November 14, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 5:07 PM


Justice Dept. to Weigh Inquiry Into Clinton Foundation (Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman, Nov. 13, 2017, NY Times)

 The Justice Department said Monday that prosecutors were looking into whether a special counsel should be appointed to investigate political rivals President Trump has singled out for scrutiny, including Hillary Clinton. [...]

The letter appeared to be a direct response to Mr. Trump's statement on Nov. 3, when he said he was disappointed with his beleaguered attorney general, Jeff Sessions, and that longstanding unproven allegations about the Clintons and the Obama administration should be investigated.

Let us be the first to get on record as alleging that the Special Counsel is irreparably tainted as evidenced by his failure to indict.

Posted by orrinj at 5:04 PM


Pool of negative yielding debt swells to nearly $11tn (Financial Times, 11/14/17)

Nearly $11tn of sovereign and corporate bonds trade with a yield below zero, according to data from Bloomberg Barclays Indices. The $10.9tn figure includes notes and bonds in the benchmark global aggregate index as well as Bloomberg Barclays' US, Euro, UK and Japanese short-Treasury indices at the end of October.

Posted by orrinj at 4:47 PM



HACKING FACE ID, the facial recognition system built into Apple's iPhone X, isn't easy. Unless, it turns out, you're a very specific hacker--say, a rare 10-year-old kid, trying to break into the phone of whichever of your parents looks the most like you.

Attaullah Malik and Sana Sherwani made that discovery earlier this month, when their fifth-grade son, Ammar Malik, walked into the bedroom of their Staten Island home to admire their new pair of iPhone Xs just after they'd set up Face ID. "There's no way you're getting access to this phone," the older Malik remembers his wife telling her son, in a half-joking show of strictness.

Malik offered to let Ammar look at his phone instead, but the boy picked up his mother's, not knowing which was which. And a split second after he looked at it, the phone unlocked.

The boy who looks exactly like his Mom can obviously never go near a schoolyard again.

Posted by orrinj at 4:45 PM


Secret Finding: 60 Russian Payments "To Finance Election Campaign Of 2016" (Jason Leopold (BuzzFeed News Reporter) Anthony Cormier (BuzzFeed News Reporter) Jessica Garrison (BuzzFeed News Reporter), 12/14/17, BuzzFeed News)

On Aug. 3 of last year, just as the US presidential election was entering its final, heated phase, the Russian foreign ministry sent nearly $30,000 to its embassy in Washington. The wire transfer, which came from a Kremlin-backed Russian bank, landed in one of the embassy's Citibank accounts and contained a remarkable memo line: "to finance election campaign of 2016."

That wire transfer is one of more than 60 now being scrutinized by the FBI and other federal agencies investigating Russian involvement in the US election. The transactions, which moved through Citibank accounts and totaled more than $380,000, each came from the Russian foreign ministry and most contained a memo line referencing the financing of the 2016 election.

Posted by orrinj at 1:43 PM



In the wake of the Equifax scandal, Congress has been under pressure to act. But the price of modest reforms in Washington is often much larger giveaways elsewhere, and that pattern holds true in the agreement announced Monday between nine Senate Democrats and the top Republican on the Senate Banking Committee. [...]

Four Banking Committee Democrats -- Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Mark Warner, D-Va. -- negotiated the bill with committee chair Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, after ranking Democrat Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, broke off talks on a compromise bill with Crapo just last month. Warner's Virginia colleague Tim Kaine, last year's vice presidential nominee, signed on as an original co-sponsor of the bill, along with Joe Manchin D-W.Va., Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., Gary Peters D-Mich., and Angus King, I-Maine, who caucuses with Democrats. The Democratic support would give the legislation enough support to break a filibuster, if all Republicans signed on.

Posted by orrinj at 7:20 AM


Publius' Conservative Values (GREG WEINE, 11/14/17, Law & Liberty)

[F]ederalist 6 isn't only about the nature of commercial republics or the proclivity of polities toward conflict, but also about the method of political science. Hamilton identifies his choices clearly. Suggestively, he dismisses as "projectors in politics" those who count on a pacific relationship between the states. Their plans and predictions are founded on air. Hamilton, by contrast, looks back into the concretely known, enjoining his reader: "Let experience, the least fallible guide of human opinions, be appealed to for an answer to these inquiries."

Hamilton returns repeatedly to the differences between off-the-cuff speculation and on-the-ground experience. In Federalist 8, still detailing the possibilities of interstate conflict, he declares that "these are not vague inferences deduced from speculative defects in a constitution . . . they are solid conclusions, drawn from the natural and necessary progress of human affairs." Federalist 15 calls experience "that best oracle of wisdom."

Nor does his writing partner, James Madison--author of some of The Federalist's boldest appeals to reason--much disagree. In the course of Federalist 14's famous appeal to reason, Madison writes:

Is it not the glory of the people of America, that whilst they have paid a decent regard to the opinions of former times and other nations, they have not suffered a blind veneration for antiquity, for custom, or for names, to over-rule the suggestions of their own good sense, the knowledge of their own situation, and the lessons of their own experience?

Notice that what Madison rejects is "a blind veneration" of the old and traditional, which conservatism does not require. Conservatism requires giving the past due deference as an accumulated storehouse of wisdom and experience. What Madison calls reason is not the abstract, speculative reason that repels the Burkean. It is, rather, rooted in "good sense," one's "situation"--that is, concrete circumstances--and in what "experience" teaches.

Similarly, Madison's Federalist 37, which delineates the difficulties the Philadelphia Convention faced, points to experience as a guide even as it acknowledges its limited scope in the American constitutional context:

The most that the convention could do in such a situation, was to avoid the errors suggested by the past experience of other countries, as well as of our own; and to provide a convenient mode of rectifying their own errors as future experience may unfold them.

The succeeding paper adds that any errors in the Constitution result from a lack of experience and, crucially, that only future experience will reveal them. Earlier, in Federalist 20, Madison had called experience "the oracle of truth; and where its responses are unequivocal, they ought to be conclusive and sacred." He proceeds in Federalist 52 to call experience "the guide that ought always to be followed whenever it can be found."

Any reader of The Federalist is familiar with Publius' method of historical inquiry, which ranges from the experience of Greek confederacies to that of medieval and contemporary Europe. By Federalist 85, the concluding paper, Hamilton--having begun the enterprise with a call to "reflection and choice"--has come full circle. There, referring to David Hume, Hamilton writes:

The zeal for attempts to amend, prior to the establishment of the constitution, must abate in every man, who is ready to accede to the truth of the following observations of a writer, equally solid and ingenious: "to balance a large state or society (says he) whether monarchical or republican, on general laws, is a work of so great difficulty, that no human genius, however comprehensive, is able by the mere dint of reason and reflection, to effect it. The judgments of many must unite in the work: EXPERIENCE must guide their labour: TIME must bring it to perfection: and the FEELING OF inconveniences must correct the mistakes which they inevitably fall into, in their first trials and experiments." (Emphasis in original.)

Hume rejects "mere" reason and reflection, by which he means the isolated individual speculating in the abstract. Such is the case for Hamilton too.

Posted by orrinj at 7:19 AM


Posted by orrinj at 7:03 AM


Russia says U.S. providing cover for Islamic State in Syria (Reuters, 11/14/17) 

The United States is providing de-facto cover for Islamic State units in Syria and only pretending to fight terrorism in the Middle East, the Russian Defence Ministry said on Tuesday.

Only Vlad and his bots thought he could be in Syria without having to fight the Salafi.

Posted by orrinj at 6:31 AM


Qatari emir says 'thousand times better off' without Gulf allies (Middle East Online, 11/14/17)

Months into a dispute that has seen Doha cut off from Saudi Arabia and the UAE, Qatar's emir said Tuesday his country was "a thousand times better off" without them.

In a speech to the Shura Council, the upper house of parliament, Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani said his government had nonetheless put in place contingency plans as he expected the bitter political dispute with his neighbours and former allies to drag on. [...]

Iran, Turkey and most recently Spain have stepped in to help Qatar secure food imports amid a boycott by four Arab states.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt in June announced they had severed ties with Qatar, sealing off the emirate's only land border in the wide-ranging boycott.

They accuse Qatar's government of supporting Islamist extremism and fostering close ties with Iran.