September 13, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 9:52 PM


Daily Stormer case: Neo-Nazi Anglin's attorneys argue Trump ruling should fall in Anglin's favor (SEABORN LARSON, Sep 13, 2018, Missoulian)

The publisher of a neo-Nazi website who unleashed a storm of anti-Semitism against a Whitefish resident in late 2016 argued in court filings Wednesday that a federal court's recent ruling in favor of President Donald Trump should fall his way, too. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:46 PM



A group of militant lesbians forced their way to the front of a gay pride march in London on Sunday. The angry lesbians then laid down with some banners swathed over their bodies. They also demanded a coveted place at the front of the march, directly behind a huge rainbow flag.

The eight lesbians who staged the protest belong to a group called Get The L Out, reports Gay Star News, a London-based website.

They carried at least two large banners. A yellow one read "Transactivism erases lesbians." A white one read "Lesbian = female homosexual."

Posted by orrinj at 6:33 PM


U.S. accuses Russia of covering up breaches of North Korea sanctions (Michelle Nichols, 9/13/18, Reuters) 

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley accused Russia on Thursday of seeking to cover up breaches of U.N. sanctions on North Korea by Russians after Moscow pushed for changes to be made to an independent report on sanctions violations.

Nailing Donald's two best buds for violations is way more effective than an anonymous op-ed.

Posted by orrinj at 5:55 PM


What We Talk About When We Talk About Socialism: From Jim Carrey to the Chapo Trap House to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the "s" word means different things to different people. Here's how libertarians should engage. (Nick Gillespie, Sep. 12, 2018, reason)

Bernie Sanders has admitted that he doesn't want the government to run everything as much as he wants it to run or regulate more stuff. The details aren't all there, but even his Medicare-for-All pitch doesn't involve making all health-care professionals public employees. He's not really far from Warren, who denies being a socialist and is at pains to say that she really, really likes markets--as long as they are tightly regulated so, in her view, they perform more equitably. As she recently told The Atlantic,

What excites me about markets? I was telling you that gains-from-trade argument, but really what excites me about markets is competition. I want to make sure we've got a set of rules that lets everybody who's got a good, competitive idea get in the game....We need to make capitalism work for your family and we need to make democracy work for your family.

Writing in The New York Times, CUNY's Corey Robin demotes economics to secondary importance for today's socialists, arguing:

The socialist argument against capitalism isn't that it makes us poor. It's that it makes us unfree. When my well-being depends upon your whim, when the basic needs of life compel submission to the market and subjugation at work, we live not in freedom but in domination. Socialists want to end that domination: to establish freedom from rule by the boss, from the need to smile for the sake of a sale, from the obligation to sell for the sake of survival.

Listen to today's socialists, and you'll hear less the language of poverty than of power.

Robin's emphasis is also evident in some of the contributors to Politico's symposium, such as the head of the Democratic Socialists of America, who writes that under socialism "we will have true freedom, not just survival--the choices available to us now that depend on the whims of the few." In significant ways, many recent calls for socialism echo the early issues of the anti-Soviet socialist magazine Dissent, which got started in 1954. Like National Review, which got going a year later from a right-wing perspective, the founders of Dissent were first and foremost promoting individualism in an age of perceived conformity. The differences between Big Government and Big Business were less important perhaps than maintaining one's unique identity in a world of mass commerce, mass culture, mass warfare. The editors even invoked the adjective libertarian in their statement of purpose:

We shall try to reassert the libertarian values of the socialist ideal, and at the same time, to discuss freely and honestly what in the socialist tradition remains alive and what needs to be discarded or modified....We share a belief in the dignity of the individual, we share a refusal to countenance one man's gain at the expense of his brother, and we share an intellectual conviction that man can substantially control his condition if he understands it and wills to.

There is some of that, however submerged, in today's calls for socialism. It's not a bad ideal, to want individuals to be able to flourish however they see fit. In fact, that corresponds almost perfectly with the ways most libertarians talk and think about social organization. What system is most likely to allow individuals to become whomever they want to become? In this sense, socialism and capitalism (to use incredibly oversimplified terms) are both part of the liberal Enlightenment project that begins with autonomous, equal individuals.

What remain vastly different, of course, are attitudes and understandings of economics and of power differentials. Contemporary socialists will insist that regulating more and more of economic life at all levels will improve outcomes, though from a libertarian perspective, all that does is create the sort of hassle factor that drives barbers, tattoo artists, and gig-economy contractors out of business.

History having Ended, no one really argues with the reality that capitalism is uniquely suited to the creation of wealth. There's not even much denial any more that the rising tide lifts all boats. It is well, if not universally, recognized that the near global adoption of free markets and free trade has radically reduced extreme poverty and raised the living standards of the "poor" in developed nations to levels that barely warrant the name.

Instead, what we now have are political discussions about how to redistribute that wealth once it has been created by capitalism.  These discussions are increasingly being driven by the way in which the technological/information revolution threatens to displace not just the labor of the least among but of most of us.  When you lack work it is because you are lazy; when I lack work it is a societal crisis.  What we are going to determine over the next few decades is how we choose to replace the job as the means of redistributing wealth.  This is, indeed, a political (or power) question, not so much an economic one. 

Mr. Gillespie notes, though doesn't pursue, a couple ideas that are implicated here and that unite even libertarians and socialists, if reluctantly: we desire a system where individuals are able to flourish, but the potential inequality that would be imposed by a purely capitalist economic system, in the absence of any political power to temper it, would be the sort of inequality that would make freedom an illusion and widespread human flourishing impossible. 

Traditionally, the Left has only really been concerned about the economic threat to freedom; the Right only about the political threat.  The great middle, on the other hand, has arrived at the realization that there is rather little difference between being "rich" in the gulag and being poor in the republic.  We want that system which is best optimized to preserve our political freedoms and relieve material want.  Thus the emergence of Third Way politics in the Anglosphere/Scandinavia, with the promise of using First Way means (capitalism) to deliver Second Way ends (social security) and the electoral success of leaders of both the left and the right who are effectively indistinguishable: Thatcher, Clinton, Blair, Clinton, Bush, Obama, etc.

Given that all that is left of Socialism at this late date is those vague social security ends; it is little wonder that the term fails to repel.  Socialism has long since stopped referring to government ownership of the means of production.  Today it means extending our most popular government programs--Social Security, Medicare, etc.--to more of the population.  Hard as Republicans try, you simply can't make that scary to voters.

Posted by orrinj at 5:39 PM


An Offensive Plan for the Balkans That the U.S. Should Get Behind (Charles A. Kupchan, Sept. 13, 2018, NY Times)

The Balkans remains in strategic limbo. Kosovo declared independence from Serbia 10 years ago, but Serbia has yet to come to terms with its loss -- refusing to recognize Kosovo and stirring trouble between the country's ethnic Serbs and the ethnic Albanian majority. Almost two decades after the NATO bombing campaign to drive Yugoslav forces from Kosovo, some 4,000 NATO troops remain there to keep the peace.

A breakthrough may now be in the making. It is a morally offensive one, but nonetheless the United States and the European Union should get behind it.

President Aleksandar Vucic of Serbia and President Hashim Thaci of Kosovo are apparently working on a proposal to engage in a land swap that could bring the simmering conflict to an end. Northern Kosovo, which is populated mainly by ethnic Serbs and borders Serbia, would be transferred to Serbia. In return, a to-be-determined chunk of Serbia's Presevo Valley, which is heavily populated by ethnic Albanians and borders Kosovo, would become part of Kosovo.

Borders are useful fictions.
Posted by orrinj at 5:34 PM


How 'Hyphenated Americans' Won World War I (Geoffrey Wawro, Sept. 12, 2018, NY Times)

Thanks to a wave of immigration, the United States had changed significantly at the turn of the 20th century, going from a nation whose white population was 60 percent British and 35 percent German at the start of the Civil War into a turbulent "melting pot" in time for the Great War: 11 percent British, 20 percent German, 30 percent Italian and Hispanic and 34 percent Slavic.

During the offensive, the Germans tried to use the army's multiethnic background as propaganda. The doughboys, as the American troops were known, were "half-Americans," the Germans sneered.

Many Americans were as contemptuous of the "melting pot" as the Germans. Senator Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts, for example, tried in 1896 to extend the class of "excluded immigrants" from "paupers, convicts and diseased persons" to include all "Italians, Russians, Poles, Hungarians, Greeks and Asiatics" who arrived on our shores and failed a literacy test. Ideally, Lodge wanted citizenship confined to the "original race stocks of the 13 colonies." The others, he averred, were chiefly "slum dwellers, criminals and juvenile delinquents."

With one in three Americans in 1918 either born abroad or of foreign-born parents, resentment of immigrants became as American as apple pie. Terms like yid, mick, dago, greaser, bohunk, polack, and uke were tossed around as casually as baseballs well into the late 20th century. As great an American as Teddy Roosevelt popularized suspicion of "hyphenated Americans" so well that even his political opposite, Woodrow Wilson, took to saying that "any man who carries a hyphen about with him carries a dagger that he is ready to plunge into the vitals of the Republic."

It took the press baron William Randolph Hearst to make the paradoxical argument that these hyphen-wielding "foreigners" belonged in the Army. Let them serve, Hearst thundered from his three dozen newspapers and magazines after Wilson's declaration of war. If we send "All-American" boys to the Western Front, these "foreign slackers on American soil" -- these "birds of passage" -- will take American jobs and toil in profitable safety while "real Americans" die in France. Others saw service as a tool of assimilation: "The military tent," Roosevelt said, "will rank next to the public school among the great agents of democratization."

And so nearly a quarter of draftees in 1918 were foreigners, often recent arrivals. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:21 PM


Two Republican Congressmen Spotted With A Holocaust Denier -- Again (Aiden Pink, 9/13/18, The Forward)

Two Republican members of Congress who have previously been condemned for associating with a Holocaust denier were present with him again at one of their fundraisers in July, Mother Jones magazine reported Thursday.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California attended a fundraiser on a yacht in his home district for GOP colleague Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida on July 20. Also there was "alt-right" activist and internet troll Charles C. Johnson, who wrote on Reddit last year that he did not believe that the Auschwitz gas chambers were real or that six million Jews died. Johnson says he is not a Holocaust denier and that his statement was made as part of a free speech exercise. But he also helped raise funds for the legal defense of neo-Nazi Andrew Anglin. He has also been permanently banned from Twitter for violating its rules against harassment.

Posted by orrinj at 5:13 PM


How Funny Does Comedy Need to Be? (Jesse David Fox, 9/04/18, Vox)

Why so serious? to quote a famous clown, is a question being asked about comedy more and more frequently by its consumers and by comedians themselves. To the point where some are questioning if it can even be called "comedy." "Nanette is more a TED Talk than a stand-up special" was a common refrain this summer. "Is Drew Michael even a stand-up special?" was a question I was asked about the audience-free HBO hour. To take it to scripted TV, I'm frequently reminded of a joke from Difficult People: "When did comedies become 30-minute dramas?" Comedians and comedy writers are increasingly pushing the bounds of what it means for something to be a comedy in the most basic sense, rewiring the relationship between comedies and jokes. So what is comedy without jokes? It's post-comedy.

Sure, it sounds pretentious; it's a pretentious shift, especially for a form that has always seemed allergic to pretension. But it seems the best way to describe comedy is that it's looking more like the frowning mask than the smiling one. I was confused to see some writers refer to Nanette, Hannah Gadsby's much discussed stand-up special that deconstructed how stand-up works and passionately made a case for the shortcomings of comedy as a medium for expressing pain, as "anti-comedy." Though it takes an antagonistic view of comedy, anti-comedy is already a thing (simply: it's a joke that's funny because it's not unfunny), and it is not what Hannah Gadsby did. My colleague Matt Zoller Seitz's term for serious comedies -- the "comedy in theory" -- is closer, but it's become increasingly clear that they are comedies in practice, formally redefining what comedy is itself.

Like post-rock, post-comedy uses the elements of comedy (be it stand-up, sitcom, or film) but without the goal of creating the traditional comedic result -- laughter -- instead focusing on tone, emotional impact, storytelling, and formal experimentation. The goal of being "funny" is optional for some or for the entirety of the piece. This is not the same as comedians making dramas or becoming serious actors, like we've seen in past generations. These pieces are comedies structurally.

Political correctness ultimately deprives the left of the option to be funny.

Posted by orrinj at 5:09 PM


Was Jared Kushner behind the anonymous New York Times op-ed? Ann Coulter thinks so (William Cummings, 9/13/18, USA TODAY)

 Controversial right-wing firebrand Ann Coulter thinks she knows who was behind the anonymous op-ed from a purported senior White House official that landed in The New York Times last week: Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump's trusted son-in-law. 

Why would Ivanka Trump's husband and the father of presidential grandkids do such a thing? 

"Because he and Ivanka are going to have to go back to the Upper East Side and go to the Hamptons," Coulter told the Daily Beast in an interview published Thursday. "They're probably worried that Trump will be removed within the next few years."

She noted the timing of the op-ed, which ran after the couple went to the funeral for Sen. John McCain. It also was "right after Labor Day, so they were probably feeling wistful for the Hamptons. And the only way they can get back in is if they can say, 'Don't worry, we're the ones who stopped the wall.' "

Posted by orrinj at 4:38 AM


Posted by orrinj at 4:36 AM


What Trump hath wrought: Thanks to Trump, the Republicans are facing a grim electoral landscape (Rick Wilson, 12 September 2018, Spectator USA)

Everywhere American Republicans turn, they see progressives and liberals more energised than in any election cycle in recent memory and for one reason: Trump. Like so much of what Trump does, the effect he promised to have on American politics is the opposite of what he has delivered. His followers expected that a wave of robust nationalist populism would sweep like-minded Trumpstyle candidates into office on the crest of waves of popular legislation, executive action and a new, permanent political realignment. They believed that Washington's infamous swamp would be drained, and that a new era had arrived.

Instead, despite an apparently thriving economy, the country is moving left, ideologically, electorally, emotionally. Washington's corruption and dysfunction are more obvious than at any time since the Teapot Dome scandal of 1921. The Republican cry that Democrats are socialists is increasingly met largely with a shrug from the broader public.

Bereft of successes outside of a tax bill that benefits multi-billion dollar American corporations, a handful of judicial appointments and a few executive orders, Republicans are reeling. The Grand Old Party is now a mere extension of Donald Trump, a personal political fiefdom with no ideological lodestar other than obsequious fealty to the President. Republicans bear the political (and moral) burdens of every one of Trump's detriments, mistakes, errors and daily displays of instability.

When your party fails to resist Donald's objectively racist policies you don't get to complain that voters perceive the Party as racist too.

Posted by orrinj at 4:31 AM


Posted by orrinj at 4:26 AM


How About Medicare Advantage for All? (Froma Harrop, September 13, 2018, Creators)

The ACA was a triumph in that it cut the number of uninsured Americans by 20 million. And it hardened the idea that no American, regardless of income or pre-existing conditions, should suffer or die for lack of health coverage.

Does the ACA have flaws? It does. But it serves as an important rung in the ladder toward less chaotic and universal health coverage.

"Medicare for all" is a fairly vague term that could mean many things. Some see it leading to a Canadian-style single-payer system. Canada's model has its virtues -- simplicity being the chief one -- but it doesn't rank so high in international comparisons as others combining government and private coverage.

How about Medicare Advantage for all? Medicare Advantage refers to the managed-care plans run by private insurers. Medicare pays them a monthly fee per enrollee to cover hospital care, visits to the doctor and other services guaranteed under the original Medicare. Many offer extras, such as eyeglasses and hearing aids. Sometimes they offer drug coverage and even gym memberships.

About a third of Medicare beneficiaries now choose them over the traditional fee-for-service program. Studies show that the enrollees are generally happy with their plans and the care is high-quality.

...we're just determining the form it will take.  The GOP is still fighting a war it already lost.

Posted by orrinj at 4:24 AM


Alan Dershowitz's Deep Ties To Trump's Biggest Donors (Eli Clifton, 9/12/18, Lobelog.

Over the course of the Trump administration, former Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz has emerged as one of the president's most vocal defenders on cable news networks, op-ed pages, and in his bluntly titled book, The Case Against Impeaching Trump. Much of what purportedly makes Dershowitz compelling as a Trump defender is his past history as a supporter of Hillary Clinton (he contributed $5,400 to her presidential campaign in 2016 and $2,700 to her joint fundraising committee in 2015).

But Dershowitz's ties to Trump's inner orbit were already in place at the time of his contributions to Hillary Clinton. These ties include conducting paid legal work for Trump's biggest donor, Sheldon Adelson (who alongside his wife spent $35 million to help elect Trump) and sitting on the board of the Gatestone Institute, an anti-Muslim and anti-refugee think tank then chaired by Trump's now-National Security Adviser John Bolton and partially funded by Trump megadonors Robert and Rebekah Mercer.

Posted by orrinj at 4:21 AM


A Series Of Suspicious Money Transfers Followed The Trump Tower Meeting: Investigators are focused on two bursts of banking activity -- one shortly after the June 2016 meeting, the other immediately after the presidential election. (Anthony Cormier, Jason Leopold, September 12, 2018, Buzzfeed News)

[S]ecret documents reviewed by BuzzFeed News reveal a previously undisclosed aspect of the meeting: a complex web of financial transactions among some of the planners and participants who moved money from Russia and Switzerland to the British Virgin Islands, Bangkok, and a small office park in New Jersey.

The documents show Aras Agalarov, a billionaire real estate developer close to both Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump, at the center of this vast network and how he used accounts overseas to filter money to himself, his son, and at least two people who attended the Trump Tower meeting. The records also offer new insight into the murky financial world inhabited by many of Trump's associates, who use shell companies and secret bank accounts to quickly and quietly move money across the globe.

Now, four federal law enforcement officials told BuzzFeed News, investigators are focused on two bursts of transactions that bank examiners deemed suspicious: one a short time after the meeting and another immediately after the November 2016 presidential election.

Posted by orrinj at 4:16 AM


Report finds N.H. has one of the lowest obesity rates in the U.S. (AMANDA, 9/13/18, UV Index)

The Concord Monitor reported that the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation jointly issued the 15th annual "State of Obesity" report, which looks at the health problems plaguing overweight Americans.

In particular, it noted that from 2012 to 2017, "31 states had statistically significant increases in their obesity rate and no state had a statistically significant decrease in its obesity rate."

New Hampshire came out just ahead of neighboring Vermont, ranking 38th and 40th, respectively.

Posted by orrinj at 4:09 AM



"We show for the first time the full 3D field operating window in a tokamak to suppress ELMs without stirring up core instabilities or excessively degrading confinement," Park said. "For a long time we thought it would be too computationally difficult to identify all beneficial symmetry-breaking fields, but our work now demonstrates a simple procedure to identify the set of all such configurations."

This breakthrough means scientists will be able to better predict the distortions for a far larger tokamak--the ITER, the world's largest fusion experiment that will take place inside the most complex machine ever built. Being able to control the plasma inside the ITER Tokamak will be essential if fusion energy is to be produced from it. At the moment, scientists believe the ITER Tokamak will start producing plasma in December 2025.

In an interview with Newsweek last year, John Wright, from MIT's Plasma Science and Fusion Center, said we can expect to see fusion becoming a reality in the coming decades: "With luck, and societal will, we will see the first electricity generating fusion power plants before another 30 years pass. As the plasma physicist [Lev] Artsimovich said: 'Fusion will be ready when society needs it.'"

Posted by orrinj at 4:08 AM


Democratic turnout crushes 1992 midterm primary record (John DiStaso , 9/12/18, WMUR)

While the official turnout figures won't be issued by the secretary of state's office for several days, a look at the unofficial numbers from The Associated Press showed that about 120,000 ballots were cast in the only statewide primary, the Democratic governor's race.

Secretary of State Bill Gardner predicted about 90,000 ballots would be cast, and while the veteran election official usually has his finger on the level of interest of Granite State voters, he underestimated the Democratic interest this time. The previous record for Democratic midterm state primary turnout was 69,965 in 2002. [...]

Young voters turned out in big numbers, prompted in part by a strong get-out-the-vote effort on college campuses by billionaire activist Tom Steyer's NextGen America.

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 AM


Republican Rep. Steve King Retweets A Known White Supremacist On Twitter... Again (Christopher Mathias, 9/13/18, Huffington Post)

For the second time in three months, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) has promoted the views of a prominent white nationalist on Twitter. 

In a tweet posted early Wednesday afternoon, King quote-tweeted Lana Lokteff, a host for the white nationalist media outfit Red Ice, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated a hate group. 

Posted by orrinj at 3:58 AM


We're Living in What May Be the Most Boring Bull Market Ever: In an age of index funds and private companies, even a boom can feel blah. (Chris Nagi, September 13, 2018, Businessweek)

Cheered by what's become by some measures the longest bull market on record, U.S. investors have plowed money into U.S. stock exchange-traded funds at a rate of almost $12 billion a month since the start of 2017, five times as much as seven years ago. There are signs of stress--like the recent sell-off in Asia--but so far they appear in U.S. investors' peripheral vision. Anyone buying stock in an American company right now must be comfortable paying two or three times annual sales per share, a level of shareholder generosity that hasn't been seen since the dying throes of the dot-com bubble. [...]

[T]his isn't like the boom of the late 1990s. Rarely do companies have initial public offerings where their stocks double on the first day of trading. The tip-dispensing cabbies of the bubble era are driving Ubers now, and any money they have to invest is going into ETFs, not individual stocks.

That's what it's like now: a market with fewer human voices, where the hum of computers is the background music to math projects with names like smart beta and risk parity. It's a land ruled by giants. Three, to be exact--Vanguard, State Street, and BlackRock, which manage 80 percent of the $2.8 trillion invested in U.S. stock ETFs. IPOs, once the life of the market party, have turned into inconveniences in a world dominated by passive funds, occasions for reordering delicately balanced indexes.

The entire boom feels the same for people, because it has been steady and sustained--since TARP saved it--rather than spectacular.