April 19, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


Federal Judge Holds Kansas Elections Official In Contempt Of Court (Richard Gonzales, 4/18/18, NPR)

The judge found that the Kansas secretary of state, who has crusaded against voter fraud, failed to update his office's website informing some new voter applicants that they were still eligible to vote. She also found that Kobach's office did not send postcards to such voters, who had not shown proof-of-citizenship documents when they registered, as the judge required.

Kobach is a Republican who once led President Trump's now-disbanded commission on voter fraud.

Posted by orrinj at 3:35 AM


Trump's Lawyer Forgets to Pretend He's Innocent, Also Compares Him to Mobster (Jonathan Chait, 4/19/18, New York)

In an interview with the Journal, Goldberg elucidated his concerns about Cohen's loyalty and the devastating impact it would have if he cooperated with the government. "The mob was broken by Sammy 'The Bull' Gravano caving in out of the prospect of a jail sentence," Goldberg explained.

Again, this makes a lot of sense as a legal defense strategy for a businessman who has probably done a lot of illegal stuff. But as a public relations strategy, isn't Trump's lawyer supposed to say he believes Cohen is innocent, and would be shocked to learn if he did something wrong, because of course Trump has never engaged in any illegal behavior and would never tolerate it among his employees? He's probably not supposed to casually liken the president of the United States to the boss of a criminal syndicate.

Trump allies worry Cohen will flip: Longtime Trump personal lawyer Michael Cohen is fighting the seizure of his records by federal investigators in New York, but people close to the president are fretting he might fold if he faces severe charges. (DARREN SAMUELSOHN and ANDREW RESTUCCIA 04/18/2018, Politico)

President Donald Trump and his outside advisers are increasingly worried that his longtime personal attorney might be susceptible to cooperating with federal prosecutors.

Two sources close to the president said people in Trump's inner circle have in recent days been actively discussing the possibility that Michael Cohen -- long seen as one of Trump's most loyal personal allies -- might flip if he faces serious charges as a result of his work on behalf of Trump.

"That's what they'll threaten him with: life imprisonment," said Alan Dershowitz, the liberal lawyer and frequent Trump defender who met with the president and his staff over two days at the White House last week. "They're going to threaten him with a long prison term and try to turn him into a canary that sings."

April 18, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 6:39 PM


Sanctions Flap Erupts Into Open Conflict Between Haley and White House (PETER BAKER, JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS and MAGGIE HABERMAN, APRIL 17, 2018, NY Times)

Beyond the immediate disconnect, though, is a deeper strain between Mr. Trump and Ms. Haley, according to administration officials and other insiders. Ms. Haley has been perhaps the most hawkish voice on Russia on a team headed by a president who has emphasized his fervent desire for friendship with President Vladimir V. Putin.

At times, that serves the president's interests because she can say what he will not. But at other times, he has grown exasperated by her outspokenness.

At one point recently, he saw Ms. Haley on television sharply criticizing Russia over its intervention in Ukraine. "Who wrote that for her?" Mr. Trump yelled angrily at the screen, according to people briefed on the moment. "Who wrote that for her?"

A former governor of South Carolina, Ms. Haley has assumed a more prominent role than most of her predecessors, at times eclipsing the secretary of state. And along the way, Mr. Trump has grown suspicious of her ambition, convinced that she had been angling for Mr. Tillerson's position and increasingly wondering whether she wants his own job.

Republicans close to the White House whisper about the prospect of an alliance between Ms. Haley and Vice President Mike Pence, possibly to run as a ticket in 2020.


Posted by orrinj at 5:37 PM


Mattis Wanted Congressional Approval Before Striking Syria. He Was Overruled. (Helene Cooper, April 17, 2018, Washington Post)

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis urged President Trump to get congressional approval before the United States launched airstrikes against Syria last week, but was overruled by Mr. Trump, who wanted a rapid and dramatic response, military and administration officials said.

Mr. Trump, the officials said, wanted to be seen as backing up a series of bellicose tweets with action...

Posted by orrinj at 5:32 PM



Researchers report today in Science Robotics that they've used entirely off-the-shelf parts--two industrial robot arms with force sensors and a 3-D camera--to piece together one of those Stefan Ikea chairs we all had in college before it collapsed after two months of use. From planning to execution, it only took 20 minutes, compared to the human average of a lifetime of misery. It may all seem trivial, but this is in fact a big deal for robots, which struggle mightily to manipulate objects in a world built for human hands.

Posted by orrinj at 5:26 PM


Three men convicted in Kansas plot to bomb Muslims (ROXANA HEGEMAN, 18 April 2018, AP) 

A federal jury on Wednesday found three men guilty of plotting to bomb a mosque and apartment complex housing Somali refugees in Kansas.

Patrick Stein, Gavin Wright and Curtis Allen were convicted of one count of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and one count of conspiracy against civil rights. [...]

Wright is captured in one recording saying he hoped an attack on the Somalis would "wake people up" and inspire others to take similar action against Muslims.

Posted by orrinj at 4:29 AM


Nine years since last vote, Lebanon in election fever: Stakes are high in long-awaited May 6 poll, first test of Lebanon's 2017 voting law, that will carve out it's political and economic trajectory for years to come. (Middle East Online, 4/18/18)

The new list system has further ruptured Lebanon's bipolar political class, long split between the pro-Iran March 8 and pro-Saudi March 14 alliances.

Now parties are being "pragmatic," said Salamey, reaching across the aisle to form mutually-beneficial electoral blocs in some districts whilst opposing each other elsewhere.

"It's based on each candidate, how many votes he or she can get to the list and accordingly alliances are formulated," he said.

The only party not to ally with rivals is the powerful Tehran-backed Hezbollah, popular across Lebanon's south and centre but considered a "terror" group by the US.

"From a western perspective, there is a concern that Hezbollah may sweep electoral seats and turn the balance in its favour, making any government to be formed after the election a 'Hezbollah' government," said Salamey.

Posted by orrinj at 4:09 AM

Posted by orrinj at 3:18 AM


Michael Cohen, the World's Worst Fixer, Keeps Screwing Up (Michael Daly, 04.17.18, Daily Beast)

On Friday, Wood had instructed Cohen's lawyers to provide a list of his clients no later than Monday morning. She had added that she intended to make the names public unless doing so would in itself signal why exactly they had needed representation.

The document filed by Cohen's lawyers reported that he had exactly three legal clients since leaving the Trump organization in 2016.

"Mr. Cohen has more attorneys of his own than he has clients," prosecutor Tom McKay observed.

The three most prominently included President Trump, whom Cohen had once described as his only client. A second client had become known on the same day Wood asked for the list. Cohen the fixer had performed about as well keeping things confidential for GOP fundraiser Elliott Broidy as he had for the president.  

As reported in The New York Times, Cohen facilitated a $1.6 million payment to a former Playboy model named Shera Bechard, who had become pregnant during a liaison with Broidy. The money was to be spaced out over two years, but could not have been for child support, as the woman is said to have chosen not to have the child. The contract Cohen drafted for Broidy and Bechard is said to have used the same aliases--"David Dennison" and "Peggy Peterson"--as in the contract between Trump and the woman who now sat in the courtroom within sight of the fixer who was supposed to have made it all go away.

That left a third client, but Cohen's lawyers had declined to name him in the document despite the judge's instructions. Cohen's lawyers had written:

"As to the one unnamed legal client, we do not believe that Mr. Cohen should be asked to reveal the name or can permissibly do so."

Now in court, Cohen's chief lawyer, Stephen Ryan, informed that judge that he was reluctant to reveal the name even under seal. Ryan said he had consulted over the weekend with the third client, who had asked to remain anonymous "because of the notoriety."

"At this point, no one would want to be associated with the case in that way," Ryan said. "I can give you the name right now in a sealed envelope and provide it to the court."

Ryan noted, "This client is a publicly prominent individual."

A word jumped out regarding how Ryan said the client would feel if he were associated with the case.


The judge remained the judge.

"I understand he doesn't want his name out there," she said. "That's not enough under the law."

Anybody who had heard the judge's instructions on Friday could not have been surprised by the words that followed.

"I rule that it must be made public now," Wood said.

Ryan asked if he should submit the name in an envelope as he had proposed or just announce it himself in open court.

"Whichever you are most comfortable with," Wood said.

Ryan rose.

"Your honor, the client's name is Sean Hannity," he said.

Then came the gasp and murmurs, joined in the next instant by laughs, joined by the thought that the ultimate Trump booster Hannity was embarrassed to be associated with a case involving President Trump's fixer.

Could a step of shame have entered Hannity's march of fame?

Hannity was quick to get on Twitter and deny that Cohen had ever really been his lawyer:

"Michael Cohen has never represented me in any matter. I never retained him, received an invoice, or paid legal fees. I have occasionally had brief discussions with him about legal questions about which I wanted his input and perspective."

Hannity may have realized that a good many people were wondering if maybe there was a third contract, maybe even with those same pseudonyms, with Hannity as David Dennison.

"I assumed those conversations were confidential, but to be absolutely clear they never involved any matter," Hannity then tweeted.

Had Cohen instructed his lawyers to comply with the judge's order and named Hannity in the document submitted Monday morning, there no doubt would have been a bit of buzz. That would have been nothing compared to the attention generated by a Perry Mason moment complete with gasps seldom heard in real life.

The Fixer had struck again.

Cohen was now either zero-for-three or three-for-three, depending how you score it. The least secret of secret deals for the first client had been followed by the loudest of hush money for the second client and now the least anonymous of anonymities for the third.

The notion that a non-client is entitled to attorney privilege is at least novel.

Posted by orrinj at 3:14 AM


With Passing Of Barbara Bush, Houston Astros Lose Toughest, Classiest Fan (Brad Kyle, April 17, 2018, TRS)

In a statement released by the Astros, Ryan said, "Today is a very sad day for our city and for our entire nation. As First Lady, Mrs. Bush epitomized grace, dignity, and strength. As a humanitarian, she impacted the lives of so many young people through the work of her Foundation for literacy, and more.

"As Houstonians and frequent visitors to Minute Maid Park to watch her beloved Astros, we had the great privilege of getting to know Mrs. Bush and President Bush personally. While at the ballpark, both always greeted everyone from the ticket takers to the ushers with a warm, friendly smile. On behalf of the Houston Astros, I send my heartfelt condolences to the entire Bush family, and to Mrs. Bush's many friends and admirers."

Thoughts and well wishes began appearing from the political and sports world immediately after the announcement of Mrs. Bush's passing Tuesday evening.

Longtime Astros correspondent and current MLB.com reporter, Alyson Footer tweeted: "Mrs. Bush was a delightful, witty woman. Before an NLCS game between HOU and STL at (Minute Maid Park) in '04 I asked her if her husband, a good friend to (Cardinals manager) Tony La Russa, was rooting for the Astros. She answered, 'If he wants to come home tonight, he will.' She loved baseball and the Astros. RIP"

The Bushes, married for 73 years, have been a large part of Texas baseball history for decades. From 1985-1994, George and Barbara's son, President George W. Bush, headed up a group that owned the Texas Rangers. Mrs. Bush threw the first pitch at a 1989 Texas Rangers game.

Mrs. Bush accompanied her husband to the mound during the 2015 American League Division Series when he threw a ceremonial first pitch to then-Astros infielder Jed Lowrie.

And since their own retirement, the senior Bushes have embraced Houston and her people and teams, appearing often at Astros and Houston Texans games, including the 2017 World Series, and making several first pitches before many Astros games. Mrs. Bush was known for faithfully keeping a scorecard, too, during Houston contests.

April 17, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 6:44 PM


Posted by orrinj at 3:40 PM


SCOTUS nixes part of law requiring deportation of immigrants convicted of some crimes (Ariane de Vogue and Tal Kopan, 4/17/18, CNN)

The case, Sessions v. Dimaya, had originated during the Obama administration but had been closely watched to see if the justices would reveal how they will consider the Trump administration's overall push to both limit immigration and increase deportations.

As expected after the oral argument, Justice Neil Gorsuch joined with the more liberal justices for the first time since joining the court to produce a 5-4 majority invalidating the federal statute. In doing so, Gorsuch was continuing the jurisprudence of Justice Antonin Scalia, who also sided with liberals when it came to the vagueness of statutes used to convict criminal defendants.

Posted by orrinj at 4:19 AM


White House Admits James Comey Swung the Election to Trump (Jonathan Chait, 4/17/18, New York)

This morning, Kellyanne Conway made an accusation that she and her boss might not have thought through: "This guy swung an election," Conway told George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America. "He thought the wrong person would win." That is probably true, but also probably not something Conway should admit.

It's a Kinsley gaffe.

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 AM


The Definitive Report on What Immigrants Add to Australia's Economy (ADAM BAIDAWI, APRIL 17, 2018, NY Times)

The report, first published on Tuesday by Fairfax Media after journalists submitted multiple Freedom of Information requests, concluded that reducing immigration would cost the national budget billions of dollars and reduce job growth. [...]

Here are the four key takeaways from the report.

Immigrants contribute more than they consume

Immigrants help increase the country's overall gross domestic product, but they also are responsible for increasing the per capita G.D.P.

That is to say, immigrants have a net positive impact on the Australian economy because they typically contribute more in tax revenue than the amount they consume in government services.

Younger migrants mean younger workers

Seventy percent of migrants to Australia are skilled and of working age, a crucial antidote to the country's aging population.

"By slowing the aging of the population, migration allows the economy and society time to adjust," the report said.

Moreover, the document explains, higher levels of migration are also associated with less spending per person on social services like health care and education.

Immigrants do not depress wages

Mr. Abbott said early this year that limiting immigration was necessary because of the country's "stagnant wages."

The report, however, found that neither wages nor the unemployment rate was affected by migration.

"This is likely explained by the fact that migrants are generally seen as complements to the Australian-born labor force," the document said.

Posted by orrinj at 3:55 AM


Castro set to step aside as Cuban president, his reforms incomplete (Sarah Marsh, 4/17/18, Reuters) 

As president, Castro has trimmed the bloated state payroll, leased out fallow land and expanded the private sector.

The number of self-employed Cubans has more than tripled to around 580,000, out of a total population of more than 11 million. Some of those have started earning - and spending - conspicuously more than everyone else.

Castro also oversaw the creation of a Chinese-style industrial park and a new law offering foreign investors tax cuts. To advance Cuba's re-integration into global markets, he renegotiated its external debt, getting the Paris Club to forgive 76 percent of its $11.1 billion in official obligations.

The detente with long-time foe the United States, reached with former U.S. President Barack Obama and announced in 2014 sparked global investor interest in Cuba.

A surge in tourism boosted the private sector and remittances served as start-up capital for many Cubans forming small businesses, but that meant many of the emerging opportunities were for people in the right place, or with relatives abroad.

In rural areas, though, farmers remain dependent on the state to allocate scarce equipment like tractors. Agricultural output stagnated over the past decade, according to the Brookings Institution think tank, and Cuba still imports 60 to 70 percent of the food it consumes.

"What we need here is a decent irrigation system," said farmer Mario Cruzata, 45, who uses ox-drawn plows to work his fields of yucca, eggplant and lettuce in southeastern Santiago de Cuba province.

And while the reforms have had more success at stimulating the services sector, there are still lids on private business such as the lack of a wholesale market and the right to import or export.

"I wish they would let people grow," said Yusbely Andino, 40, who makes a living fixing computers in the eastern province of Holguin. He has to buy old PCs for spare parts.

Moreover Cuba has authorized self-employment only in certain, highly specific categories, and it stopped issuing new licenses last year for certain popular activities like running restaurants and bed and breakfasts.

In fact, a draft of new regulations seen by Reuters proposes curtailing the private sector. One measure would limit licenses to one business activity per person, hurting entrepreneurs like Condis.

The economy overall remains distorted by a byzantine dual currency system with multiple exchange rates that Castro had promised to unify.

Some analysts say his focus on generational change and attempt to foster more critical debate within the Communist Party may yield longer-term dividends. He has proposed age and term limits for leaders and deployed a more collective leadership style, after decades of dominance by a single figure, Fidel Castro.

If Raul Castro's successor continues on his reform path, he could still be remembered as Cuba's version of Deng Xiaoping, who transformed China from failed central planning to market socialism, said William Leogrande, a professor of government at American University.

"But if the updating fails, Raul will be remembered as just one more reform communist who couldn't force the system to change despite his best efforts."

As with Iran, we should pour in business opportunity and overwhelm the system.

Posted by orrinj at 3:45 AM


Scientists accidentally create mutant enzyme that eats plastic bottles (Damian Carrington, Apr. 16th, 2018, The Guardian)

The new research was spurred by the discovery in 2016 of the first bacterium that had naturally evolved to eat plastic, at a waste dump in Japan. Scientists have now revealed the detailed structure of the crucial enzyme produced by the bug.

The international team then tweaked the enzyme to see how it had evolved, but tests showed they had inadvertently made the molecule even better at breaking down the PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic used for soft drink bottles. "What actually turned out was we improved the enzyme, which was a bit of a shock," said Prof John McGeehan, at the University of Portsmouth, UK, who led the research. "It's great and a real finding."

The mutant enzyme takes a few days to start breaking down the plastic - far faster than the centuries it takes in the oceans. But the researchers are optimistic this can be speeded up even further and become a viable large-scale process.

"What we are hoping to do is use this enzyme to turn this plastic back into its original components, so we can literally recycle it back to plastic," said McGeehan. "It means we won't need to dig up any more oil and, fundamentally, it should reduce the amount of plastic in the environment."

April 16, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 6:45 PM


Michael Cohen and the Busting of the Trump Crime Family (Jonathan Chait, 4/16/18, New York)

The most shocking-but-not-surprising aspect of James Comey's account of meeting Donald Trump is the ease with which he drew upon his experience prosecuting organized crime. Meeting Trump, he told George Stephanopoulos, "I had a flashback to my days investigating the Mafia, La Cosa Nostra." Trump's leadership style eerily tracked that of the mob bosses he had studied. "There's an expression in the Mafia -- there's a distinction between a friend of yours and a friend of ours. A friend of yours is someone on the outside of the family, a friend of ours, an 'amica nostra' is the way they talked about it in Sicilian, is part of the Family, capital F."

It is a pure coincidence, but a revealing one, that Comey's story has come out at the exact same time that Michael Cohen has emerged as a first-tier, and perhaps pivotal, figure in the prosecution of Trumpworld. Cohen has called himself Trump's consigliere and is the most palpably moblike character in Trump's orbit. The severe legal risks he poses to Trump help recenter the story as a mafialike drama that owes as much to The Sopranos and The Americans. Organized crime is somewhere between a metaphor for the ethos that Trump has imposed upon his world and a literal description of the way his business operates. The investigation of Cohen, in particular, will reveal just where along that continuum the truth lies.

One of the ways in which Trump's business closely resembles organized crime is that, because it relies so heavily on morally and legally dubious business ventures, its human-resource strategy de-emphasizes qualifications and relies heavily on loyalty. Or, to put it differently, a person's willingness to engage in, and keep one's mouth shut about, Trump's dubious activities is the most important qualification. This explains why Trump is not known for hiring bright young minds from leading business schools and relies so heavily on his children, as a mafia boss would. It also explains why he retained the legal (or quasi-legal) services of Michael Cohen, a graduate of the worst law school in the United States.

Posted by orrinj at 6:27 PM


Before Trump was anti-Cuba, he wanted to open a hotel in Havana (William M. LeoGrande, 4/16/18, The Conversation)

Relations between the United States and Cuba have grown tense under the Trump administration, which tightened economic sanctions against the Communist Caribbean island in 2017.

"We do not want U.S. dollars to prop up a military monopoly that exploits and abuses the citizens of Cuba," Trump declared in June 2017. "We will enforce the ban on tourism. We will enforce the embargo."

Those who follow Cuba-U.S. relations closely, as I have for 40 years, may recall that Trump has not always been so antagonistic toward Havana. Back when he was a real estate mogul, he was happy to overlook the embargo - twice, in fact - for a chance to open a Trump-branded hotel or golf resort in Cuba.

In September 2016, when Trump was the Republican presidential candidate, Newsweek magazine revealed that in 1998, Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts hired a consulting firm to explore business opportunities on the island.

Reportedly acting with Trump's knowledge, representatives from Seven Arrows Investment and Development Corp. traveled to Cuba, which was then led by Fidel Castro.

There, they met with government officials and business leaders. The goal, a former official with Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts told Newsweek, was to get a jump on the competition if President Bill Clinton opened up Cuba to U.S. business. Ever since President John F. Kennedy imposed an economic embargo on Cuba in 1962, the Cuban market has been closed to most American companies, including the hospitality sector.

Because their business trip violated the embargo, Seven Arrows advised the Trump organization to disguise its payment to them as a charitable project, according to documents obtained by Newsweek.

Posted by orrinj at 5:17 PM


Sean Hannity Is Michael Cohen's Secret Third Client. Why That Matters. (ISAAC CHOTINER, APRIL 16, 2018, Slate)

Longtime Fox watchers (at least those of us who watch ironically), as well as those who enjoy engaging in Kremlinology around the network, are no doubt giddy today, but this wasn't exactly predictable. For many years, Hannity was known as the "nice" alternative to Bill O'Reilly. Sure, Hannity was a cheap bigot who made millions by exploiting the racial resentment and stupidity of his audience; but he was also, by all accounts, a decent(ish) guy. While sex scandals brought down Roger Ailes and Bill O'Reilly, and while both men were known for treating people around them like dirt, Hannity had a certain folksy charm that was known to arise whenever the camera turned off. Guests were apparently treated well; shouting was kept to a minimum. If you stopped him on the street, I was once told, he didn't care if you were a radical anarchist, and was always happy to take a photo.

But the last couple of years have been gruesome. There was a sexual harassment allegation. And his Twitter persona has gone from silly to borderline unbalanced, much like the persona of his political hero. We don't know exactly what Cohen did for Hannity, but given that his other two clients are the president and the disgraced Republican bigwig Elliott Broidy, it's unlikely to have been offering advice on anniversary gifts for the missus. (Hannity noted on his radio show that his ties to Cohen had become known, but did not directly address the matter; he told the Wall Street Journal, "We have been friends a long time. I have sought legal advice from Michael.")

Meanwhile, of course, Hannity has not only become increasingly fanatical in his defense of Trump, but also particularly deranged in his coverage of the FBI's investigations of various aspects of Trump world.

When a man publicly hates immigration and Islam, how can any of his private vileness surprise you?

Posted by orrinj at 4:39 AM


Cohen Isn't the Biggest Catch from Trump World: Other players know far more about the president's dealings than his lawyer does. (Timothy L. O'Brien, April 16, 2018, Bloomberg)

The problem is that Cohen may not know many of those things. There was a lawyer at the Trump Organization who did have to sign off on almost every significant deal -- and that guy wasn't Cohen. His name was Jason Greenblatt.

Greenblatt specialized in real-estate law at a major New York firm before signing on with the Trump Organization in 1997. He soon became Trump's true in-house counsel and the company's executive vice president. Everything that mattered in the Trump Organization, every sizable deal or sensitive transaction, required Greenblatt's signature, not Cohen's. Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization's chief financial officer, has played a similar role when it comes to the company's finances.

At the end of 2016, Greenblatt left the Trump Organization after the president made him a special representative for international negotiations. Weisselberg still helps Trump's sons manage the business while Trump is in the Oval Office. Now that special counsel Robert Mueller has subpoenaed the Trump Organization for business records, his investigators may get around to interviewing Greenblatt and Weisselberg, who almost certainly have more expansive information on the president's business activities than Cohen does.

If that happens -- or if the U.S. attorney's office in New York takes a similar interest -- then the media might have to reassess its take on Cohen and the role he's playing in the broader drama surrounding the White House.

Posted by orrinj at 4:33 AM


How Pep Guardiola stuck to his principles and was proven right at Manchester City (Jack Pitt-Brooke, 4/16/18, New Statesman)
English football has always been as anti-intellectual as any other aspect of our national life. Pragmatism and common sense have been the values, winning football matches the only goal. Woe betide the foreign manager who arrives talking about a 'philosophy' of football he intends to implement. Andre Villas Boas and Louis van Gaal had their faults but they were both always fighting a losing battle, for the temerity of having an idea.

This is nothing new and nor is it limited to football: it is part of who we are. "As Europeans go, the English are not intellectual," George Orwell wrote in 'The Lion and the Unicorn' in 1941. "They have a horror of abstract thought, they feel no need for any philosophy or systematic 'world-view'". Ideas, especially foreign ones, have never taken much root in our culture. Even the history of the Labour party, as Harold Wilson said, owed more to Methodism than to Karl Marx.

All of which explains why when Pep Guardiola arrived in England in 2016, with his own ideas and his own philosophy, so many people told him to compromise. Possession football might work abroad, he was told, but England was different. Every Premier League champion had power at the core of the team, as Gary Neville famously said. The revelation that Guardiola did not "train tackles" after his team had lost 4-2 to Leicester City despite having 78 per cent possession was met with incredulity. Jamie Redknapp described it as "one of the most bizarre statements" he had had ever heard in football, saying City could not win this way. [...]

Of course City do not play like the Barcelona team that won the 2009 and 2011 Champions Leagues. How could they without Lionel Messi, Xavi and Andres Iniesta? This team plays with wingers, and has found a route to goal that is difficult to stop: David Silva or Kevin De Bruyne through to a wide player, who cuts the ball back for a simple finish. 

Wingers crossing the ball back to the middle is the essence of British soccer.  The point is that he can't just walk the ball through the middle the way he'd prefer.

Posted by orrinj at 4:23 AM


The heir to Blair? Macron is more like the French Thatcher: The French president's agenda of tax cuts and privatisation is actively corrosive to the progressive dream of Europe. (MICHAEL CHESSUM, 4/15/18, New Statesman)

As a fresh faced, charismatic technocrat, he often draws comparisons to Tony Blair. In terms of his real ambitions and France's less neo-liberalised economy, he is more like a French Thatcher. As Francois Hollande's economy minister, he oversaw labour market reforms, which, among other things, made it easier for employers to sack workers.

Now, his policy is to increase taxes on pensions, undermine trade union representation and power in public services, and introduce performance-related pay for civil servants as a means of undermining general wage increases - all on top of reforms last year which attacked collective bargaining. Simultaneously, the French government has introduced controversial selection practices in higher education, and, perhaps most significantly, paved the way for the privatisation of French railways.

Thus far, most of the commentary in Britain has focused on a rather wonkish analysis of whether or not Macron can get his reforms through - whether he can "win". Like the British miners' strike, this is a race between the unity of the French labour movement and the government's resolve. But the reality is that, regardless of who wins, Macron's policies are a disaster for the ideals he claims to be fighting for - most obviously his Europeanism.

When introducing its package of reforms to the railways, the French government has argued that the dismantling of the working conditions of staff is simply a part of readying the state train network, SNCF, for being opened up to competition and liberalisation under the EU's latest railway directive.

The new EU rules do not really require Macron to do what he is doing - and in any case, the directive could simply be opposed and amended if the French government had the will to do so. And yet, when confronted with the privatisation of the railways, the average French worker finds themselves opposing not just the French government, but, seemingly, the concept of the EU as well.

This is a classic example of how technocratic neo-liberalism operates. Governments with an agenda of privatisation use their seat at the table of trade deals or transnational institutions (in this case the EU) to create rules which supposedly force them to privatise public services - and then claim merely to be following those rules. Fans of privatisation and opponents of state intervention are quite open about the role that state aid rules play - they provide the excuse for right wing governments to do what they want.

All recent successful governments of the left--Clinton, Blair, Obama, etc.--govern from the right. History Ended.

Posted by orrinj at 4:16 AM


Comey, in Interview, Calls Trump 'Morally Unfit' and 'Stain' on All Around Him (MICHAEL D. SHEAR and PETER BAKERAPRIL 15, 2018, NY Times)

[M]r. Comey called Mr. Trump a serial liar who treated women like "meat," and described him as a "stain" on everyone who worked for him.

He said a salacious allegation that Mr. Trump had cavorted with prostitutes in Moscow had left him vulnerable to blackmail by the Russian government. And he asserted that the president was incinerating the country's crucial norms and traditions like a wildfire. He compared the president to a mafia boss.

"Our president must embody respect and adhere to the values that are at the core of this country," Mr. Comey told ABC's chief anchor, George Stephanopoulos, on the program "20/20." "The most important being truth. This president is not able to do that. He is morally unfit to be president." 

Posted by orrinj at 4:14 AM


The Most Newsworthy Part of ABC's Comey Interview Was an Unaired Detail About His Infamous Hillary Email Letter (BEN MATHIS-LILLEY, APRIL 16, 2018, Slate)

What the FBI would discover in October 2016 was that it had inadvertently located a cache of Clinton emails on her aide Huma Abedin's computer during the unrelated investigation of Abedin's husband Anthony Weiner for sending obscene material to a minor. The detail that Comey explained to Stephanopoulos--which he had alluded to previously but never, to my knowledge, explained at this length--is that the Abedin cache specifically included emails from the period of Clinton's State tenure just before she set up the private server. That period would have been the exact time, Comey explained, when Clinton was most likely to have been warned not to set up a private server, because it would constitute mishandling classified material:

What [FBI investigators] told me was, "We have found, for reasons we can't explain, hundreds of thousands of Hillary Clinton's emails on Anthony Weiner's laptop. And something much more important than that. Thousands of emails from Hillary Clinton's Blackberry domain."

She used a Blackberry for the first three months or so of her tenure as secretary of State before setting up the personal server in the basement. And the reason that matters so much is, if there was gonna be a smoking gun, where Hillary Clinton was told, "Don't do this," or, "This is improper," it's highly likely to be at the beginning.

In other words, the Abedin cache wasn't just a random sampling of Clinton emails that weren't expected to differ in any relevant way from the thousands that had already been reviewed, but were rather from the exact period most likely to contain explicit, actionable content that could have convinced the FBI to reverse its recommendation that she should not be prosecuted.

Posted by orrinj at 4:07 AM


Cops use stun grenades as hundreds of ultra-Orthodox Jews riot in Jerusalem (Times of Israel, 4/15/18)

Four policemen were lightly injured as hundreds of ultra-Orthodox Jews rioted outside the IDF draft office in Jerusalem on Sunday night.

Cops used stun grenades and water cannons to disperse the protesters, after normal crowd control methods failed.

The protesters were demonstrating over rumors of the arrest of a young woman from the Har Nof neighborhood for draft-dodging, the ultra-Orthodox news site Behadrei Haredim reported.

Posted by orrinj at 4:05 AM


Trump, a reluctant hawk, has battled his top aides on Russia and lost (Greg Jaffe, John Hudson and Philip Rucker, April 15, 2018, Washington Post)

President Trump seemed distracted in March as his aides briefed him at his Mar-a-Lago resort on the administration's plan to expel 60 Russian diplomats and suspected spies.

The United States, they explained, would be ousting roughly the same number of Russians as its European allies -- part of a coordinated move to punish Moscow for the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter on British soil.

"We'll match their numbers," Trump instructed, according to a senior administration official. "We're not taking the lead. We're matching."

The next day, when the expulsions were announced publicly, Trump erupted, officials said. To his shock and dismay, France and Germany were each expelling only four Russian officials -- far fewer than the 60 his administration had decided on.

The president, who seemed to believe that other individual countries would largely equal the United States, was furious that his administration was being portrayed in the media as taking by far the toughest stance on Russia.

Comic gold.

April 15, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 5:16 PM


Scoop: Trump tried to block Pence national security appointment (Jonathan Swan, 4/15/18, Axios)

Trump was furious when he learned Pence was bringing on Nikki Haley's deputy Jon Lerner, according to three sources familiar with the events. The President believed Lerner was a card-carrying member of the "Never Trump" movement because Lerner crafted brutal attack ads for Club for Growth's multimillion-dollar anti-Trump blitz during the Republican primaries.

"Why would Mike do that?" Trump wondered aloud about Pence's decision, according to two sources briefed on the President's private conversations.

Posted by orrinj at 5:14 PM


Nikki Haley says U.S. 'work in Syria is not done' (The Week, 4/15/18)
The United States' "work in Syria is not done," U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said on Fox News Sunday. "Were not going to leave until we know we have accomplished [U.S. goals]," she continued. "Be very clear, if we leave -- when we leave -- it will be because we know that everything is moving forward."

Posted by Glenn Dryfoos at 1:17 PM


Happy Jackie Robinson Day...

Posted by orrinj at 12:09 PM


Trump worried he screwed up on TPP (BEN WHITE & AUBREE ELIZA WEAVER,  04/13/2018, Politico)

On Thursday, Trump directed NEC Director Larry Kudlow and USTR Robert Lighthizer to study the idea of rejoining TPP, which is moving ahead without the world's largest economy.

Sources tell MM that Trump has been quizzing people for several weeks about whether they think he made a big mistake by dumping TPP, especially now that he is trying to put pressure on China to reform its practices on intellectual property, forced technology transfers and auto tariffs, among other things.

The way the sources describe it to MM, Trump realizes he'd have a much stronger position against China if he had the support of TPP's current 11 members, a group that includes Japan, Canada and Mexico. "He realizes he screwed it up but I don't see how he can get back in," one person close to the president said.

This all ends with him slapping tariffs on American-made goods...

Posted by orrinj at 12:08 PM


How progressives got steamrolled in New Jersey: The party establishment flexes its muscles in a bid to flip a Republican House seat. (MATT FRIEDMAN 04/15/2018, Politico)

Jeff Van Drew has voted against raising the minimum wage and gay marriage. He often sides with industry on environmental issues and carries an A rating from the NRA. And he's the odds-on favorite to be New Jersey's newest Democratic congressman.

In the party's first real crack at winning the South Jersey-based district held by retiring Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.) for more than two decades, Democratic party establishment -- at every level -- is throwing its collective weight behind Van Drew, leaving local progressives baffled, frustrated and more than a little angry.

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The FBI's revenge (Mike Allen, 4/15/18, axios)

[T]he FBI is getting its revenge. All at once, Trump is being pounded by the bureau and its alumni, with a three-pronged threat.

The broadest narrative comes from fired FBI director James Comey, who concludes his piercing, detailed attacks in "A Higher Loyalty," out Tuesday: "There is reason to believe this fire will leave the presidency weaker and Congress and the courts stronger, just as the forest fire of Watergate did." On Monday, Comey spent nearly five hours with ABC's George Stephanopoulos (airing at 10 tonight as a "20/20" special). Sources familiar with the Comey interview say ABC has held back some of his strongest news-making bites. A source present at the taping said Comey's comments will "shock the president and his team" and "add more meat to the charges swirling around Trump."

The clearest and most immediate threat, in the view of some White House aides, comes from the New York feds' investigation into Trump's longtime lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen, who joined the Trump Organization in 2006. Trump advisers worry Cohen could serve as a Rosetta stone to the past decade of Trump's high-wire business dealings. The raid on Cohen's office has rattled Trump like no previous twist in the investigation.

Robert Mueller's investigation has the potential to yield embarrassing revelations about Trump's campaign, transition and presidency, whether clumsy shortcuts or something more. Trump lawyers say the White House turned over more than 20,000 pages of documents, and the campaign provided more than 1.4 million.

Posted by orrinj at 8:48 AM


Northwest States Do Best, Southeast Worst in New Social Capital Measure (Charles Fain Lehman, April 15, 2018, Free Beacon)

The SCP's latest project is meant to capture how social capital is spread throughout the United States, and where it's strongest and weakest. This work adds to previous indexes produced by researchers at Penn State University and by noted social scientist Robert Putnam. The SCP argues that these past efforts rely on out-of-date data, or under-include certain indicators.

"Our conclusion was that a better social capital index was needed than those currently available," the report reads.

To measure social capital, the project aggregated numerous publicly available statistics on America's states and counties. These included measures of family, like time spent together and out-of-wedlock births (on which the SCP has reported previously); measures of social support, like the average number of friends adults have; and measure of community and institutional health, like volunteer hours and voting habits.

The results indicate important variations in the regional distribution of social capital. The helpful, interactive maps provided by the project show that social capital concentrates mostly in the upper Midwest, spreading to the Pacific northwest and concentrating in states like Nebraska, Iowa, and Minnesota. By contrast, measures of social capital are weakest in the south, but also in states like New York and California, and in states struck by the opioid crisis like West Virginia and Kentucky.

Posted by orrinj at 8:42 AM


Anne Frank House employee says he was barred from wearing kippa (Times of Israel, 4/15/18)

For his first six months on the job, the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam reportedly forbade a Jewish employee from wearing a kippa.

Twenty-five-year-old Barry Vingerling was told to remove his kippa upon showing up at his first day of work at the museum, according to a report Thursday in the NIW Dutch Jewish weekly.

Museum officials explained that the Anne Frank House had a policy against donning religious symbols that would break with their "neutrality" efforts, Vingerling relayed to the NIW.

Posted by orrinj at 8:39 AM


Review: Chappaquiddick - Ted Kennedy and the Fall of Dickarus (Dominic Green, 15 April 2018, Spectator US)

Chappaquiddick is a drama not a legal indictment, but that makes it all the more devastating. Like the court that let him off with a slapped wrist, Chappaquiddick takes Ted at his word--his suspicious failure to report the accident, his apparent attempt to create an alibi, the falsifications in his written statement to the police, his bizarre behavior after the story broke, his falsifications of the record in court, and the further falsifications of his televised statement in the court of public opinion. We have only Ted's word that he repeatedly tried to save Mary Jo Kopechne. And Ted's word, Chappaquiddick shows, is worthless. Personally, I doubt he even tried to save her. I also doubt his claim that he could not recall how it was that he ended up on dry land, and she ended up trapped in an upended car.

In the New York Times, Neal Gabler has accused the makers of Chappaquiddick of character assassination. Admittedly, it's an embroidery to have Joe Kennedy, Sr., palsied by a stroke, gasping 'Alibi!' like an elderly Mafia don. But Gabler, an old-time liberal who is writing a biography of the 'white-maned senator', is protecting his professional and political investments. Ted assassinated whatever character he had. No one can complain about the necessary fictions of a film when its subject was in reality a proven liar.

Jason Clarke captures Ted's appeal and weakness perfectly. Like Elvis after the '68 Special or Bill Clinton during the Lewinsky affair, Kennedy is seedy and flabby, but he still has a shake in his hips and the confused, fascinating intensity of a petulant giant. When Ted breaks the news to Kopechne's parents, he launches into a politician's speech. They hang up, and he sobs--for himself and his weakness, and not for their dead daughter.

Two comedians play against type in this sorry tragedy. Ed Helms is superb as the Kennedy clan's Tom Hagen, Ted's cousin and fixer Joe Gargan. Jim Gaffigan, as Massachusetts attorney-general Paul Markham, is a moral and physical slob, a high official reduced to a drunken gofer for Ted Sorensen and the family lawyers as they conspire to cover up Ted's crime and then, when the story breaks, spin it so that Ted, not Mary Jo Kopechne, is the victim.

In his 1988 book Senatorial Privilege, Leo Damore reports an interview with Gargan in which Gargan claims that Ted Kennedy at first tried to pin the crash on Kopechne, by claiming that she was driving. Kennedy himself was unable to explain why he didn't report the accident for ten hours. As Chappaquiddick shows, his conduct is only explicable as that of a coward in search of an alibi. The same goes for his ludicrous donning of a neck brace for Kopechne's funeral -- the papers reported that he had no trouble turning around in his pew--and the claim by Kennedy lawyers that Ted couldn't speak to the press because he was sedated because of concussion. They dropped that line when it emerged that sedating a concussion can be fatal.

Posted by orrinj at 8:33 AM


In Moscow, a Sense of Relief After a Limited Syria Attack (NEIL MacFARQUHAR, APRIL 14, 2018, NY Times)

The sun was barely up before the Defense Ministry, not famous for speedy reactions, pumped out a statement underscoring that none of the thousands of Russian troops garrisoned in Syria had been threatened by the American, British and French attack and that none of its air defense systems had been mobilized.

"It looks like both sides were playing according to their prescribed roles and managed to limit the harm from this kind of confrontation," said Aleksandr M. Golts, an independent Russian military analyst and deputy editor of Yezhednevny Zhurnal, an online current affairs magazine. "Syria will not be the starting point for some kind of global confrontation."

The American ambassador to Russia, Jon M. Huntsman Jr., released a statement on Facebook on Saturday confirming that the two sides had taken steps before the assault to made sure they stayed out of each other's way. "Before we took action," he said, "the U.S. communicated with the R.F. to reduce the danger of any Russian or civilian casualties."

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Theresa May shows steel while Donald Trump wobbles in final countdown (Tim Shipman, April 15 2018, The Sunday Times)

When Donald Trump spoke to Theresa May on Thursday to discuss their planned airstrikes on Syria, the US president was far more subdued than he had been three days earlier when he warned Russia and its client dictator, Bashar al-Assad, that his "nice and new and smart" missiles "will be coming".

That outburst exasperated ministers and highlighted the difficulty of standing shoulder to shoulder with an ally who shoots from the lip.

"When Trump started tweeting he hadn't even had his intelligence briefing," said one cabinet source. "He was speaking without having the first clue of what he was talking about."

When May gathered her cabinet on Wednesday at least two ministers called Trump's tweets "unhelpful". Throughout Whitehall there was frustration that the president had made it easier for Vladimir Putin to accuse the West of escalating the conflict and for Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, to condemn a rush to war. He was soon accusing May of awaiting "instructions from Trump".

Behind the scenes an effort was under way to rein in the president, led by his defence secretary, James Mattis. [...]

Trump told May: "We're going to do it and we're going to do it well." But those who had heard him said that he seemed nervous. "It was a bit of a wobble," one Whitehall official said.

Aides say May was in no doubt that military action was required after intelligence chiefs briefed her last Sunday about the attack on Douma, which killed 75 people. The prime minister, who is not given to overt displays of emotion, was shocked that Assad's regime had apparently used chlorine against civilians who were unable to escape. "That was what really struck home with the boss," said one aide.

"That these were people hiding in cellars underground with no means of escape and the regime used a weapon that could penetrate there and kill people who were in hiding. It's a straightforward instrument of fear. She was very struck by the sheer inhumanity of it."

A cabinet source said: "She's been very clear and tough from the beginning."

Posted by orrinj at 7:13 AM


Meet The Teacher Whose Holocaust Class Is Inspiring Parkland's Student Activists (Ilene Prusher and Nikki Casey, 4/15/18, The Forward)

All year long, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School teacher Ivy Schamis teaches her students about the Holocaust: about perpetrators, victims and survivors both historical and contemporary.

She never imagined she would find herself using those words to describe her own students, her colleagues -- even herself. Eight weeks ago, when students had just finished presenting research about the hate groups operating today on American college campuses, that changed. Nikolas Cruz, an expelled student armed with an AR-15, thrust his semi-automatic assault rife through her window. Two of the 17 students who died that day were Schamis'; she'd taught another one the year before.

"One of [my students] said to me, 'We used to watch the news," Schamis explained in a conversation in a coffee shop less than a mile from the school, her eyes tight with sadness. "Now we've become the news."

The student activists forged in the crucible of the shooting have drawn on the lessons she taught in her classroom, decorated with barbed-wire painted on the walls, Never Forget posters and an "Arbeit Macht Frei" sign over her desk. She will never be allowed to go back there; the building is going to be destroyed. But she continues to teach, and they continue to learn. Life is just very different.

Posted by orrinj at 6:58 AM


How much proof do you need? (James Tapsfield, 15 April 2018, Daily Mail)

Jeremy Corbyn again refused to blame Russia for the Salisbury attack today saying he wants to see 'incontrovertible evidence'.

The Labour leader risked inflaming tensions with his own MPs by making clear he is still not convinced that Moscow was behind the attempted assassination of former spy Sergei Skripal and daughter Yulia. 

Britain dramatically moved to counter Russian propaganda on Salisbury last week by releasing new evidence.

Some kids prefer the red Trumpbot.

April 14, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 6:50 PM


Legendary Writer Bill Nack Dies at Age 77: Seven-time media Eclipse Award winner was best known for coverage of Secretariat. (BloodHorse, 4/14/18)

William "Bill" Nack, a renowned sports journalist and author, died April 13 at his home in Washington D.C. after a lengthy illness, according to Secretariat.com. He was 77.

A seven-time media Eclipse Award winner, Nack was best known for his coverage of Secretariat. His acclaimed biography on "Big Red" is considered the definitive account chronicling the history of the Meadow Stable colt and his ascent to the 1973 Triple Crown. The book was used as the inspiration for the 2010 Disney movie "Secretariat."

Nack joined Sports Illustrated in 1978 and became one of the signature voices of the publication. He wrote on everything from racing to boxing to chess. Nack left the magazine in 2001 and freelanced for numerous publications, including ESPN and GQ.

Pure Heart (William Nack, 6/04/90, Sports Illustrated)

In the late afternoon of Monday, Oct. 2, 1989, as I headed my car from the driveway of Arthur Hancock's Stone Farm onto Winchester Road outside of Paris, Ky., I was seized by an impulse as beckoning as the wind that strums through the trees there, mingling the scents of new grass and old history.

For reasons as obscure to me then as now, I felt compelled to see Lawrence Robinson. For almost 30 years, until he suffered a stroke in March of 1983, Robinson was the head caretaker of stallions at Claiborne Farm. I had not seen him since his illness, but I knew he still lived on the farm, in a small white frame house set on a hill overlooking the lush stallion paddocks and the main stallion barn. In the first stall of that barn, in the same space that was once home to the great Bold Ruler, lived Secretariat, Bold Ruler's greatest son.

It was through Secretariat that I had met Robinson. On the bright, cold afternoon of Nov. 12, 1973, he was one of several hundred people gathered at Blue Grass Airport in Lexington to greet the horse on his flight from New York into retirement in Kentucky. I flew with the horse that day, and as the plane banked over the field, a voice from the tower crackled over the airplane radio: "There's more people out here to meet Secretariat than there was to greet the governor."

"Well, he's won more races than the governor," pilot Dan Neff replied.

An hour later, after a van ride out the Paris Pike behind a police escort with blue lights flashing, Robinson led Secretariat onto a ramp at Claiborne and toward his sire's old stall--out of racing and into history. For me, that final walk beneath a grove of trees, with the colt slanting like a buck through the autumn gloaming, brought to a melancholy close the richest, grandest, damnedest, most exhilarating time of my life. For eight months, first as the racing writer for Long Island, N.Y.'s Newsday and then as the designated chronicler of the horse's career, I had a daily front-row seat to watch Secretariat. I was at the barn in the morning and the racetrack in the afternoon for what turned out to be the year's greatest show in sports, at the heart of which lay a Triple Crown performance unmatched in the history of American racing.

Sixteen years had come and gone since then, and I had never attended a Kentucky Derby or a yearling sale at Keeneland without driving out to Claiborne to visit Secretariat, often in the company of friends who had never seen him. On the long ride from Louisville, I would regale them with stories about the horse--how on that early morning in March of '73 he had materialized out of the quickening blue darkness in the upper stretch at Belmont Park, his cars pinned back, running as fast as horses run: how he had lost the Wood Memorial and won the Derby, and how he had been bothered by a pigeon feather at Pimlico on the eve of the Preakness (at the end of this tale I would pluck the delicate, mashed feather out of my wallet, like a picture of my kids, to pass around the car); how on the morning of the Belmont Stakes he had burst from the barn like a stud horse going to the breeding shed and had walked around the outdoor ring on his hind legs, pawing at the sky; how he had once grabbed my notebook and refused to give it back, and how he had seized a rake in his teeth and begun raking the shed; and, finally, I told about that magical, unforgettable instant, frozen now in time, when he had turned for home, appearing out of a dark drizzle at Woodbine, near Toronto, in the last race of his career, 12 in front and steam puffing from his nostrils as from a factory whistle, bounding like some mythical beast out of Greek lore.

Oh, I knew all the stories, knew them well, had crushed and rolled them in my hand, until their quaint musk lay in the saddle of my palm. Knew them as I knew the stories of my children. Knew them as I knew the stories of my own life. Told them at dinner parties, swapped them with horseplayers as if they were trading cards, argued over them with old men and blind fools who had seen the show but missed the message. Dreamed them and turned them over like pillows in my rubbery sleep. Woke up with them, brushed my aging teeth with them, grinned at them in the mirror. Horses have a way of getting inside of you, and so it was that Secretariat became like a fifth child in our house, the older boy who was off at school and never around but who was as loved and true a part of the family as Muffin, our shaggy, epileptic dog.

The story I now tell begins on that Monday afternoon last October on the macadam outside of Stone Farm.

Posted by orrinj at 6:46 PM


Pence didn't talk about wall with Mexican leader (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, Apr 14, 2018)

Vice President Mike Pence says the topic of funding President Donald Trump's long-promised border wall did not come up in his meeting with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto at an international summit in Peru.

Posted by orrinj at 6:40 PM


40 Sea Gulls Wrecked His Hotel Room. 17 Years Later, a Pepperoni Pardon. (YONETTE JOSEPH, APRIL 14, 2018, NY Times)

It all started, said Mr. Burchill, a 49-year-old salesman from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, when he went to Victoria 17 years ago for a conference hosted by his new employer. He planned to see friends from the Canadian Naval Reserves, and had promised to bring them a local delicacy from home: Chris Brothers TNT Pepperoni.

He filled a whole suitcase. "I brought enough for a ship," he wrote.

When he landed, the airline could not find the bag. But it arrived the next day, after he had checked into the Empress on the fourth floor. His room had no refrigerator, and he worried about keeping the meat cool.

But the room had a nicely appointed window, and there was a chill in the April air. A plan formed: Why not spread the meat on a table next to an open window and on the window sill to keep it cool? So he did.

Then he went for a walk.

The sight that greeted him when he returned to his room hours later can only be described as "an explosion," he wrote. About 40 sea gulls had sneaked in through a small opening in the window and were having a feast, he told the CBC radio show "As It Happens."

"They'd been eating Brothers TNT pepperoni -- I'm specific with the TNT because it's hot," he recalled. "They'd been eating that for about five hours, and you can imagine what the room looked like. They were carrying on their life processes in there."

Excrement, feathers and pepperoni chunks were everywhere.

"Brothers' TNT Pepperoni does NASTY things to a sea gull's digestive system," he wrote. "The smell," he recalled in the radio interview, "was overwhelming."

"The shocking thing for me was the saliva," he marveled. "I didn't know that sea gulls drooled. The slime was covering everything. They were whipping it up into the air. It was like a tornado."

Posted by orrinj at 5:53 PM


The Strike May Have Hurt More than It Helped (BARRY PAVEL, 4/14/18, Defense One)

In fact, since Assad and others were led to believe that this would be a much bigger and more consequential attack than it was, especially by President Trump's own rhetoric, the very conscribed nature of the actual strikes might actually embolden the Syrian leader to use his remaining chemical weapons more frequently and with less restraint.

Here's why: The essence of deterrence is to threaten something of such value that the adversary will not want to incur the costs. Inherent in effective deterrence is instilling fear and uncertainty in the mind of the adversary -- fear that they would suffer unacceptable consequences for taking an action, and uncertainty about the exact parameters of the next retaliatory attack.

The strikes as conducted last night instill no fear nor uncertainty on the part of the Syrian regime.

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WHY MIGRANTS ARE GOOD FOR THE GLOBAL ECONOMY (Devon Van Houten Maldonado, 4/14/18, Ozy)

Populists, nationalists and xenophobes have it all wrong when it comes to immigration. The arguments for building border walls, reducing legal immigration (or eliminating it), deporting illegals and turning away migrants cost taxpayers in rich countries a lot of money, but eliminating these barriers could increase gross domestic product and wealth for everyone.

Despite populists' passionate and tenacious opinions, decades of research show that more immigration, not less, creates prosperity for wealthy nations, and that the plus side of people flow extends to nonimmigrants. According to a 2016 McKinsey Global Institute report:

In economic terms, it's all about labor mobility. Contrary to popular belief, immigration barriers cost trillions in potential GDP. Economists agree that more newcomers equals more wealth, including for native-born workers, because immigrants occupy both the lowest-skill jobs and some of the most specialized, creating a more productive and competitive workforce.

"For the elimination of trade-policy barriers and capital-flow barriers, the estimated gains amount to less than a few percent of world GDP," says Michael Clemens, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, a think tank in Washington, D.C. "For labor mobility barriers, the estimated gains are often in the range of 50 to 150 percent of world GDP."

...they're right about....well...nothing.

Posted by orrinj at 2:32 PM


Republicans lose their favorite campaign message: Repealing Obamacare (Paige Winfield Cunningham, April 14, 2018, Washington Post)

For the first time in nearly a decade, Republican candidates across the country find themselves bereft of what was once their favorite talking point: repealing and replacing President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act -- and all the havoc they alleged it has wreaked.

That's because the GOP failed dramatically in its efforts last year to roll back the ACA as its first big legislative delivery on the promise of single-party control of Washington from Congress to the White House. That defeat has quickly turned attacks on Obamacare from centerpiece into pariah on the campaign trail, a sudden disappearing act that Democrats are looking to exploit as they seek to regain power in the midterms.

"Yeah, we probably can't talk credibly about repeal and replace anymore," said Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.), a key negotiator of the House-passed version of an ACA rollback that failed in the Senate.

The "repeal and replace" mantra was a mainstay of Republican campaigns for four straight election cycles, propelling the GOP into the House majority in 2010, the Senate majority four years later and in 2016, helping to keep Republicans in power and elect President Trump. Getting rid of Obamacare was a proud theme for GOP party and conservative groups, which spent hundreds of millions of dollars beating Democrats over the head with charges the law was unaffordable. Trump repeatedly touted permanent elimination of the bill during the campaign and his first year in office, but doesn't often now mention it.

Eighty-four percent of Republican-affiliated health-care ads in 2014 attacked the ACA, while only 11 percent of Democrat-affiliated ads touted it, according to research by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Kantar Media. Out of 849 unique ads that referenced the ACA that year, 87 percent of them backed a Republican candidate and opposed the law.

But since the dramatic defeat of an ACA rollback bill in the Senate last July, many Republican candidates don't have much to say about health care at all.

They were opposing the sunrise.

About half of Americans support single-payer health care (Emily Guskin, April 12, 2018, Washington Post)

As President Trump's administration tries to chip away at the Affordable Care Act by giving more authority to states to regulate private insurance, a new poll finds a slight majority of Americans support a move in the opposite direction, with everyone getting health insurance from a national government-run program.

A Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll finds a 51 percent majority of Americans support a national health plan, also known as a single-payer plan, while 43 percent oppose it.

Posted by orrinj at 8:53 AM

One-Pot Shakshuka Recipe (Outside)

Shakshuka is our latest camp meal obsession, and we've partnered with Fresh off the Grid to bring you an easy, one-pot recipe for this tasty Middle Eastern dish. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:48 AM


Quebec mosque shooter told police he was motivated by Canada's immigration policies (LES PERREAUX,  APRIL 13, 2018, Globe & Mail)

Alexandre Bissonnette has pleaded guilty to killing six men and seriously wounding five more in the attack. In an interview with police played at his sentencing hearing on Friday, he said he started thinking about taking action as his own fear and anxiety grew after a soldier was shot on Parliament Hill in 2014. He became obsessed with the idea after a 2016 vehicle attack killed 86 people in Nice, France.

He said during the interrogation that the final straw came on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2017, when he watched news coverage of Mr. Trump's new anti-Muslim policy and contrasted it with Canadian openness to immigration contained in one tweet seen around the world. Mr. Trudeau wrote: "To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada."

Never let it be said that Donald can't inspire his base.

Posted by orrinj at 8:45 AM


Wisconsin man who blew himself up might have been white supremacist making ISIS-style bombs (Marwa Eltagouri, April 13, 2018, Washington Post)

[E]vidence has emerged suggesting Morrow was a white supremacist whose apartment doubled as a "homemade explosives laboratory," and that he may have had plans for those explosives, according to an unsealed warrant application by the state's Department of Justice, which was obtained by the Daily Beast. Investigators said a "one-gallon metal container of acetone" was found at the scene -- an easy-to-procure substance that, when cooked, becomes highly volatile and potent.

The fatal explosion occurred around the same time that a weeks-long string of exploding packages terrorized Austin.

Acetone is typically found in the "Mother of Satan" bombs used by terrorists in Islamic State attacks. It was a primary ingredient, for example, in the bombs Islamic State operatives used in the 2015 attack in Paris and 2016 attacks in Brussels which killed 137 people and 31 people, respectively.

There were 40 gallons of acetone in the apartment of the suspected bomber. The attackers in Brussels could have purchased the ingredients without raising suspicion, especially if each member was responsible for buying just one element.

Investigators submitted the warrant application to search the contents of a storage unit Morrow was renting, as well as his computers, flash drives and phone, according to the Daily Beast.

[Austin bombing suspect Mark Conditt dies after blowing himself up as officers approached, police say]

On the day Morrow died, two white cardboard boxes labeled with the words "mix it, shake it, shoot it" sat in his apartment, along with three more packages labeled "sonic boom," according to state investigator Kevin Heimerl, who stated in the warrant application that he suspected the boxes contained materials that, when combined, were destructive. In addition to the bombmaking materials, Morrow also possessed guns and accessories, such as a rifle scope, masks, vests and thousands of rounds of ammunition, the Daily Beast reported.

In his bedroom, investigators found "white supremacist material," according to the warrant.

Posted by orrinj at 8:26 AM


Paul Ryan and the End of an Era (STEPHEN F. HAYES, April 13, 2018, Weekly Standard)

Here's the irony: As Trump consolidates his hold on the party, he's losing his grip on the presidency. Even the strongest supporters of the president now quietly acknowledge fears of what comes next. White House staffers whisper that their boss appears increasingly unhinged. As one prominent Trump supporter recently put it to me: "It's falling apart." It's a view echoed by a former top administration official, who said this week: "It's never been worse. Nobody knows what to do."

The details beggar the imagination. On April 9, Trump held a meeting to consider how he might deepen U.S. involvement in the Syrian war that he had told top advisers five days earlier he wanted to end. He opened the war-planning meeting with a rambling, televised tirade about the FBI raid of the offices of Michael Cohen, his personal attorney, under scrutiny for having paid $130,000 in hush money to a porn performer just before the 2016 election. During his almost-10-minute rant, Trump attacked top law enforcement officials--including ones he'd chosen to serve in his administration--for their involvement in a "witch hunt" meant to damage his presidency. One moment he was lamenting having chosen Jeff Sessions as attorney general and complaining about Hillary Clinton's "acid-washed" emails, the next he was talking about the chemical weapons attack in Syria and the U.S. resolve to respond.

Sitting grimly at the side of the president as he expounded on the witch hunt was John Bolton, his third national security adviser in 15 months. As Trump's national security team ponders how to operationalize the president's constantly changing positions on Syria, it is simultaneously undergoing a top-to-bottom overhaul. In recent weeks, the following senior officials have left the administration, voluntarily or otherwise: secretary of state, national security adviser, deputy national security adviser, deputy national security adviser for strategy, homeland security adviser, undersecretary of state for public affairs, and national security council spokesman.

Beyond national security, the White House communications director, the top White House economic adviser, the White House staff secretary, a senior White House communications adviser, the secretary of veterans affairs, and the president's personal aide have all either headed for the exits or been pushed out.

It's worth noting that these were Trump people. Many of them were chosen for their loyalty to him and their belief in what they understood to be his agenda.

The turmoil extends well beyond the administration. Close observers of Trump's recent policy reversals look like the crowd at a tennis match, as he publicly declares himself for and against a clean vote on DACA, for and against reinstituting an assault-weapons ban, for and against the Trans-Pacific Partnership, for and against war in Syria. A graph of stock market volatility looks like the Rocky Mountains, as the president one day announces unplanned tariffs and praises trade wars as "good and easy to win," only to turn around and carve out market-pleasing exemptions and suggest his previous proposals were mere bluster for the purposes of negotiation.

Trump's White House spent weeks rallying support among Capitol Hill Republicans for the reauthorization of a crucial intelligence collection program, only to have a last-minute Trump attack on the law nearly lead to its expiration. The president threatened to veto the execrable omnibus spending bill after it had passed and despite the fact that administration officials had worked closely with lawmakers to determine what was in it.

It's not at all clear what comes next.

Of course, it is: more fun.

Posted by orrinj at 8:18 AM

ALWAYS BET ON THE dEEP sTATE (profanity alert):

WATCH: InfoWars' Alex Jones breaks down in tears after learning 'Trump c[***]ed all over us' by attacking Syria (Tom Boggioni, 14 APR 2018, Raw Story)

InfoWars founder Alex Jones had a weeping meltdown on Friday night after learning that President Donald Trump joined with France and the British to launch an attack on Syria in retaliation for a reported chemical attack on the residents of Douma.

Reacting to the news of the military incursion, the anti-interventionist Jones lamented that, "Trump is cr[***]ing all over us."

At least you got that fetish fulfilled for free--Donald pays for his...

Posted by orrinj at 7:16 AM


Only Two Companies Are Making Trump-Brand Products Now (Chavie Lieber,  Apr 13, 2018, Racked)

Three years ago, there were as many as 19 companies making Trump-branded merchandise. Today, only two -- one in Panama and one in Turkey -- are producing Trump products.

Trump began licensing his name in 2004; by 2009, the Trump brand was bringing in $215 million in sales worldwide. The Post reports that as of 2015, licensees were paying Trump $2.4 million a year to slap his name onto items as wide-ranging as suits and urine tests.

Trump reported in his 2017 financial disclosure that he had received just $370,000 from licensing deals that year. The Post reports this is because the majority of products are no longer being produced. Trump ties are not in production anymore; nor are Trump pillows, shoes, eyeglasses, mattresses, or chandeliers.

Some Trump licensing partners told the Post their agreements had merely expired, while others cited it as a "business decision," explaining that the merchandise wasn't selling. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:56 AM


Deported veteran becomes US citizen after California pardon (Elliot Spagat, 4/13/18, AP) 

A decorated former U.S. Army paratrooper whose work on behalf of deported veterans drew widespread attention to his cause became a U.S. citizen Friday, giving immigration advocates a rare reason to celebrate.

Hector Barajas, who was deported to Mexico in 2010, beamed after taking his citizenship oath in a small, private ceremony at a government office in San Diego in full military uniform.

"I get to live the American Dream for a second time," he said, holding a small American flag in his hand at a jubilant news conference.

Barajas founded the Deported Veterans Support Home in the Mexican border city of Tijuana, providing shelter and other services. Extensive media coverage, support from members of Congress and the American Civil Liberties Union's involvement raised his profile.

Posted by orrinj at 6:53 AM


I'm a Peeliever and You Should Be, Too (Jonathan Chait, 4/14/18, New York)

1. Christopher Steele is credible. Steele isn't just some gumshoe. He's an experienced intelligence collector whose work has been valued by the British and American governments. His sources seem to be serious, too, including "a former top-level Russian intelligence officer still active inside the Kremlin," a "member of the staff at the hotel," a "female staffer at the hotel when Trump had stayed there," and "a close associate of Trump who had organized and managed his recent trips to Moscow."

Steele himself has said that probably not every fact compiled in his dossier is true. The dossier was not intended as solid intelligence, but as a collection of leads. Still, the fact that Russia almost certainly murdered some of the sources for his reporting in the immediate wake of the dossier's publication further attests to their credibility.

Update: One of the firmest denials Trump's orbit has made of the Steele dossier has been its report that Michael Cohen met with Russian agents in Prague in the summer of 2016. Cohen has produced a passport showing no Czech visit. But McClatchy reports that Robert Mueller has evidence he did go to Prague to meet with Russians then, going through Germany, which would avoid any mark on his passport. In addition to constituting important evidence of collusion between Trump and Russia, this is significant corroboration of Steele's work.

2. Trump is unhealthily obsessed with Obama. Trump's fixation with Barack Obama has been evident since his 2011 humiliation at the White House Correspondents' Dinner. But as we have mapped out the contours of Trump's unbalanced psyche over the course of his presidency to date, the centrality of Obama has grown even more evident. He would routinely tell guests touring the Oval Office that the previous president had ignored the room. "Obama never used the Oval, but Trump is different," he would say, in his customary third-person.

Obama hatred is the lodestar of Trump's often confused policy-making. "It's his only real position," a top European diplomat told BuzzFeed last year. "He will ask: 'Did Obama approve this?' And if the answer is affirmative, he will say: 'We don't.'" Even bizarrely self-defeating actions like sabotaging the health-care exchanges, which will cause premiums to spike right before this November's midterm elections, seem to be motivated by a desire to defile his predecessor's legacy. Getting prostitutes to pee on the bed Obama slept in seems to be very much in character.

There is, of course, a chance that this is the one thing Mr. Steele got wrong, but that's long odds.

Posted by orrinj at 6:30 AM


Kakistocracy, a 374-year-old word that means 'government by the worst,' just broke the dictionary (Avi Selk, April 13, 2018, Washington Post)

Today was a productive vocabulary day in the United States of America.

The learning began in the morning, when former CIA director John O. Brennan tweeted at President Trump: "Your kakistocracy is collapsing after its lamentable journey."

The insult was part of a raging feud between Trump and various members of the intelligence community, some of whom suspect the president's inner circle of committing federal crimes, and many of whom Trump says are out to destroy him.

Brennan's tweet proved quite popular with Trump's critics, even if not everyone totally understood it.

Posted by orrinj at 6:28 AM


Posted by orrinj at 5:58 AM


Gowdy expands probe into EPA's Pruitt (ANTHONY ADRAGNA and ALEX GUILLÉN, 04/13/2018, Politico)

House Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) said Friday he's expanding his probe into the alleged ethical and spending abuses by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt one day after his staff met for several hours with a former EPA aide who was pushed out of the agency.

Gowdy's latest letter is a further sign of the deepening bipartisan scrutiny facing President Donald Trump's environmental chief, whose critics accuse him of excessive spending on travel, vehicles, staff raises and luxe security features such as a $43,000 soundproof phone booth.

Posted by orrinj at 5:53 AM


Milos Forman, Oscar-winning 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' director, dead at 86 (JESSICA CHIA, 4/14/18, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)

Forman, who was born in the small town of Caslav in 1932, moved to U.S. in the 1960s and became widely known for his humanism, dark humor, and fascination with rebellious characters.

He studied at the University of Prague's Film Institute before he kick-started his career -- and the Czech New Wave with three hits in as many years.

Black Peter, his first major feature in 1964, won Forman international acclaim and his star only continued to rise with "Loves of a Blonde."

The 1965 film is a bittersweet coming-of-age story that sold out in his home country before it was nominated for both an Oscar and a Golden Globe.

Just two years later, Forman made "The Firemen's Ball", a satirical look at the country's communist regime. Despite being banned in Czechoslovakia, the film nabbed another Best Foreign Film nomination at the Academy Awards.

In a 2004 interview with the LA Times, Forman said, "When we started to make our films, they were really Czech films about Czech society and Czech little people -- and who cares about Czech little people? So it was satisfying to have people in other countries respond."

...his best film is quintessentially American.

Posted by orrinj at 5:50 AM


France fires cruise missiles from Med to punish Syria (AFP, 14 April 2018)

Defence Minister Florence Parly said said "these different assets fired cruise missiles in a perfectly coordinated way... closely synchronised  with our American and British allies."
She said the strikes had targeted "the main research centre" for chemical weapons and two 
production sites of "a clandestine chemical programme". 
"It's the capacity to develop and produce chemical weapons that has been hit," she said in a statement at the presidential palace. "The goal is simple: to stop the regime from using chemical weapons again."  
The United  States, Britain and France carried out the strikes in response to alleged chemical  weapons attacks that President Donald Trump branded the "crimes of a monster."

April 13, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 7:56 PM


Sources: Mueller has evidence Cohen was in Prague in 2016, confirming part of dossier (PETER STONE AND GREG GORDON, 4/13/18, mcclatchydc.com)
The Justice Department special counsel has evidence that Donald Trump's personal lawyer and confidant, Michael Cohen, secretly made a late-summer trip to Prague during the 2016 presidential campaign, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

Confirmation of the trip would lend credence to a retired British spy's report that Cohen strategized there with a powerful Kremlin figure about Russian meddling in the U.S. election.

Posted by orrinj at 7:49 PM


James Comey Is No Hero (ADAM SERWER, 4/13/18, The Atlantic)

The most damning revelations in the published accounts of the memoir, however, are not Comey's condemnations of Trump, but his disclosures of his own thinking when he made the decisions that helped put the current president in office.

In July of 2016, Comey held a press conference excoriating Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton for her handling of classified information, but announcing his decision to decline to prosecute her, said her actions were careless but inadvertent. Then, on October 28, 2016, days before the presidential election, Comey wrote a letter to Congress announcing publicly that the case was being reopened, a decision that experts have argued likely cost Clinton the election. At the same time that Comey was publicly discussing a federal investigation of Clinton, the FBI was investigating whether Trump's campaign was aiding a Russian influence operation aimed at putting the real-estate mogul in office. Comey kept the latter secret. The investigation into Clinton found nothing new--the inquiry into the Trump campaign's ties to Russia is ongoing and has already led to  guilty pleas from several former Trump campaign officials.

Why did Comey make that decision? His book, A Higher Loyalty, will be released on Tuesday. But accounts of its contents and excerpts published by outlets that have obtained copies of the book make clear that he concedes that he believed Clinton was going to win. "It is entirely possible that, because I was making decisions in an environment where Hillary Clinton was sure to be the next president," Comey wrote, "my concern about making her an illegitimate president by concealing the restarted investigation bore greater weight than it would have if the election appeared closer or if Donald Trump were ahead in all polls. But I don't know."

This is an astonishing admission. Justice Department guidelines bar officials from making important disclosures related to investigations close to elections to avoid influencing them. Comey took it upon himself to decide that, based on his concern that keeping the news confidential could call the legitimacy of a Clinton presidency into question, he had to announce that the investigation was being restarted. But that was not his decision to make; the role of the FBI is to investigate crimes, it is not to use its authority to protect or harm the legitimacy of a given politician. A hypothetical Clinton administration's legitimacy should not have been a factor in Comey's decision whatsoever; Comey should only have been concerned with following the Justice Department's guidelines, which exist to protect the integrity of the democratic process, and which Comey followed in the case of the Republican candidate. [...]

Trump fired Comey for self-interested reasons, an act that may amount to obstruction of justice. But by that point, Comey had proven himself unfit to hold his office.

Posted by orrinj at 7:25 PM


Trump Sees Inquiry Into Cohen as Greater Threat Than Mueller (MATT APUZZO, MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT, MAGGIE HABERMAN and EILEEN SULLIVAN, APRIL 13, 2018, NY Times)

President Trump's advisers have concluded that a wide-ranging corruption investigation into his personal lawyer poses a greater and more imminent threat to the president than even the special counsel's investigation, according to several people close to Mr. Trump.

As his lawyers went to court in New York on Friday to try to block prosecutors from reading files that were seized from the personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, this week, Mr. Trump found himself increasingly isolated in mounting a response. He continued to struggle to hire a new criminal lawyer, and some of his own aides were reluctant to advise him about a response for fear of being dragged into a criminal investigation themselves. [...]

Agents also demanded information related to Stephanie Clifford, better known as Stormy Daniels, a pornographic film actress. Ms. Clifford has said she had sex with Mr. Trump while he was married. Mr. Cohen has acknowledged paying Ms. Clifford $130,000 as part of a nondisclosure agreement to secure her silence days before Election Day.

Mr. Trump recently told reporters he knew nothing about the agreement.

Posted by orrinj at 7:21 PM


Posted by orrinj at 7:10 PM


A Former Russian Spy Worked On A Trump Moscow Deal While Trump Was Running For President (Jason Leopold & Anthony Cormier, 4/13/18, Buzz Feed)

A former Russian spy helped Donald Trump's business team seek financing for a Trump-branded tower in the heart of Moscow during the 2016 presidential campaign, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

This connection between Trump and Russian intelligence -- made public here for the first time -- is known to special counsel Robert Mueller's team and raises fresh questions about the president's connections to the Kremlin. The former agent, who had served in Russia's military intelligence arm known as the GRU and later worked as an arms dealer, negotiated for financing from a Russian state-owned bank that was under US sanctions at the time. [...]

Plans to build a Trump tower in Moscow were underway in late 2015 and early 2016, while Trump was running for president. A key player in the effort was Felix Sater, who had worked with Trump on real estate deals around the world.

In November 2015, Sater emailed Trump's longtime personal attorney, Michael Cohen, famously saying in one message that he would "get all of Putin's team to buy in" on the Trump tower deal, and boasting that he could get Putin to publicly praise the Republican candidate during the campaign. There is no evidence that Sater delivered on those promises. Sater previously told BuzzFeed News that his emails amounted to salesmanship, and the whole Trump Moscow project ultimately fizzled.

But a later message from Sater to Cohen, sent in early 2016, mentions a contact in Russia who could help facilitate the deal. That individual is a former colonel with Russia's military intelligence, the two sources told BuzzFeed News. He did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Cohen also did not immediately respond to requests for comment sent through his attorney. Sater told BuzzFeed News, "I will not comment on anything related to ongoing investigations."

Sater contacted the former GRU officer in 2015 to help arrange financing. In Russia, where the president himself is a former KGB officer, it isn't unusual for companies to work with former intelligence officers, who often retain key connections. To Sater, the former agent mentioned two banks: GenBank and VTB Bank. State-owned VTB was one of the top financial institutions in Russia for real estate projects at the time, but it was also on the US Treasury Department's sanctions list.

Posted by orrinj at 6:22 PM


U.S. lowers NAFTA key auto content demand (Anthony Esposito, David Lawder, 4/13/18, Reuters) 

U.S. trade negotiators have significantly softened their demands to increase regional automotive content under a reworked NAFTA trade pact in an effort to move more quickly towards a deal in the next few weeks, auto industry executives said on Friday.

Posted by orrinj at 6:18 PM


Andrew McCabe Got Fired for Allegedly Misleading James Comey, Which Screws Up Pretty Much Everyone's Narrative (BEN MATHIS-LILLEY, APRIL 13, 2018, Slate)

[H]ere's the gist of what is recounted and alleged:

• In October 2016, a Wall Street Journal reporter contacted the FBI and said he'd heard that McCabe was telling agents involved in the FBI's investigation of the Clinton Foundation to "stand down." (The agency investigated the Clintons' nonprofit for potential corruption; no charges were ever filed. McCabe was at that point the subject of public scrutiny regarding Clinton because his wife received significant fundraising assistance from Clinton ally Terry McAuliffe during an unsuccessful run for office.)

• McCabe authorized two FBI employees to convey to the WSJ reporter that McCabe had in fact vociferously defended the FBI's right to continue investigating the Clinton Foundation during an August 2016 conversation with a Department of Justice official.

• While McCabe did have the authority to make decisions about disclosures to the press, this particular disclosure didn't conform to the FBI's policies on when and how to comment on ongoing investigations, took place during a period when leaks had created high tension between the FBI and DOJ, and likely would not have been approved by then-FBI Director James Comey had he been apprised of it in advance.

• McCabe misled Comey after the Journal published its story, giving Comey the impression that he (McCabe) did not know how an account of the August 2016 conversation had ended up in the paper.

• McCabe then misled both internal FBI investigators (in May 2017) and inspector general investigators (in July 2017) who were looking into the source of the disclosure to the Journal. While McCabe did ultimately contact investigators in August 2017 to say that he'd authorized the disclosure, and gave further testimony about that disclosure in November 2017, he continued to be dishonest about having misled Comey.

Hillary was his white whale.

Posted by orrinj at 6:15 PM


Posted by orrinj at 4:49 PM


R.N.C. Official Who Agreed to Pay Playboy Model $1.6 Million Resigns (REBECCA R. RUIZ and JIM RUTENBERG, APRIL 13, 2018, NY Times)

A major donor with close ties to the White House resigned on Friday as deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee after the revelation that he had agreed to pay $1.6 million to a former Playboy model who became pregnant during an affair.

The deal was arranged by President Trump's personal lawyer and fixer, Michael D. Cohen.

Posted by orrinj at 5:42 AM


Immigrants Become Naturalized Citizens in Hanover High Ceremony (Matt Hongoltz-Hetling , 4/13/18, Valley News)

Hanover -- Standing in a cinder-block-lined hallway, Daria Trusova held a printed copy of The Star-Spangled Banner in her hand while a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services official addressed the crowd.

"The back of that form is an immigration form," said Joshua Egli, the official. "It's the last immigration form you'll ever have to fill out."

Trusova, 28, moved to Hanover from Russia in 2015 to be with her husband, who became a citizen in 2013. She's one of 39 immigrants who came to Hanover High School to participate in a naturalization ceremony on Thursday morning. They stood in a line, waiting for a man wearing glasses to check over their green card and paperwork one last time. As each person came to the front of the line, the man made a mark next to their name on a clipboard and directed them up a flight of stairs.

Trusova's husband, Vladimir Chernov, is a math professor at Dartmouth College. All week, he'd been reminding her of the upcoming ceremony -- for the last three nights, he had sung The Star-Spangled Banner to her from the page she now held in her hand.

She worked as a dishwasher before having Ilya, her 6-month-old son. To her, America is living up to its reputation as a land of plenty.

Posted by orrinj at 4:30 AM


Boy plays hooky for Cubs' home opener, runs into principal at Wrigley Field (Mitch Dudek, 4/13/18,  Chicago Sun-Times)
Normally, if you ditch school to attend opening day at Wrigley Field, you keep a low profile.

Tucker Steckman, a fourth-grader at Wells Elementary School in East Moline, brought a cardboard sign that proclaimed: "Skipping school . . . Shhh. Don't tell Principal Versluis."

A photograph of the young outlaw fell into the hands of Major League Baseball, which tweeted the picture to 8.3 million followers.

And, oh, by the way, shortly after the picture was taken, Tucker ran into his principal, Pat Versluis, inside Wrigley Field.

"I saw him and I was kind of ducking down," Versluis said with a laugh during a cell phone call from inside Wrigley Field.

"I didn't want him to see me either," he said. "I'm here with my son, Aiden, who's in fifth grade and I called out sick for the day!"

Posted by orrinj at 4:26 AM


A Celebration of John Fahey and American-Primitive Guitar (Amanda Petrusich, April 12, 2018, The New Yorker)

This weekend, the city of Takoma Park, Maryland, will host the Thousand Incarnations of the Rose, the first and only festival dedicated exclusively to American-primitive guitar music. Takoma Park, a suburb of Washington, D.C., is also the home town of the guitarist John Fahey, who, in the nineteen-fifties and sixties, helped to develop a particular and idiosyncratic style of fingerpicking that borrowed heavily from the country blues--then a dying music, but one which Fahey venerated, obsessed over--while incorporating prickly, dissonant elements more common to avant-garde composers. American primitive is generally instrumental, and performed by a solo, steel-string guitarist working in an open tuning. The feel is introspective, if not plainly melancholic--like gazing out over flat water.

Fahey took cues from his forebears (Elizabeth Cotten, Lena Hughes, Mississippi John Hurt), but his sadness was prodigious, and his own. It led him to write dozens of albums of odd yet breathtaking songs. The critic Byron Coley, writing in Spin, once compared Fahey's musical inventions to "those of John Coltrane and Harry Partch, for sheer transcendental American power." The essayist John Jeremiah Sullivan has described his songs as "harmonic chambers in which different dead styles spoke to one another." Fahey, who was famously cantankerous--it's been said that, in his later years, he grew increasingly bitter and choleric, like all men who know too much about things nobody else cares about--explained it only as an expression of his truth: "The pathos of the suburbs or whatever."

Fahey died in 2001, at the age of sixty-one, after undergoing a sextuple coronary bypass. He had a bum heart, and several decades of rapacious boozing behind him. He'd been renting a room in a Salvation Army in Salem, Oregon, eating gas-station sausages for dinner and occasionally pawning his guitars for cash. I wonder what it would have been like to spend time with him then. I'm nearly certain that he would have found me suspicious--an amateur and an interloper--but I like to think that I might've won him over for a minute or three, negotiating temporary access to whatever wild and tangled knowledge that he carried around. Fahey was repulsed by pretension, but he was an intellectual nonetheless, with an M.A. in folklore from U.C.L.A. (His field work included the tracking down and cultural resuscitation of Bukka White and Skip James, two titans of prewar blues.) For a while, he knew more than almost anyone about the music of Charley Patton. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:23 AM


This is what Obama told Comey after Trump's election (Catherine Garcia, April 12, 2018, The Week)

It was just the two of them, Comey writes, and Obama told him, "I picked you to be FBI director because of your integrity and your ability. I want you to know that nothing -- nothing -- has happened in the last year to change my view." Comey said he was close to tears, and responded, "I'm just trying to do the right thing." "I know," Obama replied. "I know." 

The difficulty for Left and Right is accepting that Mr. Comey was right to be distraught about what he'd done and Mr. Obama was right that he had tried to do the right thing.  We often do wrong meaning to do right.  The former defines us, not the latter.

Posted by orrinj at 4:16 AM


Brain-damaging lead found in tap water in hundreds of homes tested across Chicago, results show (Michael Hawthorne and Cecilia Reyes, 4/13/18, Chicago Tribune)

Amid renewed national attention to the dangers of lead poisoning, hundreds of Chicagoans have taken the city up on its offer of free testing kits to determine if they are drinking tap water contaminated with the brain-damaging metal.

A Tribune analysis of the results shows lead was found in water drawn from nearly 70 percent of the 2,797 homes tested during the past two years. Tap water in 3 of every 10 homes sampled had lead concentrations above 5 parts per billion, the maximum allowed in bottled water by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Alarming amounts of the toxic metal turned up in water samples collected throughout the city, the newspaper's analysis found, largely because Chicago required the use of lead service lines between street mains and homes until Congress banned the practice in 1986.

New evidence that lead exposure increases crime (Jennifer L. Doleac, June 1, 2017, Brookings)

A recent investigation by Reuters found that lead exposure affects kids in communities across the country -- not just in high-profile cities like Flint, Michigan. This is worrisome, because elevated blood lead levels in kids have been linked to an array of developmental delays and behavioral problems. More ominously, this could also increase crime. Kevin Drum and others have argued that lead exposure caused the high crime rates during the 1980s and early 1990s. There has been suggestive evidence of such a link for decades, though it hasn't gained much traction in research or policy circles. But the case that lead exposure causes crime recently became much stronger.

The "lead-crime hypothesis" is that (1) lead exposure at young ages leaves children with problems like learning disabilities, ADHD, and impulse control problems; and (2) those problems cause them to commit crime as adults -- particularly violent crime. For many years, the major source of lead in the environment was leaded gasoline: car exhaust left lead behind to settle into dust on the roads and nearby land. When lead was removed from gasoline, lead levels in the environment fell, and kids avoided the lead exposure that caused these developmental problems. About 20 years later, when those kids became young adults, crime rates fell. This, proponents say, is what explains the mysterious and persistent decline in crime beginning in the early 1990s.

It's an intriguing idea -- particularly since we don't have a better explanation for the big changes in crime rates during this period. Several studies have found correlations between lead exposure and crime, at varying levels of geography (from neighborhoods to nations). But correlation, as we all know by now, does not imply causation.

The main challenge in measuring the effect of lead on crime is that lead exposure is highly correlated with a variety of indicators related to poverty: poor schools, poor nutrition, poor health care, exposure to other environmental toxins, and so on. Those other factors could independently affect crime. The challenge for economists has been to separate the effect of lead exposure from the effects of all those other things that are correlated with lead exposure. A true experiment -- where some kids are randomized to grow up with high lead exposure and others not -- is out of the question. So economists have gone hunting for natural experiments -- events or policies that divide otherwise-similar kids into comparable treatment and control groups.

And they've found them. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:02 AM


Michael Cohen Routinely Taped Political and Business Conversations. (ELLIOT HANNON, APRIL 12, 2018, Slate)

Because the entire Trump organization operated as if they were characters in the Sopranos, it shouldn't be all that surprising to hear that Trump lawyer, confidante, and henchman Michael Cohen recorded conversations, reportedly as standard practice, in order to squeeze and blackmail people operating in the Trump universe, first in business but later within the campaign. According to the Washington Post, Cohen "wanted his business calls on tape so he could use them later as leverage" and "was known to store the conversations using digital files and then replay them for colleagues." One of the people Cohen would play his tapes for just so happened to be Donald Trump.

We're gonna need more popcorn...

Posted by orrinj at 3:47 AM


Evangelicals to Meet in the Hope of Escaping Trump's Shadow (Sarah Pulliam Bailey, 4/12/18, The Washington Post)

The diverse group, which includes such nationally known pastors as Tim Keller and A.R. Bernard, is expected to include leaders of major ministries, denominations, colleges and seminaries. The gathering will take place at Wheaton College, an evangelical college outside of Chicago, according to organizer Doug Birdsall, honorary chairman of Lausanne, an international movement of evangelicals. [...]

The purpose of the Wheaton meeting is to try to shift the conversation back to core questions of the faith and Trump as an individual will not be the focus of discussion, Birdsall said. Nonetheless, the president will be the "elephant in the room," he said, because under his leadership the term "evangelical" has become associated in the minds of many American with topics such as racism and nationalism.

While the organizers said they are not trying to build a new coalition or launch a political agenda, the gathering shows how many key leaders of major institutions are concerned about the state of evangelicalism.

"When you Google evangelicals, you get Trump," Birdsall said. "When people say what does it mean to be an evangelical, people don't say evangelism or the gospel. There's a grotesque caricature of what it means to be an evangelical."

Those gathered will not necessarily oppose Trump and some may even be friendly to some of his policies, said Darrell Bock of Dallas Theological Seminary, who is also helping to organize the event. But organizers said evangelicals need to return their focus to the term's true definition: a person who believes in the authority of the Bible, salvation through Jesus' work on the cross, personal conversion and the need for evangelism.

Posted by orrinj at 3:44 AM


5 eye-popping revelations from James Comey's book excerpts: Trump was obsessed with the "pee tape," and more. (Jen Kirby,  Apr 12, 2018, Vox)

Comey writes that Trump was focused on one particularly sordid detail from the dossier: an allegation that a blackmail tape exists of Trump asking prostitutes to pee on a bed in a room the Obamas stayed in at the Ritz-Carlton in Moscow. Per the Washington Post:

The president-elect quickly interrupted the FBI director. According to Comey's account in a new memoir, Trump "strongly denied the allegations, asking -- rhetorically, I assumed -- whether he seemed like a guy who needed the service of prostitutes. He then began discussing cases where women had accused him of sexual assault, a subject I had not raised. He mentioned a number of women, and seemed to have memorized their allegations."

The January 2017 conversation at Trump Tower in Manhattan "teetered toward disaster" -- until "I pulled the tool from my bag: 'We are not investigating you, sir.' That seemed to quiet him," Comey writes.

Comey said Trump followed up with him after the meeting in a phone call on January 11, saying the "pee tape" couldn't be real because he's a germaphobe. "There's no way I would let people pee on each other around me," Comey recounts Trump saying. "No way."

Trump complained the allegations were painful to his wife, Melania Trump, and that the logistics didn't make sense, according to the Post:

The president-elect argued that it could not be true because he had not stayed overnight in Moscow but had only used the hotel room to change his clothes. And after Trump explained that he would never allow people to urinate near him, Comey recalls laughing.

"I decided not to tell him that the activity alleged did not seem to require either an overnight stay or even being in proximity to the participants," Comey writes. "In fact, though I didn't know for sure, I imagined the presidential suite of the Ritz-Carlton in Moscow was large enough for a germaphobe to be at a safe distance from the activity."

Posted by orrinj at 3:40 AM


Trade war backfire: Steel tariff shrapnel hits U.S. farmers (Tom Polansek, P.J. Huffstutter, 4/13/18, Reuters) 

Throughout U.S. farm country, where Trump has enjoyed strong support, tariffs on steel and aluminum imports are boosting costs for equipment and infrastructure and causing some farmers and agricultural firms to scrap purchases and expansion plans, according to Reuters' interviews with farmers, manufacturers, construction firms and food shippers.

The impact of rising steel prices on agriculture illustrates the unintended and unpredictable consequences of aggressive protectionism in a global economy. And the blow comes as farmers fear a more direct hit from retaliatory tariffs threatened by China on crops such as sorghum and soybeans, the most valuable U.S. agricultural export.

It's a small price to pay for Donald's war on the Yellow Menace.

April 12, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 8:05 PM


Trump, Mueller teams prepare to move forward without presidential interview (Carol E. Lee, Julia Ainsley, Kristen Welker and Hallie Jackson,  Apr.12.2018, NBC News)

Three sources familiar with the investigation said the findings Mueller has collected on Trump's attempts to obstruct justice include: His intent to fire former FBI Director James Comey; his role in the crafting of a misleading public statement on the nature of a June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between his son and Russians; Trump's dangling of pardons before grand jury witnesses who might testify against him; and pressuring Attorney General Jeff Sessions not to recuse himself from the Russia investigation.

Mueller would then likely send a confidential report to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is overseeing the Russia investigation. Rosenstein could decide whether to make the report public and send its findings to Congress. From there, Congress would then decide whether to begin impeachment proceedings against the president, said two of the sources.

James Comey Has a Story to Tell. It's Very Persuasive. (MICHIKO KAKUTANIAPRIL 12, 2018, NY Times)

In his absorbing new book, "A Higher Loyalty," the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey calls the Trump presidency a "forest fire" that is doing serious damage to the country's norms and traditions.

"This president is unethical, and untethered to truth and institutional values," Comey writes. "His leadership is transactional, ego driven and about personal loyalty."

Decades before he led the F.B.I.'s investigation into whether members of Trump's campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election, Comey was a career prosecutor who helped dismantle the Gambino crime family; and he doesn't hesitate in these pages to draw a direct analogy between the Mafia bosses he helped pack off to prison years ago and the current occupant of the Oval Office.

A February 2017 meeting in the White House with Trump and then chief of staff Reince Priebus left Comey recalling his days as a federal prosecutor facing off against the Mob: "The silent circle of assent. The boss in complete control. The loyalty oaths. The us-versus-them worldview. The lying about all things, large and small, in service to some code of loyalty that put the organization above morality and above the truth." An earlier visit to Trump Tower in January made Comey think about the New York Mafia social clubs he knew as a Manhattan prosecutor in the 1980s and 1990s -- "The Ravenite. The Palma Boys. Café Giardino."

The central themes that Comey returns to throughout this impassioned book are the toxic consequences of lying; and the corrosive effects of choosing loyalty to an individual over truth and the rule of law. Dishonesty, he writes, was central "to the entire enterprise of organized crime on both sides of the Atlantic," and so, too, were bullying, peer pressure and groupthink -- repellent traits shared by Trump and company, he suggests, and now infecting our culture.

Posted by orrinj at 6:05 PM


A Proposal To Split California Could Make The November Ballot (EMILY ZANOTTI, April 12, 2018, Daily Wire)

A proposal to split California into three states, effectively separating the state's northern and southern regions from its far more liberal middle, has enough signatures to make it onto the November ballot.

The "CAL 3" proposal would split off San Diego and southern regions into a separate state, quarantine Sacramento with Los Angeles and much of the Bay Area, and give northern Californians their own self-government. The three new states, according to the petition, would select their own capitals and elect their own legislatures.

This proposal is separate from two others, which are asking for complete secession -- one liberal, which would separate the full state of California from the rest of the union, and one conservative, which would break off the Orange County area into its own self-governing state. 

California is too large to be an effective nation.

Posted by orrinj at 1:52 PM


10 Lawmakers In Louisiana Vote AGAINST Law To Ban Sex With Animals (JOSEPH CURL, April 12, 2018, Daily Wire)

The vote was 25-10 on Senate Bill 236, which will now be sent to the House for consideration.

Posted by orrinj at 4:50 AM


Posted by orrinj at 4:45 AM


Trump Discussed Firing Rosenstein But Denies Bid to Oust Mueller  (Jennifer Jacobs, Joshua Green & Shannon Pettypiece, April 12, 2018, Bloomberg)

President Donald Trump discussed firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein with White House aides on Wednesday, a person familiar with the matter said, as a chorus of Trump's advisers and allies urged him to thwart the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. [...]

Steve Bannon, Trump's former strategist, said he has told White House officials that the president should fire both his lawyer Ty Cobb and Rosenstein to cripple Mueller's inquiry.

Bannon said that Trump should stop cooperating with Mueller and assert executive privilege to silence aides who might speak with the special counsel -- even retroactively, for those who've already been interviewed.

...they are at least being honest that the sole purpose of any of Donald's actions at this point is obstruction.  But I think I missed the section on retroactive privilege in law school....

Posted by orrinj at 4:44 AM


California's governor agrees to deploy 400 National Guard troops at Trump's request (KCRA,  Apr 11, 2018)

Dear Secretary Nielsen and Secretary Mattis:

Pursuant to your request, the California National Guard will accept federal funding to add approximately 400 Guard members statewide to supplement the staffing of its ongoing program to combat transnational crime. This program is currently staffed by 250 personnel statewide, including 55 at the California border.

Your funding for new staffing will allow the Guard to do what it does best: support operations targeting transnational criminal gangs, human traffickers and illegal firearm and drug smugglers along the border, the coast and throughout the state. Combating these criminal threats are priorities for all Americans - Republicans and Democrats. That's why the state and the Guard have long supported this important work and agreed to similar targeted assistance in 2006 under President Bush and in 2010 under President Obama.

But let's be crystal clear on the scope of this mission. This will not be a mission to build a new wall. It will not be a mission to round up women and children or detain people escaping violence and seeking a better life. And the California National Guard will not be enforcing federal immigration laws.

Here are the facts: there is no massive wave of migrants pouring into California. Overall immigrant apprehensions on the border last year were as low as they've been in nearly 50 years (and 85 percent of the apprehensions occurred outside of California).

I agree with the Catholic Bishops who have said that local, state and federal officials should "work collaboratively and prudently in the implementation of this deployment, ensuring that the presence of the National Guard is measured and not disruptive to community life."

I look forward to working with you on this important effort.


Edmund G. Brown Jr.

Posted by orrinj at 4:40 AM


Why, as an Indian American, the Apu Simpsons Controversy Bothers Me (PRADHEEP J. SHANKER, April 11, 2018, National Review)

On the show, Apu is a strongly accented, traditional Indian immigrant. As such, he is the owner of a convenience store (obviously a nod to the many 7-11s and other small businesses owned by Indians throughout the northeastern United States), who later gets an arranged marriage, has octuplets, and is shown as a fantastic father and husband. He is also, among other things, a gun owner who is extremely religious and devoted to his Hindu culture.

Now . . . what in the above paragraph is insulting or demeaning? Literally nothing, to anyone with an ounce of common sense or perspective on reality. It takes a fantastic amount of intellectual gymnastics to blame such a character for any racial slights any of us Indians have experienced in our day-to-day lives. To be sure, Apu, like all of the characters on the show, has his moments of buffoonery, but none of it amounts in any significant way to racial animus.

Kondabolu's complaints about the repercussions of Apu's entrance into popular society abound. For example, he points to the fact that people yell catchphrases from the TV show at him during his comedy bits. He has even complained that Apu's most famous catchphrase -- "Thank you! Come again!" -- has been yelled at him at times by drunks on the street.

This is absurd.

For anyone who grew up in the U.S. as a minority, such supposed atrocities are the most minimalist racial affronts one could think of. I can just picture my African-American friends, who grew up being called the N-word on a regular basis, guffawing at the supposed outrage that Indians feel at having quotes from an American cartoon show shouted at them.

That isn't to say there isn't and wasn't racism against Indian Americans. I grew up in a mostly white, Protestant town, with almost no minorities (where the population of Indians in my school numbered exactly one: me). That said, I grew up largely before The Simpsons ever aired. Was I exempt from the random racial epithet? Of course not. And this is where Kondabolu's complaints are so ridiculous. Racists and bigots will find something to use to denigrate the ones they hate, regardless of the available source material. If Apu had never existed, would Kondabolu and his cohorts have gone through life exempt from any racial comments and insults? I think not.

Kondabolu compounds the ludicrousness of his complaints by saying that because The Simpsons was largely written by white Americans, and Apu was voiced by someone who is white (Hank Azaria), the character cannot be taken seriously. This adds to the hysteria; the portrayal of Apu, in and of itself, is what is relevant, regardless of who is writing or voicing the character. Is Kondabolu's argument that if I, as an Indian, had been chosen as the voice of Apu, using my even worse interpretation of an Indian accent instead of Azaria's, somehow that would have cleaned the slate?

To the credit of the writers of The Simpsons, they confronted this with comedy and nuance. In the scene that drew the ire of many liberals, Marge, speaking to Lisa, has rewritten an entire book, in order to make it inoffensive. In response, Lisa is largely left speechless:

"It's hard to say," Lisa responds. "Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect. What can you do?"

(With that last rhetorical line, Lisa glances at a picture of Apu, which rests on her nightstand. "Don't have a cow," the autographed photo reads.)

"Some things will be dealt with at a later date," Marge then says.

In many ways, that clip nails it. Apu, like many of the characters on a show that is largely built on stereotypes, has himself grown from a single-dimensional character into one that is fleshed out with a family, profession, and personal desires and needs. What more can you ask for, in a storytelling venture?


Indian-Americans Pay a Price for Running Convenience Stores (Diaspora | Indo-Asian News Service,  September 01, 2014)

Back in 2006, Joe Biden, then a Senate candidate ran into trouble for a remark that "you cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin' Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent."

Gaffe-prone Biden got away by explaining that it wasn't a racial slur but "was meant as a compliment" for the "vibrant Indian-American community" making "a significant contribution to the national economy as well."

A spin or not, Biden who went on become vice president in 2008, was speaking a home truth as according to the Asian-American Convenience Store Owners Association its 50,000 members own over 80,000 convenience stores.

That's more than half the US convenience store count of 151,282 as of Dec 31, 2013.

Posted by orrinj at 4:31 AM


Brutus, the Noble Conspirator: A meticulously researched, beautifully written biography of Julius Caesar's high-minded assassin. (Matthew Leigh, 4/11/18, History Today)

Roman aristocrats of this period were acutely aware of the virtues of their ancestors. Brutus himself claimed descent on his father's side from Lucius Junius Brutus, who expelled Tarquin the Proud in 509 BC and was one of the two consuls for the first year of the Roman republic. Tracing the lineage of his mother, Servilia, Brutus could point to Servilius Ahala, who in 439 BC killed Spurius Maelius on the grounds that he was aspiring to tyranny. Yet in Brutus' own time it was not always so easy to decide who represented the better cause. When civil war broke out in 49 BC, Brutus was an instinctive supporter of the senate in its opposition to the demands of Julius Caesar. Yet to do so meant serving under a man - Pompeius Magnus - who had murdered Brutus' father when Brutus was no more than five and whom Brutus had openly attacked for his subversion of the republican constitution. If Caesar represented a worse cause still, he was also so close an intimate of Servilia that rumours circulated in antiquity that he was Brutus' true father.

After Pompey's defeat at the battle of Pharsalus in 48 BC, Brutus was among the first to make his peace with Caesar. He worked to secure reconciliation between the warring parties and in 46 BC accepted the governorship of Cisalpine Gaul. By 44 BC he was serving as urban praetor, a magistracy second in authority only to the consulship, and he must have seemed to Caesar a reliable friend and associate. Yet Caesar's ever more nakedly monarchical mode of government and pretensions to divinity could not but alienate those who had hoped that he would restore the old order after years of chaos. Brutus, Cassius and their fellow conspirators could see only one way forward: assassination. They styled themselves liberators but others saw them as traitors and parricides. Either way, their success was shortlived and their hopes died with them.

Kathryn Tempest's life of Brutus is both meticulously researched and elegantly constructed. This is no hagiography nor is it a desecration. Brutus' high-minded philosophy and determination to treat his fellow Romans justly are as much in evidence as his dubious financial dealings on Cyprus and his brutal subjection of the people of Xanthus. Incisively analytical when confronted with contradictions in the ancient sources, Tempest nevertheless avoids the temptation to present too univocal a picture of her subject. She recognises the complexity of his personality and his actions and shows how they relate to the confusion of the times in which he lived.

How far a republican must go to stop a tyrant is always a fascinating question.

Posted by orrinj at 4:26 AM


Now You're Free, Paul Ryan. Fire Devin Nunes.: There's still time for the House speaker to redeem himself on Russiagate. (MIEKE EOYANG, April 11, 2018, Politico)

HPSCI is one of the few remaining "select" Committees in Congress, meaning the speaker alone picks the committee chair and the membership for the Republicans. (The minority leader does the same for the Democrats.) Under House rules, the speaker may, at any time, remove any member of a select committee at his or her discretion. In the past, members have been stripped of their committee assignments for causing problems for the leadership. Thus, unlike other committees, where the caucus or a steering committee has a say in the committee leadership, HPSCI is effectively under Ryan's thumb. So he owns Nunes' shameful handling of the Russia probe, and his hijinks on behalf of the White House.

Nunes wasn't always a bad egg. After Speaker John Boehner announced that he was relinquishing the job, he appointed the Fresno congressman to chair HPSCI. Nunes was known as a loyal partisan and a Ryan ally, but at the time he seemed like a traditional Republican when it came to intelligence oversight and had a good relationship with the members of his committee.

Unfortunately, something changed dramatically after Donald Trump won theelection. During the weeks before Trump took office, Chris Christie was removed as head of the transition team and with him, former Michigan Rep. Mike Rogers, a respected ex-chair of HPSCI who ran the committee in a serious, bipartisan fashion. In came Nunes, who helped select national security appointees and set up the administration's national security agenda. Unlike many who serve on transition teams, however, Nunes didn't enter the administration, but returned to HPSCI to run the committee and conduct oversight over the national security foundations that he had laid.

Then, three months after the inauguration, after Trump claimed that his predecessor had "wiretapped" Trump Tower during the election, Nunes dashed off to the White House in the middle the night and the next day, called two bizarre news conferences during which he accused President Barack Obama's team of improperly "unmasking" the identities of Trump associates. The claim never withstood close scrutiny...

Nor distant.

Trump Ordered DOJ to Hire Controversial Former Aide, Sources Say (Chris Strohm & Jennifer Jacobs, Apr. 11th, 2018, Bloomberg)

President Donald Trump personally ordered the Department of Justice to hire a former White House official who departed after he was caught up in a controversy over the release of intelligence material to a member of Congress, according to people familiar with the matter.

Ezra Cohen-Watnick, who was forced out of the National Security Council last year, will advise Attorney General Jeff Sessions on national security matters. He left the White House in August for a job at Oracle Corp. following reports that he had shown House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes classified documents.

Posted by orrinj at 4:17 AM


Parkland teacher faces charge after his gun is fired in public bathroom: Deputies report that it's fortunate nobody was hurt in mishap (Bob Norman, April 11, 2018, Local 10)

A pistol-packing Marjory Stoneman Douglas teacher who said he'd be willing to be trained to carry a gun to protect the high school faces a criminal charge after he left his Glock 9mm in a public restroom where it was later fired by an drunk homeless man, according to the Broward Sheriff's Office. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:15 AM


The Manger, The Cross and The Resurrection: A Christian Interpretation of Our Time (Paul Ramsey, April 12, 2018, Providence)

In Christ, it has been said, are met in one man's ideal of what God ought to be, and God's ideal of what man ought to be. Christ is a revelation of the nature of God's love, and, at the same time, an ideal for human devotion and ethical endeavor. The Cross, moreover, is a disclosure of the fact that man who nailed Christ there is a sinner, and a revelation of the magnitude of human sin. At the Cross we know that man is a sinner, and that he is a great sinner. But we also receive through the Cross a profound insight into the nature of human sin when we hear Jesus saying, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." (Luke 23: 34)

His next insight was even more profound for Him.

Posted by orrinj at 4:10 AM



Now, pitchers have a surfeit of options at hand to fight back. There's FlightScope, a device that uses multifrequency 3D radar technology to track pitches and that 12 Major League teams were using in 2017, according to Fangraphs, a baseball website. PitchGrader uses a Doppler radar to gather pitch data. RevFire, which, like Rapsodo, launched a portable system that records data after every pitch, is coming up with an upgraded avatar. And Rapsodo -- which first started with a golf launch monitor in 2010 -- rolled out its pitching tool to MLB teams in 2017 and had 17 of the 30 big league organizations signed up on Opening Day this year. Three other MLB organizations are in negotiations.

While high-tech methods still earn a skeptical eye from some in the game who preach feel over numbers, many pitchers say pitch tracking gives them a chance to keep their competitive advantage. It allows them to change their grip, or change the pressure they put on the seams of the baseball, with instant analysis in a manner never seen in the sport before. "It's feedback right away," says Blair Lakso, 23, a minor league pitcher with the Minnesota Twins, speaking of Rapsodo. "You translate it right to the playing of the game. It's absolutely awesome."

For sure, tech in baseball isn't new. Stadiums across the country offer fans ball velocities on giant screens during games. In 2006, Sportvision devised PITCHf/x to measure spin -- this technology too is now available at most MLB stadiums. Two years later, Trackman, another firm, launched technology that uses a military-grade Doppler radar -- placed behind home plate -- to measure the location, spin, break, velocity and trajectory of pitches.

But the introduction of pitch-tracking technology in baseball is no longer incremental. There's a bouquet of options that has landed at the doorstep of teams, tailored not for fans but for training. "These are powerful tools that are giving meaningful data to the teams and players," says Dr. Glenn Fleisig, the research director for the American Sports Medicine Institute and a consultant to Major League Baseball. "It gives teams another tool for instruction and scouting, and that is all good for baseball."

At spring training this year, Rapsodo appeared the technology pitchers and coaches were most excited about. The data it churns out is not a labyrinth of numbers. The screen is straightforward and the data manageable. Many teams have added player-development personnel who specialize in performance science, which helps with the machine learning.

"It can show what works and doesn't work, as long as you know what the numbers mean," says Adam McCreery, a minor league pitcher with the Atlanta Braves. "You may think, 'Hey, my stuff is really good', but the machine might say, 'No, it's not as good as you think.'"

Posted by orrinj at 4:04 AM


$30,000 rumor? Tabloid paid for, spiked, salacious Trump tip (JAKE PEARSON and JEFF HORWITZ, 4/12/18, AP)

The Associated Press confirmed the details of the Enquirer's payment through a review of a confidential contract and interviews with dozens of current and former employees of the Enquirer and its parent company, American Media Inc. Sajudin got $30,000 in exchange for signing over the rights, "in perpetuity," to a rumor he'd heard about Trump's sex life -- that the president had fathered an illegitimate child with an employee at Trump World Tower, a skyscraper he owns near the United Nations. The contract subjected Sajudin to a $1 million penalty if he disclosed either the rumor or the terms of the deal to anyone.

Cohen, the longtime Trump attorney, acknowledged to the AP that he had discussed Sajudin's story with the magazine when the tabloid was working on it. He said he was acting as a Trump spokesman when he did so and denied knowing anything beforehand about the Enquirer payment to the ex-doorman.

The parallel between the ex-Playmate's and the ex-doorman's dealings with the Enquirer raises new questions about the roles that the Enquirer and Cohen may have played in protecting Trump's image during a hard-fought presidential election. Prosecutors are probing whether Cohen broke banking or campaign laws in connection with AMI's payment to McDougal and a $130,000 payment to porn star Stormy Daniels that Cohen said he paid out of his own pocket.

Posted by orrinj at 3:50 AM


High stakes for Macron as France weighs up Syria strikes (AFP, 12 April 2018)

In laying his integrity on the line over Syria's suspected use of chemical weapons, French President Emmanuel Macron might be playing for even higher stakes -- maintaining the landmark Iran nuclear accord, analysts say.

The 40-year-old leader, weighing the first foreign military operation on his own initiative, has made clear he considers Damascus behind a suspected chemical attack in the rebel-held Syrian town of Douma last weekend that killed at least 40 people.

Macron's response is expected to be high on the agenda during a TV interview Thursday afternoon, only his third since the centrist swept to power
last year.

For many experts, he has no choice but to enforce his "red line" on the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime, which would prompt French military strikes.

April 11, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 8:36 PM

60-40 NATION:

Trade War With China Is Bad, U.S. Voters Say 3-1, Quinnipiac University National Poll Finds (Quinnipiac University Polling, 4/11/18)

A trade war with China would be bad for the U.S. economy, American voters say 68 - 22 percent in a Quinnipiac University National Poll released today. Every party, gender, education, age and racial group says a trade war would be bad.  [...]

American voters say 77 - 18 percent, including 59 - 35 percent among Republicans, that undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children - the so-called Dreamers - should be allowed to stay in the U.S. and eventually apply for citizenship. Support for Dreamers is strong in every listed group. Voters disapprove 57 - 35 percent of the way Trump is handling the dreamers and say all parties in Washington are exploiting this issue. Voters say:
63 percent that Trump and Republicans in Congress are using Dreamers for political gain while 25 percent say Trump and Republicans care about Dreamers; 57 percent that Democrats in Congress are using Dreamers for political gain, while 34 percent say Democrats care about Dreamers.

Undocumented immigrants do not take jobs from American citizens, voters say 59 - 37 percent. Undocumented immigrants are not more likely than American citizens to commit crimes, voters say 71 - 22 percent. "They won't take our jobs or commit more crimes than Americans, but it's clear that President Donald Trump's campaign mantra has legs. Americans see a wave of undocumented immigrants as troubling and they are just fine with posting the National Guard at the border to stop them," Malloy said. 

Gun Control 

American voters support 56 - 39 percent stricter gun laws in the U.S. 

But voters oppose 79 - 17 percent repealing the Second Amendment. 

The Parkland students campaigning for new gun laws are more popular than the National Rifle Assn. (NRA):

52 percent have a favorable opinion of the students, with 33 percent unfavorable and 13 percent who haven't heard enough about them to form an opinion of them;

The NRA gets a negative 39 - 43 percent favorability, with 16 percent who haven't heard enough.

Posted by orrinj at 4:34 AM


ABC: Comey compares Trump to mob boss (Axios, 4/11/18)

According to the source:

The Comey interview left people in the room stunned -- he told George things that he's never said before.

Some described the experience as surreal. The question will be how to fit it all into a one-hour show.

Comey answered every question.

If anyone wonders if Comey will go there, he goes there.

Posted by orrinj at 4:30 AM

Posted by orrinj at 4:29 AM


Posted by orrinj at 4:14 AM


At the White House, Trump Takes Selfies and Seethes Over Mueller (JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS and MAGGIE HABERMAN, APRIL 10, 2018, NY Times)

White House advisers were particularly alarmed by the president's tirade in front of reporters on Monday, when he called the raids on Mr. Cohen "an attack on our country" in far angrier terms than he has ever referred to the Russian assault on the 2016 election.

Few people still at the White House are able to restrain Mr. Trump from acting on his impulses after the departures of crucial staff members who were once able to join forces with other aides to do so. That included Hope Hicks, his former communications director; Rob Porter, his former staff secretary; and, in 2017, the chief of staff Reince Priebus and the chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon.

John F. Kelly, the current chief of staff whose influence over the president has waned for months, appeared beaten down and less hands-on, according to two White House officials. Mr. Kelly has told Mr. Trump it is frustrating for staff members that the president deems most news media stories fake news but believes the ones accusing various advisers of leaking, according to people familiar with the discussions.

It is not clear whether Mr. Trump can fire Mr. Mueller himself. Many legal experts believe the president would have to direct Mr. Rosenstein to do so because Mr. Sessions has recused himself from the case and Mr. Rosenstein technically oversees Mr. Mueller.

Mr. Rosenstein has told Congress that he would dismiss Mr. Mueller only for cause, and people close to Mr. Rosenstein have indicated he would resign if the president ordered him to fire Mr. Mueller. Bipartisan legislation has been introduced to protect Mr. Mueller, with senators urging the president to let it go forward "without impediment."

Republican leadership has dismissed such legislation as unnecessary. But the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, warned Mr. Trump on Tuesday to not fire Mr. Mueller, saying in an interview on Fox Business Network it would be "suicide" to continue to talk about firing him.

Doesn't this have to end with the Oval surrounded by authorities and Donald inside wearing a grenade vest?
Posted by orrinj at 4:04 AM


Housing Was Undersupplied during the Great Housing Bubble (Kevin Erdmann, 4/10/18, , Mercatus Center)

The question that needs to be addressed about the housing bubble and the ensuing bust is not what caused prices to rise so sharply. That is a fairly straightforward question, with a standard economic answer. Fundamentally, there weren't enough houses.

What caused the massive out-migration from the Closed Access cities? The answer to that question is also, fundamentally, that there weren't enough houses.

This leaves one additional question that has been rarely asked, and which must be answered if we are to come to terms with the crisis that followed. If a lack of housing was fundamentally the cause of the housing bubble, then why had housing starts been collapsing for more than a year before the series of events occurred that we associate with the crisis, like nationally collapsing home prices, defaults, financial panics, and recession? And what caused the Closed Access migration event to suddenly stop at the same time as the collapse of housing starts?

For a decade, the collapse has been treated as if it was inevitable, and the important question seemed to be, What caused the bubble that led to the collapse? This needs to be flipped around. Given the urban housing shortage, it was rising prices that were inevitable. So the important question is, Why did prices and housing starts collapse even though the supply shortage remains? And why were housing starts still at depression levels in 2011?

The surprising answer to those questions may be that a housing bubble didn't lead to an inevitable recession. It may be that a moral panic developed about building and lending. The policies the public demanded as a result of that moral panic led to a recession that was largely self-inflicted and unnecessary. They also led to an unnecessary housing depression that continues to this day.

The crash was caused by the discovery of widespread fraud in the credit markets--tied to understating the risk involved in derivatives.  While there was nothing wrong with housing loans themselves, the ability to disguise riskier loans made the entire credit market unstable.

Posted by orrinj at 3:58 AM


How the Cohen Raids and Trump's Reactions Edge Us Toward Confrontation (Benjamin Wittes, April 10, 2018, LawFare)

I will put this as bluntly as I know how: There is no way that the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York would have sought or executed a search warrant against the president's lawyer without overpowering evidence to support the action. The legal standard for such a search requires only probable cause that criminal activity is taking place. Under normal circumstances, which these are not, the prudential and policy factors counseling against such an action would be powerful.

For starters, the Justice Department is institutionally cautious about searches involving attorneys acting in their role as attorneys. As Paul Rosenzweig noted, "the U.S. Attorney's Manual has an entire section that limits how and when the offices of an attorney may be searched. Realizing full well that such searches are in derogation of the value of the [attorney-client] privilege, the manual requires high-level approvals, the exhaustion of other investigative avenues, and specifies procedures that are to be followed to limit the intrusion on privileged documents." Moreover, the Justice Department would have been additionally cautious about seeking any warrant against this particular lawyer--precisely because doing so makes clear that a ring is closing around the president. Going after a prominent person's lawyer for matters related to his representation of the client is, after all, an aggressive act toward the client, not just toward the lawyer. And Trump is, as he puts it, a counterpuncher.

This is the kind of step that would predictably elicit a reaction. The Justice Department simply would not take such an action lightly or without evidence that emphatically supports it. Add these prudential, legal and policy factors together and they cumulatively suggest that the evidence supporting the warrant application likely exceeds--probably by far--what is legally required.

Put another way, Cohen's situation, and thus Trump's situation, is grave.

This seriousness is not simply a function of the apparently advanced state of some of the evidence involved. The nature of the warrant shows that the investigation itself is spreading. According to the New York Times, "The F.B.I. agents who raided the office of President Trump's personal lawyer on Monday were looking for records about payments to two women who claim they had affairs with Mr. Trump, and information related to the publisher of The National Enquirer's role in silencing one of the women, several people briefed on the investigation said."

In short, this search warrant is apparently not about L'Affaire Russe. The FBI raided the office of the president's personal lawyer on a matter related to L'Affaire Stormy. That means that prosecutors were able to show probable cause of criminal activity connected to Cohen's representation of the president on matters far removed from Russian interference in the 2016 campaign, obstruction of justice or any of the other matters within Mueller's purview. Notably, this subject matter metastasis coincides with a bureaucratic metastasis as well. It was not, after all, Mueller who sought or received the warrant. As Rosenzweig notes:

Muller referred the matter to the Justice Department, where the investigation was assigned to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York. That office (run by a Trump appointee) then procured the warrant--with the approval of a magistrate judge--and worked with the FBI to conduct the search. In this regard, the special counsel's actions, and the Justice Department referral are completely unlike the Starr investigation on which I worked many years ago. There, Attorney General Janet Reno kept expanding the Starr investigation into new areas--mostly, I think, as a matter of convenience. Here, the department seems intent on cabining the Mueller investigation to the scope it was originally initiated for--and to also be willing to spin off unrelated matters to the relevant local U.S. attorney's office.

This bureaucratic distribution of the investigation is actually a good thing. It will have the effect of diffusing responsibility for the investigations as they develop away from Mueller. One of the problems with Reno's decision to concentrate so many investigative matters in Starr's hands was that Starr became the locus of all things related to investigations of Bill Clinton. This proved damaging to Starr's credibility, as people were able to accuse him of being on a far-flung series of vendettas against Clinton. He was also accused of mission creep, and there was some truth to that charge. But Starr also suffered from the repeated assignments of unrelated matters to his office by Reno and the Justice Department.

Rosenstein, who worked for Starr, does not appear to be making the error of concentrating things in Mueller's hands. Bloomberg reports that Rosenstein made the decision to refer the Cohen raid to the Southern District of New York, rather than keeping it within Mueller's exclusive purview. Likewise, the Times reports that Rosenstein "personally signed off on Monday's F.B.I. decision to raid the office of Mr. Cohen." Rosenstein, in other words, chose to spread responsibility around, taking some of the heat of the president's wrath off of Mueller. This was the right move. But it also carried risks--specifically, the danger of making Rosenstein himself so central to the investigations that he becomes a target of the president's ire. The metastasis may protect Mueller, but it also may endanger Rosenstein.

April 10, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 5:10 PM


Raid on Trump's Lawyer Sought Records of Payments to Women (MICHAEL D. SHEAR, MATT APUZZO, MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT, SHARON LaFRANIERE and MAGGIE HABERMAN, APRIL 10, 2018, NY Times)

Rod J. Rosenstein, the veteran Republican prosecutor handpicked by Mr. Trump to serve as deputy attorney general, personally signed off on Monday's F.B.I. decision to raid the office of Mr. Cohen, a longtime confidant of Mr. Trump, several government officials said.

The early-morning searches enraged Mr. Trump, associates said, setting off a public tirade Monday evening that continued in private at the White House as the president fumed about whether he should fire Mr. Rosenstein.

As Mr. Trump has stewed over the developments, he has cast blame in many directions. Publicly, he has expressed frustration with his attorney general and deputy attorney general. Privately, people close to the president said, he has also blamed Mr. Cohen for publicly acknowledging the payments to Ms. Clifford.

The episode has deeply unsettled White House aides, Justice Department officials and lawmakers from both parties, who believe the president may use it as a pretext to purge the team leading the investigation into Russia's meddling in the 2016 election.

Searching a lawyer's files is among the most sensitive moves federal prosecutors can make as they pursue a criminal investigation. Mr. Rosenstein's personal involvement in the decision signals that the evidence seen by law enforcement officials was significant enough to convince the Justice Department's second in command that such an aggressive move was necessary.

Posted by orrinj at 4:59 PM


Why Trump skipping Latin America matters (dAVE lAWLER, 4/10/18, Axios)

This is the 8th Summit of the Americas, and the first time the U.S. president has declined to attend. Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama all attended multiple summits.

Trump is deeply unpopular in Latin America. A Gallup poll sticks his approval across the region at 16%, and views of the U.S. have slumped more in South America than on any other continent since he took office.

The guy won't go to England because of the reception.  He was never going to Latin America.

Posted by orrinj at 1:14 PM


How Trump Misunderstands Trade (Veronique de Rugy, April 10, 2018, NY Times)

The notion that trade deficits are always bad for the economy is based on several fundamental mistakes. The first mistake is the assumption that trade is a zero-sum game, suggesting that the country selling products abroad is a winner while the one who buys is a loser. That's simply wrong.

Think about your own experience. Without ever worrying about it, we run up trade deficits on a daily basis with many merchants. When you shop at the grocery store, enjoy a drink at your favorite bar or get your hair cut, you run up a personal trade deficit with your grocer, bar and hair stylist. Do they ever buy anything from you in return? When you get paid by your employer, he runs up his trade deficit with you. Do you buy as much from your employer as he buys from you?

These examples illustrate how trade deficits with other economic entities are almost always nothing to fret about. They're unavoidable consequences of the specialization and trade on which our modern prosperity depends. To be sure, on rare occasions trade deficits are symptoms of underlying dysfunctions, but they are never themselves a cause of these dysfunctions.

Even if we were to ignore the counsel of nearly every economist and blindly accept the notion that a United States trade deficit with the rest of the planet is undesirable, it would still be completely untrue that a deficit with any single country is undesirable. In this world of nearly 200 countries, bilateral trade deficits are as unavoidable and as economically meaningless as your trade deficit with your grocer. If America's overall trade deficit were balanced, we'd still have deficits with some countries and surpluses with others.

More generally, we mustn't forget that the American dollars we spend on imports eventually return to America, either by foreigners purchasing American exports or making investments. Protectionists like Mr. Trump always complain about the United States' trade deficit for goods but mention neither the surplus of foreign investment capital that we get nor our trade surplus in services.

Here's how it works: The American dollars we use to buy imports are of little use to foreigners outside our borders. They are, however, of great use to foreigners who want to invest within the United States. And that's what happens with the dollars that aren't spent on American exports.

Foreign investment is key to our economic growth here at home. In other words, we Americans win when we get to buy the stuff we want from abroad and when those dollars are pumped back into our economy.

Posted by orrinj at 11:49 AM


Why Stormy Daniels is so dangerous (The Economist, Mar 24th 2018)

There are three big reasons for Ms Clifford's effectiveness as a Trump-mocker. The first is that the star of "Big Busted Goddesses of Las Vegas" appears, through no plan of hers, to have put the president in serious jeopardy. That is not because of her alleged months-long affair with him, which took place long ago and reveals nothing new about Mr Trump. Rather, in the usual way of political sex scandals, it is because of the blundering way he, or his retainers, tried to cover it up. Two weeks before Mr Trump's election his lawyer, Michael Cohen, paid Ms Clifford $130,000 in return for an agreement not to speak of the alleged affair, which the president denies. When this was revealed, Mr Cohen claimed, almost incredibly, that he had taken the step on his own initiative, using his money. Ms Clifford then sued to be released from the non-disclosure agreement, claiming Mr Cohen had broken its terms by talking about it and the president had done so by failing to sign it. She has recorded an interview with CBS's show "60 Minutes", which is expected to air on March 25th.

This appears to have put Mr Trump in a bind. He can let Mr Cohen try to enforce the agreement with Ms Clifford, which might look like an admission of guilt and would risk her aggressive lawyer, Michael Avenatti, airing further revelations in court. Or he can let the matter lie. But that would signal to any other woman bound by a non-disclosure agreement with the president--and Mr Avenatti claims to know of two--that it can be safely ignored.

That would in turn risk highlighting Mr Trump's broader problem with women, including the 18 who have accused him of molesting them. Indeed, the striking degree to which Ms Clifford's case contains echoes of Mr Trump's wider legal troubles is another reason she is proving such a thorn in his flank. A hint that she might have certain mementoes of Mr Trump is also illustrative of this. It recalls speculation that Mr Trump's history of sexual indiscretion could leave him open to Russian blackmail, as was alleged by Christopher Steele, a former British spy. So too, the way Mr Trump seems to have used Mr Cohen as a blunt instrument, while keeping him at arm's length for plausible deniability, is a familiar pattern. This was evident last year in the president's cackhanded attempt to sack Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating him, through two stages of intermediary.

Yet the main reason Ms Clifford is running rings around the commander-in-chief reflects what a nightmarish matchup for him she is personally. The president's recipe for political success is to appear more down-to-earth than his effete critics in the media, and so robustly transactional that his political rivals appear hypocritical by comparison. Yet Ms Clifford is no smarmy British comic or slippery senator. She is a self-made Republican-voting woman from Louisiana who has sex for a living. In a pre-agreement interview, she suggested she had indulged Mr Trump not because she was attracted to him ("Would you be?"), but because he had promised to make her a TV star. She out-Trumps Trump.

Posted by orrinj at 4:39 AM


The Ideology of Illegal Immigration (VICTOR DAVIS HANSON, April 10, 2018, National Review)

Illegal immigration has become so deeply embedded for so long within contemporary power politics, demography, and cultural change, so charged with accusations of racism, nativism, and xenophobia, that we have forgotten its intrinsic contradictions. [...]

The illegal-immigration project will ultimately fail because although its politics are transparent, its practice is incoherent, and chaos is therefore its only possible end. 

VDH is exactly right that illegal immigration is based on ideology; he's just exactly wrong about which part, the former or the latter.  Because, it is inescapably the fact that America had rathar open immigration until limits were imposed for racist reasons.

The 1965 Law That Gave the Republican Party Its Race Problem (JOSH ZEITZ, August 20, 2016, Politico)

Between 1820 and 1924, roughly 37 million European immigrants came to the United States, in addition to a much smaller number of immigrants from Asia. (To place that figure in context, it's helpful to consider that the population of the United States in 1850 was just 23 million.) For the first 60 years, Northern Europeans--Irish and Germans, especially--predominated. The second great wave drew newcomers from Southern and Eastern Europe, including large numbers of Italians, Greeks, Slavs, Poles and Jews from the Russian Empire. Smaller numbers of immigrants also came from China and other Asian countries. By the early 20th century, immigrants and the children of immigrants comprised upwards of 75 percent of the population in major cities like New York, Chicago, Boston, Cleveland and Detroit.

Since 1790, when Congress passed the nation's first immigration act, prevailing law had restricted naturalized citizenship to "free white persons." What constituted a white person was by no means clear. While today it is intuitive to classify German-, Irish- or Italian-Americans as white, in the mid-19th century, many native-born Protestants regarded newcomers as unwhite and therefore singularly unfit for citizenship. In establishment outlets like Harper's Magazine, editorialists lampooned Irish immigrants as drunken, lazy and idle, while cartoonists portrayed immigrants as possessing ape-like, subhuman physical attributes.

With "whiteness" being such a crucial attribute, it was little wonder that many immigrants--including many Irish Catholics in large, northeastern cities--worked aggressively to draw a sharp distinction between themselves, on the one hand, and free African-Americans, on the other. Blackface minstrelsy, a popular form of entertainment among new immigrants, enabled racially suspect Europeans to establish that they were, in fact, white (after all, only a white person need "black up" to play the part of an African-American) and to project onto African-Americans the same vicious stereotypes that American nativists ascribed to Catholic newcomers.

By the late 19th century, America's new cultural and civic diversity--a result of immigration from Southern Europe, Eastern Europe and Asia, and the emancipation of black slaves--resulted gradually in a popular classification of humans along hierarchal lines. In 1911, a government commission broke the population into "45 races or peoples among immigrants coming to the United States, and of these 36 are indigenous to Europe." Bohemians (which, in today's terms, would translate to citizens of the Czech Republic), the report determined, were "the most advanced of all" Slavic racial groups. "The ancient Greeks were preeminent in philosophy and science, a position not generally accredited to the modern Greeks as a race ... they compare with the Hebrew race as the best traders of the Orient." Further, "the Gypsy resents the restraint of higher social organization ... to him laws and statutes are persecutions to be evaded." The Southern Italian was "an individualist having little adaptability to highly organized society." Whereas German and Irish newcomers had seemed distinctly unfit for citizenship in the mid-19th century, scientific racial analysis now considered them a higher category of white than Southern and Eastern European newcomers, most of whom were Catholic or Jewish. 

The era's nativism rested on a complex bedrock of labor competition, religious intolerance and fear of anarchism and communism. But scientific racism was always at its core. It formed the intellectual basis of the Immigration Act of 1924, which limited the annual number of immigrants from any given country to just 2 percent of the total number of persons born in that country who resided in the United States in 1890. By using 1890 as a benchmark, the law favored older immigrant groups from Northern and Central Europe. For Jews, Italians, Greeks, Slavs, Poles, Croatians and Russians, the door effectively swung shut. (For the Chinese, that door had been closed since 1882, when Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act.)

The year 1924 was the high-water mark for scientific racism, which became increasingly unpopular in Depression-era America. Columbia University anthropologist Franz Boas and his protégés Margaret Mead and Ruth Benedict were among the first to blast away at the edifice of "race," proving in a series of devastating monographs and articles that human behavior and intelligence were products of environment, not blood, and that no "pure" races could even be said to exist.

This shift in thinking also emerged as a response to the excesses of Nazi Germany.

He's right, again, that this illegal immigration project necessarily fails.  The very notion of immigration being illegal is anti-American and our natural decency always leads to eventual amnesty.

Posted by orrinj at 4:38 AM


The Search of Trump Lawyer Michael Cohen's Office: What We Can Infer Immediately (KEN WHITE, 4/09/18, Popehat)

It's very early on, but here's some things we can already tell.

1. According to Cohen's own lawyer, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York (widely regarded within itself as being the most important and prestigious U.S. Attorney's Office in the country) secured the search warrants for the FBI. Assuming this report is correct, that means that a very mainstream U.S. Attorney's Office -- not just Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office -- thought that there was enough for a search warrant here.

2. Moreover, it's not just that the office thought that there was enough for a search warrant. They thought there was enough for a search warrant of an attorney's office for that attorney's client communications. That's a very fraught and extraordinary move that requires multiple levels of authorization within the Department of Justice.  [...]

3. A Magistrate Judge signed off on this. Federal magistrate judges (appointed by local district judges, not by the President) review search warrant applications. A Magistrate Judge therefore reviewed this application and found probable cause -- that is, probable cause to believe that the subject premises (Cohen's office) contains specified evidence of a specified federal crime.

Pretty delicious that a series of his own appointees are driving this.


Why Robert Mueller Handed Off the Michael Cohen Raid (JED SHUGERMAN, APRIL 09, 2018, Slate)

First, remember that Mueller has learned that Trump has already tried to fire him, and the person who reportedly stopped him--White House counsel Don McGahn--is rumored to be on his way out of the administration.

The Post is reporting that the subject of the Cohen warrant was an investigation into possible bank fraud, wire fraud, and campaign finance violations, possibly related to a hush money contract with adult film performer Stormy Daniels. Mueller probably could have made a claim that Cohen already fell under his jurisdiction, which is to investigate Russian election interference, links between the Trump campaign and Russia, and "any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation." But it has been reported that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein made the call to involve the U.S. attorney, and perhaps Rosenstein made a strategic calculation about Trump, or they agreed together. It seems, though, that both men know they need to spread Mueller's work around as a hedge against his firing, and maybe even to try to deter Trump from firing him.

In comments after the raid, Trump attacked Mueller, Rosenstein, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, hinting ominously about what he might do next. Mueller and Rosenstein may have anticipated that this raid might have been the last straw for Trump, triggering their firings as they get closer and closer to Trump's inner circle and any potential personal criminal liability. Once other prosecutors' offices are involved and have gathered evidence of crimes, though, Trump receives less benefit from firing Mueller, and at an increasing cost. And even if Trump fires Mueller, more prosecutors can carry on the work, with access to some of the same material. Trump should not be able to fire Mueller under the DOJ's rules or under the Constitution, but Mueller and Rosenstein understand they need to have an emergency backup for a president who does not care about those rules.

Second, Mueller's move also suggests that he trusts some prosecutors to cooperate, that he trusts Rosenstein to keep up his supervision, and that he at least has sufficient hope that Sessions will stay out of the way. Sessions' firing of FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe did not inspire confidence that he would recuse himself fully from the Russia investigation, but Mueller must have some assurances from Rosenstein that the investigation can proceed in the DOJ.

Posted by orrinj at 4:37 AM


The Medical Marketplace Is Changing Fast in Push for Value (Peter R. Orszag and David Gluckman, April 09, 2018, Bloomberg)

Four trends are driving the shift: an ongoing movement toward value-based payments; improved health care data analytics; innovations in medical science; and increasing demand from consumers for greater convenience and value.

Although health care costs have been growing more slowly than they once did, the U.S. still spends far too much, and there's great variation across the country in both prices (especially for employer-sponsored insurance) and utilization (especially for Medicare). Fee-for-service payment is a major reason spending is so high and varies so much from region to region. The shift toward value-based payments -- including bundled payments and accountable care organizations -- is a necessary though not complete solution.

The arrival of Alex Azar as secretary of Health and Human Services has offered hope that Medicare, which has sufficient presence in every local market to change how providers behave, will resume pushing toward these models, and a recent McKinsey analysis highlights their potential. To thrive under value-based payments, companies will need to reduce unwarranted variation across providers and sites of care and keep costs reasonable.

The point of universal HSAs is to ramp up the market forces.

Posted by orrinj at 4:35 AM


Feds Are Treating Michael Cohen Like a Mob Lawyer, Trump Allies Say (BETSY WOODRUFF & ASAWIN SUEBSAENG, 04.09.18, Daily Beast)

Lawyers told The Daily Beast that raiding lawyers' offices isn't unheard of--but is generally used for lawyers who work with alleged members of organized crime, or for lawyers who are involved themselves in elaborate criminal schemes.

"It's a tactic generally used against organized crime, against very serious, very serious criminals and lawyers who are operating outside of the protections of the law," said Alan Dershowitz, a liberal attorney and frequent critic of Mueller's tactics.

It's a RICO case, Al.

Posted by orrinj at 4:27 AM


Tucker Carlson scoffs at 'geniuses' who say Assad was behind chemical attack in Syria (The Week, April 9, 2018)
Fox News host Tucker Carlson told viewers on Monday night that while "the official story" is that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government used chemical weapons to attack a rebel-held enclave near Damascus on Saturday, it "ought to make you nervous" that both Republicans and Democrats agree his regime was behind the attack that left at least 48 people dead, including several children.

Boy, the folks you have to defend to try and protect Donald/Vlad.

Posted by orrinj at 4:22 AM


Mueller Reportedly Investigating $150,000 Payment to Trump Foundation by Ukrainian Billionaire During Campaign (ELLIOT HANNON, APRIL 09, 2018, Slate)
Adding to the list of Trump's questionable financial dealings, Robert Mueller is investigating a $150,000 donation to Trump's foundation by a Ukrainian steel magnate, the New York Times reported Monday. The donation was made by Ukrainian billionaire Victor Pinchuk in return for the then-GOP candidate delivering a 20-minute address via video link to a conference in Kiev. The timing of the transaction in September 2015 raises questions about whether the money was, in essence, a thinly veiled alternative campaign donation in an attempt to curry favor with the Republican frontrunner for president.

Posted by orrinj at 4:17 AM


Amid ad boycott, Laura Ingraham says she won't be silenced by 'the left' (Brian Stelter, April 10, 2018, CNN)

On Monday night, Laura Ingraham cast the ongoing ad boycott against her show as part of "the left's plot to silence conservatives."

The Fox News prime time host said the "bullying on the left" is "desperate" and "Stalinist," but promised: "We will never relent and we will never give in. Never."

At no point did Ingraham mention the proximate cause of the ad boycott (her tweet mocking shooting survivor David Hogg) or the fact that she apologized for posting it.

Instead, she depicted herself as a warrior in a fight for free speech rights.

...about how this works.  Corporate America and viewers are not saying she isn't free to speak, just that they won't pay for her to speak.

Posted by orrinj at 4:08 AM


A Second Paul Manafort Associate Has Turned on Him (Betsy Woodruff, 4/09/18, Daily Beast)

Former Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort has trouble in his own house. According to court documents, one of Manafort's former employees led an FBI agent to a storage locker filled with paperwork on Manafort's businesses and finances. The person's name is redacted from the filings. But he's now at the center of a fight over evidence that could play a significant role in the government's case against Manafort.

"People do strange things when confronted with authoritative FBI agents," said Sol Wisenberg, a criminal defense attorney with Nelson Mullins.

This makes the second Manafort associate known to have aided the government in the sprawling investigation into foreign influence in U.S. politics. Rick Gates, Manafort's long-time right hand, began cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office in February.

Posted by orrinj at 3:58 AM


Chuck McCann, Zany Comic in Early Children's TV, Dies at 83 (SAM ROBERTS, APRIL 9, 2018, NY Times)

He began by doing voice-overs on radio when he was 6 and struck up an enduring cross-country friendship by telephone with Stan Laurel when he was 12 -- leading to roles impersonating Laurel's huskier other half, Oliver Hardy. (He was a founder of the Laurel and Hardy fan club Sons of the Desert.)

He got his big break in his early 20s while performing on "The Sandy Becker Show," a children's TV show on what was then WABD in New York. Without advance notice, Mr. Becker left on a Friday for two weeks in South America and asked Mr. McCann to host his show beginning on Monday.

" 'So long!' " Mr. McCann recalled Mr. Becker saying. "The elevator doors close, and off he went. That was my baptism by fire. The first day was just disastrous."

Mr. McCann survived to become the host of his own children's programs and to voice cartoon characters in "DuckTales," "Chip 'n' Dale Rescue Rangers," "Garfield and Friends," "The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh," "The Powerpuff Girls" and commercials for Cocoa Puffs cereal (as the cuckoo bird, crying, "I'm cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs!"). He also appeared as a character actor on "Bonanza," "Columbo," "Little House on the Prairie" and other television series.

Along with Soupy Sales, Buffalo Bob Smith, Bob Keeshan (better known as Captain Kangaroo), Fran Allison and his mentor, the puppeteer Paul Ashley, Mr. McCann helped shape zany, impromptu preteen local programming in television's formative years.

In his book "Politics and the American Television Comedy: A Critical Survey from 'I Love Lucy' Through 'South Park' " (2008), Doyle Greene compared "The Chuck McCann Show" on WNEW in the mid-1960s to a blend of "Howdy Doody" and the spontaneous, experimental comedy of Ernie Kovacs.

To Mr. Greene, the McCann show represented a "deconstruction of TV taken to Dada levels (whether driving around the studio smashing into props on a scooter while lip-syncing a song, or doing a lengthy impersonation of Jack Benny playing screeching violin worthy of Stockhausen)."

April 9, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 6:25 PM


In His Haste to Roll Back Rules, Scott Pruitt, E.P.A. Chief, Risks His Agenda (CORAL DAVENPORT and LISA FRIEDMAN, APRIL 7, 2018, NY Times)

[L]egal experts and White House officials say that in Mr. Pruitt's haste to undo government rules and in his eagerness to hold high-profile political events promoting his agenda, he has often been less than rigorous in following important procedures, leading to poorly crafted legal efforts that risk being struck down in court.

The result, they say, is that the rollbacks, intended to fulfill one of the president's central campaign pledges, may ultimately be undercut or reversed.

"In their rush to get things done, they're failing to dot their i's and cross their t's. And they're starting to stumble over a lot of trip wires," said Richard Lazarus, a professor of environmental law at Harvard. "They're producing a lot of short, poorly crafted rulemakings that are not likely to hold up in court."

Six of Mr. Pruitt's efforts to delay or roll back Obama-era regulations -- on issues including pesticides, lead paint and renewable-fuel requirements -- have been struck down by the courts. Mr. Pruitt also backed down on a proposal to delay implementing smog regulations and another to withdraw a regulation on mercury pollution.

Always bet on the Deep State.

Posted by orrinj at 5:07 PM


Trump's company asked Panama president to help in hotel spat (JUAN ZAMORANO and STEPHEN BRAUN, 4/09/18, AP) 

U.S. President Donald Trump's company appealed directly to Panama's president to intervene in its fight over control of a luxury hotel, even invoking a treaty between the two countries, in what ethics experts say was a blatant mingling of Trump's business and government interests.

That appeal in a letter last month from lawyers for the Trump Organization to Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela was apparently unsuccessful -- an emergency arbitrator days later declined to reinstate the Trump management team to the waterfront hotel in Panama City. But it provides hard proof of exactly the kind of conflict experts feared when Trump refused to divest from a sprawling empire that includes hotels, golf courses, licensing deals and other interests in more than 20 countries.

"This could be the clearest example we've seen of a conflict of interest stemming from the president's role as head of state in connection with other countries and his business interests," said Danielle Brian, executive director of The Project on Government Oversight, a Washington ethics and good government organization.

Posted by orrinj at 4:47 PM


FBI seizes records related to Stormy Daniels in raid of Trump attorney Michael Cohen's office (April 9, 2018, Washington Post)

FBI officials on Monday raided the Manhattan office of Michael Cohen, the longtime attorney of President Trump, seizing records related to a 2016 payment he made to adult-film star Stormy Daniels, who claimed to have had a sexual encounter with Trump.

No one even questions that this payment was illegal.
Posted by orrinj at 4:35 AM


Exclusive: As elections near, many older, educated, white voters shift away from Trump's party (Sharon Bernstein, Chris Kahn, 4/09/18, Reuters) 

Nationwide, whites over the age of 60 with college degrees now favor Democrats over Republicans for Congress by a 2-point margin, according to Reuters/Ipsos opinion polling during the first three months of the year. During the same period in 2016, that same group favored Republicans for Congress by 10 percentage points. 

The 12-point swing is one of the largest shifts in support toward Democrats that the Reuters/Ipsos poll has measured over the past two years. If that trend continues, Republicans will struggle to keep control of the House of Representatives, and possibly the Senate, in the November elections, potentially dooming President Donald Trump's legislative agenda.

"The real core for the Republicans is white, older white, and if they're losing ground there, they're going to have a tsunami," said Larry Sabato, a University of Virginia political scientist who closely tracks political races. "If that continues to November, they're toast."

Posted by orrinj at 4:30 AM



Barzilai's big plan isn't necessarily less quixotic than those being dreamed up at Silicon Valley biotechs. It's just quixotic in a completely different way. Rather than trying to develop a wildly expensive, highly speculative therapy that will likely only benefit the billionaire-demigod set, Barzilai wants to convince the FDA to put its seal of approval on an antiaging drug for the rest of us: A cheap, generic, demonstrably safe pharmaceutical that has already shown, in a host of preliminary studies, that it may be able to help stave off many of the worst parts of growing old. Not only that, it would also shorten the duration of those awful parts. ("How To Die Young at a Very Old Age" was the title of his 2014 talk at TEDx Gramercy in New York City.)

The drug in question, metformin, costs about five cents a pill. It's a slightly modified version of a compound that was discovered in a plant, Galega officinalis. The plant, also known as French lilac and goat's rue, is hardly the stuff of cutting-edge science. Physicians have been prescribing it as an herbal remedy for centuries. In 1640, the great English herbalist John Parkinson wrote about goat's rue in his life's work, Theatrum Botanicum, recommending it for "the bitings or stings of any venomous creature," "the plague," "measells," "small pocks," and "wormes in children," among other conditions.

According to some sources, goat's rue was also a centuries-old remedy for frequent urination, now known to be a telltale sign of diabetes. Today, metformin, which helps keep blood sugar levels in check without serious side effects, is typically the first-choice treatment for type 2 diabetics, and it's sometimes prescribed for prediabetes as well. Together, the two conditions afflict half of American adults. In 2014 alone, Americans filled 76.9 million prescriptions for metformin, and some of those prescriptions went to Barzilai himself. (He's been taking the drug since he was diagnosed with prediabetes around six years ago.)

A native Israeli, Barzilai speaks English with an accent, never letting grammatical slipups slow him down. He has short, boyish bangs and a slightly rounded face. His thick glasses and natural exuberance give him the look of an actor typecast as an eccentric researcher. He traces his interest in aging to the Sabbath walks he took with his grandfather as a child. Barzilai could never quite reconcile the frailty of the old man with his grandfather's stories of draining swamps in prestate Israel. "I was looking and saying, 'This guy? This old guy could do that?'"

Barzilai first studied metformin in the late 1980s while doing a fellowship at Yale, never imagining the drug would later become his focus. When the FDA approved it as a diabetes treatment in 1994, there was little reason to think it would someday become one of the hottest topics in medicine. But in the following two decades, researchers started comparing the health of diabetics on metformin to those taking other diabetes drugs.

What they discovered was striking: The metformin-takers tended to be healthier in all sorts of ways. They lived longer and had fewer cardiovascular events, and in at least some studies they were less likely to suffer from dementia and Alzheimer's. Most surprising of all, they seemed to get cancer far less frequently--as much as 25 to 40 percent less than diabetics taking two other popular medications. When they did get cancer, they tended to outlive diabetics with cancer who were taking other medications.

As Lewis Cantley, the director of the Cancer Center at Weill Cornell Medicine, once put it, "Metformin may have already saved more people from cancer deaths than any drug in history." Nobel laureate James Watson (of DNA-structure fame), who takes metformin off-label for cancer prevention, once suggested that the drug appeared to be "our only real clue into the business" of fighting the disease.

Posted by orrinj at 4:26 AM


Here are the 100 best Minor League player names heading into the 2018 season (Jake Mintz and Jordan Shusterman, April 5, 2018, Cut4)

2. Sicnarf Loopstok -- Indians 1B -- Akron (Double-A)

Posted by orrinj at 4:12 AM


14 said killed in attack on Syrian facility previously targeted by Israel (JUDAH ARI GROSS, 4/09/18, Times of Israel)

Missiles struck an air base in central Syria early Monday, killing 14 people, including Iranians, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor.

Syria's state-run news agency confirmed the strike, but did not comment on the number of casualties, saying only, "There are martyrs and wounded."

Although initially the agency said it was likely "an American aggression," following a denial by the United States, the Russian military and Syrian dictator Bashar Assad's regime accused Israel of carrying out the attack.

Posted by orrinj at 4:07 AM


'Take That Down': Fox Show Displays Anti-Fox Polling Data (Caroline Orr, April 9, 2018, Shareblue.com)

"Speaking of fake news, there is a new poll out from Monmouth University. 'Do the media report fake news regularly or occasionally?' 77 percent say yes --" Kurtz said, as a graphic appeared onscreen.

But instead of showing the results of the 'fake news' poll, the graphic showed the brutally honest results of a question about Americans' trust in news sources -- or lack of trust, in the case of Fox News.

"That is not the graphic we are looking for. Hold off," Kurtz said as he realized the mistake. "Take that down, please."

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


How Sweden and the UK are leading the global shift towards a cashless economy (GEORGE EATON, 4/03/18, New Statesman)

The idea of a cashless economy can appear utopian, the kind of "blue-sky" policy beloved of Cameron's erstwhile adviser Steve Hilton. Yet in Sweden this apparent fantasy is close to becoming a reality. Cash transactions account for only 1.4 per cent of the value of all payments and the country is forecast to become cashless by 2030. Market traders, churches and homeless magazine vendors all accept card and phone payments. More than 900 of Sweden's 1,600 bank branches no longer take cash deposits. The country's Riksbank, the world's oldest central bank, is considering launching a national cryptocurrency: the e-krona (inflation-ravaged Venezuela recently created the oil-backed petro).

Even without government support, the UK has become one of the world's most cashless societies: cash accounts for only 3.9 per cent of all payments by value (compared to 10.7 per cent in the eurozone and 8.1 per cent in the US). For Korski, this is an unambiguously positive trend. One of the benefits of a cashless system, he told Cameron, is significantly reduced crime. In his 2016 book, The Curse of Cash, the Harvard economist Kenneth Rogoff disparages paper currency for aiding tax evasion, theft, corruption, terrorism, the drugs trade, human trafficking and the rest of a burgeoning black economy. Though a digital system creates new forms of crime, illegal activity becomes easier to trace.

Other benefits include higher economic productivity. "We're still struggling to measure the productivity gain of the near-disappearance of high street travel agents," Korski told me. In 2015, the Bank of England's chief economist, Andrew Haldane, argued that a cashless system would aid monetary policy by allowing negative interest rates to be imposed in times of economic stagnation. At present, if charged by banks for storing money, consumers are able to hoard cash.

Posted by orrinj at 3:56 AM


AP sources: EPA chief spent millions on security and travel (MICHAEL BIESECKER, Apr. 07, 2018, AP) 

Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt's concern with his safety came at a steep cost to taxpayers as his swollen security detail blew through overtime budgets and at times diverted officers away from investigating environmental crimes.

Altogether, the agency spent millions of dollars for a 20-member full-time detail that is more than three times the size of his predecessor's part-time security contingent.

New details in Pruitt's expansive spending for security and travel emerged from agency sources and documents reviewed by The Associated Press. [...]

A nationwide search of state and federal court records by AP found no case where anyone has been arrested or charged with threatening Pruitt. EPA's press office did not respond Friday to provide details of any specific threats or arrests.

April 8, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 8:22 PM


Jimmy Kimmel apologizes for jabs at Sean Hannity (Jackie Wattles, April 8, 2018, CNN)

Kimmel took to Twitter Sunday to apologize to those he may have offended with his brash jabs at the conservative commentator during a week of verbal and social media sparring.

"While I admit I did have fun with our back and forth, after some thought, I realize that the level of vitriol from all sides (mine and me included) does nothing good for anyone and, in fact, is harmful to our country," Kimmel tweeted. [...]

Kimmel also made sexually suggestive comments about Hannity's devotion to President Donald Trump.

Sean must have invoked his safety word.

Posted by Glenn Dryfoos at 7:38 AM


Maynard Ferguson - Chameleon (1974)

A week or so ago, OJ posted an article about how Miles Davis led Herbie Hancock to the Fender Rhodes (electric) piano, which was a big step in the electrification of jazz that took place in the 1960's and 70's.  In commenting on the post, I noted that I don't have an objection, per se, to the sound of the Fender, it's just that any time I hear it now (whether in a jazz performance or a Billy Joel tune), it immediately dates the recording in my mind to the 70's or 80's, regardless of its actual vintage.  Within 10 minutes after I posted that comment, Maynard Ferguson's recording of La Fiesta, with its opening Fender Rhodes vamp, began playing on my car radio, and I was immediately transported back to my sophomore year in high school...and I had the subject of my next ATJ. 

Maynard Ferguson was a Canadian-born jazz trumpet player, who came to the fore in the early 1950's with the Stan Kenton band.  A player of first-rate technique (he later performed as a soloist with the New York Philharmonic), he became particularly known - and popular (he won the top trumpet award in the Down Beat Reader's Poll in 1951, 1952 and 1953) - for his astounding ability to play high notes.  After a couple of decades doing studio work and playing in other big bands, Ferguson formed his own big band in 1971. 

Let's be clear, Maynard's big bands of the 1970's are not high art; rather, they are a guilty pleasure...and one that is probably only really enjoyed by those who were in their teens or early 20's during that time.  This wasn't the timeless blues-drenched elegance of Ellington or propulsive swing of Basie.  Maynard's band was loud, electrified (in addition to the Fender Rhodes, the guitar player relied heavily on a wah-wah pedal and reverb, and the bass was electric), and fronted by a guy seemingly unfamiliar with the concept of subtlety.  The band played more tunes with a rock beat or a quasi-Latin rhythm than with straight-ahead 4/4 swing.  And rather than relying on the Great American Songbook as the backbone of its repertoire, the band played mostly current pop and rock tunes (Stevie Wonder's Livin' for the City and Paul McCartney's Jet), movie and TV themes (The Way We Were, Flying High Now (from Rocky), Star Trek) and popular songs from the world of what was then called "jazz fusion" (Hancock's Chameleon, Chick Corea's La Fiesta, Wayne Shorter's Birdland).   The only standard on this album is I Can't Get Started, which features Maynard on trumpet and vocal (a la 1930's bandleader Bunny Berrigan, who had a huge hit in 1937 with this tune...although I don't think Bunny sang Maynard's lyric "I've been invited to tea by the Queen/Linda Lovelace thinks I'm obscene").

As a high school sophomore, I loved this album, Maynard's Live at Jimmy's and a handful of his others. The funky beats, the jet-engine decibels and the high notes...especially the high notes.  Hearing Maynard live reach for a high C was like watching an Olympic pole vaulter trying for a new record: sometimes he made it, sometimes he didn't, but it was always dramatic.  We played a lot of Ferguson arrangements in my high school jazz band (indeed, in the 70's, most suburban high schools didn't have "jazz bands" or "big bands", they had "jazz/rock ensembles")...so he was part of my introduction to the music.  In those same years, I was also getting my first tastes of the big bands of Basie, Ellington and Woody Herman, and trumpeters such as Miles, Dizzy, Clark Terry and Clifford Brown.  Over time, I drifted away from the guy in the jump suit and scarf, who played fast and loud, and then faster and louder.  But the arrangements are tight, the musicians execute it all with skill (Bruce Johnstone's bari sax solos never disappoint), and the music is fun (if locked in its era).  

After a long time away from these posts, I'm back with 2 in rapid succession, and, by coincidence, in both I'm quoting another writer whose experience with the subject is amazingly similar to mine (I started sketching out this post before a friend sent me this link...but note that it also discusses Ferguson from the perspective of a high school boy in the 1970's and finds a sports analogy to be apt).  In an appreciation of Ferguson that ran in the Washington Post after his death in August 2006, David von Drehle wrote: 

I was a high school boy at the time. This fact is not incidental. In the blogs and tribute pages devoted to memories of Maynard Ferguson yesterday, the two near-constants were adolescence and masculinity. Ferguson lit up thousands of young horn players, most of them boys, with pride and excitement. In a world often divided between jocks and band nerds, Ferguson crossed over, because he approached his music almost as an athletic event. On stage, he strained, sweated, heaved and roared. He nailed the upper registers like Shaq nailing a dunk or Lawrence Taylor nailing a running back -- and the audience reaction was exactly the same: the guttural shout, the leap to their feet, the fists in the air. We cheered Maynard as a gladiator, a combat soldier, a prize fighter, a circus strongman -- choose your masculine archetype.

...That's why he was the hero of the horn sections. When Ferguson reached the peak of his fame in the mid-1970s -- thanks to a hit recording of the theme from "Rocky" -- the world was full of manly guys whanging electric guitars and thrashing drums. But jazz? Our friends the Purists had just about drained the last drop of juice from the great American art form. In place of the old jump, stomp and jive, the Purists seemed to offer little but heroin chic, prissy intellectualism and monkish devotion to old 78s.

Maynard Ferguson did his best to blow some hormones back into the band room. Along the way, he turned a fair number of us on to the more subtle achievements of more refined musicians. For that, we forgive all the reverb and rayon, all the electronics, even the lamentable disco phase.

Post script: For those interested to hear what kind of player Maynard in his purer days, check out this recording of him going toe-to-toe-to-toe with 2 of the greatest straight-ahead jazz trumpeters, Clifford Brown and Clark Terry:

Posted by Glenn Dryfoos at 7:32 AM


Cecil Taylor (1929-2018)

As this website's jazz observer, I wish I had something wise to say about Cecil Taylor, the revolutionary pianist who died the other day at the age of 89.  Something that would help those of you who have never listened to him gain entry to his dense, percussive and raucous music; or, perhaps provide some new insight or perspective to someone who has.  But I've got nothing.  So many critics and musicians who I admire have sung Taylor's praises that I tried for years to listen to his recordings (large bands, small groups and solo) in the hope that I, too, would become enlightened. It never happened.  I could never understand (or even enjoy) his recordings, something I chalked up to my own failures as a listener, specifically, my own need for familiar "handles" to grab on to as his torrents of sound washed over me...a recognizable melody, a fixed beat, a home key, anything.  Of course, I'm guessing if it had any of those things, then it wouldn't have been Cecil's music.

In any event, about 20 years ago, Taylor was playing in my city, and more out of duty than enthusiasm, I bought a ticket to go hear him.  (By myself...I didn't want to subject any of my friends to what I was sure would be an hour or so of incomprehensible sound.)  Well, what happened that night astounded me.  In his tribute to Taylor this week, The New Yorker critic Richard Brody, describes his own night at a concert in the mid-80's that almost perfectly captures my experience...except that (1) Brody was already a fan; and (2) I've seen Sonny Rollins present some "musical exertions" that were equally mighty and generous:      

There was a piano onstage; at the scheduled time, some monosyllabic incantations could be heard from the wings, some shuffling of feet. The pianist poked himself out onto the hardwood stage, doing a sort of halting, tentative chant and dance, approaching the piano mysteriously, a Martian pondering a monolith. He tapped and rapped and knocked the instrument's solid wooden body; he probed it from all angles; then he found the keyboard, struck a note, and then another, and another; his theatrical probing gave way to radiant musical illumination.

Taylor had to have noticed, as he circumnavigated the instrument, the sparse audience; he pretended that it didn't matter. For the twenty lovers in attendance, Taylor approached the piano bench, sat down, struck a chord, crystallized a motif, and worked it out in thunder. For an hour, all by himself onstage and nearly by himself in the hall, he performed a colossal, exhausting, self-sacrificing concert of pianistic fury, filling the room with a torrential, polyrhythmic, rumbling, crashing, shattering whirlwind. It resembled the music that I had loved on records since I was a teen-ager a decade earlier, but now erupted, in my presence, with an improvisational explosion and a spontaneous compositional complexity that put it both at the forefront of modern jazz, of modern music as such. It was the mightiest and most generous musical exertion I had seen. To this day, I've only seen Taylor himself surpass it.

When Taylor finished, I was somehow emotionally elated and drained at the same time, physically energized and exhausted, burning to hear more yet feeling that I'd never again experience music as powerful and meaningful. After the concert, I went back to Taylor's recordings...and nothing,...the same inability to connect that I had always had.  After a few weeks of trying, I gave up for good and hadn't listened to Cecil Taylor again until I started writing this entry.

So, as I said at the top, I wish I had something wise or helpful to say about the great Cecil Taylor...but I don't (except that I still think it's my fault, not his).

Posted by orrinj at 7:26 AM


Washington's Farewell By John Avlon  (Reviewed by James A. Percoco, April 8, 2018, Washington Independent Book Review)

Both sides loved the United States but had different agendas for its future. The squabbles over how to interpret the Constitution, which nations to support abroad, and whose interests to address spilled over into Washington's cabinet, in which Jefferson, as head of the Republicans, served as secretary of state, and Hamilton, as head of the Federalists, served as secretary of the treasury.

Washington was caught in the middle of the sibling rivalry, and it did not sit well with him. Ironically, his tenure as president would outlast that of both Jefferson and Hamilton in their respective positions. As early as 1792, as the national rupture was becoming more apparent, Washington looked to retire, but Jefferson argued, "There will be a nation to hang on to if that nation can hang on you."

Convinced, Washington served a second term that proved to be more fractious than the first. During his second term, he was viciously assaulted in the Republican press by writers hired by Jefferson, and came to learn of a letter written by Jefferson to his friend Philip Mazzei in which Jefferson, without mentioning Washington by name, wrote, "Men who were once Sampsons in the field and Solomons in the councils have had their heads shorn by the harlot of England." Martha Washington never forgave Jefferson for his transgression.

Much of the rupture came to a head as the United States tried to steer a course of neutrality between England and France and their constant state of war. The Jeffersonians argued the U.S. was bound by its 1778 treaty with the French, who helped secure American independence, even though the French Revolution had devolved into the "reign of terror." The Hamiltonians, meanwhile, supported England, the nation's most important trading partner.

Washington, to the delight of the Federalists, supported a Neutrality Act, earning him the wrath of Republicans. Known for his temper, Washington exploded during a cabinet meeting when the secretary of war, Henry Knox, brought in a newspaper with a cartoon depicting Washington as a victim of the guillotine.

By 1796, he'd had enough, but before departing the public stage, Washington wanted to remind Americans of what was most important: unity among "citizens by birth or choice"; religious pluralism in all spheres of life; an educated citizenry; and a foreign policy rooted in independence.

Posted by orrinj at 7:04 AM


Posted by orrinj at 7:01 AM


Trump Tower fire is second 2018 blaze in sprinkler-free residential tower (Caroline Linton, 4/08/18, CBS News)

The fire on the 50th floor New York City's Trump Tower that left 67-year-old Todd Brassner dead and six firefighters injured was the second fire in the building in 2018 -- President Trump's centerpiece Manhattan skyscraper built that opened in 1984, but which does not have sprinklers on its residential floors. FDNY commissioner Daniel Nigro noted on Saturday that the upper, residential floors of Trump Tower do not have sprinklers -- a measure required in new buildings since 1999, but which President Trump, then a private citizen and property developer, lobbied to try and prevent. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:51 AM


Hamas official signals that Israeli boosting of Gaza economy could curb protests (AVI ISSACHAROFF, 6 April 2018, Times of Israel)

A senior official in the Hamas terrorist group on Sunday demanded that Israel ease some of its economic restrictions on the Gaza Strip and suggested that steps that "immediately improve the economic situation" in the Palestinian enclave would curtail a wave of violent protests on the Israel-Gaza border.

The official said the weekly demonstrations near the border will continue and lead to an escalation of hostilities, but that the atmosphere can "change" if Israel takes immediate action to improve the humanitarian situation in the Strip.

"Israel can take many such steps," the senior Hamas member told The Times of Israel.

But the point of Israel's war on Palestine is the opposite--it is to make democracy intolerable

Posted by orrinj at 6:28 AM


Israel defence minister says 'no innocent people' in Gaza (Middle East Online, 4/08/18)

"There are no innocent people in the Gaza Strip," Lieberman told Israel's public radio.

Posted by orrinj at 5:39 AM


There's no good reason to stop felons from voting (George F. Will, April 6, 2018, Washington Post)

Intelligent and informed people of good will can strenuously disagree about the wisdom of policies that have produced mass incarceration. What is, however, indisputable is that this phenomenon creates an enormous problem of facilitating the reentry into society of released prisoners who were not improved by the experience of incarceration and who face discouraging impediments to employment and other facets of social normality. In 14 states and the District , released felons automatically recover their civil rights.

Recidivism among Florida's released felons has been approximately 30 percent for the five years 2011-2015. Of the 1,952 people whose civil rights were restored, five committed new offenses, an average recidivism rate of 0.4 percent. This sample is skewed by self-selection -- overrepresentation of those who had the financial resources and tenacity to navigate the complex restoration process that each year serves a few hundred of the 1.6 million. Still, the recidivism numbers are suggestive.

What compelling government interest is served by felon disenfranchisement? Enhanced public safety? How? Is it to fine-tune the quality of the electorate? This is not a legitimate government objective for elected officials to pursue. A felony conviction is an indelible stain: What intelligent purpose is served by reminding felons -- who really do not require reminding -- of their past, and by advertising it to their community? The rule of law requires punishments, but it is not served by punishments that never end and that perpetuate a social stigma and a sense of never fully reentering the community.

Meade, like one-third of the 4.7 million current citizens nationwide who have reentered society from prison but cannot vote, is an African American. More than 1 in 13 African Americans nationally are similarly disenfranchised, as are 1 in 5 of Florida's African American adults. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:26 AM


New Filing Indicates Robert Mueller May Have New Collusion Evidence (JEREMY STAHL, APRIL 06, 2018, Slate)

In a new court filing on Thursday, the special counsel's office revealed additional details of the probe that indicate he has recently expanded his investigation of Paul Manafort. The further implication of this filing is that Mueller is actively building a collusion case against the former Trump campaign chairman or other Trump campaign officials, and potentially basing it on the testimony of former Manafort deputy Rick Gates.

The new details show that Mueller's team acquired search warrants on five telephone numbers last month, just two weeks after Gates began to officially cooperate in Mueller's probe.

The filing was a response to a motion from Manafort's attorneys to see additional details of search warrants related to Manafort. For the most part, Mueller's team has turned over these details. But as it pertained to a warrant obtained on March 9 for the phone numbers, the special counsel's office insisted that the warrant be redacted because they are "relating to ongoing investigations that are not the subject of either of the current prosecutions involving Manafort."

Posted by orrinj at 4:50 AM


April 7, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 6:59 PM


'When you lose that power': How John Kelly faded as White House disciplinarian  (Ashley Parker, Josh Dawsey and Philip Rucker April 7 , 2018, Washington Post)

After White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly pressured President Trump last fall to install his top deputy, Kirstjen Nielsen, atop the Department of Homeland Security, the president lost his temper when conservative allies argued that she wasn't sufficiently hard line on immigration. "You didn't tell me she was a [expletive] George W. Bush person," Trump growled.

After Kelly told Fox News Channel's Bret Baier in a January interview that Trump's immigration views had not been "fully informed" during the campaign and had since "evolved," the president berated Kelly in the Oval Office -- his shouts so loud they could be heard through the doors.

And less than two weeks ago, Kelly grew so frustrated on the day that Trump fired Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin that Nielsen and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis both tried to calm him and offered pep talks, according to three people with knowledge of the incident.

"I'm out of here, guys," Kelly said -- comments some interpreted as a resignation threat, but according to a senior administration official, he was venting his anger and leaving work an hour or two early to head home.  [...]

Kelly is the latest high-profile example of a West Wing Icarus -- swept high into Trump's orbit, only to be singed and cast low. Nearly everyone who has entered the White House has emerged battered -- rendered a punchline (former press secretary Sean Spicer), a Justice Department target (former national security adviser Michael Flynn) or a diminished shell, fired by presidential tweet (former secretary of state Rex Tillerson). 

No one knows how many days remain for Kelly, but when he leaves -- either by the president's hand or because of his own mounting frustration -- he is almost certain to limp away damaged.

Every single day of service to Donald has further blotted his escutcheon.
Posted by orrinj at 7:26 AM


Hamilton and a lesson in citizenship (Greg Weeks, 4/07/18, St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

I had been invited to speak at a naturalization ceremony in the Eagleton Courthouse. Forty-five people were given the oath of allegiance and became U.S. citizens.

This was one of the most inspiring events I'd ever witnessed. People from around the world, many with unpronounceable names, sat excitedly. They held small American flags in anticipation of the time they would take the oath. One young Asian man even wore patriotic socks: One sock had stripes and the other, stars. Most were smiling broadly, and some were even crying.

I looked into these faces and imagined what they'd gone through to get to this point. They'd left their land for a nation "conceived in liberty." They found themselves in a foreign culture along with a possibly foreign language. They studied our Constitution, our Bill of Rights and our government. They learned our history and heard the risks our forbears took to enable this experiment in democracy.

These soon-to-be citizens showed me how easy it is for us born-in-America citizens to take our country for granted. Growing up, American history was a bit boring for me, and civics was almost a near-death experience. For them, however, being a citizen of the United States was a coveted goal for which they had struggled. For me, it was something I was given. Being a citizen for them was a source of pride. For me, it was an entitlement.

This was humbling. All Americans have a civic duty. It's easy to abdicate that duty when we enjoy the fruits of living in this country without regarding the responsibilities necessary to maintain them.

Christians especially bear this obligation.

...and was bummed that they pass you once you have 6 right, because he wanted to get the rest.

Posted by orrinj at 7:07 AM


The Pillars of Modern American Conservatism (Alfred S. Regnery, Spring 2012, Intercollegiate Review)

The basic foundations of American conservatism can be boiled down to four fundamental concepts. We might call them the four pillars of modern conservatism:

The first pillar of conservatism is liberty, or freedom. Conservatives believe that individuals possess the right to life, liberty, and property, and freedom from the restrictions of arbitrary force. They exercise these rights through the use of their natural free will. That means the ability to follow your own dreams, to do what you want to (so long as you don't harm others) and reap the rewards (or face the penalties). Above all, it means freedom from oppression by government--and the protection of government against oppression. It means political liberty, the freedom to speak your mind on matters of public policy. It means religious liberty--to worship as you please, or not to worship at all. It also means economic liberty, the freedom to own property and to allocate your own resources in a free market.

Conservatism is based on the idea that the pursuit of virtue is the purpose of our existence and that liberty is an essential component of the pursuit of virtue. Adherence to virtue is also a necessary condition of the pursuit of freedom. In other words, freedom must be pursued for the common good, and when it is abused for the benefit of one group at the expense of others, such abuse must be checked. Still, confronted with a choice of more security or more liberty, conservatives will usually opt for more liberty.

The second pillar of conservative philosophy is tradition and order. Conservatism is also about conserving the values that have been established over centuries and that have led to an orderly society. Conservatives believe in human nature; they believe in the ability of man to build a society that respects rights and that has the capacity to repel the forces of evil. Order means a systematic and harmonious arrangement, both within one's own character and within the commonwealth. It signifies the performance of certain duties and the enjoyment of certain rights within a community.

Order is perhaps more easily understood by looking at its opposite: disorder. A disordered existence is a confused and miserable existence. If a society falls into general disorder, many of its members will cease to exist at all. And if the members of a society are disordered in spirit, the outward order of society cannot long endure. Disorder describes well everything that conservatism is not.

The third pillar is the rule of law. Conservatism is based on the belief that it is crucial to have a legal system that is predictable, that allows people to know what the rules are and enforce those rules equally for all. This means that both governors and the governed are subject to the law. The rule of law promotes prosperity and protects liberty. Put simply, a government of laws and not of men is the only way to secure justice.

The fourth pillar is belief in God. Belief in God means adherence to the broad concepts of religious faith--such things as justice, virtue, fairness, charity, community, and duty. These are the concepts on which conservatives base their philosophy.

Conservative belief is tethered to the idea that there is an allegiance to God that transcends politics and that sets a standard for politics. For conservatives, there must be an authority greater than man, greater than any ruler, king, or government: no state can demand our absolute obedience or attempt to control every aspect of our lives. There must be a moral order, conservatives believe, that undergirds political order. This pillar of conservatism does not mean mixing up faith and politics, and it certainly does not mean settling religious disputes politically. It also does not mean that conservatives have a monopoly on faith, or even that all conservatives are necessarily believers.

The key in that first pillar is that it is liberty, not freedom, as reflected in the acknowledgement that it is only arbitrary force that we need be free from.

Posted by orrinj at 6:52 AM


Trump, The Anti-Business President (Steve Chapman, April 7, 2018, Creators.com)

Economists Steven Davis (University of Chicago), Scott Baker (Northwestern) and Nicholas Bloom (Stanford) attributed weak growth and job creation to "extreme uncertainty" that Obama helped to create through "harmful rhetorical attacks on business and 'millionaires,' failure to tackle entitlement reforms and fiscal imbalances, and political brinkmanship."

Hmm. Does that sound like anyone else? Trump has also attacked businesses, failed to curb entitlements and, through tax cuts and spending bills, created ever-growing fiscal imbalances.

According to the index these economists devised, economic policy uncertainty was greater in Trump's first 13 months than in the same period under Obama -- and bigger than the average for all of Obama's tenure. And things are only getting worse.

Obama took the view that the private economy needed extensive regulation to avert assorted perceived harms, which didn't make him popular among capitalists. But he didn't make a habit of bullying corporations to make particular business decisions or demonizing executives who disagreed with him. Trump's idea of a good economy is one in which every company does his bidding -- because they are all afraid not to.

His unpredictability breeds anxiety, not confidence. He often sows confusion that makes bad policies even worse.

Davis cites the steel and aluminum tariffs, which Trump first said would apply to all countries, then revised to exempt Canada and Mexico, and then modified to spare several other countries -- but only till May 1, when all bets are off. The haphazard approach "causes businesses to step back and wait," says Davis, "and creates a free-for-all among lobbyists, which creates its own uncertainty."

Trump was supposed to understand the needs of American businesses. But he thinks their main function is to serve his needs.

...understood business?

Donald Trump Would Be Richer If He'd Have Invested in Index Funds (CLAIRE GRODEN August 20, 2015, Fortune)

The AP says that, if Trump had invested in an index fund in 1988, his net worth would be as much as $13 billion.

The S&P 500 has grown 1,336% since 1988.

Other billionaires' net worths have beaten the stock market's growth in that time. Bill Gates, for example, saw his increase 7,173%, to $80 billion, since 1988. Warren Buffett's wealth grew 2,612% in the same time period, to $67.8 billion.

Posted by orrinj at 6:35 AM


The Guy Who Wrote The Book On The Deep State Wishes Trumpworld Would Shut Up About The Deep State (Joseph Bernstein, 4/05/18, BuzzFeed News)

From "fake news" to "bad faith," the Trump administration and its boosters have proven fantastically adept at expropriating the slogans of the political zeitgeist and redefining them with brutal partisan efficiency. And for the past 15 months, Lofgren has had a front-row seat to one such refurbishment, as the bipartisan phenomenon he carefully documented became, as he put it in an email to BuzzFeed News, the "ultimate 'dog ate my homework' excuse" for "the Trump regime and its pinhead allies." The transformation has been so thorough, it's left Lofgren wondering if it's possible to make a broad critique of power within America in 2018 without it being turned into a propagandistic caricature by the far right.

Though Lofgren's "Deep State," which he first described in a widely read 2014 essay for the website of longtime PBS host Bill Moyers, is influential, it bears little resemblance to the all-powerful cabal that the contemporary far-right has conjured. A former Fulbright scholar who studied contemporary European history, Lofgren spent 16 years as a senior analyst on the House and Senate budget committees, developing an expertise in the way the government pays for national security.

In that 2014 essay, after several appearances on Moyers' show, Lofgren gave his "Anatomy of the Deep State" thusly:

"...a hybrid entity of public and private institutions ruling the country according to consistent patterns in season and out, connected to, but only intermittently controlled by, the visible state whose leaders we choose. My analysis of this phenomenon is not an exposé of a secret, conspiratorial cabal; the state within a state is hiding mostly in plain sight, and its operators mainly act in the light of day."

That, according to Lofgren, is why Congress could seem hopelessly divided and deadlocked on President Obama's budget or political appointments, but offer no real sustained objection across either party to efforts to "liquidate American citizens without due processes, detain prisoners indefinitely without charge, conduct dragnet surveillance on the American people without judicial warrant" and intervene in Libya.

The critique found a supporter in Moyers. "He added to the long and legitimate and losing argument that we're being governed by the military-industrial complex," Moyers told BuzzFeed News.

Of course, we do have a Deep State that resists mere democratic pressures, but it is inherent in the structure of the Republic and, for obvious reasons, one of the main bulwarks is insulated from political vicissitudes and electoral spasms:

Separation of Power: To make a more perfect union, don't look to the Founding Fathers. (William Hogeland, Lapham Quarterly)

Yet in lauding Federalist 78, resistance to Trump stumbles into divots, even potholes, in the landscape of an American civics on which any effective resistance would have to rely. The anti-Trump intelligentsia is reading Hamilton's essay out of historical and political contexts, the founders' and ours. Confusion begins in misconstruing the essay's purpose. Hamilton was writing neither a meditation on judiciaries nor a guide to ours. While generations of judges have treated The Federalist as scholarship, precedent, even transcendent truth, the essays are works of persuasion, cranked out in hopes of convincing the delegates of New York to support ratification of the proposed Constitution. There was no federal judiciary when Hamilton wrote essay 78, no high or low courts, no specified number of Supreme Court justices, no federal case law, nothing but a few sentences stating that such a system should exist and--the kicker--making it independent of the other two branches. Hamilton's goal in 78 was to demolish recently published arguments on the dangers of making the judiciary independent. He wanted to get the Constitution ratified, with the judicial branch a covalent part of government.

Context for that effort involves Hamilton's and his colleagues' perception that in judicial independence lay a mechanism not for promoting democracy but for the reverse: checking what seemed to be potential dangers posed by the lower house of the proposed national legislature. Hamilton's persistent concern was to defeat what he and others of his class called the "leveling" impulse: efforts by lower orders to equalize society economically by undermining the value of property and investment, and thus, went the prevailing line of elite thought, destroying liberty itself. Where modern liberal thinking tends to equate freedom with a high degree of social equality, to Adams, Hamilton, Washington, Madison, and others, equality already seemed, in 1789, to be shattering traditional norms, devaluing elite holdings, and paving the way for the despotism that, in their reading of history, inevitably follows from attacks on property. The 1780s had seen populist agitation for debt relief, price controls, progressive taxation, access to credit, and the abolition of property qualifications for the voting franchise. Under pressure from working-class populists, state legislatures had been passing monetary laws that gave advantage to debtors, artisans, small farmers, and laborers. In Pennsylvania, there had even been talk of capping by law the amount of property anyone could own. A desire to put an end to what elites saw as state-legislative abuse of that kind spurred the formation of a national government. Such abuse must certainly be prevented from infecting the proposed national legislature. Hence the pitch for judicial independence that Hamilton made in Federalist 78.

Making the judiciary so powerful was bound to be scary. Whig liberty types, reacting in the Harrington mode, feared any power that might defeat representation, traditionally the legal means of resisting sovereign encroachment on rights. What if a federal judge, for example, appointed for life by the executive, were to set aside a law passed by Congress on the basis that it was somehow "unconstitutional"? That scenario brought on nightmares of classic tyranny. These same men, however, were the elites of New York--that's why Hamilton was addressing them. As creditors of their poorer neighbors, they harbored a fear of the leveling instinct as great as their fear of authoritarianism. Such a fear was bolstered ideologically by their certainty that the former always leads to the latter anyway. Republican gentlemen of the founding generation loved the tradition of representation. They hated the democratic results of representation going on in some of the states. Hence their bind.
Hamilton offered a way out. Federalist 78 is characteristic of his brilliance not as a theoretician--he could take the most abstruse theory in a single bite and chew it any way he liked--but as a master of building paths to usher readers inevitably toward his conclusions. The historian Peter Charles Hoffer, reading Hamilton's essays on the judiciary as an adroit walking-in of the novel power of judges to set aside laws, shows how the founder widely considered the least politic was capable here of concealment, cushioning, and timely revealing for maximum effect. The essay is marked by classic Hamiltonian tactics, by no means consistent with the notion prevailing among liberal admirers today, that the essay offers protection for hard-won democratic progress now under threat.

The central argument in 78 begins with an insistence that the might of an independent judiciary, supposedly so scary, is chimerical. The judicial branch won't really be equal to the other two, Hamilton assures his readers; unlike Congress, it can't create laws, and it has to rely on the presidency to enforce rulings. If the branch can become fearsome only in collaboration with another branch, all the more reason for separating it. A court this weak can never make itself superior to the legislature. Having tiptoed up to the land mine--the court's controversial power to set aside legislative acts--Hamilton tells his readers there's nothing to see there. He conjures a hypothetical scenario in which Congress passes an act undermining due process of law itself: an ex post facto law or bill of attainder, old legal tricks of arbitrary power loathed axiomatically by readers of the liberty literature. Who but the federal courts, Hamilton asks, would be in a position to push Congress back within constitutional bounds? Such a role would in no way set the court above Congress: "The power of the people"--the Constitution itself--"is superior to both." So even in instances where this weakling court must flex its muscles, it can act only as an intermediary.

Hamilton has deftly dispelled fears. His judiciary is gasping for life in those areas where readers would be hypersensitive to arbitrary power and no more than an intermediary whenever invigorated temporarily for the sole purpose of preserving constitutionality. He now dangles before his audience certain potencies that he says have nothing to do with constitutionality. He notes, first, that an independent judiciary would stifle "legislative encroachments." His audience would read that term as referring to legislation benefiting debtors, artisans, and poor farmers at the expense of property.

Employing the favored language of his class for describing social agitation, Hamilton asserts that an independent judiciary will mitigate:

those ill humors, which the arts of designing men, or the influence of particular conjunctures, sometimes disseminate among the people themselves, and which, though they speedily give place to better information, and more deliberate reflection, have a tendency, in the meantime, to occasion dangerous innovations in the government, and serious oppressions of the minor party in the community.

By dangerous innovations and serious oppressions he means populist fiscal laws; by the minor party he means the well-propertied. And he casts this judicial power to keep a stirred-up people down as the gift that keeps on giving. A legislature whose populist laws are repeatedly voided, Hamilton predicts, will give up even trying to pass them. That's a vision the elites of New York could get behind. Hamilton reminds them that all virtuous, disinterested, considerate people--them--are aware of the deleterious effects on stability and virtue of the bad spirit irresponsibly aroused by demagogues in an otherwise reasonable people. An independent judiciary can obstruct that spirit--elites called it both "the mob" and "the democracy"--and even crush it altogether via the rule of law.

Everybody knows, at least on reflection, that Hamilton, Adams, and their colleagues weren't democrats and egalitarians. The question is why today's embattled liberalism, seeking protection for essential American institutions promoting equality and democracy, lauds Hamilton's arguments for the legal suppression of equality and democracy. Just technically, most of 78 is immaterial at best to liberal hope and success. Blocking the attempted Muslim ban and the rescinding of DACA rely on a judicial power to check not Congress but the executive; in 78, Hamilton, a promoter of executive strength, only barely alludes to that power. Expanding equality came about in the twentieth century through the federal courts' power to set aside oppressive state laws. In 78, Hamilton didn't mention that power, referring only to potential excesses of Congress.

It is the conservatism of the Founding that enables us to defend the Republic from the progressivism of a Donald or a Bernie.
Posted by orrinj at 6:30 AM


White Sox groundskeeper back on job after 23 years in prison (Associated Press, April 5, 2018)

 Imprisoned 23 years for a crime he didn't commit, Nevest Coleman couldn't imagine a day like this.

He was back in his old job as a groundskeeper for the Chicago White Sox, working the home opener against the Detroit Tigers on Thursday.

"When you sit back when you're locked up, you don't think about (a day like this)," Coleman said. "You just think about what's going on trying to move forward in life, trying to figure out what I'm gonna do when I get out, how I'm gonna support myself. The White Sox gave me the opportunity."

Coleman is getting another shot after he and another Illinois man named Darryl Fulton were exonerated in a 1994 rape and murder. They were convicted in the slaying of a 20-year-old woman after her body was found in the basement of a home on Chicago's South Side where Coleman lived. Both Coleman and Fulton confessed but quickly recanted.

After DNA testing linked the crime to a serial rapist, the two men were released from prison in November. A Cook County judge issued "certificates of innocence" in March, clearing their names. Soon after that, Coleman returned to his old job with the White Sox.

Posted by orrinj at 6:25 AM


Is Queen Elizabeth descended from the Prophet Muhammad? (Times of Israel, 4/07/18)

The claim is not new, and was originally published in 1986 by Burke's Peerage, the noted guide to royal genealogy. The link was also reportedly verified by Ali Gomaa, the former grand mufti of Egypt, which would make Elizabeth a distant cousin of fellow monarchs King Abdullah II of Jordan and Mohammed VI of Morocco.

According to the family tree, she is descendant from the Prophet's daughter, Fatima.

According to the Economist much of the purported link revolves around a Muslim princess called Zaida, who fled an attack on Seville in Muslim Spain in the 11th century and found refuge in the court of Alfonso VI of Castille.

There, "she changed her name to Isabella, converted to Christianity and bore Alfonso a son, Sancho, one of whose descendants later married the Earl of Cambridge," the Economist said.

April 6, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 7:56 PM


How 'Chappaquiddick' Distorts a Tragedy (Neal Gabler, April 6, 2018, NY Times)

Many scenes cross from dramatic interpretation to outright character assassination. In this version, the Kennedy character leaves Kopechne to die as she gasps for air, and then, with the aid of his brothers' old advisers, cooks up a scheme to salvage his presidential ambitions. A more callow, cunning, cowardly and self-interested yet moronic figure you couldn't find. His first words after the accident are: "I'm not going to be president." [...]

Contrary to the film's implications, Mr. Kennedy immediately and forever after felt deep remorse and responsibility for the accident; it haunted him. 

Chappaquiddick: No Profile in Kennedy Courage (SUSAN DONALDSON JAMES, Aug. 26, 2009, ABC News)

In the summer of 1969, consiglieres of the former John F. Kennedy administration -- Robert McNamara, Arthur Schlesinger and Ted Sorensen, among others -- convened in Hyannis Port, Mass., to write the apology that would save the young Sen. Ted Kennedy from himself.

Only days before, Kennedy had left the scene of a fatal car crash on the small island of Chappaquiddick on Martha's Vineyard, taking the life of 28-year-old Mary Jo Kopechne.

The second-term senator waited nearly 10 hours to report the accident and offered virtually no explanation other than he "panicked."

"In those conclaves a speech, not unlike the 'Checkers' speech, was crafted for him to give on TV, throwing himself on the compassion of the American people to write and call in to keep him on the ticket," said Edward Klein, author of the new book, "Ted Kennedy: The Dream That Never Died."

"All of the Kennedy acolytes were there," Klein told ABCNews.com. "His wife Joan was not allowed downstairs. They didn't want her to hear it."

The details of the July 19 accident were salacious: a Regatta Weekend reunion party at a friend's cottage with all married men (except one) and six women -- the "boiler room girls" -- who had worked together on Robert Kennedy's 1968 presidential campaign.

After a day of sailing and heavy drinking, Kennedy drove his black Oldsmobile sedan off a small wooden bridge into Poucho Pond, trapping Kopechne in seven feet of water.

Edward Moore Kennedy -- only 38 and up for re-election the following year-- had violated one of the cardinal rules in politics: "Never get caught with a dead girl or a live boy."

Posted by orrinj at 7:44 PM


Exclusive: Trump adviser played key role in pursuit of possible Clinton emails from dark web before election (Jenna McLaughlin, Jim Sciutto and Carl Bernstein, 4/06/18, CNN)

Joseph Schmitz approached the FBI and other government agencies about material a client of his had discovered that Schmitz believed might have been Clinton's missing 30,000 emails from her private e-mail server, sources say. The material was never verified, and sources say they ultimately believed it was fake.

His push is the latest example of Trump advisers who were mixed up in efforts to find dirt on Clinton during the presidential campaign. Schmitz was one of the first people Trump named to his campaign's national security and foreign policy team. The team, showcased in a March 2016 photo, was thrown together early in Trump's successful run as he faced mounting pressure to prove his ability to pull in high-level advisers who could help prepare him for the White House.

Another adviser pictured in the photo, Trump's foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, was told by a Kremlin-connected professor that the Russian government had damaging material on Clinton. Six weeks later, Donald Trump Jr. got a message from a business associate offering similar information, leading to the Trump Tower meeting that Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort attended.

Posted by orrinj at 7:40 PM


Federal judge upholds Mass. assault weapons ban (Maria Cramer,  APRIL 06, 2018, Boston Globe)

In his ruling, US District Judge William Young wrote the state's two-decade-old ban on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines do not violate the right to bear arms under the Second Amendment.

"The AR-15 and its analogs, along with large capacity magazines, are simply not weapons within the original meaning of the individual constitutional right to 'bear Arms,' " Young wrote in a 47-page ruling. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:41 AM


The Conscience of Ann Coulter: Donald Trump promised her a wall. She wants to know where it is. (CHARLES SYKES, 4/05/18, Weekly Standard)
Give her credit: Ann Coulter is a woman of strong convictions. Those convictions may be wrongheaded, bizarre, and even bigoted, but she knows what she believes and is willing to hold Donald Trump accountable. Unless he builds the wall (and not just some candy-ass fence) she's done with him--ready to turn on him with the white hot bitterness of the true believer who suddenly awakes to betrayal.

It's easy to mock Coulter, who wrote a book titled In Trump We Trust, for ever thinking she could trust Trump (and I will probably go on doing so), but at least something mattered to her. Unlike the cultists for whom Trump can do no wrong, and who will not hold him to any of his promises as long as he fights the right enemies, Coulter's politics have a very clear standard. "We have been betrayed over and over and over with presidents promising to do something about immigration," she explained to the New York Times's Frank Bruni. "If he played us for suckers, oh, you will not see rage like you have seen."

Trump does seem worried. After a few days pretending that he hadn't really been rolled on the border wall (Congress allocated only $1.6 billion of the $25 billion he had requested in the budget passed last month), Trump has ramped up his anti-immigrant rhetoric, killed the deal to regularize the status of so-called "dreamers," lashed out at Mexico, and authorized sending the National Guard to patrol the border.

Long gone are the days when he mused aloud about a "bill of love." Now he's reportedly listening intently to advice from a menagerie of misfit toys, including cable talking heads like Sean Hannity and immigration hardliner Lou Dobbs. And Ann is... unhappy. (By her account, they engaged in an "obscenity laced" shouting match in the Oval Office over his "betrayals.")

The message of the hardliners is simple: If he goes all squishy on immigration, he will lose his base. 

And the racists are his base.
Posted by orrinj at 4:40 AM


E.P.A. Officials Sidelined After Questioning Scott Pruitt (ERIC LIPTON, KENNETH P. VOGEL and LISA FRIEDMAN, APRIL 5, 2018, NY Times)

Mr. Pruitt, who often ran late, wanted to use the lights and sirens to expedite local trips in Washington to the airport or to dinner, including at least one trip to Le Diplomate, a trendy French restaurant that he frequented. Such use was not consistent with agency policy, but Mr. Weese was unsuccessful in stopping it.

The agency said Mr. Pruitt played no role in deciding when the sirens and lights would be used. "The security detail for the past 15 years has used them in very limited fashion," Mr. Wilcox said.

Mr. Weese was also reluctant to sign off on requests for Mr. Pruitt to travel in first class based on security concerns. Mr. Allen, Mr. Chmielewski and Mr. Reeder, too, questioned the use of taxpayer money to pay for first-class airfare. Only after Mr. Weese was replaced by Mr. Perrotta did Mr. Pruitt regularly fly first class, agency staff members said.

There were also questions raised about a request that Mr. Pruitt be issued a bulletproof sport utility vehicle with so-called run flat tires, which keep a vehicle moving even when sustaining gunfire. And they challenged Mr. Pruitt's expanded security detail of approximately 20 members, three times the size of his predecessor's. Unlike his most recent counterpart under Mr. Obama, Gina McCarthy, Mr. Pruitt has security officials follow him wherever he travels, and also stay on duty overnight.

"He wanted to be treated like he was the president," said David Schnare, a prominent conservative lawyer and climate change skeptic, who served on the Trump administration transition team at the E.P.A., after an earlier 30-year stint at the agency that started in the late 1970s.

Mr. Wilcox, the agency spokesman, said the larger security team was justified, given threats against Mr. Pruitt. "They run the variety of direct death threats -- 'I'm going to put a bullet in your brain' -- to implied threats -- 'If you don't classify this particular chemical in this particular way, I'm going to hurt you.'"

There was a particularly intense dispute over a request to construct a special security booth in Mr. Pruitt's office so he could have confidential conversations without being overheard by career agency employees, according to interviews and public documents first reported by The Washington Post. [...]

The various challenges to Mr. Pruitt's spending and security priorities did not sit well with him, according to the people who worked with or for the E.P.A., and soon the offending aides were removed.

Mr. Allen, a decorated 30-year retired Army officer, was transferred to a different office within the E.P.A., where he mostly works alone, according to two agency officials, one of whom described the setup as "an unmarked grave." [...]

William K. Reilly, who led the E.P.A. under President George Bush, called Mr. Pruitt a "third-rate ideologue" and said he was aware of staff members who had been sidelined at the agency for raising questions about Mr. Pruitt's spending.

"I think he's well beyond his sell-by date," Mr. Reilly said. "Any administration but this one would have discharged him long ago."

Whereas Donald wants to make him AG....

Posted by orrinj at 4:28 AM


Ben Sasse says if Trump is 'even half-serious' on tariffs, his plan is 'nuts' (Catherine Garcia, April 5, 2018, The Week)

In a statement Thursday night, Sasse said he hopes Trump is "just blowing off steam again, but, if he's even half-serious, this is nuts." In justifying the tariffs, Trump has accused China of stealing U.S. intellectual property, and Sasse said that while "China is guilty of many things," Trump has "no actual plan to win" a trade war. "He's threatening to light American agriculture on fire," Sasse continued. "Let's absolutely take on Chinese bad behavior, but with a plan that punishes them instead of us. This is the dumbest possible way to do this." 

Don't bet on it.
Posted by orrinj at 4:22 AM


New Disclosures On Roger Stone's Ties To Assange (Cody Fenwick, April 6, 2018, AlterNet)

A new report this week from the Wall Street Journal found that Stone sent an email to his associate Sam Nunberg on Aug. 4, 2016, saying that said he had had dinner with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange the previous night. CNN reports that, on that same day, Stone went on the fringe online right-wing show InfoWars and predicted that Assange had major evidence of wrongdoing by the Clinton Foundation.

"Let's remember that their defense to all the Clinton Foundation scandals is not that 'we didn't do,' but 'you have no proof, yes, but you have no proof,'" Stone said. "I think Julian Assange has that proof and I think he is going to furnish it for the American people."

The next day, he praised Assange on Twitter.

Posted by orrinj at 4:07 AM


Mueller probe tracking down Trump business partners, with Cohen a focus of queries (KEVIN G. HALL, BEN WIEDER AND GREG GORDON, April 06, 2018, McClatchy)

Armed with subpoenas compelling electronic records and sworn testimony, Mueller's team showed up unannounced at the home of the business associate, who was a party to multiple transactions connected to Trump's effort to expand his brand abroad, according to persons familiar with the proceedings.

Investigators were particularly interested in interactions involving Michael D. Cohen, Trump's longtime personal attorney and a former Trump Organization employee. Among other things, Cohen was involved in business deals secured or sought by the Trump Organization in Georgia, Kazakhstan and Russia.

The move to question business associates of the president adds a significant new element to the Mueller investigation, which began by probing whether the Trump campaign and Russia colluded in an effort to get Trump elected but has branched far beyond that.

"I was in the Olive Oil business with his father but that was a long time ago."

Mueller (Quietly) Keeps Turning Up the Heat (Cristian Farias, 4/06/18, New York)

The filing is long but well worth the read, if only to get a better sense of Mueller's case-in-chief. Its biggest surprise, though, was an attachment from none other than Rod Rosenstein, Mueller's direct supervisor. It turns out that last August, three months into Mueller's appointment, the deputy attorney general -- who for purposes of the Russia probe serves as the acting attorney general because Jeff Sessions is recused -- sent a memorandum to the special counsel outlining the scope of his authority. A big chunk of it is classified, so we may never know, or won't know for some time, what the memo says. But the part that is public states unequivocally that Mueller has a green light to investigate whether Manafort "committed a crime or crimes by colluding with Russian officials" in the run-up to 2016, and whether he engaged in wrongdoing stemming from his lobbying work with Russian-backed political actors in Ukraine.

In criminal law, that disclosure provides a rough outline of what's known as the theory of the case -- the set of facts and legal authority to support a prosecution. But what's remarkable about it is that, as presented by Dreeben and Mueller's office, this doesn't at all come across as some wild theory being pursued by an overzealous, overreaching prosecutor. If these filings tell us anything, it is that Mueller is running a tight ship and that he's keeping in close contact with Rosenstein to make sure that everything is being done by the book and according to law and departmental procedures. "For additional matters that otherwise may have arisen or may arise directly from the investigation, you should consult my office for a determination of whether such matters should be within the scope of your authority," Rosenstein tells Mueller in the August memo.

That was a long seven months ago. Public reporting since, that federal prosecutors have subpoenaed records from the Trump Organization and are now going after Russian oligarchs, to name just two developments, indicates that there may be other such written exchanges -- or "non-public dialogue," as Dreeben characterizes it -- between Rosenstein and his appointee that haven't seen the light of day. Think of them as two longtime federal prosecutors talking shop about what is or isn't appropriate to investigate. If there's someone in the federal law enforcement apparatus who knows a little bit about propriety, it's these two.

Flowing from this same set of authorities -- which include direct oversight from Rod Rosenstein, the person Mueller consults with for all "significant events" in the Russia probe -- is the special counsel's growing interest in sitting down with Trump face-to-face. As the Washington Post reported late Tuesday, lawyers for the president have been informed that their client is a "subject" in the growing inquiry, and Mueller may even release a report on whether the president tried to thwart his or the FBI's investigative efforts. That Trump is considered a subject is simply prosecutor-speak for the fact that Trump is a person of interest in an ongoing law enforcement matter -- he's more than just a witness to potential crimes and less than a full-blown target of a criminal investigation.

Subjects, who fall somewhere in the middle between witnesses and targets, are attractive to prosecutors because they know a lot about the incidents being investigated. And with many open questions about what Trump knew or his state of mind during key incidents under the microscope -- Was he aware Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner, and his son met with Russians during the campaign? Did he know Michael Flynn had lied to the FBI when he fired James Comey? -- it stands to reason that Mueller may want to get direct answers to those simple, yes-or-no questions. An affirmative or a negative to whether, say, Roger Stone gave Trump a heads-up about a soon-to-drop WikiLeaks trove damaging to the Hillary Clinton campaign could be invaluable to federal investigators. (This tentacle of the Mueller inquiry remains a closely guarded secret.)

But even such basic questions could prove disastrous for the president, who isn't exactly a model of truthfulness or modesty when placed under oath. He may be damned whether he claims he did or didn't know about these things: Any prosecutor worth his salt, and Mueller is one, would be ready to put a document in front of him or someone else's testimony to contradict him or refresh his faulty recollection.

Posted by orrinj at 3:59 AM


Trump Denies Knowing of Any Hush Money Paid to Porn Actress (JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, APRIL 5, 2018, NY Times)

The president's comments on Thursday could create a predicament for him and his legal team. Ms. Clifford's case is based on the notion that the confidentiality agreement is invalid because Mr. Trump was not a party to it. By saying he was not aware of the agreement, Mr. Trump appeared to confirm that argument, which would mean neither party is legally bound by it, thus potentially paving the way for Ms. Clifford to break her silence without consequences.

Ms. Clifford's pugnacious lawyer, Michael J. Avenatti, quickly issued a statement to respond to Mr. Trump's claim. He said that the president's professed ignorance of the payment would improve his client's case, suggesting that he would use legal discovery to expose the back and forth around the payment.

"Our case just got that much better," Mr. Avenatti said in the statement. "We very much look forward to testing the truthfulness of Mr. Trump's feigned lack of knowledge concerning the $130,000 as he stated on Air Force One."

"As history teaches us, it is one thing to deceive the press and quite another to do so under oath," he added.

Later, Mr. Avenatti appeared to exult on Twitter about what he suggested were undisciplined comments by Mr. Trump that would give Ms. Clifford the upper hand in the legal dispute.

"Good (actually GREAT) things come to those who wait!!!" Mr. Avenatti wrote. "The strength of our case just went up exponentially. You can't have an agreement when one party claims to know nothing about it. #nodiscipline."

April 5, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 7:09 PM


Posted by orrinj at 1:20 PM


Nearly 12 million people enrolled in 2018 health coverage under the ACA (Amy Goldstein April 3, 2018, Washington Post)

A total of 11.8 million Americans signed up for Affordable Care Act health insurance for 2018, a drop of just 400,000 from the previous year despite widespread predictions that enrollment would plummet amid political and insurance industry turbulence surrounding the law.

The final figures, released Tuesday by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, show that the proportion of first-time customers for this year dipped slightly, from 31 percent to 27 percent, while the high proportion qualifying for government subsidies that help consumers afford their insurance premiums stayed level at 83 percent.

Posted by orrinj at 1:06 PM


An airing of grievances: Trump spends days issuing a torrent of complaints against foes (Jenna Johnson, April 4, 2018, Washington Post)

Trump's venting in recent days has seemed excessive, even for him. His grievances have come in torrents, littered with inaccuracies he continues to state as facts. The pattern continued Wednesday morning, as he tweeted about the trade fight with China and "very weak" border security laws.

It started Saturday morning as he lashed out on Twitter at the "Fake Washington Post," the "Failing New York Times" and the governor of California while being driven to one of his golf courses in Florida. It continued on Easter, as he complained that Mexico was not doing enough to stop the flow of undocumented immigrants into the United States or a caravan of migrants from Honduras. He complained the border is protected by "ridiculous liberal (Democrat) laws" and said Republicans needed to pass "tough laws."

He kept going Monday morning, as he tweeted about the Postal Service rates paid by Amazon.com -- which was founded by Jeffrey P. Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post -- and about his own "Department of 'Justice.' " Minutes later, at the White House Easter Egg Roll, Trump stood between his stoic wife and a bespectacled Easter Bunny -- whose face was frozen in an open-mouthed stare -- and bragged to a crowd of children about increasing military spending to $700 billion, one of the few bright points for him in the recently passed spending bill.

That night on Twitter, Trump called the country's immigration laws an "Obama joke" and accused Democrats of needlessly delaying his nominations. The next morning, he falsely accused CNN of requiring its employees to proclaim they are "totally anti-Trump" and labeled CNN chief Jeff Zucker as "little" while misspelling his name. He bragged that his approval rating "is higher than Cheatin' Obama at the same time" in his tenure; the White House has yet to explain what that nickname meant. He again lashed out at Amazon and accused federal postal workers of not having a clue.

Trump repeated many of those same points Tuesday afternoon as his guests waited for him to finish so they could eat lunch.

He mentioned the "caravan" 10 times, called the North American Free Trade Agreement "a cash cow" for Mexico and took swipes at both Obama and "crooked Hillary Clinton." He announced that he plans to send members of the military to the southern border, an apparent surprise to many Pentagon officials. It took the White House six hours to compose an explanation and announce that the administration plans to mobilize the National Guard.

"We're going to be doing some things militarily," Trump said while answering the question about the stock market and the brewing trade war with China. "Until we can have a wall and proper security, we're going to be guarding our border with the military. That's a big step."

White House staffers tried a second time to lead reporters out of the room, but the president latched onto a question about the caravan. They tried a third time, but the president responded to a question related to his foreign guests. A fourth time, and he responded to a question about Russia's president: "Do you want Vladimir Putin to come to the White House, sir?"

"Ideally, we want to be able to get along with Russia," Trump said, without acknowledging the long-standing threat Russia poses to the Baltic countries represented by his guests.

Posted by orrinj at 1:04 PM


Wage growth slows across the country (Steve LeVine, 4/05/18, Axios)

By the numbers: Wages should be rising an average of 3%-4% given the tightness of the job market, Chamberlain says.

According to official data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, wage growth was a lower 2.6% in February.

Yes, but: Glassdoor data -- based on a survey of 100,000 salaries posted by the jobs site every month -- show even lower growth, shrinking to just 1% last month.

Posted by orrinj at 1:02 PM


Posted by orrinj at 4:39 AM


Planned Parenthood president claims she felt bribed by Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner (Veronica Stracqualursi, April 4, 2018, CNN)

Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards accused Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner of making an offer that felt like a "bribe" during a meeting back in January 2017.

Richards, who is planning on stepping down as president in 2018, reveals in her new book that the President's daughter and son-in-law offered her an increase in federal funding for Planned Parenthood in exchange for its agreement to stop providing abortion services, according to People magazine.

Isn't it supposed to be about health?

Posted by orrinj at 4:32 AM

Posted by orrinj at 4:19 AM


Israel faces historic decision as new population figures emerge (Yossi Beilin April 3, 2018, Al Monitor)

The Israeli political right was caught off guard by the surprising official figures presented on March 26 at the Knesset by a representative of the Civil Administration, the army unit coordinating the Israeli government's activities in the occupied territories. The representative indicated that the number of Jews and Arabs living under Israeli control in the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean had reached parity at 6.5 million for each side.

Over the years, the Zionist left kept warning about the prospect of a Jewish minority in Israel controlling a Palestinian majority, with only a small number of them enjoying full civil rights. Yet the Israeli right kept dismissing these warnings. It countered with imaginary data showing that some 3 million Palestinians live in Israel and the occupied territories, compared with 6.5 million Jews. However, from the moment the true numbers were communicated to the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee with the new data last week by the Israel Defense Forces, the leadership of the political right can no longer argue that political bias is skewing the figures. It is now forced to confront the figures.

The updated population data have once again placed the inherent tension between Israel's Jewish and democratic nature in the forefront of the political arena.

...was Ariel Sharon's stroke.

Posted by orrinj at 4:13 AM



On the third and final day of recording Miles Davis' transitional album Miles in the Sky, Herbie Hancock walked into Columbia Studio B on East 52nd Street in New York to find his instrument missing. A piano prodigy since age 11, Hancock scanned the room -- no keyboards. Confused, he turned to Davis, his mentor and band leader. "What do you want me to play?"

Davis nodded at a squat, almost frail-looking set of keys that were a far cry from the commanding presence of a Steinway -- instead, they belonged to a Fender Rhodes electric piano. Hancock thought, "You want me to play that toy?" But he'd been working with Davis since May 1963, almost five years to the day prior to the Miles in the Sky sessions, May 15-17, 1968. He trusted the man. And he'd heard other pianists talk about the Rhodes as a different instrument entirely from a standard piano. In fact, in the decades to come, that toy came to form an integral part of Hancock's pioneering blend of jazz, electro, funk and classical music.

It was the experimental jazz band leader Sun Ra who first used the electric piano, in 1954. Davis became aware of the instrument's potential for jazz compositions when Josef Zawinul played the Wurlitzer in 1966 for the Cannonball Adderley Quartet. Previously, the Wurlitzer's soulful electronic sustain was favored by gospel musicians, and later by R&B titans like Ray Charles.

Back in Studio B, Hancock tentatively approached the Fender Rhodes and played a chord. "Much to my surprise, I liked the sound," he said later in an interview with Dutch music writer Paul Tingen. "It sounded beautiful, with a really warm, bell-like sound."

Posted by orrinj at 3:54 AM


Shouldn't Police at Home Exhibit at Least as Much Discipline as Soldiers at War? (DAVID FRENCH, April 4, 2018, National Review)

Over the past three years, as the issue of police shootings has come to periodically dominate American discourse, I've noticed a disturbing pattern. While many controversial police shootings are lawful and justifiable, many others would be surprising to see in a war zone, much less in the streets of America's cities. [...]

First, it's important to understand that the mission must come before personal safety. When you sign up to wear the uniform, you're tacitly acknowledging as much. This doesn't mean you're required to be reckless with your own life, of course: Prudence and self-protection still matter. But they come behind the purpose of the police force itself. If you have any doubt about this fact, ask the Broward County Sheriff's office. The armed deputy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School certainly succeeded in protecting himself during Nikolas Cruz's massacre. But he failed to do his job, placing his own safety above the safety of the innocent kids he was sworn to protect, and he rightly had to face the consequences afterward.

Second, it's important to fully understand the mission. When your job is to preserve the safety, security, and -- crucially -- liberty of a community, each individual encounter is conducted against the backdrop of those broader, over-arching goals. So, a call to pursue a suspected vandal and trespasser (like in the Clark case) presents a multi-faceted challenge: Apprehend the suspect, protect his civil liberties, understand the community you're policing, and protect the liberties and security of those others who live there, as well. Every confrontation is potentially dangerous, sure, but every confrontation is also complicated by the multifaceted balancing act we ask of our cops. One may argue that we ask too much of our cops, but I don't think so; younger soldiers perform the same balancing act in more dangerous circumstances for less pay every day.

Third, the prudent rules of engagement should vary by the nature of the encounter. As I wrote in my initial piece about the Clark shooting, situational awareness demands different kinds of risk tolerance. Pursuit of an armed robber is different from pursuit of a vandal, and both are dramatically different from rolling up on an actual firefight, like the incident that claimed the life of a Sacramento sheriff's deputy in 2017. While each situation can potentially turn deadly, it's a simple fact that some kinds of encounters are more fraught with peril than others, and greater inherent peril demands greater latitude for police use of force.

Fourth, fear must be subject to reason. Public defenses of police shootings tend to revolve around questions of fear. Officers consistently escape conviction, prosecution, and sometimes even discipline altogether because they are able to effectively articulate why they were afraid for their lives the moment they fired the fateful shot. The legal standard to escape conviction, however, is that they must prove not just that they were afraid but also that their fear was "reasonable." Articulating reasons for your fear is not the same thing as articulating "reasonable fear."

Posted by orrinj at 3:47 AM

GRACE UNBIDDEN (profanity alert):

A Gift of Grace to the United States: Reflections on Martin Luther King, Jr., 50 years after his assassination (Lance Morrow, April 2, 2018, City Journal)

I admired Martin Luther King as much as I admired any American in the twentieth century. I felt--still do--a reverence for him. Charisma is Greek for "a gift of grace." King was a gift of grace to the United States--a country that may have been unworthy of the gift, or else unable to understand it. Toward the end of his life, blacks had given up--a bit--on King and his ways. With amiable humor, they called him "De Lawd." Travis referred to him that way. Some even used the lethal term, "Uncle Tom." The Nobel Prize--a suspect apotheosis, bestowed by Whitey--subtly discredited him in contrast with black firebrands (H. Rap Brown, Stokely Carmichael) to whom satyagraha was the wrong idea: they meant to take the passive out of passive resistance. King was getting to be passé-- your father's station wagon.

Few Americans have shown more courage than the civil rights workers in the South in the early 1960s: the Freedom Riders and others, those working for voter registration and access to public accommodations. One night in the summer of 1964, I was on a late shift at the old Washington Star. A long-distance call came in to the city desk from Sunflower County, Mississippi. I heard a frightened young voice coming from a house way out in the dark Mississippi countryside--a civil rights worker who told me that she just wanted someone to know that she was out there in the middle of the night and scared to death, and that now and then she heard a pickup truck. We talked for a long time. Schwerner, Chaney, and Goodman had disappeared a few weeks earlier from Philadelphia, Mississippi. Their bodies would be found in the earthen dam where Klansmen buried them. 

The most conspicuous and vulnerable of them all was Martin Luther King. He saw it coming ("I may not get there with you"), but he never stopped. His gift to the country, apart from the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965, was his miraculous example of grace and courage. 

Posted by orrinj at 3:44 AM


'You Hate America!': How 'the Caravan' Story Exploded on the Right (JEREMY W. PETERS, APRIL 4, 2018, NY Times)

It was the kind of story destined to take a dark turn through the conservative news media and grab President Trump's attention: A vast horde of migrants was making its way through Mexico toward the United States, and no one was stopping them.

"Mysterious group deploys 'caravan' of illegal aliens headed for U.S. border," warned Frontpage Mag, a site run by David Horowitz, a conservative commentator.

The Gateway Pundit, a website that was most recently in the news for spreading conspiracies about the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., suggested the real reason the migrants were trying to enter the United States was to collect social welfare benefits.

And as the president often does when immigration is at issue, he saw a reason for Americans to be afraid. "Getting more dangerous. 'Caravans' coming," a Twitter post from Mr. Trump read.

The story of "the caravan" followed an arc similar to many events -- whether real, embellished or entirely imagined -- involving refugees and migrants that have roused intense suspicion and outrage on the right. The coverage tends to play on the fears that hiding among mass groups of immigrants are many criminals, vectors of disease and agents of terror. And often the president, who announced his candidacy by blaming Mexico for sending rapists and drug dealers into the United States, acts as an accelerant to the hysteria.

"The less justified a man is in claiming excellence for his own self, the more ready he is to claim all excellence for his nation, his religion, his race or his holy cause."

Posted by orrinj at 3:32 AM


A Trail of 'Receipts' That Dogs the President (Virginia Heffernan, 4/04/18,  the Los Angeles Times)

Access Hollywood kept receipts. Long ago, Trump's desperate crowing about crotch-grabbing surfaced in audio and video. His weak denials since then mean nothing. The recording is a receipt.

Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., kept receipts. When Trump's waning Chief of Staff John F. Kelly conjured some lies a year ago about Wilson's remarks at the 2015 dedication of a new FBI building, her allies presented a video of her remarks that made Kelly look like a fabulist.

Colbie Holderness kept receipts. Her cache includes a memento related to her allegation that Rob Porter, the former White House staff secretary, punched her in the face in 2005 while they were married. Trump had kept Porter on staff in spite of FBI warnings about his violent history, then Holderness submitted into evidence a photo of herself with a black eye. Porter's effort to extenuate the receipt -- "outrageous allegations," etc. etc.-- didn't help. He was fired.

Karen McDougal kept receipts. The former Playboy model's handwritten notes chronicle an alleged affair in 2006. These non-coy notes -- "we got naked + had sex" -- were published in The New Yorker. A White House rebuttal -- "more fake news" -- crashed on the shoals of receipts.

Stormy Daniels kept receipts. The adult-film actress has a copy of the nondisclosure agreement she signed, and Trump didn't, requiring her to keep silent about her alleged Trump tryst. This week the president's lawyer's lawyer finally denied Trump even knew about the contract. Legal experts, including former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti, suggest the denial might void the contract and liberate Daniels to reveal more "material" she has hinted she has. Photos? Videos? In any case, receipts.

In the broader Trump circle -- the Russia wing -- a Nastya Rybka, a Belarussian escort, also kept receipts, including video footage apparently made while she was on a yacht with Sergei Prikhodko, Russia's deputy prime minister, and Russian aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska. (Deripaska is former employer and current creditor to Paul Manafort, Trump's former campaign chairman; the video was posted by Russian dissident Aleksei Navalny.) Now Rybka claims to have audio receipts that show Russian meddling in the U.S. election. She's seeking asylum in the U.S. in return for telling all. Who knows if she has the goods, but Rybka's receipts are worth watching for.

Even Tiffany Trump, the president's younger daughter, has submitted a receipt. It's a small one, to be sure, but last week, she "liked" an Instagram image that showed a demonstrator with a sign that read, "Next Massacre Will Be the GOP in the Midterm Elections." It may be a record in the public square of her dissent from her father's party. And maybe from her father.

Notice anything consistent about these receipts? For the most part, they were kept by women.

...the b****es set him up!

Posted by orrinj at 3:25 AM


Zinke Rolls Over on National Park Fee Hikes (J. Weston Phippen, Apr 4, 2018, Outside)

Conservatives, liberals, 100,000 outraged public commenters--the interior secretary had trouble getting anyone behind his plan

Posted by orrinj at 3:15 AM


Jordan Peterson on Adam and Eve (Christopher Kaczor, April 4th, 2018, Public Discourse)

Perhaps the most important stories shaping Peterson's thought are those that are most controversial on the literal level: the first chapters of Genesis. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth in a chaotic and formless darkness. God says, "Let there be light." On Peterson's view, this truthful speech brings order out of the dark, formless chaos. Because they are made in the image of God, man and woman can also create order from chaos by the free choice of speaking and living the truth.

According to Peterson, the story of Adam and Eve contains enduring wisdom about the human condition. Why is the serpent in the garden? Chaos and order are omnipresent in human experience. Human life is unsustainable in pure chaos, but it is also stifled in pure order. The serpent represents the chaos in the otherwise orderly garden. Even if all the snakes could be banished from the garden, the snake of conflict between humans remains a possibility. And even if inter-human conflict could be eradicated, the snake within each person remains. Peterson's view of the human person is shaped by Alexander Solzhenitsyn's insight that "the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either--but right through every human heart." For this reason, Peterson notes, "A serpent, metaphorically speaking, will inevitably appear." The lesson he draws is that it is better to make one's children strong and competent than to attempt in vain to protect them from all snakes. To protect loved ones from all dangers is to make them like infants, depriving them of what could make them strong.

The serpent tempts the original parents to eat of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, an attempt to have complete understanding. As Peterson says in his first book, Maps of Meaning, "The presumption of absolute knowledge, which is the cardinal sin of the rational spirit, is therefore prima facie equivalent to rejection of the hero--to rejection of Christ, of the Word of God, of the (divine) process that mediates between order and chaos." Peterson cites Lynne A. Isbell's The Fruit, the Tree, and the Serpent: Why We See So Well in which she argues that both the snake and the fruit are associated in our evolutionary past with increased vision and increased self-consciousness.

Once Adam and Eve eat the fruit, "the eyes of both [are] opened," and they become self-conscious. They realize that they are naked, unprotected, and vulnerable. They realize how they can be hurt, how they will die, and how anyone like them is also vulnerable to death and suffering. With awareness of human vulnerability, the human choice of malevolence becomes possible. 

God became Man in order to experience that human vulnerability.

Posted by orrinj at 3:12 AM


Republicans warned of 'blue wave' after liberal wins Wisconsin court race (Associated Press,  Apr.04.2018)

Liberal judge Rebecca Dallet's runaway victory in a Wisconsin Supreme Court race cheered Democrats eager for more evidence their party is ready for a winning fall in midterm elections.

And Dallet's hammering of conservative judge Michael Screnock on Tuesday prodded Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who had endorsed Screnock, to warn his fellow Republicans that more losses could be coming.

"Tonight's results show we are at risk of a #BlueWave in WI," Walker, who is up for re-election in November, tweeted.

April 4, 2018

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Posted by orrinj at 3:22 PM


Judge skewers Manafort's civil case challenging Mueller's powers (Sarah N. Lynch, 4/04/18, Reuters) 

"I don't really understand what is left of your case," U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson said to Kevin Downing, Manafort's attorney, after peppering him with a lengthy series of questions.

Posted by orrinj at 3:04 PM


Why Silicon Valley is obsessed with this $95 pair of sneakers (Jeanette Settembre, 4/04/18, Moneyish)
The kicks are among "the comfortable walking shoes for travel," according to Conde Nast Traveler, which raves that they're supersoft and made to feel like you're "walking on a cloud." They're crafted entirely from sustainable New Zealand merino wool, cooling eucalyptus fiber and flexible rubber; AllBirds' site says they're "naturally soft, cozy all over, and (fit) your every move." The brand suggests customers wear them sans socks to truly absorb their cooling properties.

AllBirds has sold one pair of Wool Runners shoes per second since its March debut, according to Business Insider. Now, the brand is partnering with Nordstrom for a pop-up as part of the Seattle-based retailer's effort to incorporate smaller, new startups in its stores.

The shoes -- available for men and women in gray, neutral, millennial pink, red, lavender and mint -- will be on sale through May 20 while supplies last.

Posted by orrinj at 1:37 PM


"Close to tears, he left at the intermission": how Stanley Kubrick upset Arthur C Clarke:  The clash of wills behind 2001: a Space Odyssey reminds me that scientific education, not mystery, was always closest to my friend's heart. (MICHAEL MOORCOCK, 4/04/18, New Statesman) 

There are several published accounts of how the 1968 film 2001: a Space ­Odyssey came into being. I understood from Arthur that he was somewhat frustrated by the erratic schedule of its director, Stanley Kubrick. Consequently, the novel, which they were supposed to write before the film appeared, came out after the initial release date. But in the main he seemed happy with the collaboration, even up to the time that rough cuts were being shown. He was, I know, afraid that what with Kubrick's inability to settle down and collaborate on the novel, with the result that the book was due to come out after the cinematic release, it might look like a novelisation of the film rather than an ­original work.

Based primarily on his short story "The Sentinel", together with other published fact and fiction, the film was very much a joint effort, although Arthur was overly modest about his contribution. For his part, Kubrick seemed unable to come up with an ending that suited him. When I visited the set, the film was already about two years behind schedule and well over budget. I saw several alternative finale scenes constructed that were later abandoned. In one version, the monolith turned out to be some kind of alien spaceship. I also knew something that I don't think Arthur ever did: Kubrick was at some point dissatisfied with the collaboration, approaching other writers (including J G Ballard and myself) to work on the film. He knew neither Ballard nor me personally. We refused for several reasons. I felt it would be disloyal to accept.

I guessed the problem was a difference in personality. Arthur was a scientific educator. Explanations were his forte. He was uncomfortable with most forms of ambiguity. Kubrick, on the other hand, was an intuitive director, inclined to leave interpretation to the audience. These differences were barely acknowledged. Neither did Kubrick tell Arthur of his concerns regarding the final version. Where, thanks to Arthur, the film was heavy with voice-over explication and clarifications of scenes, Kubrick wanted the story to be told almost entirely visually.

Without consulting or confronting his co-creator, Kubrick cut a huge amount of Arthur's voice-over explanation during the final edit. This decision probably contributed significantly to the film's success but Arthur was unprepared for it. When he addressed MGM executives at a dinner in his honour before the premiere, he spoke warmly of Kubrick, declaring that there had been no serious disagreements between them in all the years they had worked together, but he had yet to see the final cut.

My own guess at the time was that Kubrick wasn't at ease with any proposed resolution but had nothing better to offer in place of his co-writer's "Star Child" ending. We know now that the long final sequence, offered without explanation, was probably what helped turn the film into the success it became, but the rather unresponsive expressions on the faces of the MGM executives whom Arthur had addressed in his speech showed that they were by no means convinced they had a winner.

What had impressed me on my visit to the set was the dedicated enthusiasm of the Nasa advisers, who had offices at the studios. You could walk into a room and find a fully equipped spacesuit hanging behind the door. There were star-charts and diagrams on the walls; exploded drawings, models, mock-ups and pictures of spaceships and equipment. I saw Roy Carnon's paintings of Jupiter and large sketches of scenes that would soon become every filmgoer's idea of what the future in space would look like. The main set was dominated by a huge, fully working centrifuge, built at vast cost by Vickers-Armstrongs, the British engineering firm. Every technician I met talked about the project with such commitment that I was soon infected by the conviction that we really were preparing an expedition to Jupiter. Computer-generated imagery did not yet exist, and so a great deal had to be built or painted close to full size.

With almost no interest in space exploration, I nonetheless found myself excited by the atmosphere. Yet I did wonder if all the "authenticity" I saw around me might not be overwhelming. Could Kubrick's singular imagination flourish in this atmosphere? Was that why it was taking so long to complete 2001 and the film was so heavily over budget? I had a slightly uncomfortable feeling that the considerable investment in establishing the reality of interplanetary space travel might produce a film more documentary than fiction.

As it turned out, Arthur did not get to see the completed film until the US private premiere. He was shocked by the transformation. Almost every element of explanation had been removed. Reams of voice-over narration had been cut. Far from being a pseudo-documentary, the film was now elusive, ambiguous and thoroughly unclear.

Posted by orrinj at 4:41 AM


A Day of Whiplash in the US's Syria Policy (CAROLINE HOUCK, APRIL 3, 2018, Defense One)

Trump, hosting three visiting Baltic heads-of-state at the White House, reiterated his desire to withdraw from Syria, three and a half years after the U.S. began fighting the Islamic State there.

"I want to get out. I want to bring our troops back home. I want to start rebuilding our nation," he said.

Simultaneously at the U.S. Institute of Peace, less than a mile away from that White House podium as the crow flies, top military and diplomatic leaders made the case for continuing the U.S. military mission against ISIS in Syria, a longer presence in Iraq, and significant non-military funding for stability operations and reconstruction for things like restarting electricity services and de-mining the booby-trapped rubble Iraqi and Syrian cities that were leveled in some part by American air strikes.

First among their concerns is the fact that ISIS still maintains a foothold in Syria.

"In Iraq I think we're in a pretty good place security-wise... the situation in Syria is a little bit different,"  said Gen. Joseph Votel, who leads U.S. Central Command. "Well over 90 percent of the caliphate that they controlled, particularly in the north and eastern portions of the country, has been liberated. But there still are some areas where they are present and that we will continue to have to operate on."

The top diplomat leading America's counter-ISIS fight, State Department special envoy Brett McGurk, echoed that warning.

"I think we're ahead of where we thought we would be at this time, as Gen. Votel said, but we're not finished," he said. "And we have to work through some very difficult issues as we speak."

The 2,000 or so troops the Pentagon acknowledges it has in Syria have a role in solving those issues, Votel said.

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Mueller Finally Unmasked the Trump Campaign's Secret Russian Operative (John R. Schindler, 04/02/18, NY Observer)

Recent developments demonstrate that GRU played a clandestine role in the election of Donald Trump. Last week, Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller's team, which is investigating the White House's Kremlin connections, released a court filing relating to the imminent sentencing of Alex van der Zwaan, a London attorney who has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Trump deputy campaign chair Rick Gates and a shadowy figure termed "Person A." Per the court filing:

That Gates and Person A were directly communicating in September and October 2016 was pertinent to the investigation. Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agents assisting the Special Counsel's Office assess that Person A has ties to Russian intelligence service and had such ties in 2016. During his first interview with the Special Counsel's Office, van der Zwaan admitted that he knew of that connection, stating that Gates told him Person A was a former Russian Intelligence Officer with GRU.

To anyone acquainted with the Trump investigation, Person A is obviously Konstantin Kilimnik, a close friend and protégé of Paul Manafort (Trump's campaign manager in mid-2016), who has admitted he was once a Russian intelligence officer working for GRU. Our media went into overdrive, hailing this as the "most direct line to date" between President Trump's inner circle and the Kremlin. One must ask: Where have they been?

While it's certainly news that Mueller's prosecutors openly called out a barely-concealed Kilimnik for his GRU ties, this fact has been known for years. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:27 AM


http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2018/04/21097/In Defense of Originalism (Carson Holloway, lApril 3rd, 2018, Public Discourse)

[I]t does not go too far to say that originalism as an approach to constitutional interpretation is simply a matter of common sense--the approach we would certainly choose if we brought no political predispositions to the interpretive enterprise. This is the lesson of Ilan Wurman's fine study, A Debt Against the Living: An Introduction to Originalism. As his subtitle indicates, Wurman does not attempt a comprehensive account of and defense of originalism--a project that could grow to an enormous size, given the massive amount that has been written on this topic. Instead, he offers a helpfully brief, and an admirably clear and engaging, explanation and defense of originalism--drawing on, popularizing, but in some cases also deepening arguments made by earlier scholars.

Originalism seeks to understand the Constitution in light of its original public meaning. As Wurman shows, this is not a politically motivated choice so much as it is the ordinary way that we would seek to understand the meaning of any written document--and indeed any communication at all. Communication is a public act, and language is a public phenomenon, the means of conveying ideas to others in a shared world of discourse. Thus we ordinarily interpret any utterance in light of the public meaning of the words used in it. Accordingly, when we turn to interpreting a communication from the past, we seek the public meaning of the words during that time period, because that is the meaning we have to assume that the writer or speaker intended and that his listeners or readers would have understood.

Proponents of the living Constitution contend that the Constitution, a document written and ratified in the past, ought to be interpreted in light of contemporary conceptions. That can sound attractive based on the results that some might want to achieve. But if we put those results aside and ask only what is a sensible approach to understanding a document from the past, we know that we must seek the original public meaning and that we will be led into the most ridiculous blunders if we do not. To take one obvious example, if we read a letter from the seventeenth century and find someone referred to as "a gentleman," we will go far wrong if we think that this means he is a nice person--which is what we would mean today. It means rather than he belonged to a particular social class, that he came from a particular kind of family. We would, of course, go even more wrong if we applied a twenty-first-century meaning to a seventeenth-century description of a person as "gay."

If we are trying to interpret--to correctly grasp the meaning of--a document from the past, then originalism is clearly the right tool. Here, however, we are talking about not just any document but about a constitution, which is a kind of law. This raises another question and another difficulty. A law does not just communicate ideas and information to us but purports to exercise authority over us. A law tells us what we must do. And it immediately occurs to anyone--even to children, as parents know all too well--to ask: why should I do what you tell me to do?

This question is raised by the defenders of the living Constitution. As they have famously asked, why should we be governed by the "dead hand of the past?" Although originalism is certainly the founding-era approach to constitutional interpretation, the challenge posed by this question also has deep roots in our history. It was raised by no less a figure than Thomas Jefferson, who held that one generation has no authority to bind future generations. In 1789, Jefferson, in a letter to his friend James Madison, held it to be "self evident" that "'the earth belongs in usufruct to the living;' that the dead have neither powers nor rights over" it, and that "by the law of nature, one generation is to another as one independent nation to another."

This Jeffersonian objection might appear decisive. After all, we live in a modern democracy, in which tradition has very little authority. Fortunately, Wurman provides an answer to Jefferson's challenge--an answer coming from no less a modern and American figure than James Madison.

Madison responded to his friend's claim by making an important distinction:

If the earth be the gift of nature to the living, their title can extend to the earth in its natural state only. The improvements made by the dead form a debt against the living, who take the benefit from them. This debt cannot be otherwise discharged than by a proportionate obedience to the will of the Authors of the improvements.

Of course, the political societies we inhabit, and the systems of law on which they are based, are not the gift of nature but "improvements" devised by our predecessors. Therefore, in Madison's view, they have a presumptive claim on our obedience.

This sounds rather Burkean. If Madison is to be taken as a guide--and who can deny his authority?--then a kind of conservative submission to inherited norms as binding on the living is compatible with our modern, democratic, and rights-based regime. Indeed, Wurman notes that Madison's conservatism is more consistent with the Declaration of Independence than is Jefferson's radicalism. After all, the Declaration says that men should cast off traditional authority not because it has no power to bind them at all, but only when necessity compels them to do so.

Once again, Wurman's argument reminds us that originalism--here meaning not just an interpretive approach, but the idea of being bound by the authoritative decisions of past generations--is not so much a politically motivated, partisan choice as it is simple common sense. The living constitutionalist asks: why should we be governed by the dead hand of the past? We may respond: it happens all the time. Being bound by the dead hand of the past is the most ordinary thing in the law, in the most commonplace private matters as in the grandest public ones.

...given that judicial review is anti-Constitutional.

Posted by orrinj at 4:19 AM


Trump Says Americans Who Don't Want To Befriend Putin Are 'Very Stupid' (Tommy Christopher, April 4, 2018, Shareblue.com)

After thanking the press, Trump answered several more minutes worth of questions, including a lengthy digression about Russia that concluded with Trump saying "If we got along with Russia, that would be a good thing, not a bad thing."

"And just about everybody agrees with that, except very stupid people," Trump added.

Asked whether Vladimir Putin is a "friend or foe," Trump refused to renounce the dictator's friendship.

"We'll find out. I'll let you know," Trump replied.

Aside from his many offenses, Vladimir Putin has most recently carried out a chemical attack on the soil of United States' closest ally, Great Britain. That Trump refuses to denounce Putin as a foe -- while surrounded by other allies -- sends a terrible signal to the world.

That's our badge.

Posted by orrinj at 4:12 AM


Stream a 144-Hour Discography of Classic Jazz Recordings from Blue Note Records: Miles Davis, Art Blakey, John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman & More (Open Culture, April 4th, 2018)

There have been many influential jazz record labels throughout the previous century and into the current one, but there is no more recognizable label than Blue Note Records. Blue Note is "unquestionably the most iconic jazz label there has ever been," claims the site Udiscover Music in a post on the "50 Greatest" Blue Note albums. Indeed, "it may well be the most iconic record label of all time... a brand recognized the world over for the 'finest in jazz.'" [...]

Created by Junior Bonner, the Blue Notes Records Discography playlist is not "complete" in that it contains every album the label ever released--an impossible expectation, surely, especially since Blue Note is still going strong. But, with a run time of 144 hours, it more than sufficiently covers the roster of the label's greatest players, including several many of us probably haven't heard before in much depth. Hardcore audiophile record collectors should visit LondonJazzCollector and Jazzdisco.org to get the full Blue Note catalog of every Blue Note artist and release. But lovers of jazz who don't mind digital streaming instead of precious vinyl and shellac will be thrilled with this impressive anthology.

Posted by orrinj at 4:05 AM


Jazz Legend Sonny Rollins Can No Longer Play His Horn, But He's Still Searching for His Sound (ALEX HEIGL March 27, 2018, People)

Charles Mingus supposedly said that his gift for composition came from God, but that his talent on his instrument came from work. You've spoken about music as a kind of quest for you, so I'm interested to see what you make of that quote.

A lot of the people I grew up with in my early teens, we all wanted to be jazz musicians -- but we didn't have the talent. It was a gift. Music is a gift. Anybody can learn music, but it's only a few people who have a gift that are really talented enough -- especially these days -- to make it in this highly competitive world. So it's definitely a gift. However, you have to apply yourself, you have to work at it. I had a gift, but I didn't explore it enough, I feel, and that's why I was always the guy who practiced incessantly. I was always trying to catch up and learn things.

Is that a rare mindset? Do you feel like you were isolated from other musicians in that? The phrase "cross to bear" came up in an interview last year. 

Well, I don't want to put it quite that negatively. It was a cross to bear, but I was happily thrust upon that cross. And it's true, I could never achieve what I wanted to, especially since I had to stop playing some years ago. I felt that I was gaining on the knowledge that I wanted to get; I felt that I was getting there. But in truth, I'm sure that if I got to that place, I would still see another mountain to climb. I feel that there's always more to do. There's some musicians that feel that way, and there's some that don't -- and that's not a criticism. There's some guys that play and they have a natural gift and they don't have to play anymore once they've reached a point of acceptance from themselves or the public. Then they go out and play golf, which is okay. But I never had the luxury of feeling like that, if you could call it a luxury.

Yeah, I don't see you playing a lot of golf.

No, right. [laughs drily]

I know you studied a lot of Eastern religions -- how did those teachings fit into your quest as a musician?

It's all a never-ending quest for knowledge. I'm still learning, every day. I'm still reading stuff every day. One thing that I found out in my life is that there's only one truth, and that truth goes through every religion, every group of people, every color, every race: The Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. That's it. And no matter where you're raised or where you're from, if you can do that, you got it. And I'm going to paraphrase another quote I heard the other day: Do not do unto others what you would not want done unto you. This is the universal truth. You can't deny that. And you know, I've heard people say it should be, "Do unto others before they can do unto you," guys saying, "I've got to make sure I get mine." If somebody feels like they've got to live that way, fine. I'm not going to criticize anybody. I'm just glad that I am where I am. This is what gives me a sense of a real peace.

April 3, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 1:52 PM


Racists Are Threatening to Take Over Paganism: The growing presence of racists in American Pagan communities threatens to tear the faith apart. (Sarah Lyons, Apr 2 2018, Vice)

There's a war going on in the American Pagan community. On one side are racists who see gods like Odin and Thor as an embodiment of the supremacy whites have over the rest of the planet. On the other are the practitioners who believe these gods transcend racial lines and belong to everyone. Recently, the contention between these two groups has reached a tipping point as anti-racist Pagans try to claim the narrative around their faith before it is overtaken by alt-right racists. 

Although the leaders of Nazi Germany were obsessed with Paganism and the occult, it has largely been associated with multiculturalism here in the United States. 

Where are they supposed to go?  It's not like you can be a faithful Christian and hate the other.

Posted by orrinj at 1:39 PM



[W]hat if the source of this polarization has little do with where people actually fall on the issues, or what people actually believe in? What if people are simply polarized by political labels like "liberal" and "conservative" and what they imagine their opponents to be like more than they are by disagreements over issues like taxes, abortion, and immigration?

That news wouldn't surprise anybody who's spent time battling it out in a news outlet's comment section, and it's the firm conclusion of new research by Lilliana Mason, a professor at the University of Maryland.

Her paper, "Ideologues Without Issues: the Polarizing Consequences of Ideological Identities," published in late March by Public Opinion Quarterly, uses 2016 data from Survey Sampling International and American National Election Studies to study how and why Americans are politically polarized.

She used measures that identify both where people stand on issues and how they identify their political clan. For issues, she took six major ones from the survey: "immigration, the Affordable Care Act, abortion, same-sex marriage, gun control, and the relative importance of reducing the deficit or unemployment." Additionally, she used their measurements of social identity on a range from liberal to conservative.

She then sought to correlate these answers with questions where respondents answered whether they would prefer to live next door to, marry, be friends with, or spend social time with someone who differs from them politically.

She found that the political identity people adopt was far more predictive of their preferences for social interaction.

For instance, "moving from the least identified to the most identified with an ideological label increases preference for marrying inside the ideological group by 30 percentage points." In other words, if you are a committed liberal, you're much more likely to want to live next to other committed liberals. But if you just disagree strongly with them about a specific issue like abortion, not so much.

She writes, "The effect of issue-based ideology is less than half the size of identity-based ideology in each element of social distance. ... These are sizable and significant effects, robust to controls for issue-based ideology, and they demonstrate that Americans are dividing themselves socially on the basis of whether they call themselves liberal or conservative, independent of their actual policy differences."

"There's been a debate within political science for a long time about whether or not the American public is polarized," Mason said in an interview with The Intercept. "I'm sort of making this argument that as you have multiple social identities that line up together, people hate their out groups more regardless of their policy positions."

She noted, for instance, that Americans who identify most strongly as conservative, whether they hold more left-leaning or right-leaning positions on major issues, dislike liberals more than people who more weakly identify as conservatives but may hold very right-leaning issue positions.

It's a function of feeling, not thought, so it's as inexplicable to the rest of us as the enmity of Alabama and Auburn fans.

Posted by orrinj at 1:31 PM


Arab population statistics renew charged debate on Israel's future (Mamoon Alabbasi, 4/03/18, Middle East Online)

Population figures released by Israeli and Palestinian officials indicate that the number of Arabs living in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories is rising and will equal that of Jews within 20 years.

The numbers renewed debate on the nature of the Israeli state: Jewish or democratic, depending on whether Israel keeps control of the Palestinian territories or allows the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

Israeli demographics expert Sergio Della-Pergola said the number of Jews in Israel and the Palestinian territories was 6.9 million, compared to 6.5 million Arabs in the same areas.

Posted by orrinj at 1:00 PM


The protesters of 1968 changed the world - but not in the way they hoped: In some ways, the revolutionaries of 1968 helped capitalism flourish. (JOHN GRAY, 4/02/18, New Statesman)

In some ways the 68ers helped capitalism overcome its cultural contradictions. "If it was to survive," Vinen observes, "capitalism needed to produce consumers as much as producers." The hedonistic lifestyle of the late Sixties produced consumers in large numbers. 

Actually, it was capitalism, not culture.  Consumption is a function of disposable wealth.

Posted by orrinj at 4:50 AM


Posted by orrinj at 4:46 AM


How to Serve a Deranged Tyrant, Stoically (Ryan Holiday, April 2, 2018, NY Times)

[C]onsider the case of Seneca, a man whose political life mirrors much of the chaos of the Trump administration. In A.D. 49, the well-known writer and Stoic philosopher was recalled from exile to tutor the successor of the emperor Claudius, a promising teenager named Nero. Like many people today, Seneca entered public service with ideals mitigated by a pragmatic understanding of the reality of the politics of his time.

Although just a few generations earlier, the Stoics had been ardent defenders of the republican ideals (Cato, Seneca's hero, famously disemboweled himself rather than live under Julius Caesar), by Seneca's time most of these objections had become futile. As Emily Wilson, a translator and biographer of Seneca, writes: "Cicero hoped that he really could bring down Caesar and Mark Antony. Seneca, by contrast, had no hope that he could achieve anything by direct opposition to any of the emperors under whom he lived. His best hope was to moderate some of Nero's worst tendencies and to maximize his own sense of autonomy."

We can imagine, too, that he saw the inexperienced Nero as an opportunity to advance his own interests and influence. Only time would reveal that fusing his fate to Nero was a Faustian bargain.

Though Nero had good qualities, he was obsessed with fame and had an endless need for validation. He was also unstable and paranoid, and began to eliminate his rivals -- including murdering his own mother. Was Seneca personally involved in these decisions? We don't know. But he helped legitimize the regime with his presence, and profited from it as well, becoming one of Rome's richest men through his 13 years of service.

Seneca was torn. To the Stoics, contributing to public affairs was a critical duty of the philosopher. Could Seneca decline to serve because he disagreed with the emperor? Could he leave a deranged Nero unsupervised? In time, Seneca would also come to the conclusion that when "the state is so rotten as to be past helping, if evil has entire dominion over it, the wise man will not labor in vain or waste his strength in unprofitable efforts."

Posted by orrinj at 4:23 AM


Trump Reportedly Suggested White House Visit to Putin During Congratulatory Call Last Month (ELLIOT HANNON, APRIL 02, 2018, Slate)

During a phone call last month congratulating Vladimir Putin on his reelection, President Trump went so far as to float the idea the Russian president visit the White House for talks. That piece of information about Trump's March 20th call that was made over the strenuous objections of his advisers had not previously been reported before a Russian official disclosed it to reporters in Moscow. "When our presidents spoke on the phone, it was Trump who proposed holding the first meeting in Washington, in the White House," Kremlin foreign policy adviser Yury Ushakov said.

Posted by orrinj at 3:54 AM


Israel nixes UN migrant deal after protests (Deutsche-Welle, 4/03/18)

The country founded as a haven for Jews fleeing persecution and conflict has faced the moral dilemma of dealing with the migrants, mostly from Eritrea and Sudan, whom it says entered the country irregularly.

The issue has pitted right-wing nationalists, who argue that the presence of Christian and Muslim immigrants are a threat to the country's identity as a Jewish state, against progressives and Holocaust survivors who say Israel's history means it ought to take in refugees fleeing conflict and starvation.

Netanyahu, for his part, has referred to the asylum seekers as "illegal infiltrators."

Posted by orrinj at 3:50 AM


The president attacked my reputation. It's time to set the record straight. (Jill McCabe, April 2, 2018, Washington Post)

I started to become more interested, thinking, "Here's a way I can really try to help people on a bigger scale than what I do every day." While I was considering the possibility, Andrew and I went to Richmond to meet with various politicians, including then-Gov. Terry McAuliffe. The subject of Hillary Clinton never came up -- the story about her emails had not even broken when I was first approached by Northam. All the governor asked of me was that I support Medicaid expansion.

Still, in thinking about running, one of my first concerns was Andrew and his job at the FBI, where he was the assistant director in charge of the Washington field office. I said to Andrew, "If you think this is going to be a problem for you professionally, even if it's allowed, I won't do it."

He consulted with the ethics experts at the FBI and committed to follow their advice. We tried to go even beyond what the rules required -- Andrew kept himself separate from my campaign. When the kids and I went door-knocking, he did not participate; he wouldn't even drive us. He could have attended one of my fundraisers but never did. One day he put on a campaign T-shirt so we could take a family picture and share it with my proud parents. You may have seen it -- it seems to have taken on a weird life of its own -- but that was it, just a family picture at a swim meet.

Meanwhile, my campaign received funding from the state Democratic Party and the governor's PAC -- on par with what other candidates in competitive races on both sides of the aisle received. All those contributions were publicly reported. And of course, again, Clinton's emails never came up -- if they had, I would have found that alarming, immediately reported it and likely pulled out of the campaign. I know enough from being married to Andrew for 20 years to know what is right and what is wrong.

I lost my race in November 2015. It was disappointing, and particularly hard for me because I have always been the kind of person who gives everything her all. But I felt good about my effort and enjoyed returning to normal life.

Almost a year later, everything changed. A reporter called my cellphone on a Sunday in October 2016, asking questions about contributions to my campaign and whether there had been any influence on Andrew's decisions at the FBI.

This could not be further from the truth. In fact, it makes no sense. Andrew's involvement in the Clinton investigation came not only after the contributions were made to my campaign but also after the race was over. Since that news report, there have been thousands more, repeating the false allegation that there was some connection between my campaign and my husband's role at the FBI.

After the 2016 election, I thought for a while that it was all over -- at least now that President-elect Trump won, he would stop coming after us. How naive that was. After then-FBI Director James B. Comey was fired, we knew that Andrew could be the next target of the president's wrath.

The big question is what Jeff Bezos's role was in covering up the Benghazi conspiracy...

Posted by orrinj at 3:47 AM


New Poll: New Hampshire Republicans Aren't Totally Sold On Trump 2020 (Henry J. Gomez, 4/02/18, BuzzFeed News)

American Research Group found Gov. John Kasich of Ohio trailing Trump in a two-way race, 42% to 48%, among likely Republican primary voters, with 9% undecided. 

Not that he's going to make it to 2020.

Posted by orrinj at 3:43 AM


Trump is wrong about Amazon on all counts (Rich Lowry, April 2, 2018, NY Post)

It's hard to think of a more pointlessly destructive act of presidential jawboning in our history. The online retailer is a jewel of our market economy that has delivered more choice and convenience at a lower cost.

The backdrop for Trump's animosity is that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post, which, like much of the major media, is unrelentingly hostile to the president. WaPo's bias is nothing new, nor should it be taken out on the underlying business of its owner. [...]

Trump has two specific complaints about Amazon. One is that it's ripping off the US Postal Service, costing the government billions. Perhaps a better deal can be extracted -- a recent study by Citigroup concluded as much -- but the postal service says its arrangement with Amazon is profitable.

The second is that Amazon doesn't pay sales taxes. This once was true, but Amazon now collects sales taxes in all states that levy them.

"I slept with that?"
Posted by orrinj at 3:41 AM


More Cabinet trouble for Trump? EPA chief lived in condo tied to lobbyist 'power couple' (JOHN SANTUCCI, MATTHEW MOSK STEPHANIE EBBS, Mar 29, 2018, ABC News)

For much of his first year in Washington, President Trump's EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt occupied prime real estate in a townhouse near the U.S. Capitol that is co-owned by the wife of a top energy lobbyist, property records from 2017 show.

Neither the EPA nor the lobbyist, J. Steven Hart, would say how much Pruitt paid to live at the prime Capitol Hill address, though Hart said he believed it to be the market rate. The price tag on Pruitt's rental arrangement is one key question when determining if it constitutes an improper gift, ethics experts told ABC News.

"I think it certainly creates a perception problem, especially if Mr. Hart is seeking to influence the agency," said Bryson Morgan, the former investigative counsel at the U.S. House of Representatives Office of Congressional Ethics. "That's why there is a gift rule."

Posted by orrinj at 3:28 AM


The Demographic Trends That Should Worry Republicans (Charles E. Cook, Jr., March 30, 2018, Cook Report)

We are now undergoing a period of transition for both parties, but it is more immediately pressing for the GOP, the party with the levers of power on both the federal and state levels--a lot to lose. A recent Pew Research Center analysis of over 10,000 interviews with registered voters over the course of last year found that 37 percent identify as independents, 33 percent are Democrats, and 26 percent are Republicans.

Keep in mind that generally 90 percent or more of people who identify with a party usually vote that way, and among those who initially claim to be independent but concede they lean toward one party, the number is usually upwards of 80 percent. The proportion of true independents, with no partisan leanings, is in single digits. Shifting patterns in party identification combined with developments over the last year or so threaten to fundamentally change the chemistry of American politics.

The Pew report observed that ,"For decades, women have been more likely than men to identify as Democrats or lean Democratic. But today, a 56% majority of women identify as Democrats or lean Democratic, while 37% affiliate with or lean toward the GOP. The share of women identifying as Democrats or leaning Democratic is up 4 percentage points since 2015 and is at one of its highest points since 1992." For Republicans, this lost ground among women has not been offset by a corresponding increase among men; the study found that 48 percent of men identify with the Republican Party or lean Republican, while 44 percent are Democrats or lean Democratic--all about the same as in 2014.

Then there is education. Those with just a high school diploma or less identify with or lean toward Republicans by 2 points, 47 to 45 percent, while those with some college but no degree tip toward Democrats by 2 points, 47 to 45 percent as well. But among those with a four-year college degree but no graduate school, Democrats have a 15-point lead, 54 to 39 percent. For those with postgraduate experience as well, the Democratic advantage expands to 32 points, 63 to 31 percent.

Among white voters with a high school diploma or less, the two parties were fairly evenly split until the beginning of this decade. Then the Republican share soared to a 23-point advantage, 58 to 35 percent. Republicans used to have a big lead among whites with just four-year college degrees, but the gap began narrowing during those Obama years and crossed last year: Democrats now have a 3-point edge, 49 to 46 percent. Among whites with postgraduate experience, Democrats began pulling away early in the last decade and now have a 22-point advantage.

One of the things that always worked in favor of the GOP was that women voted Republican once they married, but Donald and his politics are incompatible with that.

April 2, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 6:18 PM


Is President Donald Trump the Biggest White House Leaker? (Davis Richardson, 04/02/18, NY Observer)

"Trump phones Maggie Haberman of The New York Times directly, as well as Philip Rucker of The Washington Post, and Jonathan Swan of Axios, feeding them stories attributed to 'a senior White House official,' creating the impression that [the] White House leaks even more than it already does," wrote reporter Ronald Kessler in The Trump White House: Changing the Rules of the Game.

Published on Monday, Kessler's book provides insight into how Trump manipulates media, and for what end. Despite an antagonistic relationship with The New York Times, the president reportedly courts positive coverage from reporter Maggie Haberman.

Posted by orrinj at 5:56 PM


The Virtue of Original Sin Liberalism (E. J. Dionne Jr., April 1, 2018, Commonweal)

[E]xtreme optimism about human nature is not, in fact, central to the liberal creed. On the contrary, especially since the 1930s and 1940s, liberals have been acutely aware of our fallen nature and our capacity for evil. The Holocaust, the Gulag, the destructiveness of nuclear weapons and the staggering death toll of World War II made thoroughly sunny perspectives about human goodness obsolete. The horrors in this period gave birth to a different kind of liberalism, distilled in the thinking of the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr. [...]

An Original Sin Liberal might go on to challenge conservatives who claim to be very conscious of human fallibility and our capacity for selfishness. Why do they so often oppose laws reducing the likelihood that individuals and companies will despoil the environment or take advantage of their employees?

A noble but guarded attitude toward human nature is prominent in James Madison's thinking, leading him to see the politics of a democratic republic as entailing an ongoing search for balance.

On the one hand, we need to pass laws because we know that men and women are not angels. But this also means that we should be wary of placing too much power in government, since it is run by flawed human beings who can be guilty of overreach. Many of our arguments involve not irreconcilable values but different assessments of where this balance should tilt at a given time on a given issue.

Our theology shielded us from the utopian/dystopian thinking of the Left and Right, who destroyed so much of Europe.
Posted by orrinj at 1:02 PM


What a Country: Immigrants Serve US Military Well (Alan Dowd, April 2, 2018, Providence)

Guor Maker has led a remarkable life. He survived slavery and a brutal civil war in Sudan that claimed 28 members of his family, fled to a better life in America, graduated from college, and competed in two Olympics as a marathon runner. He even served as flag-bearer for South Sudan's first-ever Olympic team in the Rio Games. Today, he wears the flag of his new country and serves it in an even more important role, as an airman in the United States Air Force. In an era where old debates over immigration are resurfacing, Maker's only-in-America story is a reminder of how important immigrants are to this nation--and how much they sacrifice to serve and defend their new home.

Few Americans realize that 65,000 immigrants serve in the US military today. That number includes some 18,700 troops who hold green cards (in other words, legal permanent residents who are not yet naturalized citizens). According to the Pentagon, about 5,000 such residents enlist each year.

Since late 2001 when President George W. Bush implemented a new naturalization process for immigrant servicemembers, more than 109,300 US troops have been naturalized, according to the most up-to-date statistics from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). More than 11,000 of those military personnel became citizens during naturalization ceremonies in war zones such as Afghanistan and Iraq; in hot spots such as Jordan and Libya; in front-line posts such as Bahrain, Guantanamo Bay, Djibouti, Kenya, Korea, Kuwait, Qatar, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates.

Immigrant military personnel are eligible for naturalization if they have "served honorably in the US Armed Forces for at least one year, obtained lawful permanent resident status and filed an application while still in the service or within six months of separation," USCIS explains.

Military service as a pathway to citizenship is not a new phenomenon. If anything, America's military was more immigrant-dependent in the past than it is today.

Posted by orrinj at 4:09 AM


Trump Opts Out Of Passover Seder For Second Year  (Nicole Goodkind, 4/02/18, Newsweek

President Donald Trump opted out of participating in a White House Seder to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Passover for the second year in a row.

The president broke with tradition set by his predecessor, Barack Obama, who hosted a Seder in the White House for all eight years of his presidency.

It's a holiday that celebrates immigration....

Posted by orrinj at 4:06 AM


'A Bit of Divine Justice': Trump Vowed to Change Libel Law. But Not Like This. (ADAM LIPTAK APRIL 2, 2018, NY Times)

When Donald J. Trump was running for president, he promised to "open up our libel laws." No one quite knew what he meant.

Last month, Mr. Trump started to make good on his campaign pledge. But he did so inadvertently -- as a libel defendant on the losing side of a decision that will help victims of sexual misconduct sue when they are called liars.

"The irony is glaring," said Roy Gutterman, who teaches communications law and journalism at Syracuse University.

We're in for a lot of new legal precedents as he circles the drain.

April 1, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 12:25 PM

Posted by orrinj at 9:26 AM

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">The real world is much better than the online world. <a href="https://t.co/1OHsBS25Cl">https://t.co/1OHsBS25Cl</a></p>&mdash; Damian J. Penny (@DamianPenny) <a href="https://twitter.com/DamianPenny/status/980147327653597184?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">March 31, 2018</a></blockquote>
<script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

Posted by orrinj at 7:48 AM


'He had no gun, no molotov': Gaza families call for investigation into Israeli use of fatal force (Loveday Morris and Hazem Balousha, March 31, 2018, Washington Post)

The morning after burying 19-year-old Abdul Fattah Abdul Nabi, his family gathered in a tent set up to receive mourners, watching and re-watching a video of the moment they say Israeli soldiers shot him in the back of the head.

The video appears to show the teenager, dressed in black, running away from Gaza's border fence with Israel carrying a tire. Just before reaching a crowd, he crumples under gunfire. 

"He had no gun, no molotov, a tire. Does that harm the Israelis, a tire?" asked his brother Mohamed Abdul Nabi, 22. "He wasn't going toward the Israeli side. He was running away." 

The teenager was one of at least 15 people killed in the Gaza Strip by Israeli forces on Friday during what Palestinian factions billed as a peaceful "March of Return" to mark Land Day, the anniversary of the expropriation of Arab-owned land by the Israeli government in 1976. But it ended as the bloodiest day in the 140-square-mile territory since the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza.

Posted by orrinj at 7:13 AM


Why I left Fox News (Ralph Peters, 4/01/18, Washington Post  

You could measure the decline of Fox News by the drop in the quality of guests waiting in the green room. A year and a half ago, you might have heard George Will discussing policy with a senator while a former Cabinet member listened in. Today, you would meet a Republican commissar with a steakhouse waistline and an eager young woman wearing too little fabric and too much makeup, immersed in memorizing her talking points.

This wasn't a case of the rats leaving a sinking ship. The best sailors were driven overboard by the rodents.

As I wrote in an internal Fox memo, leaked and widely disseminated, I declined to renew my contract as Fox News's strategic analyst because of the network's propagandizing for the Trump administration. Today's Fox prime-time lineup preaches paranoia, attacking processes and institutions vital to our republic and challenging the rule of law.

Four decades ago, as a U.S. Army second lieutenant, I took an oath to "support and defend the Constitution." In moral and ethical terms, that oath never expires. As Fox's assault on our constitutional order intensified, spearheaded by its after-dinner demagogues, I had no choice but to leave.

My error was waiting so long to walk away. 

How can the Right help but feel the rest of the world is biased when they purposely remain misinformed.

Posted by orrinj at 6:40 AM


Big Right-Wing TV Network Hired Reporter From Kremlin Propaganda Outlet  (Ryan Sit, 4/01/18, Newsweek)

The United States' largest owner of television stations, Sinclair Broadcast Group, mandated that its outlets run a segment on the so-called "Deep State" that was produced by a former reporter for the Russian propaganda outlet RT, according to a new report. 

The "must-run" piece aired on March 21 and featured Sebastian Gorka, the former adviser to President Donald Trump, lamenting the existence of a Deep State--a popular conspiracy theory among some circles that longtime career public servants in the government are working to subvert the U.S. government. Trump has repeatedly complained about such a mysterious rogue network. 

Sinclair national correspondent Kristine Frazao produced the segment. Before joining Sinclair in 2013 she was an anchor/correspondent at RT, formerly Russia Today, for over three years, according to her LinkedIn page. RT is an international television network funded by the Russian government. The Columbia Journalism Review called it "the Kremlin's propaganda outlet."

If you're going to oppose immigration and Islam you're going to end up in bed with some unsavory partners.

Posted by orrinj at 4:36 AM


4 competing theories on the theological meaning of Easter (Bonnie Kristian, March 30, 2018, The Week)

This Sunday is Easter, the culmination of the week in which Christians commemorate the death and resurrection of Jesus and celebrate what this means for our salvation. However, the connection between Christ's death and our salvation -- and how these events can reconcile God and humanity -- isn't exactly intuitive.

The basic story Christianity tells goes like this: God creates humans and wants to have a loving relationship with us. Instead, we sin and make that friendship impossible. So God comes to Earth to live as an ordinary human, die a terrible death, and rise again. That makes it so we can be friends with God.

Wait, what?

The Easter story seems so elementary, but some super-important details are missing in there. Like, how does Jesus' dying help anything? Why couldn't God just forgive us, like he's always telling us to do for other people? And if God is all-powerful, why did he need to live on Earth at all? Couldn't he just make a big announcement in the clouds or something?

We'll engage in any mental gymnastics to avoid the text, which says that He despaired on the Cross just as any mortal would. 

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:59 AM


Why The Jews Did or Did Not Reject Jesus (Richard John Neuhaus, February 2005, First Things)

In his new book, [Why the Jews Rejected Jesus: The Turning Point in Western History], [David] Klinghoffer is admiring of Christianity's civilizational achievements, although not of its theology. He rebuts the claim that it is anti-Semitic to say that the Jews were responsible for killing Jesus, citing Maimonides and other Jewish authorities who say the Jews were right to eliminate a false messiah. He debunks the notion that Nazism and the Holocaust were a product of Christianity, and he underscores Nazi hatred of Christianity and the Judaism from which it came. He treats sympathetically Mel Gibson's film The Passion of the Christ, and is witheringly critical of the Anti-Defamation League and other Jewish organizations that thrive by exploiting irrational fears of anti-Semitism in America. In sum, Klinghoffer is in many respects Christian-friendly.

Except for the fact that Christianity itself is premised upon the fatal falsehood that Jesus is the Messiah. Much of the book is given to a detailed point-by-point rebuttal of the claim that Jesus fulfilled the messianic promises of the Hebrew Scriptures that Christians call the Old Testament. These arguments will be of interest mainly to those who describe themselves as Hebrew Christians or Messianic Christians, and who believe they are fulfilled as Jews by becoming disciples of Jesus. The arch- villain in Klinghoffer's story is the apostle Paul who, he says, radically rejected Judaism and invented a new religion dressed up in "biblical trappings." Although Klinghoffer excoriates the liberal theological reductionisms of the nineteenth century, both Jewish and Christian, at this point his argument is oddly similar to a long liberal tradition of blaming Paul for distorting the more attractive religion of Jesus. Along with many Christians, he fails to appreciate the implications of the fact that Paul's epistles were written well before the gospel accounts of Jesus. In part because of their prior placement in the New Testament, it is a common error to think that the seemingly more straightforward gospel accounts were later and complicatedly "theologized" by Paul, whereas, in fact, Paul's writings reflect what was generally believed about Jesus in the community that later produced the gospel accounts.

This tendency to get things backwards is at the crux of Klinghoffer's argument. He writes, "We arrive here at the very heart of the difference between Judaism and the religion that Paul originated. The difference is still observable in the faith of Christians, as compared with that of Jews, down to our own time. Followers of Paul read and understand the Hebrew Bible through a certain philosophical lens--they bring to it the premise that Jesus is the savior, that salvation is from him. They read the Old Testament from the perspective of the New. They prioritize the New over the Old."

Well, yes, of course. Only some Messianic Christians and Jews such as Klinghoffer think that the truth of Christianity stands or falls on whether, without knowing about Jesus in advance, one can begin with Genesis 1 and read through all the prophecies of Hebrew Scripture and then match them up with Jesus to determine whether he is or is not the Messiah. As with Saul on the road to Damascus, Christians begin, and Christianity begins, with the encounter with Christ. As with the disciples on the road to Emmaus, the first Christians, who were Jews, experienced in that encounter the opening of the Hebrew Scriptures, revealing, retrospectively, how they testify to Jesus as the Christ. Klinghoffer writes, "The resurrection works as a proof that Jesus was 'the Christ' only if you have already accepted his authority to render interpretations of Scripture contrary to the obvious meaning of the words. That is, it works only if you are already a Christian." The more one takes seriously Old Testament prophecy, writes Klinghoffer, "the more convinced he becomes that it is awfully hard to make Christian doctrine sit naturally on its presumed foundation, the Hebrew Bible. Yet even the arguments based on prophecies obviously aren't perfectly invulnerable to refutation. Otherwise there would be no Christians, or at least no thoughtful Christians. They would all be Jews."

This is, I'm afraid, gravely muddled. The argument, in effect, is that Jews reject Jesus because they are already Jews, and the mark of being a Jew is that one rejects Jesus. This is quite unconvincing in its circularity. Christian thinkers, including Paul, viewed Christ and the Church as the fulfillment of the promise to Israel not because they were engaged in tit-for-tat exegetical disputes with Jews over what Klinghoffer recognizes are often ambiguous and enigmatic Old Testament prophecies. Christians early on, and very importantly in engagement with Greek philosophy, developed a christology that entailed an understanding that all of reality, including the history of Israel, finds its center in Christ who is the Word of God (the Logos), the image of the invisible God in whom all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell (Colossians 1), and, finally, the Son of God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. These philosophical and theological developments, almost totally ignored by Klinghoffer, form the matrix within which the Church--mainly Jewish in its beginnings--understood Israel and its Scriptures. For the early Christians, as for Christians today, the person of Jesus Christ was revelatory also of the history and sacred writings of Israel, of which he is the fulfillment.

You have to figure Paul takes the brunt of these criticisms because folks are afraid to attack Christ and Christianity directly.

[Originally posted: February 19, 2005]

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:52 AM


The Truth about Everything: Death on a Friday Afternoon (Charles Colson, March 24, 2005, BreakPoint)

As [Father Richard John Neuhaus] writes [in Death on a Friday Afternoon: Meditations on the Last Words of Jesus], "If what Christians say about Good Friday is true, then it is, quite simply, the truth about everything." That "everything" starts with telling the truth about the human condition. How? By paradoxically punishing the offended party, instead of the guilty.

As Neuhaus tells us, we are all aware that "something has gone terribly wrong with the world, and with us in the world." It is not just history's best-known list of horribles. It's also "the habits of compromise . . . loves betrayed . . . lies excused . . . "

Yet, instead of acknowledging our complicity in the world's evil, we minimize our own faults and regard our sins as "small." Good Friday puts the lie to that claim. If the Son of God had to suffer such a horrible death, then our sins cannot have been "small."

The Cross reminds us that "our lives are measured," not by us or by our peers, but "by whom we are created and called to be, and the measuring is done by the One who creates and calls." Instead of glossing over our sin with an understanding nod, the Cross renders "the verdict on the gravity of our sin."

Our unwillingness to see our sins as they really are, as God sees them, leads us to embrace another falsehood: that is, that we can make things right. Even though our culture is, in many respects, post-Christian, it still clings to the idea of redemption. However, just as with our ideas about sin and guilt, our ideas about redemption are pitiful and impoverished.

On Good Friday, God made it clear "that we are incapable of setting things right." He made it clear by taking our place. On the Cross, "the Judge of the guilty is Himself judged guilty." This is, of course, the great scandal, one that paradoxically points to the great truth at the heart of Good Friday: We are powerless to set things right, and only God, the offended party, could undo the mess we created.

The Cross--God's way of bearing witness to the truth about our condition--is as offensive today as it was two thousand years ago. Now, as then, we insist on misinterpreting the events of that Friday afternoon, but to no avail. Our sin has been judged, and God Himself bore the punishment. And that is the truth about everything.

One need not believe directly in this truth to understand that it is the only basis for a decent state.

What's the matter with liberalism? (William Rusher, March 24, 2005, World Net Daily)

The truth is that liberalism's last two really big ideas - that government should micro-manage the economy to uplift the poor, and that fascism was unrelievedly evil but that communism should be appeased because its aims were noble - both lost resoundingly, in world competition, to the conservative propositions that a free market is the greatest engine of prosperity for everyone and that communism must be opposed and destroyed. The present happy condition of conservatism is simply more support for the old adage that nothing succeeds like success.

What, then, should liberals do? [...]

To be blunt, they must come to terms with reality. That means accepting the principles of the free market wholeheartedly - not simply with "mouth honor," as Macbeth put it. And it also means coming to terms with the world as it really is. Peretz warns that liberals have invested far too many hopes in the United Nations. He is absolutely right.

At a deeper level, liberals must give up the conviction, born of the Enlightenment, that humanity, by the use of reason alone, can design a happy future for itself and the planet. That will entail abandoning their long romance with atheism and accepting a more modest place and role for mankind in God's plan for His universe.

[originally posted: 3/24/05]

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:52 AM


Original Sin, the 'madness' of the Cross and the 'foolishness' of God's love (Fr Dennis Byrnes, April 2008, AD 200)

To help us gain some insight into sin we need to think about our faith which is based very much on what St Paul calls the 'madness' of the Cross. The saints through the ages describe it as the 'foolishness' of God's love.

To refer once more to the Compendium, 78: 'After the first sin the world was inundated with sin but God did not abandon man to the power of death. Rather he foretold in a mysterious way in the 'Protoevangelium' (Genesis, 3:15) that evil would be conquered and that man would be lifted from the fall. This was the first proclamation of the Messiah and Redeemer. Therefore, the fall would be called in the future a 'happy fault' because it 'gained for us so great a Redeemer' (Liturgy of Easter Vigil).'

The pictures we have presented certainly confront us with two extremes. It is difficult to understand God's love. We can only begin to understand it when we follow him in the way of the Cross, in his journey in the desert. As the Compendium, 85, informs us: 'The Son of God became man for us men and for our salvation. He did so to reconcile us sinners with God, to have us to learn of God's infinite love, to be our model of holiness and make us 'partakers in divine nature' (2 Peter 1:4).' It is only when we follow Christ in this 'foolishness' of his love that we can learn something of the madness of sin.

We are born with a fallen nature; in a state of separation from God. It is not a question of personal sin on our part at birth. The baby who is born cannot be guilty of any personal sin for it is not yet mature enough to make a personal choice which is necessary for sin. But it is born human, in a fallen state, with a nature that calls out for God, yet is incapable of reaching him by its own powers. It is in Christ we have hope.

When we realise in faith the depths of man's fallen state we in turn realise that we rise in hope to the glory of Christ's risen life. If we have failed to appreciate the extreme of God's love it is because we have not recognised the extreme of man's sin.

[originally posted: 1/11/09]

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:47 AM


Believing Is Seeing (Romano Guardini, Bruderhof.com)

Thomas declared, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it." -John 20:25
Thomas appears to have been a realist - reserved, cool, perhaps a little obstinate.

The days went by, and the disciples went on living under this considerable tension.

Another week, and they were together again in the house, and this time Thomas was with them. The same thing repeated itself. Jesus passed through closed doors, stepped into their midst, and spoke: "Peace be upon you!" Then he called the man who was struggling against faith: "Let me have thy finger; see, here are my hands. Let me have thy hand; put it into my side. Cease thy doubting, and believe!" At this point Thomas was overwhelmed. The truth of it all came home to him: this man standing before him, so moving, arousing such deep feelings within him, this man so full of mystery, so different from all other men - He is the very same One they used to be together with, who was put to death a short time ago. And Thomas surrendered: "Thou art my Lord and my God!" Thomas believed.

Then we come upon the strange words: "And Jesus said to him, 'Thou hast learned to believe, Thomas, because thou hast seen me. Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have learned to believe!'"

Such words as these are really extraordinary! Thomas believed because he saw. But our Lord did not call him blessed. He had been allowed to "see," to see the hands and the side, and to touch the blessed wounds, yet he was not blessed!

Perhaps Thomas had a narrow escape from a great danger. He wanted proofs, wanted to see and touch; but then, too, it might have been rebellion deep within him, the vainglory of an intelligence that would not surrender, a sluggishness and coldness of heart. He got what he asked for: a look and a touch. But it must have been a concession he deplored having received, when he thought on it afterwards. He could have believed and been saved, not because he got what he demanded; he could have believed because God's mercy had touched his heart and given him the grace of interior vision, the gift of the opening of the heart, and of its surrender.

[originally posted: 3/27/05]

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:27 AM


Why Was Jesus Crucified?: A historical perspective. (Larry Hurtado, April 9, 2009, Slate)

A central statement in traditional Christian creeds is that Jesus was crucified "under Pontius Pilate." But the majority of Christians have only the vaguest sense what the phrase represents, and most non-Christians probably can't imagine why it's such an integral part of Christian faith. "Crucified under Pontius Pilate" provides the Jesus story with its most obvious link to larger human history. Pilate was a historical figure, the Roman procurator of Judea; he was referred to in other sources of the time and even mentioned in an inscription found at the site of ancient Caesarea in Israel. Linking Jesus' death with Pilate represents the insistence that Jesus was a real person, not merely a figure of myth or legend. More than this, the phrase also communicates concisely some pretty important specifics of that historical event.

For one thing, the statement asserts that Jesus didn't simply die; he was killed. This was a young man's death in pain and public humiliation, not a peaceful end to a long life.

It's revealing that one of the chief objections to Mel Gibson's Passion was that Christ was shown to suffer.

[originally posted: 4/12/09]

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:20 AM


The 'Small' God Who Brought Heaven Down to Earth (Rev. Robert A. Sirico, December 22, 2010, Acton)

"Yet," she continued, "how is it that Christianity, whose priests invented the scientific method, and who built the institutions of the hospital and university, can hold to the idea of such a small God?"

The pugnacious New Yorker in me wanted to reply to the effect that, "Well even a small God is bigger than no god." But I knew that would not go down well, and that the issue was not about "size" after all, but about meaning and, ultimately, Truth.

Feeling something like I imagined Flannery O'Connor did when confronted with collapsed-Catholic Mary McCarthy's observation about the Eucharist as a impressive symbol, O'Connor retorted, "Well, if it's just a symbol, I say to hell with it."

Instead I swirled my shiraz and asked, "Whatever do you mean?"

She responded: "Well, all this stuff about God being born as a baby. This business about the ineffable inhabiting time and space. It just seems so small, so concrete, so ... improbable."

The lady had it right, or more precisely, she had it half right. The doctrine of the Incarnation is indeed a scandal, not to say improbable, to the modern mind that does not yet grasp the immensity of the concept or the enormity of its impact on all that would follow from it throughout history from that first Christmas to this one.

That the eternal God should deign to co-mingle in time and space with humanity does tell us something, not about the 'smallness' of God, but about the inestimable dignity of the human person who is created in the image of the Lord of History. Thus it tells us about the importance of human history to eternity; of the relation of the visible world to the invisible one; and of the way the mortal life we each live here and now determines our immortal destiny.

Big God never understood. He only gained insight by becoming small. The peculiar thing is that He cared enough to do so.

[oriuginally posted: 2/13/11]

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:09 AM


Death on a Friday Afternoon: an excerpt from Death on a Friday Afternoon: Meditations on the Last Words of Jesus from the Cross (Richard John Neuhaus, First Things)

Exploration into God is exploration into darkness, into the heart of darkness. Yes, to be sure, God is light. He is the light by which all light is light. In the words of the Psalm, "In your light we see light." Yet great mystics of the Christian tradition speak of the darkness in which the light is known, a darkness inextricably connected to the cross. At the heart of darkness the hope of the world is dying on a cross, and the longest stride of soul is to see in this a strange glory. In John's Gospel, the cross is the bridge from the first Passover on the way out of Egypt to the new Passover into glory. In his first chapter he writes, "We have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father." The cross is not the eclipse of that glory but its shining forth, its epiphany. In John's account, the death of Jesus is placed on the afternoon of the fourteenth day of the month of Nisan, precisely the time when the Passover lambs were offered up in the temple in Jerusalem.

Lest anyone miss the point, John draws the parallel unmistakably. The legs of Jesus are not broken, the soldier pierces his side and John writes, "For these things took place that the scripture might be fulfilled, 'Not a bone of him shall be broken.' And again another scripture says, 'They shall look on him whom they have pierced.'" In the book of Exodus, God commands that no bone of the paschal lamb is to be broken. Then there is this magnificent passage from the prophet Zechariah: "And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of compassion and supplication, so that, when they look on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn."

Here on Calvary's hill, all is fulfilled. It is the glory of Jesus' cry, "it is finished." The cross is the moment of passover from the old covenant to the new. Weeping at the cross, Mary is both the mother of sorrows and the mother of hope. The resurrection glory is discerned in the way that Christ dies. Now the reason for the whole drama becomes clear in the Son's unqualified obedience to the Father, even to death, and the Father's promise to glorify the Son. John says nothing about the risen Christ appearing to his mother. The other disciples discovered the resurrection glory at the dawn of the third day. Mary had already discovered the glory in the cross. There she took "the longest stride of soul."

"In the Cross of Christ I Glory," declared the nineteenth-century hymn writer John Bowring. It seems a strange, even bizarre, glory. "We have beheld his glory," St. John wrote, meaning that he was there, with Mary, beholding the final and perfect sacrifice. In the churches of Asia Minor that were founded by John, Easter was celebrated not on Sunday, as with the other churches, but on 14 Nisan, the anniversary of Christ's death. This was his "hour" of glory.

Father Neuhaus's book is great not just for its exegesis on the Crucifixion and the Seven Last Words generally, but in particular for his explanation of what the events mean for the relationship between Jews and Christians.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:02 AM


Mercifully Forsaken: There is a reason Good Friday is called good, and why we can be thankful when God forsakes us. (Mark Galli, 4/21/2011, Christianity Today)

And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?" which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" --Mark 15:33-34, ESV

Here Jesus speaks a word we could have spoken. Not always, not everywhere. But there are times when this word has become our word, words he may have taken right out of our mouths: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" [...]

We often glibly say that we want to be like Jesus. We want our lives to be like his life. We want our values to be shaped by his values. We want our relationship with God to be like his relationship with God. So we pray to be like Jesus. But we're generally blind to the full reality of who Jesus is. We want be shaped by the glorious Jesus. We want to heal the sick and raise the dead; we don't want to feel his grief at the unbelief of Jerusalem. We want to speak eloquent words of wisdom, but we don't want to say to anyone, "Get thee behind me, Satan," or "You brood of hypocrites!" We want to be raised to new life, but go to great lengths to avoid the cross. We want an intimate life with God, but never want to know the experience of being forsaken.

But to share in the life of Jesus means to share in all of his life, and that means to share in his suffering.

Now, I'm about to venture into a deep mystery here. Who can say what Jesus experienced on the cross? What exactly was the nature of this forsakenness that he exclaimed? We know in one sense that Jesus' death, and his forsakenness, was utterly unique, never to be repeated. In his death and his death alone--and in nothing we experience--do we stand secure in our redemption. In him alone was God reconciling the world to himself, not counting our sins. Period.

But if Christ's incarnation--which includes his forsaken crucifixion--is a participation in humanity and thus our participation in him, then all humanity shares in Christ's forsakenness, and to freely share in this forsakenness by faith becomes a way we grow fully into Christ-likeness. Whatever it meant for Jesus, it surely means this much for us: It means to know the abandonment that is the dead fruit of human sin and evil. It means to recognize the incomprehensible distance between us and an infinite and righteous God, to recognize again the terrors of life outside of life in him. It means also to grieve, not unlike Jesus, over our own and our world's hardness of heart ("O Jerusalem, Jerusalem!"). It is indeed a fearsome thing to fall into the hands of the living God, for it means to suffer in ways not unlike the suffering of Jesus.

Again, let's not wax tragic here. This is not the end of the story. Forsakenness would be tragic had Jesus not risen from the grave. We would not have the courage to talk about this sobering reality if it were not Easter. Nor is this the constant refrain of our Christian lives. God is good and will not tempt us with forsakenness beyond our ability to endure.

Still, they come, these times of forsakenness. We are wise to remind ourselves that the cross is indeed part of the story of Jesus, and to the degree we would be like him, it becomes part of our story. You want to be like Jesus? "Okay," says God. "Good for you! Be prepared to know forsakenness!"

[originally posted: 4/24/11]