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.