February 13, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 6:11 PM


Posted by orrinj at 5:58 PM


Trump pitches plan to replace food stamps with food boxes (HELENA BOTTEMILLER EVICH, 02/12/2018, Politico)

The Trump administration is proposing to save billions in the coming years by giving low-income families a box of government-picked, nonperishable foods every month instead of food stamps. [...]

The proposal, buried in the White House's fiscal 2019 budget, would replace about half of the money most families receive via the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps, with what the Department of Agriculture is calling "America's Harvest Box." That package would be made up of "100 percent U.S. grown and produced food" and would include items like shelf-stable milk, peanut butter, canned fruits and meats, and cereal.

We're agnostic on the idea, but glory in the thought of the Right's reaction if Michelle proposed doing shopping for Americans.

Posted by orrinj at 5:55 PM


FBI's Wray contradicts White House on Porter background check (Steve Holland, Roberta Rampton, 2/13/18, Reuters) 

FBI Director Christopher Wray on Tuesday contradicted the White House version of events surrounding the background check for a former top aide accused of domestic abuse by two ex-wives, increasing pressure on the White House to explain what happened.

Wray, in testimony on Capitol Hill, said the agency completed in late July a background check for security clearance for then-White House staff secretary Rob Porter, who resigned under pressure last Wednesday amid the abuse allegations.

Posted by orrinj at 5:15 PM


The Anglosphere: A Viable Global Actor or Simply a Culture? (SAMUEL GREGG, 2/02/15, Library of Law & Liberty)

With some significant qualifications, I would submit that a core Anglosphere group of nations continues to exist as a discernible global political player. Whether this is reinforced or weakens over time, however, is going to depend upon the choices made by the leaders of core Anglosphere countries.

Let's start by identifying some of the qualifications. In the first place, we should not exaggerate the prominence of particular elements often associated with Anglosphere countries. Much is made, for instance, of the strong influence of common law in these nations. Historically speaking, the English legal system does possess a strong common law element that has profoundly shaped most English-speaking peoples' legal systems and is not often found outside the English-speaking world.

We should recall, however, that the absolute sovereignty of Parliament had long placed considerable checks upon the influence of precedent and case law in the English, Scottish, Australian, and New Zealand legal systems. Over time, the common law element in English law has also been shaped and modified by constitutional law, chancery law, and even canon law. In more recent decades, England's and Scotland's legal systems have been very influenced by laws and regulations proceeding from Britain's membership of the European Union. Court decisions in the United States and Canada have likewise constrained (and, in some cases, terminated) the influence of precedents embodied and developed through case law.

Second, Anglosphere nations are generally viewed as being more committed to the market economy and economic liberty than to the neo-corporatist and social democratic policies and institutions that prevail on the Continent. There is much truth to this. Even today, the Wall Street Journal/Heritage Foundation's 2014 Index of Economic Freedom lists five former British colonies--Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada--and one former part of Great Britain (Ireland) in the world's top 10 freest economies. The same index, however, also underscores that, economically speaking, Denmark and Chile are freer than the two biggest Anglosphere nations: the United States and Britain. In November 2014, a report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) illustrated that the United States is now the world's second biggest social spender in terms of percentage of annual GDP, exceeded only by France.

While the core Anglosphere nations seem to share a stronger and more persistent belief in markets than Continental Western Europeans, they have differed as to how to apply market-orientated approaches to international economic policies. Even before Barack Obama's election as President, Australia and New Zealand had shown a far more consistent commitment to promoting global free trade and reducing subsidies than the United States, resulting in at times significant bilateral tensions. In the late 1980s, for example, the Australian government was so frustrated by the damage that U.S. agricultural subsidies inflicted upon Australian farmers that it contemplated raising with its U.S. counterparts the possibility of discontinuing the joint intelligence facilities located in Northern Australia--facilities that remain crucial to Washington's capacity to engage in global intelligence surveillance.

In terms of foreign and defense policy, the English-speaking nations were, as Andrew Roberts has written, the main bulwark of opposition to Imperial Germany, Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, and Soviet Communism over the course of World War I, World War II, and the Cold War. In the case of the last-mentioned, this was underscored by numerous intelligence-sharing arrangements, security treaties such as ANZUS, not to mention the oft-cited Special Relationship between Britain and America. These constructs remain largely in place today.

They have not, however, always translated into the type of concrete commitments desired by some participating members. Though there was considerable pressure from the United States, British and Canadian troops did not fight in Vietnam. Nor did the alliances always hold up under the force of domestic political pressures. In the 1980s, for instance, a very serious rift developed between New Zealand on the one hand, and America and Australia on the other, over New Zealand's adoption of nuclear-free policies--so much so that the "NZ" in "ANZUS" effectively became inoperative for a significant time. Canada did not formally participate in the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 on the grounds that it believed such a war required an explicit United Nations authorization, a view rejected by the United States, Britain, and Australia at the time. (Some Canadian personnel did assist in training Iraqi forces after the invasion, and Ottawa contributed financially to postwar reconstruction efforts.)

All these qualifications remind us that today's core Anglosphere is not an entity similar to that of the Roman Empire or the British Empire. Nor is it a type of American dominion, even though the United States easily outweighs all other core Anglosphere nations put together in terms of economic and military strength. The same qualifications illustrate that the national interests of, for instance, Britain are not identical to those of America, which in turn are not precisely the same as those of Canada, New Zealand, or Australia.

At the same time, a considerable degree of what might be called commonality of purpose has persisted across the core Anglosphere nations. In the realm of economics, for instance, a certain commitment to market-based policies has tended to prevail among core Anglosphere nations, and in ways that often transcend internal ideological divisions. As the historian William Hay has argued, Britain's and America's turn to the market economy under conservative leaders in the 1980s was decisive in diminishing the influence of Keynesian and corporatist policies and structures throughout much of the world. To this one could add that such views were quickly embraced--and, in some respects, more radically--by New Zealand and Australia, notably under the auspices of Labor governments. Even today, interest groups that push for corporatist or protectionist policies arguably find it harder to gain political traction in core Anglosphere countries than their counterparts in Western European nations. One even hears figures as rooted in the American Left as President Obama praising entrepreneurship and publicly affirming free trade less grudgingly than, for instance, France's President François Hollande.

Concerning foreign and defense policy, the core Anglosphere nations--especially the United States, Britain, and Australia (including when the center-left has been in power)--have generally been more willing to not only deploy military force but to do so in concert with each other than most Continental countries. Generally the latter seem more inclined to put their trust in international organizations and international treaties, perhaps because many of them were left physically devastated by two world wars in the space of less than 30 years in ways that core Anglosphere nations were not.

Posted by orrinj at 2:59 PM


Israel Police Recommend Charging Netanyahu With Bribery In Two Cases (Josh Breiner, 2/13/18, Haaretz)

This is a developing story. Israel Police will recommend indicting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in two corruption investigations.

The two cases are the so-called Case 1000 - in which Netanyahu is suspected of accepting lavish gifts from wealthy benefactors in return for advancing their interests - and Case 2000, which alleges that Netanyahu tried to strike a deal that would have provided him with positive coverage in Israel's second largest newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, in exchange for hurting its free rival, Israel Hayom.

The publisher of Yedioth Ahronoth, Arnon Mozes, will also be charged, as will Arnon Milchan, who allegedly provided Netanyahu with gifts. Netanyahu will address the public in a live broadcast at 8:45 P.M.

Posted by orrinj at 12:04 PM


Chinese Factory Creating 'Smart' Sexbots (PAUL BOIS, February 2, 2018, Daily Wire)

A company in China is seeking to revolutionize the booming sexbot trade by making their silicone companions have conversations and even do household chores.

Posted by orrinj at 12:03 PM


3 Trump properties posted 144 openings for seasonal jobs. Only one went to a US worker. (Alexia Fernández Campbell, 2/13/18, @vox.com)

President Donald Trump's businesses don't seem too concerned about "America First."

A Vox analysis of hiring records for seasonal workers at three Trump properties in New York and Florida revealed that only one out of 144 jobs went to a US worker from 2016 to the end of 2017. Foreign guest workers with H-2B visas got the rest.

Posted by orrinj at 9:39 AM


'Anglo-American' Is a Common Legal and Historical Term, It Is Not a 'Dog Whistle' (Charles C. W. Cooke, February 12, 2018, National Review)

Here's Senator Obama in 2006, arguing in favor of habeas corpus on the Senate floor:

The world is watching what we do today in America. They will know what we do here today, and they will treat all of us accordingly in the future--our soldiers, our diplomats, our journalists, anybody who travels beyond these borders. I hope we remember this as we go forward. I sincerely hope we can protect what has been called the "great writ"--a writ that has been in place in the Anglo-American legal system for over 700 years.

And here's Obama during the 2008 campaign, making broadly the same point:

But Obama, who taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago for more than a decade, said captured suspects deserve to file writs of habeus corpus.

Calling it "the foundation of Anglo-American law," he said the principle "says very simply: If the government grabs you, then you have the right to at least ask, 'Why was I grabbed?' And say, 'Maybe you've got the wrong person.'"

The safeguard is essential, Obama continued, "because we don't always have the right person."

And here's Obama as president, at it again:

Obama would not say whether it could be achieved within the first 100 days of his term, citing the challenge of creating a balanced process "that adheres to rule of law, habeas corpus, basic principles of Anglo-American legal system, but doing it in a way that doesn't result in releasing people who are intent on blowing us up.

This usage -- which is precisely the same as Sessions's -- is common, it is quotidian, it is downright normal. It is found in legal textbooks, in works of history, and in Supreme Court opinions alike. More important, it's extremely useful. We need a term that means "long within the unusual legal tradition that predated the independence of this nation," and "Anglo-American" works perfectly in that role. If we allow it to be taken from us by the hysterical and the unlettered, we'll be considerably worse off for it.

In fairness, it's the opposite usage, but Beauregard may well have meant to invoke the basic idea.
Posted by orrinj at 4:22 AM


Rouhani suggests direct public vote to end political gridlock (Al Monitor, Feb. 13th, 2018)

Rouhani continued, "If we have differences on two issues, or the factions have differences, or they are fighting, bring the ballot box out and according to Article 59 of the constitution, whatever the people have decided, implement that. Our constitution has this capacity, and we must act within the capacity of our constitution." Rouhani's Twitter account also later tweeted this segment of the speech.

Rouhani, who has been opposed by the country's hard-liners and unelected officials since first taking office in 2013, has faced stiff resistance in introducing social and economic reforms, despite his re-election in 2017. His comments about a direct vote are an indirect criticism of the Guardian Council, a 12-member body that vets candidates who run in Iran's elections and vets laws passed by Iran's parliament. The supreme leader selects six members of the council. The other six are elected by parliament among nominees recommended by the head of the judiciary, who himself is appointed by the supreme leader.

Unlike the hard-liners in unelected positions, Rouhani and other moderates and Reformists have relied on elections to stay in power. This is why in earlier parts of the speech, Rouhani asked the Guardian Council to make participation and running in elections easier. "To protect the system and the revolution, we have no other path than the participation of the people. And if our revolution has remained, it is because of elections."

He continued, "We have to ease the path to elections for the people." Rouhani means the path to running as candidates, not necessarily voting, given that in Iran voting falls on a Friday, which is the equivalent of a Sunday in the United States.

Posted by orrinj at 4:06 AM


TRUMPONOMICS: Feds Just Made History In Tax Collection. Here Are The Numbers. (JAMES BARRETT February 13, 2018, Daily Wire)

The economy is surging, unemployment's near a 45-year low, wages are up by nearly 3% -- and the federal government is enjoying the fruits of all that "Trump Boom" labor. According to the Monthly Treasury Statement released this week, the federal government just raked in more in taxes in the first four months of the fiscal year than any other year, broke the January record for tax collection, and ran a surplus for the first time in months.

In the month of January, which reflects some of the changes from the GOP's $1.5 trillion tax cut bill, the U.S. Department of the Treasury collected just over $361 billion (approx. $361,038,000,000) in total tax revenues, a record for the month of January.

While the feds collected $361 billion, they managed to spend about $49 billion less: $312 billion (approx. $311,802,000,000). That $49 billion surplus helped chip away at the deficit from the previous months of fiscal year 2018, which now stands at almost $176 billion ($175,718,000,000) for this fiscal year.

As CNS explains, the total tax revenues collected in the first four months of FY2018 (approx. $1,130,550,000,000) are the most ever collected in the same period.

Posted by orrinj at 4:04 AM


'Colossal' American oil boom could spoil OPEC's plans (Ivana Kottasová, February 13, 2018, CNN Money)

This is the kind of stuff that keeps OPEC up at night.

The oil cartel and key ally Russia have spent more than a year trying to drain the world of excess supply. But the International Energy Agency warned Tuesday that a "colossal" oil boom in the United States could ruin their efforts.

The Paris-based agency said that a massive increase in output means the U.S. will soon be producing more oil than Saudi Arabia. It could soon challenge Russia for the global crown.

The manic American pumping, which the IEA estimates will average 10.4 million barrels a day this year, could cause a glut to return to global markets.

Posted by orrinj at 4:03 AM


A Whirlwind Envelops the White House, and the Revolving Door Spins (PETER BAKER, FEB. 12, 2018, NY Times)

The doors at the White House have been swinging a lot lately. A deputy chief of staff moved on. A speechwriter resigned. The associate attorney general stepped down. The chief of staff offered to quit. And that was just Friday.

All of that came after the departure of Rob Porter, the White House staff secretary who cleared out his office last week amid accusations of spousal abuse. The White House had overlooked reported problems with his security clearance last year in part, officials said, because of a reluctance to lose yet another senior aide, particularly one seen as so professional and reliable.

More than a year into his administration, President Trump is presiding over a staff in turmoil, one with a 34 percent turnover rate, higher than any White House in decades. He has struggled to fill openings, unwilling to hire Republicans he considers disloyal and unable to entice Republicans who consider him unstable. Those who do come to work for him often do not last long, burning out from a volatile, sometimes cutthroat environment exacerbated by tweets and subpoenas. [...]

Grueling in the best of times, an administration job now seems even less appealing to many potential recruits. Republican operatives said they worry not only about the pressure-cooker, soap-opera atmosphere and the danger of being drawn into the special counsel investigation of Russia's election interference but also about hurting their careers after the White House.

"There isn't a huge appetite from many Republicans on the outside to explore job opportunities in this administration," said Ryan Williams, a former spokesman for Mitt Romney, the party's 2012 presidential nominee. "While there are a lot of vacancies and usually a position in the White House is one of the most prestigious jobs in Washington, that's just not the feeling with this administration, given the turmoil and the chaos."

The dregs are the best they can hope to hire.
Posted by orrinj at 3:54 AM


New Book's "Case Against Education" Is a Persuasive One (Logan Albright
Feb. 12th, 2018, FEE)

We know that more educated people tend to make more money, and it's easy to use that statistic as a defense of the education system, but Caplan's thesis is that a significant portion of the salary bonus for graduates comes not from increased ability. Instead, it is the result of what he calls "signaling." In other words, having a degree demonstrates to employers that you know how to follow orders, work hard, and finish what you've started, all valuable skills in the workplace. People with lower levels of education may well have these skills too, but a degree provides a convenient way for employers to separate the wheat from the chaff in a competitive labor market.

Viewed in this light, the idle musings of politicians for universal college enrollment actually constitute a nightmare scenario. In a world where everyone has a bachelor's degree, employers will look for graduate degrees to determine who is really willing to go the extra mile and work the hardest. Everyone will have to put in more time, money, and effort towards obtaining more educational credentials, only to end up exactly where they were before the well-intentioned degree inflation took place.

It's an arms race where everybody loses, and there's no reason it will stop at college degrees. The same do-gooders who made it possible for everyone to have a bachelor's degree will soon want to give everyone a Ph.D. Children used to start school at six years old. Then kindergarten kicked in at five. Then pre-K at four. Pretty soon, babies just out of the womb could be shuttled into formal education programs in the hope of getting a leg up on the increasingly stiff competition. And remember that this competition is not about who knows the most or can do the best job, it's simply about who has the most impressive credentials.

What are the implications of this observation? Caplan argues that the education system fails to actually teach anything very useful and that we, therefore, shouldn't pour billions of taxpayer dollars into it. As a society, it's a waste of money. It's also a huge waste of time to have children spend so many years in school when they could be doing something more productive.

The apparent paradox is this: while education may pay for an individual student, if everyone consumed less education, society would be no worse off either in terms of useful skills or premium wages. 

Posted by orrinj at 3:32 AM

Posted by orrinj at 3:20 AM


Russia accuses United States of undermining Syria integrity: RIA (Reuters, 2/13/18) 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday that in Syria the United States has been acting unilaterally in a "dangerous way", undermining the country's integrity, RIA news agency said.

It's fun watching Vlad realize how far in over his head we lured him.

U.S. Strikes Killed Scores of Russia Fighters in Syria, Sources Say (Stepan Kravchenko , Henry Meyer , and Margaret Talev, February 13, 2018, Bloomberg)

U.S. forces killed scores of Russian contract soldiers in Syria last week in what may be the deadliest clash between citizens of the former foes since the Cold War, according to a U.S. official and three Russians familiar with the matter.

More than 200 mercenaries, mostly Russians fighting on behalf of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, died in a failed attack on a base and refinery held by U.S. and U.S.-backed forces in the oil-rich Deir Ezzor region, two of the Russians said.