June 10, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 7:11 PM


Posted by orrinj at 6:53 PM


Meet the guys who tape Trump's papers back together (ANNIE KARNI, 06/10/2018, Politico)

Solomon Lartey spent the first five months of the Trump administration working in the Old Executive Office Building, standing over a desk with scraps of paper spread out in front of him.

Lartey, who earned an annual salary of $65,969 as a records management analyst, was a career government official with close to 30 years under his belt. But he had never seen anything like this in any previous administration he had worked for. He had never had to tape the president's papers back together again.

Armed with rolls of clear Scotch tape, Lartey and his colleagues would sift through large piles of shredded paper and put them back together, he said, "like a jigsaw puzzle." Sometimes the papers would just be split down the middle, but other times they would be torn into pieces so small they looked like confetti.

It was a painstaking process that was the result of a clash between legal requirements to preserve White House records and President Donald Trump's odd and enduring habit of ripping up papers when he's done with them -- what some people described as his unofficial "filing system."

Under the Presidential Records Act, the White House must preserve all memos, letters, emails and papers that the president touches, sending them to the National Archives for safekeeping as historical records.

But White House aides realized early on that they were unable to stop Trump from ripping up paper after he was done with it and throwing it in the trash or on the floor, according to people familiar with the practice. Instead, they chose to clean it up for him, in order to make sure that the president wasn't violating the law.

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What is behind the Eid ceasefire with the Taliban? (Ahmed Rashid, 6/10/18, Al Jazeera)

It appears that pressure from Pakistan on the Taliban Shura which largely resides in the Pakistani border town of Quetta has been instrumental in pushing the Taliban to agree to a ceasefire.

According to Lisa Curtis, deputy assistant to US President Donald Trump, Washington has been pursuing "multiple lines of effort" for bringing peace to Afghanistan and an important component of that effort was to ensure that Pakistan played "a constructive role" in it. US and NATO troops in Afghanistan will also observe this truce.

The strategy behind the ceasefire offer is to create a pause in hostilities for a few days which could be extended further. The end game of the Ghani administration is to jumpstart military and political dialogue aimed at ending the war.

Well done, Donald!

Posted by orrinj at 9:22 AM


Lost John Coltrane Recording From 1963 Will Be Released at Last (Giovanni Russonello, June 7, 2018, NY Times)

In the years leading up to "A Love Supreme," his explosive 1965 magnum opus, Coltrane produced eight albums for Impulse! Records featuring the members of his so-called classic quartet -- the bassist Jimmy Garrison, the drummer Elvin Jones and the pianist McCoy Tyner -- but only two of those, "Coltrane" and "Crescent," were earnest studio efforts aimed at distilling the band's live ethic.

But now that story needs a major footnote.

On Friday, Impulse! will announce the June 29 release of "Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album," a full set of material recorded by the quartet on a single day in March 1963, then eventually stashed away and lost. The family of Coltrane's first wife, Juanita Naima Coltrane, recently discovered his personal copy of the recordings, which she had saved, and brought it to the label's attention.

There are seven tunes on this collection, a well-hewed mix that clearly suggests Coltrane had his sights on creating a full album that day. From the sound of it, this would have been an important one.

"In 1963, all these musicians are reaching some of the heights of their musical powers," said the saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, John Coltrane's son, who helped prepare "Both Directions at Once" for release. "On this record, you do get a sense of John with one foot in the past and one foot headed toward his future."

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With Kim Jong-un, Trump is mirror-imaging. That's a mistake. (Jung H. Pak, June 8, 2018, Brookings)

Kim is not a businessman, and wealth--in Trump's sense of the word--is not what he is looking for as he continues his maximum engagement strategy. Trump's mirror-imaging has the potential to lead to policymaking that doesn't really comport with the realities of this thorny national security problem.

Kim is highly unlikely to give up nuclear weapons to get a McDonalds franchise in Pyongyang. And his pivot toward engagement is probably aimed at trying to reduce China's appetite for sanctions implementation.  If we are to believe Kim Jong-un, he has completed the nuclear project that his grandfather started and his father nurtured. North Korea's identity is wrapped up in the idea of being a nuclear state--it's in its constitution, its monuments, its rhetoric, and in its culture. To trade that away for money from Americans would be the ultimate form of dishonor and betrayal to its founding principles.

So when the Trump administration talks about American capitalism helping to develop North Korea, Kim sees as American "imperialists" seeking to exploit the country's people and resources. Kim Kye-kwan, the North Korean first vice foreign minister, said in response to such U.S. declarations: "We have never had any expectation of U.S. support in carrying out our economic construction and will not at all make such a deal in the future, too."

When two sides sit down to negotiate, one has generally already won.  The staggering thing about this sit-down with the Norks is that Donald has not only abandoned one of our key interests in North Korea but reversed it: he promises to become the regime's guarantor.

Posted by orrinj at 7:15 AM


Posted by orrinj at 6:47 AM


Augustine's "Confessions" Unpacked: a review of I Burned for Your Peace: Augustine's Confessions Unpacked, by Peter Kreeft (Louis Markos, 6/10/18, Imaginative Conservative)

I mentioned above that Dr. Kreeft helped me see that my old mentor's hatred of Augustine was likely linked to Augustine's belief in Original Sin. Sadly, most moderns who practice introspection do so as a means of identifying other people, or institutions, to blame for their sinful behavior. (That is why moderns have identified guilt as the problem rather than as the signal that there is a problem.) Augustine does not allow himself that easy way out. He is fully aware both of his sinful nature and his sinful choices.

What we do always manifests what we are. Where else could our deeds come from? That is why God does not accept our lying excuses: "the devil made me do it" (Eve), or "the woman You gave me made me do it" (Adam), or "my apelike ancestry made me do it" (Darwin), or "my capitalist economy made me do it" (Marx), or "the hormones of my libido made me do it" (Freud).[3]

Modern readers love to emphasize that the great Augustine was once a sexual libertine. That claim, though greatly exaggerated, is a true one, but not quite in the way that our post-sexual revolution era would like it to be. As Dr. Kreeft reminds us, Augustine was quite aware that the Christian faith of his mother toward which he was attracted held out only two options: celibacy outside marriage or chastity within marriage. Augustine knew that he was sinning with his mistress, even as he knew that his sin was a form of addiction--but he couldn't pull himself out of his self-destructive lifestyle.

Augustine is seeking after love--ultimately, the love of God--but he keeps going astray, vainly trying to satisfy his yearning for love on lesser objects. Augustine knows this; that is why he is perpetually restless as he seeks to rest his heart in the one who placed the yearning within him. Augustine is at heart a rebel, but not a rebel against sexual morality; to the contrary, he rebels against his enslavement to sexual sin, to the horrible Pauline reality (Roman 7:15-20) that he continually does the very thing he does not want to do.

One of Dr. Kreeft's simplest but most profound insights is that the Confessions is first and foremost a prayer to God. Indeed, unless we read it as a prayer, we will not understand it; we will only study it. Augustine "is not talking to us and letting God listen in; he is talking to God and letting us listen in."[4] Or, to put it another way, Augustine "wrote the book to help us look at him and at ourselves only through God's eyes."[5] Those who read the Confessions as a tell-all book to satisfy their vain curiosity, and perhaps even to feel superior to Augustine, will miss completely its meaning and its purpose. If we are not convicted and inspired by Augustine's transformation in Christ to seek our own true freedom and peace, then we might as well close the book and turn on Oprah.

It's not just that Original Sin helps us understand why none of us are the men we wish to be, but that it made our faith the only anti-utopian belief system among men.

Posted by orrinj at 6:43 AM


Hiring Workers Is a Struggle (John Lippman, 6/09/18, Valley News)

Upper Valley Produce co-owner James Gordon is having to fill-in on the loading dock. Lake Morey Resort owner Mark Avery has had to dive into the "dish pit" in the kitchen and wash dishes.

FujiFilm introduced higher-paid weekend work shifts to entice students, retirees and stay-at-home spouses out of the house and onto the shop floor.

FitKids Childcare at the River Valley Club is offering $500 signing bonuses for new employees and an appointment for a massage at the club spa will take a week because there are not enough massage therapists to go around.

And if you're planning major home renovation projects or even want to built a home -- well, maybe next year. There are not enough carpenters, dry board installers or painters in the area to do the work.

This is what 2.2 percent unemployment looks like for businesses in the Upper Valley.

A workforce labor shortage is forcing employers to go to unusual lengths to make up for the absence of workers. This, in some cases, is leading to foregone revenue and sales, as not enough people can be found to fill open positions to help meet the demand for goods and services.

Posted by orrinj at 6:39 AM


Demand for Electric SUVs Not Being Met (Mark Phelan, 6/10/18, Detroit Free Press)

While customers clamor for more SUVs like the Toyota RAV4, Ford Edge, Chevrolet Traverse and Honda HR-V and as electric-drive technology advances rapidly, it's virtually impossible to find an electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle in the fast growing urban-utility vehicle segment.

Mitsubishi builds the world's best-selling plug-in hybrid SUV. Mitsubishi, for crying out loud.

That's no knock on the Outlander, but it demonstrates a shocking bankruptcy of imagination at Chevy, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Toyota and Volkswagen. Each of those brands literally builds millions more vehicles than tiny Mitsubishi. But the little brand with the triple-diamond badge was the only one that understood: At the intersection of growing environmental awareness and soaring SUV sales lay a new class of vehicles that deliver the height and room of an SUV and run on batteries at least some of the time. Most people buying urban utilities don't care about off-road ability or towing capacity. Half of them probably aren't sure if they've got all-wheel drive.

They just want to sit up high, see what's around them and have a big space behind the rear seat.

A meaningful number would love to plug in for their daily driving and slash how often they have to buy gas, but the leading automakers have declined to build plug-ins and EVs with the height and room that made SUVs a hit.

Posted by orrinj at 6:36 AM


Russia's Putin would be ready to host G7 in Moscow (Denis Pinchuk, 6/10/18, Reuters) 

Russia did not choose to leave the G7 and would be happy to host its members in Moscow, President Vladimir Putin said on Sunday when asked about U.S. President Donald Trump's suggestion that Russia should have been at its latest meeting.

Posted by orrinj at 6:27 AM


Focus on winning over Scots to independence from UK, Sturgeon tells SNP (Elisabeth O'Leary, 6/09/18, Reuters)

Sturgeon's speech was upbeat, focusing on a new SNP economic report which tackles the weaknesses of the economic arguments from the 2014 vote.

"It doesn't pretend there are always easy answers - no one believes that. But it does lay strong foundations for independence. Even with no extra growth from independence, the deficit can be turned around in five to 10 years," she said.

There were also policy offers such as a three percent pay rise for most staff in Scotland's national health service.

Sturgeon also argued for more immigration to the sparsely populated northern tip of Britain and greater powers to control it as a central feature of economic growth.

Scotland's population, much of which is rural and dispersed unlike the rest of the UK, is aging more rapidly than other parts of the country.

Immigration, however, is the thorniest political issue in the Brexit negotiations, and limiting the number of foreigners who enter the UK was a central element on which Britain's overall 2016 vote to leave the European Union rested.

"It's time for powers over migration to come to Scotland."  

Pressure on Prime Minister Theresa May's government to abandon unrealistic targets to curb immigration has emerged from many sides, including businesses and her own party ranks: Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, has criticized the government's targets as impractical.