 1.25 billion people escaped extreme poverty - that equates to over 138,000 people (i.e., 38,000 more than the Parisian crowd that greeted Father Wresinski in 1987) being lifted out of poverty every day. If it takes you five minutes to read this article, another 480 people will have escaped the shackles of extreme of poverty by the time you finish. Progress is awesome. In 1820, only 60 million people didn't live in extreme poverty. In 2015, 6.6 billion did not.

Posted by orrinj at 6:37 AM


The transformation of Gen. Kelly (Jules Witcover, 10/28/17, Baltimore Sun)

By marching into the White House press room last week and assailing Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson of Florida for listening in on the call and criticizing Trump for it, Mr. Kelly risked his reputation as an honest broker in curbing the president's excesses.

Now, wittingly or not, he has signed on as part of Trump's war on the American press. He has been eagerly joined by the latest White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who later insisted it was "highly inappropriate" for a duly accredited reporter "to get into debate with a four-star Marine general" over Wilson's version of the story.

Mr. Kelly, in his understandable desire not to have the slain soldier's sacrifice lost in the whole affair, has inserted himself into unfamiliar terrain. He said twice that he would take questions only from reporters who were Gold Star parents or siblings of the deceased or who knew a Gold Star family. Such a caveat clearly is outside the bounds of a functioning free press.

Mr. Kelly up to now has been seen and admired as a self-disciplined military man who by his own demeanor and career training knew to leave politics to the politicians. His public life has been marked by acceptance if not reverence toward civilian leadership in the realm of national governance.

But in this instance, he not only attacked an elected legislator but was also guilty of the worst offense in press relations, by being demonstrably wrong on the facts. He accused Rep. Wilson of grandstanding by claiming credit for the funding of a new FBI building in Miami that Congress authorized before she was a House member.

Posted by orrinj at 6:33 AM


IS behind attempted assassination of Hamas security chief in Gaza -- report (Times of Israel, 10/28/17)

Hamas officials in Gaza believe the Islamic State jihadist group is behind the attempted assassination of their security chief on Friday, said reports Saturday in Hebrew-language media.

All against the Salafi.

Posted by orrinj at 6:22 AM


Study: GOP tax plan would cost $2.4 trillion (NIV ELIS, 10/27/17, The Hill)

The Tax Policy Center's initial September analysis of the plan drew fire from some conservatives for not including the effects of economic growth on revenues.

The updated report found almost no difference with growth effects, called dynamic scoring.

"The outline would reduce federal tax revenue by roughly $2.4 [trillion] over the next decade, nearly the same as under conventional scoring," the Tax Policy Center's Howard Gleckman wrote in a blog post on the matter.

In the second decade, the center added, revenues would fall by $3.4 trillion.

There's nothing wrong with not caring about the budget, but Americans would prefer to blow a hole in it to provide health care for everyone than tax cuts.
Posted by orrinj at 6:09 AM


Talking Points Brought to Trump Tower Meeting Were Shared With Kremlin (SHARON LaFRANIERE and ANDREW E. KRAMEROCT. 27, 2017, NY Times)

Natalia V. Veselnitskaya arrived at a meeting at Trump Tower in June 2016 hoping to interest top Trump campaign officials in the contents of a memo she believed contained information damaging to the Democratic Party and, by extension, Hillary Clinton. The material was the fruit of her research as a private lawyer, she has repeatedly said, and any suggestion that she was acting at the Kremlin's behest that day is anti-Russia "hysteria."

But interviews and records show that in the months before the meeting, Ms. Veselnitskaya had discussed the allegations with one of Russia's most powerful officials, the prosecutor general, Yuri Y. Chaika. And the memo she brought with her closely followed a document that Mr. Chaika's office had given to an American congressman two months earlier, incorporating some paragraphs verbatim.

The coordination between the Trump Tower visitor and the Russian prosecutor general undercuts Ms. Veselnitskaya's account that she was a purely independent actor when she sat down with Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law, and Paul J. Manafort, then the Trump campaign chairman.

It also suggests that emails from an intermediary to the younger Mr. Trump promising that Ms. Veselnitskaya would arrive with information from Russian prosecutors were rooted at least partly in fact -- not mere "puffery," as the president's son later said.

In its own way, it's kind of charming how the Right imputes purely innocent behavior to the KGB nowadays.

Posted by orrinj at 6:01 AM


Kazakhstan to switch from Cyrillic to Latin alphabet (Al Jazeera, 10/28/17)

Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev has signed a decree to switch the country's official alphabet from Cyrillic to Latin. [...]

A number of other ex-Soviet, Turkic nations have also made the switch to Latin alphabets in recent years.

Posted by orrinj at 5:47 AM


Conservative Website Initially Hired Firm That Later Produced Trump Dossier (JAMES DOUBEK, 10/28/17, NPR)

The conservative news website The Washington Free Beacon says during the 2016 campaign it first hired the firm that later produced a dossier of unsubstantiated information about Donald Trump's Russia ties.

The political research firm, Fusion GPS, commissioned former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, who went on to produce what's been called the "Steele dossier."

The dossier "describes a concerted effort by Russian President Vladimir Putin to cultivate a relationship with Trump and his camp," NPR's Philip Ewing explained. "The document, which describes information provided by Russian government and other sources, details behavior by Trump that could leave him open to blackmail, as well as alleged secret meetings between Trump aides and Russian officials called to discuss the campaign against Clinton and potential new business relationships."

Posted by orrinj at 5:17 AM


First on CNN: First charges filed in Mueller investigation (Pamela Brown, Evan Perez and Shimon Prokupecz, October 27, 2017, CNN)

A federal grand jury in Washington on Friday approved the first charges in the investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller, according to sources briefed on the matter.

The charges are still sealed under orders from a federal judge. Plans were prepared Friday for anyone charged to be taken into custody as soon as Monday, the sources said. It is unclear what the charges are.

October 27, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 11:25 AM


Yemeni Salafist imam killed in Aden: sources (Reuters, 10/28/17) 

A Salafist imam was shot dead by gunmen early on Saturday in Aden, southern Yemen, witnesses and local officials said, the third killing of a Salafist imam this month.

Posted by orrinj at 11:12 AM


Wal-Mart's new robots scan shelves to restock items faster (Nandita Bose, 10/27/17, Reuters) 

Wal-Mart Stores Inc is rolling out shelf-scanning robots in more than 50 U.S. stores to replenish inventory faster and save employees time when products run out. [...]

"If you are running up and down the aisle and you want to decide if we are out of Cheerios or not, a human doesn't do that job very well, and they don't like it," Jeremy King, chief technology officer for Walmart U.S. and e-commerce, told Reuters.

Thank you, Jesus.

Posted by orrinj at 11:08 AM


Inventories, trade support U.S. third-quarter economic growth (Lucia Mutikani, 10/27/17, Reuters) 

The U.S. economy unexpectedly maintained a brisk pace of growth in the third quarter as an increase in inventory investment and a smaller trade deficit offset a hurricane-related slowdown in consumer spending and a decline in construction.

Posted by orrinj at 10:54 AM


Muscle Memory : How Russia's democratic hopes gave way to repressive nationalism. (CHRISTIAN CARYL, October 27, 2017, New Republic)

In 1997, Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, the Clinton administration's lead official on all matters Russia, gave a speech at Stanford University on American policy toward Moscow. He admitted, in not so many words, that persuading the erratic President Boris Yeltsin to keep on course with economic reform and progress toward democracy was a daunting task. But Talbott declared himself optimistic nonetheless. His main reason, he said, was "generational,"

or to be even more blunt, biological. The dynamic of what is happening in Russia today is not just Westernizers versus Slavophiles; it is also young versus old--and the young have a certain advantage in at least that dimension of the larger struggle.

I was a correspondent in Moscow at the time I read Talbott's speech, and I remember being struck by its obtuseness--a feeling that has remained with me since. I wondered how younger Russians would react to a U.S. diplomat openly expressing the hope that their grandparents and parents would die off as quickly as possible and so open the path to an American vision of progress.

There was nothing especially original about my question. Communists and ultranationalists were already trading widely in conspiracy theories that the country's startling demographic collapse, unprecedented in peacetime, was the direct result of American-engineered plots "to weaken Russia." In reality, of course, a "weakened Russia" was much more likely to lose effective control over its vast arsenals of weapons of mass destruction, drastically increasing the possibility that some might fall into terrorist hands. Such an outcome hardly seemed to be in the interests of the West or anyone else. A stable Russia, prosperous and democratic, made for a much better bet--assuming, of course, that someone had a viable plan for bringing it about.

By the time of Talbott's speech, such a scenario was looking distinctly improbable. During my years in Moscow, I did meet quite a few Russians who placed their faith in the principles of political and economic freedom, though they were clearly members of a small minority. Strikingly little evidence, however, supported the notion that young people were the self-evident constituency for a liberal future. Most of the 20-somethings I met--and especially those from outside of Moscow and St. Petersburg--expressed strongly nationalist views. Though they welcomed the freedom to travel and consume, they just as often mourned the collapse of the Soviet Union. For those with little memory of the privations of the socialist system, and who had experienced the Gorbachev and Yeltsin period primarily as a time of political chaos and economic upheaval, such seemingly paradoxical positions made perfect sense. [...]

The government of Boris Yeltsin, while genuinely progressive in some ways, was hamstrung from its beginning by a failure to solve the lingering economic catastrophe it inherited from Soviet times. Aware of his ebbing popularity, Yeltsin ultimately eschewed putting the Soviet Communist Party on trial; efforts to engage in a meaningful truth and reconciliation program, which might have helped to make Russians more aware of the grim realities of the past, were deferred. As Gorbachev's attempt to create a more humane (but still Communist) Soviet Union foundered on the two-pronged resistance of conservatives and Yeltsinite liberals, Alexander Yakovlev, Seryozha's grandfather, was appointed chair of a Rehabilitation Commission, devoted to documenting the horrors of the Stalinist era and helping its victims. But by 1991 the Commission lost its funding and, over time, it became clear that Yeltsin no longer intended to expend the political capital needed to reckon with a painful history.

The economic disruptions of the 1990s harmed the prospect of democracy in a second important way. Between the hyperinflation of 1991 to '93 (which destroyed the savings of many citizens, especially the elderly) and the devaluation and financial crisis of 1998 (which devastated the green shoots of the nascent market economy), many ordinary Russians began to identify "democracy" with impoverishment and rank injustice. The irony, as Gessen shows, is that this "democracy" was never especially liberal to begin with--certainly not after 1993, when Yeltsin was forced to turn tanks and artillery on conservative rebels in the same Russian parliament building where he had defied the coup attempt of 1991.

After Putin assumed the presidency in 2000, he moved slowly and methodically to consolidate his position, gradually stripping rival oligarchs of their media properties and their political power. He placed his allies--his longtime friends from St. Petersburg as well as his associates from the Soviet-era secret police--in crucial spots in the bureaucracy, where they often wielded huge sway over large sections of the economy. Aside from a few vague allusions to Soviet and Russian greatness, Putin made little reference to ideology along the way.

It was Alexander Dugin, a once-marginal nerd, who provided the necessary intellectual underpinning for this old-new system. Spurred on by his study of Heidegger and European identitarians, Dugin rediscovered and celebrated the radically anti-Western strain in Russian intellectual history. He embraced the "ethnogenetic" theories of Lev Gumilev, the former dissident who viewed Russia as a sort of mystical hybrid of the most powerful cultural traits of Europe and Asia. Dugin celebrated the presumed superiority of what he began to call the "Russian World" (a phrase now widely used by the Putin regime) and bitterly denounced the United States and other western democracies for their diabolical plans to impose their allegedly "alien" values on a "traditional values civilization."

As the recent contretemps with ISIS amply demonstrated, we really just aren't willing to treat such trivial nuisances with the disdain they deserve and which would be useful in the long run.

Posted by orrinj at 8:28 AM


Why The Uranium One 'Scandal' Is Still A Fraud (Joe Conason, October 26, 2017, National Memo)

The question that the Times failed to raise, let alone answer, is why anyone interested in the Russian uranium deal would have sought to influence the secretary of state--when her department had only one vote out of nine on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States that had to approve the deal.

While Clinton Cash attributed a "central role" to Hillary, she hadn't participated at all in the Uranium One deliberations. According to the assistant secretary of state who represented her on the panel, "Mrs. Clinton never intervened with me on any CFIUS matter." Knowledgeable observers of CFIUS believe its decisions are dominated by the Pentagon and the Treasury Department, which chairs the committee, not State. And the nine agencies on CFIUS had unanimously approved the sale of the remainder of Uranium One to the Russians in 2013, several months after Hillary had left the government. That sale also required additional approvals from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Canadian regulators.

In short, cultivating the Clintons would have guaranteed nothing for the Uranium One investors. They had given well over $2 million during a period of several years, but a foundation spokesman--and Giustra--insisted that Canadian and provincial tax laws forbade disclosure of their names without their specific consent.

As for Giustra, the Uranium One investors were his friends and former partners, and he was assuredly a very big Clinton donor. But he had divested all of his Uranium One stock almost three years before the Russian sale went through.

Posted by orrinj at 5:51 AM


The Primal Scream of Identity Politics : Conservatives have missed something major about identity politics: its authenticity. But liberals have missed something bigger: that it is a legacy of the sexual revolution. (MARY EBERSTADT, 10/27/17, Weekly Standard)

Flush with prosperity and unprecedented new freedoms, we moderns, Lilla believes, went on to atomize ourselves: "Personal choice. Individual rights. Self-definition. We speak these words as if a wedding vow." By the 1980s, such hyperindividualism coalesced into what he calls the "Reagan Dispensation," which prized self-reliance and small government over the collective--thus marking a radical break from the preceding "Roosevelt Dispensation" emphasizing more communal attachments, including duty and solidarity.

By embracing the politics of identity, Lilla says, liberals and progressives have unwittingly contaminated their politics with a "Reaganism for lefties," resulting in the toxic consequences visible today: shutdowns of free speech on campuses, out-of-touch urban and globalized elites, and a political order deformed into a "victimhood Olympics."

In effect, his is a supply-side answer to the "why" question: Identity politics became the order of the day because it could. What's lacking from this analysis--as from other critiques, right as well as left--is what might be called the demand-side answer: Why have so many people found in identity politics the very center of their political being?

After all: That identitarianism is now the heart and soul of politics for many is a visceral truth--as raw as the footage of violent political clashes making headlines with a frequency that would have shocked most citizens only a decade ago. What's singular about such politics is exactly its profound and immediate emotivism, its frightening volatility, its instantaneous ignition into unreasoned violence. Lilla acknowledges this reality obliquely in describing "a kind of moral panic about racial, gender and sexual identity"--all true, as far as it goes. But the problem is that it doesn't go nearly far enough. [...]

Writing in New York magazine in September, Andrew Sullivan delivered an insight in the direction of the why question. American politics, he wrote, has become a war between "two tribes": "Over the past couple of decades in America, the enduring, complicated divides of ideology, geography, party, class, religion, and race have mutated into something deeper, simpler to map, and therefore much more ominous."

Yet what, exactly, has caused so many Americans to want to join one of these tribes in the first place? Sullivan advanced a list of many "accelerants" from the past few decades: the failed nomination of Judge Robert Bork to the Supreme Court, mass illegal Latino immigration, Newt Gingrich's GOP revolution, talk radio, Fox News, MSNBC, partisan gerrymandering, the absence of compulsory military service, multiculturalism, declining Christianity, the rural brain drain, and more.

No doubt, taken together, these disparate events explain something about the political trajectory now behind us. But does one really become part of a horde, defined in opposition to other hordes, over relatively quotidian prompts like these? Doesn't the very word "tribal" suggest that something more primal may be in the mix too?

Of course it does.

Just as "tribe" is antecedent to the state, something else is antecedent to the tribe--something missing from all the high-profile talk, pro and con, about how American and other Western societies have become mired in identitarianism.

In laying out the particulars of today's "tribes," Sullivan wrote of "unconditional pride, in our neighborhood and community; in our ethnic and social identities and their rituals; among our fellow enthusiasts. There are hip-hop and country-music tribes; bros; nerds; Wasps; Dead Heads and Packers fans; Facebook groups. . . . And then, most critically, there is the Uber-tribe that constitutes the nation-state, a megatribe that unites a country around shared national rituals, symbols, music, history, mythology, and events." And here we reach a turning point, not just in this essay but also in the widening argument, because that list omits what the majority of humanity would call the most important "tribe" of all.

It's not that "America Wasn't Built for Humans," as the title of Sullivan's piece has it. It's rather that America, like other civilizations, was built for humans who learned community not from roving bands of unrelated nomads, but from those around them--beginning in the small civilization of the family.

In Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville wrote of how democratic governance shapes familial relations, rendering fathers and sons more equal and closer and less hierarchical than they are in its aristocratic counterparts. If it's obvious that a form of government can shape the family, isn't it even more obvious that the first polity to which future citizens belong--the family--will shape the kind of citizens they become?

Our macro-politics have gone tribal because our micro-politics are no longer familial. This, above all, is what's happened during the five decades in which identity politics went from being unheard of to ubiquitous.

It seems entirely plausible that the great divide between the 60% and the 20% to either wing is simply who's happy at home.

As Eric Hoffer put it : "A man is likely to mind his own business when it is worth minding. When it is not, he takes his  mind off his own meaningless affairs by minding other people's business."

Submerging yourself in an identity is just another way of avoiding the reality of your self.

Posted by orrinj at 5:40 AM


We Libertarians Were Really Wrong About School Vouchers : And now we're starting to figure out why. (Megan McArdle, 10/26/17, Bloomberg View)

Twenty years on, my optimism seems to have been far too exuberant. Some studies suggest that voucher programs do modest good; others suggest that they do very little; and a few suggest that the impacts are actually negative. My overall takeaway from the literature is that voucher programs probably do a little bit of good. But the emphasis is on the word "little"; they are not a cure-all, or even much of a cure for anything. It was reasonable to think, in 1997, that voucher programs could change the world. Now we have two decades of evidence.

How did we get it so wrong? Many explanations have been proffered, starting with "You libertarians were getting high on your own supply." Maybe markets just aren't that great.

That explanation would be more convincing if non-market attempts at school reform had gone better. But during the same period, vast sums were poured into liberal projects like smaller class sizes, and the results have been entirely uninspiring. Now the mania is for universal pre-K, not so much because there's compelling evidence for great outcomes, but because at least we haven't tried it yet, and therefore don't know that it won't work.

Plausible candidates for the lackluster performance of voucher programs are legion: during the same period, charter schools provided public school choice, and perhaps the quality of public schools improved enough to make private vouchers unnecessary; perhaps it takes the market a while to respond to a voucher system by producing excellent schools; and (depressingly) perhaps it doesn't make much difference what we do in the schools, because most educational effects are driven by a combination of genetics and home environment.

But there's another possibility, suggested recently in an NBER working paper: Maybe vouchers don't improve school quality too much because quality is not what parents look for when they're choosing their children's schools.

There is no greater tradition than Americans fretting about our failing schools and those schools continuing to work rather well.

October 26, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 6:40 PM


The murky origins of the anthem's marriage with sports -- with a Red Sox twist (Eric Moskowitz, OCTOBER 25, 2017, Boston Globe)

The Fenway crowd arrived early for the fifth game of the 1918 World Series, but by mid-afternoon the only thing moving on the field was the clock. The players were on strike beneath the stands, protesting deep cuts to postseason pay.

To frustrated fans who had shelled out good money -- $3 plus a 30-cent war tax for box seats -- the merits of the argument mattered little. When the Sox and Cubs relented and took the field, some fans stung them with catcalls about socialism and shirked duty.

Then a small band on the first base side struck up "The Star-Spangled Banner," without amplification. A hush fell over Fenway, as thousands of men removed their hats and stood solemnly, openly moved.

While that assertion is not entirely accurate, the playing of the anthem multiple times in the 1918 World Series -- better remembered here for producing the third Red Sox championship in four years, before an 86-year drought -- generated national headlines and helped cement the relationship between the song and spectator sports.

And it's a moment worth examining amid the charged climate today, with a national debate -- fanned by the president and persisting through each week of the NFL season -- over the propriety of protest while the anthem is being played before games.

Posted by orrinj at 6:23 PM


Iranian banks slowly reconnect to the world (Bijan Khajehpour October 26, 2017, Al Monitor)

A recent string of "financing agreements" that various governments and international banks have signed with Iran indicates that Tehran is finding solutions to leave behind the bottlenecks in financing its international projects. The question at this stage is whether or not such deals will facilitate the planned expansion of trade and investment with international -- and especially European -- companies.

The series of agreements started in August with a number of credit lines issued to Iran, including 8 billion euros extended by South Korea's Export-Import Bank (Kexim), followed by a $10 billion line by China. The process continued when two mid-sized European banks, Austria's Oberbank and Danish Danske Bank, signed framework agreements with Iranian entities to finance the exports of Austrian and Danish companies to Iran. Similar agreements are in the works with Japan and Italy. Furthermore, the Central Bank of Iran and the Export Insurance Agency of Russia (EXIAR) have also signed a memorandum of understanding to finance joint projects between the two countries.

The above developments mean that most of Iran's major trading partners are engaged in facilitating the financing of projects -- a main area where Tehran was facing limitations since the lifting of the nuclear-related sanctions in January 2016.

Posted by orrinj at 6:21 PM


Posted by orrinj at 6:18 PM


All Is Now Right In The World, Because Bamba Is Coming To Trader Joe's (Aiden Pink, 10/26/17, The Forward)

Bamba is made from four simple ingredients--corn grits, peanut paste, palm oil and salt. Trader Joe's confirmed that their Bamba will be made in Israel.

According to Osem, the Israeli manufacturer of Bamba, 90 percent of Israelis buy the snack regularly. Scientists speculate that baby Israelis' early exposure to the nutty treat may be why so few Israelis have peanut allergies.

Posted by orrinj at 6:11 PM


Cuba After Castro: The Coming Elections and a Historic Changing of the Guard : Cuba's succession process will culminate with someone other than a Castro emerging as the country's leader for the first time in a generation. (William M. LeoGrande, 10/26/17, World Politics Review)

On Nov. 26, Cubans will go to the polls to elect delegates to 168 municipal assemblies, the first step in an electoral process that will culminate next February when the National Assembly, Cuba's parliament, will select a new president. In 2013, when Raul Castro pledged not to seek a third term, he also imposed a two-term limit for all senior government and Communist Party leadership positions. That means the succession will replace not only Castro but almost all the remaining members of the "historical generation" who fought to overthrow Fulgencio Batista's dictatorship in 1959.

The changing of the guard comes at a delicate political moment. Castro's ambitious economic reform program, the "updating" of the economy, is still a work in progress and has yet to significantly raise the standard of living of most Cubans. Moreover, it is encountering resistance from state and party bureaucrats who are loath to lose control over the levers of economic power and the perks those provide. The economy has also been struggling because of declining oil shipments from Venezuela, which sells oil to Cuba at subsidized prices, helping to ease Cuba's chronic shortage of hard currency. The political and economic chaos engulfing Venezuela has caused oil production to decline, and shipments to Cuba are running 13 percent below last year and 37 percent below their peak in 2008. The resulting energy shortage has forced Cuba to impose drastic conservation measures and pushed the economy into a mild recession last year.

In September, Cuba's economic woes were exacerbated when Hurricane Irma came ashore, inflicting several billion dollars' worth of damage as it tracked along the north coast before turning toward the Florida Keys. The storm hit some of Cuba's most lucrative tourist resorts, cutting into the one sector of the economy that has enjoyed sustained growth in recent years. Most of the major hotels predicted they would reopen for business quickly, but the storm did enormous damage to the power grid, leaving large swaths of central Cuba in darkness.

Popular discontent over the economy and impatience with the slow pace of improvement are both running high. In an independent opinion poll taken in late 2016, 46 percent of Cubans rated the nation's economic performance as poor or very poor, 35 percent rated it as fair, and only 13 percent rated it as good or excellent. Solid majorities reported not seeing much economic progress in recent years for the country or themselves, and they had low expectations for the future.

Posted by orrinj at 6:04 PM


Posted by orrinj at 5:28 PM


Juliette Kayyem: 'It Is Safe To Say That Before Thanksgiving ... Something Is Going To Drop With Mueller.' (MOLLY BOIGON, 10/25/17, WGBH)

National security expert Juliette Kayyem is predicting news from Robert Mueller's Russia investigation will be announced within the next month.

"I think it is safe to say that before Thanksgiving ... something's going to drop with Mueller," she said on Boston Public Radio today. "The pace is too much right now. Every 12 hours we're now dealing with a piece of this story at a pace we haven't seen." [...]

"This is so close to the Oval Office now, if not in the Oval Office, that all of this [dossier news] to me is just background noise to what Mueller is going to deliver," she said. "This is more than an obstruction charge. There is something big underlying the obstruction."

Posted by orrinj at 5:19 PM

LOW HANGING FRUIT (profanity alert):

The Recruitables: Why Trump's Team Was Easy Prey for Putin : A former CIA officer looks at the personality traits that might have allowed Russian intelligence to manipulate key members of the president's inner circle. (ALEX FINLEY, October 26, 2017, Politico)

Generally, an intelligence officer looks for a person's vulnerabilities and explores ways to exploit them. It usually comes down to four things, which--in true government style--the CIA has encompassed in an acronym, MICE: Money, Ideology, Coercion, Ego. Want to get someone to betray his country? Figure out which of these four motivators drives the person and exploit the hell out of it.

It is important to note, too, that a person might not know he is doing something he shouldn't do. As former CIA Director John Brennan testified in May, "Frequently, people who go along a treasonous path do not know they are on a treasonous path until it is too late." Sometimes, such people make the best assets. They are so sure in their convictions that they are acting in their own best interest or in the best interest of their country that they have no idea they are being completely manipulated.

The Russians know all this, too.

From an intelligence point of view, the people surrounding Trump, and Trump himself, make easy targets for recruitment. [...]

Michael Flynn: Money, Ideology, Ego [...]

A top military figure, with a large ego, who felt slighted by Obama, the intelligence community and the military, Flynn was down. From the heights of JSOC to being fired--wrongly fired, no less, in his view--Flynn at this point would have made any foreign intelligence officer salivate. The man was vulnerable on several levels. His ego had taken a massive, public blow. He also firmly believed he was right, that he knew better than the president how to save the country from Islamic terrorists. Add to the mix that so many other military men had gone on to make millions in the private sector, cashing in on their military careers, their time in war zones, their connections to people both in government and in large defense companies. Flynn launched his own security consulting company and certainly might have thought: Where is mine?

This would have been a good moment for the Russians to send in a clever operative, stroke his ego, and tell Flynn how smart he was and how ridiculous Obama was for firing him. We've got a lot of people at RT who agree with you, the person might have added, while making it clear, "Our president agrees with you." Payments, made through speaking fees and consulting contracts, would have helped smooth the deal. [...]

Jared Kushner: Money, Coercion

Kushner had a rocky entrée into Manhattan real estate. His purchase of 666 Fifth Ave. at $1.8 billion in 2007--that is, just before the market tanked--was perhaps not the strongest display of business acumen. And now, with payments due and business going badly, he was in a pickle. Perhaps the Russians had a great way for him to get out of that pickle. So they introduced him in December 2016 to Sergey Gorkov, the head of the Russian state investment bank Vnesheconombank, or VEB, who would have made it clear that he was in a position to help.

Donald Trump Jr.: Money, Ego

Junior is a lot like dad in his need to feel important. He was certainly a target because he manages access to his father, and his arrogance makes him easy to read. There is probably quite a bit of insecurity behind the smugness. Sure, he's done a few international deals, but it's going to take more than that to please daddy (Junior certainly could see that his dad never really pleased his father; Junior didn't want to repeat that). Access to deals and money would certainly be a way to manipulate him, but mostly it would be stroking the Trump ego. The most important thing for Junior was that daddy win, at any cost. The perks and business deals would be a nice bonus, but I don't think Junior even equated those perks with aid to his father's campaign. Why wouldn't he accept help for his father's campaign? He likely didn't even realize there was anything wrong with a foreign adversary lending a hand. As he wrote when approached with derogatory information on daddy's opponent, "I love it."

Donald Trump: Ego [...]

Ego is clearly the best way to get Trump to do anything. The Saudis certainly understood this, feting him with gold and orbs and displaying his enormous portrait on the side of a hotel, right next to the king's portrait. The Saudis had this man in the palm of their hands, hence Trump's pro-Saudi stance since the trip, despite his campaign rhetoric shouting down the kingdom.

Trump's ego wanted to win and, he figured, everyone else wanted him to win, too. He was under the impression that everyone loved him and appreciated his greatness. Of course everyone wanted to help him win. If he accepted help from Russia, it's possible he didn't realize there was anything wrong with doing so. Why wouldn't they help him win, he might have thought, and why shouldn't he accept that help? For an experienced chekist like Putin, manipulating his ego is almost too easy.

Posted by orrinj at 5:16 PM


Nationally Recognized Hampton University Poll Places Gillespie in Gubernatorial Lead in Virginia (Hampton University, Oct. 25, 2017) 

With the 2017 Virginia election less than two weeks away, Republican nominee Ed Gillespie has an 8 percentage point lead over Democratic gubernatorial candidate Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, according to a poll released today by the nationally recognized Hampton University Center for Public Policy (CPP).

When Virginians were asked if the election were held today, 41 percent of those surveyed would vote for Gillespie and 33 for Northam. The remaining 27 percent were undecided. The key (as in last year's presidential election) are the 27 percent of the likely voters who remain Undecided. 

The actual key is that Donald drowns out everything else and, other things being equal,  the GOP wins low turnout elections.

Posted by orrinj at 11:50 AM


Who Knew Trump Would Be a Weak President? : He campaigned with a lot of swagger. But his first nine months in office have been defined by indecision, vacillation, and a reluctance to call shots. (ELIZABETH DREW, October 26, 2017, New Republic)

 It turns out that Trump has neither the wit nor the grit to seize power, and he may be too lazy and too uninterested in governing to make much of it if he did. (He can, however, empower by default cabinet officials who do know what to do with the power at their disposal--for example, Sessions.) But, except for his use of executive orders (often to countermand ones by Obama) and his cyber-bullying, Trump is essentially a passive participant in his own government. His campaign against the press is of concern, but thus far he's not taken action to curb its independence, nor have his threats to do so had any discernible impact on the rigorous job the press is doing of holding his presidency to account. In fact, all things taken together, it begins to seem as if the strongman of the rallies was a convenient deception, a figure that Trump invented but couldn't maintain when it came to making actual decisions in the Oval Office.

If this approach to governing keeps up, Trump may find himself once again on a newsweekly cover--the kind of prominence he craves--but this time with a sobriquet that once ordained one of his predecessors: "WIMP."

Once it became clear that the GOP had retained Congress there was no threat of Donald doing any real harm.

Posted by orrinj at 11:39 AM


The Ignominious End of the ISIS Caliphate (Robin Wright, October 17, 2017, The New Yorker)

"How far they've fallen. It's a striking contrast to three years ago, when they planted the flag, in the summer of 2014, and proclaimed God's kingdom on Earth had come again--and now they've evaporated," Will McCants, the author of the best-selling book "The Isis Apocalypse: The History, Strategy, and Doomsday Vision of the Islamic State," told me.

"There are other places for isis to go and survive, but there's something special about Syria and Iraq and the Fertile Crescent," McCants, a fellow at the Brookings Institution, said. "It's the theatre of prophecy. It's where the apocalyptic drama unfolds. It's the heartland of the historic caliphate, and it's the scene of the final end-of-times drama, as predicted by Islamic scripture. Nowhere else in the Islamic world compares with it."

Sort of a simple takeaway : if your prophecy depends on the people you want to govern embracing barbarism, the Anglosphere ignoring you, and Christianity being false, you're doomed.  But just because they were never a threat does not mean the UR and Donald don't deserve credit for crushing them so quickly.

October 25, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 8:30 PM


Democrats have a shockingly high opinion of former President George W. Bush (The Week, 10/25/17)
Fifty-one percent of Democrats have a favorable view of former President George W. Bush, a surprising new Economist/YouGov poll has found. Among people who voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, 54 percent have a favorable view of America's 43rd president.

Posted by orrinj at 7:19 PM


Iraq may have just turned the corner from chaos to stability  (Michael Rubin, October 24, 2017, Washington Examiner)

The changing Sunni mindset

With broad swaths of Iraq now freed from Islamic State terror, Sunni Arab Iraqis appear to have had three epiphanies.

First, they understand the true horror that their Shiite and Kurdish compatriots suffered under Saddam. Most no longer deny or minimize that suffering. They empathize.

Second, Sunnis see that the Shiite dominated government in Baghdad and largely Shiite militias are not necessarily adversaries. Indeed, thousands of Iraqi Shiite soldiers and volunteers lost their lives to free Sunni towns and cities.

And, third, many Iraqi Sunni Arabs have recognized the failures of their own leadership. Sunni political leaders who incited against Baghdad locally and internationally did nothing for the Sunni Arab community in their time of great crisis. The old guard still makes the rounds of Amman, Jordan; London; and Washington, but those they claim to represent have largely abandoned them. That these failed leaders now demand a delay in Iraq's elections has less to do with allowing displaced persons to return and more to do with preserving their own power since they will likely suffer electoral embarrassment the next time their constituents go to the polls.

...was that it delayed the inevitable reckoning.
Posted by orrinj at 6:43 PM


The CBO estimates the bipartisan Alexander-Murray health-care bill would cut the deficit by $3.8 billion (Kathryn Krawczyk, 10/25/17, The Week)

New analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office shows that the recently unveiled bipartisan health-care bill, written by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.), could cut the U.S. deficit by $3.8 billion over the next decade. The CBO estimates that health insurance premiums likely wouldn't change much, but neither would the bill drastically reduce the number of citizens covered under ObamaCare.

Posted by orrinj at 6:19 PM


Vladimir Putin's grudge with Hillary Clinton (PRI's The World, October 25, 2017)

Kirk says when Putin came to power in 2000, the Russian leader had hopes that the US would be a willing partner to help him achieve his goal of making Russia great again. But, says Kirk, after 2001, Putin saw US foreign policy as a threat to Russia, and to himself.

"What he sees at the very beginning of his relationship with George W. Bush is that regime change is at the heart of the American democracy movement all over the world," says Kirk. "Democracy becomes the biggest swear word he can hear anybody utter. He builds grievances and resentments toward every president and ultimately that manifests itself in Hillary Clinton as the secretary of state."

In 2011, as the Arab Spring was upsetting dictatorships from Tunisia to Yemen, Russia saw its own burgeoning democracy movement. Protests over what were seen as rigged legislative elections put Putin on the defensive. Kirk sees in 2011 a pivotal moment, when Clinton embodied a threat to Putin's growing authoritarianism.

"Clinton makes a statement as part of an election NGO or election monitoring group," he says, "that Russians have a right to a fair election. It's not exactly a controversial statement. But it was enough that, when it played on the web, [Putin] thinks she's the one. She's fomenting the revolution. ... It's regime change. [The US has] paid these hundred-thousand people to come out on the streets," Kirk imagines Putin thinking. "They're after me. I'm the next Gadhafi, Mubarak, Saddam. And she is at the heart of it all, and someday she's going to be president of the United States. I think I should do something about this." 

Posted by orrinj at 6:13 PM


The economics of peace (and war) : How much better off would the world be if it stopped preparing for war, and invested in peace instead? We asked a researcher with the Institute for Economics and Peace. The answer, expressed in dollars, is staggering. (Deutsche Welle, 10/25/17)

DW: How much does war and armed violence cost per year?

Talia Hagerty: We've quantified the economic impact of violence on the global economy. What we found is that in 2016, the direct and indirect costs of violence amounted to about $14.3 trillion (12.2 trillion euros) in purchasing power parity (PPP), including multiplier effects.

This number includes not only the costs of war, but also of other forms of violence, like terrorism, homicides and violent crimes.  [...]

These national economies you've mentioned prosper in a context of globalized trade. The economic impact of violence on the global economy far exceeds that of the 2008 global financial crisis, for example.
So if we want to have prosperous nations in a globalized world, that means we have to measure every country's economy and look at the total picture -- not just measure the prosperity of single nations or individual sectors, like weapons-manufacturing companies. [...]

And in fact, those advancements actually came about because of high levels of positive peace, not in spite of them.

Positive peace? What's that?

Positive peace is the attitudes, institutions and structures that sustain internally peaceful societies and create optimal environments for human potential to flourish.

We've identified eight major factors that are statistically associated with the absence of violence and high levels of internal peace within a country.

1.  Well-functioning government
2.  Equitable distribution of resources
3.  Free flow of information
4.  Good relations with neighbors
5.  High levels of human capital which increases life expectancy and increases literacy
6.  Acceptance of the rights of others
7.  Low levels of corruption
8.  Sound business environment

What these reduce to is a combination of factors that contribute to basic human security, productive diversity, and fairness. By productive diversity, I mean we're not "tolerating" diversity, we're embracing it, and engaging it to bring together diverse perspectives and generate productive outcomes.

Posted by orrinj at 5:53 PM


How artificial intelligence could help spies do their jobs : When the intelligence analyst is an algorithm. (Rob Verger, 10/23/17, Popular Science)

Primer has developed an AI system that's in part intended to augment the job of an intelligence analyst at a spy agency. Intelligence isn't the only field they're working in--their partners include Walmart and a sovereign wealth fund in Singapore--but it's perhaps the most intriguing.

An intelligence analyst's mission "is to make sense of the world around you," says Sean Gourley, Primer's founder and CEO. That could mean "monitoring the data feed that you have coming through" and trying to pick out the significant events in a region you already know well. Or, it could entail rapidly learning about "a new organization, or new part of the world that you've been called into, to quickly become an expert."

Primer takes both the reading of that information, as well the writing of the report, and automates the processes using AI. In other words, the kind of work-intensive task that an office might relegate to a junior researcher--read all this, write up a summary, and put it on my desk!--Primer will do.

Posted by orrinj at 5:51 PM


How bird feeders may be changing great tits' beaks (MARIAH QUINTANILLA 7:00AM, OCTOBER 23, 2017, Science News)

Parus major songbirds are thought to be relatively similar throughout Europe. But comparing DNA data from great tits in the United Kingdom with those in the Netherlands revealed key genetic differences between the two populations. The analysis, published in the Oct. 20 Science, linked those genetic differences to a slightly longer beak in U.K. birds seen over the last few decades. Since beak length is known to be associated with food availability, the researchers speculate that the U.K. great tits may be adapting to the widespread use of bird feeders in the country.

In other studies, bird beaks have been shown to be sensitive to the environment and capable of rapid change, says coauthor Mirte Bosse, an ecologist at Wageningen University & Research in the Netherlands. This new study demonstrates that even in our own backyards, small evolutionary changes may be happening, she says.

All that evolution but never any speciation. Were it a science that would be a problem.

Posted by orrinj at 6:35 AM


President Trump's approval rating has been tanking with the U.S. military. (John Haltiwanger, 10/25/17, Newsweek)

The Military Times survey of 1,131 active-duty troops found 53 percent of military officers oppose Trump, while only 30 percent hold a positive view about the president.  

Posted by orrinj at 6:27 AM


One in four troops sees white nationalism in the ranks (Leo Shane III, 10/25/17, Military Times)

Nearly one in four troops polled say they have seen examples of white nationalism among their fellow service members, and troops rate it as a larger national security threat than Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a new Military Times poll. [...]

When asked whether white nationalists pose a threat to national security, 30 percent of respondents labeled it a significant danger, more than many international hot spots, like Syria (27 percent), Pakistan (25 percent), Afghanistan (22 percent) and Iraq (17 percent).

Posted by orrinj at 6:25 AM


It was acceptable in the 80s: why Magnum PI should be spared reboot hell (Stuart Heritage, 25 October 2017, The Guardian)

Magnum PI, for crying out loud. Is nothing sacred? Sure, on the surface, the original Magnum PI was just one of a glut of post-Vietnam shows about vigilante justice with a charismatic male lead and storylines that wrapped up neatly at the top of the hour. But it was special. Everyone knows it was special. By some absurd alchemy Magnum PI ended up perfectly written, perfectly cast and perfectly soundtracked, managing to be both of its time and utterly timeless. You don't mess with Magnum PI.

It's not like you can top : "Did you see the sunrise, Ivan?"

October 24, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 6:21 PM


Saudi crown prince promises 'return to moderate Islam' (Al Jazeera, 10/24/17)

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Tuesday said Saudi Arabia will "return" to a "moderate Islam that is open to all religions" - comments likely to rile staunch conservatives in the Gulf kingdom.

The crown prince also announced Saudi Arabia will "eradicate promoters of extremist thoughts", saying the country was not like this in the past.

"We are returning to what we were before - a country of moderate Islam that is open to all religions and to the world," the 32-year-old heir to the throne said.

It's essentially a matter of ending the siege of Mecca.

Posted by orrinj at 9:09 AM


Italy ready to discuss calls for great autonomy: Gentiloni (Reuters, 10/24/17) 

The Italian government is ready to open negotiations with Lombardy and Veneto after the two wealthy regions voted overwhelmingly for greater autonomy, Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said on Tuesday.

Posted by orrinj at 7:37 AM


Battle of Agincourt: 10 reasons why the French lost to Henry V's army (Hannah Ellis-Petersen and Isabelle Fraser, 23 Oct 2015, The Telegraph)

The longbow was the supreme fighting technology until at least the rifle.

Posted by orrinj at 6:21 AM


The Sickening Cost of Lenin's Revolution : Victor Sebestyen's engaging 'Lenin' and Anne Applebaum's meticulous 'Red Famine: Stalin's War on Ukraine' help explain why a century later the central amorality of the unfulfilled Utopian ideal is still with us (David Mikics, October 24, 2017, Tablet)

When Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, later known as Lenin, was 21, famine hit Russia's Volga region, near the Ulyanovs' hometown of Simbirsk. Vladimir's sister raised money for the relief effort and visited the sick. But Vladimir, nearly alone among Russian radicals, scorned the effort to save lives. The future Lenin hoped that a truly enormous death toll would weaken the czarist regime--so the more starvation, the better. "He conducted systematic and outspoken propaganda against the relief committees," his comrade Trotsky said much later. Four-hundred thousand people died of starvation, typhus, and cholera.

On the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik seizure of power, we need to remember that Lenin was not just a proponent of mass terror, but also a man who wanted to turn moral values on their head. For him, as for his heir, Stalin, the dead were just numbers. Human life counted for nothing next to the distant, all-important goal of a Communist future. "Our morality is new," Lenin said in 1918. "To us, all is permitted. ... Blood? Let there be blood ... for only the complete and final death of th[e] old world will save us from the return of the old jackals." As it turned out, the new revolutionary jackals were worse than the old czarist ones.

Lenin pioneered the use of mass terror for political control. A post-truth leader, he invented fake news. He proclaimed dazzlingly simple solutions: Destroy legal and institutional norms, expropriate the property of the rich, and Russia would be on the path to Utopia. "The peasants must seize the estates," Lenin announced in the spring of 1917. "They must be masters now." "Break the resistance of a few dozen millionaires," he added, and workers could take over the factories. It was that simple.

But these were lies. No workers were given power, and the peasants got no land. Dealing in wish-fulfillment instead of real politics, inventing enemies to cement one's power, broadcasting tailor-made facts through subservient news outlets: In all these respects Lenin's revolution is still with us a century later. Though the West is in few ways comparable to the Soviet Union under Lenin, today's populists left and right have studied his rulebook, which is why Steve Bannon has reportedly boasted of being a "Leninist."

The Bolshevik coup disproves the Marxist idea that social and economic forces rule history, as Victor Sebestyen comments in his engaging, highly readable new life of Lenin (Lenin: The Man, the Dictator, and the Master of Terror). Without Lenin's shrewd tactics, his movement would have been just as feeble as the rest of Russia's political parties. The Bolsheviks never enjoyed wide support, but they had Lenin's Machiavellian individual brilliance. Lenin's tactics were masterful: Encourage schisms; castigate your opponents; make no compromises; refuse all coalitions. He held fast to the key plank that the Mensheviks foolishly rejected: He would end the war immediately upon taking power.

Gorbachev was trying to save not just the regime but the Revolution.  He believed that allowing dissidents to criticize Stalin would serve his own purposes.  Instead, they went after Lenin and delegitimized the Russian Revolution in its entirety.

Posted by orrinj at 6:15 AM


Here's the Memo the Kremlin-Linked Lawyer Took to the Meeting With Donald Trump Jr.
No dirt on Clinton, a passing mention of adoptions, and a lot on Bill Browder and the Magnitsky Act. (ELIAS GROLL, OCTOBER 16, 2017, Foreign Policy)

Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya arrived at a June 2016 meeting with Donald Trump Jr. armed with a set of talking points arguing American officials were hoodwinked into slapping human rights sanctions on Russia in 2012 and that efforts to expand those measures would hurt relations between Washington and Moscow.

According to her talking points, obtained by Foreign Policy, Veselnitskaya made the case that the American businessman Bill Browder perpetrated a massive scheme of tax fraud against the Russian state and then launched a global campaign claiming that his companies had in fact been defrauded by Russian officials -- and that they had killed the lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in order to cover it up.

Why Is Bill Browder Banned from America? (Jay Nordlinger, October 22, 2017, National Review)

The Magnitsky Act drives Putin nuts. It means that his men can't act as they always have, i.e., with impunity. Now there are consequences, which is a problem for Putin. Four countries have Magnitsky acts: the U.S., Britain, Estonia, and now Canada. (They passed theirs last week.)

Browder is a driver behind these Magnitsky acts, and Putin hates him for it, understandably. Twice in 2013, he tried to add Browder to Interpol's wanted list, and twice he failed, because Interpol knew that Putin was politically motivated. Browder is not a criminal. He is an anti-criminal, which is why Putin targets him.

In 2014, Putin tried again -- no dice. Last summer, Browder testified against him before the Judiciary Committee in the U.S. Senate, to damning effect. Obviously ticked, Putin tried again. This time, Interpol had Browder's name on the list for a month, before deleting it.

In the wake of Canada's new Magnitsky act, Putin has tried again. Tried for a fifth time. Interpol has accepted his request. Worse, the U.S. government seems in partnership with the Kremlin: Our government has revoked Browder's visa.

Posted by orrinj at 5:30 AM


NOW WE KNOW: THE RIGHT IS AS PC AS THE LEFT : The Clive Lewis debacle has exposed the right's own snowflakeism. (BRENDAN O'NEILL, 24 OCTOBER 2017, spiked)

Alongside these drearily predictable condemnations from so-called feminists, there has also been something more surprising. Or somewhat more surprising: the right-leaning press and Twittersphere also gunning for Lewis. They transformed his camp line into headline news, branding it a 'foul-mouthed rant' (The Times) and even referring to it as 'Bitch-gate' (in the words of the Guido Fawkes blog, which, to its shame, has been at the forefront of the PC witch-hunt against Lewis). A rant? A gate? Something for which the whip ought to be removed from Lewis, in the words of Tory MP Anna Soubry? This is ridiculous - but it is also incredibly and usefully revealing.

It confirms something many of us already suspected. Which is that the right, including the supposedly edgier, even 'alt' right, is as PC, as easily offended, as given to shouting 'You Can't Say That!', as anyone on the virtual left. The right likes to rail against the speech-policing and puritanical antics of the new left, whether it's the No Platforming of edgy speakers by posh, uptight, supposedly leftie students or the new feminism's suspicion of everything from laddish banter to saucy adverts on the Tube. Yet when it comes down to it, really down to it, the right is as allergic to daring or jokey speech and to free-wheeling interactions between the sexes as any starched bore on the new left is.

October 23, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 6:30 PM


Trump Nearly Deported a Chinese Dissident -- at a Casino Magnate's Request (Eric Levitz, 10/23/17, New York)

The [Wall Street Journal] reports that casino tycoon Steve Wynn hand-delivered a letter to Trump that was written by the Chinese government. In the missive, Beijing urged the president to extradite Guo Wengui, a Chinese businessman turned vocal critic of corruption in Xi Jinping's government. Guo fled China in 2014 and is currently seeking asylum in the United States. Earlier this year, Chinese officials entered the United States on false pretenses in order to pressure Guo to return home. This effort failed.

But the letter -- and/or Wynn's presentation of it -- temporarily succeeded. Wynn, who also happens to be the Republican National Committee finance chairman, reportedly handed Trump the document at a private dinner. It appears that Wynn didn't just convey Beijing's concerns, but also gave them his tacit endorsement. If so, Trump should've taken it with a grain of salt: The casino magnate owns multiple billion-dollar gambling properties in the Chinese region of Macau. To keep those facilities running, Wynn must get his c[****]no's licenses renewed by Chinese authorities on an annual basis.

But this potential conflict of interest did not seem to trouble Trump. During an Oval Office discussion of the Guo affair in June -- shortly after his dinner with Wynn -- the president reportedly asked his secretary, "Where's the letter that Steve brought?" before telling his top advisers, "We need to get this criminal out of the country."

Those advisers eventually convinced Trump not to deport the Chinese dissident -- in part, by alerting the president to the fact that Guo was a member of his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida.

Posted by orrinj at 6:25 PM


Israel said to carry out airstrike on IS-linked group in Syria (AFP, 10/23/17)

 At least 10 members of a small jihadist faction linked to the Islamic State terror group were killed Monday in air strikes in southern Syria, a monitor said, blaming Israel.

Posted by orrinj at 3:13 PM


Exclusive: Pentagon Document Contradicts Trump's Gold Star Claims : Email undermines veracity of president's statement about Gold Star contacts (John M. Donnelly, 10/20/17, The Hill)

In the hours after President Donald Trump said on an Oct. 17 radio broadcast that he had contacted nearly every family that had lost a military servicemember this year, the White House was hustling to learn from the Pentagon the identities and contact information for those families, according to an internal Defense Department email.

The email exchange, which has not been previously reported, shows that senior White House aides were aware on the day the president made the statement that it was not accurate -- but that they should try to make it accurate as soon as possible, given the gathering controversy.

Not only had the president not contacted virtually all the families of military personnel killed this year, the White House did not even have an up-to-date list of those who had been killed.

Posted by orrinj at 12:46 PM


Trump Supporters Are Being Set Up to Dismiss His Ties to Russia (Nancy LeTourneau, October 23, 2017, Washington Monthly)

On the facts of this particular story, here are a few bullet points:

*Hillary Clinton did not approve the sale of controlling interests in Uranium One to Russia in 2010. The State Department was one of nine government agencies and two independent federal nuclear regulators that had to sign off on the deal.

*Of the $145 million in donations to the Clinton Foundation, $131 million was from Frank Giustra, founder of UrAsia Energy--the company in which Russia bought controlling interests in 2010. His donation was made in 2007, two years before Clinton became Secretary of State and three years before the 2010 transaction with Russia. Also, Guistra sold his stake in the company in 2007, so he would not have been involved in the uranium deal.

*Solomon's first story last week was about an FBI investigation that began in 2009 and ended in 2015 with plea agreements that Russian nuclear industry officials engaged in a "racketeering scheme" while doing business in the U.S. He reports that these Russians were involved in "extortion, bribery, money laundering and kickbacks that were both directed by and provided benefit to more senior officials back in Russia." He provides zero evidence that they engaged in kickbacks to any American, much less the Clintons.

*Solomon's latest entry focuses on the fact that the FBI uncovered a scheme early on in the Obama administration in which Russian intelligence operatives attempted to get information about U.S. foreign policy by cozying up to figures involved with the Secretary of State. It is hard to read his account and not think of the recent TV series titled The Americans. At any rate, the idea that the Russians attempted to spy on a member of Obama's national security team is hardly a surprise.

Anyone wondering why major media outlets are ignoring this latest attempt to dig up old lies about Hillary Clinton need only look at the facts. But as much as Trump and right wing media outlets complain about the lack of coverage, I don't think they are even attempting to reach a mainstream audience with this story. Instead, it is designed to prep Trump's supporters for coming news from the investigation into whether his campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election.

If you carry water for Donald you support him.

Posted by orrinj at 7:14 AM


Mueller Now Investigating Democratic Lobbyist Tony Podesta (TOM WINTER and JULIA AINSLEY, 10/23/17, NBC News)

The probe of Podesta and his Democratic-leaning lobbying firm grew out of Mueller's inquiry into the finances of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, according to the sources. As special counsel, Mueller has been tasked with investigating possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Manafort had organized a public relations campaign for a non-profit called the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine (ECMU). Podesta's company was one of many firms that worked on the campaign, which promoted Ukraine's image in the West.

The sources said the investigation into Podesta and his company began as more of a fact-finding mission about the ECMU and Manafort's role in the campaign, but has now morphed into a criminal inquiry into whether the firm violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act, known as FARA.

Posted by orrinj at 6:54 AM


In the Trump Administration, Everyone Becomes a Liar (PAUL WALDMAN OCTOBER 23, 2017, American Prospect)

[L]et's quickly review what happened in the latest iteration of this miserable pattern, last week. At a press conference, Trump was asked why he hadn't said anything publicly about the killing of four American soldiers in Niger, nearly two weeks after it happened. He replied by lying about his predecessors, claiming that they (especially Barack Obama) never called the families of fallen service members, while he did. The next morning in a radio interview, he claimed, "I have called, I believe, everybody--but certainly I'll use the word virtually everybody." This too was false. Then Representative Frederica Wilson told told reporters that when Trump called the widow of Sergeant La David Johnson, he said the slain soldier "must have known what he signed up for," which came off sounding insensitive. Then Trump lied again, claiming that he never said that, despite the fact that the family confirmed it. He also said "I have proof" that Wilson wasn't telling the truth, yet another lie.

Which brings us to the person whose turn it was to defend Trump, Chief of Staff John Kelly. If there were anyone who one would have thought could work for Donald Trump and emerge with their integrity and reputation intact, it might have been Kelly. Not a vicious partisan or a striving careerist, Kelly moved to the White House from the Department of Homeland Security to impose some discipline and order on a chaotic situation, and has apparently been trying (with little success) to rein in the president's worst impulses by restricting his access to shady characters and the kind of information that will get him too riled up. Kelly's willingness to take on the extraordinarily difficult task of managing the angry toddler in the Oval Office has been widely seen as an act of public service, a final tour of duty from a career military officer done in order to prevent great harm coming to the country.

But as Kelly proved on Thursday, there is no such thing as noble service to Donald Trump. To join him means to descend into his sewer of division and dishonesty. Once you work for Donald Trump, he infects you like a disease, one for which there is no cure.

When Kelly began his statement to the White House press corps by describing the process by which a fallen servicemember's body is brought back home, people watching were moved, particularly since Kelly's own son was killed fighting in Afghanistan. But then he revealed that when Trump told La David Johnson's widow that Johnson knew what he signed up for, he was actually following Kelly's advice about what to say. That confirmed what was obvious from the beginning: Trump was trying to say something that in the hands of someone with a shred of human empathy might have been comforting, but coming from him it sounded insensitive and even offensive. But perhaps more importantly, it confirmed that Trump was lying when he repeatedly denied that he had said it.

Not to be lost here is the Right's belief that the more dead Americans in a war the more serious we seem. They're still upset that we let Iraqis, Russians, Kurds, Alawites, Turks, Hezbollah, Iranians, etc. die fighting ISIS instead of killing our own guys.

Posted by orrinj at 6:47 AM


After Controversy Over Condolence Calls, Can Trump And The White House Refocus? (Domenico Montanaro, 10/23/17, NPR)

And Trump's Twitter fingers will be tested again Monday morning when that widow -- of Army Sgt. La David Johnson, who was one of the four killed in Niger -- speaks to ABC's Good Morning America. Johnson's funeral was Saturday. The interview and Trump's potential response threaten to extend the controversy -- which has been uncomfortable to see laid bare -- for another week.

Trump can't seem to let it go, even as the controversy descended into one about race -- again during this presidency -- by the end of last week.

Here was the way Midwin Charles, writing for Essence magazine, framed it Friday, for example:

"At a time when Black women bury their sons and daughters as a result of gun violence, police brutality and service to this country, the lack of respect from this president is unbearable. Worse, he sets a dangerous precedent on how Black women should be perceived and treated in America."

Trump has the opportunity to refocus this week, as Panetta suggests is necessary, on other subjects important to him and the country -- like the budget and a tax overhaul with a trip to Capitol Hill the president has set for Tuesday.

Hating minorities is the whole point of Trumpism/Bannonism.

Posted by orrinj at 6:39 AM


It's Time for Bill O'Reilly To Be Weinsteined (David French, October 22, 2017, National Review)

How many serious allegations must there be -- and how much settlement money must O'Reilly pay -- before conservatives apply the same standards to him that they would eagerly apply to a liberal of corresponding fame and importance? Yet prominent conservatives are guests on his new "No Spin News," and he's consistently a guest on other conservative programs. O'Reilly should be banished from every serious and meaningful conservative outlet just as Weinstein is being stripped of his progressive public platforms. Frankly, there is no need for O'Reilly's voice in the public square. 

Both sides of America's political and cultural conflict are facing their own days of reckoning. In these last few weeks, it's becoming painfully obvious even to those who still try to cling to Hollywood's illusions of cultural superiority that an industry famous for its moralizing is responsible for an immense amount of exploitation and victimization. At the same time, conservatives have had to face the fact that its favorite network was rife with its own abuses, and too many conservatives are in denial over Donald Trump. They're convinced that his boasts were mere "locker room" talk and that all of the more than one dozen public accusations of misconduct were politically-motivated. 

Yes, we live in a time when Hollywood is more moralistic than conservatism.

Posted by orrinj at 6:37 AM



The latest figure in Gallup's tracking survey, released Thursday, pegged Trump's approval at just 35 percent, down from 38 percent at this point last week. He's just one percentage point higher than his lowest rating ever of 34 percent. To make matters worse for the commander-in-chief, Trump's disapproval was nearing his all-time high, as well. It stood at 60 percent, just one percentage point off from his all-time high of 61 percent in early September. The Gallup poll surveys 1,500 U.S. adults and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:25 AM


Italy's northern regions back greater autonomy (Al Jazeera, 10/23/17)

The leaders of Italy's two wealthiest northern regions have claimed victory in a non-binding referendum, seeking greater autonomy from the central government in Rome. 

Voters in Lombardy and Veneto overwhelmingly backed more regional control over tax revenues, immigration and education systems on Sunday.

Posted by orrinj at 6:23 AM


She's 26, and Brought Down Uber's C.E.O. What's Next? (MAUREEN DOWDOCT. 21, 2017, NY Times Magazine)

Like women in Hollywood I talked to after the Weinstein collapse, Ms. Fowler thought the new outspokenness in Silicon Valley on sexual harassment may have been spurred by the election of President Trump.

Posted by orrinj at 5:52 AM


Britain's Johnson says absolutely no doubt Iran nuclear deal will be preserved (Reuters, 10/23/17) 

There is absolutely no doubt that a deal between Western powers and Iran to curb its nuclear program will survive despite the United States' decision not to recertify the deal, Britain's foreign minister Boris Johnson said on Monday.

Why would any ally follow Donald's protectionist path?

Posted by orrinj at 5:49 AM


McCain blasts 'bone spur' excuses for dodging Vietnam (Axios, 10/23/17)

"[W]e drafted the lowest income level of America and the highest income level found a doctor that would say that they had a bone spur. That is wrong. That is wrong."
-- McCain, in an interview segment that aired on CSPAN

Donald's comment that a dead soldier "must have known what he signed up for" certainly explains his draft-dodging.

October 22, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 1:01 PM


Jack Bogle and Nobel winner Richard Thaler both know this one thing about smart investing ; A nudge is great, but sometimes, the best thing to do is nothing (MITCH TUCHMAN, 10/21/17, Marketwatch)

Thaler and Sunstein make a relatively simple argument based on years of economic research about human biases. We are full of flaws forcing us to make mistakes that cost us health and wealth. We need help.

But we shouldn't be forced into better decisions, the authors argue. Rather, we should be "nudged" toward a selection of choices that are better than doing nothing, which tends to be the default.

For instance, people should be placed automatically into retirement plans at work but given the choice to opt out. In too many cases, the default is to opt in.

Likewise, our savings contributions should be automatic -- at a low level, with an opt-out choice -- in order to make sure people invest at least something. Those investments should be into a broad, easy-to-follow, low-cost portfolio, rather than piling up as uninvested cash.

Once a saver sees those investments growing, the impulse becomes to save more and to stay invested. They're already on the road toward a better retirement.

John Bogle, founder of the Vanguard Group, has long made the same arguments based his decades of experience working with investors.

Posted by orrinj at 12:18 PM


G.M. and Ford Lay Out Plans to Expand Electric Models (BILL VLASIC and NEAL E. BOUDETTE, OCT. 2, 2017, NY Times)

China has said it will eventually ban gasoline-powered cars. California may be moving in the same direction. That pressure has set off a scramble by the world's car companies to embrace electric vehicles.

On Monday, General Motors, America's largest automaker, staked its claim to leadership. Outlining a fundamental shift in its vision of the industry, it announced plans for 20 new all-electric models by 2023, including two within the next 18 months.

G.M.'s announcement came a day before a long-scheduled investor presentation by Ford Motor that was also expected to emphasize electric models. After the G.M. news emerged, Ford let loose with its own announcement, saying it would add 13 electrified models over the next several years, with a five-year investment of $4.5 billion.

"General Motors believes in an all-electric future," said Mark L. Reuss, G.M.'s global product chief. "Although that future won't happen overnight, G.M. is committed to driving increased usage and acceptance of electric vehicles. [...]

More than consumer demand, however, it is regulatory pressure that is revving up the electric push, with officials in China, Europe and the United States ratcheting up emissions standards and setting or discussing deadlines that could eliminate gasoline-powered cars within a generation.

The announcements by G.M. and Ford follow pledges by the German automakers Volkswagen and Daimler to build hundreds of thousands of electric vehicles in the coming years, and the decision by Volvo, the Chinese-owned Swedish luxury brand, to convert its entire lineup to either electric cars or hybrid vehicles that are powered by both batteries and gas.

The accelerated pace of development also reflects the symbiotic relationship between battery-powered cars and another technological frontier; auto companies are tying their electric-car plans to lofty goals of building fleets of autonomous vehicles for ride-hailing services.

The automakers believe they can solve the problem of achieving -- as G.M.'s chief executive, Mary T. Barra, has begun stressing -- a world with "zero crashes, zero emissions, and zero congestion."

It is a stunning statement from a company that, together with Ford, sells more large pickup trucks and full-size sport utility vehicles than the rest of the global industry combined -- and from an industry that grudgingly got into building electric vehicles in the face of stricter fuel emissions standards.

Posted by orrinj at 12:14 PM


Posted by orrinj at 12:12 PM


Posted by orrinj at 9:37 AM


Universe shouldn't exist, CERN physicists conclude : A super-precise measurement shows proton and antiproton have identical magnetic properties (Cathal O'Connell, 10/21/17, Cosmos)

One of the great mysteries of modern physics is why antimatter did not destroy the universe at the beginning of time.

To explain it, physicists suppose there must be some difference between matter and antimatter - apart from electric charge. Whatever that difference is, it's not in their magnetism, it seems.

Physicists at CERN in Switzerland have made the most precise measurement ever of the magnetic moment of an anti-proton - a number that measures how a particle reacts to magnetic force - and found it to be exactly the same as that of the proton but with opposite sign. The work is described in Nature.

"All of our observations find a complete symmetry between matter and antimatter, which is why the universe should not actually exist," says Christian Smorra, a physicist at CERN's Baryon-Antibaryon Symmetry Experiment (BASE) collaboration. "An asymmetry must exist here somewhere but we simply do not understand where the difference is."

Posted by orrinj at 9:33 AM


Robots Are Coming for These Wall Street Jobs| (Saijel Kishan, Hugh Son and Mira Rojanasakul, October 18, 2017, Bloomberg)

Wall Street is entering a new era. The fraternity of bond jockeys, derivatives mavens and stock pickers who've long personified the industry are giving way to algorithms, and soon, artificial intelligence.

Banks and investment funds have been tinkering for years, prompting anxiety for employees. Now, firms are rolling out machine-learning software to suggest bets, set prices and craft hedges. The tools will relieve staff of routine tasks and offer an edge to those who stay. But one day, machines may not need much help. It's no wonder most of the jobs Goldman Sachs Group Inc.'s securities business posted online in recent months were for tech talent. Billionaire trader Steven Cohen is experimenting with automating his top money managers. Venture capitalist Marc Andreessen has said 100,000 financial workers aren't needed to keep money flowing.

This map of trading automation is based on interviews with about a dozen senior banking and investing executives on Wall Street, many of whom focus on adopting new tech. It offers a sense of their projects -- some of them just starting -- that will affect traders within big firms.

Posted by orrinj at 9:14 AM


Donald Trump Is Rush-Shipping Condolences to Military Families : Three families of fallen servicemembers received next-day UPS letters from President Trump after a turbulent week in which Trump falsely claimed he had called "virtually all" of the families. (LENA FELTON AND TAYLOR HOSKING OCT 21, 2017, The Atlantic)

The Trump administration is scrambling to defend the president's characterization of his communications with grieving military families, including rush-delivering letters from the president to the families of servicemembers killed months ago. Donald Trump falsely claimed this week that he had called "virtually" all fallen servicemembers' families since his time in office.

Timothy Eckels Sr. hadn't heard anything from President Trump since his son Timothy Eckels Jr. was killed after a collision involving the USS John S. McCain on August 21. But then, on October 20, two days into the controversy over the president's handling of a condolence call with an American soldier's widow, Eckels Sr. received a United Parcel Service package dated October 18 with a letter from the White House.

Posted by orrinj at 9:10 AM


The Future of Banking Probably Isn't Banking : With companies like Google, Apple, and Amazon getting involved in payment transactions, banking as we know it could dramatically change. (Andy O'Sullivan, 10/22/17, FEE)

Amazon Cash

This is a relatively new service from Amazon where consumers can load cash into their Amazon account via physical retailers, via a barcode. It's aimed at consumers that don't have bank cards -- but it raises some interesting possibilities, such as: If I was Amazon, what would I do next?

Right now, it works like this:

Consumers add money to their Amazon account by handing cash over in a retailer.

They can then spend it online.

But what if Amazon (or some other tech company) also:

Does a deal with retailers allowing consumers to use their Amazon (or similar) account in-store and not just online?

Allows consumers who actually do have bank cards/accounts to be paid, instead, into their Amazon account -- perhaps by offering no fees, or interest, or free services like Prime?

Then perhaps they mention that they also offer credit. Need a small loan to buy that TV in Walmart? No problem, we can do that. Just click here!

Note that there's no bank involved in any of that process, just a tech giant who already has a relationship with a consumer offering them some more services, on top of all the other services they offer.

Isn't That Just Amazon Being a Bank?

One could argue that what I just proposed is just Amazon becoming a bank -- and perhaps legally, they may require a banking license for certain products -- but I think that would be the same as saying that Netflix is a video store. Video stores are gone, replaced by a new way of consuming films and tv shows.

Posted by orrinj at 8:53 AM


5 Living Ex-Presidents Appear On Stage For Hurricane Relief Concert (DOREEN MCCALLISTER, 10/22/17, NPR)

The last time the five former presidents were together was in 2013 at the dedication of George W. Bush's presidential library in Dallas.

The concert at Texas A&M is not the first time former presidents have raised money for disaster relief.

In 2004, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton worked together to raise money after the tsunami in South Asia, and again the following year after Hurricane Katrina.

In 2011, Clinton and George W. Bush requested donations after Haiti's earthquake.

Jim McGrath, a spokesman for George H.W. Bush, says the hurricane relief effort has raised at least $31 million since it began Sept. 7.

Posted by orrinj at 8:35 AM


How the Russians pretended to be Texans - and Texans believed them (Casey Michel, 10/17/17, The Washington Post)

That was how I eventually found my way to the "Heart of Texas" Facebook page (and its @itstimetoecede Twitter feed as well). Heart of Texas soon grew into the most popular Texas secession page on Facebook - one that, at one point in 2016, boasted more followers than the official Texas Democrat and Republican Facebook pages combined. By the time Facebook took the page down recently, it had a quarter of a million followers.

The page started slowly - just a few posts per week. Unlike other secession sites I'd come across, this one never carried any contact information, never identified any of individuals behind the curtain. Even as it grew, there was nothing to locate it in Texas - or anywhere else, for that matter. It was hard to escape the suspicion that there might be Russian involvement here as well.

There were other oddities about the site. Its organizers had a strangely one-dimensional idea of its subject. They seemed to think, for example, that Texans drank Dr. Pepper at all hours: while driving their giant trucks, while flying their Confederate battle flags, while griping about Yankees and liberals and vegetarians.

But Heart of Texas, sadly, was no joke. At one point the page's organizers even managed to stir up its followers into staging an armed, anti-Islamic protest in Houston. As gradually became clear, this was part of a broader strategy. The sponsors of the page were keen to exacerbate America's own internal divisions. At certain moments they lent support to Black Lives Matter, while in others they would play to the latent (or obvious) racism of Donald Trump's base.

By the summer of 2016, other themes began to emerge. Posts began to follow a perceptibly hard-right course, stressing Texas's status as a "Christian state," or touting the Second Amendment as a "symbol of freedom . . . so we would forever be free from any tyranny." Some of the page's contributors talked about the need to "keep Texas Texan," whatever that meant. There was also a generous dollop of conspiracy theory. There were posts about the allegedly unnatural death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and the supposed federal invasion orders behind the Jade Helm military exercise. Fake Founding Father quotes mingled with anti-Muslim screeds and paeans to Sam Houston. And the number of followers steadily crept into the hundreds of thousands.

Though the site's authors understood their audience well, there was something off about their writing. The page's "About" section proclaimed that "Texas's the land protected by Lord [sic]." Grammatical and spelling glitches were everywhere: "In Love With Texas Shape," "State Fair of Texas - Has You Already Visited?," "Always Be Ready for a Texas Size," "No Hypoclintos in the God Blessed Texas." (Or take this caption for a photo of country music star George Strait: "Life is not breaths you take, but the moments that take your breth [sic] away.") Yet the typos never seemed to raise any suspicions in readers' minds.

Even the page's calls for an early November protest across the state - part pro-secession, part anti-Clinton - were garbled. One post declared that "we are free citizens of Texas and we've had enough of this cheap show on the screen." The site called on those who showed up to "make photos."

Heart of Texas chugged on after the election, bringing in tens of thousands of new followers in 2017 who were unbothered by its mangled English, its rank nativism and its calls to break up the United States.

And then, in August, it was gone. Just like that, the most popular Texas secession page on Facebook was revealed to be a Russian front, operated by the notorious Internet Research Agency, with Facebook removing all of the posts from public view. (It's worth noting that another Instagram account started posting Heart of Texas material as soon as the original Facebook page was taken down.)

October 21, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 6:58 PM


Rep. Frederica Wilson didn't flinch at Trump's attacks. Her record explains why. (Derek Hawkins October 19 , 2017, Washington Post)

Wilson has a long track record of taking on her constituents' tragedies as her own, helping people grieve and rallying her community in tough times -- especially those who come out of her program, news archives show.

When a 22-year-old soldier from south Florida was killed in a car-bomb attack in the early days of the Iraq War, the news fell hard on Wilson.

It was spring 2004, and Wilson was then a state senator representing the Miami area. The soldier, Pfc. Jeremy Ricardo Ewing, was not only her constituent but a recent graduate of her mentoring program. She had known him since he was a middle-schooler.

At his funeral, she was overcome with grief and anger. She told the Miami Herald at the time that she believed Ewing died fighting in a senseless war, and she criticized the Bush administration's rationale for the U.S.-led invasion. "I could not help but think how we went into war when the president said there are weapons of mass destruction," she said. "And to this day, to this day, we have not found them. Now, Jeremy is gone."

Days later, the 5,000 Role Models program held a memorial service honoring Ewing. Wilson lit a candle for him, and offered more restrained remarks about his death. "It's unfortunate what happened to this young man," she said, "but I feel proud to say I knew him and that he was part of my organization."

Ewing's death came shortly after another graduate of the program, Edmond Randle, 26, was killed by an improvised explosive device on a road north of Baghdad. Wilson knew him, too, as local media noted at the time.

Two years later, in 2006, Miami-Dade County was rattled by an alarming spike in homicides. Three of the victims had taken part in Wilson's program. One was college-bound alum of 5,000 Role Models. Another was a wood shop teacher who served as a program mentor.

The third, Eviton Brown, 24,was a star football player who attended Florida A&M University, the Herald reported at the time.

When Brown was gunned down in northern Miami in October 2006, Wilson seized on the opportunity to call for gun control to curb the violence that killed the three men.

"He was killed with an assault weapon that probably only those fighting in a war should have access to," she told the Herald.

The same year, a 9-year-old girl was struck by a stray bullet and killed while she was playing in front of her house in Miami's Liberty City neighborhood. The morning of her funeral, Wilson announced that the girl's teenage brother would be awarded a full college scholarship, the Herald reported at the time.

Ending gun violence has been one of Wilson's signature campaigns since she became active in politics.

In the late 1990s, as a school board member, she founded Stop Day, a statewide cease-fire and anti-violence pledge. She has also marched in vigils and presided over community meetings on gun violence, and has long focused on keeping children safe from gunfire.

Posted by orrinj at 6:13 PM


NAACP Elects New President, Will Assume More Political Non-Profit Tax Status (CHRIS BENDEREV, 10/21/17, NPR)

The organization announced its new president and CEO and its intention to alter its tax status to a non-profit category that permits more aggressive political lobbying. [...]

During a phone call with reporters, Johnson also said the NAACP's national office would soon transition from the 501(c)3 non-profit status it currently holds to become a 501(c)4.

The change will lift significant restrictions on the NAACP's ability to engage in political lobbying. IRS rules permit political actions by 501(c)4 groups, though not as their "primary activity."

Posted by orrinj at 12:59 PM


All former US presidents to appear at hurricane relief concert; Trump sending his thanks (Caroline Kenny, 10/21/17, CNN)

All five living former US presidents will take part in a benefit concert Saturday in Texas to raise money for hurricane relief efforts.

Former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter will attend the event at Reed Arena at Texas A&M University.

Reminds of the story when Reagan sent Ford, Carter & Nixon to Sadat's funeral.  Bob Dole said : there go See No Evil, Speak no Evil and Evil.

Posted by orrinj at 12:57 PM


Posted by orrinj at 12:52 PM


Hey, Virginia! You've got a governor to elect in three weeks! (Marc Fisher October 15, 2017, Washington Post)

As the nation's only competitive statewide contest this year, the Virginia race has been viewed by people in the politics business as a crucial bellwether, an early measure of whether voters are motivated to push back against an unpopular president or double down on their drive to disrupt Washington and "drain the swamp."

But far fewer Virginia voters are closely following the campaign than at similar stages in the past three gubernatorial elections, according to Washington Post polling.

Even those who might be assumed to be searching for a way to send a message about a president they consider inept or dangerous say they are paying little attention to the Virginia race.

Martin Cox, who works for a defense contractor in Leesburg, is a steady Democrat who voted for Hillary Clinton last fall and considers Trump "bombastic and noisy." Cox, 35, usually follows campaigns for governor closely, taking weekend time to thoroughly research the candidates' views.

Not this year.

"Given Trump's penchant for sucking the air out of the room, this election could be a way to send a message that he needs to start listening to all sides and tone down the way he speaks," Cox said. "But I haven't really heard much about the candidates and I haven't done my research. When I look at the news now, it's about Trump saying the latest crazy thing, and that's where the attention focuses."

It's how he won the Republican primaries--he was, in effect, the only one running.

Posted by orrinj at 12:47 PM


After strikes, Syria says Israel is backing anti-regime 'terrorists' (Times of Israel, 10/21/17)

Syria on Saturday issued letters of complaint to the United Nations in which it denounced the day's Israeli strikes on Syrian army targets, accusing the Jewish state of conspiring with local "terror groups," the Ynet website reported.

In the morning the Israeli army hit three Syrian artillery targets in the Golan Heights, in a response hours after five projectiles landed in open ground in Israel as a result of spillover fire from the fighting in Syria.

Foreigners who joined IS face almost certain death in Raqqa : World governments are loathe to let jihadists come back home, and may even be encouraging local forces to see that they die in battle (LORI HINNANT and SARAH EL DEEB, 10/20/17, AP)

The forces fighting the remnants of the Islamic State group in Syria have tacit instructions on dealing with the foreigners who joined the extremist group by the thousands: Kill them on the battlefield.

As they made their last stand in the northern Syrian city of Raqqa, an estimated 300 extremists holed up in and around a sports stadium and a hospital argued among themselves about whether to surrender, according to Kurdish commanders leading the forces that closed in. The final days were brutal -- 75 coalition airstrikes in 48 hours and a flurry of desperate IS car bombs that were easily spotted in the sliver of devastated landscape still under militant control.

No government publicly expressed concern about the fate of its citizens who left and joined the Islamic State fighters plotting attacks at home and abroad. In France, which has suffered repeated violence claimed by the Islamic State -- including the Nov. 13, 2015, attacks in Paris -- Defense Minister Florence Parly was among the few to say it aloud.

"If the jihadis perish in this fight, I would say that's for the best," Parly told Europe 1 radio last week.

Those were the orders, according to the US.

"Our mission is to make sure that any foreign fighter who is here, who joined ISIS from a foreign country and came into Syria, they will die here in Syria," said Brett McGurk, the top US envoy for the anti-IS coalition, in an interview with Dubai-based Al-Aan television.

"So if they're in Raqqa, they're going to die in Raqqa," he said.

Posted by orrinj at 10:11 AM


The White-Minstrel Show : 'Acting white' for white people (Kevin D. Williamson, October 20, 2017, National Review)

[I] do have something to say about the subject of white people acting white.
We rarely used to put it in racial terms, unless we were talking about Eminem or the Cash-Me-Ousside Girl or some other white person who has embraced (or affected) some part of black popular culture. With the Trump-era emergence of a more self-conscious form of white-identity politics -- especially white working-class identity politics -- the racial language comes to the surface more often than it used to. But we still rarely hear complaints about "acting un-white." Instead, we hear complaints about "elitism."

The parallels to the "acting white" phenomenon in black culture are fairly obvious: When aspiration takes the form of explicit or implicit cultural identification, however partial, with some hated or resented outside group that occupies a notionally superior social position, then "authenticity" is to be found in socially regressive manners, mores, and habits. It is purely reactionary.

The results are quite strange. Republicans, once the party of the upwardly mobile with a remarkable reflex for comforting the comfortable, have written off entire sections of the country -- including the bits where most of the people live -- as "un-American." Silicon Valley and California at large, New York City and the hated Acela corridor, and, to some extent, large American cities categorically are sneered at and detested. There is some ordinary partisanship in that, inasmuch as the Democrats tend to dominate the big cities and the coastal metropolitan aggregations, but it isn't just that. Conservatives are cheering for the failure of California and slightly nonplussed that New York City still refuses to regress into being an unlivable hellhole in spite of the best efforts of its batty Sandinista mayor. Not long ago, to be a conservative on Manhattan's Upper East Side was the most ordinary thing in the world. Now that address would be a source of suspicion. God help you if you should ever attend a cocktail party in Georgetown, the favorite dumb trope of conservative talk-radio hosts.

We've gone from William F. Buckley Jr. to the gentlemen from Duck Dynasty. Why?

American authenticity, from the acting-even-whiter point of view, is not to be found in any of the great contemporary American business success stories, or in intellectual life, or in the great cultural institutions, but in the suburban-to-rural environs in which the white underclass largely makes its home -- the world John Mellencamp sang about but understandably declined to live in.

Shake your head at rap music all you like: When's the last time you heard a popular country song about finishing up your master's in engineering at MIT?

White people acting white have embraced the ethic of the white underclass, which is distinct from the white working class, which has the distinguishing feature of regular gainful employment. The manners of the white underclass are Trump's -- vulgar, aggressive, boastful, selfish, promiscuous, consumerist. The white working class has a very different ethic. Its members are, in the main, churchgoing, financially prudent, and married, and their manners are formal to the point of icy politeness. You'll recognize the style if you've ever been around it: It's "Yes, sir" and "No, ma'am," but it is the formality of soldiers and police officers -- correct and polite, but not in the least bit deferential. It is a formality adopted not to acknowledge the superiority of social betters but to assert the equality of the speaker -- equal to any person or situation, perfectly republican manners. It is the general social respect rooted in genuine self-respect.

Its opposite is the sneering, leveling, drag-'em-all-down-into-the-mud anti-"elitism" of contemporary right-wing populism. Self-respect says: "I'm an American citizen, and I can walk into any room, talk to any president, prince, or potentate, because I can rise to any occasion." Populist anti-elitism says the opposite: "I can be rude enough and denigrating enough to drag anybody down to my level." Trump's rhetoric -- ridiculous and demeaning schoolyard nicknames, boasting about money, etc. -- has always been about reducing. Trump doesn't have the intellectual capacity to duke it out with even the modest wits at the New York Times, hence it's "the failing New York Times." Never mind that the New York Times isn't actually failing and that any number of Trump-related businesses have failed so thoroughly that they've gone into bankruptcy; the truth doesn't matter to the argument any more than it matters whether the fifth-grade bully actually has an actionable claim on some poor kid's lunch money. It would never even occur to the low-minded to identify with anybody other than the bully. That's what all that ridiculous stuff about "winning" was all about in the campaign. It is might-makes-right, i.e., the politics of chimpanzee troupes, prison yards, kindergartens, and other primitive environments. That is where the underclass ethic thrives -- and how "smart people" came to be a term of abuse.

This involves, inevitably, a good deal of fakery.

The man at the center of all this atavistic redneck revanchism is a pampered billionaire real-estate heir from New York City, and it has been something to watch the multi-millionaire populist pundits in Manhattan doing their best impersonations of beer-drinkin' regular guys from the sticks. I assume Sean Hannity picked up his purported love for country music in the sawdust-floored honky-tonks of . . . Long Island.

As a purely aesthetic enterprise, none of this clears my poor-white-trash cultural radar. I'm reminded of those so-called dive bars in Manhattan that spend $150,000 to make a pricey spot in Midtown look like a Brooklyn kid's idea of a low-rent roadside bar in Texas. (There's one that even has Lubbock license plates on the wall. I wonder where they got them -- is there some kind of mail-order dive-bar starter kit that comes with taxidermy, Texas license plates, and a few cases of Lone Star? Maybe via Amazon Prime?) The same crap is there -- because the same crap is everywhere -- but the arrangement isn't quite right.

The populist Right's abandonment of principle has been accompanied by a repudiation of good taste, achievement, education, refinement, and manners -- all of which are abominated as signs of effete "elitism." During the Clinton years, Virtue Inc. was the top-performing share in the Republican political stock exchange. Fortunes were made, books were sold by the ton, and homilies were delivered. The same people today are celebrating Donald Trump -- not in spite of his being a dishonest, crude serial adulterer but because of it. His dishonesty, the quondam cardinals of Virtue Inc. assure us, is simply the mark of a savvy businessman, his vulgarity the badge of his genuineness and lack of "political correctness," and his pitiless abuse of his several wives and children the mark of a genuine "alpha male." No less a virtue entrepreneur than Bill Bennett dismissed those who pointed out Trump's endless lies and habitual betrayals as suffering from "moral superiority," from people on "high horses," and said that Trump simply is "a guy who says some things awkwardly, indecorously, infelicitously."

Thus did the author of The Book of Virtues embrace the author of "Grab 'Em By the P***y."

We need a Moynihan Report for conservative broadcasters. [...]

My mother despised the college professors for whom she worked in her last job, who were unfailingly kind and generous to her, because they were unfailingly kind and generous to her, which she understood (as she understood many things) as condescension. Hers was a world of strict tribal hierarchy: She would, for example, enact petty cruelties on waitresses and grocery-store clerks and other people in service positions, taking advantage of the fact that she had momentary social inferiors, and she must have been confused that the professors and deans did not behave that way toward her. In fact, they did the opposite, entrusting her with work far beyond her modest formal credentials or the official duties of her position. Class is funny in a small-ish town: The father of a school friend of mine became the dean of her college and her boss, and she spoke of the family as though they inhabited some faraway realm when in reality they lived three blocks north and two blocks east. That she herself could have had a life more like theirs, or that her children might yet, never occurred to her -- it was sour grapes raised to a state of psychosis.

Feeding such people the lie that their problems are mainly external in origin -- that they are the victims of scheming elites, immigrants, black welfare malingerers, superabundantly fecund Mexicans, capitalism with Chinese characteristics, Walmart, Wall Street, their neighbors -- is the political equivalent of selling them heroin. (And I have no doubt that it is mostly done for the same reason.) It is an analgesic that is unhealthy even in small doses and disabling or lethal in large ones. The opposite message -- that life is hard and unfair, that what is not necessarily your fault may yet be your problem, that you must act and bear responsibility for your actions -- is what conservatism used to offer, before it became a white-minstrel show. It is a sad spectacle, but I do have some hope that the current degraded state of the conservative movement will not last forever.

The thing about eternals truths is, they're eternal.

The really wicked thing here is the belief, on the part of these formerly conservative activists, is that they are embracing white trashiness because they think it gives them license to engage in racism/Nativism. It's a mark of how much they despise non-elite whites.

Posted by orrinj at 9:48 AM


John Kelly's Lies About Frederica Wilson Are Part of a Pattern of Not Believing Black Women (Shaun King, October 21 2017, The Intercept)

Not once did Wilson ever mention getting funding for the building; it was funded years earlier. She never even broaches the subject of money; she never mentions this $20 million line or getting funding from Obama. It never happened. Period. It's so dishonest that it's bizarre.

Instead, Wilson, who was thanked by FBI Director James Comey for helping the building be named posthumously after fallen officers, told the comical bipartisan story of how she and House Speaker Paul Ryan and so many others rushed to get the naming through Congress in record time, because the ribbon-cutting had already been scheduled. She thanked her colleagues in her congressional delegation, Republicans and Democrats, by name. She honored the fallen officers and their families. She honored the FBI agents in the audience, then took her seat.

Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., and others attend the April 10, 2015, opening of a new FBI South Florida field office named for office is named for two agents who were killed in an April 11, 1986, shootout with heavily armed bank robbers south of Miami. Photo: Wilfredo Lee/Pool/AP
WILSON WAS PROUD. She should've been. At a time where Congress gets nothing done, and partisan bickering jams up even routine business, that was put aside and the building was dedicated on time in the honor of the officers. It wasn't saving the world, but she never made it out to be. Her remarks were witty, beautiful, warm, and gracious. And they were filmed.

The actual speech makes Kelly's remarks all the more disgusting. That he started off his recollection of Wilson by calling her an "empty barrel" is beyond the pale. Beyond being a member of Congress, she is a hero in her community. She helped mentor Johnson, the soldier who died in Niger, and has done the same with hundreds, perhaps thousands, of young people in Florida. She has a doctorate. She was a celebrated school principal. No woman should be called an "empty barrel" -- that Kelly used that as his launching point was a gross insult to a woman with a distinguished life of public service.

What Kelly did followed a week in which the trusted words of black women were repeatedly called into question.
Second, Kelly lied. The man did not misunderstand her. He lied - not once but over and over again. He fabricated an entire story about what she told the audience that day. Wilson didn't brag about raising money or securing funding. It simply never happened. The lies from Kelly were so specific that one must wonder if he, like Trump, is either a serial liar, or if his mental faculties should be called into question.

Or, perhaps, the story he told is a disturbing insight into how his mind works. Consider that Kelly watched Wilson give the remarks she gave in the video. If by some chance he isn't lying, and he truly believes that's what he heard, then think about how her speech was transformed by Kelly's perception of her. He saw her tell, in real life, an amusing story about parliamentary maneuvering to name a building. Yet Kelly heard, in his mind, a story about a money-grubbing, credit-hogging grandstander. And consider that Wilson has been overcoming perceptions like that her entire life.

'Trump is messing with the wrong woman' : The president has never feuded with a politician quite like Florida Rep. Frederica Wilson. (MARC CAPUTO 10/20/2017, Politico)

[T]he technicolor clothes and flashy demeanor belies the grim legacy that made her an icon in the African-American community in Florida and, now, the nation: her advocacy for young black men, particularly those who end up dead. Since her time in the Florida legislature, Wilson's political identity has been forged by fights - often with a white, male-dominated establishment -- to figure out what happened to them and why.

More than 11 years before Sgt. La David Johnson was killed with three other soldiers in Niger, a 14-year-old named Martin Lee Anderson died after he was beaten by guards at a boot camp in Panama City, a Deep South city in northern Florida.

The sheriff's office ran the boot camp and was slow to investigate. So was the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Wilson, however, joining with other a bipartisan team of legislators, helped forced an independent investigation and an exhumation of the child's body for a second autopsy. While the boot camp guards and a nurse were acquitted of charges, the state legislature ultimately changed boot camp laws and compensated the family for the teen's death.

For the Anderson's family attorney, Benjamin Crump, the public relations tactics that snagged statewide headlines -- from a second autopsy to organized marches featuring Al Sharpton -- became a template for drawing national attention to another death of another 14-year-old seven years later, Trayvon Martin, who was shot by a neighborhood watchman named George Zimmerman.

Wilson stood by the side of the parents of Trayvon, who hailed from her district based in the heavily African-American city of Miami Gardens in the shadow of the stadium where the Miami Dolphins and Miami Hurricanes play.

"Black men are targets. The system has the scope aimed directly at our backs and Frederica Wilson has devoted a life to exposing that," said Crump, who has allied with her in yet another case involving the shooting death of motorist Corey Jones by a Palm Beach Gardens police officer.

"From our first case with her, with Martin Lee Anderson, she was vocal. She would begin every press conference by saying, 'it's murder.' She would not be quiet. She demanded the truth," Crump said. "And it's similar to La David Johnson's case. She will not be quiet ... Trump is messing with the wrong woman."

Unlike all of the other high-profile cases Wilson has been involved with, Johnson's death after an Oct. 4 ambush in Niger had a deeply personal dimension.

Johnson had enrolled in Wilson's nonprofit, 5000 Role Models of Excellence, a program for at-risk African-American kids. His father had been a student when Wilson was a principal at a local school decades before. Johnson's mother is a constituent, as well as a bus driver with the school district where Wilson has deep roots.

When the congresswoman and the family tried to find out what happened, Wilson said, the Pentagon gave no answers. She joined with her fellow Florida Congressman Alcee Hastings, a Democrat and fellow member of the Congressional Black Caucus, and penned a letter seeking answers. Still nothing. Wilson said she wanted to know not just why Johnson and his fellow soldiers were so at risk, but why Johnson appeared to have been left behind when the others were evacuated shortly after the attack.

"Why was he separated?" Wilson asked. "Was he kidnapped? Was he lost? Was he already expired? What happened to him? Why, 48 hours later, did we still not know where he was?"

Johnson's family, meanwhile, had not heard from the president with a condolence call, either. When reporters finally asked about the attack in Niger, Trump, who had not acknowledged the deaths publicly, responded by inaccurately criticizing President Obama and suggesting his predecessor never called Gold Star families of the fallen.

"Throughout all this time, Trump had been tweeting and carrying on about NFL football players taking a knee and not one damn time did he say a word about Niger," Hastings said.

Posted by orrinj at 9:45 AM


At Least 52 Egyptian Police Killed In Clash With Islamic Militants (Reuters, October 21, 2017)

Security sources said a convoy of police vehicles were following a lead to a suspected hideout of the Hasm extremist group when they were ambushed from higher ground by militants firing rocket-propelled grenades and detonating explosive devices.

That led to a shoot-out. Hasm later claimed responsibility for the attack, saying in a statement that 28 members of the security forces were killed, with 32 injured.

October 20, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 7:31 PM


360 video shot over North Korea shows a sprawling, empty metropolis (Tristan Greene, 10/20/17, Next Web)

I'm taken aback by the sterility of the environment in North Korea. In the video you barely see any traffic, there doesn't appear to be any masses of people anywhere, and there isn't a single piece of advertising in sight.

There's no risk of collateral damage because the regime is too paranoid to allow normal people to live there.

Posted by orrinj at 7:24 PM


The Bloody End of the Islamic State's Utopian Dream (GRAEME WOOD, 10/19/17, THE ATLANTIC)

The fall of Raqqa this week completed the slow-motion demolition of the world's only utopian movement worthy of the name. Like most utopian movements, the Islamic State was barbaric and iniquitous, precisely because it held its own refinement and egalitarianism in such high regard. Assume eventual absolution by history or God, and anything goes in the meantime.

The pleasure of dancing on the Islamic State's grave should not be denied, even if it is true, as experts remind us, that its zombified hand might yet emerge from the earth to grab our ankles as we do so. Having lost Raqqa (and before it Hawija, Tal Afar, and Mosul), it now still holds border areas between Iraq and Syria, plus isolated territory in Libya, Sinai, Afghanistan, and the southern Philippines. What it no longer controls is territory from which it can make its most important claim--that it has built a paradise on earth, where God's law is the only law, and Muslims can live lives that fully express their faith. It once boasted that women, children, and the elderly could live full and happy lives in Raqqa. Now an invitation to hijra--migration to Islamic State territory--is simply an invitation to die quickly on the field of battle.

Posted by orrinj at 6:42 PM


Is Vladimir Putin Losing His Grip? (ANDERS ÅSLUND, 10/19/17, Project Syndicate)

In many ways, Russia has been moving backward in recent decades. In the 1990s, Russia was a freewheeling place, where virtually everything was allowed. Moscow had 20 daily newspapers, with views ranging from liberal to Stalinist. Today, Russian civil society is severely stifled, and to watch television in Moscow is to find 20 channels controlled by the Kremlin.

In 1991, Boris Yeltsin, in one of his first actions as President, broke up the old KGB into several agencies, cut its staff by half, and slashed its budget. Today, the KGB's successor, the Federal Security Service (FSB), has seized complete control over Russia's security apparatus, including by arresting high-level generals in other law-enforcement agencies. The result is a single security service that is more powerful than at any time since Stalin - and viewed as independent from the Kremlin.

On the economic front, too, Russia has backtracked. In 2003, Russia's private sector produced 70% of the country's GDP. Today, the state sector generates most of the country's output, squeezing out small and medium-size enterprises, and five big state banks dominate the financial market.

Moreover, Putin's policy of "de-offshoring" has imposed such cumbersome controls on the business leaders of the 1990s that most have sold off their assets in Russia and decamped to London or Monaco. This trend has been accelerated by Russia's lack of any real property rights, which has enabled the Kremlin to cut Russia's wealthy down to size at will, often targeting the most law-abiding among them. Small wonder that forecasts for annual GDP growth are stuck at 1.5-2%.

The regime wants to change this pattern. In May 2016, Putin asked three expert groups to recommend economic-reform programs: a liberal group led by former Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin; a technocratic group led by Economy Minister Maxim Oreshkin; and the more statist Stolypin Club led by Putin's business ombudsman Boris Titov. Each group has delivered thousands of pages of expert reports.

But any shift toward respecting the rule of law would be incompatible with the kleptocratic character of Putin's regime, implying that genuine reform is out of the question. The mandate given to the three groups thus appears to have been little more than therapy for social scientists, a way to keep them busy - and out of the opposition.

Posted by orrinj at 6:36 PM


After Video Refutes Kelly's Charges, Congresswoman Raises Issue of Race (YAMICHE ALCINDOR and MICHAEL D. SHEAR, OCTOBER 20, 2017, NY Times)

Video of a 2015 speech delivered by Representative Frederica S. Wilson revealed Friday that John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, misrepresented her remarks when he accused her of bragging about securing $20 million for a South Florida F.B.I. building and twisting President Barack Obama's arm.

Ms. Wilson, in an interview on Friday, called Mr. Kelly a liar and hinted strongly that the altercation, prompted by a call from President Trump to the widow of a fallen black soldier, was racially charged.

"The White House itself is full of white supremacists," she said.

Mr. Kelly, escalating a feud between Mr. Trump and Ms. Wilson, had cast the congresswoman on Thursday as a publicity-seeking opportunist. However, the video, released by The Sun Sentinel, a newspaper in South Florida, showed that during her nine-minute speech, Ms. Wilson never took credit for getting the money for the building, only for helping pass legislation naming the building after two fallen federal agents.

She never mentioned pleading with Mr. Obama, and she acknowledged the help of several Republicans, including John A. Boehner, then the House speaker; Representatives Mario Diaz-Balart and Carlos Curbelo; and Senator Marco Rubio.

"I feel very sorry for him because he feels such a need to lie on me and I'm not even his enemy," Ms. Wilson said of Mr. Kelly. "I just can't even imagine why he would fabricate something like that. That is absolutely insane. I'm just flabbergasted because it's very easy to trace."

It's a shame to watch General Kelly destroy his own reputation in service to a cretin.

Posted by orrinj at 11:06 AM


John Kelly Just Showed Us Who He Is as a Human Being (Nancy LeTourneau, October 20, 2017, Washington Monthly)

Here is the distortion:

It stuns me that a member of Congress would have listened in on that conversation. Absolutely stuns me. And I thought at least that was sacred.

Wilson heard the conversation, which was on speaker phone, because she was in the car with the family headed to the airport to meet the casket of Sgt. La David Johnson. Apparently her ties with both he and his family are deep, including the fact that Johnson was a participant in the mentoring program she founded. You can make a case that she shouldn't have spoken up about the family's reaction to what Trump said, but the idea that Wilson took aim at something sacred by simply hearing the conversation is an absurd smear.

We now know that the next thing Kelly said was a lie. He tells a story about being at the dedication of a new FBI field office in Miami in 2015 that was dedicated to two men killed in a firefight in Miami against drug traffickers.

And a congresswoman stood up, and in the long tradition of empty barrels making the most noise, stood up there and all of that and talked about how she was instrumental in getting the funding for that building, and how she took care of her constituents because she got the money, and she just called up President Obama, and on that phone call he gave the money -- the $20 million -- to build the building. And she sat down, and we were stunned. Stunned that she had done it. Even for someone that is that empty a barrel, we were stunned.

The Miami Herald tells the real story.

Thursday night, Wilson said Kelly got the story flat-out wrong. In fact, she said Washington approved the money before she was even in Congress. The legislation she sponsored named the building after Grogan and Dove, a law enacted just days before the ceremony...

In 2015, Wilson won praise from Miami Republicans for sponsoring the bill to name the long anticipated federal building after two agents who became legends in local law enforcement.

At the dedication ceremony, James Comey, then director of the FBI, lauded Wilson's legislation, which was signed into law by President Barack Obama three days before the April 2015 ceremony.

"Rep. Wilson truly did the impossible, and we are eternally grateful," Comey said in his remarks.

In the big picture scheme of things, this isn't a story that has great impact on the lives of the American people. It is just another example of how Trump and his administration distract and divide us. But it tells us a lot about the man who currently serves as the president's chief of staff, and has been heralded as one of the adults in the room.

Posted by orrinj at 7:01 AM


Trump personally interviewed U.S. attorney candidates (SEUNG MIN KIM and JOHN BRESNAHAN 10/19/2017, Politico)

The Southern District of New York is an especially notable position since it has jurisdiction over Trump Tower. Preet Bharara, the former U.S. attorney there, has said he had been told that Trump would keep him on despite the change in administrations. Yet he was among those abruptly fired by Trump in March.

Posted by orrinj at 6:59 AM


Putin says Trump foes blocking White House's pro-Russia agenda (VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV, 10/20/17, AP)

Russia rejoiced at Trump's victory in the 2016 US election, but its hopes for repairing ties with his administration have been shattered by congressional and FBI investigations into the Trump campaign's ties with Russia.

Speaking at the Valdai forum in Sochi, Putin said Trump's political adversaries "haven't allowed him to fulfill any of his election platforms and plans."

Should have known better than to invest with Donald.

Posted by orrinj at 6:28 AM


Following Bush, former president Obama rebukes Trump (Fast Company, 10/19/17)

It seems like the former presidents of the United States are growing concerned about the country's current leader. After former Republican president George W. Bush called out the current president's policies yesterday  (without mentioning Trump's name), former president Barack Obama has now done the same.

The UR's presidency was successful to precisely the extent he followed W's lead.

Posted by orrinj at 6:25 AM


Putin Tells U.S. To Stop Making Fun Of Trump (Newsweek, 10/20/17)

"Inside the country, disrespect is shown for him. This is a regrettable negative component of the U.S. political system," Putin said, according to the state-run Tass Russian News Agency.

No respect.  Not "dis".

Posted by orrinj at 6:23 AM


Trump's Old Lies Never Really Die (Nancy LeTourneau, October 19, 2017, Washington Monthly)

Here is the truth, though. The so-called "fake media" actually covered that one--quite extensively. It goes to the heart of how Steve Bannon weaponizes a story. Prior to publication of his co-worker's book, Clinton Cash, Bannon gave an advance copy to the New York Times, which published an article with the breathless title, "Cash Flowed to the Clinton Foundation Amid Russian Uranium Deal." That was later spun into a few weeks of controversy during the campaign where the media became obsessed with "questions" about contributions to the Clinton Foundation.

The story about the Russian uranium deal eventually garnered a lot of media attention from some folks this president isn't very fond of: fact checkers. In case you missed all of that, you can take your pick of which debunking you prefer: PoliticFact, the Washington Post, or Snopes.

The revival of this old story tells us that, when it comes to Trump, none of his old lies are ever really dead.

...passes for a fact on the Right.

October 19, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 6:48 PM


Obamacare Subsidy Cut-off May Actually Help Low-Income Americans : Healthcare subsidies will get slightly less complicated; unfortunately the market is no freer than before. (Eric  Schuler, 10/19/17, FEE)

While it's unclear in the short run whether many insurers will have the ability to successfully raise premiums, that is the most likely outcome in the long run. The rationale for doing this is straightforward. The net cost of all of their policies has gone up now that the CSR subsidies are cut off. And since they are not allowed to meaningfully tailor rates based on the risk or expense of individual policyholders, the way they make themselves whole is to raise premiums on everyone.

These premium hikes would appear to harm consumers, and they will indeed harm higher income participants in the exchanges. However, the price hikes will have a limited impact on lower income participants because the tax credits are designed to rise with the cost of the plans. Specifically, the amount of the tax credit subsidies for each consumer rise according to the premiums on the benchmark silver level plans available in their locale. So, as insurance companies raise premiums to compensate for the lack of CSR payments, the tax credit subsidies rise as well to defray the cost. This minimizes the possible harm to low-income individuals from the change, even in the long run.

In fact, it's possible that the order will actually expand access to health insurance in the long run for very low-income people. This result stems from the fact that the subsidies are pegged to grow based on the premiums of the silver level plans, the second cheapest tier of insurance policies. However, even cheaper bronze level plans also exist.

This means that the subsidy amounts will likely rise faster than the premiums of the cheapest plans - causing the net out-of-pocket cost for the bronze plans to actually fall. In this way, Trump's order may have the net effect of actually expanding access to health insurance in the long run for low-income individuals participating in the exchanges.

Posted by orrinj at 6:03 PM


George W. Bush Slams 'Bigotry,' Politics Of Populism That Led To Trump, Sanders (Domenico Montanaro , 10/19/17, NPR)

"Bigotry seems emboldened," Bush said in New York at a forum put on by the George W. Bush Institute. "Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication."

He slammed a discourse that seems "degraded by casual cruelty," disagreement that "escalates into dehumanization" and a "nationalism distorted into nativism."

Bush, however, also criticized the kind of liberal populism that led to Bernie Sanders' rise on the left.

"There are some signs that the intensity of support for democracy itself has waned, especially among the young who never experienced the galvanizing moral clarity of the Cold War or never focused on the ruin of entire nations by Socialist central planning," Bush said. "Some have called that democratic deconsolidation. Merely it seems to be a combination of weariness, frayed tempers and forgetfulness."

Posted by orrinj at 4:14 PM


U.S. envoy Haley: Russia interference in elections is 'warfare'  (Reuters, 10/19/17)

"We have to be so hard on this and we have to hold them accountable," Haley said during a panel discussion with former Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright and Condoleezza Rice held by the George W. Bush Institute in New York on Thursday. 

"When a country can come interfere in another country's elections that is warfare. It really is, because you're making sure that the democracy shifts from what the people want," she said. "This is their new weapon of choice and we have to get in front of it."

Posted by orrinj at 2:11 PM


U.S. jobless claims hit 44-1/2-year low; mid-Atlantic factories humming (Lucia Mutikani, 10/19/17, Reuters) 

The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits dropped to its lowest level in more than 44-1/2 years last week, pointing to a rebound in job growth after a hurricane-related decline in employment in September.

Posted by orrinj at 2:08 PM


Butterfly wings inspire a better way to absorb light in solar panels (Angela Chen, Oct 19, 2017, Verge)

Solar panels are usually made of thick solar cells, and are positioned at an angle to get the most amount of light from the sun as it moves throughout the day. Thin film solar cells, which can be only nanometers thick, have a lot of potential. These are cheaper and lighter, but because they're less efficient, we usually use them only in watches and calculators, instead of solar panels. Scientists studied the black wings of the rose butterfly, and copied the structure to create thin solar cells that are more efficient. Unlike other types of cells, these can absorb a lot of light regardless of the angle, and are also easy to make. The results were published in the journal Science Advances.

Posted by orrinj at 2:06 PM


These Giant Printers Are Meant to Make Rockets (Ashlee Vance, 10/18/17, Bloomberg Businessweek

Tim Ellis and Jordan Noone are both in their mid-20s, and it shows. The two aerospace engineers are energetic, optimistic, and so ambitious they can't help sounding a little bonkers.

In a small factory a couple of miles from Los Angeles International Airport, Ellis and Noone have spent the past two years working to build a rocket using only 3D printers. Their startup, Relativity Space Inc., is betting that removing humans from the manufacturing equation will make rockets way cheaper and faster to produce. The going rate for a rocket launch is about $100 million; Relativity says that in four years its price will be $10 million. "This is the right direction," says Ellis, the chief executive officer, during the first-ever press tour of the company's headquarters. "The 3D printing and automation of rockets is inevitable."

Posted by orrinj at 2:03 PM


This Game Changing Product Is Invisible And Coming To A Store Near You (Michael Pellman Rowland , 10/19/17, Forbes)

Apeel's approach is to essentially use food to protect and preserve other food. Apeel extracts natural oils that are found in the peels and skins of all fruits and vegetables to make Edipeel--a rinse that fresh food shippers and retailers can use to add a little more 'peel' to harvested produce. This layer helps to keep water from leaking out and oxygen from seeping in, two of the biggest factors that lead to spoilage.

The startup has so far developed Edipeel products for three dozen crops, including avocados, asparagus, peaches, lemons, pears, and nectarines. It manages to remain free from contaminants by using a seven-step filtration process to kill off pesticides. The result is produce stays fresh longer, dramatically extending the time and shipping radius for fresh food producers, which reduces food and water waste across the food supply chain. Edipeel is now approved and available for USDA Organic and traditional produce, and the company is gearing up to roll out with partners globally.

Posted by orrinj at 1:53 PM


Putin says Trump hampered from delivering electoral promises (Reuters, 10/19/17) 

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that if President Donald Trump is unpredictable, it is because his domestic opponents are stopping him from delivering on many of his election promises.

Certainly the ones he promised Vlad.

Posted by orrinj at 8:46 AM


Is Hollywood sitting on a pedophilia scandal? (Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, October 19, 2017, The Week)

The evidence is there, just as it was in the cases of Bill Cosby or Harvey Weinstein. In 2011, former child star Corey Feldman warned that pedophilia in Hollywood was "the big secret" and "the number one problem." Feldman alleged that he was abused and that his friend was raped on a movie set at the age of 11. But he didn't just talk about instances of abuse. In a later interview, he described a system whereby young children were groomed by powerful older men who formed an organized network, with "publicists" providing cover. He would "love to name names," but feared the legal risks, he said.

Precisely such an organized system for grooming and abusing children is described by a documentary; one molester described in the film pleaded no contest to two counts of child molestation, but the rest of the network has never been named, let alone investigated or charged. The title of the documentary? An Open Secret.

Former child star Elijah Wood made global headlines after saying in an interview last year that there was "something major" in Hollywood. "It was all organized," he said. "There are a lot of vipers in this industry, people who only have their own interests in mind. There is darkness in the underbelly," adding that Hollywood can "squash" the victims so that they "can't speak as loudly as the people in power." (He later issued a carefully worded clarification that he had no "firsthand experience or observation," which still leaves room for being aware of an open secret.)

These stories fit a pattern, and not just the pattern common to all sex crimes allegations -- the shame, the gas-lighting, the fear you won't be believed -- but also the pattern common to testimonies about a systemic problem: the coordination, the law of silence, the coverups.

And just as striking as these allegations is the deafening silence that surrounds them.

Posted by orrinj at 8:43 AM


EU leaders to recommit to Iran nuclear deal whatever Trump decides (Gabriela Baczynska, 10/19/17, Reuters) 

European Union leaders will on Thursday reaffirm their full commitment to the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, regardless of whether an increasingly critical United States pulls out.

This has to be the least significant presidency since the 19th Century.

Posted by orrinj at 5:15 AM


Campaign Aides For Jeff Flake's Primary Challenger Apologize Profusely For Ever Supporting Her (Eric Owens,  10/18/2017, Daily Caller)

Two prominent staffers on Arizona Republican Kelli Ward's primary campaign against sitting Sen. Jeff Flake have officially issued an apology to everyone in the state for helping to legitimize Ward as a serious political candidate.

She's flakier.

October 18, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 7:23 PM


Russia sandwiched in Syria between Israel, Iran (Maxim A. Suchkov, October 18, 2017, Al Monitor)

Given Israel's role in the region, its military power and its willingness to use it, it's critical for Putin to continue the current level of communication with Netanyahu to ensure Russia's own presence is immune from any Israeli assaults. But it's also clear Israel is determined to stop Iran's growing presence near Israel's borders. At the same time, Tehran is resolved to expand and solidify its presence. Moscow doesn't see that situation as its own fight and is working to dodge potential complications of ending up on either side.

Israel has been rather loyal to Russia's military presence -- and realizes its own gains from it -- and Iran has been crucial to Russia on the ground in Syria. But Russia's goals in Syria aren't ultimately about either Israel or Iran. Moscow is, however, wary of each party trying to work Russia's presence to the detriment of the other. For instance, Russian media outlets have recently raised questions about Iran's intentions when it changed the location of an Iran-to-Hezbollah arms transfer point from the border with Lebanon to central Syria, closer to Palmyra. As a result of that change, Israel will have to fly deep into Syrian territory to make its bombing raids on the transfer point and could at some point clash with Russian air forces or harm Russian advisers thought to be stationed at Palmyra.

Such moves are likely to happen more often and represent a long-term challenge to Moscow. Russia will need to sit down with Israel and seriously talk about whether Israel's interests can be squared with Russia's interests, and whether Moscow really has any leverage over Tehran, whether in Syria or beyond. 

The great tragedy of current day Israel is that it is a natural ally of Russia.

Posted by orrinj at 12:21 PM



Who, if anyone, is hiding behind Melania Trump's signature sunglasses? Conspiracy theorists are claiming it's not the first lady, but a body double.

Critics have zeroed in on footage from Friday of the first lady standing beside her husband, President Donald Trump, while he was addressing the media about hurricane relief for Puerto Rico and a nuclear deal with Iran. In the video, the president calls out his wife at the press conference, which conspiracy theorists claim is his effort to cover for the fact that his wife is in fact somewhere else. 

"My wife, Melania, who happens to be right here," he says.

If it really were her she'd be blinking like Jeremiah Denton.

Posted by orrinj at 12:05 PM


The Dark Side of Thomas Jefferson : A new portrait of the founding father challenges the long-held perception of Thomas Jefferson as a benevolent slaveholder (Henry Wiencek, OCTOBER 2012, Smithsonian)

The critical turning point in Jefferson's thinking may well have come in 1792. As Jefferson was counting up the agricultural profits and losses of his plantation in a letter to President Washington that year, it occurred to him that there was a phenomenon he had perceived at Monticello but never actually measured. He proceeded to calculate it in a barely legible, scribbled note in the middle of a page, enclosed in brackets. What Jefferson set out clearly for the first time was that he was making a 4 percent profit every year on the birth of black children. The enslaved were yielding him a bonanza, a perpetual human dividend at compound interest. Jefferson wrote, "I allow nothing for losses by death, but, on the contrary, shall presently take credit four per cent. per annum, for their increase over and above keeping up their own numbers." His plantation was producing inexhaustible human assets. The percentage was predictable.

In another communication from the early 1790s, Jefferson takes the 4 percent formula further and quite bluntly advances the notion that slavery presented an investment strategy for the future. He writes that an acquaintance who had suffered financial reverses "should have been invested in negroes." He advises that if the friend's family had any cash left, "every farthing of it [should be] laid out in land and negroes, which besides a present support bring a silent profit of from 5. to 10. per cent in this country by the increase in their value."

The irony is that Jefferson sent his 4 percent formula to George Washington, who freed his slaves, precisely because slavery had made human beings into money, like "Cattle in the market," and this disgusted him. Yet Jefferson was right, prescient, about the investment value of slaves. A startling statistic emerged in the 1970s, when economists taking a hardheaded look at slavery found that on the eve of the Civil War, enslaved black people, in the aggregate, formed the second most valuable capital asset in the United States. David Brion Davis sums up their findings: "In 1860, the value of Southern slaves was about three times the amount invested in manufacturing or railroads nationwide." The only asset more valuable than the black people was the land itself. The formula Jefferson had stumbled upon became the engine not only of Monticello but of the entire slaveholding South and the Northern industries, shippers, banks, insurers and investors who weighed risk against returns and bet on slavery. The words Jefferson used--"their increase"--became magic words.

Jefferson's 4 percent theorem threatens the comforting notion that he had no real awareness of what he was doing, that he was "stuck" with or "trapped" in slavery, an obsolete, unprofitable, burdensome legacy. The date of Jefferson's calculation aligns with the waning of his emancipationist fervor. Jefferson began to back away from antislavery just around the time he computed the silent profit of the "peculiar institution."

And this world was crueler than we have been led to believe. A letter has recently come to light describing how Monticello's young black boys, "the small ones," age 10, 11 or 12, were whipped to get them to work in Jefferson's nail factory, whose profits paid the mansion's grocery bills. This passage about children being lashed had been suppressed--deliberately deleted from the published record in the 1953 edition of Jefferson's Farm Book, containing 500 pages of plantation papers. That edition of the Farm Book still serves as a standard reference for research into the way Monticello worked.

Posted by orrinj at 8:08 AM


Twelve days of silence, then a swipe at Obama: How Trump handled four dead soldiers (Philip Rucker and Dan Lamothe October 17, 2017, Washington Post)

[A] president who revels in providing color commentary on the news said nothing about what happened in Niger for 12 straight days -- until Monday in the Rose Garden of the White House, where he was asked by a reporter to explain his uncharacteristic silence.

In his answer, Trump said in his defense that he had written personal letters to the soldiers' family members, and he then tried to use the issue to gain a political advantage. Trump leveled false accusations at his predecessors, including former president Barack Obama, saying they never or rarely called family members of service members who were killed on their watch, when in fact they regularly did. [...]

In his call with Sgt. La David T. Johnson's widow, Myeshia Johnson, Trump told her, "He knew what was signing up for, but I guess it hurts anyway," according to the account of Rep. Frederica S. Wilson (D-Fla.), who was riding in a limousine with Johnson when the president called and heard the conversation on speakerphone.

Wilson recalled in an interview with The Washington Post that Johnson broke down in tears. "He made her cry," Wilson said. The congresswoman said she wanted to take the phone and "curse him out," but that the Army sergeant holding the phone would not let her speak to the president.

They deserve a fit C-in-C.

Posted by orrinj at 8:05 AM


Trump's alternative reality, part two (Mike Allen, 10/18/17, Axios)

Yesterday, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai subtly shot down Trump's threat to revoke NBC broadcast licenses: "I believe in the First Amendment."

SecState Rex Tillerson says North Korean diplomacy "will continue until the first bomb drops"; Trump tweets that he's "wasting his time."

SecDef Jim Mattis tells Congress that holding onto the Iran nuclear pact is in the interest of the national security of the United States; 10 days later, Trump threatens cancellation.

Trump blames "both sides" for racial violence in Charlottesville; Tillerson says the president "speaks for himself," and economic adviser Gary Cohn says the administration "must do better."

Trump threatens extreme action on immigrants, Muslims, "Dreamers," trade, NATO and more, but aides and advisers wind up softening or delaying most -- with the notable exception of the Paris climate deal.

They serve America, not Donald.

Posted by orrinj at 7:53 AM


Why Britain needs the immigrants it doesn't want (Ivana Kottasová, October 18, 2017, CNN/Money)

The National Health Service says there are over 11,000 open nursing jobs in England, and another 6,000 vacant positions across Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The overburdened system, described by the British Red Cross as facing a "humanitarian crisis," already relies on 33,000 nurses from the EU. [...]

The shortage of workers cuts across sectors -- from agriculture to education -- and across skill levels. There aren't enough fruit pickers and there aren't enough doctors. [...]

"The government is putting politics above economics, which is quite a dangerous game," said Heather Rolfe, a researcher at the National Institute of Economic and Social Research.

Labor economists say that a radical decline in immigration would hurt the British economy.

The Office for Budget Responsibility, the government's fiscal watchdog, said that 80,000 fewer immigrants a year would reduce annual economic growth by 0.2 percentage points.

"To lose these people would be pretty tough and it would mean that some sectors might find it very difficult to survive," said Christian Dustmann, professor of economics at University College London.

Some EU workers, upset over political rhetoric and a lack of clarity about their legal status, are already leaving Britain. Net migration from the EU fell to 133,000 last year from 184,000 in 2015, according to the Office for National Statistics.

The impact is already being felt: The Nursing and Midwifery Council said that roughly 6,400 EU nurses registered to work in the U.K. in the year ended March, a 32% drop from the previous year. Another 3,000 EU nurses stopped working in the U.K.

Posted by orrinj at 7:19 AM


Putin Rival Ties Kushner Meeting to Kremlin Bankers (ARI MELBER , MEREDITH MANDELL and MIRJAM LABLANS, 10/17/17, NBC)

A prominent exiled Russian oligarch said in an exclusive interview with NBC News that he is nearly certain Russian President Vladimir Putin tried to collaborate with the Trump campaign, and that he believes a top Russian banker was not "acting on his own behalf" when he held a controversial meeting with Jared Kushner last December.

Of course, the Trumpbots think opposing Vlad is disqualifying.

Posted by orrinj at 7:15 AM


The Secrets of Sleep : Why do we need it, and are we getting enough? (Jerome Groopman, 10/17/17, The New Yorker)

Meir Kryger, who tells the story of Joe in his book, has been working since the nineteen-seventies on a related condition, sleep apnea, in which a person's airway closes during sleep, breathing stops, and, starved for air, the person awakens. Apnea can lead to heart attack and stroke from decreased oxygen, and may accelerate cognitive decline in older people. Kryger writes that there are descriptions of sleep apnea that predate Dickens's Joe. Dionysius, a tyrant who ruled the Cretan kingdom of Heraclea in the fourth century B.C., was massively overweight. Because he repeatedly fell asleep, Dionysius hired people to poke him with long, thin needles, probably to keep him breathing. Sleep apnea was once thought to be rare, but, now that there are sophisticated diagnostic tools to measure respiration and muscle contractions, it is known to afflict some two to three per cent of the U.S. population--five million men and two and a half million women. That makes it as prevalent as mental illness, and not all sufferers are obese.

The early apnea studies pioneered by Kryger and others showed that it damaged vital organs, and this work became a catalyst for medicine's serious examination of sleep. Once it had been demonstrated that certain conditions associated with disrupted sleep could have dire clinical consequences, it became clear that sleep was a crucial factor in maintaining good health. The technology of the sleep laboratory provided insights into how other disorders can disrupt sleep, including Parkinson's disease, esophageal reflux, hormonal dysfunction of the thyroid and pituitary glands, and traumatic brain injury. Where doctors had previously ascribed poor nighttime sleep to anxiety and daytime sleepiness to laziness or lack of motivation, they now began to view them as conditions worthy of diagnosis and treatment.

Kryger's book usefully outlines the current state of knowledge of sleep science in humans. The biology of sleep and wakefulness is complex, involving not just the one neural circuit I learned about in medical school but numerous pathways in the brain and countless chemical mediators. Kryger condenses this intricate neuroscience to explain the mechanisms that start and stop sleep: "a wake gauge and a body clock." Just as a car's fuel gauge tells us when we need to refill the tank, a "wake gauge" tells us when our body is in need of sleep. The gauge begins to signal after we have been awake for about fourteen hours, and increases in intensity until the eighteen-hour mark, after which we find it hard not to fall asleep. The wake gauge operates in the brain by means of a chemical called adenosine, which is involved in energy transfer. The longer our brain is active, the more adenosine accumulates and the sleepier we feel. (The reason coffee keeps us up is that caffeine counteracts the effects of adenosine.)

The body clock synchronizes our need for sleep with the rhythms of the world around us. Daylight is the primary regulator. When light hits the eye's retina, a wake-up signal is sent to a collection of cells in the suprachiasmatic nucleus of the brain, which keep time and monitor our sleep-wake cycle. At dusk, when light fades, the pineal gland (where Descartes believed the soul resided) releases melatonin and makes us drowsy. Melatonin regulates the circadian rhythm of a wide range of organisms; the molecule is found in bacteria, insects, jellyfish, and plants. The visual basis of human circadian rhythms is proved by the fact that people who are blind because of damage to the eye itself often have great difficulty synchronizing their body clocks, and suffer severe sleep problems, whereas people whose blindness is caused by lesions in the visual cortex (and whose eyes are undamaged) generally have a normal circadian system.

Once we've finally nodded off, a variety of things occur. By tracking eye movements and using electroencephalograms to measure brain waves, researchers have identified four main types of sleep and have established that we typically progress through them in cycles of about ninety minutes. The first two stages move toward so-called "slow-wave" sleep, a state during which our neocortex powers down and which is thought to be largely responsible for the feeling of being refreshed when we wake. As we come out of slow-wave sleep, we go through a period of rapid-eye-movement sleep, or rem, one of the most commonly studied phases. Kryger calls REM the "enigmatic state." During this phase, almost all of our muscles are paralyzed, except the diaphragm, which allows us to continue to breathe, and certain sphincters at the top and bottom of our gastrointestinal tract. Meanwhile, the brain shoots off "electrical storms," resulting in rapid movements of the eyes, and we start to have vivid dreams. All humans dream, usually three to five times a night. And every time a man dreams he has an erection; every time a woman dreams, the blood vessels of her vagina become engorged. These changes in our genitalia are apparently unrelated to sexual thoughts before sleep or to sexual content in the dreams themselves. Rather, erections and vaginal engorgement seem to be the result of the state of dreaming itself.

Even as we cycle through the various stages, our sleep is frequently interrupted by brief awakenings, called "arousals," each lasting only seconds. Kryger writes that "healthy sleepers" typically experience about five awakenings an hour, although they do not remember them. Scientists speculate that these brief periods of wakefulness might have evolved so that we do not place ourselves in danger while asleep--suffocating under bedding, for example, or being vulnerable to attack by a predator.

Kryger offers a comprehensive analysis of physical conditions that can impair our sleep. Women may experience insomnia owing to the normal hormonal fluctuations of the menstrual cycle and to the changes in hormonal regulation that occur with menopause. (He is rightly cautious about whether so-called "andropause," a decline in testosterone levels among one to two per cent of men as they age, also contributes to insomnia.) Restless-leg syndrome, which causes lower limbs to spontaneously move and often cramp, is associated with certain vitamin deficiencies but often occurs without a known reason. It is a common cause of disturbed sleep in the elderly, and treatment varies from replenishing the deficient vitamin to prescribing drugs that alter neurotransmitters in the brain.

But for most of us it is the mind, rather than the body, that disrupts restorative sleep. Kryger explores in depth psychological conditions that are associated with disordered sleep, as well as psychotropic medications whose side effects can prevent a restful night. He allows for the need to medicate at times with sleeping pills or melatonin, but prefers cognitive behavioral therapy, a technique that involves teaching patients to mentally prepare themselves for slumber by devising ways to bypass the thoughts that keep them awake.

Posted by orrinj at 7:10 AM


Computers will soon be able to fix themselves - will that kill IT departments? (Saemundur Haraldsson, 10/17/17, Next Web)

Several programming tools are emerging which help to automate software testing, one of which we have been developing ourselves. The prospects look exciting; but it raises questions about how far this will encroach on the profession. Could we be looking at a world of Terminator-like software writers who consign their human counterparts to the dole queue?

We computer programmers devote an unholy amount of time to testing software and fixing bugs. It's costly, time consuming and fiddly - yet it's vital if you want to bring high quality software to market.

A common method of testing software involves running a program, asking it to do certain things and seeing how it copes. Known as dynamic analysis, many tools exist to help with this process, usually throwing thousands of random choices at a program and checking all the responses.

Facebook recently unveiled a tool called Sapienz that is a big leap forward in this area. Originally developed by University College London, Sapienz is able to identify bugs in Android software via automated tests that are far more efficient than the competition - requiring between 100 and 150 choices by the user compared to a norm of nearer 15,000.

The difference is that Sapienz contains an evolutionary algorithm that learns from the software's responses to previous choices. It then makes new choices that aim to find the maximum number of glitches and test the maximum number of kinds of choices, doing everything as efficiently as possible.

October 17, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 7:08 PM


White House fears Senate will sink tax cuts : With tax cuts on the line, 'We look at the Senate and go: "What the hell is going on?"' said White House budget director Mick Mulvaney. (BURGESS EVERETT and JOSH DAWSEY, 10/16/2017, Politico)

[B]ehind the scenes, Trump, his administration and even some senators are increasingly worried that taxes will go the way of Obamacare repeal in the Senate: Months of bickering ending in extreme embarrassment.

The debate hasn't even started on the GOP's plan, yet some senators are pushing their own tax proposals, while others are increasingly emboldened to defy the Republican president. It's a dangerous mix considering that McConnell can lose only two votes assuming Democrats band together in opposition.

"We look at the Senate and go: 'What the hell is going on?'" White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said in an interview Friday.

"The House passed health care, the House has already passed its budget, which is the first step of tax reform. The Senate hasn't done any of that. Hell, the Senate can't pass any of our confirmations," Mulvaney fumed in an interview, slapping a table for emphasis. "You ask me if the Republican-controlled Senate is an impediment to the administration's agenda: All I can tell you is so far, the answer's yes."

There is no case for tax cuts, not that Donald could have made a coherent one if there were.

Posted by orrinj at 6:59 PM


The Axis Was Outmatched from the Start : Hitler and his Axis cohorts couldn't match their enemies' resources to begin with. That they learned all the wrong lessons from military history while the Allies learned all the right ones doomed them. (Victor Davis Hanson, October 17, 2017, National Review)

When World War II broke out in 1939, Germany did not have a serious plan for defeating any of those enemies, present or future, that were positioned well beyond its own borders. Unlike its more distant adversaries, the Third Reich had neither an adequate blue-water navy nor a strategic bombing fleet, anchored by escort fighters and heavy bombers of four engines whose extended ranges and payloads might make vulnerable the homelands of any new enemies on the horizon. Hitler did not seem to grasp that the four most populous countries or territories in the world -- China, India, the Soviet Union, and the United States -- were either fighting against the Axis or opposed to its agendas. Never before or since had all these peoples (well over 1 billion total) fought at once and on the same side.

Not even Napoleon had declared war in succession on so many great powers without any idea how to destroy their ability to make war, or, worse yet, in delusion that tactical victories would depress stronger enemies into submission. Operation Sea Lion, Germany's envisioned invasion of Britain, remained a pipe dream -- and yet it offered the only plausible way to eliminate Britain from the war that Hitler had started. Grand Admiral Erich Raeder, then head of the Kriegsmarine, repeatedly warned Hitler that an amphibious invasion of Britain in 1940 was quite impossible.

To be fair, in failing to destroy the USSR and to decolonize the Third World, we demonstrated we hadn't learned anything from history either.

Posted by orrinj at 6:26 PM


British neo-Nazi comes out as gay, Jewish (Times of Israel, 17 October 2017)

A British Neo-Nazi said he has decided to quit the far-right group he has long been a member of after coming out as gay and admitting to having Jewish roots.

Posted by orrinj at 2:25 PM


CATCH-22: Trump May Have To Comply With NAFTA Even If He Withdraws From It (Eric Owens, 10/17/2017, Daily Caller)

The law passed by Congress -- the North American Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act -- is critical because it directs the president to implement the terms of the NAFTA agreement.

"When it consented to NAFTA, Congress passed a statute called the NAFTA Implementation Act, which delegates to the president the authority and responsibility to implement NAFTA," Vanderbilt University law professor Timothy Meyer told The Daily Caller.

Only Congress can repeal the statute implementing NAFTA.

Paradoxically, then, Trump would still be bound to continue implementing the NAFTA law Congress passed even if he decides to formally withdraw the United States from NAFTA as an international agreement.

Posted by orrinj at 2:22 PM


Iran Revolutionary Guards commander reported dead in Syria (AFP, 10/17/17)

A senior Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps commander has been killed during fighting in Syria, Iran's state media reported on Tuesday.

"Brigadier General Abdollah Khosravi, a senior war veteran, was martyred on Saturday in Syria," the Basij news agency said without giving further details.

Posted by orrinj at 2:19 PM


Trump says drug czar nominee Tom Marino is withdrawing after Washington Post/'60 Minutes' investigation (Anne Gearan, Lenny Bernstein, Scott Higham and Ed O'Keefe October 17, 2017, The Washington Post)

President Trump on Tuesday said his nominee to be the nation's drug czar is withdrawing from consideration for the job -- a move that comes in the wake of a Washington Post/"60 Minutes" investigation detailing how the lawmaker helped steer legislation through Congress that weakened the Drug Enforcement Administration's ability to go after drug distributors, even as opioid-related deaths continue to rise.

There's a reason Donald hates it when the news is reported.

Posted by orrinj at 7:24 AM


Backing nuke deal, Norway solar firm inks major deal with Iran (AFP, 10/17/17)

Just days after US President Donald Trump called for further isolation of Iran, a Norwegian solar company signed a deal to invest 2.5 billion euros in the country over the next five years.

"Norway is fully committed to the JCPOA (nuclear deal) and this is proof that we have taken the opening very seriously, and we will see more investment very soon," Norwegian ambassador Lars Nordrum told AFP.

October 16, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 7:34 PM


Hundreds of people walk 11-year-old Utah boy home from school after bullies shout racial slurs (Kate Scanlon, 10/16/17, The Blaze)

Heather Romauldo told KSTU that her son, Mateus, called her after he walked home from school recently and he was very upset.

"He was walking home from school [Oct. 5] when a car full of teenagers drove by repeatedly yelling a racial slur at him," Romauldo said. "He felt very terrified and actually told me he thought the kids were going to shoot him."

Romauldo said she filed a police report and the incident is being investigated.

She also wrote on Facebook about what allegedly happened to Mateus, and her post caught the attention of Mateus' basketball coach, Troy Harlan.

Harlan told KSTU, "I know that when I read the post that his mom wrote about him being scared, I've gone through all that."

"I grew up in Davis County, and I know what it feels like to be one of only two black kids at my school," Harlan said.

Harlan told the station that he wished he would have been there when Mateus was walking home, so he decided to organize a walk so the boy wouldn't be alone when he walked home from school.

Hundreds of people volunteered for the walk. Harlan's basketball connections helped, too -- the Utah Jazz Bear came to the walk, as did retired Jazz basketball player Thurl Bailey.

Posted by orrinj at 7:06 PM


Five types of gun laws the Founding Fathers loved (Saul Cornell, 10/15/17, The Conversation)

The framers and adopters of the Second Amendment were generally ardent supporters of the idea of well-regulated liberty. Without strong governments and effective laws, they believed, liberty inevitably degenerated into licentiousness and eventually anarchy. Diligent students of history, particularly Roman history, the Federalists who wrote the Constitution realized that tyranny more often resulted from anarchy, not strong government.

I have been researching and writing about the history of gun regulation and the Second Amendment for the past two decades. When I began this research, most people assumed that regulation was a relatively recent phenomenon, something associated with the rise of big government in the modern era. Actually, while the founding generation certainly esteemed the idea of an armed population, they were also ardent supporters of gun regulations.

Consider these five categories of gun laws that the Founders endorsed.

#1: Registration

Today American gun rights advocates typically oppose any form of registration - even though such schemes are common in every other industrial democracy - and typically argue that registration violates the Second Amendment. This claim is also hard to square with the history of the nation's founding. All of the colonies - apart from Quaker-dominated Pennsylvania, the one colony in which religious pacifists blocked the creation of a militia - enrolled local citizens, white men between the ages of 16-60 in state-regulated militias. The colonies and then the newly independent states kept track of these privately owned weapons  required for militia service. Men could be fined if they reported to a muster without a well-maintained weapon in working condition.

#2: Public carry

The modern gun rights movement has aggressively pursued the goal of expanding the right to carry firearms in public.

The American colonies inherited a variety of restrictions that evolved under English Common Law. In 18th-century England, armed travel was limited to a few well-defined occasions such as assisting justices of the peace and constables. Members of the upper classes also had a limited exception to travel with arms. Concealable weapons such as handguns were subject to even more stringent restrictions. The city of London banned public carry of these weapons entirely.

Posted by orrinj at 7:02 PM


Producers Guild expels Harvey Weinstein and creates task force to combat sexual assault in Hollywood (Jen Yamato, 10/16/17, LA Times)

The Producers Guild of America's board of directors has voted unanimously to terminate Harvey Weinstein's membership, the organization announced Monday.

The exact same behavior won't bar you from the Republican presidential ticket.

Posted by orrinj at 7:00 PM


U.S. strike on Islamic State camps in Yemen kills dozens: Pentagon (Reuters, 10/16/17)

The camps in al-Bayda province were being used to train new fighters using AK-47s, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenade launchers, the Pentagon said in a statement. Islamic State has used ungoverned areas in Yemen to plot, direct, instigate, resource and recruit for attacks against America and its allies around the world, it said.

Posted by orrinj at 6:52 PM


On Obamacare, Donald Trump is sabotaging himself : It would be comic if millions of people weren't going to suffer so Trump could teach himself this lesson. (Ezra Klein, Oct 16, 2017, Vox)
Like the Republicans who came before him, Trump is trying to gain leverage by sabotaging the governance of the country; unlike the Republicans who came before him, Trump is responsible for the governance of the country, and so he is sabotaging himself. This would all be quite comic if not for the millions of people who badly need decent health insurance and are going to suffer as Trump teaches himself this lesson.

Go deeper

For an excellent overview of the legal dispute around the cost-sharing reduction payments, read law professor Nicholas Bagley's history of the case.

The Congressional Budget Office has analyzed the effects of canceling the payments, and their predictions are grim. The key point is that "gross premiums for silver plans offered through the marketplaces would be 20 percent higher in 2018 and 25 percent higher by 2020," which would in turn send federal subsidies skyrocketing.

The Kaiser Family Foundation also has an excellent report on the subject, which concludes, among other findings, that "the increased cost to the federal government of higher premium tax credits would actually be 23% more than the savings from eliminating cost-sharing reduction payments."

For these reasons and others, it's not just Democrats upset over Trump's decision. Nevada's GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval blasted the policy: "It's going to hurt people. It's going to hurt kids. It's going to hurt families. It's going to hurt individuals. It's going to hurt people with mental health issues. It's going to hurt veterans. It's going to hurt everybody."

He's Cleavon Little in Blazing Saddles.

Posted by orrinj at 3:03 PM

THANKS, DONALD! (profanity alert):

Harvey Weinstein, Donald Trump, and the (Sometimes) Beneficial Politics of Reaction (PAUL WALDMAN OCTOBER 15, 2017, American Prospect)

We're at a moment where awareness of the reality of sexual coercion in the workplace is reaching levels we haven't seen before, and it's partly because we're living not only in the age of Trump, but in the age of reaction to Trump. [...]

At this point we have to pause, for the benefit of those Trump supporters inclined to say that there's no real comparison between Weinstein's alleged actions and the "locker room talk" revealed in the Access Hollywood recording with Trump and Billy Bush, to remind ourselves of some of what we learned in 2016. The plain and obvious truth is that Donald Trump views women (and even underage girls) as sex objects whose value as human beings is defined by whether he wants to screw them. His own assertion that he believed could do whatever he wanted to them, including "grab 'em by the p[***]y," was corroborated by multiple women who made credible allegations of him acting somewhere between inappropriately and criminally toward them. Here's reminder of some of the things we learned in 2016 about the man who is now president of the United States:

A dozen women went public to say that just as he had bragged about doing on the Access Hollywood tape, Trump had groped them or kissed them against their will.

He countered the accusations by saying the women were too ugly for him to sexually assault.

When he owned the Miss U.S.A. and Miss Teen U.S.A. pageant, according to contestants he would burst into the dressing rooms when they were changing, something he also bragged to Howard Stern about doing ("I'm allowed to go in, because I'm the owner of the pageant ... and so I sort of get away with things like that").

According to people who worked on The Apprentice, he routinely "rated female contestants by the size of their breasts and talked about which ones he'd like to have sex with."

At the age of 46, he met a 10-year-old girl and said, "I am going to be dating her in 10 years."

He told an interviewer, "I tell friends who treat their wives magnificently, get treated like crap in return, 'Be rougher and you'll see a different relationship.'"

He said "if Ivanka weren't my daughter, perhaps I'd be dating her," just one of multiple occasions in which he has publicly expressed a sexual interest in his daughter. On another occasion he told a reporter, "Yeah, she's really something, and what a beauty, that one. If I weren't happily married and, ya know, her father."

That's just a sampling, but what it all adds up to is a man who, despite his frequent insistence that "Nobody has more respect for women than I do," is the most unapologetic misogynist to occupy the Oval Office in modern times. 

October 15, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 4:14 PM

Posted by orrinj at 3:32 PM


Trump Given A Subpoena For All Documents Relating To Assault Allegations (Jessica Garrison & Kendall Taggart, BuzzFeed News)

A high-stakes legal showdown is brewing for President Donald Trump, as a woman who said he groped her has subpoenaed all documents from his campaign pertaining to "any woman alleging that Donald J. Trump touched her inappropriately." [...]

Summer Zervos, who previously accused President-elect Donald Trump of sexually assaulting her, speaks at a press conference with attorney Gloria Allred at Allred's office in Los Angeles on Nov. 11, 2016.
They also asked for "all documents" concerning other women who have accused Trump of groping them, including Jessica Leeds, Mindy McGillivray, Rachel Crooks, Natasha Stoynoff, Temple Taggart, Kristin Anderson, Cathy Heller, Jill Harth, and Jessica Drake.

Posted by orrinj at 7:58 AM


The Economist Who Saw How Irrational We Are (Michael Lewis, 10/14/17,  Bloomberg View)

There's now a fairly long list of intellectuals responsible for the spread of this subversive idea [the data might trump the expertise of managers.] Somewhere near the top of it is the economist Richard Thaler, who has just published an odd and interesting professional memoir, Misbehaving. It's odd because it's funnier and more personal than books by professors tend to be. It's interesting because it tells the story not just of Thaler's career but also of the field of behavioral economics -- the study of actual human beings rather than the rational optimizers of classical economic theory.

For a surprisingly long time, behavioral economics wasn't much more than a bunch of weird observations made by Richard Thaler, more or less to himself. What he calls his "first heretical thoughts" occurred in graduate school, while writing his thesis. He'd set out to determine how to value a human life -- so that, say, the government might decide how much to spend on some life-saving highway improvement. It sounds like a question without a clear answer but, as Thaler points out, people answer it clearly, if implicitly, every day, when they accept money for a greater chance of dying on the job. "Suppose I could get data on the death rates of various occupations, including dangerous ones like mining, logging and skyscraper window washing, and safer ones like farming, shop keeping and low-rise window washing," recalls Thaler. "The risky jobs should pay more than the less risky ones: otherwise why would anyone do them?" Using wage data, and an actuarial table of mortality rates in those jobs, he was able to work out what people needed to be paid to risk their life. (The current implied value of an American life is $7 million.) Only he didn't stop there. He got distracted by a funny idea. [...]

[I]n addition to calculating the market's price for a human life, Thaler got distracted by how much fun he might have if he asked actual human beings how much they needed to be paid to run the risk of dying. He began with his own students, telling them to imagine that by attending his lecture, they had exposed themselves to a rare fatal disease. There was a 1 in 1,000 chance they had caught it. There was a single dose of the antidote: How much would they be willing to pay for it?

Then he asked them the same question, in a different way: How much would they demand to be paid to attend a lecture in which there is a 1 in 1,000 chance of contracting a rare fatal disease, for which there was no antidote?

The questions were practically identical, but the answers people gave to them were -- and are -- wildly different. People would say they would pay two grand for the antidote, for instance, but would need to be paid half a million dollars to expose themselves to the virus. "Economic theory is not alone in saying that the answers should be identical," writes Thaler. "Logical consistency demands it. ... To an economist, these findings are somewhere between puzzling and preposterous. I showed them to (his thesis adviser) and he told me to stop wasting my time and get back to work on my thesis."

Instead, Thaler began to keep a list of things that people did that made a mockery of economic models of rational choice. There was the guy who planned to go to the football game, changed his mind when he saw it was snowing, and then, when he realized he had already bought the ticket, changed his mind again. There was the other guy who refused to pay $10 to have someone mow his lawn but wouldn't accept $20 to mow his neighbor's. There was the woman who drove 10 minutes to a store in order to save $10 on a $45 clock radio but wouldn't drive the same amount of time to save $10 on a $495 television. There were the people Thaler invited over to dinner, to whom he offered, before dinner, a giant bowl of nuts. They ate so many nuts they had no appetite for the far more appealing meal. The next time they came to dinner Thaler didn't offer nuts -- and his guests were happier.

And so on. People who read Thaler's list might well just shrug and say, "There isn't anything here that any good used car salesman doesn't know." That's the point: It's obvious to anyone who pays any attention at all to himself or his fellow human beings that we are not maximizers, or optimizers, or logical, or even all that sensible. In the early 1970s, when Thaler was a student, his professors didn't argue that human beings were perfectly rational. They argued that human irrationality didn't matter, for the purpose of economic theory, because it wasn't systematic. It could be treated as self-cancelling noise.

Enter Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman, psychologists at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Together, in the late 1960s, they had set off to confirm their suspicion that the weird self-defeating stuff that people do isn't random and inexplicable but fundamental to human nature. More to the point, human beings were not just occasionally irrational, but systematically irrational.

It is no coincidence that every significant philosopher of the English-speaking world has been skeptical of Reason.

Posted by orrinj at 7:46 AM


Blade Runner 2049 isn't a sci-fi masterpiece, but it's trying really hard to replicate one (Alissa Wilkinson, Oct 8, 2017, Vox)

Blade Runner, though complex, had a relatively lean concept at its core: Its villain (or is he?), the replicant Roy Batty (played by Rutger Hauer), is a pretty clear cipher for the Miltonian conception of Lucifer: created to be an angel in God's service, then banished from his creator to serve humans in an off-world colony, only to rebel, "fall" back to earth, and wreak his rebellious vengeance against his creator -- who also, in this formulation, happens to be man. (For what it's worth, in this year's Alien: Covenant, which has a story co-written by Green, Michael Fassbender plays a character who is explicitly modeled on the Miltonian Lucifer.)

Blade Runner 2049 returns to those themes, with talk of angels now explicit. But the movie also stuffs in a lot of other Biblical references along with philosophical questions. What is the soul, and who has one? How necessary are bodies? Do we have free will, and if not, can we still call our feelings desires? Does it matter whether our memories are real? And what does it mean to be "free"?

That last one is the most important for this film. If Blade Runner was interested in who can be truly considered human, and how that's linked to our ability as a species to feel empathy for others, Blade Runner 2049 is more interested in the question of freedom, in a manner that recalls much recent blockbuster entertainment from Twin Peaks: The Return and Westworld to Alien: Covenant and even The Good Place. Are we free if we are governed by the laws of the universe? Does it matter who set those laws? Is it really possible to break our creators' decrees, or are we programmed to fulfill functions, conforming to our destinies no matter what we think we're doing?

The entirety of the conflict between faith and Reason boils down to just this question : do you choose to believe that humans were endowed with Free Will or not?

Posted by orrinj at 7:36 AM


Trump Ties Presidency to Stock Market (Heather Long, 10/15/17, The Washington Post)

President Donald Trump seems to have another obsession: The stock market. He mentions it almost daily now, touting how the Dow Jones industrial average -- a popular U.S. stock market indicator -- is up 25 percent since Election Day.

It's almost as if, in Trump's mind, the stock market is his report card. At a time when the polls give him about a 40 percent approval rating, he seems to view the market as giving him a standing ovation.

To be fair, the fact that the Deep State has stopped him from doing any damage has allowed him to enjoy the legacy of W and the UR's economy. And doing nothing at a time when nothing need be done is creditworthy, no matter how you achieve it.

Posted by orrinj at 7:32 AM


Tony Blair laments boycotting Hamas after 2006 PA election (Times of Israel, 10/15/17)

Former British prime minister and peace negotiator Tony Blair said the international community made a mistake boycotting Hamas after the terror group's victory in the 2006 Palestinian elections, saying it should have instead attempted to "pull Hamas into a dialogue."

Blair, along with leaders of countries in the Middle East Quartet and Israel, sanctioned and cut aid to the Palestinian Authority after Hamas's win, demanding that the terror group recognize Israel, renounce violence and adhere to previous agreements between Israel and the Palestinians, conditions that Hamas rejected.

It's long past time to stop making Woodrow Wilson's mistake. Even W had this blindspot.

Posted by orrinj at 7:25 AM


Britain could join NAFTA if Brexit trade deal fails - Telegraph newspaper (Reuters, 10/15/17)
Britain could join a formal trade alliance with the United States, Canada and Mexico if the European Union refuses to clinch a post-Brexit trade deal, the Daily Telegraph newspaper reported on Tuesday.

The newspaper said British ministers were looking at joining the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as part of planning for the possibility of Britain leaving the EU in March 2019 without a trade deal. It gave no sources for the report.

"As we prepare to leave the EU, we will seek to transition all existing EU trade arrangements to ensure that the UK maintains the greatest amount of certainty, continuity and stability in our trade and investment relationships," a spokesman for the Department for International Trade said.

Posted by orrinj at 7:19 AM


The 25 conservatives actually worth following on Twitter (TAYLOR LINK, 10.14.2017, Salon)

[W]hat if we told you there are 25 conservatives actually worth following on Twitter? What if we said that there are conservatives that not only dislike President Trump, but also engage in a level of ideological introspection that has surpassed most liberals? Wouldn't you have to check them out?

Well, here they are, the 25 must-follow conservatives on Twitter. Give them a look and a follow if you want to get a view outside of your liberal bubble for a moment or two.

...and the fact that all comedy is conservative, this is the easiest time to be a conservative pundit since at least the Carter presidency.

Posted by orrinj at 7:10 AM


Promise the Moon? Easy for Trump. But Now Comes the Reckoning. (PETER BAKEROCT. 14, 2017, NY Times)

President Trump leaves little doubt about what he thinks of his predecessor's top domestic and international legacies. The health care program enacted by President Barack Obama is "outrageous" and "absolutely destroying everything in its wake." The nuclear deal with Iran is "one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into."

Yet as much as he has set his sights on them, Mr. Trump after nearly nine months in office has not actually gotten rid of either. Instead, in the past few days, he took partial steps to undercut both initiatives and then left it to Congress to figure out what to do next. Whether either will ultimately survive in some form has become a central suspense of Mr. Trump's first year in office.

In the case of health care, Mr. Trump is making a virtue of necessity. Having failed to push through legislation replacing the Affordable Care Act, he is taking more limited measures on his own authority aimed at chipping away at the law. On the other hand, when it comes to the Iran deal, he has the authority to walk away without anyone else's consent but has been talked out of going that far by his national security team. Instead, by refusing to recertify the deal, he rhetorically disavows the pact without directly pulling out.

These are not the only instances in which Mr. Trump's expansive language has not been matched by his actions during this opening phase of his presidency. On immigration, diplomatic relations with Cuba and international accords like the North American Free Trade Agreement and a separate trade pact with South Korea, he has denounced decisions made by Mr. Obama or other previous presidents without fully reversing them.

"Presidential campaigns are won with big, simple, directional promises that rarely align well with the complexity confronted in the Oval Office," said Michael O. Leavitt, a Republican former governor of Utah and secretary of health and human services who advised Mr. Trump's transition team. "So presidents do the best they can to stretch the fabric of incomplete outcomes to cover as much bare backside as possible and move on."

Posted by orrinj at 7:07 AM


Posted by orrinj at 6:57 AM


Trump Owns Fake Renoir That He Insists Is Real (Chris Sosa, 10/15/17, AlterNet.

Biographer Tim O'Brien told Vanity Fair an amazing anecdote about how President Donald Trump owns a Renoir print and straight-up refuses to acknowledge it's not the original painting.

O'Brien spotted the print on Trump's plane and asked him if it was an original, apparently to see if he'd lie.

Trump told O'Brien it was. The biographer responded, "No, it's not Donald." Instead of letting it go, Trump argued with him.

"I grew up in Chicago, that Renoir is called Two Sisters on the Terrace, and it's hanging on a wall at the Art Institute of Chicago," O'Brien countered. "That's not an original." The conversation was eventually dropped.

The very next day, after the two boarded his plane, Trump said without prompting, "You know, that's an original Renoir."

Fast-forward to 2016. That fake Renoir was spotted hanging in Trump Tower during Trump's infamous 60 Minutes interview.

October 14, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 6:14 PM


Republican Congressman Brought Holocaust Denier To Capitol Meeting (Nathan Guttman, 10/12/17, The Forward).

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher brought a Holocaust denier to a meeting last week with Sen. Rand Paul to discuss Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, the Daily Caller reported.

Posted by orrinj at 6:04 PM


France's Macron 'considers' trip to Iran after Rouhani invite (AFP, 14 October 2017)

Macron said the US decision "will not put an end to the Iranian nuclear accord and that together all the parties in France and its European partners will continue to meet their commitments."

Rouhani assured Macron that Iran in turn "will continue to carry out its commitments" in the nuclear accord, the Elysee said.

Posted by orrinj at 5:55 PM


Sinister figures lurk around our careless president (George F. Will, 10/13/17, Washington Post)

With Trump turning and turning in a widening gyre, his crusade to make America great again is increasingly dominated by people who explicitly repudiate America's premises. The faux nationalists of the "alt-right" and their fellow travelers such as Stephen K. Bannon, although fixated on protecting the United States from imported goods, have imported the blood-and-soil ethno-tribalism that stains the continental European right. In "Answering the Alt-Right" in National Affairs quarterly, Ramon Lopez, a University of Chicago PhD candidate in political philosophy, demonstrates how Trump's election has brought back to the public stage ideas that a post-Lincoln America had slowly but determinedly expunged. They were rejected because they are incompatible with an open society that takes its bearing from the Declaration of Independence's doctrine of natural rights.

With their version of the identity politics practiced by progressives, alt-right theorists hold that the tribalism to which people are prone should not be transcended but celebrated. As Lopez explains, the alt-right sees society as inevitably "a zero-sum contest among fundamentally competing identity groups." Hence the alt-right is explicitly an alternative to Lincoln's affirmation of the Founders' vision. They saw America as cohesive because of a shared creed. The alt-right must regard Lincoln as not merely mistaken but absurd in describing America as a creedal nation dedicated to a "proposition." The alt-right insists that real nationhood requires cultural homogeneity rooted in durable ethnic identities. This is the alt-right's alternative foundation for the nation Lincoln said was founded on the principle that all people are, by nature, equal.

October 13, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 6:59 PM


Why Trump's Obamacare Sabotage May Backfire -- and Give Millions Free Health Care (Eric Levitz, 10/13/17, New York)

[H]ere's the crucial thing: Insurers are still required to give low-income people the discounts. Trump can't change that regulatory requirement without passing a law. All he can do is stiff the insurers. (And according to health-care economist Nicholas Bagley, he can only do that temporarily. Insurers still have a legal entitlement to reimbursement -- even if the Treasury can't legally honor that entitlement without congressional consent. So, the insurers can sue the government and collect what they're owed through a special fund dedicated to settling Uncle Sam's lawsuits.)

For insurers, this drastically increases the (near-term) costs of participating in Obamacare. In response, some will exit the exchanges, while others will jack up the premiums on their silver-level plans by roughly 20 percent, according to the CBO. This is the part of Trump's sabotage that will hurt some ordinary people: It's possible that insurers will completely abandon some counties, and that people who earn too much to qualify for subsidies -- but don't get insurance through their employer -- will see their health-care costs increase. While the CBO expects the cancellation of the cost-sharing reductions to (ironically) give more Americans insurance in the long-term, the budget office expects it to result in fewer Americans having insurance next year, amid these marketplace disruptions.

That said, the vast majority of people who use Obamacare do qualify for subsidies. And those subsidies are tied to the price of silver-level plans. Which is to say: The more expensive silver plans get, the bigger most Obamacare enrollees' subsidies become. If you are an ACA enrollee who makes 200 percent of the poverty line, the law guarantees you a tax credit big enough to lower the cost of a silver-level plan to 6.43 percent of your annual income -- no matter how expensive the silver plan gets. Critically, while the size of the tax credit is tied to the silver plan, enrollees can spend that credit on gold- or bronze-level ones, if they so choose.

Posted by orrinj at 6:37 PM


Puerto Rican exodus could boost Small Town, USA (Lydia DePillis, 10/13/17, CNNMoney)

They're already landing in Lorain, Ohio -- Puerto Rican families, with few possessions and bleak memories.

"We started to see it last week," says Victor Leandry, director of El Centro, a nonprofit social services agency based in this faded industrial town on the shores of Lake Erie. "Just today, we have at least four or five new families. When I walk into the building at nine in the morning, we are seeing already a migration."

This isn't the norm. In what's shaping up to be the second greatest exodus to the mainland since World War II, most Puerto Ricans fleeing the devastation of Hurricane Maria will end up in New York and Florida, where hundreds of thousands of islanders already live.

But as Puerto Rico's economy has deteriorated in recent years -- the country's diaspora has ballooned to 5.4 million people, far exceeding the 3.4 million who live on the island itself -- many have migrated to other parts of the U.S.

Some who leave the island as a result of Hurricane Maria will end up in lesser-known Puerto Rican communities in states like Ohio, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Illinois.

Many towns, like Lorain, could really use the newcomers.

Posted by orrinj at 6:22 PM


Don't Believe the Hype: Trump Is Not "Decertifying" the Iran Deal (Marty Lederman, October 13, 2017, Just Security)

-- He is not using the delegated statutory authorities that the President has long had to reimpose the nuclear sanctions on Iran that Presidents imposed before the JCPOA. President Obama lifted, or waived, those sanctions after Iran undertook major (and in important respects irreversible) steps to significantly constrain its nuclear program and submit to an extremely robust monitoring and transparency regime. As a matter of U.S. domestic law, the President could remipose them, although such action would constitute the United States' unilateral breach of the JCPOA. (As I have explained elsewhere, such a breach would not violate international law because the JCPOA is not binding on the U.S. (or the other parties) as a matter of international law--which is why President Obama was able to have the United States agree to it in the first place without Senate ratification or congressional authorization.) Notably, however, Trump is not doing so.[1]

-- The President is not certifying that Iran has done anything to breach the JCPOA.

-- Indeed, Trump is not "certifying" anything.  Instead, he is declining to certify one thing (see below).

-- The Presdient is not even refusing to certify that Iran has complied with the JCPOA--to the contrary, the President reportedly will certify, or at a minimum his officials are likely to confirm what virtually everyone agrees to be the case, namely, that Iran is complying with its obligations under the JCPOA.[2]

-- Trump is not identifying any material change in circumstances or new information since his last set of certifications to Congress (in July) pursuant to the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 (INARA).

-- He is not doing (or declining to do) anything that would require Congress to reimpose, or "snap back" into place, the nuclear sanctions against Iran.

-- Nor is he doing (or declining to do) anything that would even require Congress to invoke the INARA's highly expedited procedures for considering whether to "snap back" sanctions.

So, if those are among the important things that Trump is not doing, what is he doing, and to what effect?

As he mentioned in his speech this afternoon, President Trump is refussing, this weekend (the statutory deadline is the 15th), to make one particular INARA certification that he made in April and in July--not direcly involving Iran's compliance with the deal, but simply a certification that the U.S.'s own "suspension of sanctions related to Iran pursuant to the agreement" is: (I) "appropriate and proportionate to the specific and verifiable measures taken by Iran with respect to terminating its illicit nuclear program; and (II) vital to the national security interests of the United States."  Trump is declining to make this particular certification to Congress, notwithstanding Secretary Mattis' recent testimony that it is in the national security interest of he United States to "stay in" the JCPOA.

What is the legal impact of Trump's refusal to make this discrete certification about the relationship between sanctions suspension and our national security?  Merely that, under INARA, it frees up Congress to circumvent its ordinary, internal legislative procedures for considering a new statutory "snap back" of sanctions. It is noteworthy, however, that Trump is not urging or recommending that Congress actually use such "fast track" procedures, let alone recommending that Congress approve a "snap back" of the sanctions. To the contrary, by all accounts Trump and his officials do not recommend that Congress enact such a "snap back," just as Trump himself is not exercising his own authority to lift the sanctions suspension.  And there's no indication that Congress is inclined to do anything of the sort.

Therefore, not only is the President's new refusal to certify that the U.S. sanctions suspension is "vital" to the national security and "appropriate and proportionate" to Iran's efforts an extremely narrow exception to his certifications; more importantly, it will also have no legal effect, either under domestic law or with respect to the continuing operation of the JCPOA.

Posted by orrinj at 3:40 PM


Football's decline has some high schools disbanding teams (Ben Nuckols, 10/13/17, AP)

The risks of football have never been more apparent. This summer, researchers at Boston University said they'd found evidence of a brain disease linked to repeated head blows in nearly all of the 202 former football players they studied. The athletes whose brains were donated to the study had played football in the National Football League, college and even high school.

The report doesn't confirm chronic traumatic encephalopathy, known as CTE, is common in all football players, because many donors or their families participated in the study because of the players' troubling symptoms.

After years of denials, the NFL acknowledged a link between head blows and brain disease and agreed in 2015 to a $1 billion settlement to compensate former players who had accused the league of hiding the risks.

"There's no question about it. The amount of publicity, beginning with the NFL and what you see on national news, has caused concern among parents," said Bob Gardner, the NFHS executive director. "Probably some who would have been more inclined to let their young men play, maybe are making different decisions now."

A study published last month in the medical journal Translational Psychiatry showed that kids who played football before age 12 were more than twice as likely to have mood and behavior problems.

The news hasn't escaped the parents at Centennial, one of the top-rated public high schools in Maryland, where 97 percent of students go on to college after they graduate. Just 10 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price meals, an indicator of poverty.

"Families around here are more into academics," Zach said.

Maryland is one of 14 states where participation in football was down 10 percent or more over the past five years, according to NFHS data. In all, 41 states saw a decline between the 2011-12 and 2016-17 school years, and just nine states and the District of Columbia saw increases.

In West Windsor Township, New Jersey, which borders Princeton University and has a median household income of $137,000, one of the two public high schools dropped varsity football this year, and the other might have to do the same next year.

Trinity High School in Manchester, New Hampshire, also disbanded its varsity team, with hopes that it could return in a lower division next year.

At the first practice, the team "had three seniors, one junior, 12 sophomores and one freshman," athletic director Chip Polak told the New Hampshire Union Leader in August. "Two of the seniors have never played any kind of organized football and the other senior is dealing with concussion symptoms."

Posted by orrinj at 3:39 PM


October 12, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 6:37 PM


Trump says aid to Puerto Rico can't last 'forever.' Here's what the island is without. (Luis Gomez, 10/12/17, San Diego Union-Tribune)

The latest figures, as of Thursday, tell a clear picture of Puerto Rico's need for continued aid and support.

83 percent are without power
36 percent are without potable water
About half still don't have cell phone service
21 percent are without access to gasoline

Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria: The Public's Knowledge and Views of Its Impact and the Response (Bianca DiJulio, Cailey Muñana, and Mollyann Brodie, 10/12/17, Kaiser)'

Most of the public (62 percent) says that most people in Puerto Rico affected by Hurricane Maria are not yet getting the help they need, while about a third say they are (32 percent). However, views vary by party with majorities of Democrats (80 percent) and independents (61 percent) saying people are not yet getting the help they need, compared to 56 percent of Republicans who feel they are getting the help they need.

Posted by orrinj at 4:28 PM


Gay Coffee Shop Owner Kicks Out Pro-Life Customers (Amber Randall, October 12, 2017, Daily Signal)

The gay owner of a coffee shop in Seattle kicked a group of Christians out of his coffee shop Sunday after declaring in obscene terms that he would like to sodomize Jesus Christ.

The owner heatedly tells the Christians to leave his shop immediately in a video posted to Facebook by Abolish Human Abortion, a Christian group seeking to end the practice of abortion.

"I'm gay, you have to leave," the owner tells the group. "This is offensive to me. I own the place. I have the right to be offended."

...that there are other coffee shops in the area not owned by decent people.

Posted by orrinj at 4:22 PM


San Juan mayor excoriates Trump for condemning Puerto Ricans 'to a slow death' (The Week, 10/12/17)
The mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, issued a scathing statement against President Trump on Thursday and begged for international aid for the U.S. territory. "I ask every American ... to stand with Puerto Rico and let this president know WE WILL NOT BE LEFT TO DIE," Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz wrote. "I ask the United Nations and UNICEF and the world to stand with the people of Puerto Rico and stop the genocide that will result from the lack of appropriate action of a president that just does not get it because he has been incapable of looking in our eyes and seeing the pride that burns fiercely in our hearts and souls."

Earlier Thursday, Trump appeared to tell Puerto Rico that its federal relief effort has a pending expiration date. "Electric and all infrastructure was disaster before hurricanes," Trump tweeted. "Congress to decide how much to spend. We cannot keep FEMA, the military, [and] the first responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!"

Thirty-five percent of Puerto Rico residents still don't have drinking water, and just 10 percent have electricity.

Posted by orrinj at 12:17 PM


Posted by orrinj at 12:14 PM


'He threw a fit': Trump's anger over Iran deal forced aides to scramble for a compromise (Anne Gearan, October 11, 2017, Washington Post)

President Trump was livid. Why, he asked his advisers in mid-July, should he go along with what he considered the failed Obama-era policy toward Iran and prop up an international nuclear deal he saw as disastrous?

He was incensed by the arguments of Secretary of State Rex ­Tillerson, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and others that the landmark 2015 deal, while flawed, offered stability and other benefits. He did not want to certify to Congress that the agreement remained in the vital U.S. national security interest and that Iran was meeting its obligations. He did not think either was true.

"He threw a fit," said one person familiar with the meeting. ". . . He was furious. Really furious. It's clear he felt jammed."

So White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster and other senior advisers came up with a plan -- one aimed at accommodating Trump's loathing of the Iran deal as "an embarrassment" without killing it outright. [...]

As a practical matter, Trump's expected move will place the onus on Congress to decide what to do next. Working with Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), a leading congressional hawk on Iran, the White House would refrain from recommending that Congress reimpose nuclear sanctions that were suspended under the deal.

Posted by orrinj at 11:56 AM


Isis 'White Widow' Sally Jones is killed by US drone strike (Deborah Haynes, Defence Editor | Fiona Hamilton | Francis Elliott, October 12 2017, The Times)

Sally Jones, one of the world's most wanted terrorists, has been killed in a US drone strike in Syria, it was revealed last night.

The former punk rocker from Kent, who converted to Islam and became a leading recruiter for Islamic State, died in June close to Syria's border with Iraq, US spy chiefs are understood to have told their British counterparts. It is likely that her son Jojo, 12, was also killed.

A Whitehall source told The Times: "The premise that Sally Jones and her son are dead is probably accurate."

Jones, 50, a mother of two, followed the same fate as her husband, Junaid Hussain, 21.

Hussain, a computer hacker from Birmingham who was another senior Isis member, was killed in a drone strike in the terrorist group's former stronghold of Raqqa, northern Syria, in August 2015. British intelligence assisted in helping to locate him.

Posted by orrinj at 8:10 AM


No tax cut for the wealthy? Easier said than done (BRIAN FALER 10/11/2017, Politico)

They are confronting a tax system where the tax burden is increasingly bunched up at the top of the income spectrum, thanks to huge earnings gains by the rich and the fact that the U.S. has one of the most progressive income tax systems in the world.

The top 0.1 percent of earners projected to pay more to the IRS than the bottom 80 percent combined. This year, official government data show, the top 20 percent will pay 95 percent of all income taxes.

The top 1 percent -- about 1 million families earning at least $379,000 -- will pay 45 percent of all individual income taxes collected this year, and almost one-third of taxes overall, including corporate, payroll, estate and excise taxes.

Meanwhile, more modest income gains among average Americans, as well as repeated efforts by Congress to cut taxes on low- and middle-income people, mean those groups are shouldering a declining share of the tax burden.

The average federal tax rate for people whose earnings put them in the 21st to 80th percentile of incomes has fallen by 30 percent since 1979 to 13.8 percent, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. Rates on low-income people have declined even further, by 57 percent, to 3.3 percent.

"The fact that they don't pay very much in taxes means that it's very hard to provide them with a large tax cut," said Looney, now a fellow at the Brookings Institution.

We need tax reform, not cuts. Instead of taxing income, profits and investments--which we want--we should be taxing consumption.

Posted by orrinj at 7:48 AM


Abbas hails 'final agreement' with Hamas to end Palestinian split (Times of Israel, October 12, 2017)

An official from Abbas's Fatah movement said the Palestinian president was now planning to travel to the Gaza Strip within a month as part of the unity bid in what would be his first visit in a decade.

Sanctions taken by Abbas against Hamas-controlled Gaza will also soon be lifted, the Fatah official said.

The deal includes 3,000 members of the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority's police force redeploying to Gaza, a member of the negotiating team told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The figure is however a fraction of the more than 20,000 police officers employed separately by Hamas.

Another party to the negotiations, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the agreement would see Palestinian Authority forces take control of the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt.

He added that all Palestinian factions would begin wider negotiations on the formation of a unity government in the coming two weeks.

One of the key issues has been punitive measures taken by Abbas against Gaza in recent months, including reducing electricity payments that left the territory's residents with only a few hours of power a day.

"All the measures taken recently will end very shortly," Zakaria al-Agha, a senior Fatah leader in the Gaza Strip, told AFP.

Posted by orrinj at 7:36 AM


UK Reaffirms Commitment to Iran Nuclear Deal (Asharq Al-Awsat, 10/12/17)

A statement from May's office following the call with Trump on Tuesday evening said: "The (prime minister) reaffirmed the UK's strong commitment to the deal alongside our European partners, saying it was vitally important for regional security."

May "stressed that it was important that the deal was carefully monitored and properly enforced."

Allowing the allies to trade with Iran without any competition from our businesses would be a strange sort of foreign aid.

Posted by orrinj at 7:15 AM


Is the American Idea Doomed? : Not yet--but it has precious few supporters on either the left or the right. (YONI APPELBAUM, NOVEMBER 2017, The Atlantic)

The American idea, [Theodore Parker, the radical preacher and abolitionist]Parker declared in an 1850 speech, comprised three elements: that all people are created equal, that all possess unalienable rights, and that all should have the opportunity to develop and enjoy those rights. Securing them required "a government of all the people, by all the people, for all the people," Parker said. [...]

As a vision, it was bold and improbable--but the magazine these men launched that November, 160 years ago, helped spur the nation to redefine itself around the pursuit of the American idea. And as the United States grew and prospered, other peoples around the globe were attracted to its success, and the idea that produced it.

Now, though, the idea they articulated is in doubt. America no longer serves as a model for the world as it once did; its influence is receding. At home, critics on the left reject the notion that the U.S. has a special role to play; on the right, nationalists push to define American identity around culture, not principles. Is the American idea obsolete?

From the first, the idea provoked skepticism. It was radical to claim that a nation as new as America could have its own idea to give the world, it was destabilizing to discard rank and station and allow people to define their own destinies, and it bordered on absurd to believe that a nation so sprawling and heterogeneous could be governed as a democratic republic. By 1857, the experiment's failure seemed imminent.

Across Europe, the 19th century had dawned as a democratic age, but darkened as it progressed. The revolutions of 1848 failed. Prussia busily cemented its dominance over the German states. In 1852, France's Second Republic gave way to its Second Empire. Spain's Progressive Biennium ended in 1856 as it began, with a coup d'état. Democracy was in full retreat. Even where it endured, the right to vote or hold office was generally restricted to a small, propertied elite.

On the surface, things appeared different in Boston, where The Atlantic's eight founders--Emerson, Lowell, Moses Dresser Phillips, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, John Lothrop Motley, James Elliot Cabot, Francis H. Underwood, and Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.--dined in May 1857. Almost all adult males in Massachusetts, black and white alike, could vote, and almost all did. Almost all were literate. And they stood equal before the law. The previous Friday, the state had ratified a new constitutional amendment stripping out the last significant property qualifications for running for state Senate.

But even in Boston, democracy was embattled. The state's government was in the grip of the nativist Know-Nothings, who resented recent waves of immigrants. That same Friday, voters had ratified an amendment imposing a literacy test for voting, a mostly symbolic effort at exclusion. But slavery, the diners believed, posed an even greater threat to democracy. Most of them had been radicalized three years before by the Anthony Burns case, when federal troops marched into their commonwealth to return Burns, an escaped slave then living and working in Boston, to bondage in Virginia--inspiring protests and lethal violence on his behalf. To the west, Kansas was bloodied by fighting between pro- and antislavery elements; to the south, politicians had begun defending slavery not as a necessary evil but as a positive ideal.

The fight against slavery had become a struggle for the American idea; the two could not coexist.

The Know-Nothings, Realists and Isolationists are always with us and yet we just keep diversifying and globalizing.  It seems especially odd to put the fight for the American Idea in historical perspective but then pretend that it is in trouble when you consider the Civil War, WWI, WWII and the Cold War.  

Posted by orrinj at 7:10 AM


Don't Freak Out About the Clean Power Plan Repeal (Jake Bullinger, Oct 11, 2017, Outside)

Amid the recent hubbub over the Clean Power Plan, it's important to remember the law never actually went into effect. When the Obama Administration proposed it in 2014, the goal was to cut greenhouse-gas emissions from existing power plants by 30 percent. But 28 states immediately sued the federal government in response, preventing the plan's implementation. (One attorney general who lead that initial charge? Oklahoma's Scott Pruitt, now administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, who on Tuesday gleefully kicked off the process to repeal the CPP.)

The other point to remember about Obama's signature climate-change regulation is that it was written in tandem with another protection that remains in effect today: the New Source Rule, which limits emissions from new or modified power plants. Despite the current administration's best efforts to achieve otherwise, that regulation is working with broader economic forces to brush coal-fired energy aside.

The New Source Rule caps emissions for natural gas plants at 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour of electricity produced. The limit for coal plants is 1,400 pounds. "That regulation essentially set a limit that allowed modern-technology natural gas plants to be permissible," says Ashley Lawson, a senior fellow at the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. "But new coal-fired power plants were going to need to use some very new technology to meet the regulations."

That new technology is carbon capture and storage--the process of taking carbon dioxide from emissions, liquefying it, then pumping it underground. The most efficient coal-fired plants emit about 1,700 tons of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour, meaning any new or updated plants would have to employ carbon capture to meet the benchmark. It's an expensive process no American utility-scale plant has yet deployed.

Posted by orrinj at 7:07 AM


Netanyahu at odds with security team over Iran deal (JOSEF FEDERMAN, October 12, 2017, tIMES OF iSRAEL)

[T]here is a strong sense among his own security establishment that there are few good alternatives, that the deal has benefited Israel, and that US credibility could be squandered in the turbulent Middle East in ways that could harm Israel itself. [...]

"It seems to me that the less risky approach is to build on the existing agreement, among other reasons because it does set concrete limitations on the Iranians," said Uzi Arad, a former national security adviser to Netanyahu. "It imposes ceilings and benchmarks and verification systems that you do not want to lose. Why lose it?"


Posted by orrinj at 7:00 AM


Indiana vague about reasons for withholding Pence's emails (bRIAN sLODYSKO, 10/12/17, AP)

Indiana officials are refusing to release an indeterminate number of emails from private AOL.com accounts Mike Pence used as governor, and they're not saying whether the vice president's lawyers influenced which messages should be withheld.

October 11, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 6:56 PM


FCC Chair Preemptively Rubbishes Trump's Dumb Tweet About Challenging Media Licenses (Matt Welch, Oct. 11, 2017, Reason)

The president is correct, if unintentionally so, that challenging a media company's license out of frustration over its allegedly inaccurate coverage is "Bad for country!" As he would know well, if he paid attention to his own Federal Communications Commission Chair, Ajit Pai, who in a speech last month (as covered by Variety) sounded the warning that "free speech in practice seems to be under siege in this country":

Pai added that the "common thread is the belief, shared by too many, that those with views perceived as unpopular or offensive should be silenced. One has to wonder whether those who will one day carry the torch will be dedicated to open debate or will instead seek to marginalize viewpoints they don't like."

Pai said that he also sees "worrying signs" at the FCC, pointing to Twitter messages in which "people regularly demand that the FCC yank licenses from cable news channels like Fox News, MSNBC, or CNN because they disagree with the opinions expressed on those networks."

"Setting aside the fact that the FCC doesn't license cable channels, these demands are fundamentally at odds with our legal and cultural traditions," Pai said.

Posted by orrinj at 6:49 PM

Posted by orrinj at 6:05 PM


Russia protests to U.S. over 'shameful' theft of consulate flags (Reuters, 10/11/17) 

Russia protested to the United States on Wednesday after it said Russian flags were stolen from its consulate in San Francisco.

Posted by orrinj at 5:19 PM



At first it sounded like hyperbole, the escalation of a Twitter war. But now it's clear that Bob Corker's remarkable New York Times interview--in which the Republican senator described the White House as "adult day care" and warned Trump could start World War III--was an inflection point in the Trump presidency. It brought into the open what several people close to the president have recently told me in private: that Trump is "unstable," "losing a step," and "unraveling."

The conversation among some of the president's longtime confidantes, along with the character of some of the leaks emerging from the White House has shifted. There's a new level of concern. NBC News published a report that Trump shocked his national security team when he called for a nearly tenfold increase in the country's nuclear arsenal during a briefing this summer. One Trump adviser confirmed to me it was after this meeting disbanded that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called Trump a "moron."

In recent days, I spoke with a half dozen prominent Republicans and Trump advisers, and they all describe a White House in crisis as advisers struggle to contain a president who seems to be increasingly unfocused and consumed by dark moods. Trump's ire is being fueled by his stalled legislative agenda and, to a surprising degree, by his decision last month to back the losing candidate Luther Strange in the Alabama Republican primary. "Alabama was a huge blow to his psyche," a person close to Trump said. "He saw the cult of personality was broken."

According to two sources familiar with the conversation, Trump vented to his longtime security chief, Keith Schiller, "I hate everyone in the White House!"

In fairness, everyone hates everyone in his White House.

Posted by orrinj at 3:25 PM


Trump Wanted Tenfold Increase in Nuclear Arsenal, Surprising Military (COURTNEY KUBE, KRISTEN WELKER, CAROL E. LEE and SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, 10/11/17, NBC)

According to the officials present, Trump's advisers, among them the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, were surprised. Officials briefly explained the legal and practical impediments to a nuclear buildup and how the current military posture is stronger than it was at the height of the buildup. In interviews, they told NBC News that no such expansion is planned.

Of course, if he'd just use the ones we have there'd be no need for any more. Proliferation is a function of not using them.

Posted by orrinj at 3:16 PM


Federal Reserve grapples with mystery of persistently low inflation (Associated Press, 10/11/17)

Posted by orrinj at 3:14 PM


Islamic State claims triple suicide bombing on Damascus police HQ (AFP, October 11, 2017)

The Islamic State terror group claimed responsibility on Wednesday for a triple suicide attack on the main police headquarters in Syria's capital Damascus that killed at least two people. [...]

The attack was the second time in a month that suicide attackers have targeted the capital, which has often been insulated from the worst of the violence in the war-torn country.

October 10, 2017

Posted by Glenn Dryfoos at 4:30 PM


Today would have been Thelonious Monk's 100th birthday.  

ATJ#9 reviewed his first album as a leader, and The New Yorker website has pianist Ethan Iverson's very good overview of Monk's playing and influence.

Posted by orrinj at 2:54 PM


Steve Bannon Privately Slammed Pence VP Pick (Joseph Bernstein, 10/10/17, BuzzFeed News)

On July 15, 2016, the day the Trump campaign announced that it had selected Pence, Breitbart's former technology editor Milo Yiannopoulos wrote to Bannon and Breitbart editor Alex Marlow.

"Seems like a bad pick. Should I tweet something ambivalent about him? People are telling me Trump likely didn't want this. ...What's our party line on this?"

"This is the price we pay for cruzbots and #nevertrump movement," Bannon responded. "An unfortunate necessity...very. feel free to do whatever u want. we, as always, will remain above it all."

October 9, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 9:19 PM


A 'pressure cooker': Trump's frustration and fury rupture alliances, threaten agenda (Robert Costa, Philip Rucker and Ashley Parker October 9, 2017, wASHINGTON pOST)

Trump in recent days has shown flashes of fury and left his aides, including White House chief of staff John F. Kelly, scrambling to manage his outbursts. He has been frustrated in particular with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who was reported last week to have earlier called the president "a moron." Trump's Sunday morning Twitter tirade against Corker caught staffers by surprise, although the president had been brooding over the senator's comment a few days earlier about Trump's "chaos" endangering the nation.

One Trump confidant likened the president to a whistling teapot, saying that when he does not blow off steam he can turn into a pressure cooker and explode. "I think we are in pressure cooker territory," said this person, who requested anonymity to speak candidly.

This portrait of the president increasingly isolated in the capital city is based on interviews with 18 White House officials, outside advisers and other Trump associates.

On the other hand, there is no agenda so he's not losing anything.

Posted by orrinj at 4:17 PM


White House lets Puerto Rico Jones Act waiver expire (Dave Lawler, 10/09/17, Axios)

Ten days after issuing a waiver allowing foreign ships to provide aid to Puerto Rico, the Trump administration has let it expire. 

Posted by orrinj at 10:04 AM


Schrödinger's fridge: physicists find the act of observation can make heat flow backwards : Simply observing a quantum system may be enough to temporarily turn thermodynamics on its head. (Michael Lucy, 10/09/17, Cosmos)

Heat flows from hot things to cold things. That's common sense. It's also one way to state the second law of thermodynamics, which is notoriously one of the universe's strictest rules.

In the nanoscale world ruled by quantum mechanics, however, causing heat to flow backwards may be as easy as making an observation.

According to a theoretical paper published in Nature Quantum Materials, by Angel Rubio of the Universida del Pais Vasco in San Sebastian, Spain, and colleagues, this is yet another way in which common sense goes out the window in the quantum realm.

Posted by orrinj at 9:59 AM


After Forty-four Years, It's Time Brent Musburger Apologized to John Carlos and Tommie Smith : When Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their black-gloved fists at the 1968 Olympics, they were called "black skinned stormtroopers" by a young journalist named Brent Musburger. It's past time for an apology. (Dave Zirin, JUNE 4, 2012, The Nation)

In 1968 Musburger was a restless, ambitious young sports writer looking to make his name. He found his opportunity when Smith and Carlos made their stand. Musburger didn't see a demonstration. He saw a target.

"One gets a little tired of having the United States run down by athletes who are enjoying themselves at the expense of their country," he wrote. Musburger then infamously called Smith and Carlos "a pair of black-skinned stormtroopers."

The above quote has been disseminated in books and articles for years but Musburger's full column is a difficult find. With an assist from Professor Jules Boykoff and an old-school tool called microfilm, I found it, and if anything, it's even uglier than the above quotes suggest. The headline is "Bizarre Protest By Smith, Carlos Tarnishes Medals." Despite seeing what they did as "bizarre," Musburger doesn't once address why Smith and Carlos did what they did or quote them directly. He does however find time to mock them repeatedly. He describes Smith and Carlos as "juvenile", "ignoble," and--this actually is bizarre--"unimaginative." Musburger calls Tommie Smith "the militant black." In describing a scene of Carlos trying to defend their actions, Musburger writes, "Perhaps it's time 20-year-old athletes quit passing themselves off as social philosophers."

And then there are those words that still singe the eyes: "black-skinned stormtroopers." You almost don't believe it until you read it.

As for the actual stormtrooper-sympathizer, Musburger refers to Brundage as a kindly old grandfather and with great affection and addresses him as "Avery". No mention of course that many of the athletes called him "Slavery Avery."

Posted by orrinj at 6:25 AM


Donald Trump: Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock was 'probably smart' (Harriet Agerholm, 10/09/17, Independent)

Donald Trump has praised the intelligence of mass murderer Stephen Paddock, as authorities continue their investigations into the motives and background of the Las Vegas gunman.

Posted by orrinj at 5:15 AM


Vice President Mike Pence Upstages Peyton Manning With Orchestrated Anthem Walkout (Peter King October 08, 2017, MMQB)

When Peyton Manning was drafted by the Colts in 1998, Mike Pence--born in Indiana, raised in Indiana, college-educated in Indiana--was a conservative talk-show host and avowed Colts fan. When Pence was elected to Congress in 2000, he moved away from Indiana for the first time, but continued to root hard for the Colts in the Manning glory years. When Manning left and after Pence was elected governor in 2012, Pence continued to root for Manning when he played the Patriots, presumably because of the rivalry between the Colts and Patriots; Pence even tweeted his best wishes to Manning before a Denver-New England game several years ago.

So it surprised no one when Vice President Pence announced last week he would be attending the ceremony in Indianapolis on Sunday when Manning's number would be retired at halftime of the Colts-49ers game. Pence would be in Las Vegas on Saturday to honor the victims of the murderous gun rampage there, and he would be moving on to California for a vice presidential appearance Monday, but he would fly on Air Force 2 with his traveling party for the 1,600-mile trip back to central Indiana to pay tribute to Manning at his halftime ceremony.

With Pence's trip, of course, there would be a traveling press pool of about 20 and a traveling Secret Service detail of approximately 10 with Pence and about 20 more doing advance work to sweep Lucas Oil Stadium and the Indianapolis hotel where the party would stay Saturday night and Sunday morning. There would be an ambulance in front of his motorcade and there would be a trauma team on alert at a local hospital. There certainly would be other manpower needs associated with a vice presidential trip at a significant cost to U.S. taxpayers.

Meanwhile, at some point during the weekend, President Donald Trump and Pence spoke, and Trump told Pence--he admitted as such on Twitter--that if there was a demonstration with players kneeling during the national anthem Sunday, Pence was to leave the stadium.

If there was one certain thing at the 49ers-Colts game, it was that some 49ers would protest during the anthem. This is the only team since the start of the 2016 season that had one or more players either sit or kneel for every game--preseason and regular season. There was absolutely no chance that this game would go off with 45 Colts standing on their side of the field and 45 members of the Niners standing on their side of the field. For at least the previous 26 games the 49ers played, first with Colin Kaepernick sitting and then kneeling, and this year with safety Eric Reid leading players in some form of demonstration, the team did something during the anthem. Last week in Arizona, about 30 players kneeled.

So why did Pence show up? This was a fait accompli--that some Niners would kneel, that Pence would walk out, and that it would turn into the story of the day in the NFL.

The vp could have, at least, pretended to have a spine, instead of acting like Beauregard.

October 8, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 6:46 PM


ISIS Fighters, Having Pledged to Fight or Die, Surrender en Masse (ROD NORDLAND, OCT. 8, 2017, NY Times)

DIBIS, Iraq -- The prisoners were taken to a waiting room in groups of four, and were told to stand facing the concrete wall, their noses almost touching it, their hands bound behind their backs.

More than a thousand prisoners determined to be Islamic State fighters passed through that room last week after they fled their crumbling Iraqi stronghold of Hawija. Instead of the martyrdom they had boasted was their only acceptable fate, they had voluntarily ended up here in the interrogation center of the Kurdish authorities in northern Iraq.

For an extremist group that has made its reputation on its ferociousness, with fighters who would always choose suicide over surrender, the fall of Hawija has been a notable turning point. The group has suffered a string of humiliating defeats in Iraq and Syria, but the number of its shock troops who turned themselves in at the center in Dibis was unusually large, more than 1,000 since last Sunday, according to Kurdish intelligence officials.

The fight for Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, took nine months, and by comparison, relatively few Islamic State fighters surrendered. Tal Afar fell next, and more quickly, in only 11 days. Some 500 fighters surrendered there.

The Iraqi military ousted the Islamic State, also known as ISIS and ISIL, from Hawija in 15 days, saying it had taken its forces only three days of actual heavy fighting before most of the extremists grabbed their families and ran. According to Kurdish officials, they put up no fight at all, other than planting bombs and booby traps.

Seen up close, the fighters' pretense of bravado soon disappears.

Posted by orrinj at 6:14 PM


Posted by orrinj at 5:19 PM


Stan Getz - East of the Sun: The West Coast Sessions - The Ted Gioia Notes (Ted Gioia, Jazz Profiles)

Getz gravitated to the West Coast in his early career At age sixteen, he traveled to Los Angeles while still with Teagarden. He returned to California as an 18-year-old bandleader in 1945, leading a trio at the Swing Club in Hollywood, but he soon left to go on the road with Benny Goodman. He returned again some time later and parlayed a gig at a Mexican ballroom into a celebrated stint with Herman.

At Pete Pontrelli's Spanish Ballroom, the unlikely staging ground for this movement, Getz participated in the development of a completely new jazz style, one that came to be known as the "Four Brothers' sound". The band's repertoire on this gig consisted primarily of stock arrangements of Mexican and Spanish tunes, supplemented by an occasional jazz chart. But arranger Gene Roland was working on a new way of voicing the sax section, which Jimmy Giuffre took and refined further for the Herman band. The result was a lightly swinging ensemble featuring three tenor and one baritone saxophones -- with Getz helping to recreate the sound from Pontrelli's in his new role as a Herman sideman. The recording of "Four Brothers," from the close of 1947, exhilarated listeners -- so much so that jazz fans were soon calling this edition of the Herman orchestra the "Four Brothers band".

By this time. Getz had developed the translucent tenor tone and softly swinging style that gave an airy lightness to the Four Brothers' sound and would distinguish his mature work. Getz's debt to Lester Young in this regard has often been cited, and Getz was the first to admit he admired the older tenor saxophonist. Yet Getz brought a more overtly modernist sensibility to his playing that sharply distinguished it from Young's. Although Getz was never an ardent bebopper, he had listened carefully to Charlie Parker and brought a deep understanding of modern jazz into his own, cooler style.

This influence is especially marked on these West Coast sessions, where Getz draws uncharacteristic inspiration from bop-inflected tunes, such as Gillespie's A Night in Tunisia and Woody 'n' You, and offers a tour de force solo on S-h-i-n-e. These progressive leanings were evident throughout Getz's career, as seen by his constant use of young sidemen with new musical ideas. One recalls with admiration how, more than a decade after these sides, Getz was careening over Phrygian scales and navigating through some of Chick Corea's most complex material on another Verve release, the seminal Sweet Rain. On that record he showed a daring unmatched by any other Young disciple from the postwar years. Or listen to another Verve outing, the justly celebrated Focus, which finds Getz engaging in a marvelously intricate dialogue with a string section. The claim that Getz merely commercialized a variant of the Young sound falls to the ground after even the most casual listening to these recordings.

But what Getz did learn from Young was his essentially melodic approach to improvisation. Throughout most of the history of jazz, the prevailing approach to the tenor sax has stressed the harmonic possibilities of the instrument. Substitute changes, intricate cadences, unusual modes that imply equally exotic harmonies -- a range of techniques has been used in the paradoxical attempt to extract a chordal texture from this inherently monophonic instrument. Getz, like Young, never got caught up in this quixotic pursuit. Instead both adopted an unabashedly linear approach, unapologetic in its lyricism There was an almost brutal honesty in this style. No shiny ornaments were hung out to distract attention from its melodic core.

Posted by orrinj at 4:38 PM


Seeing Trump Through a Glass, Darkly (Peter Wehner, OCT. 7, 2017, NY Times)

When I served in the George W. Bush White House, I believed before the war began that it was justified -- that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, that he was a particularly malevolent and destabilizing figure, and that it was a military conflict that would liberate an enslaved people.

These presuppositions caused me to ignore, much longer than I should have, the problems inherent in our occupation strategy. I didn't question early enough the errors we made or how the situation was unraveling.

I recall a lunch in early 2006 with a journalist, George Packer, who had just returned from Iraq. A colleague and I, already worried about the course of the war, wanted to hear his firsthand account. What he described was so troubling that my head nearly dropped into my food. In ways I had not fully understood at the time, I had been filtering out information that ran counter to the narrative I believed. (To President Bush's great credit, in 2007 -- in the face of powerful political headwinds -- he embraced the so-called surge strategy that turned the war around.)

I relay all this because confirmation bias is far more difficult to overcome than most of us like to admit. We are ever in search of data that confirms what we want to believe. "Illusion is the first of all pleasures," Voltaire said.

We're particularly tempted by delusions if they constitute bricks in the walls we have chosen to build and to live behind. We're also learning that there is a physiological appeal to confirmation bias (processing information that supports our belief system triggers a dopamine rush) and that our brains are hard-wired to embrace or reject information that confirms or challenges our pre-existing attitudes. Our beliefs are also often tied up with our ideas about who we are individually and our group identity. The result is that changing our beliefs in light of new evidence can cause us to be rejected by our political community. No one likes being accused of disloyalty.

But being on the periphery of my party has given me a renewed appreciation for what Lord Tweedsmuir said. "While I believed in party government and in party loyalty," he wrote, "I never attained to the happy partisan zeal of many of my friends, being painfully aware of my own and my party's defects, and uneasily conscious of the merits of my opponent." I've found through hard experience that the view can be clearer from the periphery than from the center of power.

The especially disturbing thing about partisan zeal is when it leads people to oppose policies they believe in or to support those they do not believe in simply because of the party identification of the president.  There is a big difference between Realists, who opposed the removal of Saddam Hussein and were perfectly willing to have him oppress and exterminate the majority Shi'a and the Kurds of Iraq, and those who profess devotion to human rights generally, but opposed the war because W.  In that sense, what extreme partisanship does is lead people to be dishonest with themselves and sell out their own beliefs for merely political reasons.

While Mr. Wehner has received accolades for self-criticism in this column, the parallel he draws between himself and Trumpies is not really serious.  It's not as if he is generally a Nativist but is now supporting immigration because Donald opposes it.  

Posted by orrinj at 4:20 PM


Vice President Mike Pence uses Colts for political purposes (Gregg Doyel, Oct. 8, 2017Indy Star)

North Korea and its nukes can wait. The White House has declared war on the NFL. And on the First Amendment.

Two weeks after President Trump decreed that NFL players who kneel during the national anthem should be fired, Vice President Mike Pence walked out of Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday after about 20 members of the San Francisco 49ers knelt during the anthem. The 49ers were in town to play the Indianapolis Colts.

Pence was in town to upstage Peyton Manning.

What, you think he didn't know the 49ers would kneel on Sunday? Pence knew. The 49ers are the one franchise, the only franchise, that have had at least one player kneel before every game since Colin Kaepernick was the first to do it in the 2016 preseason. Kaepernick played for the 49ers, of course. Last week, following Trump's unpatriotic assertion that he would fire someone for exercising their First Amendment rights, more than half the San Francisco roster knelt.

Pence knew.

Hell, the media members that follow Pence were told before the game not to bother leaving their vans and enter Lucas Oil Stadium, according to a tweet from NBC News Vaughn Hillyard. They wouldn't be there long, because Pence wouldn't be there long.

Presumably, the rest of the fans agree with the players.
Posted by orrinj at 12:23 PM


Trump allegedly made anti-Semitic, racist comments during work on 'The Apprentice' (JTA, 10/08/17)

Anti-Jewish sentiment and other racism was a big part of the persona of Donald Trump when he starred on "The Apprentice," one of the producers said.

Bill Pruitt told the National Public Radio podcast "Embedded" by Kelly McEvers on Thursday that after the first couple of shows of the reality series that Trump, who is now president of the United States, started saying inappropriate things during discussions about who to fire.

Posted by orrinj at 9:08 AM

Are those my words coming out of Steve Bannon's mouth? (Thomas Frank,  6 October 2017, The Guardian)

There's was a moment in Steve Bannon's recent 60 Minutes interview when the former presidential advisor was asked what he's done to drain "the swamp," the Trumpists' favorite metaphor for everything they hate about Washington DC. Here was Bannon's reply: "The swamp is 50 years in the making. Let's talk about the swamp. The swamp is a business model. It's a successful business model. It's a donor, consultant, K Street lobbyist, politician ... 7 of the 9 wealthiest counties in America ring Washington, DC."

With a shock of recognition I knew immediately what Bannon meant, because what he was talking about was the subject matter of my 2008 book, The Wrecking Crew - the interconnected eco-system of corruption that makes Washington, DC so rich.

The first chapter of my book had been a description of those wealthy counties that ring Washington, DC: the fine cars, the billowing homes, the expense-account restaurants. The rest of the book was my attempt to explain the system that made possible the earthly paradise of Washington and - just like Steve Bannon - I did it by referring to a business model: the political donors and the K Street lobbyists, who act in combination with politicians of the Tom DeLay variety.

My critique of Washington was distinctly from the left, and it astonished me to hear something very close to my argument coming from the mouth of one of the nation's most prominent conservatives.

Rightwinger, not a conservative.  Both Left and Right have to pretend there's something deeply rotten about the Republic conservatives are defending.

Posted by orrinj at 8:18 AM


'Long Shot' on Netflix Tells How 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' and a Dodgers Game Saved a Man's Life (Kayla Cobb, Oct 2, 2017, Decider)

The most shocking moment in this film is its connection to Curb Your Enthusiasm, but some attention needs to be paid to Defense Attorney Todd Melnik's dedication to Catalan's case. Desperate to find any evidence that places his client at the Dodgers vs. Atlanta Braves game, Melnik combs through hours of crowd footage in an attempt to pinpoint Catalan. The very idea is exhausting and Melnik has little luck in this endeavor until Catalan remembers something was being recorded that day.

That's where Larry David's crotchety creation comes in. The very day that Catalan was at a Dodgers game with his daughter and Martha Puebla was murdered, HBO was filming "The Car Pool Lane" for Curb Your Enthusiasm.

This revelation is packed with a million more what ifs. What if Larry David hadn't insisted on filming during a real Dodgers game? What if his character didn't have bad seats in the episode? What if the show hadn't decided to use real people as extras instead of actors? What if a PA hadn't let Catalan and his daughter walk in front of their camera and back to their seats? He had allegedly stopped several other people before Catalan, why did he let this man go through? Thankfully, none of these "what ifs" matter as anything more than a stress-inducing thought exercise. When Catalan appears in full focus in the Curb Your Enthusiasm footage, it feels like letting out a breath you didn't know you were holding.

Not coincidentally, the two best episodes of Mister Ed and The Munsters were at the ballpark too.

Posted by orrinj at 8:16 AM


This Is What It Looks Like When the President Asks People to Snitch on Their Neighbors (Daniel Rivero and Brendan O'Connor, 10/03/17, Splinter)

In April, the Trump Administration launched what it called the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE) hotline, with a stated mission to "provide proactive, timely, adequate, and professional services to victims of crimes committed by removable aliens." But internal logs of calls to VOICE obtained by Splinter show that hundreds of Americans seized on the hotline to lodge secret accusations against acquaintances, neighbors, or even their own family members, often to advance petty personal grievances.

The logs--hundreds of which were available for download on the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement web site despite containing extremely sensitive personal information--call to mind the efforts of closed societies like East Germany or Cuba to cultivate vast networks of informants and an atmosphere of fear and suspicion.

The reports rarely involve the sort of dangerous criminality that Donald Trump campaigned against. Despite the VOICE office's statement that the service "is not a hotline to report crime," callers are using it to alert Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers to minor infractions, or merely to the presence of people they suspect of being undocumented immigrants.

Posted by orrinj at 8:14 AM


A modest proposal about guns and tech following the Las Vegas massacre (CHRIS O'BRIEN, OCTOBER 3, 2017, Venture Beat)

Left unspoken is how the government might be confident enough to so quickly make such a public assessment. The answer: The U.S. government has constructed a massive surveillance state under the rationale of that we are willing to forfeit our privacy in the name of fighting terrorism.

The first time this really hit me was after the Boston Marathon bombing in April 2013. Incredibly, within three days law enforcement were able to narrow in on two Chechen brothers who, it turns out, the feds had been tracking for some time, having intercepted and analyzed contents of phone calls, emails, and travel records. It was just a few months later that the first Snowden revelations were made that truly allowed us to see the scope of how the U.S. government was spying on foreign targets, but capturing enormous amounts of data from U.S. citizens in the process.

While there was some controversy around this, really, nothing changed. For the most part, Americans seem totally fine with having this huge repository of our data in the hands of the government, because we're willing to do anything in the name of stopping terrorism.

Now, contrast that to the Vegas shooter.

The guy apparently legally acquired what officials were estimating to be 10 suitcases of firearms. [...]

One would think that somebody amassing a personal arsenal like that would have sent up some red flags. But nope. Because when it comes to gun purchases, we have intentionally tied the hands of law enforcement by effectively forbidding them to share and retain information about such things.

While federal law requires licensed gun dealers to maintain sales records, it also requires the FBI to destroy approved background check records, hampering law enforcement efforts. States can -- and should -- take important steps to fill the gaps in federal law.

This is staggering to consider. On one hand, we have federal agencies running deep analysis across all forms of digital communications to divine the tiniest morsel of information that might warrant adding someone to the list of people to monitor. On the other hand, we are actively preventing law enforcement from getting notice about some dude who might be amassing a cache of weapons to wreak havoc.

It seems like creating a national database of gun purchases and gun owners is a minimally prudent thing to do. Because just maybe you might want a law enforcement agent go at least knock on his door and see what's what if someone is legally buying 10 suitcases full of weapons.

We don't do this because the gun lobby is absolutist. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:10 AM


Vermont Designates John Brown Day To Honor Pre-Civil War Abolitionist (Lisa Rathke, 10/08/17, Associated Press)

As some communities consider removing Confederate monuments, Vermont is formally honoring abolitionist John Brown, whose 1859 raid was an important step in the events that led to the Civil War.

The state legislature approved a resolution this spring sought by a Woodstock Union High School teacher designating John Brown Day in Vermont on Oct. 16, 2017. That's the anniversary of the raid Brown led on a federal arsenal in Harpers Ferry, in what is now West Virginia, hoping to start an armed slave rebellion.

That the slaves might be free.

October 7, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 1:04 PM


Congressman: Holocaust Survivor Is a Nazi Collaborator Who Organized Charlottesville Rallies (Jeremy Stahl, 10/07/17, Slate)

Rep. Paul Gosar is pushing a couple of conspiracy theories popularized by 9/11 Truther Alex Jones about the August white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville. Specifically, the U.S. Congressman from Arizona is suggesting that the rallies were pushed as false flag operations by Democratic fundraiser George Soros. Gosar also said that he believed that Soros--who as a 14-year-old Jew in Nazi-occupied Hungary pretended to be Christian in order to not be sent to a concentration camp--was a Nazi collaborator.

Posted by orrinj at 12:56 PM


The Man Who Would Be Kempton : The undiminished quality of George Will's stuff. (ANDREW FERGUSON, 10/16/17, Weekly Standard)

George Will is part of the furniture of Washington life and as close to a national celebrity as punditry will allow. He has been famous for so long--he's figured in episodes of Seinfeld and The Simpsons ("The George Will?" says an awed friend of Lisa's) and has been the subject of a sketch on Saturday Night Live and made a character in Doonesbury, back when both were sort of funny--it's sometimes easy to forget he's here. But you don't forget for long.

For instance: His column this May asserting that President Trump suffered from a mental "disability" was one of the most republished columns of his career, propelled by the combined accelerant of Twitter, Facebook, and vast clouds of anti-Trump animus. His columns are routinely among the top five "most read" stories on the Washington Post website the day they appear. When, last year, he offhandedly told a meeting of the Federalist Society that he had dropped his Republican party registration, political outlets from the Post to Politico wrote it up as news. Under contract to Fox News, he engaged in a televised argument with Bill O'Reilly, then the network's premier star, that became, as the kids don't say but should, a YouTube sensation.

It also got him fired. Will called O'Reilly a liar and O'Reilly saw his liar and raised him a hack, and the spectacle of two of his stars squabbling so unnerved Roger Ailes, the overlord of Fox News, that he phoned Will and instructed him to declare a truce. Recall President Muffley's famous reproach in Dr. Strangelove. "Gentleman, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room!"

"I think he didn't think I was a good team player," Will says, "and he was right. I'm not a good team player." Will left Fox and joined the other team, MSNBC, where he can unfurl his anti-Trump colors to cheers instead of dirty looks.

"The usual trope about Fox is that it's been bad for journalism but good for conservatism, and that's exactly wrong," he says. "They've got some really first-class journalists over there. But it's been calamitous for conservatism. When Sean Hannity is the face of conservatism you're in deep trouble."

Posted by orrinj at 12:30 PM


Conservatives Need a Remedial Course in Sovereignty (John Fonte, 10/3/2017, American Greatness)

If Henninger sees a certain transcendent quality in Trump's vision of sovereignty, he is right to do so. After all, Donald Trump is not the first American president to portray our sovereignty (our independent self-government) in transcendent terms. On June 30, 1826, a week before he died, John Adams chose the words "Independence Forever" to be read to his fellow citizens celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1826.  

President Trump told the U.N. delegates that the United States would not impose its way of life on others, but to "let it shine as an example for everyone to watch." He advocated "strong sovereign nations" as political entities in which "people take ownership of their future," "control their own destiny," exercise "responsibility," and "allow individuals to flourish."

Trump's muscular language reveals a decidedly republican concept of sovereignty. The emphasis is on citizens taking "ownership" of their own nations. This theme is directly connected to the idea of active and responsible citizenship, an idea that did not originate with Bannon or other Trumpists, but--as Hillsdale College government professor Thomas G. West explains in his brilliant new book, The Political Theory of the American Founding--was an idea central to the natural rights philosophy of our Founding Fathers.

Further, citizens expect leaders of sovereign nations to be accountable. Trump's speech notes that the "two core sovereign duties" of nations are "to respect the interests of their own people and the rights of every other sovereign nation." These sovereign duties represent the "vision" of the United Nations and are the "foundation for cooperation and success." Clearly, those nations explicitly condemned in the president's U.N. address--North Korea, Iran, Cuba, and Venezuela--violate one or more of those core sovereign duties.

The American vision of sovereignty is, of course, far more transcendent than the Right's, which would apply it only at home.  It is precisely because we define sovereignty as self-government that we do not recognize states that do not provide it to have any other rights. So where nationalists want us to be isolationist we are perforce cosmopolitan, forcing the End of History on everyone.

THE CAUSE OF MANKIND : The American Revolution changed the world, and it isn't finished yet. (SEAN COLLINS, SEPTEMBER 2017, GET SPIKED)

In Israel's eyes, it is hard to overstate the momentous, world-historical import of the American Revolution. It 'commenced the demolition' of a world of 'kings, aristocracy, serfdom, slavery, and mercantilist colonial empires'. More than simply the overthrow of an external colonial power, the revolution's 'political and institutional innovations grounded a wholly new kind of republic embodying a diametrically opposed social vision built on shared liberty and equal civil rights'. The American Revolution ushered the world towards modernity - becoming, in Israel's words, 'the crucible of democratic modernity' - by 'offering a new kind of polity starkly contrasting with the ancien regime monarchical-aristocratic political and social system dominating Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia' as well as 'the vast, exploitative colonial empires that... overshadowed the globe'.

Which is wrong, as to cause, but right, as to effect.

Posted by orrinj at 6:39 AM


Poll Shows Trump Dipping to 32 Percent Approval (Benjamin Hart, 10/07/17, New York)

An Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll released on Friday found that President Trump has a 32 percent approval rating, with 67 percent of respondents disapproving of the job he's doing as president. And it reported that only 67 percent of Republicans approve of his performance, down significantly from 80 percent in the same poll in March.

It's no mean feat to drive your numbers that low with the economy this strong.

Posted by orrinj at 6:26 AM


Hamas arrests senior Islamic State leaders in Gaza -- report (Times of Israel, October 7, 2017)

Hamas forces in the Gaza Strip have arrested four senior Islamic State members, including the group's leader in the coastal enclave, media reports said Saturday.

Posted by orrinj at 6:24 AM


Russia strikes kill 120 IS fighters, over 60 'foreign mercenaries' in Syria (AFP, October 7, 2017)

Some 120 Islamic State fighters and 60 foreign mercenaries were killed in a series of Russian air strikes in Syria over the past 24 hours, the defense ministry in Moscow said on Saturday.

As the UR's critics constantly pointed out, Vlad wanted no part of fighting Salafi when he got lured into Syria.

Posted by orrinj at 6:07 AM


The Trump-Russia dossier: why its findings grow more significant by the day (Julian Borger, Saturday 7 October 2017, The Guardian)

It was reported this week that the document's author, former British intelligence official, Christopher Steele, has been interviewed by investigators working for the special counsel on Russian interference in the 2016 election.

The Senate and House intelligence committees are, meanwhile, asking to see Steele to make up their own mind about his findings. The ranking Democrat on the House committee, Adam Schiff, said that the dossier was "a very important and useful guide to help us figure out what we need to look into".

The fact that Steele's reports are being taken seriously after lengthy scrutiny by federal and congressional investigators has far-reaching implications.

Originally commissioned by a private firm as opposition research by Donald Trump's Republican and then Democratic opponents, they cite a range of unnamed sources, in Russia and the US, who describe the Kremlin's cultivation over many years of the man who now occupies the Oval Office - and the systematic collusion of Trump's associates with Moscow to help get him there.

The question of collusion is at the heart of the various investigations into links between Trump and Moscow. Even a senior Republican, Richard Burr, the chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, admitted this week it was an open question.

The Steele Report, Revisited (John Sipher, Sep. 11th, 2017, Slate)

One clue as to the credibility of the sources in these reports is that Steele shared them with the FBI. The fact that the FBI reportedly sought to work with him and to pay him to develop additional information on the sources suggest that at least some of them were worth taking seriously. At the very least, the FBI will be able to validate the credibility of the sources, and therefore better judge the information. As one recently retired senior intelligence officer with deep experience in espionage investigations quipped, "I assign more credence to the Steele report knowing that the FBI paid him for his research. From my experience, there is nobody more miserly than the FBI. If they were willing to pay Mr. Steele, they must have seen something of real value."

As outsiders without the investigative tools available to the FBI, we can only look at the information and determine if it makes sense given subsequent events. Steele did not have the benefit of knowing Trump would win the election or how events might play out. In this regard, does any of the information we have learned since June 2016 assign greater or less credibility to the information? Were the people mentioned in the report real? Were their affiliations correct? Did any of the activities reported happen as predicted?

The most obvious occurrence that could not have been known to Orbis in June 2016, but shines bright in retrospect is the fact that Russia undertook a coordinated and massive effort to disrupt the 2016 election to help Donald Trump, as the U.S. intelligence community itself later concluded. Well before any public knowledge of these events, the Orbis report identified multiple elements of the Russian operation including a cyber campaign, leaked documents related to Hillary Clinton, and meetings with Paul Manafort and other Trump affiliates to reportedly discuss the receipt of stolen documents. Steele could not have known that the Russians stole information on Hillary Clinton, or that they were considering means to weaponize them in the U.S. election, all of which turned out to be stunningly accurate.

The U.S. government only published its conclusions in January 2017, with an assessment of some elements in October 2016. It was also apparently news to investigators when the New York Times in July published Donald Trump Jr.'s emails arranging for the receipt of information held by the Russians about Hillary Clinton in a meeting that included Manafort. How could Steele and Orbis know in June 2016 that the Russians were working actively to elect Donald Trump and damage Hillary Clinton unless at least some of its information was correct? How could Steele and Orbis have known about the Russian overtures to the Trump Team involving derogatory information on Clinton?

We have also subsequently learned of Trump's long-standing interest in, and experience with Russia and Russians. A February New York Times article reported that phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Trump's campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian officials in the year before the election. The Times article was also corroborated by CNN and Reuters independent reports. And even Russian officials have acknowledged some of these and other repeated contacts. Although Trump has denied the connections, numerous credible reports suggest that both he and Manafort have long-standing relationships with Russians, and pro-Putin groups. Last month, CNN reported on "intercepted communications that US intelligence agencies collected among suspected Russian operatives discussing their efforts to work with Manafort ... to coordinate information that could damage Hillary Clinton's election prospects" including "conversations with Manafort, encouraging help from the Russians."

We learned that when Carter Page traveled to Moscow in July 2016, he met with close Putin ally and chairman of the Russian state oil company, Igor Sechin. A later Steele report also claimed that he met with parliamentary secretary Igor Divyekin while in Moscow. Investigative journalist Michael Isikoff reported in September 2016 that U.S. intelligence sources confirmed that Page met with both Sechin and Divyekin during his July trip to Russia. What's more, the Justice Department obtained a wiretap in summer 2016 on Page after satisfying for a court that there was sufficient evidence to show Page was operating as a Russian agent.

While the Orbis team had no way to know it, subsequent reports citing U.S. officials claimed that Washington-based diplomat Mikhail Kalugin was an undercover intelligence officer and was pulled out of the Embassy and sent home in summer 2016.

The Orbis documents refer repeatedly to Manafort's "off-the-books" payments from ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych's pro-Russian party, and Russian concerns that it may be a vulnerability that could jeopardize the effort. According to the Orbis report, the Russians were concerned about "further scandals involving Manafort's commercial and political role in Russia/Ukraine." And, indeed, there have been further scandals since the Orbis reports were written. Those include Manafort being compelled in June to register retroactively as a foreign agent of a pro-Russian political parties in Ukraine, and special counsel Robert Mueller's and the New York attorney general's office reported investigation of Manafort for possible money laundering and tax evasion linked to Ukrainian ventures.

We do not have any reporting that implicates Michael Cohen in meetings with Russians as outlined in the dossier. However, recent revelations indicate his long-standing relationships with key Russian and Ukrainian interlocutors, and highlight his apparent role in a previously hidden effort to build a Trump tower in Moscow. During the campaign, those efforts included email exchanges with Trump associate Felix Sater explicitly referring to getting Putin's circle involved and helping Trump get elected.

Further, the Trump administration's effort lift sanctions on Russia immediately following the inauguration seems to mirror Orbis reporting related to Cohen's alleged promises to Russia, as reported in the Orbis documents. A June Yahoo News article by Isikoff described the administration's efforts to engage the State Department about lifting sanctions "almost as soon as they took office." Their efforts were halted by State Department officials and members of Congress. Following the inauguration, Cohen was allegedly involved, again with Felix Sater, in back-channel negotiations seeking a means to lift sanctions via a semi-developed Russian-Ukrainian plan--which also included the hand delivery of derogatory information on Ukrainian leaders. This also would fit with Orbis reporting related to Cohen.

The quid pro quo as alleged in the dossier was for the Trump team to "sideline" the Ukrainian issue in the campaign. We learned subsequently that the Trump platform committee changed only a single plank in the 60-page Republican platform prior to the Republican convention. Of the hundreds of Republican positions and proposals, they altered only the single sentence that called for maintaining or increasing sanctions against Russia, increasing aid for Ukraine and "providing lethal defensive weapons" to the Ukrainian military. The Trump team reportedly changed the wording to the more benign, "appropriate assistance."

Consider, in addition, the Orbis report saying that Russia was utilizing hackers to influence voters and referring to payments to "hackers who had worked in Europe under Kremlin direction against the Clinton campaign." A January Stanford study found that "fabricated stories favoring Donald Trump were shared a total of 30 million times, nearly quadruple the number of pro-Hillary Clinton shares leading up to the election." Also, in November, researchers at Oxford University published a report based on analysis of 19.4 million Twitter posts from early November prior to the election. The report found that an "automated army of pro-Trump chatbots overwhelmed Clinton bots five to one in the days leading up to the presidential election." In March 2017, former FBI agent Clint Watts told Congress about websites involved in the Russian disinformation campaign "some of which mysteriously operate from Eastern Europe and are curiously led by pro-Russian editors of unknown financing."

The Orbis report also refers specifically to the aim of the Russian influence campaign "to swing supporters of Bernie Sanders away from Hillary Clinton and across to Trump," based on information given to Steele in early August 2016. It was not until March 2017, however, that former director of the National Security Agency, retired Gen. Keith Alexander, in Senate testimony said of the Russian influence campaign, "what they were trying to do is to drive a wedge within the Democratic Party between the Clinton group and the Sanders group." A March news report also detailed that Sanders supporter's social media sites were infiltrated by fake news, originating from "dubious websites and posters linked back to Eastern Europe," that tried to shift them against Clinton during the general election.

John Mattes, a former Senate investigator who helped run the online campaign for Sanders, said he was struck by Steele's report. Mattes said, Steele "was writing in real time about things I was seeing happening in August, but I couldn't articulate until September." It is important to emphasize here that Steele's source for the change in plan was "an ethnic Russian associate of Republican US presidential candidate Donald Trump [who] discussed the reaction inside his camp."

A slew of other revelations has directly tied many of the key players in the Trump campaign--most notably Manafort, Page, Cohen, and Michael Flynn--who are specifically mentioned in the Orbis reports to Russian officials also mentioned in the reports. To take one example, the first report says that Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was responsible for Russia's compromising materials on Hillary Clinton, and now we have reports that Michael Cohen had contacted Peskov directly in January 2016 seeking help with a Trump business deal in Moscow. This was after Cohen received the email from Trump business associate Felix Sater saying "Our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it. I will get all of Putin's team to buy in on this."

To take another example, the third Orbis report says that Manafort was managing the connection with the Kremlin, and we now know that he was present at the June 9, 2016 meeting with Trump, Jr., Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, and Rinat Akhmetshin, who has reportedly boasted of his ties to and experience in Soviet intelligence and counterintelligence. According to an Aug. 21 New York Times story, "Akhmetshin told journalists that he was a longtime acquaintance of Paul J. Manafort."

The Orbis reports chronicle, and subsequent events demonstrate, that the Russian effort evolved over time, adapting to changing circumstances. When their attack seemed to be having an effect, they doubled down, and when it looked like negative media attention was benefiting Clinton, they changed tactics. The Orbis reports detail internal Kremlin frictions between the participants as the summer wore on. If the dossier is to be believed, the Russian effort may well have started as an anti-Clinton operation, and only became combined with the separate effort to cultivate the Trump team when it appeared Trump might win the nomination. The Russian effort was aggressive over the summer months, but seemed to back off and go into cover-up mode following the Access Hollywood revelations and the Obama administration's acknowledgement of Russian interference in the fall. Perhaps they realized they might have gone too far and were possibly benefitting Clinton.

However, when Trump won, they changed again and engaged with Ambassador Kislyak in Washington to get in touch with others in the Trump transition team. As this process unfolded, control of operation on the Russian side passed from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to the FSB, and later to the presidential administration. 

October 6, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 7:44 PM


EPA watchdog expands audit of administrator's travel: memo (Valerie Volcovici, 10/07/17, Reuters) 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's watchdog is expanding a review of administrator Scott Pruitt's frequent travels to his home state Oklahoma to include more recent trips taken on military and charter flights, according to a memo seen on Friday.

The Office of Inspector General had been investigating the "frequency, cost and extent" of Pruitt's travels to Oklahoma through July 31, and will now expand the "active audit" to include all travel, including the use of private and military flights he has taken up to Sept. 30.

Posted by orrinj at 7:41 PM


Poll: Just 24 percent say US under Trump headed in right direction (JULIE PACE and EMILY SWANSON, October 7, 2017, AP) 

Just 24 percent of Americans believe the country is heading in the right direction after a tumultuous stretch for US President Donald Trump that included the threat of war with North Korea, stormy complaints about hurricane relief and Trump's equivocating about white supremacists. That's a 10-point drop since June, according to a poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

The decline in optimism about the nation's trajectory is particularly pronounced among Republicans. In June, 60 percent of Republicans said the country was headed in the right direction; now it's just 44 percent.

Posted by orrinj at 7:39 PM


John Kelly's personal cellphone was compromised, White House believes : White House tech support discovered the suspected breach after Kelly turned his phone in to tech support staff this summer. (JOSH DAWSEY, EMILY STEPHENSON and ANDREA PETERSON 10/05/2017, Politico)

White House officials believe that chief of staff John Kelly's personal cellphone was compromised, potentially as long ago as December, according to three U.S. government officials.

The discovery raises concerns that hackers or foreign governments may have had access to data on Kelly's phone while he was secretary of Homeland Security and after he joined the West Wing.

Posted by orrinj at 2:50 PM



The "ultimatum game" is a fiendish invention of economists to test people's selfishness. One player is asked to share a windfall of cash with another player, but the entire windfall is cancelled if the second player rejects the offer. How much should you share? When people from the Machiguenga tribe in Peru were asked to play this game, they behaved selfishly, wanting to share little of the windfall. Not far away, the Achuar in Ecuador were much more generous, offering almost half the money to the other player -- which is roughly how people in the developed world react.

What explains the difference? The Machiguenga are largely isolated from the world of markets and commerce. The Achuar are used to buying and selling to and from strangers at markets. The same pattern emerges throughout 15 small-state societies all over the world, in a fascinating study done by the Harvard anthropologist Joe Henrich and his colleagues. The more integrated into the commercial world people are, the more generous they are. As one of the authors, the economist Herb Gintis, summarises the results: "Societies that use markets extensively develop a culture of co-operation, fairness and respect for the individual."

This would not have surprised Montesquieu, who spoke of "sweet commerce", or Voltaire, who marvelled at the friendly collaboration of "the Jew, the Mahometan and the Christian" on the floor of the London stock exchange, or Adam Smith, David Ricardo and Richard Cobden, the radical champions of free trade in the early years of the industrial revolution.

Cobden said: "Free trade is God's diplomacy and there is no other certain way of uniting people in the bonds of peace." He was right. Recent studies have confirmed that commerce is the main cause of peace. "Within the developing world, economic development leads to interstate peace, whereas democracy does not," concludes Faruk Ekmekci of Ipek University in Turkey. The evidence is overwhelming that markets do not just make people richer, they make people nicer too, less likely to fight and more likely to help each other.

Posted by orrinj at 2:32 PM


Liberal groups got IRS scrutiny, too, inspector general suggests (Mike DeBonis October 4, 2017, Washington Post)

A federal watchdog has identified scores of cases in which the Internal Revenue Service may have targeted liberal-leaning groups for extra scrutiny based on their names or political leanings, a finding that could undermine claims that conservatives were unfairly targeted under President Barack Obama.

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) reviewed cases between 2004 and 2013, which includes the period TIGTA previously examined in a 2013 report that faulted the IRS for using inappropriate political criteria to select groups for heightened scrutiny. [...]

The new report examines a broader range of criteria used by the IRS. It does not characterize the politics of the groups that were selected for scrutiny, a TIGTA spokeswoman emphasized Wednesday. But many of the 17 criteria the report examined had obvious political overtones -- including affiliation with the now-defunct Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), as well as names referencing "Progressive," "Green Energy," "Medical Marijuana," and "Occupy."

Together, the watchdog identified 146 cases in which the IRS examined groups for suspicion of engaging in disallowed political activity using those criteria. Eighty-three of those were definitively chosen for scrutiny because of the selection criteria, the inspector general found; the report could not definitively determine how the other cases were chosen. [...]

For instance, IRS personnel were told starting in 2010 to watch out for groups that had affiliations with ACORN, a national network of community-based organizations that had collapsed amid allegations of wrongdoing by conservative activists. Ultimately, at least 13 applications for tax exemptions were flagged for scrutiny based on possible ACORN ties, and most of those groups waited over a year for their cases to be resolved, the report said -- mirroring many of the allegations leveled regarding conservative groups.

The point, of course, is that they are nakedly political and do not qualify for tax breaks under the law.

Posted by orrinj at 2:23 PM


Moscow faces 130 fake bomb calls, evacuates 100,000 people : Threats made to all four airports of the Russian capital, part of wave of calls since September that has authorities stumped (AP, October 6, 2017)

Among those targeted by the bomb calls were all four Moscow airports, five railway stations, 15 shopping malls, several hotels, more than 20 schools and many other venues, the state Tass news agency said. No explosives have been found in any of the sites targeted by the anonymous calls.

It was the latest and the most massive flurry of fake bomb threats since a wave of bomb hoaxes began in early September. The fake bomb threats have affected dozens of Russian cities and incurred massive economic damages.

Posted by orrinj at 2:21 PM


Exclusive: Iran open to talks over its ballistic missile program - sources (Parisa Hafezi, Jonathan Saul, John Walcott, 10/06/17, Reuters)

A senior Iranian official, who also asked not to be named, said pragmatist President Hassan Rouhani, Zarif and Revolutionary Guards commanders have had several meetings with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the last say on all Iranian policy, to secure his backing for missile talks.

"The leader was not optimistic during the meetings because he does not trust Americans. Others argued that the heightening tension over the missile program could be resolved through talks," said the official, involved in backroom negotiations.

Any talks would not aim to end or suspend Iran's missile program but to "negotiate some dimensions of it, like limiting production of some missiles with specific ranges," he said.

"Diplomacy worked well in ending the nuclear stand-off... The dispute over the missile program also can be resolved through talks," the official said.

A third Iranian official said Tehran would be willing to discuss long-range missiles.

As with the nuclear deal, they can trade something that doesn't exist for genuine trade/economic help.

Posted by orrinj at 2:17 PM

UNDER THE HOOD OF TRUMPISM (profanity alert):

Here's How Breitbart And Milo Smuggled Nazi and White Nationalist Ideas Into The Mainstream : A cache of documents obtained by BuzzFeed News reveals the truth about Steve Bannon's alt-right "killing machine." (Joseph Bernstein, 10/05/17, BuzzFeed News)

In August, after a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville ended in murder, Steve Bannon insisted that "there's no room in American society" for neo-Nazis, neo-Confederates, and the KKK.

But an explosive cache of documents obtained by BuzzFeed News proves that there was plenty of room for those voices on his website.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, under Bannon's leadership, Breitbart courted the alt-right -- the insurgent, racist right-wing movement that helped sweep Donald Trump to power. The former White House chief strategist famously remarked that he wanted Breitbart to be "the platform for the alt-right."

The Breitbart employee closest to the alt-right was Milo Yiannopoulos, the site's former tech editor known best for his outrageous public provocations, such as last year's Dangerous Faggot speaking tour and September's canceled Free Speech Week in Berkeley. For more than a year, Yiannopoulos led the site in a coy dance around the movement's nastier edges, writing stories that minimized the role of neo-Nazis and white nationalists while giving its politer voices "a fair hearing." In March, Breitbart editor Alex Marlow insisted "we're not a hate site." Breitbart's media relations staff repeatedly threatened to sue outlets that described Yiannopoulos as racist. And after the violent white supremacist protest in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August, Breitbart published an article explaining that when Bannon said the site welcomed the alt-right, he was merely referring to "computer gamers and blue-collar voters who hated the GOP brand."

These new emails and documents, however, clearly show that Breitbart does more than tolerate the most hate-filled, racist voices of the alt-right. It thrives on them, fueling and being fueled by some of the most toxic beliefs on the political spectrum -- and clearing the way for them to enter the American mainstream.

It's a relationship illustrated most starkly by a previously unreleased April 2016 video in which Yiannopoulos sings "America the Beautiful" in a Dallas karaoke bar as admirers, including the white nationalist Richard Spencer, raise their arms in Nazi salutes.

These documents chart the Breitbart alt-right universe. They reveal how the website -- and, in particular, Yiannopoulos -- links the Mercer family, the billionaires who fund Breitbart, to underpaid trolls who fill it with provocative content, and to extremists striving to create a white ethnostate.

They capture what Bannon calls his "killing machine" in action, as it dredges up the resentments of people around the world, sifts through these grievances for ideas and content, and propels them from the unsavory parts of the internet up to TrumpWorld, collecting advertisers' checks all along the way.

And the cache of emails -- some of the most newsworthy of which BuzzFeed News is now making public -- expose the extent to which this machine depended on Yiannopoulos, who channeled voices both inside and outside the establishment into a clear narrative about the threat liberal discourse posed to America. The emails tell the story of Steve Bannon's grand plan for Yiannopoulos, whom the Breitbart executive chairman transformed from a charismatic young editor into a conservative media star capable of magnetizing a new generation of reactionary anger. Often, the documents reveal, this anger came from a legion of secret sympathizers in Silicon Valley, Hollywood, academia, suburbia, and everywhere in between. [...]

For nearly a decade, Devin Saucier has been establishing himself as one of the bright young things in American white nationalism. In 2008, while at Vanderbilt University, Saucier founded a chapter of the defunct white nationalist student group Youth for Western Civilization, which counts among its alumni the white nationalist leader Matthew Heimbach. Richard Spencer called him a friend. He is associated with the Wolves of Vinland, a Virginia neo-pagan group that one reporter described as a "white power wolf cult," one member of which pleaded guilty to setting fire to a historic black church. For the past several years, according to an observer of far-right movements, Saucier has worked as an assistant to Jared Taylor, possibly the most prominent white nationalist in America. According to emails obtained by BuzzFeed News, he edits and writes for Taylor's magazine, American Renaissance, under a pseudonym.

In an October 2016 email, Milo Yiannopoulos described the 28-year-old Saucier as "my best friend."

Yiannopoulos may have been exaggerating: He was asking his acquaintance the novelist Bret Easton Ellis for a signed copy of American Psycho as a gift for Saucier. But there's no question the men were close. After a March 2016 dinner together in Georgetown, they kept up a steady correspondence, thrilling over Brexit, approvingly sharing headlines about a Finnish far-right group called "Soldiers of Odin," and making plans to attend Wagner's Ring Cycle at the Kennedy Center.

Saucier -- who did not respond to numerous requests for comment -- clearly illustrates the direct connection between open white nationalists and their fellow travelers at Breitbart. By spring 2016, Yiannopoulos had begun to use him as a sounding board, intellectual guide, and editor. On May 1, Yiannopoulos emailed Saucier asking for readings related to class-based affirmative action; Saucier responded with a half dozen links on the subject, which American Renaissance often covers. On May 3, Saucier sent Yiannopoulos an email titled "Article idea": "How trolls could win the general for Trump." Yiannopoulos forwarded the email to Bokhari and wrote, "Drop what you're doing and draft this for me." An article under Yiannopoulos's byline appeared the next day. Also in early May, Saucier advised Yiannopoulos and put him in touch with a source for a story about the alt-right's obsession with Taylor Swift.

Saucier also seems to have had enough clout with Yiannopoulos to get him to kill a story. On May 9, the Breitbart tech editor sent Saucier a full draft of the class-based affirmative action story. "This really isn't good," Saucier wrote back, along with a complex explanation of how "true class-based affirmative action" would cause "black enrollment at all decent colleges" to be "decimated." The next day, Yiannopoulos wrote back, "I feel suitably admonished," with another draft. In response, after speculating that Yiannopoulos was trying to "soft pedal" racial differences in intelligence, Saucier wrote, "I would honestly spike this piece." The story never ran.

At other times, though, Yiannopoulos's writing delighted the young white nationalist. On June 20, Yiannopoulos sent Saucier a link to his story "Milo On Why Britain Should Leave The EU -- To Stop Muslim Immigration." "Nice work," Saucier responded. "I especially like the references to European identity and the Western greats." On June 25, Yiannopoulos sent Saucier a copy of an analysis, "Brexit: Why The Globalists Lost."

"Subtle truth bomb," Saucier responded via email to the sentence "Britain, like Israel and other high-IQ, high-skilled economies, will thrive on its own." (IQ differences among races are a fixation of American Renaissance.)

"I'm easing everyone in gently," Yiannopoulos responded.

"Probably beats my 'bite the pillow, I'm going in dry' strategy," Saucier wrote back.

On occasion Yiannopoulos didn't ease his masters at Breitbart in gently enough. Frequently, Alex Marlow's job editing him came down to rejecting anti-Semitic and racist ideas and jokes. In April 2016, Yiannopoulos tried to secure approval for the neo-Nazi hacker "Weev" Auernheimer, the system administrator for the Daily Stormer, to appear on his podcast.

"Great provocative guest," Yiannopoulos wrote. "He's one of the funniest, smartest and most interesting people I know. ... Very on brand for me."

"Please don't forward chains like that showing the sausage being made."
"Gotta think about it," Marlow wrote back. "He's a legit racist. ... This is a major strategic decision for this company and as of now I'm leaning against it." (Weev never appeared on the podcast.)

Editing a September 2016 Yiannopoulos speech, Marlow approved a joke about "shekels" but added that "you can't even flirt with OKing gas chamber tweets," asking for such a line to be removed. Marlow held a story about Twitter banning a prominent -- frequently anti-Semitic and anti-black -- alt-right account, "Ricky Vaughn." And in August 2016, Bokhari sent Marlow a draft of a story titled "The Alt Right Isn't White Supremacist, It's Western Supremacist," which Marlow held, explaining, "I don't want to even flirt with okay-ing Nazi memes."

"We have found his limit," Yiannopoulos wrote back.

Indeed, a major part of Yiannopoulos's role within Breitbart was aggressively testing limits around racial and anti-Semitic discourse. As far as this went, his opaque organization-with-an-organization structure and crowdsourced ideation and writing processes served Breitbart's purposes perfectly: They offered upper management a veil of plausible deniability -- as long as no one saw the emails BuzzFeed News obtained. In August 2016, a Yiannopoulos staffer sent a "Milo" story by Bokhari directly to Bannon and Marlow for approval.

"Please don't forward chains like that showing the sausage being made," Yiannopoulos wrote back. "Everyone knows; but they don't have to be reminded every time."

By Yiannopoulos's own admission, maintaining a sufficiently believable distance from overt racists and white nationalists was crucial to the machine he had helped Bannon build. As his profile rose, he attracted hordes of blazingly racist social media followers -- the kind of people who harassed the black Ghostbusters actress Leslie Jones so severely on Twitter that the platform banned Yiannopoulos for encouraging them.

"Protip on handling the endless tide of 1488 scum," Curtis Yarvin, the neoreactionary thinker, wrote to Yiannopoulos in November 2015. ("1488" is a ubiquitous white supremacist slogan; "88" stands for "Heil Hitler.") "Deal with them the way some perfectly tailored high-communist NYT reporter handles a herd of greasy anarchist hippies. Patronizing contempt. Your heart is in the right place, young lady, now get a shower and shave those pits. The liberal doesn't purge the communist because he hates communism, he purges the communist because the communist is a public embarrassment to him. ... It's not that he sees enemies to the left, just that he sees losers to the left, and losers rub off."

"Thanks re 1488," Yiannopoulos responded. "I have been struggling with this. I need to stay, if not clean, then clean enough."

He had help staying clean. It came in the form of a media relations apparatus that issued immediate and vehement threats of legal action against outlets that described Yiannopoulos as a racist or a white nationalist.

"Milo is NOT a white nationalist, nor a member of the alt right," Jenny Kefauver, a senior account executive at CapitalHQ, Breitbart's press shop, wrote to the Seattle CBS affiliate after a story following the shooting of an anti-Trump protester at a Yiannopoulos speech. "Milo has always denounced them and you offer no proof that he is associated with them. Please issue a correction before we explore additional options to correct this error immediately."

Over 2016 and early 2017, CapitalHQ, and often Yiannopoulos personally, issued such demands against the Los Angeles Times, The Forward, Business Insider, Glamour, Fusion, USA Today, the Chicago Tribune, the Washington Post, and CNN. The resulting retractions or corrections -- or refusals -- even spawned a new category of Breitbart story.

Of course, it's unlikely that any of these journalists or editors could have known about Yiannopoulos's relationship with Saucier, about his attempts to defend gas chamber jokes in Breitbart, or about how he tried to put Weev on his podcast.

Nor could they have known about the night of April 2, 2016, which Yiannopoulos spent at the One Nostalgia Tavern in Dallas, belting out a karaoke rendition of "America the Beautiful" in front of a crowd of "sieg heil"-ing admirers, including Richard Spencer.

Saucier can be seen in the video filming the performance. The same night, he and Spencer did a duet of Duran Duran's "A View to a Kill" in front of a beaming Yiannopoulos.

And there was no way the journalists threatened with lawsuits for calling Yiannopoulos a racist could have known about his passwords.

In an April 6 email, Allum Bokhari mentioned having had access to an account of Yiannopoulos's with "a password that began with the word Kristall." Kristallnacht, an infamous 1938 riot against German Jews carried out by the SA -- the paramilitary organization that helped Hitler rise to power -- is sometimes considered the beginning of the Holocaust. In a June 2016 email to an assistant, Yiannopoulos shared the password to his email, which began "LongKnives1290." The Night of the Long Knives was the Nazi purge of the leadership of the SA. The purge famously included Ernst Röhm, the SA's gay leader. 1290 is the year King Edward I expelled the Jews from England.

October 5, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 8:27 PM


Far side of the moon revealed, half a century ago : The images are patchy and blurry, but the first photos of the moon's far side were still a revelation. Tim Wallace, 10/05/17, cOSMOS)

For as long as humans have been able to appreciate the night sky, we have looked up at a more-or-less unchanging moonface. That's because the Moon is locked in what is known as synchronous rotation: it orbits the Earth once every 27.322 days, and revolves on its axis at almost the exact same speed. It wasn't always this way, but the gravitational effect of the Earth's tidal forces has slowed the rotation over time. The effect is called 'tidal locking' or 'captured rotation'.

All that changed when Luna 3 flew around the Moon's far side. With its fly-by timed to ensure the hidden hemisphere was facing the Sun, it passed within 64,000 kilometres of the surface and snapped 29 images with a photo-television camera over 40 minutes. Of those images, 15 (or 17, accounts vary) were successfully transmitted back to Earth. [...]

Through the quality of the Luna 3 images was poor, they provided the means to create the very first atlas of the Moon's far side. Published by USSR Academy of Sciences the following year, the atlas catalogued 500 distinguishable geographic features. Others followed.

Posted by orrinj at 8:22 PM


Exclusive: Mueller's team met with Russia dossier author (Evan Perez, Shimon Prokupecz and Pamela Brown, 10/05/17, CNN)

Information from Christopher Steele, a former MI-6 officer, could help investigators determine whether contacts between people associated with the Trump campaign and suspected Russian operatives broke any laws.

CNN has learned that the FBI and the US intelligence community last year took the Steele dossier more seriously than the agencies have publicly acknowledged. [...]

The intelligence agencies, particularly the CIA, and the FBI took Steele's research seriously enough that they kept it out of a publicly-released January report on Russian meddling in the election in order to not divulge which parts of the dossier they had corroborated and how.

Posted by orrinj at 8:20 PM


Report: Kelly, Tillerson, Mattis met at White House after "moron" report (Axios, 10/05/17)

Trump fumed for two hours Wednesday morning after the report emerged, per NBC, and was even angrier when Tillerson didn't deny having called Trump a moron during a press conference later in the day.

Posted by orrinj at 9:59 AM



[T]he cost of most of life's necessities, from food to clothing to shelter, has stabilized or dropped over the past two decades care of the deflationary effects of technology. It isn't just that you can get a large flat-screen TV for next to nada. You can get a car that uses less fuel and is far safer for less money (inflation adjusted) than a gas guzzler of yesteryear. Thank, in part, composite materials, which also require less energy to produce than 20th century steel. You can get a smorgasbord of caloric abundance for a fraction of the cost of a much less varied diet in 1950; you can access new medicines to extend lives by years; and you can access for free on the Internet incalculable reams of data, costing you nothing but your time.

For some aspects of our lives, there is no apples-to-apples comparison with the past. With Moore's Law and the compression of data and power, today's smartphones are the equivalent of yesterday's supercomputer that cost 1,000 times as much, guzzled electricity and demanded expensive cooling systems. Electrifying a grid that needed to fuel that and billions of incandescent bulbs was costly compared with the dollop of energy needed to power LEDs. That washing machine, with its smart chips monitoring the size of your load? That smart thermostat in your home dynamically adjusting heat and air-conditioning? They also reduce costs, and overall electric demand, even in their limited numbers so far.

And this doesn't even begin to adjust for the possible efficiencies and benefits of the app economy that can connect buyers of goods and services with sellers with fewer frictional costs of middlemen scheduling and booking and coordinating. The TaskRabbit and Uber economy has pitfalls to be sure, but it surely does not drive prices up.

These are a tiny fraction of the examples of how our economy differs from the 20th century industrial economy. Similar changes are under way in the developing world, as labor gives way to robotics and basic goods become affordable and accessible to the planet's billions. 

Nor does it adjust for Thatcher and Reagan ending wage inflation and resuming the expansion of free trade twenty years before that.
Posted by orrinj at 5:54 AM


Inside the Founding Fathers' Debate Over What Constituted an Impeachable Offense : If not for three sparring Virginia delegates, Congress's power to remove a president would be even more limited than it already is (Erick Trickey, 10/02/17, SMITHSONIAN.COM )

The Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia was winding down, the draft of the United States' supreme law almost finished, and George Mason, the author of Virginia's Declaration of Rights, was becoming alarmed. Over the course of the convention, the 61-year-old had come to fear the powerful new government his colleagues were creating. Mason thought the president could become a tyrant as oppressive as George III.

So on September 8, 1787, he rose to ask his fellow delegates a question of historic importance. Why, Mason asked, were treason and bribery the only grounds in the draft Constitution for impeaching the president? Treason, he warned, wouldn't include "attempts to subvert the Constitution."

After a sharp back-and-forth with fellow Virginian James Madison, Mason came up with another category of impeachable offenses: "other high crimes and misdemeanors." Americans have debated the meaning of this decidedly open-ended phrase ever since. But its inclusion, as well as the guidance the Founders left regarding its interpretation, offers more protection against a dangerous executive power than many realize.

Of all the Founders who debated impeachment, three Virginians--Mason, Madison and delegate Edmund Randolph--did the most to set down a vision of when Congress should remove a president from office. Though the men had very different positions on the Constitution, their debates in Philadelphia and at Virginia's ratifying convention in Richmond produced crucial definitions of an impeachable offense. And their ultimate agreement--that a president should be impeached for abuses of power that subvert the Constitution, the integrity of government, or the rule of law--remains essential to the debates we're having today, 230 years later. [...]

"Shall any man be above justice?" Mason asked. "Shall that man be above it who can commit the most extensive injustice?" A presidential candidate might bribe the electors to gain the presidency, Mason suggested. "Shall the man who has practiced corruption, and by that means procured his appointment in the first instance, be suffered to escape punishment by repeating his guilt?"

Madison argued that the Constitution needed a provision "for defending the community against the incapacity, negligence, or perfidy of the Chief Magistrate." Waiting to vote him out of office in a general election wasn't good enough. "He might pervert his administration into a scheme of peculation"-- embezzlement--"or oppression," Madison warned. "He might betray his trust to foreign powers."

October 4, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 7:23 PM


Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. Were Close to Being Charged With Felony Fraud   (Jesse Eisinger and Justin Elliott, ProPublica, and Andrea Bernstein and Ilya Marritz, WNYC Oct. 4, 2017)

In one email, according to four people who have seen it, the Trumps discussed how to coordinate false information they had given to prospective buyers. In another, according to a person who read the emails, they worried that a reporter might be onto them. In yet another, Donald Jr. spoke reassuringly to a broker who was concerned about the false statements, saying that nobody would ever find out, because only people on the email chain or in the Trump Organization knew about the deception, according to a person who saw the email.

There was "no doubt" that the Trump children "approved, knew of, agreed to, and intentionally inflated the numbers to make more sales," one person who saw the emails told us. "They knew it was wrong."

In 2010, when the Major Economic Crimes Bureau of the D.A.'s office opened an investigation of the siblings, the Trump Organization had hired several top New York criminal defense lawyers to represent Donald Jr. and Ivanka. These attorneys had met with prosecutors in the bureau several times. They conceded that their clients had made exaggerated claims, but argued that the overstatements didn't amount to criminal misconduct. Still, the case dragged on. In a meeting with the defense team, Donald Trump, Sr., expressed frustration that the investigation had not been closed. Soon after, his longtime personal lawyer, Marc Kasowitz entered the case.

Kasowitz, who by then had been the elder Donald Trump's attorney for a decade, is primarily a civil litigator with little experience in criminal matters. But in 2012, Kasowitz donated $25,000 to the reelection campaign of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., making Kasowitz one of Vance's largest donors. Kasowitz decided to bypass the lower level prosecutors and went directly to Vance to ask that the investigation be dropped.

On May 16, 2012, Kasowitz visited Vance's office at One Hogan Place in downtown Manhattan -- a faded edifice made famous by the television show, "Law & Order." Dan Alonso, the chief assistant district attorney, and Adam Kaufmann, the chief of the investigative division, were also at the meeting, but no one from the Major Economic Crimes Bureau attended. Kasowitz did not introduce any new arguments or facts during his session. He simply repeated the arguments that the other defense lawyers had been making for months.

Ultimately, Vance overruled his own prosecutors. Three months after the meeting, he told them to drop the case. Kasowitz subsequently boasted to colleagues about representing the Trump children, according to two people. He said that the case was "really dangerous," one person said, and that it was "amazing I got them off." 

Posted by orrinj at 7:21 PM


Trump, Sanders Supporters Join Together to Protest Clinton Book Tour Event (Cameron Cawthorne, October 4, 2017, Free Beacon)

Supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) and President Donald Trump participated in a bipartisan protest of two-time failed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton outside of her book tour event in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. on Tuesday.

Posted by orrinj at 7:00 PM


Today Tillerson Tried To Kill The "Rexit" Rumors Once And For All (John Hudson, October 4, 2017, BuzzFeed News)

One US official expressed confidence in Tillerson's status due to a so-called "suicide pact" forged between Defense Secretary James Mattis, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and Tillerson, whereby all three cabinet secretaries vow to leave in the event that the president makes moves against one of them.

It does not get any more awesome than being confident of the secretary's status because he and his peers have clandestinely plotted how to deal with Donald's derangement.

Posted by orrinj at 1:25 PM


U.S. Republican lawmakers examining barriers to Puerto Rico recovery: source (Reuters, 10/04/17) 

U.S. Republicans in Congress are looking into additional ways of lifting barriers to Puerto Rico's recovery after Hurricane Maria devastated the U.S. territory last month, said a House of Representatives Republican aide on Wednesday.

Posted by orrinj at 1:21 PM


A tale of two Puerto Ricos: What Trump saw -- and what he didn't (Arelis R. Hernández and Jenna Johnson October 4, 2017, The Washington Post)

It wasn't until after Air Force One took off Tuesday that the government updated its official death toll from 16 to 34, allowing reality to once again settle on an island that maneuvered itself into the most flattering light possible for the president's visit. [...]

As he handed out some smaller flashlights, he declared: "Flashlights -- you don't need 'em anymore. You don't need 'em anymore." [...]

The church is also distributing water purification kits, and a member explained the process to the president.

"Wait," Trump said, "you put it in dirty water?"

"And then you can drink it after 10 to 12 hours," she explained.

"Would you do it? Would you drink it?" he asked.

"Sure," she said.

"Really?" Trump said, a disgusted look coming across his face.

"Really," she said.

"Is this your company or something?" Trump asked the woman, seeming suspicious of the aggressive pitch.

"No," she said, "I'm part of the church."

Amen, Rex.

Posted by orrinj at 11:26 AM


Less than a third of Americans approve of Trump's handling of the Puerto Rico crisis (Jeva Lange, 10/04/17, The Week)

Americans widely disapprove of the way President Trump is handling the ongoing crisis in Puerto Rico, a new Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll has found. Only 32 percent of Americans approve of Trump's handling of the hurricane aftermath, while 49 percent disapprove. Comparatively, Americans think the administration has responded far better to hurricanes that hit the mainland, with only 27 percent disapproving of how Trump handled recovery in Texas and Florida.

In November folks could still pretend not to know what he is. Not anymore.

Posted by orrinj at 10:03 AM


Top Hezbollah commander killed fighting IS in Syria (AP, October 4, 2017)

Lebanon's terror group Hezbollah says one of its top commanders has been killed while fighting Islamic State militants in Syria.

The 44-year-old Ali Al-Hadi Al-Ashiq is the latest fatality for the Shiite group that has fought alongside Syrian government forces in the civil war next door since 2012.

Posted by orrinj at 9:52 AM


NBC: Tillerson called Trump a "moron," almost resigned (Shane Savitsky, 10/04/17, Axios)

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson almost resigned over the summer around the time of President Trump's controversial speech at the Boy Scouts' Jamboree, according to an NBC News report. Tillerson also reportedly called Trump a "f***ing moron" following a national security meeting at the Pentagon in July, as NBC News' Stephanie Ruhle told Hugh Hewitt.

He's neck and neck with Beauregard for staffer with least self-respect.

Posted by orrinj at 7:04 AM


Mueller Tasks an Adviser With Getting Ahead of Pre-Emptive Pardons (Greg Farrell, 10/03/17, Bloomberg)

U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller has a distinctly modern problem. The president, judging by his tweets, could try to pardon people in his circle even before prosecutors charge anyone with a crime.

Mueller's all-star team of prosecutors, with expertise in money laundering and foreign bribery, has an answer to that. He's Michael Dreeben, a bookish career government lawyer with more than 100 Supreme Court appearances under his belt.

Acting as Mueller's top legal counsel, Dreeben has been researching past pardons and determining what, if any, limits exist, according to a person familiar with the matter.

October 3, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 7:51 PM


RoboGolfPro Offers An Instant Golf Swing Fix (Scott Kramer , 10/03/17, Forbes)

I don't know what it's like to be in Tiger Woods' shoes. But now I know what it's like to be in his golf shoes. And Jason Day's. That's because this past weekend at Omni La Costa Resort & Spa in Carlsbad, Calif., I tried RoboGolfPro. It's a robotic golf-training system that stores pre-recorded PGA Tour pro swings in it. Any amateur can grab onto the grip of a club that's connected at the other end to a robot, and then be guided through a pro's swing -- right down to every detail and at least at first in slow motion. So I was able to hang on and see exactly what it feels like for Woods and Day to swing a club. For what it's worth, Woods' swing -- his old one from 1997, before his back problems -- felt more inside-out than I thought it would be. And his wrists power through the impact zone much more forcefully than I ever imagined. Yet when I watched myself going through it in real-time on the monitor in front of me, it was unmistakably Tiger's swing. And Day's felt like his backswing is exaggerated low and outside, while his follow-through is much more extended than my own. It was truly one of the cooler experiences in my 27 years as a golf writer.

So what purpose does RoboGolfPro serve, besides the novelty of it? It's also an amazing teaching tool, if you're lucky to come across any of the 30 around the world right now.

Posted by orrinj at 7:43 PM


Oracle updates enterprise security service with machine learning (BLAIR HANLEY FRANK, OCTOBER 3, 2017, Venture Beat)

Oracle added machine learning to its cloud management product to help better secure businesses against threats. The renamed Management and Security Cloud will take in data from on-premises and cloud infrastructure, then analyze them to help determine what might be a threat to a company's data.

When the system determines that something fishy is going on, it can then automatically take steps to remediate the problem without human intervention. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:38 PM


Iran offers condolences to US over Las Vegas massacre (Middle East Online, 10/03/17)

Iran on Tuesday expressed its sympathy towards the United States following the shooting deaths of at least 59 people and wounding of more than 500 at a Las Vegas concert.

"Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi has offered sympathy to the bereaved families of those killed in the recent deadly shooting in Las Vegas," said a statement published on the ministry's website.

"Qassemi expressed regret over the 'heinous' crime in which hundreds of civilians were killed and wounded.

"He also sympathised with the US nation and the relatives of the victims," the statement said. [...]

After a double attack in June claimed by the Islamic state group that killed 17 people in Tehran, Trump said: "We underscore that states that sponsor terrorism risk falling victim to the evil they promote."

Posted by orrinj at 7:25 PM


Mary Poppins Is a Retelling of the Bible (Jason Rhode, October 3, 2017, Paste)

Simple: The 1964 movie Mary Poppins is a retelling of the Bible. It's a tale of the cosmic struggle between God and the Devil. Call it the Book of Job reimagined, or Damn Yankees, or any of those old stories where Good and Evil cleverly duel for a single man's soul. [...]

At the beginning of the film, Mr. Banks' allegiances clearly tilt in favor of the bank. He adores his place in life (as a prominent financier) and he covets future position. Because he loves those trinkets, his boss Mr. Dawes Sr. has power over him. After all, George Banks has a position of some authority in the money industry, and he's on the verge of being made partner. Mr. Dawes Sr. and the rest of the bank board have every reason to push George towards conformity. In turn, George Banks has every reason to comply, at the forfeit of his family and his soul.

Then this eccentric au pair from the clouds arrives. She descends without warning, as the bats do at the beginning of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. This changes everything.

We know who Mary (Julie Andrews) is. As Madonna put it, just like a dream, she is not what she seems. She comes from the sky; she literally sits on a cloud. She's perfect, prim, unknowable. She has love for her new charges, the Banks children, but her doctrine is strictly enforced. She has all these rules for practically perfect people.

If that's true, if the movie Mary Poppins is Biblical, and Mary is God, then it's pretty clear who Bert (Dick Van Dyke) represents. Pleased to meet you, hope you guess my name--but what's troubling is the nature of his game.

Posted by orrinj at 7:22 PM


Exclusive: Jared Kushner's personal email re-routed to Trump Organization computers amid public scrutiny (Brad Heath, 10/03/17, USA TODAY)

President Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner and daughter Ivanka Trump re-routed their personal email accounts to computers run by the Trump Organization as public scrutiny intensified over their use of private emails to conduct White House business, internet registration records show.

The move, made just days after Kushner's use of a personal email account first became public, came shortly after special counsel Robert Mueller asked the White House to turn over records related to his investigation of Russia's interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion with Trump associates. It also more closely intertwines President Trump's administration with his constellation of private businesses.

Posted by orrinj at 7:12 PM


Major indexes hit record highs second day; autos, airlines jump (Caroline Valetkevitch, 10/03/17, Reuters) 

The three major U.S. stock indexes and the Russell 2000 posted record high closes for the second straight day on Tuesday, helped by gains in airlines and as carmakers rose after strong September vehicle sales.

It obviously won't be easy, but if Donald can manage to maintain this level of futility for his entire presidency it will be a success, even if he's impeached.  He inherited such strong fundamentals the only imperative was not to screw it up and by not doing anything at all he's managing that much.

Posted by orrinj at 7:07 PM


Oatmeal Is Still the World's Best Performance Breakfast (Wes Judd, Sep 28, 2017, oUTSIDE)

Sure, it's old fashioned. But it's also nutritional rocket fuel, and athletes are making it taste great. Here's how.

In a world of green juice and chia seed pudding, this age-old dish is the original, and perhaps most powerful, superfood, especially for athletes competing at the highest levels.

"I've asked a lot of elite endurance athletes about their breakfast foods, particularly before races, and oatmeal comes up again and again and again," says Matt Fitzgerald, endurance coach, nutritionist, and author of The Endurance Diet.

You're most likely to see oatmeal served with a ton of fixin's, but even a bowl of plain oats holds its own as a nutritional panacea. Oatmeal is a whole grain (unless you buy oat bran--just part of the seed--as opposed to rolled oats) filled with key vitamins and minerals, a low-glycemic carb that provides lasting energy for your workout and helps fuel recovery without causing a sugar crash, and high in fiber to aid your digestive and metabolic systems.

But a bowl of oats is also a big blank canvas, ready to be combined with a truckload of other high-quality, nutritious ingredients that make it even better training food. "That's one of oatmeal's great virtues. You can take it in so many directions," says Fitzgerald.

Posted by orrinj at 7:05 PM


The Called Shot (Rich Cohen October 3, 2017, pARIS rEVIEW)

[I]n July 1932, as the Cubs were cruising, their shortstop was shot in a hotel room by a jilted lover. It's enough to say that the ballplayer was Billy Jurges and the perp was a showgirl who'd later perform under the stage name Violet "What I Did For Love" Valli. Jurges was shot in room 509 of Hotel Carlos, a few blocks from the ballpark. He'd be back on the field before the end of the season. In the meantime, the Cubs needed a solid substitute infielder if they were going to make a pennant run.

Management signed Mark Koenig, who'd been released by the Detroit Tigers at the end of 1931. He started the summer with the San Francisco Mission Reds of the Pacific Coast League before the Cubs called him up. Koenig--he grew up in California, son of a bricklayer--was with the Yankees from 1925 to 1930. He'd played shortstop for the 1927 Yankees, which many consider the greatest team ever. There's a fraternity in that, in being a member of something perfect. Depending on what you read, Ruth loved Koenig, or did not like him at all, which is not the point. If you're on the team, you'll always be on the team--that's the point.

In Chicago, Koenig, a switch-hitter who could play any position in the infield, was trying to prove he still belonged in the majors. He was only twenty-seven, with several solid seasons behind him. He appeared in just thirty-three games with the Cubs that summer but hit .353 and made memorable plays in the clutch. Yet, when it came time to apportion the World Series share--teams that made it to the championship got a bonus, which was split among the players; considering the low salaries of the time, it was a significant boon--the Cubs voted to give Koenig only a partial share.

Ruth heard about it and was incensed. Those greedy bastards, they wouldn't even be here if not for Koenig. Ruth carried that anger into the World Series, stood at the edge of the Chicago dugout and, waving his bat, denounced the Cubs by name. The Cubs heckled the Babe right back. He was a rich target in 1932, a thirty-seven-year-old fat man with just a few seasons left.

In game 3, the moment ripened to a crisis. The Yankees were up two games to none in the series. Charlie Root was pitching for Chicago. A right-hander from Middletown, Ohio, Root was a classic sort of Cub, never great but good enough to go forever. He was with the team from 1926 to 1941. Ruth spoke to him as if he were a kid, but he was thirty-three in that World Series. They called him Chinsky for his willingness to throw inside and hurt people.

The wind blew out, the train rattled past. The score was knotted at four when Ruth came up in the fifth.

Posted by orrinj at 7:01 PM


'Poldark' Celebrates Hard Work, Fidelity, Common Law, And Community (Casey Chalk, SEPTEMBER 29, 2017, tHE fEDERALIST)

Over the course of the first two seasons, Poldark rebuilds his life and his inheritance. He reopens mines on his deceased father's property, and weds a young, attractive country girl named Demelza--whom he originally employed as his "scullery maid." For the sake of those unfamiliar with the first two seasons, I'll refrain from divulging too many of the plot's twists and turns. My goal here is instead to highlight how Poldark serves as an unexpected, inspiring source of conservative ideals.

The series thus far has evinced a sincere appreciation for English culture's traditional rites and customs, suggesting to viewers the importance of preserving such traditions from one generation to another. A number of children have been born over the course of the show's two seasons, and the producers take the time to present the Anglican baptismal rite for these newborns. Moreover, the baptisms are so explicitly portrayed in various episodes that they come across as normal--if also very important--events in the life of a family and community.

Another cultural custom often presented positively on the show is that of common law. Poldark is a man of deep convictions, but also one prone to combat the cultural and institutional powers of 18th century Cornwall for the sake of the common man. This at times leads Poldark into the courtroom, defending marginalized members of the community, or even at times himself. Poldark often appeals to the traditions of British common law as his defense. This is probably most saliently visible in one episode where a British merchant ship crashes off the coast of Poldark's own land.

Poldark urges the tenants on his land down to the beaches to collect the various goods that wash up on shore, motivated both by a desire to help those under his protection and to enact revenge against the owner of the ship, George Warleggan, the protagonist's arch-nemesis. Warleggan in turn exhorts British soldiers stationed in the town to march down to the beach, collect his goods, and punish the peasants. Violence ensues. Poldark is ultimately brought to trial on the charge of inciting a riot. When asked to explain his role in his tenant's collection of shipwrecked goods, Poldark appeals to ancestral Cornish common law, long honored in the county, that allows landlords along the coast to collect any goods that wash up on their shore.

Posted by orrinj at 6:58 PM


Justice Department appeals lawyer on Mueller Russia probe (Karen Freifeld, 10/03/17, Reuters) 

Scott Meisler, an appellate attorney with the Justice Department's criminal division, is one of 16 lawyers who have signed on to the probe and one of only two who have not been previously identified. [...]

Meisler is one of several appeals lawyers on Mueller's legal team. The most senior is Deputy Solicitor General Michael Dreeben, who has argued more than 100 cases before the Supreme Court and is widely considered the Justice Department's top criminal law expert.

Elizabeth Prelogar, an assistant solicitor general, is another appeals lawyer on the team.

Posted by orrinj at 6:52 PM


Trump administration backpedals on citizenship for 'Dreamers' (Yeganeh Torbati, Richard Cowan, 10/03/17, Reuters) 

A U.S. official told Congress on Tuesday it would be "rational" to legislate a path for citizenship for illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children, but within hours the administration backtracked, saying his comments did not state the views of President Donald Trump.

Racial hate is emotional, not rational.

Posted by orrinj at 2:58 PM


Mattis: Staying in Iran nuclear deal is US national security interest (ERIC CORTELLESSA, October 3, 2017, Times of Israel)

US Defense Secretary James Mattis told US senators on Tuesday the United States should remain a party in the Iran nuclear deal.

Asked at a Senate Armed Serviced Committee hearing by Sen. Angus King, an Independent from Maine who caucuses with the Democrats, whether he believed it was in America's national security interests to stay in the deal, Mattis said: "Yes, senator, I do."

Posted by orrinj at 2:56 PM


The press, branded the 'enemy' by Trump, increasingly trusted by the public: Reuters/Ipsos poll (Chris Kahn, 10/03/17, Reuters) 

Americans are increasingly confident in the news media and less so in President Donald Trump's administration after a tumultuous year in U.S. politics that tested the public's trust in both institutions, according to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll released on Tuesday.

The poll of more than 14,300 people found that the percentage of adults who said they had a "great deal" or "some" confidence in the press rose to 48 percent in September from 39 percent last November.

Posted by orrinj at 1:11 PM


Evidence Mounts that White House Anticipates Damaging Results from Russia Investigation (Ryan Goodman, October 3, 2017, LawFare)

1. Trump and Kushner rejected White House Counsel's advice on protocols to avoid coordinating stories on Russia investigation; White House Counsel contemplated resigning 

White House Counsel Don McGahn had to be talked out of resigning by other White House officials, the Wall Street Journal's Peter Nicholas, Michael C. Bender and Rebecca Ballhaus reported on Friday. White House officials were concerned that McGahn would resign because the President Trump and Jared Kushner would not follow protocols, as he had advised, to avoid meetings that "could be construed by investigators as an effort to coordinate their stories, three people familiar [with] the matter said."

It would likely take a significant infraction for the administration's senior lawyer to veer toward resignation. It is also revealing that Trump and Kushner would defy the White House Counsel's advice to take steps to ensure against coordination or even the appearance of coordination of their stories involving the Russia investigation. On the one hand, perhaps the two thought they had nothing to hide. On the other hand, if they had nothing to hide then why risk legal exposure for potentially coordinating stories and why risk the relationship with McGahn? [...]

4. Kushner may have advised Trump to appease Republican Senators in case the Russia investigation goes south

Kushner reportedly advised his father-in-law to back Luther Strange in the Alabama Republican primary, HuffPost's Vicky Ward reported. One of the reasons may have been shore up support from the Republican leaders in the Senate. "He's going to need them if things go south in the Russia investigation," a Bannon ally told Ward.

Posted by orrinj at 1:00 PM


"Eton for all": will robot teachers mean everyone gets an elite education? (LIZZIE PALMER, 10/02/17, New Statesman)

According to Sir Anthony Seldon, former headmaster of public school Wellington College and current vice-chancellor of Buckingham University, teachers might have reason to be concerned after all. Last month he said he believed "extraordinarily inspirational" robots would begin taking on the work of teachers over the next ten years.

"It will open up the possibility of an Eton or Wellington-style education for all," he said. "Everyone can have the very best teacher and it's completely personalised; the software you're working with will be with you throughout your education journey."

He said he expected teaching unions to be "alarmed" by the prospect, but that the impact would be "beyond anything that we've seen in the industrial revolution or since with any other new technology".

Posted by orrinj at 12:53 PM


What a Wonderful World (David R. Henderson, 10/02/17, Library of Economics and Liberty)
"In the time that it takes you to read the first chapter, over 2,000 people will have escaped poverty." So says a blurb on the back cover of Johan Norberg's book Progress: Ten Reasons to Look Forward to the Future (London: Oneworld, 2016). The book lives up to the hype. In ten chapters, on topics including food, life expectancy, violence, poverty, the environment, literacy, and freedom, Norberg, a senior fellow with the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C. and the European Centre for International Political Economy in Brussels, documents persuasively how pretty much all of the world has gotten better over the last two centuries and even over the last few decades.

Norberg tells a powerful tale by mixing anecdotes and statistics, never boring the reader--at least never boring this reader--and telling important facts that most of us have never heard. Although I knew that there had been substantial progress on almost every issue that Norberg discusses, what surprised me was the size (large) and speed (fast) of the progress. And, as a footnote reader, I can attest that he backs up virtually all of his claims with published research and data. Famous Harvard University psychology professor Steven Pinker, author of his own pathbreaking book, The Better Angels of Our Nature, calls Progress "exhilarating." I agree.

Consider food. Norberg points out that per capita calorie consumption in France and England was a low 1,700 to 2,200 calories per day in the middle of the 18th century. By 1850, this had increased to 2,500 to 2,800. By 1950, it was 3,000. Sweden, where Norberg lives, "was declared free from chronic hunger in the early twentieth century."

When we aren't worried about being able to create ever more wealth with ever less labor, we fret that we have too much to eat.  It's a deeply silly time in human history.

October 2, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 7:07 PM


The Dubious Defense of the Jones Act (IKE BRANNON, 9/28/17, Cato)

For starters, the Jones Act probably costs us jobs. The high shipping costs engendered by the Jones Act encourage businesses to ship more things via rail or truck. Where that's not possible (as with Puerto Rico), it incentivizes businesses to import goods, rather than buy from a domestic customer and pay the prohibitively expensive toll the Jones Act imposes. In either case, fewer jobs result.

The Act makes it cheaper for U.S. livestock farmers to buy grain from overseas than from American sources, and forces states such as Maryland and Virginia to import their road salt rather than buy it from Ohio. The East Coast of the U.S. cannot afford to get lumber from the Pacific Northwest. And shipping oil from Texas to New England costs about three times as much as shipping it to Europe.

Posted by orrinj at 7:02 PM


Trump's company had more contact with Russia during campaign, according to documents turned over to investigators (Tom Hamburger, Rosalind S. Helderman and Adam Entous October 2, 2017, Washington Post)

Associates of President Trump and his company have turned over documents to federal investigators that reveal two previously unreported contacts from Russia during the 2016 campaign, according to people familiar with the matter.

In one case, Trump's personal attorney and a business associate exchanged emails weeks before the Republican National Convention about the lawyer possibly traveling to an economic conference in Russia that would be attended by top Russian financial and government leaders, including President Vladi­mir Putin, according to people familiar with the correspondence.

Posted by orrinj at 6:49 PM


In AI god will emerge by 2042 and write its own bible. Will you worship it? (JOHN BRANDON, OCTOBER 2, 2017, Venture Beat)

In the next 25 years, AI will evolve to the point where it will know more on an intellectual level than any human. In the next 50 or 100 years, an AI might know more than the entire population of the planet put together. At that point, there are serious questions to ask about whether this AI -- which could design and program additional AI programs all on its own, read data from an almost infinite number of data sources, and control almost every connected device on the planet -- will somehow rise in status to become more like a god, something that can write its own bible and draw humans to worship it.

Posted by orrinj at 4:34 PM


Bloomberg Law trains machine to highlight legal points (STEPHEN RYNKIEWICZ, 10/02/17, ABA Journal)

Bloomberg Law is the latest legal research provider to use artificial intelligence and machine learning to help lawyers analyze and cite legal opinions more effectively.

Last week Bloomberg Law unveiled Points of Law, a service that allows users to quickly identify and analyze language in a judicial opinion. By adding a layer of automated indexing to its deep online library of court opinions, Points of Law users can review a decision's legal points and find precedents that strengthen their own legal arguments, on paper or in open court.

Posted by orrinj at 4:27 PM


Freon find deals blow to ET search (Andrew Masterson, 10/02/17, Cosmos)

In a blow to the search for extraterrestrial life, astronomers have been forced to discard a chemical compound previously thought to be a reliable indicator of biological activity.

In a paper published in Nature Astronomy, the researchers report the detection of a compound comprising methyl chloride and chloromethane (dubbed freon-40) around an infant star system called IRAS 16293-2422, and in the vicinity of the much-studied comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

The detections were made using data from the ESO's ALMA telescope in Chile and the ROSINA instrument onboard the observatory's Rosetta probe, which is currently orbiting the comet.

In both cases, the origins of the freon-40 must predate the origins of life, thereby ruling it out as an indicator of biology.

Posted by orrinj at 4:24 PM


U.S. Interior Dept. watchdog launches investigation into Zinke's travel (Reuters, 10/02/17) 

The Interior Department's watchdog agency has launched an investigation into Secretary Ryan Zinke's travels after reports emerged last week that he had used a private plane owned by an oil executive, the inspector general's office said on Monday.

Posted by orrinj at 3:57 PM


The Madness of Saint Woodrow: Or, What If the United States Had Stayed out of the Great War? (WALTER A. MCDOUGALL, 10/02/17, Library of Law and Liberty)

Historians today conventionally speak of a "short 20th century" extending from 1914 to 1991--bracketing, in other words, the unspeakably violent and ideological era that saw two world wars and the Cold War. Historians invariably trace the origins of those horrors to the human, economic, social, and cultural destruction of the Great War, which shattered the liberal myths of progress as well as the balance of power that had prevailed for a century before 1914.

The carnage of the Great War hurled its disoriented survivors into a moral vacuum that totalitarian movements such as communism and fascism exploited. Mix in the effects of an economic cataclysm, the Great Depression that began in late 1929 and enervated the democracies even as it energized the dictatorships, and the coming of a Second World War in 1939 was just a matter of time. That crescendo of violence gave birth to a bipolar world dominated by rival empires, each with its own universal ideology and armed with nuclear weapons.

The trends of the 20th century can be made to appear inevitable and humanity subject to cruel fate. But what if we err to think it can all be traced back to 1914? What if the subsequent calamities really trace back to 1917 and the foolish American decision to join the Great War? [...]
[Niall Ferguson's] own contribution was a 52-page speculation entitled, "The Kaiser's European Union: What if Great Britain Had Stood Aside in August 1914?" It cogently argued that if Britain had not gone to war or else limited itself to a naval war of defense--options seriously considered by the cabinet of Prime Minister Herbert Asquith in 1914--the result would have been a German victory, but one that the still-mighty British Empire could have lived with. A German-dominated Mitteleuropa under the Kaiser's constitutional monarchy would not, Ferguson speculated, have differed so much from the European Union of today. And the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany would not have existed at all.

Let that serve as a model for our own (much briefer) inquiry into Woodrow Wilson's decision to lead the United States into the First World War. For President Wilson not only considered, but really made, "alternative choices" for two-and-a-half years before changing his mind and with it  the whole course of American, European, and world history in the "short 20th century." [...]

Over those weeks of early 1917, Wilson famously agonized until, by the end of March, he made up his mind to wage war. For all the historical debate over the issue, "one incontrovertible fact remains: the United States entered World War I because Woodrow Wilson decided to take the country in."[7] Moreover, he made that personal, unforced choice to preach a crusade for liberal internationalism under the worst possible circumstances.

By the spring, Wilson knew or should have known that prominent Senators led by Henry Cabot Lodge (R-Mass.) were hostile to his League of Nations idea. He knew the Allied powers led by Britain and France were hostile to most of the liberal principles he would espouse in his Fourteen Points. He knew that most of the points, not least national self-determination, were inapplicable  in much of Europe where ethnic groups were hopelessly mixed, much less in the colonial world, where nationalism was still in its infancy and the imperial rulers were now Wilson's allies. He knew that the vast majority of Germans, however war-weary, remained loyal to their emperor. He knew that to maximize his leverage at the peace conference the United States must wage a total ground war, not a limited naval war. He also knew in advance that war would undermine his domestic agenda, violate civil liberties, and unleash Americans' most bigoted instincts.

Nevertheless, Wilson chose to flip Washington's biggest "Thou shalt not"--meddle in Europe's broils--into "Thou must," and to demand that all Americans fall into line.[8] Most damning of all, Wilson knew well, unlike overconfident Europeans in 1914, exactly how hellish this war had become.[9]

Here are the four options the President had in mid-1917: 1) He could have kept the United States neutral, accepting the risk of a German victory. 2) He could have justified total war, but on the realistic grounds of preserving the European balance of power and thus U.S. security.  3) He could have gone to war over neutral rights, as in 1812, and waged a naval campaign rather than shipping an army to France. Or 4) he could preach a crusade, a holy "war to end all war," enthrall Americans with that fantasy, and hope to persuade or cajole Europeans to convert as well.

Ferguson and others have speculated that the first option might have been best. The Kaiser was not Hitler after all, and after their sacrifices in a total war the Germans themselves would likely have demanded democratic reforms. Moreover, a German victory in the Great War might well have meant no fascism, no World War II, no Holocaust, and no Cold War.

Henry Kissinger and others have speculated that the second option (which was Theodore Roosevelt's preference) might have been best, with Americans helping to restore a balance of power on terms the Allies, the Germans, and the U.S. Senate could grudgingly have accepted.

Scholars such as myself have speculated that the third choice might have been best since a naval war would have been vastly cheaper in money, blood, and damage to civic values, would have given both sides a powerful new incentive to end the carnage, and would left Europe's Great Powers to hammer out a compromise peace. 10] As we know, Wilson chose the fourth option--presumably because he had persuaded himself that God was calling America to  redeem the  horrible war by turning it into a "war for righteousness." Liberal Protestant clergy, previously divided over the war, turned zealous. Celebrity pastor Lyman Abbott thought it "more than a coincidence" that the Senate went to war on Good Friday. He called Germany heathen, America righteous, and the war the climactic chapter in God's plan for redemption.

It's not that a crusade was wrong, just that he chose the wrong crusade.  Self-determination is the American value that was at stake.

Posted by orrinj at 3:52 PM


Did Manafort Use Trump to Curry Favor With a Putin Ally? : Emails turned over to investigators detail the former campaign chair's efforts to please an oligarch tied to the Kremlin. (JULIA IOFFE AND FRANKLIN FOER, 10/02/17, The Atlantic)

On the evening of April 11, 2016, two weeks after Donald Trump hired the political consultant  Paul Manafort to lead his campaign's efforts to wrangle Republican delegates, Manafort emailed his old lieutenant Konstantin Kilimnik, who had worked for him for a decade in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev.

"I assume you have shown our friends my media coverage, right?" Manafort wrote.

"Absolutely," Kilimnik responded a few hours later from Kiev. "Every article."

"How do we use to get whole," Manafort asks. "Has OVD operation seen?"

According to a source close to Manafort, the initials "OVD" refer to Oleg Vladimirovich Deripaska, a Russian oligarch and one of Russia's richest men. The source also confirmed that one of the individuals repeatedly mentioned in the email exchange as an intermediary to Deripaska is an aide to the oligarch.

Posted by orrinj at 3:38 PM


Stephen Paddock, Las Vegas Suspect, Was a Gambler, a Cipher, a 'Lone Wolf' (JOSE A. DELREAL and JONAH ENGEL BROMWICH, OCT. 2, 2017, NY Times)

His brother, Eric Paddock, who lives in Orlando, said he and his family were "shocked, horrified" by the news, saying he was "not an avid gun guy." The brother told CBS News that he knew Mr. Paddock had handguns, but that as far as he knew, Mr. Paddock did not own "machine guns."

"Where the hell did he get automatic weapons? He has no military background or anything like that," the brother said. "When you find out about him, like I said, he's a guy who lived in a house in Mesquite and drove down and gambled in Las Vegas."

Posted by orrinj at 3:36 PM


Another time in history that the US created travel bans -- against Italians (Maddalena Marinari, 10/02/17, PRI)

There was a time in US history when the government thought that a country was "not sending its best." A time when the government thought that immigrants' home countries could do more to help them screen who gets to come to the US.

It was Italy in the 1920s.

The way the Sudanese and US governments negotiated to keep Sudan off of the Trump administration's third travel ban is not a new diplomatic maneuver. A century ago, Italy too tried to negotiate its way out of restrictive immigration policies.

Like today, Americans at the end of the 19th century had fierce debates about which immigrants to admit to the US. In the midst of the largest global migration in history, many Americans remained divided over the need for immigrant labor to propel the country's meteoric economic rise and the desire to protect the US from immigrants from "inferior" countries -- at that time, China, Italy or Russia.

As one newspaper noted in the 1890s: "The floodgates are open. The bars are down. The sally-ports are unguarded. The dam is washed away. The sewer is unchoked. Europe is vomiting! In other words, the scum of immigration is viscerating [sic] upon our shores."

This story was made possible by you. Thank you for supporting the Global Nation Reporting Fund. Click to learn more.

Under pressure from a small but very organized lobby, the US government responded by passing increasingly sweeping immigration laws that spelled out which immigrants were admissible and which were excluded. They created barriers for those considered to be a threat -- physically, culturally or politically.

Despite the draconian legislation then, like now, the US could not hope to monitor who entered the country without the collaboration of other countries. It had influence but could not enforce its immigration laws by itself. So, the government established mechanisms of "remote control," and demanded that other countries cooperate in a visa-vetting regime.

It's not unlike what the Trump administration is demanding today.

October 1, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 6:47 PM


Catalans Signal They May Declare Independence Within a Week (Esteban Duarte and Maria Tadeo, 10/01/17, bLOOMBERG)

Catalan separatist leaders signaled they may be moving toward a unilateral declaration of independence as early as this week after hundreds of activists were injured on Sunday as they sought to stop Spanish police from shutting down an illegal referendum.

Catalan President Carles Puigdemont appealed to the European Union for support as he pledged to inform the regional parliament of the result of the vote in the coming days. The assembly will then act in line with the referendum law, Puigdemont said -- and that could lead to a unilateral declaration of independence within 48 hours of the notification.

"The citizens of Catalonia have won the right to have an independent state," Puigdemont said in a televised statement, flanked by members of his regional administration.

Two million Catalans backed independence out of 2.3 million votes cast in total, government spokesman Jordi Turull said at a press conference in the early hours of Monday. Just over 5 million people were eligible to vote. Before the government crackdown began, separatist leaders said they would be comfortable declaring independence with about 1.8 million votes.

And a regime that sends armed forces to prevent the vote acknowledges it.

Posted by orrinj at 6:18 PM


The Royal Netherlands Navy is 3D scanning all their ships (Dani Deahl, Oct 1, 2017, Verge)

Marinebedrijf Koninklijke Marine, is the organization responsible for maintaining the vessels of the Royal Netherlands Navy, and recently partnered with Artec 3D to 3D scan the country's entire naval fleet, according to Naval Technology.

The project is a massive undertaking, but once complete, it will dramatically speed up ship maintenance and replacement part fabrication. As some parts don't have manufacturing blueprints or 3D CAD files available, these scans will not only serve as a reference library, but will also allow the navy to print components for ships like submarines or minehunters on demand.

Posted by orrinj at 6:02 PM


Trump's Puerto Rico response tests the limits of his fondness for grudges : The president has been criticized for personally attacking the mayor of San Juan amid a growing humanitarian crisis, but it's in line with how he's always responded to critics. (ANNIE KARNI,  10/01/2017, Politico)

The message followed a series of tweets on Saturday lashing out at Carmen Yulín Cruz, the mayor of San Juan, accusing her of "such poor leadership ability" in not getting people on the ground to help.

It was a direct response to her emotional news conference Friday night, in which she begged the president for more help. "We are dying here," Cruz said, slamming down two thick binders of documentation that San Juan had provided to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to obtain help.

In another world, Cruz's frustration with the layers of bureaucracy standing between her wiped-out city and food and water delivery might have been in line with Trump's own interest in cutting regulations and red tape.

The props she used were similar to charts Trump has wielded at news conferences to demonstrate how obtuse the country's permitting and regulatory process can be. But Cruz's plea was interpreted by Trump as a personal insult.

"I am asking the president of the United States to make sure somebody is in charge, that is up to the task of saving lives," she said. "If anybody out there is listening to us, we are dying, and you are killing us with the inefficiency."

On Twitter, Trump noted that Cruz had been "very complimentary" to him in the past. "They want everything to be done for them," he complained, "when it should be a community effort."

To longtime Trump watchers, Trump's personal reaction to Cruz was par for the course. Last weekend, he revoked an invitation for NBA star Stephen Curry to visit the White House with his team after Curry slighted him by saying he did not want the team to make the trip.

From the perch of the presidency, he has gone after morning show hosts such as Mika Brzezinski; lawmakers from his own party, such as Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain; and members of his own Cabinet -- most notably, Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He has even taken on the NFL.

Trump's criticism of Cruz was in line with how he has reacted for years to individuals who have criticized him personally.

Posted by orrinj at 5:51 PM


Why doesn't Donald Trump care about Puerto Ricans? Because they can't vote for him  (Skylar Baker-Jordan, 10/01/17, The Independent)

When Trump did mention Puerto Rico publicly, it was to praise the federal response to the disaster - in direct contradiction to the reports of those on the ground - or to pick a fight with Cruz, who has been extremely critical of the President's response to the hurricane. Trump shot back by claiming Puerto Ricans "want everything done for them" and pointed to the commonwealth's debt crisis as an excuse, without offering any evidence as to why that is a factor - because there is none.

The federal government, on Trump's orders, went into Texas and Florida following recent hurricanes and devastating flooding, bringing the full force of the US government with them on their rescue and recovery missions. Trump himself visited Texas twice following the storm. And while yes, Puerto Rico is an island in the middle of the Caribbean Sea (as Trump pointed out as though this were brand new information), it's not exactly the South Pole. We know that the federal government can mobilise quickly and efficiently following a disaster, so none of this is an excuse for why they haven't in Puerto Rico.

Texas and Florida are both states Trump won in the election, while Puerto Rico can't vote in presidential elections. If one thing has become painfully clear over the past eight months, from his inaugural speech to his comments following Charlottesville, Trump intends to be President only for those who voted for him.

The vast majority of those people are white. Texas and Florida both have heavy Latino populations; Puerto Rico is predominantly Latino and Black and almost entirely Spanish-speaking. Given Trump's views on race, and Latinos in particular, it's easy to see why the President didn't give a damn a moment before he politically had to: he simply doesn't care.

But he needs to. As of Saturday night, about half the island lacked portable water and experts were warning it could be six months before the electric grid was up and running. The Army Corps of Engineers said Puerto Rico looked a lot like Iraq following America's 2003 invasion.

Watching all of this unfold has been horrifying for the millions of Puerto Ricans on the mainland, many of whom can't contact family back home and have no way of knowing if they are safe. It has been pure hell for the millions of Puerto Ricans on the island who are struggling to survive. And it has been shameful to the rest of us who look at our fellow citizens suffering and a President indifferent, at best, to their plight.

Posted by orrinj at 11:18 AM

Posted by orrinj at 8:46 AM


Posted by orrinj at 8:41 AM


Trump Turns the Presidency Into a Modern Monarchy : The president hogs the headlines, but the real power resides with trusted advisers, congressional leaders, and well-placed bureaucrats (Josh Kraushaar, 10/01/17, National Journal)'

America under President Trump isn't becoming an autocracy, as some recently feared. Our country's democratic institutions have demonstrated their resilience, the media have rediscovered the importance of checking those in power, and the bureaucracy has demonstrated that simple inertia can overwhelm even the most committed demagogues.

I've struggled how to precisely describe this moment in American history, in which the leader of the free world is an erratic, demagogic celebrity who dominates every nook and cranny of public life like no president before him--yet is so weak institutionally that he can't pass any legislation with his party fully in charge. In February, I anticipated that the Trump administration was "more likely to look like a tragi-comedy, not a horror story." Still, that doesn't fully capture the uniqueness of this moment in American politics.

The Trump administration resembles an American version of a monarchy, in which the head of state consumes outsize attention but has ceded significant power to trusted advisers, his party's leadership in Congress, and well-placed bureaucrats across the government. The triumvirate of Defense Secretary James Mattis, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has remarkable autonomy to steer the nation's foreign policy. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is shouldering all the blame for the president's inability to rally support for health care reform. Trump may have humiliated Attorney General Jeff Sessions, but the Department of Justice is actively revamping policy on drug sentencing, cracking down on sanctuary cities, and fighting censorious administrators on college campuses.

Clearly, Trump has actual powers--as opposed to the symbolic roles of a Queen Elizabeth--but it's remarkable to see how much the traditional powers of the presidency have been shrunk. Mattis, his Defense secretary, didn't carry out Trump's tweeted order to ban transgender people from the military. Many foreign governments have learned to ignore the presidential tweets and listen to his advisers to get a better sense of administration policy. Even the despotic North Korean government reportedly was reaching out to conservative think tanks to understand whether to believe Trump's threatening bluster.

Posted by orrinj at 8:33 AM


Startup Cities No one says you need to start up in your home town. From coast to coast, here are the 10 U.S. cities nurturing the most fast-growing private companies of 2017. (Kaitlyn Wang, 10/01/17, Inc.com)

6. Los Angeles There's more to L.A. than Hollywood. Seventy of this year's Inc. 5000 companies call California's biggest city home. The front of the pack? Ice cream darling Halo Top Creamery (No. 5).

Posted by orrinj at 8:15 AM


Paris experiments with 'car-free day' across city (Marie WOLFROM, October 1, 2017, AFP)

Sunday marks the third time the French capital has experimented with a car ban, but it is by far the most ambitious with the zone set aside for pedestrians or cyclists covering the entire historic heart of the city -- 105 square kilometres (40 square miles).

"This initiative requires an enormous amount of preparation," city mayor Anne Hidalgo told Le Parisien newspaper on Sunday. "Particularly because this year the zone has been enlarged to the whole of Paris."

Hidalgo, a Socialist, was elected in 2014 promising to tackle pollution in the capital and she has focused on building new bus and cycle lanes and reclaiming roads -- leading critics to see her agenda as too radical and anti-car.

Radically pro-tourist.

Posted by orrinj at 8:10 AM


How a heartbroken doomsday prepper who lost everything is now saving hurricane victims (Rebecca Everett, 9/28/17, NJ.com)

MEDFORD TWP. -- You probably wouldn't expect to find a doomsday prepper's compound at the end of a nice cul-de-sac off of Tuckerton Road, otherwise lined with large houses with pools.
But that's where Joseph Badame, 74, has spent most of his life, building and outfitting his home and outbuildings for the day when, he believes, an economic collapse will make it all necessary for survival.

If you're picturing a reclusive wildman wearing camouflage, think again.

Badame is an educated, intelligent, mild-mannered architect who is involved in his church, among other things. Until the death of his beloved wife, Phyliss, in 2013, the passion for prepping was something they shared.

The shelter he built and his accumulation of supplies -- enough so that 100 people could live there -- was Badame's life's work. The couple built the place, with its subterranean living area and lead-lined bomb shelter, along with outbuildings. For forty years, they filled them with everything they'd need, from coal furnaces and kerosene refrigerators to barrels of food and other supplies.

But he's losing it all now, after the bank foreclosed on his property.

"I'm losing this house," he said, looking at the building from his driveway Monday. It's a blow to a man who is still heartbroken from losing his wife. "This will never be a survival dwelling for Phyliss or I."

But, he admits, his passion for creating the perfect shelter has diminished since his wife's death, and there are few family members and friends left to worry about saving.

"I described myself as a spirit in search of a purpose," he said.

Remarkably, he found what he was looking for before the estate sale this past weekend, when he met Victoria Martinez-Barber, 30. She and her husband, Anthony Barber, were hired to provide food at the estate sale through Tony & Tori's Grill, the food truck they run.

Martinez-Barber told Badame that all the money from the food truck was going to help her family in Puerto Rico. They were alive, but homeless and hungry in Arecibo thanks to Hurricane Maria.

He donated $100. Then he showed her his food store room.

Posted by orrinj at 8:03 AM


It's not easy to be the least-informed reality tv star.
Posted by orrinj at 7:53 AM


The Mind of John McPhee (Sam Anderson, Sep. 28th, 2017, NY Times Magazine)

When you call John McPhee on the phone, he is instantly John McPhee. McPhee is now 86 years old, and each of those years seems to be filed away inside of him, loaded with information, ready to access. I was calling to arrange a visit to Princeton, N.J., where McPhee lives and teaches writing. He was going to give me driving directions. He asked where I was coming from. I told him the name of my town, about 100 miles away.

"I've been there," McPhee said, with the mild surprise of someone who has just found a $5 bill in a coat pocket. He proceeded to tell me a story of the time he had a picnic at the top of our local mountain, with a small party that included the wife of Alger Hiss, the former United States official who, at the height of McCarthyism, was disgraced by allegations of spying for the Russians. 

A Miami-based security company co-founded by G. Gordon Liddy, the convicted Watergate burglar who became a television and movie villain, has sought protection from its creditors under the Federal Bankruptcy Code.

Posted by orrinj at 7:49 AM


Mayo Clinic Offers First-Aid Advice via Amazon's Alexa (Joe Carlson, 10/01/17, Star Tribune)

Alexa, forget my grocery list and morning traffic reports. Tell me about CPR.

Alexa, Amazon's voice-activated digital assistant for the home, has learned a new skill -- dispensing medical information about first aid from one of the best-known names in medicine, Minnesota's Mayo Clinic.

The information is accessible by speaking to the Amazon device, which users might appreciate if they're busy doing something with their hands, like putting aloe on a burn or examining someone who has stopped breathing.

Posted by orrinj at 7:48 AM


Robotic Hamburger Flipper Lands First Job (Gene Marks, 10/01/17, The Washington Post)

According to a report recently in TechCrunch, a fast-casual restaurant chain headquartered in Southern California called Caliburger is installing robotic hamburger-flipping chefs in its Pasadena location and then plans to roll them out to its other 49 outlets around the world over the next few years. Caliburger's Pasadena location is conveniently located in the same town as Miso Robotics, a start-up that's developed its hamburger flipping, "robotic kitchen assistant" called -- not unsurprisingly -- Flippy.

Flippy is a robot, or more specifically a very specialized industrial six-axis robotic arm that is bolted to the kitchen floor in front of a grill or fryer and has a "spinning spatula" that cooks the food.

The unit receives data from thermal and 3D sensors as well as cameras and takes its orders through a digital ticketing system.

It is capable of grabbing and unwrapping food, keeping track of cooking time and temperature and then plating the food so that a human chef can add garnishes.

Posted by orrinj at 7:21 AM

CITIES WERE A MISTAKE (self-reference alert):

Jared Kushner's Entitlement Is New Jersey Born and Bred (LUCINDA ROSENFELD, SEPT. 29, 2017, NY Times)

Anyone who has ever driven on the New Jersey Turnpike knows that, at a certain point in the road, the entire Manhattan skyline appears to rise from the surrounding marshland like a close-yet-so-far Land of Oz, both tempting and terrorizing with its mysterious jutting cutouts. To traverse this roadway, as Mr. Kushner surely did as a young man, was undoubtedly to exist in a constant state of aspiration and alienation. No matter one's personal glories, for those who call New Jersey home, and especially those who reside in Northern New Jersey, it's difficult to forget that one is still not from "the city," as the landmass across the river is known. Overcompensation tends to follow. Blind arrogance is an occasional byproduct.

Eagle Rock park affords an especially good view of the NYC skyline and I spent the same years thinking how ugly it was, especially the heinous Twin Towers.  The problem with Mr. Kushner's upbringing was not location but parenting.

Posted by orrinj at 7:15 AM


Speaking Ill of Hugh Hefner (Ross Douthat SEPT. 30, 2017, NY Times)

Hugh Hefner, gone to his reward at the age of 91, was a pornographer and chauvinist who got rich on masturbation, consumerism and the exploitation of women, aged into a leering grotesque in a captain's hat, and died a pack rat in a decaying manse where porn blared during his pathetic orgies.

Hef was the grinning pimp of the sexual revolution, with quaaludes for the ladies and Viagra for himself -- a father of smut addictions and eating disorders, abortions and divorce and syphilis, a pretentious huckster who published Updike stories no one read while doing flesh procurement for celebrities, a revolutionary whose revolution chiefly benefited men much like himself.

The arc of his life vindicated his moral critics, conservative and feminist: What began with talk of jazz and Picasso and other signifiers of good taste ended in a sleazy decrepitude that would have been pitiable if it wasn't still so exploitative.

Early Hef had a pipe and suit and a highbrow reference for every occasion; he even claimed to have a philosophy, that final refuge of the scoundrel. But late Hef was a lecherous, low-brow Peter Pan, playing at perpetual boyhood -- ice cream for breakfast, pajamas all day -- while bodyguards shooed male celebrities away from his paid harem and the skull grinned beneath his papery skin.