September 5, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 11:29 PM

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'The sleeper cells have awoken': Trump and aides shaken by 'resistance' op-ed (Philip Rucker, Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey, September 5, 2018, Washington Post)

Trump reacted to the column with "volcanic" anger and was "absolutely livid" over what he considered a treasonous act of disloyalty, and told confidants he suspects the official works on national security issues or in the Justice Department, according to two people familiar with his private discussions. [...]

The column, which published midafternoon Wednesday, sent tremors through the West Wing and launched a frantic guessing game. Startled aides canceled meetings and huddled behind closed doors to strategize a response. Aides were analyzing language patterns to try to discern author's identity, or at a minimum the part of the administration where the author works.

"The problem for the president is it could be so many people," said one administration official, who like many others interviewed for this story spoke on the condition of anonymity to be candid. "You can't rule it down to one person. Everyone is trying, but it's impossible."

The phrase, "The sleeper cells have awoken," circulated on text messages among aides and outside allies.

"It's like the horror movies when everyone realizes the call is coming from inside the house," said one former White House official in close contact with former co-workers.

It's not from Justice or the case it makes would presumably be Constitutional instead of economic.  Kevin Hassett seems the best guess so far, though Mike Pence does have the best ties to the think tanks that use such language of freedom.

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Female Reformist MP raises eyebrows with fiery speech in Iranian parliament (Al-Monitor, September 5, 201)

Parvaneh Salahshouri is a Reformist parliament member and a member of the Iranian parliament's Hope faction, which has been a staunch supporter of moderate President Hassan Rouhani and his policies. But Iran's fresh challenges, both economically and politically on a daily basis, are making critical voices louder from every side these days.

The outspoken female parliament member made a fiery speech during a Sept. 4 speech on the parliament floor, lashing out at state failures and calling for referendums on key issues. Salahshouri criticized Rouhani for not offering convincing answers to questions during a meeting with parliamentarians on the country's economic situation last week.

She elucidated a long list of woes the country is facing, ranging from inflation, poverty and unemployment, to corruption within the judiciary and the poor performance of the state broadcaster. She even had a thing or two to say about the powerful conservative clerical community. "I wanted to seek their help. But I found that instead of being worried about poverty and corruption, what matters to them most is [trivial issues such as] young girls' cycling and the hair sticking out of their scarves."

Salahshouri noted that she is not addressing her questions to state institutions, which -- according to her -- have disappointed the nation. She stressed that under the current circumstances the only way out of the multiple crises is the supreme leader's direct intervention and help. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:27 PM


Woodward's Account of Trump's Mock Interview with Prosecutors Isn't Pretty (NATASHA BERTRAND, 9/05/18, The Atlantic)

The first question Dowd threw at Trump was about former national security adviser Michael Flynn's conversations with the former Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Flynn was forced to resign in February 2017 when reports surfaced that he had discussed the issue of sanctions with Kislyak, despite repeated denials--including to Vice President Mike Pence--that the topic had ever come up. Not only were the sanctions discussed in every phone call, Woodward writes, but transcripts obtained by the White House in February, as they were weighing whether or not to fire Flynn, showed that it was Flynn, and not Kislyak, who first brought up the sanctions that President Obama had issued in December in response to Russia's election interference. Acting Attorney General Sally Yates warned White House Counsel Don McGahn in January that Flynn had misled Pence and the FBI about the calls. Still, the White House waited 17 days to fire Flynn, and the day after he was ousted, Trump met with then-FBI Director James Comey and asked if he would consider letting Flynn "go." That 17-day gap and Trump's subsequent request to Comey have come under scrutiny by Mueller.

"When did you first learn that there was a problem with General Flynn?" Dowd asked Trump in their mock interview, Woodward writes. "I'm not sure," Trump replied. "I think when McGahn had talked to Sally Yates. But John, I'm not sure." Dowd, playing the role of a prosecutor, retorted: "What'd you do about it?" "I think Don took ahold of it," Trump said. "Did you call Flynn in?" Dowd asked. "No," Trump said.  "Did you talk to Flynn at all?" Dowd pressed. "I don't know," Trump replied. "Well, Mr. President, did you ever ask him if he talked about sanctions with Kislyak?" "No," Trump said. Dowd, Woodward writes, was unrelenting: "Are you sure about that, Mr. President? We have some evidence that there may have been such a conversation. Are you sure about that?"

At that point, Trump  went off on a tangent that was difficult to follow, according to Woodward, eventually reiterating that he "felt very bad" for Flynn, whom he "admired," but that McGahn and the then-chief-of-staff Reince Priebus had recommended that Flynn be fired.

Dowd then posed a question that is considered central to  whether Trump was trying to obstruct justice when he fired Flynn and then asked Comey to consider letting him go: Did McGahn and Priebus "ever tell you about an FBI interview?" "I don't know," Trump replied. "I can't remember." This back-and-forth is notable in light of Trump's tweet in December, one month before this mock interview with Dowd, in which he appeared to admit that he'd known Flynn had lied to the FBI. "I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI," Trump wrote. "He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!" (In an ironic twist, Dowd later took responsibility for writing that tweet.)

Posted by orrinj at 6:21 PM


Bernie Sanders introduces "Stop BEZOS Act" (Erica Pandey, 9/05/18, Axios)

Sen. Bernie Sanders introduced a bill dubbed the "Stop Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies Act" or "Stop BEZOS Act" in the Senate Wednesday.

...nevermind fealty to it, from Bernie, but that's a Bill of Attainder on its face.

Meanwhile, if we take his claim to be a "socialist" at face value, oughtn't employers be able to recoup the money they spend on obvious government obligations like health insurance? 

Posted by orrinj at 4:25 PM


I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration: I work for the president but like-minded colleagues and I have vowed to thwart parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations. (Anonymous, Sept. 5, 2018, NY Times)

The Times today is taking the rare step of publishing an anonymous Op-Ed essay. We have done so at the request of the author, a senior official in the Trump administration whose identity is known to us and whose job would be jeopardized by its disclosure. We believe publishing this essay anonymously is the only way to deliver an important perspective to our readers.  [...]

To be clear, ours is not the popular "resistance" of the left. We want the administration to succeed and think that many of its policies have already made America safer and more prosperous.

But we believe our first duty is to this country, and the president continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic.

That is why many Trump appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump's more misguided impulses until he is out of office.

The root of the problem is the president's amorality. Anyone who works with him knows he is not moored to any discernible first principles that guide his decision making.

Although he was elected as a Republican, the president shows little affinity for ideals long espoused by conservatives: free minds, free markets and free people. At best, he has invoked these ideals in scripted settings. At worst, he has attacked them outright.

In addition to his mass-marketing of the notion that the press is the "enemy of the people," President Trump's impulses are generally anti-trade and anti-democratic.

Not sure you can really call Melania a "senior official"....

Posted by orrinj at 2:20 PM


U.S. trade deficit surges to five-month high as exports fall (Lucia Mutikani, 9/05/18, Reuters) 

The Commerce Department said the trade deficit increased 9.5 percent to $50.1 billion as exports of soybeans and civilian aircraft dropped and imports hit a record high. The trade gap has now widened for two straight months. [...]

The administration says eliminating the trade deficit will put the economy on a sustainable path of faster growth. But economists say some of the government's policies such as a $1.5 trillion tax cut package early this year will worsen the trade deficit. The fiscal stimulus has boosted consumer and business spending, drawing in more imports.

Posted by orrinj at 10:45 AM


Why Liberalism's Critics Fail (Deirdre Nansen McCloskey, Summer 2018, Modern Age)

The main body of thought overlooked by anti-liberalism of all sorts, then, from Deneen's gentle communitarianism to fascism and communism, is economics after the 1860s and an economic history after the 1940s that uses economics. Deneen, like most of our deep social thinkers, has not opened a book of economics since Marx or of economic history since Polanyi. Like most intellectuals, therefore, he does not understand how a market economy works and what its actual history has been. The facts and logic adduced from the elderly or tertiary books on which he relies are regularly nonfacts, nonlogic, fake news.

Deneen believes, on the contrary, that the poor have become immiserated. But, like Marx, he is mistaken. "Inequality" is the fashionable cry, which of course Deneen echoes. But according to careful statistical studies, world inequality among individuals has declined radically in the past thirty years. And even in rich countries, the inequality we hear so much about has been grossly mismeasured. For example, measures of inequality of wealth, such as Thomas Piketty's, ignore the largest source of modern wealth: human capital. For another example, the alleged decline of the middle class in the U.S. turns out to be mostly a rise into the upper middle class, not a fall into social classes C, D, and E. For still another--the examples are legion--the quality of goods has risen sharply, making "stagnant" money earnings more valuable. Think, to take a plebian example, of modern auto tires or, of course, the amazing power of the modern smartphone, owned now even by the plebes.

During all the millennia before 1800, income per person in today's prices for the average human bumped along at about $2 or $3 a day. It was tough, at the present level of Mali and Afghanistan or of the hard-socialist regimes. Furthermore, hierarchy prevailed. Born a milkmaid, you died a milkmaid. Doubly tough. Your smart option therefore was to look inside, following Stoic and Christian and Buddhist teaching, to take up your cross, or prayer wheel, and quit whining. You'll get pie in the sky when you die, and anyway you might acquire along the way true enlightenment.

By now, however, income per person in the same prices is about $33 a day worldwide, the condition of Brazil. And the liberalism invented in the eighteenth century has partly eroded hierarchy, the condition of Australia. This amazing fact is unknown by most intellectuals damning capitalism and is unappreciated by them even when by some chance they catch wind of it.

One is led to wonder if the two events are connected, the Great Enrichment and the inclusive liberalism Deneen dislikes. They are. In a country like Japan or Sweden or the U.S. that has embraced liberalism most warmly, incomes per person as a whole-population average have risen from the old and ancient $2 or $3 a day to anything from $90 to $120, and much more if the person is highly skilled--sufficient, say, for a condo on Printer's Row in Chicago and a trip to watch birds in Antarctica. The increase is 3,000 percent in the median or average. And the poorest have gained the most. The very rich get another diamond bracelet. Splendid. But the poor get food, housing, antibiotics, and education denied to most people during all of history but the liberal era. By now, descendants by the billions of illiterate slaves and milkmaids have acquired the instruments for full human flourishing. They may not all take it. But that merely suggests that we join Deneen in preaching to them to leave off reality TV and Fritos and get to work on their Greek and Beethoven piano sonatas.

Yet the fact that liberalism resulted in billions of people having full lives does not move Deneen, or other right conservatives and left environmentalists, who fiercely attack a "consumerism" that has in truth characterized human life always. Deneen will have none of it. He wants us to go back to Brook Farm.

This (belated) realization came home while listening to a recent Liberty Law Talk podcast, How Prosperity Is Improving the World of Work: A Conversation with John Tamny, when they were discussing the prospect of technology/information creating inequality and Tyler Cowen's notion that Average is Over: all these scenarios depend on mass consumption of the product of the "above average." Yes, Jeff Bezos is absurdly wealthy, but only because the rest of us purchase so much through him.  If we were actually falling behind he'd be the only customer on Amazon. Mr. Tamny gets at this reality when talking about globalization, where Left and Right complain that America has impoverished itself by exporting jobs overseas, but, as he notes, our massive imports demonstrate how wealthy we are.

Posted by orrinj at 9:05 AM


Over fifth of meat tested in UK showed unspecified animal DNA (AFP News, 9/05/18)

The products came from 487 businesses, including restaurants and supermarkets.

And not a single consumer noticed.

Posted by orrinj at 8:55 AM


What was Louis Farrakhan doing at Aretha Franklin's funeral? (Richard Cohen, September 4, 2018, Washington Post)

I am well aware of Farrakhan's service to the black community and that he and Franklin had a personal relationship. I am well aware, too, that others -- including several organizers of last year's Women's March -- also have supported Farrakhan at times, as if the good he has done eradicates his bigotry. (In an odd way, Farrakhan is a victim of the racism he both espouses and fights. He has to know that few people view him positively -- some because he's a bigot, but some, alas, because he's black.)

But those who defend Farrakhan and the people who shared the stage with him at Franklin's funeral act as if victims cannot be oppressors. This is simply not the case.'d think people would spurn him for the assassination of Brother Malcolm.

Posted by orrinj at 8:51 AM


Trump suggests protesting should be illegal (Felicia Sonmez, September 4, 2018, Washington Post)

President Trump has long derided the mainstream media as the "enemy of the people" and lashed out at NFL players for kneeling during the national anthem. On Tuesday, he took his attacks on free speech one step further, suggesting in an interview with a conservative news site that the act of protesting should be illegal.

Trump made the remarks in an Oval Office interview with the Daily Caller hours after his Supreme Court nominee, Brett M. Kavanaugh, was greeted by protests on the first day of his confirmation hearings on Capitol Hill.

"I don't know why they don't take care of a situation like that," Trump said. "I think it's embarrassing for the country to allow protesters."

For good measure, he also threatened NBC's broadcast license.  That noose is getting tight.

Posted by orrinj at 8:49 AM


Trump 'wanted Bashar al-Assad killed' after chemical attack (Al Jazeera, 9/05/18)

US President Donald Trump wanted to have Syrian President Bashar al-Assad killed after the Syrian government reportedly carried out a chemical attack in April 2017, a new book by renowned journalist Bob Woodward alleges.

The attack, which was widely blamed on forces loyal to the Syrian government, was carried out on the town of Khan Sheikhoun, killing more than 80 people.

According to the book Fear: Trump in the White House, by Woodward, Trump wanted the US military to go into Syria and assassinate al-Assad.

"Let's f*****g kill him! Let's go in. Let's kill the f*****g lot of them," Trump said according to Woodward's book. 

Do Kim too.

Posted by orrinj at 8:35 AM


Trump, White House attack new book from Bob Woodward (Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey, September 4 , 2018, Washington Post)

West Wing aides and operatives in close contact with the White House said the administration did not have a war room readied to fight back against Woodward's harrowing depiction of the Trump presidency or a well-honed response strategy.

The usual pushback to unflattering books, one White House official said, is to discredit the author -- a tactic the White House deployed with mixed success following the publication of Michael Wolff's "Fire and Fury" and Manigault Newman's "Unhinged." But that playbook is unlikely to work with Woodward, a veteran chronicler of presidencies and a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, the official added. 

Conway, for instance, told others in the White House before Tuesday that Woodward was credible and that his book could be damaging.

A number of current and former White House aides said the book's depiction rang true, even if they were not sure of every detail. "I'm not sure why everyone is acting so shocked," one former senior administration official said. 

Several officials who spoke to Woodward said he showed up to interviews with documents and memos, as well as vivid accounts of scenes inside the White House.

One of the main objectives of Slate's Slow Burn podcast is try to recapture what it was like to live through Watergate and Whitewater, for participants and observers.  It charts the revelations and odd cameos and political obfuscations and all the rest, but at the end of the day the two stories really just boil down to the same simple fact: Richard Nixon tried to obstruct the Watergate investigation and Clinton the Paula Jones trial.  Likewise, all that matters about Donald is that he tried to obstruct justice in the Russia investigation.  Whether he's eventually removed from office or not just depends on control of Congress and Republican integrity.

Posted by orrinj at 7:55 AM


A Daily Caller Editor Wrote For an 'Alt-Right' Website Using a Pseudonym (ROSIE GRAY, 9/05/18, The Atlantic)

Former Daily Caller writer and editor Scott Greer has severed all ties with the conservative website after acknowledging that he had written under a pseudonym for the white supremacist Radix Journal.

Greer, who stepped down as an editor at The Daily Caller in June to write a book, said he would drop his contributor status last week after The Atlantic confronted him with leaked chat logs that showed he spent some of his time at the website also writing as "Michael McGregor" for Radix, the online publication founded by "alt-right" leader Richard Spencer who wants to turn America into  a white ethno-state. [...]

Greer expressed racist anti-black views and anti-Semitism in the Radix articles he wrote under the Michael McGregor byline, as well as disparaging other groups including feminists, immigrants, Christian Zionists, and the pro-life movement. In an interview with the website Social Matter in 2014, the same year Greer started working at The Daily Caller, "Michael McGregor" was identified as the managing editor of Radix.

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Prime suspect in anti-Arab beach attack released to house arrest (Times of Israel, 9/05/18)

The Haifa Magistrate's Court on Wednesday released to house arrest the central suspect in a violent hate crime targeting a group of Arab Israelis in the northern city of Haifa last month. [...]

"They came over with knives, with metal bars. They just started beating us for no reason," one of the victims, whose name was withheld, told Hadashot on Saturday. "They planned to kill us, all three of us."

"This was a nationalistic attack," he added.

"Not all people are bad like these guys were. The people who helped us were these two Jews who got the group to get away," he said. "Not all the people are the same, and we are also part of the nation of Israel."

Israel's top court clears way for razing of Bedouin village in West Bank (Jeffrey Heller, 9/05/18, Reuters) 

Israel's top court cleared the way on Wednesday for the demolition of a Bedouin village in the occupied West Bank whose fate has become a focus of Palestinian protests and international concern.

Posted by orrinj at 7:41 AM



Glossy brochures with photos of young adults traipsing around leafy quads might dominate the popular imagination of what higher education looks like. But steadily and dramatically, we're seeing movement away from a life of lecture halls and dorms.

The decline from 18.3 million to 17.1 million (6.4 percent) is spelled out in a new study from the Babson Survey Research Group on online and distance learning. The study found a decline in higher ed enrollment overall, coupled with growth in students enrolled only in distance courses -- now at 3 million, or about 15 percent of the overall higher ed population. The drop on campus has been slow and steady in recent years, but it's become impossible to dismiss as a blip. "It's something that is death by a thousand cuts as opposed to a stab in the heart," says Jeff Seaman, co-director of Babson Survey Research Group, an education-focused firm affiliated with Babson College.

The decline has been uneven. For-profit colleges saw a whopping 44.1 percent drop in on-campus learners, as the industry suffered from bad press and fresh government crackdowns. Public and private nonprofit schools saw smaller, but still real, declines in campus students. [...]

Meanwhile, online learning is on the rise because of its lower cost, improving reputation and convenience for students with jobs and families.

Posted by orrinj at 7:39 AM


Furious Trump trapped by hundreds of Woodward tapes (Jonathan Swan, Mike Allen, 9/05/18, Axios)

"Trump was editing an upcoming speech with [then-staff secretary Rob] Porter. Scribbling his thoughts in neat, clean penmanship, the president wrote, 'TRADE IS BAD.'" is that any form of contact with other "races" is BAD.

Posted by orrinj at 7:15 AM


Greener growth could add $26 trillion to world economy by 2030: study (Alister Doyle, Nina Chestney, 9/05/18, Reuters)

[T]he Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, which includes former heads of government, business leaders and economists, said there was "unprecedented momentum" toward greener growth that would boost jobs and countries' economies.

Bold climate action could deliver at least $26 trillion in net cumulative benefits from now until 2030 compared with business as usual, it said.

"There's still a perception that moving toward a low-carbon path would be costly," lead author Helen Mountford told Reuters. "What we are trying to do with this report is once and for all put the nails in the coffin on that idea."

The commission's study adds detailed projections since it first issued a report in 2014 to highlight economic opportunities from a shift away from fossil fuels.

Smarter investments in cleaner energy, cities, food and land use, water and industry could generate 65 million new jobs in 2030, equivalent to the workforces of Egypt and Britain combined, the study said.

A shift from fossil fuels to cleaner energies such as wind and solar power would avoid 700,000 premature deaths from air pollution in 2030, it added.

The report recommended high prices on carbon dioxide emissions of $40-$80 per tonne by 2020 in major economies.