September 8, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 10:26 PM


At U.S. Open, power of Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka is overshadowed by an umpire's power play (Sally Jenkins, September 8, 2018, washington Post)

Chair umpire Carlos Ramos managed to rob not one but two players in the women's U.S. Open final. Nobody has ever seen anything like it: An umpire so wrecked a big occasion that both players, Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams alike, wound up distraught with tears streaming down their faces during the trophy presentation and an incensed crowd screamed boos at the court. Ramos took what began as a minor infraction and turned it into one of the nastiest and most emotional controversies in the history of tennis, all because he couldn't take a woman speaking sharply to him.

Williams abused her racket, but Ramos did something far uglier: He abused his authority. Champions get heated -- it's their nature to burn. All good umpires in every sport understand that the heart of their job is to help temper the moment, to turn the dial down, not up, and to be quiet stewards of the event rather than to let their own temper play a role in determining the outcome. Instead, Ramos made himself the chief player in the women's final. He marred Osaka's first Grand Slam title and one of Williams's last bids for all-time greatness. Over what? A tone of voice. Male players have sworn and cursed at the top of their lungs, hurled and blasted their equipment into shards, and never been penalized as Williams was in the second set of the U.S. Open final.

25 Years Later, McEnroe Reflects on an Ejection (He Can Be Serious) ( Christopher Clarey, Jan. 23, 2015, NY Times)

Loopholes and the potential for conflict still exist: See Serena Williams's threatening a lineswoman at the 2009 United States Open after being called for a foot fault, one facet of the rules that is still not covered by electronic surveillance. And temperamental players still exist: the Australian Nick Kyrgios was fined for racket abuse and an audible obscenity during his first-round victory at this Australian Open.

But there is no man or woman who challenges authority on a match-in, match-out basis as McEnroe did.

By 1990, he was already on his way down: five years removed from his last Grand Slam singles final at the 1985 United States Open. Yet there had been recent cause for optimism: a victory at the WCT Finals and a semifinal run at Wimbledon in 1989. He even arrived in Australia early, taking part in the Hopman Cup, the team event in Perth, which began the day after Christmas in 1989 and ended on Jan. 1. Because the Hopman Cup began in 1989, the old rules on disqualification still applied instead of the new rules that had been approved for the 1990 season.

Under the old rules, disqualification was a four-step process: warning, point penalty, game penalty, default. Under the new rules, it was to be a three-step process: warning, point penalty, default.

Difficult as it is to believe, McEnroe said he had been unaware of the imminent change, and in Perth he flirted with disqualification, in a quarterfinal match against Paolo Canè of Italy.

"The whole incident in Melbourne really began at the Hopman Cup," said Peter Bellinger, the tournament referee at the Australian Open from 1983 to 2005. "Some of the officiating at the Hopman Cup wasn't as good as it could have been, and at one point John refused to play on and was taken through the three steps of the code, which was a game penalty."

In Melbourne, McEnroe cruised through his opening three rounds without losing a set. Richard Ings, a chair umpire at the time, worked one of his early rounds and said he considered reminding McEnroe of the code change, but ultimately did not.

"The rule changes were always posted in the locker room," Bellinger said. "But he obviously didn't read them."

Then on the first Sunday -- Jan. 21, 1990 -- McEnroe took to the court against Pernfors, a speedy Swede and former member of the top 10.

Armstrong was in the chair and he gave McEnroe his initial warning early in the third set when McEnroe glared at a lineswoman after a questionable call and bounced the ball upward on his racket strings in front of her.

Armstrong later gave McEnroe a point penalty for racket abuse after he threw and cracked his racket in the sixth game of the fourth set, when he was up two sets to one.

"He had an edge in that set, but I still felt like I was going to win the match and even that set," McEnroe said. "I missed a shot I should have made, and I sort of threw the racket on the ground and caught it. I wasn't trying to break it, but I didn't throw it at like a linesman or a ball boy. And then I caught it. Players do it all the time, but you heard a crack and I guess technically in those days the umpire could be discretionary on the warning. And then all of the sudden it was a point penalty, and my recollection is that was when I went up and said, 'Hey it's 120 degrees out here. Maybe you could cut me some slack.'"

McEnroe argued his case and called for the Grand Slam chief of supervisors, Ken Farrar, who soon arrived on court with Bellinger.

After failing to change any minds, McEnroe turned away from the chair in the direction of the baseline, muttering an expletive in a comment that has no place in a family newspaper.

"I don't know how well people even heard it, because it was sort of under my breath anyway, but he heard it," McEnroe said of Farrar. "And maybe the umpire heard it, and then that was all she wrote."

McEnroe braced himself for the game penalty, but instead it was a match penalty. Today, McEnroe views his default as the price he had to pay after years of favorable treatment.

Posted by orrinj at 8:30 PM

Posted by orrinj at 8:02 PM


Miss America contestant calls Trump the 'biggest issue facing our country today' (The Age, 9 September 2018)

When asked on Friday, the final night of the preliminary competition, what she believed was the most serious issue facing the nation, Madeline Collins, Miss West Virginia, name-checked the leader of the free world.

"Donald Trump is the biggest issue facing our country today," Collins responded. As captured on video by a Press of Atlantic City reporter, Collins continued: "Unfortunately, he has caused a lot of divide in our country, and until we can trust in him and the choices that he makes for our country, we cannot become united."

Posted by orrinj at 7:09 PM


The only solid bet is on Trump's panic (but the op-ed was probably Jared) (David Von Drehle, September 7, 2018, Washington Post)

Bookies set the odds at 12-to-1 that Jared Kushner wrote the "Resistance Inside" bombshell, and if I were a gambling man, I might take a piece of that action. After all, rarely a month has passed during the reign of The Donald without a story leaking about his son-in-law and daughter laboring to curb the excesses of President Daddy. Key themes of the unamed "senior official" in the New York Times -- that President Trump is bonkers, and thank heavens for the good guys inside the administration -- fit neatly into the same narrative.

The Jared Theory also answers a question so many have asked since the op-ed was published on Wednesday: Why doesn't this self-styled patriot resign? There's no leaving for Jared Kushner. [...]

No one, not even the Impresario of the Oval Office himself, could reasonably blame Mr. and Mrs. Kushner if they've begun planning their exit strategy. So many administration figures are eying the doors that, as one of them puts it, the days after the midterm elections will be a great time to sublet a house in D.C. Life is getting mighty uncomfortable as the president discovers -- contradicting his core belief of the past 40 years -- that there is such a thing as bad publicity, after all.

Posted by orrinj at 7:03 PM



In a 2012 YouTube video of an attempted robbery in California, a strange scene unfolds.

Two robbers enter the Circle T Market in Riverbank. One carries a large assault rifle, an AK-47. Upon seeing them, the clerk behind the counter puts his hands up. Yet the elderly store owner finds the weapon absurdly big and casually walks up to the robbers, laughing. His shoulders are relaxed and he points the palms of his hands up as if asking them whether they are serious. Both perpetrators are startled upon seeing the elderly man laughing at them. One runs away, while the one with the AK-47 freezes, is tackled, and is later arrested by police. They had robbed numerous stores before.

Analyzing videos captured on CCTV, mobile phones, or body cameras and uploaded to YouTube now provides first-hand insight into a variety of similar situations. And there are a lot of videos to watch. In 2013, 31 percent of internet users online posted a video to a website. And on YouTube alone, more than 300 hours of video footage are uploaded every minute. Many of these videos capture our behavior at weddings and concerts, protests and revolutions, and tsunamis and earthquakes. Taboos become obsolete as more types of events are uploaded, from birth to live-streamed murder.

While some of these developments are contentious, their scientific potential to understand how social life happens can't be ignored. This ever-expanding cache of recordings may have drastic implications for our understanding of human behavior.

The first episode of Slate's History of the Future podcast offers an interesting consideration of whether we should be paid for the data we are providing.

Posted by orrinj at 6:54 PM


Top Trump Adviser Says Ted Cruz Could Lose Texas Senate Race (Alexander Burns and Kenneth P. Vogel, Sept. 8, 2018, NY Times)

A pair of top Republicans acknowledged in a private meeting on Saturday that the party was battling serious vulnerabilities in the midterm elections, including what one described as widespread "hate" for President Trump, and raised the prospect that Senator Ted Cruz of Texas could lose his bid for re-election because he is not seen as "likable" enough.

Ted Cruz is just Donald without the personal corruption.
Posted by orrinj at 3:49 PM


Posted by orrinj at 11:57 AM


The Obvious Suspect (WILLIAM SALETAN, SEPT 07, 2018, sLATE)

Who wrote the anonymous op-ed against President Trump in Wednesday's New York Times? All we know for certain is what the Times disclosed: that it's a "senior official in the Trump administration." But the most likely author, based on the op-ed's content and style, is the U.S. ambassador to Russia, Jon Huntsman.

Huntsman is an obvious suspect for several reasons. The article's themes are classic Huntsman: effusive about conservative policies, blunt about low character. In 2016, he made the same points for and against Trump. The topic that gets the most space and detail in the piece is Huntsman's current area, Russia. (As Slate's Fred Kaplan points out, Trump has been circumventing and undermining Huntsman.) The prose, as in Huntsman's speeches and interviews, is flamboyantly erudite. The tone, like Huntsman's, is pious. And the article's stated motive--"Americans should know that there are adults in the room"--matches a letter that Huntsman wrote to the Salt Lake Tribune in July. In the letter, Huntsman, responding to a columnist who thought the ambassador should resign rather than keep working for Trump, explained that public servants such as himself were dutifully attending to the nation's business.

Posted by orrinj at 10:39 AM


Ryan, McConnell try to coax Trump away from shutdown -- using props and flattery (Damian Paletta, Erica Werner and Josh Dawsey, September 7, 2018, Washington Post)

The top two Republicans in Congress arrived at the White House this week armed with props aimed at flattering and cajoling President Trump out of shutting down the government at the end of this month.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis.) showed the president glossy photos of a wall under construction along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) brought an article from the Washington Examiner that described Trump as brilliantly handling the current budget process, and portrayed the GOP as unified and breaking through years of dysfunction. [...]

The visual aids were a subtle but deft attempt to win over a president known to prefer visual imagery over wonky typed handouts, and eager to absorb flattery at a time when the White House is enveloped in chaos.

Nativism got the leader it deserves.

Posted by orrinj at 8:15 AM


Modest Premium Hikes as 'Obamacare' Stabilizes (Meghan Hoyer And Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, 9/07/18, Associated Press)

Millions of people covered under the Affordable Care Act will see only modest premium increases next year, and some will get price cuts. That's the conclusion from an exclusive analysis of the besieged but resilient program, which still sparks deep divisions heading into this year's midterm elections.

The Associated Press and the consulting firm Avalere Health crunched available state data and found that "Obamacare's" health insurance marketplaces seem to be stabilizing after two years of sharp premium hikes. And the exodus of insurers from the program has halted, even reversed somewhat, with more consumer choices for 2019.

Don't you hate when reality refuses to conform to ideology.

Posted by orrinj at 8:11 AM


None of You Idiots Is Spartacus (JONAH GOLDBERG, September 7, 2018, National Review)

For those of you who don't know, Cory Booker heroically® (according to his P.R. operation) defied Senate rules and risked expulsion from that chamber in order to release confidential documents that the American people desperately needed to see. The people needed to understand what the dangerous bigot whom Trump nominated to the Court had written in an email about racial profiling while working in the Bush White House after 9/11.

There were only a couple of problems: The email in question was already cleared for public release (and Booker knew it), and the substance of the email revealed that the Monster Kavanaugh opposed racial profiling. It was as if Cory Booker -- once a famous, if choreographed, good Samaritan -- saw a mugging, leapt out of his car, tire-iron in hand, to save the day only to stop 20 feet from the assailant in front of some TV cameras, and proceed to smash the makeshift weapon into his own crotch. "I am Spartacus! Ow! I am Spartacus -- Ooof!"

Like so much of life today, it all gets dumber. Booker is like the dweeby model student (treasurer of the chess club, three-years running!) who was "radicalized" by the edgy kids at theater camp and became determined to be a rebel for his senior year. The only problem: Booker seemed to have picked up his idea of being a bad boy by watching Saved by the Bell and various after-school specials. "Greetings fellow cool people: Check out my pleather biker jacket!"

On TV, Booker insists that he did in fact break the rules ("I am breaking the rules.") but in committee, when it seemed like the Republicans believed him, he couldn't stand his ground -- even though he wanted to -- and insisted that there was no rule that he had moments earlier boasted of violating. It was as if he were dragged before the principal and asked if he really had toilet-papered the math teacher's house (as he had told people in study hall) only to confess that he was simply taking credit for it. Now, he's back on TV reverting to his original story with a "How dare you ask if my awesome earring is a clip on?" tone.

Perhaps the most telling sign that Booker cannot commit to his bad-boy routine is the actual quote so many people are inaccurately summarizing. Booker didn't say, "I am Spartacus!" He didn't even say, "This is my 'I am Spartacus moment.'" He said: "This is about the closest I'll probably ever have in my life to an 'I am Spartacus' moment."

...all 12 of the suspects in the sleeper cell should proclaim, "I wrote the editorial."

Posted by orrinj at 8:08 AM


GDP as a measure of economic well-being (Karen Dynan and Louise Sheiner, August 24, 2018, Brookings)

In a new working paper, Karen Dynan of Harvard University and the Peterson Institute for International Economics and the Hutchins Center's Louise Sheiner conclude that changes in real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) do a reasonable job in capturing changes in a nation's economic well-being with one important exception. They argue that the exclusion of non-market activities that increase economic well-being merits more attention, particularly given the growing importance of such activities.

They cite several areas where measurement falls short of the conceptual ideal. First, the national accounts may mismeasure nominal GDP arising from the digital economy and the operation of multinational corporations. Second, deflators used to separate GDP into nominal GDP and real GDP may produce a biased measure of inflation. For goods and services that do not change in quality over time, current deflator methods work reasonably well. For new goods and services, or goods and services that are changing in quality, current methods may not capture consumer surplus well.

Posted by orrinj at 8:05 AM


An Old Anti-Irish Law Is at the Heart of Trump's Plan to Reshape Legal Immigration: The administration is preparing a rule to crack down on immigrants who receive public benefits. (NOAH LANARD, SEP. 6, 2018, Mother Jones)

Boston's 1845 census grouped the home countries of the city's indigent into three buckets: the United States, Ireland, and everywhere else. Massachusetts Protestants attacked Irish immigrants for draining public resources. The state's solution was to deport people it considered likely to become "public charges." That same strategy is now at the center of the Trump administration's attempt to reshape legal immigration in the United States. [...]

Blocking the poor from entering the country is nearly as old as US immigration law itself. In his 2017 book, Expelling the Poor, Hidetaka Hirota, an assistant professor at Waseda University in Tokyo who previously taught US immigration history at the City College of New York, explains how Massachusetts and New York created the foundation for US immigration restrictions by turning away and deporting Irish migrants fleeing the potato famine in the 1840s. When the United States adopted its first comprehensive immigration law in 1882, both states made sure there was a public charge provision that allowed immigration officials to exclude impoverished Irish migrants. The current version of that provision states that immigrants who are "likely at any time to become a public charge" will not be admitted into the United States or allowed to adjust their immigration statuses. Now, the Trump administration hopes to use this provision to target migrants who are disproportionately people of color.

It's not as if the Irish were assimilable.

Posted by orrinj at 7:41 AM


Yoram Hazony and the New Nationalism (Samuel Goldman, Summer 2018, Modern Age)

Nationalism is experiencing something of a revival. Unfashionable and even taboo for about a quarter century after the end of the Cold War, legal defenses of national sovereignty, expressions of national loyalty, and even assertions of particularistic national identities have become an inescapable feature of political discussion in the United States and Europe. Although most evident on the right, nationalist sentiments have also found a place on the left. The so-called Lexit--Left Brexit--faction supporting Britain's escape from the European Union is just one example.

Yoram Hazony is perhaps the leading theorist of this new nationalism. President of the Herzl Institute in Jerusalem and long a mainstay of the Jewish intellectual right, Hazony has found a broader audience in the pages of the Wall Street Journal, American Affairs, and other influential publications. In occasional writings and an important forthcoming book, Hazony contends that developments including the election of Donald Trump, controversial governments in Hungary and Poland, and Brexit suggest the possibility of a return to sanity after the experiments with transnational governance that became increasingly prominent after the fall of communism. He is not wrong but underestimates the challenges that a revival of nationalism in the twenty-first century must overcome.

Despite its growing salience, nationalism remains forbiddingly difficult to define. Standard reference works suggest a web of meanings involving loyalty to one's people and the place in which they live, desire for their independence and prosperity, and efforts to secure those goals by political, economic, or cultural means. Nationalism, in this sense, is not so different from patriotism, except in its linguistic root. Where "nationalism" evokes the familial circumstances of birth--in Latin, natio--"patriotism" emphasizes its location--the patria or fatherland.

Yet the matter is not so simple. Precisely because they are political, these concepts have polemical as well as descriptive connotations. Patriotism is usually understood as a worthy sentiment, informed by knowledge and compatible with high moral principle. Nationalism, by contrast, tends to be associated with ignorance, conflict, and violence. Hazony rejects this conventional distinction. Nationalism, he insists, is a positive virtue, not a vice--or even a necessary evil. At the risk of pedantry, it is worth observing that the Latin term virtus alludes to what is fitting for a vir, or man. In this vein, Hazony writes movingly of learning nationalism at his own father's knee. The virtue in question is a kind of piety, comparable to the reverence that Aeneas, the personification of all that was best in Rome, shows for his father, Anchises.

But nationalism is not a personal virtue only. On Hazony's account, an appreciation for nationalism is also a distinctive virtue of the conservative intellectual tradition. In addition to defending nationalism against its cultured despisers, Hazony aims to rescue conservatism from the universalizing ideology that he associates with another of those famously problematic concepts, liberalism.

One reason for the eclipse of nationalism in recent decades--at least among the political, economic, and cultural elites of North America and western Europe--is that it has found few competent theorists. This weakness is not only the result of changing intellectual fashions but also arises in part from the concept itself. Because nationalism is grounded in loyalty to one's own people and place, its advocates tend to eschew general arguments. In other words, they make particularistic claims about the meaning and prospects of this or that specific nation.

Hazony tries to overcome this tendency by presenting a defense of nationalism as such. He defines nationalism as "a principled standpoint that regards the world as governed best when nations are able to chart their own independent course, cultivating their own traditions, and pursuing their own interests without interference." Hazony contrasts this vision of world order both with empire, which aims to impose a single regime on as much of the globe as possible, and with anarchy, which he describes as an absence of centralized, reliable coercion. The nation, on these terms, is a kind of midpoint between the political form that makes no distinctions among peoples or places and the unreliable security provided by extended families.

This conception of the nation is important because it is the basis for Hazony's rejection of claims that nationalism is tantamount to racism. He insists that because nations inevitably comprise many clans and "tribes," they are not based on common descent. However, the nation is unified around cultural characteristics that include a distinctive language, religion, and a shared history of struggle. Outsiders can join a nation when they adopt these characteristics. At the same time, the nation is entitled to decide when and whether it wishes to accept more foster children.

Expressed mostly in generalizations rather than in historical detail, Hazony presents his case for the nation in The Virtue of Nationalism as an essay in "foundational political philosophy." This procedure would seem to contradict his insistence that nationalism appeals to an empirical understanding of human nature, rather than philosophical abstractions. Yet his argument does not emerge from the view from nowhere that he blames for the current disdain for nationalism. Instead, it is rooted in the Hebrew Bible, which Hazony numbers among "the first great works of the Western political tradition."

Many readers will find this claim surprising. Not only the growing ranks of the religiously illiterate, but also many serious Christians and Jews balk at the idea that the Old Testament offers political lessons that can be applied today. Even conservative evangelicals, who insist that the Bible is authoritative in matters of personal morality, mostly hesitate to draw direct conclusions about the conduct of governments from biblical texts.

But Hazony is not engaging in the kind of "theonomy" associated with the Christian Reconstructionist movement. In his 2012 study The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture, he argued that the Bible is not merely a record of irrational revelation that demands implicit obedience; it also offers compelling arguments about the proper order of human society. In his new work, Hazony concentrates on what he considers the biblical argument for a world composed of independent nation-states. Even as it criticizes attempts to unify the human race, beginning with the Tower of Babel, the Bible promotes the unification of the Hebrew tribes into a single people living under a common legal authority within defined borders. For Hazony, the travails of the biblical Israel represent the paradigmatic case for nationalism in a period defined by the oscillation between empire and anarchy. [...]

Above all, however, The Virtue of Nationalism is a polemic against what Hazony calls "liberalism." By this he means "a rationalist political theory based on the assumption that human beings are free and equal by nature, and that obligation to the state and other institutions arises through the consent of individuals." On this theory, neither nations nor families have any inherent authority. Thus, they can be formed, abandoned, or modified as individuals pursue their interests--usually construed in terms of physical security and material prosperity.

In practice, of course, this argument could lead to the formation of nations as the most convenient vehicle for the pursuit of material interests. In principle, however, it suggests that truly rational human beings would establish the largest and most inclusive possible state. From its theoretical starting point in an anarchic state of nature, Hazony suggests, liberalism derives a virtually irresistible tendency toward empire.

The always interesting Mr. Hazony is essentially just defending Zionism (nationalism) against American Jews (neocons) and the End of History. What critics on the Right and Left mean by empire is the universal extension of the Anglospheric system (democracy, capitalism and protestantism) and values that we have witnessed over the past several centuries.  Mr. Hazony perceives, as the neocons do not, that their Anglo-American liberalism as far as other nations is concerned must ultimately be applied in Israel with potentially existential results. Thus the reliance on the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) where Israel is defined as a nation (race) as opposed to the definition of sovereignty that obtains in the Anglo-American (Protestant) world, which broadens the nation to all the people being governed and requires their consent to that governance and a system of republican liberty.

Of course, the tell here is the willful misreading of the Tower of Babel as a criticism of universalism, a position unsustainable by reference to the actual text:

And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.

And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there.

And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter.

And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.

And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded.

And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.

Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech.

God here, as in the Garden, acts in self-interest.



Posted by orrinj at 7:28 AM


Bernie Sanders Is Wrong About Workers on Welfare (Michael R. Strain, September 5, 2018, Bloomberg)

Whether motivated by concerns about inequality, as the Vermont senator is, or by the increasingly common view on the political right that when it comes to certain corporations, big is bad, both Sanders and Carlson betray a fundamental misunderstanding of economics and of the proper ordering of society.

Forces in a market economy will push the wage earned by workers toward the amount of revenue they generate for their employer. It is simply unrealistic to expect a company to pay, say, $15 per hour to a worker who is only generating $9 per hour of revenue for the business. Under such an arrangement, the company is losing $6 every hour the worker is on the job. That situation is untenable.

My argument may sound off given the amount of attention currently paid in some circles to issues like "market concentration," "monopsony power" and the like. To be clear, I do not deny that these factors play a role in determining wages. But particularly in the low-wage labor market, a worker's productivity plays a very important role in determining his wage. And large gaps between wages and productivity are ultimately unsustainable for many workers.

So in some sense, Sanders and Carlson have it exactly backward: Walmart, Amazon and McDonald's are not being subsidized by taxpayers because some of their employees receive assistance from safety-net programs. Instead, employers of lower-wage workers are surely reducing safety-net rolls. In the absence of these jobs, more people, not fewer, would likely be receiving government assistance.

The logic underlying the claim by Sanders and Carlson also leads to a place that the senator at least probably doesn't want to go. Sanders argues that if Amazon has employees on Medicaid, then taxpayers are subsidizing Amazon. At the same time, the senator supports single-payer national health care ("Medicare for All"). Should we view any national health-care program as a multitrillion-dollar taxpayer subsidy to business?

Of course not. And we shouldn't view food stamps as a subsidy to business, either. Doing so reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of how U.S. society has chosen, through politics, to assign different roles to different actors.

No one who works full time and heads a household should live in poverty. Making sure this doesn't happen is a social goal, and resources from all of society should be marshaled to achieve it. The responsibility for achieving this goal should not fall exclusively on the employers and customers of low-wage workers, as Sanders and Carlson implicitly argue.

Of course, McDonald's and Amazon have a role. But so do hedge-fund managers and upscale retailers and publishing houses and economists -- that is, those who don't employ low-wage workers.

I am pointing to a system of work-based income redistribution, a key component of the U.S. social-safety net. Wages are determined in markets, and taxpayer-funded government programs are used to further the goal that working households do not fall below a baseline level of material well-being.

As Mr. Strain's own argument shows, no one is really ready to face a system of income redistribution after work has been displaced nor where the cost of creating wealth approaches $0.

Posted by orrinj at 7:23 AM


Manafort Weighing Plea Deal to Avoid New Criminal Trial, Source Says (David Voreacos  and Neil Weinberg, September 7, 2018, Bloomberg)

While the second trial would highlight many of the same financial transactions as the first, prosecutors will also seek to prove that Manafort violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act when he conducted a multimillion-dollar lobbying campaign in the U.S. at the direction of Yanukovych. Manafort hired prominent U.S. firms like the Podesta Group and Mercury Public Affairs LLC to help him, as well as several prominent former European politicians.

At a pretrial hearing on Sept. 5, Manafort attorney Kevin Downing foreshadowed a trial defense on the lobbying charge, saying the Justice Department's oversight of the FARA regulations was vague and rarely enforced. Prosecutors, he said, can't prove that Manafort had any intent to violate the law, which is a requirement for conviction for that charge.

Former federal prosecutor Patrick Cotter said defendants often have a hard time grasping that they're running out of legal options.

"Guys who've gotten away with a lot of stuff before they get to prison" often show a lot of bravado, he said. "On the day of conviction they still believe there will be one more inning. It takes awhile before they realize there are no more innings."

Posted by orrinj at 7:19 AM


Israel: Palestinian Ahed Tamimi 'banned from travelling abroad' (Al Jazeera, 9/08/18)

Israel has banned Palestinian activist Ahed Tamimi and her family from travelling abroad, her father said, citing Palestinian authorities.

Basim Tamimi told Anadolu Agency on Friday that he and his family had planned to travel to Europe via Jordan, to participate in events and discussions on the Palestinian resistance movement and the experience of being detained in Israel.

Posted by orrinj at 7:15 AM


Posted by orrinj at 7:10 AM


Trump Used His Charity as His Checkbook, New York State Says (Shahien Nasiripour , Chris Dolmetsch , and Christie Smythe, June 14, 2018, Bloomberg)

President Donald Trump's personal charity repeatedly and willfully broke state and federal laws by engaging in a decade-long pattern of self-dealing that culminated in illegal coordination with his political campaign, New York alleged in a scathing lawsuit.

The president is accused of rampant misconduct by using the charity as one of his personal checkbooks, directing funds meant for needy causes to settle business and personal debts, boost his political aspirations and benefit his namesake company, the Trump Organization. He also filed false statements to the Internal Revenue Service, according to the suit.

Barbara Underwood, the state's attorney general, is seeking to dissolve the charity and personally penalize Trump and three of his children. She said she also sent referral letters to the IRS and the Federal Election Commission for further investigations of possible violations of federal law.

Posted by orrinj at 7:05 AM


Nike Knows Its Customers -- And They Aren't Trump Voters (Cynthia Tucker, September 8, 2018, National Memo)

Unlike Kaepernick, Nike didn't do this because the company's officers are especially brave or "woke." While its stock was down a bit right after the announcement of Kaepernick's role, most financial analysts expect that the sports apparel company's bottom line will benefit from its association with him.

Its customer base skews toward consumers of color, who are likely to support the athlete's socially conscious gestures.

According to TMZ Sports, "African-Americans, Hispanics and Asians are more strongly represented in Nike's consumer base than they are in the U.S. population." Equally important, its sales depend on younger adults, not baby boomers with bad knees. TMZ says: "18- to 34-year-olds comprise 30 percent of the U.S. population, but they represent a whopping 43 percent of Nike buyers." In other words, the company doesn't see its future in the purchasing power of older whites.

Nike's run too narrow for fat old men and they aren't subject to store discounts.

Posted by orrinj at 6:55 AM


Trump says he wants to avoid 'perjury trap' in questioning by special counsel Robert Mueller, but doesn't rule out sit-down in Russia probe  (Dan Mangan, 9/08/18,

President Donald Trump said Friday, "I don't want to be set up with a perjury trap" by special counsel Robert Mueller, the prosecutor who is investigating possible obstruction of justice by the president.

But Trump also said he is willing to sit down for an interview with Mueller -- who also is probing Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election -- "under certain circumstances."

Trump's comments aboard Air Force One came a day after his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, gave conflicting comments about whether Trump would answer certain questions from Mueller. Trump has repeatedly called Mueller's investigation a "witch hunt." [...]

Giuliani told The Associated Press on Thursday that Trump would refuse to answer questions about obstruction of justice, either in person or in writing.

...puts paid to the notion he's just worried about misspeaking.  Of course, there isn't any debate that he's been obstructing justice in cases resulting in confessions and convictions..

Posted by orrinj at 6:52 AM


Adding clean energy to the Sahara could make it rain (and not just figuratively) (Mary Beth Griggs, 9/07/18, Popular Science)

In a paper published this week in Science researchers found that by building out huge wind and solar farms across the desert, they could not only provide a stunning amount of power to Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, but they could simultaneously change the climate--increasing heat, but also increasing precipitation and vegetation in areas that could sorely use the added greenery. They estimate that such a venture could double the rainfall in the region, and increase vegetation cover by about 20 percent.

How much green are we talking? The Sahara covers 3.55 million square miles (9.2 million square kilometers). In the study, the researchers ran computer models that placed wind turbines across the desert close to a mile apart, and covered 20 percent of the desert with solar panels in different configurations (sometimes the panels were spread across the desert in a checkerboard pattern, and in other cases were concentrated in quadrants). Smaller coverage produced smaller climate impacts--in this case, less precipitation--but much of it depended on the location of the turbines and panels as well. For example, installing panels in the northwest corner had a larger impact than the other three desert options.