October 19, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 7:18 PM


Trump appointee tapped days ago to run Interior Department's watchdog office resigns amid controversy (Lisa Rein, Josh Dawsey and Juliet Eilperin October 19, 2018, Washington Post)

A top Trump administration political appointee who just two days ago was on track to lead the Interior Department's inspector general's office resigned Friday from the federal government, according to an administration official.

Suzanne Israel Tufts was scheduled to be interviewed Friday morning for another inspector general position elsewhere in the government, according to a person with knowledge of the interview. But she did not show up for the appointment.

Her departure ends a madcap week, as the administration quickly scuttled an arrangement to make Tufts acting Interior watchdog amid media reports and scrutiny from Capitol Hill lawmakers. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:02 PM


Poll shows Utah voters are behind Prop 3, expanding Medicaid, which state lawmakers oppose  (Benjamin Wood, 10/19/18, Salt Lake Tribune)

Support has grown for a ballot initiative seeking to fully expand Medicaid and provide health care to roughly 150,000 low-income Utahns, according to a new Salt Lake Tribune-Hinckley Institute of Politics poll.

The poll shows 59 percent of Utah voters favor Proposition 3, up from 54 percent in a similar survey conducted in June. The share of voters opposing the initiative fell slightly from 35 percent to 33 percent between the two polls.

Obamacare is finally working (and Republicans still want to kill it) (Rick Newman, October 19, 2018, Yahoo News)

President Trump might not mind if people starting calling Obamacare Trumpcare, because the controversial health program signed into law in 2010 is finally stabilizing.

After several years of sharp rate hikes, insurance premiums for people participating in Affordable Care Act exchanges are actually due to fall in 2019. The Trump administration says the average premium for a typical plan will drop by 1.5% next year. That's based on rates insurance companies must file with the states in which they operate. About 9 million Americans buy insurance on an ACA exchange.

"There's been a lot of tumult under the ACA up till now," says Larry Levitt, a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation. "But there's no question it's viable, in the face of significant headwinds. The ACA is embedded in the health care system."

Posted by orrinj at 4:22 AM


How Republicans could (barely) hang on to the House: Unlikely? Definitely. Impossible? No. (RACHAEL BADE, 10/18/2018, Politico)

Just about every poll predicts it won't happen: Suburban voters are too fed up with Donald Trump, and Democrats too awash in cash, for Nancy Pelosi's party not to seize the House on Nov. 6.

And yet House Republicans -- and privately, even a few Democrats -- say the GOP could still hang on, if only by a few seats. [...]

Nevertheless, it's indisputable Republicans are in a serious jam: Democrats have infinitely more paths to win the chamber than Republicans do of holding it. Even Republicans admit that Democrats have already closed out about 15 races, well over halfway to the 23 seats they need to win the majority. Democrats are competing in more than 75 districts currently represented by Republicans, giving them ample room to secure the final dozen seats needed to take the majority.

At the same time, Republicans say there's no question that their lot has improved in the past few weeks. Their internal polls show the president's approval ratings have increased by an average of 5 points in a handful of swing districts, giving Republicans who were underwater a fighting chance.

GOP fortunes have improved in a grab bag of districts, from Trump strongholds where the Kavanaugh battle has energized conservatives, to racially diverse districts where incumbents with strong connections to voters appear to be staving off challengers. [...]

Of course, everything would have to break their way for Republicans to eke out a victory. For one, several party officials said it's critical that President Donald Trump not antagonize more suburban women in the run-up to the election with comments like the "horseface" insult he hurled at Stormy Daniels this week.

They also said they need to prolong the momentum of the Kavanaugh confirmation for a few more weeks -- or, better, build upon it.

Except that the seat doesn't hang in the balance.

Posted by orrinj at 4:17 AM


Justice Dept. Rank-and-File Tell of Discontent Over Sessions's Approach (Katie Benner, Oct. 19, 2018, NY Times)

During his 20 months in office, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has swept in perhaps the most dramatic political shift in memory at the Justice Department, from the civil rights-centered agenda of the Obama era to one that favors his hard-line conservative views on immigration, civil rights and social issues.

Now, discontent and infighting have taken hold at the Justice Department, in part because Mr. Sessions was so determined to carry out that transformation that he ignored dissent, at times putting the Trump administration on track to lose in court and prompting high-level departures, according to interviews over several months with two dozen current and former career department lawyers who worked under Mr. Sessions. Most asked not to be named for fear of retribution.

President Trump has exacerbated the dynamic, they said, by repeatedly attacking Mr. Sessions and the Justice Department in baldly political and personal terms. And he has castigated rank-and-file employees, which career lawyers said further chilled dissent and debate within the department.

The people interviewed -- many yearslong department veterans, and a third of whom worked under both the Bush and Obama administrations -- said that their concerns extended beyond any political differences they might have had with Mr. Sessions, who is widely expected to leave his post after November's midterm elections.

"Since I've been a lawyer, going back to the late 1970s, I can't recall a time when morale has been as low as I have heard from some former colleagues," said Robert Litt, a former Justice Department official during the Clinton administration. [...]

The president has also frequently targeted Rod J. Rosenstein, who as deputy attorney general oversees the day-to-day operations at the department as well as the special counsel investigation. In a turnabout this month, Mr. Trump declared his relationship with Mr. Rosenstein good, to the relief of some federal prosecutors. To them, Mr. Rosenstein's office symbolizes the department's independence because he oversees its inquiries into the president and his inner circle.

More unnerving, employees said, was the president's threat to remove the security clearance of Bruce Ohr, a civil servant who worked to combat Russian mobs and oligarchs. The message, said one lawyer in the criminal division: Doing your job can make you vulnerable to a career-ending attack.

Two former attorneys said that they stepped away from Russia-related work as a result.

"The underlying message from Trump is that department employees are either enemies of the White House or vassals doing its bidding," said Norman L. Eisen, who served as special counsel for ethics and government reform under Mr. Obama. Mr. Eisen is co-counsel for the plaintiffs in a lawsuit accusing Mr. Trump of violating the Constitution by maintaining a stake in his hotel in Washington.

As a target of Mr. Trump's high-profile rebukes, Mr. Sessions has gained cautious support even from some rank-and-file lawyers who find his culture wars zeal distasteful. They cited instances where he pushed back on Mr. Trump's broadsides and his simply enduring months of presidential invective.

Posted by orrinj at 4:02 AM


A President Who Believes He Is Entitled to His Own Facts (Maggie Haberman, Oct. 18, 2018, NY Times)

He accepts less-than-credible denials from autocratic heads of state about nefarious acts. He disputes the existence of man-made climate change and insists that photographic evidence of the crowd at his inauguration is fake, part of a media plot to harm him.

Over the course of 21 months, President Trump has loudly and repeatedly refused to accept a number of seemingly agreed-upon facts, while insisting on the veracity of a variety of demonstrably false claims that happen to suit his political needs. In the process, he has untethered the White House from the burden of objective proof, creating a rich trove for professional fact-checkers, and raising questions about the basis for many of his decisions.

"If there's no truth, how do we discuss and make decisions that are rooted in fact?" said Rob Stutzman, a Republican operative based in California. "It's been abandoned. And it's something that the Republican base certainly isn't going to revolt on him on. But it is a huge fundamental problem of how to govern when there are no facts." [...]

Mr. Trump's approach has profound consequences for the credibility of the presidency and the boundaries of acceptable political discourse. It also has serious ramifications for his advisers, as well as people who hear the president's words outside the United States. And, according to Mr. Hayden, it particularly affects the intelligence officials whose job it is to present Mr. Trump with the information he needs to make critical national security decisions.

"Intelligence is all about context, which is history and consequence," said Mr. Hayden, and intelligence officials are "trying to pull him into an agreed view of objective reality."

But in briefings and meetings, Mr. Trump has frequently chosen to adhere to his own beliefs on issues such as the Iran nuclear deal. He has declared that pact to be "a horrible one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made," based on his belief that Iran was not in compliance with it, despite evidence to the contrary.

For Mr. Trump, personal relationships are more important than institutional ones. That means he "gives weight to data based on who told him, not the evidentiary stack underneath it," Mr. Hayden said.

The result is that the Russian president or the North Korean leader can seem to have a greater impact with Mr. Trump than his own State Department or C.I.A. His willingness to repeat claims like the notion that Mr. Khashoggi was the victim of "rogue killers" is a function of that, Mr. Stutzman said.

"This rhetoric really matters," he said, "in that it belies how little he fundamentally understands the institutions of American democracy."

...when the facts contradict everything you feel, it's natural to hate them.

Posted by orrinj at 3:59 AM


'He's my guy': Trump praises Gianforte for assault on Guardian reporter (Ed Pilkington, 19 Oct 2018, The Guadian)

Donald Trump has praised Greg Gianforte, the Congress member from Montana, for violently attacking a Guardian reporter, saying that someone who performs a body slam is "my guy".

Trump described in glowing terms the physical assault that occurred on 24 May 2017 when Ben Jacobs, the Guardian's political correspondent, was asking Gianforte a question about health care policy in the course of a special congressional election in Bozeman, Montana. The US president incited cheers and chants from a crowd of about 8,000 supporters on Thursday night when he said: "Greg is smart. And by the way, never wrestle him. You understand. Never."

Posted by orrinj at 3:56 AM


A piercing screen: How Watership Down terrified an entire generation: As the animated classic turns 40, Ed Power speaks to director Martin Rosen and explores the film's legacy (Ed Power, 10/19/18, The Independent)

"That's part of nature - nature is very tough," explains Martin Rosen, Watership Down's director, speaking as the film marks its 40th anniversary this weekend. "Richard [Adams] was very strong on that element. I felt it was absolutely critical. I did not make this picture for kids at all. I insisted that the one-sheet [the film poster] indicate how strong a picture it was by having Bigwig the rabbit in a snare. I reckoned a mother with a sensitive child would see that - a rabbit in a snare with blood coming out its mouth - and reckon, 'well maybe this isn't for Charlie - it's a little too tough'." [...]

There was no PG rating in the UK in 1978 - so it was either U (universal) or 15. It was felt the former was more fitting. The film's suitability became an unlikely source of debate two years ago when Channel 5 aired it at 2.25pm on Easter Sunday. Families across Britain sat down to what they presumed would be a tale of cuddly derring-do in the woodland.

Instead, they and their children were assailed by an hour and a half of death and cruelty. After the Channel 5 switchboard and Twitter feed lit up with complaints, the head of the British Board of Film Classification intervened, saying that, released today, Watership Down would almost certainly carry a PG rating.

"The film has been a U for 38 years, but if it came in tomorrow it would not be," said David Austin. "Standards were different then." It's a debate likely to be reignited when the BBC and Netflix debut their new TV adaptation of the book this December (it's as yet unclear whether it will be as gruesome as the movie).

Adams, who died in 2016 aged 96, was aware his story could be considered visceral - but saw no reason why he should apologise. In an interview with The Telegraph in 2014, he said: "I never consider the readers. I was allowed to read anything I liked when I was little, and I liked all sorts of things that I shouldn't have been reading." [...]

[T]he idea that such films have the potential to distress an entire generation has been challenged by recent research. Death on the screen can provide a healthy basis for children to discuss difficult subjects, a 2017 University of Buffalo study found.

"These films can be used as conversation starters for difficult and what are oftentimes taboo topics like death and dying," said a study author. "These are important conversations to have with children, but waiting until the end of life is way too late."

With a BBC/Netflix adaptation due on Christmas Day, Adams's world of feuding rabbits is likely to have a fresh lease of relevance. It already has its modern equivalents: Coco is similarly matter-of-fact about the reality of death.

The notion that you're "protecting" kids from wrestling with themes like freedom v. security and the reality of death is a mark of adults being juvenile themselves.

October 18, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 4:39 PM


Move On: Read a transcript of Slow Burn: Season 2, Episode 8. (LEON NEYFAKH, OCT 17, 2018, Slate)

This last episode, mainly about Juanita Broaddrick, was spookily well-timed to coincide with the Kavanaugh, where the role of the two parties was simply reversed.

Similarly, at the end of the series the big takeaway seems to be one simple thought experiment:

Suppose a legal case for sexual assault against Donald Trump, like Summer Zervos's.

Now suppose that Stormy Daniels, or whatever consensual partner, was called to testify but was willing to lie in court about the relationship and that Donald and Michael Cohen wrote out a set of talking points for her to pass to other witnesses to help them lie about it as well.

Would any Democrat in America really say that this was not obstruction of justice? Could any decent Republican honestly disagree?

Mr. Neyfakh makes a significant mistake in telling his story almost exclusively through the lens of the relationship between Bill and Monica, when the point is that they both sought to deny Paula Jones justice in an American court of law.  That is the central truth of the impeachment that Clinton fans have to avoid.

Approved Articles of Impeachment (Washington Post, December 20, 1998)

Following is the text of the two articles of impeachment passed by the House on December 19. 

1. The president provided perjurious, false and misleading testimony to the grand jury regarding the Paula Jones case and his relationship with Monica Lewinsky. 

Approved by House 228-206

3. The president obstructed justice in an effort to delay, impede, cover up and conceal the existence of evidence related to the Jones case. 

Approved by House 221-212

Posted by orrinj at 4:32 PM


Saudi Arabia bans journalist for criticising Donald Trump (Samuel Osborne,  5 December 2016, The Independent)

A Saudi Arabian journalist and commentator has been banned by his country for criticising US President-elect Donald Trump.

Jamal Khashoggi has been banned from writing in newspapers, making TV appearances and attending conferences, Middle East Eye reports.

After Mr Khashoggi criticised Mr Trump's Middle East policies at a Washington think-tank on 10 November, an official Saudi spokesman said he did not represent the Kingdom in a statement to the Saudi Press Agency.

Posted by orrinj at 4:26 PM


Kelly, Bolton Get in Profane Shouting Match Outside the Oval Office (Jennifer Jacobs, October 18, 2018, Bloomberg)

President Donald Trump's chief of staff and his national security adviser engaged in a profanity-laced argument outside the Oval Office on Thursday, according to three people familiar with the episode.

The chief of staff, John Kelly, and the national security adviser, John Bolton, fought over immigration and border crossings, including the performance of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, one person familiar with the matter said.

Bolton criticized Nielsen, a former Kelly deputy whom he advocated to replace him at the department. Trump sided with Bolton, the person said, which may once again stir speculation that Kelly will soon depart the White House.

It would be pretty amazing if General Kelly got canned for not being sufficiently anti-immigrant.

Posted by orrinj at 4:17 PM


Just about everything you've read on the Warren DNA test is wrong (Glenn Kessler, October 18, 2018, Washington Post)

Warren's DNA was sequenced and analyzed by a group led by Carlos Bustamante, a well-regarded Stanford University geneticist. Researchers studied a fraction -- far less than 1/1000th -- of Warren's DNA, and then compared it to the DNA of 148 people from Finland, Italy, Spain, China, Nigeria and North and South America. Additional comparison was done with 185 individuals from Utah and Great Britain.

As one might expect, the vast majority of Warren's DNA indicated European ancestors. But five genetic segments were identified, with 99 percent confidence, as being associated with Native American ancestry. The largest segment identified was on Chromosome 10.

"While the vast majority of the individual's ancestry is European, the results strongly support the existence of an unadmixed Native American ancestor in the individual's pedigree, likely in the range of 6-10 generations ago," the report said. [...]

The most important point is this: The results in Warren's DNA test are static. The percentage of Native American DNA in her genome does not shrink as you go back generations. There could be one individual in the sixth generation -- living around the mid-1800s, which is similar to Warren family lore -- or possibly a dozen or more ancestors back to the 10th generation, which would be about 250 years ago. The results are consistent with a single ancestor, however.

...doesn't know their ancestry back that short a time?

Posted by orrinj at 4:02 PM


Who Will Speak for the Democrats? (Michael Hirsh, NOVEMBER 8, 2018, NY Review of Books)

If Democrats win the House (and the Senate, though that's still considered a long shot), the best-case scenario for the party may be that, as Republicans did after 2010, they fall back on their common hatred for the man in the White House.

The temptation to do this will be enormous: according to Gary Jacobson, a scholar at the University of California at San Diego who has tracked electoral data going back to the 1940s, a sitting president has never been as central an issue in a midterm election as Trump is in 2018. Despite an unemployment rate that is near mid-twentieth-century lows and other good economic news, public outrage at Trump's offensive policies and statements--the "Muslim ban," the separation of families seeking asylum, his ceaseless barrage of insults aimed at women, African-Americans, and other minorities--has kept him at 50 percent-plus disapproval ratings, according to most major polls. To become a party that stands for little else than ousting a hated president is an enticing but perilous path--especially if you fail.

The Republican Party establishment lost its base after Mitt Romney's defeat in 2012, and one can trace a direct line from that reckoning to the rise of the incendiary populist outsider who cost the party its soul (or, at the very least, its platform) and has since become the GOP's sole owner and proprietor. Or witness those sixteen hapless Trump rivals in the 2016 GOP primaries, several of whom (like Romney) tried and failed to square the demands of the base with the evidence of their more reasonable voting records (the exception being Ted Cruz, who came in second to Trump). It wasn't until August, after Trump was nominated, that Republicans really knew--for good or ill--who or what they were voting for.

Win or lose on November 6, Pelosi will have a pack of progressives at her back--and so will the eventual Democratic presidential nominee in 2020. For the Democrats this reckoning is ultimately about whether their leadership can finally acknowledge that since the Reagan era they've too often been a party of counter-punchers. They've sought merely to temper free-market ideology without offering an alternative vision of their own. Judging from her 2017 memoir, What Happened, and various postmortems, Hillary Clinton still doesn't seem to fully grasp--or at least admit--that the seeds of the (largely white) working-class distress that sank her campaign were planted during her husband's presidency, with its embrace of Wall Street deregulation and GOP-driven deficit-cutting that left a pittance for job retraining and adjustment programs.

Barack Obama did little better. Perhaps the greatest irony of his "Yes, we can" presidency was that income inequality actually increased during his terms. Obama's administration failed to send a single major Wall Street, real estate, or insurance executive to jail despite their complicity in the biggest securities fraud in history. Under pressure from the right, Obama too became a proud deficit cutter. And he submitted to his financial gurus, Tim Geithner and Larry Summers, when they argued that the moral hazard of bailing out millions of desperate underwater homeowners was far too risky, even as they shrugged off the moral hazard of bailing out big banks.

Just as Bill Clinton's greatest successes came once he had a Republican Congress to collaborate with, so too would a Democratic Congress help our protectionist, isolationist president.

Posted by orrinj at 3:54 PM


A Drone's-Eye View of a $3 Billion Fall Foliage Heaven: There's a lot of green in those red, yellow and orange leaves. (Sally Sorte, 10/18/18, Real Clear Life)
Money really does grow on trees.

Camera-toting tourists have been descending upon New England in droves for its iconic display of fall colors, even since the autumnal equinox in the Northeast. It's a rite of autumn.

While summer is still the frontrunner, Technicolor foliage fireworks in fall account for the second most important season for tourism in this part of the U.S. Leaf-peeping has been estimated to be a $3-plus billion industry for the six states of New England, with earnings growing each year. There's a lot of green in those red, yellow and orange leaves.

The New Hampshire Division of Travel and Tourism Development projects 3 million out-of-state visitors this fall. The hotel and restaurant industry expects these visitors to translate into $1.4 billion in sales, or a 5 percent increase in spending year over year.

While many areas of the U.S. get their own version of leaf season - swaths of golden aspens in the Colorado Rocky Mountains and vibrant trails in Tennessee's Smokey Mountains - there is something quintessential about New England fall. Maple, oak, elm, pine, ash, beech, and birch trees marble that particular landscape to the delight of locals and visitors alike.

In addition to its forests' chromatic variety, New England offers an array of classic fall activities.  You can go apple picking, take a hayride, navigate a corn maze, enjoy a cider donut, frolic in a rainbow of crunchy leaves, and rev up for Halloween.

The delicious irony is that our foliage is so uniquely spectacular in no small part because we clear cut our forests when we settled here.

Posted by orrinj at 3:51 PM


Study: Work less, live longer (CNN, Oct 15, 2018)

Four ways a shorter workweek could help improve your health:

       1.  Less stress

A study published in the Journal Psychological Medicine in 2011 found that working more than 55-hours per week was associated with symptoms of anxiety and depression among people ages 44 to 66 who were employed full-time.

Those who worked less had a lower risk of those symptoms.

       2.  Sleep more

A lack of sleep may lead to poor performance, memory and difficulty processing information. 

Getting the right amount of sleep can improve your health. 

       3.  Improve your heart health 

Working less could lower the risk of coronary heart disease among adults. 

       4.  Spend more time with loved ones

They can help combat loneliness and encourage a person to engage in leisure activities and exercise.

Posted by orrinj at 3:48 PM


Kremlin Foe Navalny Accepts Challenge To 'Duel' (Radio Liberty, October 18, 2018)

Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny has accepted a challenge to a "duel" from the head of Russia's National Guard and has proposed a venue and his weapon of choice.

In a comical-but-defiant video published on October 18, Navalny expressed his "thanks" to Rosgvardia Director Viktor Zolotov and offered to meet him in a live televised debate. [...].

Despite the sometimes-humorous nature of the video, Navalny offered strong criticism of Zolotov and Putin's administration.

He said that, with the original challenge to a duel, Zolotov had "proven" that "inadequate and insane" people are in power in Russia.

He added that Zolotov and Putin are turning Russia into "a banana republic."

Navalny showed images of luxurious properties in and around Moscow and in other Russian regions, claiming they were bought by Zolotov and members of his family for "stolen money."

Posted by orrinj at 3:37 PM


Treasury Secretary Mnuchin backs out of Saudi conference amid Khashoggi situation (KATHRYN WATSON, 10/18/18,  CBS NEWS)

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin will not attend the Future Investment Initiative summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, as questions linger about what happened to journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Mnuchin and White House press secretary Sarah Sanders announced on Twitter Thursday.

'tis well we face no challenges, because this is the weakest presidency since Geral Ford's.

Posted by orrinj at 3:35 PM


Japan eases immigration restrictions to fill chronic care worker shortage (Sally Herships, 10/18/18, PRI)

Walk through the sliding glass doors of the Shirokane no Mori nursing home in Tokyo and you'll find a cabinet with individual cubbies where visitors can leave their shoes and borrow a pair of slippers. 

It feels homey for the seniors and care workers who spend their days with them. 

"I like Japan. It's very convenient. You can go to go anywhere by train," says 29-year-old Putu Supadmi, a care worker from Indonesia, through a translator. "I don't need any motorcycle or vehicles or cars. And everything is clean and the food is tasty. So I like it."

Supadmi has a big smile and a long black ponytail. She's been taking care of people at this nursing home for four years. Japan needs more workers like her because its aging population doesn't have enough workers to care for the elderly. 

 By 2040, one in three among Japan's 111 million people is projected to be elderly, according to Japan's National Institute of Population and Social Security Research.

In the past, Japan allowed mostly highly skilled professionals in the country. Now, due to severe labor shortages, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has ordered the government to look into new policies that would attract less skilled workers to fill additional jobs.

Posted by orrinj at 1:07 PM


Analysis: Israel torn between Saudi Arabia, Turkey on Khashoggi affair (Ben Caspit, October 18, 2018, Al Monitor)

Behind the scenes, Israel continues to side with Saudi Arabia. As such, it has no choice but "overlook" the Khashoggi incident. "The fight against Iran stunts everything else," one senior Israeli minister told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity. "Israel's national security and the Iranian threat top our agenda, whereas Saudi Arabia's internal affairs are less important and less interesting [to Israel] right now."

The minister added, "If this had happened during the Obama administration, the Americans would have turned against Saudi Arabia at full speed, as seen in the president's Cairo speech [2009]."

According to the minister, Trump takes the opposite approach, which is much more suited to the circumstances of the Middle East. "It should be remembered," the minister said, "that [former President Barack] Obama was quick to throw [Egyptian President Hosni] Mubarak under the bus, as soon as the demonstrations erupted in Tahrir Square. With him, democracy came before all else. With Trump, that would never have happened. The president understands handling the Iran issue is more important now, and democracy will have to wait. After all, the ideals of President Thomas Jefferson don't really exist here, in the Middle East."

Donald, Bibi and the Sa'uds hate Iran precisely because it is democratic. And they are anti-American because of those ideals.

Posted by orrinj at 4:30 AM


Social Justice Warriors Aren't Funny: Laughter and enjoyment are out, emotional support are in, as Netflix's latest comedy special makes clear. (SCOTT BEAUCHAMP, October 16, 2018, American Conservative)

There's an older episode of The Green Room with Paul Provenza when the late Patrice O'Neal, arguably one of the best stand-up comics in recent history, gets serious for a moment, saying: "I love being able to say anything I want. I had to learn how to stop caring about people not laughing. Because the idea of comedy, really, is not everybody should be laughing. It should be about 50 people laughing and 50 people horrified. There should be people who get it and people who don't get it."

O'Neal gets right to the chaotic, trickster heart of comedy with that statement. Comedy at its best balances humor against shock-not necessarily vulgarity, mind you, but a sort of unsettling surprise. It's a topsy-turvy glimpse at an uncanny, upside-down world, which, if the joke lands, provides a bulwark against torpor and complacency. Great comedy inhabits the absurdity of the world. It makes itself into a vantage point from which everything seems delightfully ridiculous, including (often especially) the comedians themselves. We wouldn't need comedy in a world that wasn't absurd. Perhaps that's why Dante only included humor in his Inferno. There is no absurdity in paradise.

Unfortunately, Hannah Gadsby's Nanette, a comedy special recently released on Netflix, only embraces the non-laughter half of O'Neal's dictum. It's the very epitome of self-serious, brittle, didactic, SJW "comedy." It's not funny. And worse, it's not meant to be. Gadsby, a queer Australian comedian, uses her "stand-up special" as a way to destroy the very medium she pretends to be professionally engaged in. Her basic argument is that, since comedy is by its very nature self-deprecating (true), people who define themselves as members of an oppressed minority shouldn't engage in comedy because they're only participating in the violence already being done to them by society at large.

To take existence that seriously is to oppress oneself.

Posted by orrinj at 4:24 AM


Posted by orrinj at 4:13 AM

Posted by orrinj at 4:12 AM


Khashoggi Crisis Widens Trump Rift With Congress on Saudi Arabia (Toluse Olorunnipa  and Daniel Flatley, October 18, 2018, Bloomberg)

President Donald Trump is facing increased pressure from Congress over his handling of journalist Jamal Khashoggi's disappearance, exposing a widening rift between the White House and Capitol Hill over the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia.

Lawmakers from Trump's own party, including the president's ally Senator Lindsey Graham, are openly voicing their discontent and threatening to sanction the Saudi government over the objections of the president, who has sought to build a closer relationship with Riyadh.

The stark differences underscore that Saudi Arabia enjoys far greater respect in the Oval Office than in the Capitol. Many lawmakers harbor a distrust of the kingdom dating back to its connection to the Sept. 11 attacks. Its bloody involvement in Yemen's civil war and interference in Lebanese politics have cost it further U.S. support.

The Trump administration, meanwhile -- led by the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner -- has drawn ever closer to the Saudis as it fashions a strategy in the Mideast that revolves around the kingdom.

The saving grace of the past two years is that no one cares what Donald wants.

Posted by orrinj at 4:12 AM


Revealed: Russian billionaire set up US company before Trump Tower meeting (Jon Swaine and Scott Stedman, 18 Oct 2018, The Guardian)

The billionaire, Aras Agalarov, created the US company anonymously while preparing to move almost $20m into the country during the time of the presidential election campaign, according to interviews and corporate filings.

The company was set up for him in May 2016 by his Russian-born accountant, who has also managed the US finances of compatriots accused of mishandling millions of dollars. One of those clients has its own connection to the Trump Tower meeting.

In June 2016, Agalarov allegedly offered Trump's team damaging information from the Kremlin about Hillary Clinton, their Democratic opponent. The offer led Trump's eldest son to hold a meeting at their Manhattan offices that is now a focus of the inquiry into Moscow's election interference by Robert Mueller, the special counsel.

Posted by orrinj at 4:11 AM


Bourgeoisie of the World, Unite! (Oliver Wiseman, 10/16/18, Human Progress)

Homi Kharas and Kristofer Hamel, two of the researchers behind the work, done under the auspices of the World Data Lab, characterise the global middle class as having enough discretionary income to buy consumer durables like fridges and motorcycles; being able to spend money on entertainment like trips to the cinema; and being fairly confident that they can weather an economic shock without falling back into extreme poverty.

The more precise measure they use is earnings of between $11 and $110 per day on a 2011 purchasing power parity basis.

The researchers divide the world's population into four groups. They estimate that 600 million people are poor (living on under $1.90 per day); 3.2 billion people are financially vulnerable (living on between $1.90 and $11 per day); 3.6 billion people meet their definition of middle class and 200 million people are rich (living on more than $110 per day).

Explaining the significance of what they are describing, Kharas and Hamel do not mince their words: "For the first time since agriculture-based civilization began 10,000 years ago, the majority of humankind is no longer poor or vulnerable to falling into poverty."

Posted by orrinj at 4:09 AM


US is seeing 'relentless rise in household wealth,' Credit Suisse report says (Holly Ellyatt, 10/18/18, CNBC)

Household wealth in the U.S. is continuing to see an "unbroken spell of wealth gains" but China has replaced Japan in second place in the world wealth hierarchy, according to Credit Suisse's latest report on global wealth.

During the 12 months since the bank's last report to mid-2018, aggregate global wealth rose by $14 trillion to $317 trillion, representing a growth rate of approximately 4.6 percent, according to the Global Wealth Report 2018, published by Credit Suisse's Research Institute on Thursday.

This growth rate was lower than last year, but higher than the average growth rate in the post-2008 era, the report noted.

"The United States continued its unbroken spell of wealth gains since the global financial crisis, adding another $6 trillion to the stock of global wealth," Credit Suisse's annual report noted, saying that rising household wealth in the U.S. was "seemingly relentless."

Total wealth and wealth per adult in the U.S. have grown every year since 2008, even when total global wealth suffered a reversal in 2014 and 2015. The U.S. has accounted for 40 percent of all increments to world wealth since 2008, and 58 percent of the rise since 2013, Credit Suisse said.

Posted by orrinj at 4:05 AM


What the Arab world needs most is free expression (Jamal Khashoggi, October 17, 2018, Washington Post)

A note from Karen Attiah, Global Opinions editor

I received this column from Jamal Khashoggi's translator and assistant the day after Jamal was reported missing in Istanbul. The Post held off publishing it because we hoped Jamal would come back to us so that he and I could edit it together. Now I have to accept: That is not going to happen. This is the last piece of his I will edit for The Post. This column perfectly captures his commitment and passion for freedom in the Arab world. A freedom he apparently gave his life for. I will be forever grateful he chose The Post as his final journalistic home one year ago and gave us the chance to work together.

I was recently online looking at the 2018 "Freedom in the World" report published by Freedom House and came to a grave realization. There is only one country in the Arab world that has been classified as "free." That nation is Tunisia. Jordan, Morocco and Kuwait come second, with a classification of "partly free." The rest of the countries in the Arab world are classified as "not free."

As a result, Arabs living in these countries are either uninformed or misinformed. They are unable to adequately address, much less publicly discuss, matters that affect the region and their day-to-day lives. A state-run narrative dominates the public psyche, and while many do not believe it, a large majority of the population falls victim to this false narrative. Sadly, this situation is unlikely to change.

The Arab world was ripe with hope during the spring of 2011. Journalists, academics and the general population were brimming with expectations of a bright and free Arab society within their respective countries. They expected to be emancipated from the hegemony of their governments and the consistent interventions and censorship of information. These expectations were quickly shattered; these societies either fell back to the old status quo or faced even harsher conditions than before.

My dear friend, the prominent Saudi writer Saleh al-Shehi, wrote one of the most famous columns ever published in the Saudi press. He unfortunately is now serving an unwarranted five-year prison sentence for supposed comments contrary to the Saudi establishment. 

Stifling a free press is just one of the interests Donald shares with the Sa'uds.

Posted by orrinj at 4:04 AM


Jamal Khashoggi: Pompeo all smiles in meeting with Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman over journalist disappearance (Tom Barnes, 10/18/18, Independent)

When asked if Saudi authorities had disclosed whether Mr Khashoggi was alive or dead, the secretary of state claimed the matter had not come up during discussions.

"I don't want to talk about any of the facts, they didn't want to either..."

Maybe the Sa'uds dissolved Mr. Pompeo's conscience is acid too.

Posted by orrinj at 4:03 AM


Elizabeth Warren Falls for Trump's Trap--and Promotes Insidious Ideas About Race and DNA (Masha Gessen, October 16, 2018, The New Yorker)

She is also reinforcing one of the most insidious ways in which Americans talk about race: as though it were a measurable biological category, one that, in some cases, can be determined by a single drop of blood. Genetic-test evidence is circular: if everyone who claims to be X has a particular genetic marker, then everyone with the marker is likely to be X. This would be flawed reasoning in any area, but what makes it bad science is that it reinforces the belief in the existence of X--in this case, race as a biological category.

That danged Gould conundrum.

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 AM


Why Are Afghanistan's Elections Crucial?: How this week's parliamentary elections will reshape Afghanistan's political future. (Noah Coburn, October 16, 2018, The Diplomat)

One of the successes of the past 17 years has been to entrench the idea of elections as the key to political transitions in Afghanistan. This fragile step toward democratization and the idea that the government can be held accountable to the people could be undermined by a failed or deeply contested voting process. The progress in recent weeks of talks between the Taliban and U.S. representatives will be deeply compromised if a legitimate Afghan government is not seen as a part of the negotiation process.

Despite this, there are far fewer international monitors providing oversight and international troops providing security than in recent rounds of voting in 2009, 2010, and 2014 and there are signs that these elections could be even more destabilizing than earlier waves. To stem the violence, the Afghan government has announced that 54,000 security forces will be deployed to protect the polls. Even with these forces, already 2,000 polling stations have been deemed too risky to open, and at least seven parliamentary candidates have been killed.

To combat fraud, biometric devices are being sent to polling stations around the country, but Afghan politicians have raised concerns about their reliability, and there's a possibility that these devices could undermine the legitimacy of the elections if they are seen as being manipulated and corrupted. In previous elections, rumors about the fallibility of the ink used to mark the fingers of voters led to an increase in conspiracies about fraud.

Even before the voting there is evidence to suggest the process has been corrupted. For example, the number of voters registered in some provinces is higher than the actual number of people believed to be living there.

Public confidence in the government and the Independent Election Commission is already low. District elections, mandated in the constitution but never held, were dropped by the Commission over the summer, as were elections in the contested province of Ghazni. This suggests to many Afghans that the commission may not be equipped to manage either the logistics or the political pressure that will come with this vote.

Other indicators are more positive and there has been a large amount of interest and mobilization around a series of younger parliamentary candidates. Many of these candidates, who have been educated and come of age in the years since the U.S. invasion in 2001, represent a genuine alternative from the generation of Afghan leaders who earned their reputations during the war against the Soviets and the ensuing civil war that tore the country apart.

The issue is that even if young incumbents are elected to replace this older generation, there is little to suggest that the outgoing members of parliament will go quietly. In the 2014 election, supporters of both current President Ashraf Ghani and CEO Abdullah Abdullah dismissed the vote as corrupted. When the threats of violence became more serious, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry stepped in to negotiate a truce between the two sides. With 250 seats up for grabs, negotiating between various interest groups, commanders and political parties will be far more challenging.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


One step at a time: desperate families join the migrant caravan: Thousands are walking to US border, away from hunger and violence of Central America (José Alejandro García, 18 Oct 2018, The Guardian)

More than 2,000 people fleeing poverty and violence have joined the convoy of people travelling on masse through Central America, walking along the roadside with strollers and wheelchairs or hitching rides on pickup trucks and buses.

Five days after they set off from the Honduran city of San Pedro Sula, they have already crossed much of neighbouring Guatemala. And despite growing fatigue, many said they were determined to reach the United States and ask for asylum. Few seemed aware of Donald Trump's demand that regional governments stop them - or of Mexico's warning that anyone who enters the country in an "irregular manner" faces detention and deportation.

On Wednesday, Mexico's government sent two planeloads of federal forces to the border city of Tapachula, some of the equipped with riot gear. The deployment suggested that Mexico would not allow the caravan to head north together as it did with a similar group in April, infuriating Trump.

Most of the migrants said they were trying to escape the biting poverty and breathtaking violence that has turned Central America into one of the most dangerous regions in the world. Luz Abigail, 34, was traveling with her one-year-old son. "It's so hard to hear my boy say: 'Mami, I'm hungry' - and know that I only have enough money to buy him a juice box," she says.

One of the few unaccompanied children with the group was Mario David, 12, who left home in Honduras because his family is so impoverished. "The little money we have gets stolen by the gangs," he said.

Mario said he hoped to reach the US and get an education and a job. What would he study? "Anything - as long as I can make a good buck," he laughed.

Posted by orrinj at 3:59 AM


Was Nikki Haley "as good as it gets" for the UN under Trump? (Max de Haldevang, October 9, 2018, The Diplomat)

[T]oday, the feeling at the UN is that Haley was "about as good as it can get under Trump," says Richard Gowan, a senior fellow at the United Nations University.

Despite fears that seasoned diplomats from Russia and China would outplay this folksy politician, she leaves her job with an excellent reputation both in New York and Washington. "Haley actually played her political hand remarkably well and really had an unusual level of political clout for a UN ambassador in a Republican administration," Gowan says.

Her major wins include a series of sanctions on North Korea, and a partnership with UN secretary general Antonio Guterres to reform the institution. She achieved these victories in part by leveraging one thing--Donald Trump.

The job seemed a poisoned chalice, at first. At the UN, Haley would represent a president who had called the organization "just a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time." Trump was also threatening to aggressively defund the UN, and, on the campaign trail, had attacked two major multilateral achievements: the Paris Climate Accord and the Iran nuclear deal.

But Haley's number one tactic in negotiating the North Korea sanctions was to make use of the threats, essentially deploying the Nixonian "madman theory." She would constantly remind the Chinese of the "unpredictability of president Trump," she told students at the University of Houston earlier this year.

Posted by orrinj at 3:58 AM


Why China Inc is still stuck in 2015: No industrializing nation has ever avoided a financial comeuppance. Neither will China (WILLIAM PESEK OCTOBER 17, 2018, Asia Times)

Despite those Herculean efforts, Shanghai shares are now below 2015 levels. The ongoing $3 trillion rout has the Shanghai Composite Index at the lowest since November 2014. Why? The same concerns about growth and dodgy corporate governance.

Donald Trump's trade war surely isn't helping. But if Xi's government had worked harder to modernize corporate practices, recalibrate growth engines away from exports and get the government's hand out of the economy, US President Trump's tariffs wouldn't be an existential threat.

Beijing, in other words, made the Japan-like mistake of treating the symptoms of its problems, not the underlying causes. Xi is erring anew as Beijing ramps up stimulus efforts that will only exacerbate dueling bubbles in credit, debt and property.

His team also is cutting taxes as data on exports, fixed-income investment and purchasing managers' orders turn ugly. So, sure, China might make this year's 6.5% growth target, but at what cost in the long run?

The yuan's drop by that same amount - 6.4% - this year is another metric worth considering. It sheds light on why Xi's team is desperately working to keep capital in China.

Posted by orrinj at 3:57 AM


Russia's spies red-faced after multiple plots uncovered: Moscow's spooks left footprints everywhere, resulting in exposure not only by Western spy agencies, but by investigative websites and domestic media (GIOVANNI PIGNI, OCTOBER 17, 2018, Asia Times)

"More Johnny English than James Bond," was how British Security Minister Ben Wallace branded the failed assassination of Russian double agent Sergei Skripal on British soil last March, for which UK authorities blame Russia's military intelligence service the GRU, pronounced "Groo."

Given that even Russian media as partisan as Sputnik are now conceding that the two suspects fingered by London are, indeed, GRU officers, the Skripal saga is starting to make the feared spy agency look farcical.

It is a major turnaround from the early days of the investigation. Then, British authorities pointed the finger, but failed to produce evidence. As a result, London's version of events was roundly mocked by Russian ministers, spokespersons and media, which also produced a range of conspiracy theories.

Most asserted that Russia was blameless, that it was Western powers attempting to blacken Russia's reputation.

Things look different now. Much more data has recently emerged that goes far beyond the Skripal case. It reveals malignant and, at times, sloppy GRU activities taking place around the globe - activities which would appear to extend well beyond the remit of a military intelligence organization.

With incompetence by Moscow operatives being revealed not only by Western counter-intelligence, but even by investigative websites using open-source data, some of which has now been confirmed by Russia media, the derision voiced by Russian officials and pro-Kremlin media is ringing increasingly false.

It's always amusing when the Right casts him as an all-powerful super genius running rings around us.

October 17, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 6:25 PM


Trump's Tariffs Grow Government (JORDAN BRUNEAU, October 17, 2018, Morning Consult)

[T]o recap: Trump's tariffs have caused higher prices, supply shortages and foreign tariff retaliation. The government has answered these by introducing price control legislation, setting up a Soviet-style government exemption framework and Depression-era government purchasing program, respectively. And these are Republican policies -- supposedly coming from the party of free markets and limited government.

Keep in mind that this big government response to tariffs comes in addition to the pain and uncertainty they've already caused consumers, small businesses, and exporters. I've aggregated more than 200 separate stories of businesses being negatively affected by tariffs.

The kicker: Tariffs aren't even improving the trade deficit -- their stated aim. The U.S. trade deficit increased to a six-month high in August, widening by the highest amount since January 2006 when adjusted for inflation as soybean exports declined further.

Posted by orrinj at 6:01 PM


The End of Scandinavian Non-Alignment (CARL BILDT, 10/17/18, Project Syndicate)

Having debarked from ports in western Sweden, military convoys from various NATO countries are crowding Swedish streets and prompting the police to issue traffic warnings. They are on their way to Norway, where some 50,000 soldiers, airmen, and seamen will come together for NATO's largest military exercise in years. The operation - "Trident Juncture" - has a clear goal: to demonstrate the alliance's ability to defend Norway against a foreign aggressor.

There is no need to name the potential aggressor. Obviously, it is not Sweden or Finland, both of which have contributed soldiers to the exercise. During the Cold War, Finland did occasionally come under Soviet pressure as the Kremlin sought to expand its room for maneuver. But it always remained firm in its commitment to defend its Nordic and Western identity.

Similarly, Sweden has always abstained from joining NATO, owing to its longstanding geopolitical neutrality, and out of solidarity with the Finns. And while Denmark and Norway did join the alliance, they long opted out of hosting foreign forces during peacetime.

But in recent years, Northern Europe's security landscape has changed. In response to Russian aggression and revisionism, NATO has deployed battalion battle groups in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, as well as air force squadrons to police those countries' skies. And in both Sweden and Finland, defense spending is increasing, and there is an ongoing debate about whether to upgrade the privileged partnership with NATO to full membership.

Posted by orrinj at 5:40 PM


The Democrats' Incredible Shrinking Message (ALEX SHEPHARD, October 17, 2018, The New Republic)

Writing in The Atlantic in August, former Democratic Congressman Steve Israel described attending a campaign fundraiser in "a plush residence on the 64th floor of Trump World Tower," where "most in the crowd wanted to know one thing: What's the Democratic message?"

"There, in a building staffed with uniformed doormen, standing on floors so fine that we'd been asked to remove our shoes, the donors demanded to know why their party had no unifying theme. Or, more precisely, why wasn't the message the specific message that they wanted messaged?" he continued. "These questions have come up at Democratic gatherings across the country this year, from grassroots fund-raisers to posh weekend retreats."

Israel argued that "Democrats have it wrong that they need a national-message template in the first place. Past elections have shown that the most effective messaging is local and specific to each district." This year's election seems to be proving this true, or at least Democratic candidates are campaigning as if it is. By and large, they are running on a single issue. It's not impeachment or collusion or corruption or #MeToo; it's not even specific to Trump. The election, for many Democrats, is all about health care.

"The top three issues this year are health care, health care, health care," J.B. Poersch, the head of the Democratic Senate Majority PAC told CNN last week. Candidates across the country, from Cindy Axne in Iowa to Claire McCaskill in Missouri to Josh Harder in California are talking about their own struggles dealing with the high cost of medical care. West Virginia's Joe Manchin, toe lone Democratic senator to vote to confirm Kavanaugh, is leading in the polls in his state, thanks in large part to his embrace of Obamacare, which he even made an issue during the most recent Supreme Court confirmation.

Republicans are following suit, even those who voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act in 2017. Republican Martha McSally, who is running to fill Jeff Flake's Arizona Senate seat, has campaigned on protecting coverage for pre-existing conditions, despite voting for the AHCA, which would have repealed the ACA, last year. In a debate on Monday, she told voters, "We can't go back to where we were before Obamacare."

Trump's most significant legislative accomplishment, the $1.5 trillion corporate tax cut passed last December, has also factored into Democratic messaging--partly to highlight the hypocrisy of Republicans' deficit hysteria during the Obama years, but also as another way to discuss health care.

Journalists and politicians talk about "the health care repeal and the Trump tax plan as two different issues," Democratic consultant Jesse Ferguson told CNN back in May. But "the voters see them as ways Washington isn't looking out for them.... On both of them, it's basically the same: [Republicans] have been giving tax breaks to health insurance companies, to pharmaceutical companies, and those come at the expense of people who work for a living. It means higher health care costs, eventually higher taxes, more debt for your kids, and cuts to Social Security and Medicare as you get older."

After Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday that entitlement cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security are the only way to reduce the deficit, Democrats immediately sent out emails tying his statement to the tax cut.

The problem for Democratic leadership is that they need electable candidates so much they recruit ones who disagree with them.

Posted by orrinj at 5:35 PM


Chief Who Was Fired for Marriage Views Wins Major First Amendment Victory (Monica Burke, October 16, 2018, Daily Signal)

In a major victory for free speech, the city of Atlanta has awarded former Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran with $1.2 million after violating his First Amendment rights. [...]

In December 2017, a federal district court ruled that the city's treatment of Cochran had violated his constitutional right to free speech. The court affirmed that the city cannot police non-work speech, nor can it target views with which it does not agree.

The court pointed out how the city's over-broad "pre-clearance" rules, which stipulate that the government must sign off on what materials can be disseminated at work, impede free speech.

"This policy would prevent an employee from writing and selling a book on golf or badminton on his own time and, without prior approval, would subject him to firing. It is unclear to the court how such an outside employment would ever affect the city's ability to function, and the city provides no evidence to justify it," the court found. "The potential for stifled speech far outweighs any unsupported assertion of harm."

Such arbitrary standards are unconstitutional.

This ruling was an important win for free speech because it reaffirmed that the government cannot censor views it happens to disagree with.

Now, city officials have taken action to restore justice. On Monday, the city council awarded $1.2 million in damages and attorneys' fees to Cochran and his attorneys.

Posted by orrinj at 5:29 PM


As Trump slams Fed, its policymakers are tuning him out -- and moving ahead with rate hikes (Jim Puzzanghera, OCT 17, 2018, LA Times)

President Trump has been slamming the Federal Reserve for raising interest rates, but the central bank's officials appear to be tuning him out.

There was no mention of Trump or his unusual public criticism at the Fed's Sept. 25-26 monetary policy meeting, according to an official account released Wednesday with the standard three-week delay.

The meeting's minutes also indicated that Fed officials are undaunted in pushing ahead with more planned hikes in the central bank's benchmark short-term rate as the U.S. economy strengthens.

If you want lower rates you lower inflation, which means freer trade and movement of people. In thor words, you want the opposite of Donald.

Posted by orrinj at 12:57 PM


Nikki Haley at the Council for National Policy: Inside the conference rooms of power: the former US ambassador to the United Nations speaks about working with Trump (Max Blumenthal, 10/16/18, Harper's)

Less than a week before her resignation, Ambassador Haley made a pilgrimage to a decidedly immoderate, highly secretive organization of right-wing, mostly evangelical Republican operatives known as the Council for National Policy, or CNP. Her appearance before the group featured her last major speech before she announced that she would leave her official post. There was no public notice, no transcript. I was present as the only journalist inside the closed-door gathering.

Haley's appearance before the CNP was structured like a campaign fund-raiser, opening with a prepared stump-style speech that segued into an informal question-and-answer session. She riled the crowd with boastful yarns about facing down global evildoers, and revealed that she used the widespread perception of President Trump as erratic and unpredictable to frighten her Chinese counterparts. She once attempted to intimidate the Chinese ambassador with threats of a military invasion of North Korea, she said, warning that she had no idea what her boss was capable of. In a way, Haley had deployed a version of Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon's "madman theory," holding up Trump as an unstable actor who might do anything. It seemed that she herself also genuinely had no idea what Trump would do.

Haley had been scheduled to speak to the CNP for a half hour, but as she completed her scripted address and took a seat for an off-the-cuff Q&A with Tony Perkins, the CNP's president, she appeared in no hurry to leave. Lapping up the council's adulation, Haley stayed over her time for an extended series of candid, and at times disturbing, recollections of Trump's campaign of maximum pressure against North Korea. She began by recounting a debate with the president on his planned remarks before the UN General Assembly in September 2017. When she learned that Trump planned to denigrate the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as "Rocket Man," she said she urged him to remove the line.

"I told the president, 'This is the UN; it's a little more formal of a setting than a campaign rally,'" Haley remembered, holding back laughter. [...]

Haley told the CNP crowd that Priebus initially offered to make her secretary of state. "I thought the job should go to someone who didn't have the same learning curve," she said, conceding that she was not qualified for a top diplomatic position.

Days later, the president pitched another opportunity: US Ambassador to the UN. "I told [Trump], 'Honestly, I don't even know what the UN does,'" Haley revealed. The crowd erupted with sympathetic laughter and applause, apparently untroubled by Haley's confession of ignorance.

"I finally decided that I could take the job, but with a few conditions," she continued. "I told the president I wanted to be a cabinet secretary. And he said, 'I can do that.' I said I wanted to serve on his National Security Council. 'Done.' Then I said I'm not going to be a wallflower or a spokesperson. I want to be able to have a decision-making role and give my advice on policy. And he said, 'Done!'"

As she wrapped up her remarks, Haley beamed with pride and placed her right hand to her heart. "I have been able to lead the state that raised me and been able to serve the country I love so much," she declared. "I have been such a lucky girl."

She then basked in a standing ovation, smiling as she accepted her anointing by the cabal of well-funded activists that effectively represented the vast right wing. [...]

A diplomat who was present for several meetings with members of Trump's foreign policy team over UN-related matters told me that Haley formed a personal vendetta when the General Assembly voted to condemn Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital. " The US will be taking names," Haley rumbled before the December vote, vowing to punish nations that defied her boss. She then moved in to strangle the UNRWA, pushing for heavy cuts in US funding to the agency. In doing so, she appeared to be courting support from one of the most influential donors to the Republican Party. Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire confidant of Netanyahu who contributed $5 million to Trump's inauguration, had been the largest donor to the 527 political organizations that Haley formed while serving as South Carolina's governor, with $250,000 in 2016. Her legacy of pro-Israel rabble rousing at the United Nations virtually guaranteed that Adelson's beneficence would continue and will likely expand if she embarks on a presidential run.

Haley's choice of aides at the United Nations offered another indication that she saw the high-profile diplomatic post as a springboard to the White House. Her top advisor at the United Nations was not a foreign policy expert but a veteran Republican consultant from her home state named Jon Lerner. A former adviser to Republican Senator Marco Rubio, a neoconservative darling, Lerner identified his mentor as Arthur Finkelstein, the notoriously cutthroat Republican operative who advised Netanyahu's 1996 run for Israeli prime minister and helped him cobble together his 2013 right-wing governing coalition.

Haley's lonely fight against Israel's enemies was calculated to appeal not only to the Likudnik GOP donors who saw the self-proclaimed Jewish state as their fortified home, but also to the evangelicals who viewed the country as a landing pad for the Messiah. These included Tim LaHaye, a CNP veteran who coauthored the best-selling Left Behind series: Armageddon fantasy novels that identify the UN secretary-general as the Antichrist. If the admiring treatment Haley received from the CNP was any indication, she could count on support from rapture-ready pastors across the country, along with the flock of grassroots Republicans they shepherded to the polls each election day.

Posted by orrinj at 4:22 AM


Russia Says Explosive Device Caused Crimea Blast, 10 Feared Dead (Radio Liberty, October 17, 2018)

Russian authorities say an explosive device was responsible for a blast that ripped through a college in the Crimean city of Kerch, leaving 10 people feared dead and dozens injured.

Posted by orrinj at 4:22 AM


U.S. courts abruptly tossed 9,000 deportation cases. Here's why (Reade Levinson, Kristina Cooke, 10/17/18, Reuters)

The Supreme Court case involved Wescley Fonseca Pereira, a Brazilian immigrant who overstayed his visa and was put into deportation proceedings in 2006. The initial paperwork he was sent did not state a date and time of appearance, however, and Pereira said he did not receive a subsequent notice telling him where and when to appear. When he failed to show up in court, he was ordered deported.

The Supreme Court ruled that paperwork failing to designate a time and place didn't constitute a legal notice to appear in court.

The ruling sparked a frenzy of immigration court filings. Over ten weeks this summer, a record 9,000 deportation cases, including Barrios', were terminated as immigration attorneys raced to court with challenges to the paperwork their clients had received, a Reuters analysis of data from the Executive Office for Immigration Review shows. The number represents a 160 percent increase from the same time period a year earlier and the highest number of terminations per month ever.

Posted by orrinj at 4:20 AM



Posted by orrinj at 4:19 AM


Metro Exclusive: Astros may have been cheating in Game 1 against Red Sox (Danny Picard, October 16, 2018, Metro News)

Whatever the Houston Astros were trying to do at Fenway Park during Game 1 of the ALCS on Saturday night, they got caught.

In the third inning of the first game of the series, security removed a man claiming to be an Astros employee from the media-credentialed area next to the Boston Red Sox dugout, according to multiple security sources who were on the scene at the time of the incident. The man had a small camera and was texting frequently, but did not have a media credential.

After the man was removed another Astros staffer intervened - according to sources who were on the scene - and tried to convince security that he was authorized to be in the area next to the dugout. The man was not allowed back into the credentialed area, but was allowed to remain in the ballpark. 

Security sources say they had been warned about the man, because of some suspicious activity in Houston's ALDS series against the Cleveland Indians.

Posted by orrinj at 4:18 AM


The Permian Oil Boom Is Showing Signs of Overheating (Kevin Crowley, October 16, 2018, BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK

The Permian's impact on global oil markets, the U.S. economy, and Donald Trump's agenda has already been profound. The U.S., the world's biggest consumer of crude, now imports less oil than at any time since 1968, when Richard Nixon won the presidency. That's enabled President Trump to conduct foreign policy with a freer hand than predecessors hamstrung by dependence on Middle Eastern producers. Consider his sanctions on Iran. "Today the U.S. has its own petrodollars," said Harold Hamm, the billionaire CEO of Continental Resources Inc. and a Trump confidante, on a conference call with analysts in August. "We're seeing the current administration embrace this more and more every day, realizing the importance of it."

Texas and New Mexico will account for a third of the entire world's growth in oil supply next year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The payoffs are already visible. Texas has logged 21 consecutive months of job growth tied to the oil industry. And while oil and gas accounts for only about 1.3 percent of the nation's economic output, that statistic is up a third from 2008.

The Permian, however, is also showing signs of overheating. Sand, which is used to prop open the fractures in rock that allow the oil to flow, has become a precious commodity that fetches about $60 a ton. Truck drivers command salaries of $150,000 a year. Getting a child into day care "is like you're scalping tickets to a Rolling Stones concert," says Jessica McCoy, a mother in Midland, Texas, the Permian's unofficial capital. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:15 AM


China May Have $5.8 Trillion in Hidden Debt With 'Titanic' Risks (Eric Lam, October 16, 2018, Bloomberg)

China's local governments may have accumulated 40 trillion yuan ($5.8 trillion) of off-balance sheet debt, or even more, suggesting further defaults are in store, according to S&P Global Ratings.

"The potential amount of debt is an iceberg with titanic credit risks," S&P credit analysts led by Gloria Lu wrote in a report Tuesday.

Posted by orrinj at 4:06 AM


America Is Drowning in Milk Nobody Wants (Deena Shanker  and Lydia Mulvany, October 17, 2018, Bloomberg)

The amount of milk dumped by farmers in the northeastern U.S. reached almost 145 million pounds through July, including 23.6 million pounds that month alone. Dairy cooperatives will likely be forced to heavily discount milk prices in the coming months as a result, going below the current futures price for benchmark Class III milk, which goes into making cheese, and is currently under $16 per 100 pounds--a price that has farmers treading water, said Dave Kurzawski, a Chicago-based broker at INTL FCStone.

Posted by orrinj at 4:02 AM


Feds Collect Record Individual Income Taxes in FY 2018; Still Run $779B Deficit (Terence P. Jeffrey, October 15, 2018, CNSNews.com) 

The federal government collected a record $1,683,537,000,000 in individual income taxes in fiscal 2018 (October 2017 through September 2018), according to the Monthly Treasury Statement released today.

However, the federal government also ran a deficit of $778,996,000,000 during the fiscal year, according to the statement.

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 AM


Despite Trump's "Rogue Killers" Speculation, More D.C. Power Brokers Abandon Saudi Arabia (MATTHEW ZEITLIN, OCT 15, 2018, Slate)

Saudi Arabia's extensive--and expensive--network in the D.C. power broker community and in the rest of the Western business and political world has gotten a little smaller. Two major lobbying firms, one more aligned with Democrats and the other with Republicans, dropped or planned to drop Saudi Arabia as a client, the Washington Post reported.

Washington Post told lobbyist: Quit working for Saudis or stop writing for us (THEODORIC MEYER, 10/16/2018, Washington Post)

The ultimatum came after the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, a U.S. permanent resident who was a columnist for the Post and wrote critically of the Saudi government. Khashoggi was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul earlier this month, and allegations that he was killed by Saudi authorities have strained the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia.

The lobbyist, Ed Rogers, the chairman of the BGR Group, writes for the newspaper's PostPartisan blog.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


Posted by orrinj at 3:59 AM


Towns, Gowns & Real Estate (J. BRIAN CHARLES, OCTOBER 2018, Governing)

According to a Lincoln Institute study in 2009, universities in Boston were sitting on more than $12 billion in real estate, which if taxed would have generated more than $340 million for the city. Through voluntary contributions in lieu of taxes, colleges and hospitals in Boston sent the city about $14 million that year. Tom Murphy, the former mayor of Pittsburgh, says this is the predicament cities who play host to major research universities invariably confront. "You want the universities to grow, you need the jobs they provide," Murphy says. "But as they grow, you lose property off the tax roll."

Gifted with its huge endowment, Yale has created an urban center that would not exist without its money and influence. Each summer, parents, prospective students and tourists flock to the city to lay eyes on an institution older than the country itself, and to spend money in the Yale-controlled business district. This is the New Haven that nearly all the visitors see. But it is not the only New Haven. Once a manufacturing hub where the rifle maker Winchester Repeating Arms employed more than 15,000 workers, the industrial core of the city has been hollowed out over the last 40 years. Poverty has followed and persisted. Currently, 1 in 4 New Haven residents lives at or below the poverty line. 

For many years, as the town struggled and the university grew, Yale remained an island seemingly cut off from the ills of the city. A statewide fiscal crisis in the late 1980s began to change that. New Haven was on the verge of bankruptcy in part because the state was underfunding aid meant to compensate cities for the taxes lost to large nonprofit landowners like Yale and the university's hospital. Douglas Rae, who teaches management and political science at Yale and was chief of staff to the mayor in the early 1990s, helped broker a deal where Yale would voluntarily pay New Haven a fee each year to offset the cost of public services that benefited the university. It wasn't so much a partnership; it was the university throwing the city a lifeline that would in turn help Yale. "The university," Rae says, "was willing to make modest concessions to the city, but wanted wherever possible to justify it through direct self-interest that alumni would understand." 

Yale was slowly acknowledging that its fate was tied to New Haven. The "Yale bubble" was pierced for good in 1991, when a varsity lacrosse player, Christian Prince, was murdered walking to his apartment near the campus. "The Prince murder," Rae says, "was the event that caused Yale University and the Yale Corporation to say we have to give the highest priority to the community around us."

Former Yale President Richard Levin took office in 1993, shortly before DeStefano became mayor. They each served nearly 20 years. And it was under the leadership of the two that town and gown would enter a marriage of sorts. 
Under Levin, the university began to aggressively extend its real estate footprint both commercially and in residential real estate. Yale purchased the financially challenged Chapel Street Historic District and became landlord to the businesses in that district. It began to extend its reach into the residential neighborhoods through handsome housing subsidies offered to faculty and staff. Yale offers $30,000 in cash assistance to employees who buy in the city, with an additional $5,000 for those who purchase homes in the long-blighted Dixwell neighborhood. In all, the program has invested $31 million since it was launched. "Certainly, there are pros and cons when the university and its students and faculty expand their footprint in the city," says the Lincoln Institute's Adam Langley. Yale employees buying homes are contributing to the city's tax base. But the investment has come at a cost. 

The housing cash incentive has helped fuel gentrification in places such as East Rock, a traditional Italian enclave where rising home prices and corresponding spikes in property taxes have pushed out working class white residents. The Dixwell and Dwight neighborhoods have also felt the impact of Yale's homeownership program in the form of displacement.

DeStefano and Levin's transformation of New Haven resembles events in other cities with powerful universities. The neighborhoods surrounding the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia have seen similar shifts in the housing market thanks to home-buying subsidies and major investments by Penn in the nearby University City neighborhood. Housing prices have tripled there in the last 15 years, while the black population in University City has declined by more than half. 

As Yale has reshaped -- and in many ways, revived -- its host city, it has left a gaping hole in the city budget. Thanks mostly to the university, a full 54 percent of all the property in New Haven is tax exempt. Student housing, academic buildings, research facilities and Yale's sprawling hospital complex all escape taxation. Despite these exemptions, Yale is still the fourth-largest property taxpayer in New Haven, because of the size of its retail presence. But of the $3 billion in real estate Yale owns, it pays property tax on roughly 3 percent -- the commercial space it rents out in the city. Since 2014, Yale has invested $700 million in new construction, all of it tax exempt.

...schools have such a strong interest in developing their towns that no tax break is required. Remove them from the 501c3 exemption.

October 16, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 7:17 PM


Porn star says he and woman found Hof's body (AP, 10/16/18) 

A porn star who attended Dennis Hof's birthday party says he and a woman found the pimp's body. [...]

His name will remain on the November ballot as the Republican nominee for a state Legislative seat. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:37 PM


House Russia-probe witness invokes Fifth Amendment as Trump urges firing of DOJ official connected to dossier (Karoun Demirjian, October 16, 2018, Washington Post)

Simpson, who appeared for the closed-door session Tuesday under subpoena, invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. His attorney decried the committees' proceedings as "an utter sham" that would "make Senator Joseph McCarthy proud."

"This committee has destroyed the reputations and careers of prosecutors and agents, it has gratuitously exposed personal aspects of their private lives, it has levied false accusations of criminal wrongdoing against them, and this mistreatment is no different as applied to our client," Simpson attorney Joshua Levy told reporters. "Rather than continue any further in this charade, Mr. Simpson has proudly stood today on his constitutional privileges not to testify."

One panel member, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), questioned whether Simpson had the legal right to refuse to answer Congress's questions.

"Glenn Simpson has to have a reasonable apprehension of criminal prosecution to validly invoke the Fifth," he told reporters after the brief interview. "If not, you can't just invoke the Fifth to avoid answering congressional questions."

Mr. Meadows is right as to law.  So what?

Posted by orrinj at 6:32 PM


Posted by orrinj at 6:19 PM


Obamacare Premiums Will Drop for the First Time, and by Double Digits in Some States (Mary Ellen McIntire, 10/11/18, Tribune News Service)

Health insurance premiums in the 39 states that use HealthCare.gov will fall 1.5 percent on average for the most commonly purchased plans in 2019, marking the first time that rates have dropped since the 2010 health care law was implemented.

Posted by orrinj at 5:49 PM


Evolution is at work in computers as well as life sciences (Arend Hintze, 10/16/18, The Conversation)

Artificial intelligence research has a lot to learn from nature. My work links biology with computation every day, but recently the rest of the world was reminded of the connection: The 2018 Nobel Prize in Chemistry went to Frances Arnold together with George Smith and Gregory Winter for developing major breakthroughs that are collectively called "directed evolution." One of its uses is to improve protein functions, making them better catalysts in biofuel production. Another use is entirely outside chemistry - outside even the traditional life sciences. [...]

In the Nobel laureates' work, the natural principle at work is evolution - which is also the approach I use to develop artificial intelligence. My research is based on the idea that evolution led to general intelligence in biological life forms, so that same process could also be used to develop computerized intelligent systems.

When designing AI systems that control virtual cars, for example, you might want safer cars that know how to avoid a wide range of obstacles - other cars, trees, cyclists and guardrails. My approach would be to evaluate the safety performance of several AI systems. The ones that drive most safely are allowed to reproduce - by being copied into a new generation.

Yet just as nature does not make identical copies of parents, genetic algorithms in computational evolution let mutations and recombinations create variations in the offspring. Selecting and reproducing the safest drivers in each new generation finds and propagates mutations that improve performance. Over many generations, AI systems get better through the same method nature improves upon itself - and the same way the Nobel laureates made better proteins.

Posted by orrinj at 5:45 PM


Support for Trump is fading among active-duty troops, new poll shows (Leo Shane III, 10/16/18, Military Times)

About 44 percent of troops had a favorable view of Trump's presidency, the poll showed, compared to 43 percent who disapproved.

The results from the survey, conducted over the course of September and October, suggest a gradual decline in troops' support of Trump since he was elected in fall 2016, when a similar Military Times poll showed that 46 percent of troops approved of Trump compared to 37 percent who disapproved. That nine-point margin of support now appears gone.

Posted by orrinj at 5:43 PM


U.N. allows Palestinians to act more like full member in 2019 (Michelle Nichols, 10/16/18, Reuters) 

The 193-member United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday allowed the Palestinians to act more like a full U.N. member state during meetings in 2019 when they will chair the group of 77 developing nations. [...]

In 2012, the U.N. General Assembly overwhelmingly approved the de facto recognition of the sovereign state of Palestine when it upgraded the Palestinian Authority's U.N. observer status to non-member state - like the Vatican - from entity.

The status upgrade has allowed them to participate in some General Assembly votes and join some international bodies. However, as a non-member state the Palestinians cannot speak in meetings until after member states, diplomats said.

The Egyptian-drafted resolution allows them to procedurally operate like a member state when acting on behalf of the G77 and China - making statements, submitting and co-sponsoring proposals and amendments, giving rights of reply and raising points of order.

Posted by orrinj at 5:29 PM


Why Dallas Republicans Skipped an Interfaith Forum (Jonathan Malesic, 10/16/18, Rewire.news)

Dallas Area Interfaith (DAI), a nonpartisan group that counts about two dozen churches, synagogues, and schools among its member organizations, hosted the forum at Christian Chapel Temple of Faith, a venerable African-American church in North Dallas. Ten cushioned, dusty-rose chairs were set out on the floor, beneath a high bank of choir risers. There was one chair for each major-party candidate in each of five closely-contested local elections: Texas's 32nd Congressional District (where I live), and four state legislative districts. Each of the Democratic candidates took a seat. Next to each one was an empty chair with a sheet of paper siting on it that read, "UNACCOUNTABLE."

This meant the Democrats got the chance to voice their support for DAI's positions-greater funding for public education and job training, Medicare expansion, repeal of the state law that bans sanctuary cities, and preservation of DACA-and earn loud cheers from the attendees. (Full disclosure: I belong to a DAI member church and have participated in DAI actions before.) In a city that's sharply segregated by race and class, the forum was a rare example of cohesive pluralism. What united the diverse attendees was that they all shared some religious affiliation and some commitment to using the political process to improve the lives of their neighbors and fellow congregants.

Posted by orrinj at 5:27 PM


Is GOP Rep. Peter King going to lose? (The Week, 10/16/18)

King's Democratic opponent, Liuba Grechen Shirley, raised more than King's last five opponents combined, The New York Times reported in August, and Grechen Shirley told Newsday in September that she outraised King by $25,000 in the last quarter.

Grechen Shirley now has a 26.9 percent chance of defeating King, based on FiveThirtyEight's model. For comparison, the same forecast gave President Trump a 28 percent chance of being elected in 2016.

This shift comes after the Cook Political Report moved King's seat from being "safe Republican" to "likely Republican" in September. The New York Times reported last month that Republican and Democratic strategists both felt King "might not be safe," especially after his district was redrawn in 2012 to include more registered Democrats than Republicans. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:21 PM


Iranian-Americans Demand Lindsey Graham Apologize for 'Disgusting' and Racist Insult  (Jon Queally, 10/16/18, Common Dreams)

Graham's comments were made on Fox & Friends and his "casual bigotry"--which earned him laughs with the hosts--drew immediate outrage among those who recognized them for what they were (or cared):

In a statement, Jamal Abdi, president of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), said the comments were "racist," "absolutely disgusting," and disqualifying for a sitting U.S. senator to  make. 

"This is not the first time that Graham has made bigoted remarks about Iranians," Abdi continued. "In 2015, he said 'I know Iranians are liars' based on his experience in his dad's pool hall. If you dread the notion of Iranian ancestry and believe all Iranians are liars, you are hopelessly bigoted and unfit to serve in the U.S. Senate where votes affect tens of millions of Iranians and millions more of Iranian ancestry in the diaspora."

Posted by orrinj at 7:14 AM


Americans Strongly Dislike PC Culture (Yascha Mounk, 10/10/18, The Atlantic)

According to the report, 25 percent of Americans are traditional or devoted conservatives, and their views are far outside the American mainstream. Some 8 percent of Americans are progressive activists, and their views are even less typical. By contrast, the two-thirds of Americans who don't belong to either extreme constitute an "exhausted majority." Their members "share a sense of fatigue with our polarized national conversation, a willingness to be flexible in their political viewpoints, and a lack of voice in the national conversation."

Most members of the "exhausted majority," and then some, dislike political correctness. Among the general population, a full 80 percent believe that "political correctness is a problem in our country." Even young people are uncomfortable with it, including 74 percent ages 24 to 29, and 79 percent under age 24. On this particular issue, the woke are in a clear minority across all ages.

Youth isn't a good proxy for support of political correctness--and it turns out race isn't, either.

Posted by orrinj at 4:37 AM


Revisiting the Grady Little Game, 15 Years Later: The then-Red Sox manager's slow hook in Game 7 of the ALCS seems like an artifact from an earlier era. Just how much has pitcher usage changed since 2003? (Ben Lindbergh  Oct 16, 2018, The Ringer)

Some things in 2018 aren't so different from 2003: The Red Sox are in the ALCS, Pedro remains a prominent postseason presence, and managers still make maligned decisions about how long to stick with starters in Yankees-Red Sox playoff games. But Pedro is now a TBS analyst, Boone is the manager whose decisions are being savaged, and those crucial managerial junctures in important playoff games are arriving more and more often in the third or fourth inning instead of the eighth. A baby born on October 16, 2003, would be a high-school student today, as I was when I sat--or, during the eighth inning, stood--in the upper deck in right field at the old Yankee Stadium and watched the Red Sox unravel. High school doesn't feel like it was that long ago, but the Grady game seems like an artifact from an earlier era, one in which managers' minds and pitching moves bore little resemblance to the way they work today.

With the pennant and the upper hand in a historic rivalry at stake, Martínez had cruised through the game's first six innings with only one blemish on his line, a leadoff homer by Jason Giambi in the fifth. His first jam arose in the seventh, when he got a groundout and a Posada lineout--hit much harder than the bloop double would be--to start the inning, then allowed another Giambi blast and back-to-back singles to, of all opponents, Enrique Wilson and Karim García. (Wilson, weirdly, was a well-known nemesis of Pedro's, which is why he started over Boone. The extremely light-hitting utility man boasted a 1.167 OPS against Pedro in 23 plate appearances through the 2003 regular season, but he went 2-for-12 with two singles thereafter, which made much more sense.) With two on and two out in the seventh, righty reliever Mike Timlin was ready to enter.
But Martínez fanned the free-swinging Alfonso Soriano to end the threat and preserve the 4-2 lead. On his way back to the dugout, the starter signaled to the sky, believing his day was done. He had thrown exactly 100 pitches.

David Ortiz homered in the eighth to give the Red Sox some extra insurance, and as Martínez later told Tom Verducci, Little asked him to return to the mound for the eighth. On a TBS segment last week, Pedro implied that he expected to face only one batter, the oft-injured Nick "OBP Jesus" Johnson. Johnson was a lefty, but he was 3-for-7 that season against Sox southpaw Alan Embree, which may have signified something to Little. Pedro could get anyone out--his career platoon split spanned just 29 points of OPS--and whether Little knew it or not, Johnson wasn't susceptible to lefties. (He retired with one of the largest-ever career reverse splits for a left-handed hitter.) It wasn't a terrible matchup, and it went Boston's way, as Johnson popped to shortstop on the seventh pitch he saw. Pedro had gotten his hitter.

Timlin and Embree had been up in the bullpen before the first out. Still, Little didn't budge, electing to let Martínez face the right-handed Derek Jeter, who doubled (thanks in part to a Trot Nixon misread in right) on an 0-2 fastball that was lower than neck level, where Jason Varitek wanted it.

Pedro's pitch count stood at 110, with five consecutive switch-hitters or lefties due up. It was an obvious Embree opportunity, but again Little left him in. "You get the feeling that [Embree] will be the pitcher against [Hideki] Matsui one way or the other," Tim McCarver said in the Fox broadcast booth as Bernie Williams batted. Williams lined a single to center to make it 5-3, which finally brought Little out to the mound--not to pull Pedro, but to ask him whether he had enough left to face Matsui. "A proud man, a proud baseball player, a proud pitcher, never really wants to give up his sword," Martínez said last week. "I was a wounded warrior, but I wanted to continue to fight."

Posted by orrinj at 4:33 AM


2 Cop Convictions in 2 Months: Is This a Tipping Point in Police Accountability?: Fatal police shootings rarely result in convictions. In Chicago and Texas, they just did. (CANDICE NORWOOD, OCTOBER 16, 201, Governing)

Each year, about 1,000 police shootings result in fatalities, according to criminologist Philip Stinson of Bowling Green State University. But in the 12 years between 2005 and 2017, just 82 police officers were charged with murder or manslaughter for an on-duty shooting -- and only 28 of them were convicted.

So it's especially remarkable that recent weeks have seen the convictions of officers in two different high-profile shooting cases.

Earlier this month, a jury found Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke guilty of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm in the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. In late August, a Texas jury's decision led to a 15-year prison sentence for a former police officer in the fatal shooting of 15-year-old Jordan Edwards.

Posted by orrinj at 4:26 AM


I thought jury duty was for suckers -- until I helped save an innocent man from conviction (Paula Carter, Oct. 16, 2018, USA Today)

The night before I had jury duty, I contemplated searching online for tips on how to get out of it. I knew from pop culture that this was the thing to do.

In "30 Rock," Liz Lemon dresses up like Princess Leia when called to serve so she will seem insane and be dismissed. In Milton Bradley's The Game of Life, if you land on jury duty, you lose a turn. Without any reflection, I had come to believe that jury duty was a pain and something most people tried to avoid. It was for suckers.

Then I served on a jury, and my perspective changed.

A quick search on social media for #voting reveals threads about the importance of voting, while searching #juryduty returns posts about the joys of being released from jury duty. As the midterm elections approach, voting is the civic responsibility capturing everyone's attention and admiration. But jury duty is characterized as something to be avoided at all costs. How is it that we have come to see these two ways of participating in government so differently?

The right to a trial by jury, one of the most time-honored inheritances from Magna Carta in United States law, refers to the guarantee that courts will depend on a body of citizens to render judgments in most civil and criminal cases. The origins of the jury trial precede the creation of Magna Carta. However, Chapter 39 of King John's Magna Carta includes the guarantee that no free man may suffer punishment without "the lawful judgment of his peers." By this measure the barons sought to force the king to delegate part of his judicial authority to men who were peers of the individual on trial. While Magna Carta did not institute the jury system in the modern sense, its political intent--to prevent the king's domination of the courts--inspired later generations to view the right to a trial by jury as one of the basic safeguards of freedom from arbitrary government.

Eighteenth-century Americans viewed the right to a jury trial as one of the essential liberties of a free country. They saw the jury as an independent deliberative body that could refuse to cooperate with an unjust court or law. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:22 AM


Reclaiming Conservatism from Libertarians (Paul Miller, 10/16/18, Imaginative Conservative)

Against these arguments are the fairly standard counterclaims about market failure, moral hazard, and the tragedy of the commons. Sometimes a marketplace of ideas does not result in truth if evil propaganda is shouted more loudly and frequently, especially by well-armed thugs. A free market for environmental goods is impossible because I cannot buy my own individual slice of clean air. And the efficiency of the private sector is only true when all parties have full, free, perfect information--which they never do unless the owners of information are compelled to disclose it by the government. These arguments boil down to the fairly obvious point (obvious to everyone except libertarians, that is) that sometimes working in groups and vesting power in a central authority is more efficient and productive than working in competition.

Libertarianism has the appeal of a personal organizer, or cargo pants, or a trapper keeper. It is a total organization system for all your ideas, convictions, and beliefs about society and politics. When you put libertarianism on, you have a tidy little place for every little thought and opinion. Even better, you can automatically generate an opinion on any issue by pure deduction with very little knowledge of actual facts. Take the first principle of libertarianism--personal autonomy is the highest good to which all other goods should be subordinated-and you can quickly Tweet about school choice (good), the Affordable Care Act (bad), NSA surveillance (very bad), and Miley Cyrus (who cares as long as she is a rational adult?). There is a pleasant empowerment in the comprehensiveness of libertarianism. Like every all-encompassing ideology, it gives you the ability, with very little thought or knowledge, to explain everything. As much as I hate the writing of Ralph Waldo Emerson, he was on to something when he wrote that "foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds."

And libertarianism is certainly the product of little minds. By "little minds" I mean those so enamored with their own ideas that they have shrunk inwards to the point that larger ideas and facts simply float by, unobserved and unexamined. How else to explain the regular and distressing gap between libertarian ideas and reality?

For example, one of the more frustrating aspects of libertarianism is the yawning vacuum that exists where historical awareness should be. Friedman argued that "the great advances of civilization, whether in architecture or painting, in science or literature, in industry or agriculture, have never come from centralized government" (3). This is simply embarrassing. Friedman was an educated man. He was either being maliciously deceptive or was stupefyingly blinded by his own ideology to write such a sentence. It is further embarrassing that many of his followers believe it today.

In fact, princes and kings have always been among the biggest patrons of the arts and literature. In architecture, many of the great wonders of the world, from the Hagia Sophia to the Taj Mahal to Versailles, were built by kings and emperors, not private individuals or corporations. Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel on retainer from Pope Julius II (the head of the Papal States). William Shakespeare's company was called The King's Men because his patron was, literally, the King of England. More recently, at least twelve Pulitzer prize-winning books were written by authors supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, including James McPherson's magisterial history of the civil war, Battle Cry of Freedom.

The biggest scientific endeavors of the last two centuries have been government-funded. The Manhattan Project was overseen by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Apollo Program was designed, funded, managed, and executed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration: The moon landing was the triumph of federal bureaucratic efficiency. The technological foundation of the internet was developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The Human Genome Project was funded by the National Institutes of Health. The Tevatron supercollider, which enabled scientists to conduct experiments in particle physics, was built with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy; the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland, which discovered the Higgs Boson in 2013, is funded by twenty governments. Much of the funding for Norman Borlaug's research (father of the "Green Revolution" in agriculture) came from the Mexican government. Government funding for science and exploration is not new. Congress appropriated funds to support Samuel Morse's development of the telegraph in 1843. The Lewis and Clark expedition was a U.S. Army reconnaissance operation (Meriwether Lewis, that dashing Byronic hero, was an army captain). Christopher Columbus' voyage was funded by the King of Spain. Marco Polo's travels were undertaken at the behest of the Khan of Beijing.

The free market almost certainly would not have led the way towards any of these discoveries because they required massive overhead and incalculable risks with no immediate prospects for returns. I do not deny that private enterprise and individual entrepreneurship have also produced great works of art, science, and civilization; of course they have. But Friedman's assertion that such achievements have never come from central government is nakedly, willfully false.

A lack of historical awareness is not the only illustration of the intellectual littleness of libertarianism. Libertarianism is linked, historically and philosophically, with the work of Ayn Rand, yet another reason that conservatives should give libertarianism a wide berth. Ayn Rand was a mid-twentieth century Russian-American novelist, screenwriter, and self-proclaimed philosopher. She was an ardent anti-communist--though not, as is sometimes assumed, a persecuted exile from her native Russia. She is most widely-known for The Fountainhead (1943) and Atlas Shrugged (1957), a pair of philosophical novels or, to put it another way, fables. They are thin, melodramatic, faux epics in which Rand's protagonists (Howard Roark and John Galt, respectively) parade about thundering forth Rand's philosophy in self-serious monologues.

Rand's philosophy (which she called "objectivism" but most people call Randianism, because "objectivism" is vague and nonsensical) is the moral and anthropological companion of libertarian political theory. Rand argued that the highest ethical value is selfishness, or the imperative to pursue one's own happiness and fulfillment. This ethical egoism looks down on altruism as one of basest vices. Living sacrificially for another is a betrayal of the obligation to live, first and primarily, for oneself. The flip side is equally true: We should never ask and never expect someone else to live for us. Accepting someone else's help is degrading; offering help to another is insulting. Each individual should strive to achieve what they can on their merits.

It is easy to see how Rand's political philosophy grows from this anthropology. A political system should simply allow individuals to strive and achieve and do little else. High achievers are the main drivers of civilization. Entrepreneurs, risk-takers, businessmen, inventors, and the like are the heroic, creative geniuses who make society function and thrive. The role of government is, by and large, to get out of their way. Progressive income tax rates, capital gains taxes, inheritance taxes, and environmental and safety regulations are barriers to achievement. By hurting the high achievers, such policies hurt everyone, since we all depend on the few demigods for continued progress. Meanwhile, government programs that help the poor, sick, elderly, or handicapped are degrading, and, worse, by engendering a culture of dependency, social welfare policies might actually prevent one of the poor and downtrodden from pulling himself up by his bootstraps and discovering that he, too, is one of the intellectual and creative elite.

Rand's work has become popular with conservatives. It offers a veneer of philosophical justification for policies that business groups favor for their bottom line. Representative Paul Ryan, the Republican party's vice presidential nominee in 2012, told a group in 2005 that "the reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand." (He later repudiated Rand.) Justice Clarence Thomas hosts a screening of the 1949 film version of The Fountainhead for his new clerks each year. Senator Ron Johnson is outspoken in his admiration for Rand's work.

Ayn Rand's influence in conservative circles is an embarrassment. Conservatives who routinely denounce the influence of postmodernism in American life should recognize, with only a moment's thought, that Rand is little more than a populist mouthpiece for Friedrich Nietzsche, the forerunner of conservatives' favorite philosophical bete noir. It may seem odd to compare Rand, who insisted on the objectivity of truth, with Nietzsche, who insisted on its subjectivity. The similarity lies in their egoism--and Nietzsche's subjective egoism was at least softer than Rand's objective one. Absent a traditional, religious moral framework in which to embed her belief in objective truth, it had nowhere to go but towards the individual. That is why Rand and Nietzsche, despite their different paths, ended up at the same mountain, worshiping at the altar of the übermensch.

Conservatives, who made their name championing the equal dignity of all people, should be disquieted by Rand's celebration of aristocracy. But Rand's Nietzschean admiration of superior men is not the only flag that should warn off conservatives. Rand was quite clear about her atheism and contempt for Christianity, making her an odd philosophical hero for a movement made up of many devout believers. It is bothersome that Paul Ryan, for example, a publicly devout Roman Catholic, could be so fervent in his admiration of Rand despite the obvious contradictions between the two belief systems. Nor can you simply jettison Rand's atheism and graft the rest of her thought onto a Christian worldview, as so many of her disciples claim they do. The entire premise of egoism and dislike of altruism is, shall we say, in tension with the ethic of Christianity's founder.

Some Christian Randians might claim that they are Christians in their private lives and Randians in politics while mumbling something about the separation of church and state. Such a stance plays into the state-sponsored secularism favored by the progressive left; assumes that, theologically speaking, it is unproblematic to essentially stop thinking like a Christian once you start thinking about politics; and accepts, uncritically, explicitly anti-Christian premises as your political foundation--a trifecta of questionable intellectual shortcuts.

But the most damning thing about Randianism, from a political standpoint, is that it is not conservative. The ultimate reason to reject libertarianism (and Randianism) is that it bears little resemblance to actual, historical conservatism. Some readers may be confused, thinking the two terms are synonymous because they have been used interchangeably in some circles. They are not synonymous. They are, in fact, radically divergent ideologies.

Russell Kirk's classic formulation, conservatism respects custom, tradition, and continuity with the past. The libertarian view of the role of government would be a radical break with the past. Conservatives believe strongly in the authority of precedent. Libertarians, who lack precedent for most of their favored policies, are bold to advocate untested, unproven policies. Conservatives are cautious and patient, happy to work for justice and order incrementally, by degrees. Libertarians, with their complete blueprint for the country, are pitchfork radicals ambitious to fight the system as a whole. Conservatives are comfortable with inconsistency, variety, and local solutions. Libertarians have an ideological cookie cutter they want to slap down on every policy issue in every jurisdiction. Conservatives have lower expectations of people and politics because of their understanding of human nature; libertarians betray a naiveté about nature of the world and its inhabitants when they wax utopian in their zeal to remake the world.

Libertarianism is something that healthy boys grow out of.

Posted by orrinj at 4:16 AM


An economist explains why trade deficits aren't a bad thing (William D Lastrapes, 10/16/18, The Conversation)

One of the first things budding economists learn is the principle of "comparative advantage." A country has a comparative advantage when it can produce a product or service more cheaply than others.

For example, the U.S. specializes in producing wheat because it is cheaper to do so here than in Japan, while Japan specializes in producing cars for the same reason. Specialization with trade allows consumers in both countries to buy more wheat and more cars.

Much economic research has shown that when countries trade with each other, global wealth grows, and all countries gain.

Policies that aim to reduce trade deficits hinder trade and work against the potential gains from comparative advantage.

A country like the U.S. runs an annual trade deficit with a partner country when Americans buy more goods and services from the partner than they sell to it. As a result, money flows out of the U.S. to the country, which sounds bad.

But that's not the end of the story. Those foreigners with the trade surplus - let's say in China - now have extra saving that needs to be put to work. A lack of productive investment opportunities at home means they look to other countries - like the U.S. - to profitably use their money.

In other words, money flowing out to pay for imports flows back in to help pay for productive investment in new capital. The U.S. is an appealing place for the Chinese to put their money because the U.S. is really good at producing capital goods. Put another way, it has a comparative advantage in investment.

Posted by orrinj at 4:10 AM


Could Haley beat Trump? Among some key voters, the answer could be 'yes' (BRISTOW MARCHANT, October 12, 2018, The State)

Of likely GOP primary or caucus voters in 2020, 52 percent in New Hampshire and 51 percent in Iowa said they would consider casting their vote for the outgoing U.N. ambassador over Trump. None of the nine other potential Republican challengers -- whom Applecart declined to name -- were able to garner the support of more than 50 percent of the voters surveyed.

Haley also had the lowest number of respondents saying they would not consider voting for her -- 40 percent in New Hampshire and 38 percent in Iowa.

Voters in South Carolina, another early primary state where Haley also happened to be governor for six years, were not surveyed as part of the poll.

2020 is none too soon to start fixing the damage.
Posted by orrinj at 4:07 AM


Minnesota Senate candidate Karin Housley compared Michelle Obama to a 'chimp' in 2009 (Felicia Sonmez, October 15, 2018, Washington Post)

Minnesota Republican Senate nominee Karin Housley once compared Michelle Obama to a "chimp," according to a Facebook posting, HuffPost reported Monday.

Posted by orrinj at 4:04 AM


James apologizes for 'terrible mistake' of letting swastika in Senate ad (Melissa Nann Burke, 10/15/18,  The Detroit News)

"The sad reality is nobody would be assuming that this is anything other than an unfortunate coincidence, except for the fact that Donald Trump is president, and he has given aid and comfort to the kind of people who gravitate toward this symbol of hate," said Brandon Dillon, chair of the Michigan Democratic Party.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


Scottish Power shifts to 100% wind generation after £700m Drax sale (Adam Vaughan, 16 Oct 2018, The Guardian)

Scottish Power has become the first of the UK's big six energy firms to ditch fossil fuels for electricity generation, by selling off its last remaining gas power stations to Drax for more than £700m.

Iberdrola, Scottish Power's Spanish parent company, said the move was part of its strategy to tackle climate change and would free it up to invest in renewables and power grids in the UK. The deal also marks a significant expansion and diversification for Drax, whose main business is a coal- and biomass-fired power station in North Yorkshire.

Included in the £702m sale are four gas power stations in England, two hydro schemes and a pumped storage plant in Scotland. That leaves Scottish Power producing all its power from windfarms. While it has many onshore, the firm's growth is in offshore windfarms, including East Anglia One, which should take the crown of the world's largest when it opens in 2020.

October 15, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 6:36 PM


Rivlin warns infighting is greater threat to Israel than nukes or terrorism (TOI STAFF and RAOUL WOOTLIFF, 10/15/18, tIMES OF iSRAEL)

In a speech at the opening of the Knesset's winter session Rivlin warned against becoming overly entrenched in a set of political opinions and appeared to gently push back at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's populist rhetoric, which has focused on security as the nation's largest threat.

"Victory in the battle between us means losing the war of existence," Rivlin said. "It's a greater threat than nuclear bombs or terrorism greater than the enemies who seek our destruction. The threat of internal division will always be the greatest threat of all."

Netanyahu, who spoke after Rivlin, has described terrorism and Iranian nuclear ambitions as existential threats to the state.

Posted by orrinj at 5:05 PM

KISS OF DEATH (and not enough tic-tacs):

The Saudis May Not Have Realized How Unpopular They Are Outside the White House (JOSHUA KEATING, OCT 15, 2018, Slate)

Under Trump, congressional criticism over U.S. support for the Saudi war in Yemen has been growing, and a resolution blocking a sale of precision-guided munitions to the kingdom was narrowly defeated last summer.

Saudi Arabia is not popular with the U.S. public, either. Only 31 percent of Americans had a favorable view of the kingdom, just behind China and just ahead of Russia, according to a Gallup poll from last year. So members of Congress generally feel safe expressing grave concerns about the kingdom. (Trump himself used to refer to the Saudis as "the world's biggest funders of terrorism" back when he was running for president.) Presidents, meanwhile, have generally found the U.S.-Saudi partnership too valuable to cut loose, no doubt on the advice of the Pentagon.

This dynamic is in play once again in the wake of the Khashoggi affair, but the Saudis' critics do appear to have a stronger position this time. Sen. Bob Menendez, ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, who has sided with the administration on Saudi issues in the past, is pausing a proposed sale of precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia, and Congress would likely reject any proposed arms deal with the Saudis right now. What's more, 22 senators have triggered a provision in the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act to force an investigation to determine whether sanctions should be applied on Saudi officials in response to Khashoggi's probable killing. While the strongest criticism of Saudi Arabia has typically come from liberals as well as libertarian-leaning Republicans like Sens. Rand Paul and Mike Lee, in the past week Iran hawks like Sens. Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham have spoken out too.

Critics have, fairly, asked how these leaders can be so outraged about one death when Saudi Arabia has killed thousands of people in Yemen. But the death of a journalist and well-known Washington figure has had an impact in the U.S. Capitol that a murky, faraway war, with atrocities committed on both sides, has not.

Posted by orrinj at 5:01 PM


Trump administration says it will force drug makers to disclose prices in ads (IKE SWETLITZ, OCTOBER 15, 2018, Stat)

The Trump administration wants pharmaceutical companies to include the list price of drugs in television advertisements.

The Department of Health and Human Services released a proposed regulation Monday afternoon that, if finalized, would require companies that sell drugs covered by Medicare or Medicaid to put a standard price in their ads, if the price is larger than $35 per month. [...]

The policy is sure to rankle the pharmaceutical industry. Its main trade group tried to preempt the proposal Monday morning by announcing that dozens of companies had voluntarily agreed to include in television advertisements links to websites with information about a drug's cost. Each company will determine exactly what information to include on those websites.

An excellent step.

Posted by orrinj at 4:43 PM


Trade and immigration have never been so popular in America (Democracy in America, Oct 15th 2018, The Economist)

The Pew Research Centre has polled Americans on their opinions about growing trade and business ties with other countries since 2002. The proportion suggesting such ties were very good has never been higher than in 2018, and the proportion suggesting they were either somewhat or very good, at 74%, was only surpassed in 2002. Gallup, meanwhile, has asked if trade is primarily an opportunity for economic growth or a threat to the economy since 1992. Before 2015, the proportion suggesting it was primarily an opportunity had never risen above 56%. It reached 72% in 2017 and was still at 70% percent in February 2018. 

Gallup has also asked Americans if immigration should be increased, decreased or kept at the present level since 1965. The proportion that wants to see immigration increase has never been higher, nor has the proportion calling for a decrease been lower. Over two-thirds of Americans polled in June 2018 wanted to keep immigration at its current level or increase it. Asked if immigrants mostly helped or mostly harm the economy, the majority of those who offered an opinion in 2017 thought that immigrants mostly helped. This was the first and only time that the positive view has been in the majority since the question was first asked in 1993.

America is the Resistance.

Posted by orrinj at 2:07 PM


Trump denies making the million-dollar offer to Elizabeth Warren he definitely made (JOE BERKOWITZ,  10/15/18, Co.Exist)

Now that Warren's taken this step to prove the authenticity of her claim, she was understandably curious about whether Donald Trump would in fact make good on his million-dollar offer. (She would prefer the donation go to the National Indigenous Women's Resource Center.) When a swarm of reporters asked him about it on Monday, though, the president responded in a way that would be unusual for anybody with less of a laissez-faire relationship to reality: He denied ever making the offer.

Posted by orrinj at 4:09 AM


Warren DNA analysis points to Native American heritage (AP, 10/15/18)
The analysis on the Massachusetts Democrat was done by Stanford University professor Carlos D. Bustamante, The Boston Globe reported Monday. He concluded Warren's ancestry is mostly European but says "the results strongly support the existence of an unadmixed Native American ancestor."

Bustamante, a prominent expert in the field of DNA analysis, determined Warren's pure Native American ancestor appears "in the range of six to 10 generations ago."

Posted by orrinj at 4:03 AM


GOP plays blame game while fighting to save House majority (STEVE PEOPLES, 10/15/18, AP) 

Republicans have begun to concede defeat in the evolving fight to preserve the House majority.

The party's candidates may not go quietly, but from the Arizona mountains to suburban Denver to the cornfields of Iowa, the GOP's most powerful players this midterm season are actively shifting resources away from vulnerable Republican House candidates deemed too far gone and toward those thought to have a better chance of political survival. [...]

"This is going to be a devastating election for Republicans across the ballot," said Republican strategist Terry Sullivan, who called the party's fundraising issues a symptom of the GOP's broader challenge this fall.

Posted by orrinj at 4:02 AM


Trump admits Putin 'probably' involved in Skripal poisonings 'but it's not in our country' (Tim Wyatt, 10/15/18, The Independent)

Donald Trump has dismissed Russian poisonings - such as the Salisbury novichok attacks - because they did not take place in the United States.

In an interview broadcast on Sunday evening, Mr Trump admitted that Vladimir Putin was "probably" behind such assassination attempts. 

But he said that he did not need to be any tougher on the Russian leader because "I rely on them ... it's not in our country".

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 AM


Manhattan Republicans Are Defending Their Invitation To A Violent Far Right Group (Nidhi Prakash & Tanya Chen, October 14, 2018, BuzzFeed News)

Leaders of a Manhattan political club that was once the archetype of moderate Republicanism say they stand behind the decision to invite the founder of a far-right men's group as police investigate violence by and against his group after his speech at their clubhouse Friday night.

The Metropolitan Republican Club advertised Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes's appearance as an opportunity to see McInnes reenact the samurai sword assassination of Japanese socialist leader Inejiro Asanuma. In a Facebook post, the club called the Proud Boys founder the "Godfather of the Hipster Movement [who] has taken on and exposed the Deep State Socialists and stood up for Western Values."

Following McInnis' speech, a group of about 30 men who appeared to have just left the event were caught on video attacking two or three protesters near the club, while screaming threats and slurs.

October 14, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 7:47 PM


Hillary Clinton: Bill should "absolutely not" have resigned over Lewinsky scandal (CBS News, 10/14/18)

"In retrospect, do you think Bill should've resigned in the wake of the Monica Lewinsky scandal?" correspondent Tony Dokoupil asked.

"Absolutely not," Clinton said.

"It wasn't an abuse of power?"

"No. No."

In the past year, with the rise of the #MeToo movement, a host of key political, business and entertainment figures have resigned or withdrawn from their positions in the wake of allegations of sexual harassment or assault. There has been criticism -- from New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, for one -- that President Clinton, too, should have resigned after he was impeached by the Republican-led House in December 1998

Posted by orrinj at 4:51 PM


ADHD overdiagnosis in younger students, says global study (Mereana Hond, 10/14/18, Al Jazeera)

Researchers are warning teachers and clinicians are mistaking immaturity in the classroom for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder or ADHD.

A global study shows the youngest children in a classroom are often compared with their older and more mature classmates and that is leading to overdiagnosis in the younger students.

Posted by orrinj at 4:48 PM


Why a lifelong Republican once believed in Devin Nunes, but not anymore (ANDREW SHINN, October 12, 2018, Fresno Bee)

When Donald Trump was elected president, I wondered what had happened to my party. He was filthy, the opposite of everything that I was taught to strive for. His name was on strip clubs in Atlantic City and Las Vegas. He openly bragged about taking sexual advantage of women. As a boy, I looked up in reverence to the men who stood on stage at the Promise Keepers conventions, preaching about living with integrity. They talked about being unselfish, sacrificing yourself for others, keeping promises at all costs. To see a president so out of sync with these values was jarring. Weren't we the Moral Majority? The people for whom free markets were our highest economic value and righteous leadership was our highest qualification for governance? How were we supporting someone who seemed so disconnected from our values? Someone who seemed to regard free markets as anathema instead of an ideal? Weirdly, this businessman didn't seem to understand how trade worked.

When I moved to Devin Nunes' district I was proud to be represented by him. He was a farmer, one of the salt-of-the-earth people I could trust to carry out my commonsense Republican values. His influence grew and his family stopped farming in California, but I was proud to see him listed on Time's Most Influential 40-Under-40 list of politicians to watch. He said then that the Founding Fathers were his political heroes, and I applauded. I voted for him in every election.

But Devin Nunes's behavior became bizarre and erratic after President Trump's election. His ardent support for this amoral man betrayed the values that we hold as Republicans and as Christians. He seemed to entirely discard the Constitution, with its brilliant ideas about checks and balances. He seemed to be possessed, serving a new master who neither knew about nor cared about the value of integrity or the ideas that Nunes' former heroes Madison and Jefferson enshrined in our founding documents. When he followed President Trump into attacks on the free press, I saw the once-valued fourth estate under attack. Those who aspire to integrity encourage the accountability of the press. Those with something to hide attack it. 

Posted by orrinj at 1:25 PM


Trump calls Mattis 'sort of a Democrat' and says he 'may leave' (Phil Stewart, 10/14/18, Reuters) 

U.S. President Donald Trump said he is unsure whether Defense Secretary James Mattis is planning to step down from his post, but told CBS' "60 Minutes" in a pre-taped interview that the retired general might and that he regards Mattis as "sort of a Democrat."

Posted by orrinj at 11:21 AM


Man Tried to Kill Son with Chainsaw, Instead Got Run over with Lawnmower, Deputies Say (Alberto Luperon, October 14th, 2018, LAW & Crime)

Posted by orrinj at 11:17 AM


House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy's family benefited from U.S. program for minorities based on disputed ancestry (PAUL PRINGLE  and ADAM ELMAHREK, OCT 14, 2018, LA Times)

Vortex Construction, whose principal owner is William Wages, the brother of McCarthy's wife, Judy, received a total of $7.6 million in no-bid and other prime federal contracts since 2000, The Times found.

The Bakersfield company is co-owned by McCarthy's mother-in-law and employs his father-in-law and sister-in-law, Wages said. McCarthy's wife was a partner in Vortex in the early 1990s.

Vortex faced no competitive bids for most of the contracts because the Small Business Administration accepted Wages' claim in 1998 that he is a Cherokee Indian. Under the SBA program, his company became eligible for federal contracts set aside for economically and socially disadvantaged members of minority groups, a boon to its business.

Posted by orrinj at 4:47 AM


How robots could set the developing world free: Emerging economies will be able to dispense with highly expensive bureaucracy (Peter Franklin, 05 OCTOBER 2018, UnHerd)

The developing world's use of new technology to leapfrog entire stages of development that richer countries had to go through is a well-documented phenomenon. Examples include mobile phone-based financial services in places where there are no high street banks or, indeed, high streets. Then there's the use of distributed forms of renewable energy where there are no electricity grids or big central power stations.

But that's just for starters. If progress in artificial intelligence results in significant automation of specialisms such as the law, accountancy and education, then developing countries may be able leapfrog a lot of the services infrastructure that appears to be so essential to the functioning of a western economy.

Note that this does not require complete automation. For instance, in ten or 20 years time, an AI 'law bot' probably won't be able to do everything that a London QC can do now, but it might be able to undertake more basic legal work. Such tools could combine to allow developing economies to advance without the highly expensive - and, one might argue, self-justifying - public and private sector bureaucracies that weigh us down in the West.

This would free the brightest and best in rising nations to focus on real entrepreneurship and true innovation.

October 13, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 8:31 AM


'We've never seen anything like this': GOP overwhelmed by Democratic cash (ALEX ISENSTADT, 10/12/2018, Politico)

Since the end of July, Republican candidates in the 70 most contested races have reserved $60 million in TV ads, compared to $109 million for Democratic hopefuls, according to figures compiled by media trackers and reviewed by POLITICO. The disparity is almost certain to grow, as former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg makes good on plans to spend nearly $80 million to help Democrats flip the House.

"From Democrat candidates to outside groups, we've never seen anything like this before," said Brian Walsh, president of the pro-Trump America First Action super PAC. "They are dumping in cash by the truckload."

Posted by orrinj at 8:23 AM


What's behind Erdoğan's apparent support for the liberal international order? (Kemal Kirişci and Onur BülbülTuesday, October 9, 2018, Brookings)

As many analysts have recently written, the rules-based international order is under threat. The post-World War II system needs to be reformed to better address today's global challenges; global multilateralism and overarching institutions need to be defended in the face of shifts towards bilateralism; alliances need to be re-thought in some cases and bolstered in others.

In the meantime, an unlikely self-declared savior has emerged: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. At the United Nations General Assembly last month and in a recent op-ed, he enthusiastically defended free trade, multilateralism, and the international liberal order.

But Turkey's recent record doesn't match this new rhetoric: Erdoğan has been seeking alternative alliances away from the West as part of a decade-old "axis shift," has sought "precious loneliness" (from what it deems "immoral" world actors), and has lamented the concentration of power in the U.N. Security Council ("the world is bigger than five"). Meanwhile, Turkey has been drifting away from liberal democratic norms: For the first time since it began the "Freedom in the World" report in 1999, Freedom House classified the country as "not free" in 2018.

In fact, recent conciliatory messages from Erdoğan--via the op-ed, his U.N. speech, and his attempts last month to charm Germany, in particular--reflect concern about the country's growing economic woes. Despite Erdoğan's ideological resistance to the principles of liberal order, he knows that the solutions to his country's economic troubles lie in that very order.

Posted by orrinj at 8:01 AM


Open source pharma: How to stop the rot in drug discovery (Deutsche-Welle, 10/13/18)

Tuberculosis kills more people than HIV and malaria combined

So imagine you shared those choices in an open, free and transparent way. You would get results quicker as competing labs would learn from each other's mistakes, exchange ideas and perspectives -- you'd collaborate.

It does happen. Large firms and academia do share their compound "tool boxes." But it could probably also happen more broadly.

Torreele mentions a recent discovery of two new tuberculosis drugs.

Tuberculosis, according to the WHO, kills more people than HIV and malaria combined.

So when the new drugs hit the market, it was a win for patients. Perhaps not as big a win, however, as may have been possible. The drugs were developed in isolation, but it turns out they may work better together, complimenting each other. 

"It's the TB community that's trialing those drugs together, now, not the companies, because they have no incentives," says Torreele. "If we had developed these drugs in an open way, we would have combined them during the development phase, not six years after they had got to market."

But still one of the greatest inefficiencies in drug discovery is that most drug candidates fail very late in the process, when most of the money has gone.

About 80-90 percent of candidate drugs fail in Phase 2 trials, and of the 20 percent that progress to Phase 3, a further 50 percent fail as well, says Bountra.

With those statistics, is it any wonder that publicly-traded companies are risk-averse? That's a lot of wasted cash. With more people working on a shared project, though, developers could fail fast and move on together.

Divisions of labor remain. You often hear both industry and academia say that universities are incapable of bringing drugs to market. They can do the early leg work, the mantra goes, but only the industry can turn candidates into viable products.

Oliaro, however, says no.

"I challenge the idea that only pharma can do clinical trials. That is wrong," Oliaro says. "They farm out clinical trials to contract research organizations and that adds enormously to the cost of R&D. But people in the not-for-profit sector also know how to do clinical trials, and we do it with patients in mind."

If Oliaro is right, then academia pitching in right through to the end in an open source setup would bring down costs even more.

Posted by orrinj at 7:53 AM


Poll: Americans Disapprove Of Kavanaugh -- And Want Congress To Investigate Him (Cody Fenwick, October 13, 2018, AlterNet)

Overall, 51 percent of American disapprove of his appointment to the Supreme Court, while only 41 percent approve.

An even larger majority of people support a further congressional objection of Kavanaugh -- 53 percent -- while only 43 percent oppose a probe. Women as a whole support an investigation 58 percent to 37 percent, while men are nearly evenly split on that matter, with 47 percent supporting an investigation and 49 percent opposing it.

Posted by orrinj at 4:48 AM


Everyone Wants the Supreme Court to Thwart Democratic Majorities: The Constitution protects the rights of minorities--and despite their rhetoric, both Republicans and Democrats support that. (Conor Friedersdorf, 10/08/18, The Atlantic)

But consider what each account elides. For starters, nearly all progressive Democrats favor Supreme Court rulings that stop democratic majorities from passing popularly supported laws restricting abortion, birth control, sodomy, and same-sex marriage. Insofar as they fear Kavanaugh's influence on any of those matters, their worry is precisely that he may return them to the people. He obviously won't rule that the Constitution forbids any of them.

He might rule that the Constitution forbids the use of race in college admissions. If he does, he'll be staking out a view subscribed to by a majority. "Americans continue to believe colleges should admit applicants based solely on merit (70%), rather than taking into account applicants' race and ethnicity in order to promote diversity (26%)," Gallup noted in 2016, adding that "these findings suggest Americans would disagree with the Supreme Court's recent decision in Fisher v. University of Texas, in which the court essentially ruled that colleges can continue to consider race as a factor in their admissions decisions."

Most conservatives Republicans, meanwhile, favor jurisprudence that would forbid majorities from restricting gun ownership, limiting campaign donations, or using race as a factor in university admissions.

Americans are fortunate that neither major party favors pure democracy and both seek to limit the coercive power of popular majorities.

Posted by orrinj at 4:43 AM


Planes, Trains and Automobiles - the Electric Remake (Michael Liebreich, 9/13/18, Bloomberg NEF)

Two years ago, BNEF Chief Editor Angus McCrone and I wrote a piece entitled Electric Vehicles - It's Not Just About the Car. At the time, BNEF was forecasting 406 million electric cars by 2040, and our article described the profound implications such growth would have on different sectors of the economy, from oil companies to the electricity system, from city streets to ministries of finance.  We also predicted that other parts of the transport industry would go electric, noting that "there are already 200 million electric bikes in China alone, and their use is spreading worldwide. Improved battery, motor and power control technology will challenge the dominance of small fossil-fuel engines in every light sector: motor boats, lawnmowers, snowmobiles, mopeds and motor cycles."

At the start of 2016, fewer than one million EVs had been sold in the history of the world, now there are four million, and the next million will hit the streets in just six months. The news today is full of cities and countries banning internal combustion vehicles, and of car companies launching electric models every other week. There may still be some who are convinced that battery electric vehicles will never catch on, or that the world's drivers will wait for hydrogen cars, but their numbers are dwindling.

Most mainstream energy and transport forecasters are coming around to our 2016 bullishness. At the start of 2016, the International Energy Agency were predicting just 23 million electric cars on the world's roads by 2030; by this year it had upped its figures to 127 million in 2030, and 280 million by 2040. BP has upped its forecast for 2035 from 72 million to 210 million. Even OPEC has moved - from 46 million EVs, to 253 million in 2040. See the article by our Head of Advance Transport Analysis, Colin McKerracher.

Just as the rest of the world's energy cognoscenti try to catch up, it has become clear that our 2016 predictions were in fact too conservative. In its latest annual forecast, published in May, BNEF said there would be 560 million electric cars by 2040: over one third of the fleet and over half of all new car sales (client link here).

Buses, which were under the radar in 2016, have started going electric faster than light-duty vehicles. There are nearly 400,000 electric buses on the road already, 99 percent of them in China; BNEF expects electric buses to have a lower total cost of ownership in almost all charging configurations by 2019. By 2030, it expects 84 percent of all municipal bus sales globally to be electric, and by 2040, some 80 percent of the global municipal bus fleet will be electric. Clients can see the work by Aleksandra O'Donovan, head of our electric vehicle team, here and here.

Over the past two years we have also seen the beginnings of the electrification of commercial vehicles, starting, as expected, with light vans. A few years ago DHL Deutsche Post couldn't find a manufacturer willing to sell it any short-range electric post vans, so it bought a company called StreetScooter and started to make its own; this year it opened a second StreetScooter factory to meet third party demand. UPS is doubling the number of electric vehicles in its London fleet to 170. Renault and Nissan got a bit of a head start in the market for electric delivery and trade vans, based on their electric car platform, but Volkswagen, Daimler, Ford and all other vehicle makers are rushing to catch up.

We are also starting to see that the trend will not be confined to light vehicles, as many thought. I have been saying for a few years that the real barrier for electric vehicles is not weight, but distance: if an electric car can compete with internal combustion on a total cost-of-ownership (TCoE) basis for a given route pattern, an electric bus or truck will too. And since bus and truck purchasers are driven almost entirely by TCoE, not sticker price or branding, once break-even is achieved, the switch to electric will be as fast as the supply chain and charging infrastructure will allow.

Posted by orrinj at 4:27 AM


Research: Perspective-Taking Doesn't Help You Understand What Others Want (Tal Eyal, Mary Steffel, Nicholas Epley, OCTOBER 09, 2018, Harvard Business Review)

[H]ere's the thing: Almost no research has investigated whether trying to take the perspective of another person actually increases your insight into what they truly think, feel, or want.

We recently explored this through a series of 25 experiments with a total of 2,816 people (undergrads, MBA students, Mechanical Turk workers, and other working adults) from the U.S. and Israel. We asked them to predict the thoughts, feelings, and preferences of other people, ranging from complete strangers to spouses. And we found that perspective-taking did not have the effect it's often expected to.

Our first series of experiments assessed judgments of strangers. In some studies, participants viewed photos of other people and assessed their emotions based on their eyes, facial expressions, and body postures. In others, participants watched videos of people and judged whether their expressions were fake or genuine or whether their statements were true. In each of these experiments, one group of participants was asked to engage in perspective-taking -- to "try to see things from that person's point of view, as if you were that person." Participants in the control group simply answered each question.

In contrast to the common intuition that perspective-taking increases understanding, we found that people in our perspective-taking condition were slightly less accurate in their judgments than people in the control condition. For example, in experiments in which participants viewed photos of people expressing different emotions, those encouraged to take the perspective of the people in the pictures guessed the emotions less accurately, on average, than those in the control condition. Perspective-taking did not help accuracy. If anything, it hurt it.

Of course, these were judgments of strangers. whose perspective might have been hard to assess. Perhaps perspective-taking is more helpful when you are considering someone whose perspective you know well, such as a friend or a spouse, or in a context where more is known about another's point of view.

Our next series of experiments asked people to predict the opinions and preferences of either a stranger they had just met or their romantic partner. This included predicting whether the person liked particular activities, jokes, videos, or art, or whether they were likely to agree with certain opinions. Once again, participants who were asked to engage in perspective-taking did slightly worse than those given no specific instructions.

For example, in one experiment in which romantic partners predicted how much their partner liked or disliked activities (for example, "go out to a pub or bar," "play tennis"), those encouraged to take the perspective of their partner guessed less correctly, on average, than those in the control condition. Perspective-taking may indeed work some wonders, but increasing insight into another's mind does not seem to be among them.

If perspective-taking doesn't help, what can you do to better understand others? Our research indicates that you gain understanding about someone only when you acquire new information from them. Instead of perspective-taking, you need to do some perspective-getting.

We barely know ourselves, but even that's better than we know others.

Posted by orrinj at 4:14 AM


God Bless You, Frank Miller (BRADLEY J. BIRZER, October 8, 2018, American Conservative)

Born in 1957 to Irish-American Roman Catholics, Miller grew up in Vermont, one of seven children.  From about age five, he fell head over heels in love with comics, and his parents encouraged and nurtured this passion. At times, he found his early adult careers on the edge of derailment. Finishing high school because of the advice of his parents, Miller tried his hand at janitorial work, at transporting goods in trucking, and at driving buses.  Every boss he had prior to entering the field of comics fired him.

In the late 1970s, as he lost job after job, he began to study with the then-best artist in the comic world, Neal Adams. After working at Gold Key comics and on lesser-known titles at DC, Miller moved to Marvel and soon took over the then nearly-defunct character, Daredevil. Much to the surprise of all at Marvel and in the comic world, Miller wrote what is now considered the definitive Daredevil, an anguished and blind Matt Murdock who regularly seeks the sacrament of Confession, confiding in his parish priest, as he wonders just how far he can fight in the name of vigilante justice.  With Miller as writer, Daredevil went from being relatively obscure to being one of Marvel's finest, most nuanced, and popular comics. After working on his independent cyberpunk comic and hero for DC, Ronin, Miller then moved to Batman. Miller not only revived the then-failing character but, along with Alan Moore and his The Watchman, but revitalized the entire comic industry, then on the edge of bankruptcy.

An avowed gnostic, a Leftist, and a seemingly particular person, Alan Moore soon left the industry in boredom and disgust, but Miller stuck with it. A monumentally determined perfectionist, Miller kept his politics much closer to his chest than had Moore, though his quietly expressed views almost always embraced a kind of Goldwater libertarianism.  Trying to improve his writing, Miller also read and studied like mad. Not surprisingly, he has read everything from Dashiell Hammett to Robert Heinlein to Christopher Lasch, and he has studied Japanese and European comic styles. Restless and curious to the nth-degree, he became an amateur anthropologist as he traveled throughout Asia and the Near east, observing everything from cultural norms to speech patterns to the shades of light hitting the landscape.

His reading and traveling, combined with his love of cinema, seeing everything from Hitchcock to Dirty Harry, Miller honed his own art--in drawing and writing--to write modern myth, centering around the hero and anti-hero, around good and evil, and around beauty and chaos.

If understood properly, Miller persuasively argued, heroes bring us back to first principles of "right and wrong."

"I love heroes, I believe in heroism. I also adore fantasy, and so I'm drawn back to these superheroes," Miller explained in October 2016. "Their mythology is open to infinite expansion, and the basic myth is irresistible. They got so much right in that first Superman movie, down to the tagline "you'll believe a man can fly. That's our job."

His explicit goal has always been "to do heroic adventures without compromise."  Too much of modern culture, he complains in the vein of Russell Kirk and C. Wright Mills, has become nothing but conformist drivel, with movies, television shows, and comic books serving the public at large as heavy "sedatives." Instead, we need the Batmans and Dirty Harry's to bring the "wrath of God" down upon the murderers, rapists, and tyrants of the world. The world desperately needs morality, order, and myth.

Posted by orrinj at 1:24 AM


Trump praises Robert E. Lee during Ohio rally (BRENT D. GRIFFITHS, 10/12/2018, Politico)

White House chief of staff John Kelly called Lee an "honorable man" in October 2017 and added that the war was caused by a "lack of compromise."

Trump has previously defended the existence of statues for figures like Lee, saying that imposing modern morals on historical figures is a slippery slope that will devour many esteemed leaders in the process.

October 12, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 4:52 PM


Nikki Haley's Excellent Timing (JONAH GOLDBERG, October 12, 2018, National Review)

Only in retrospect does it seem obvious this was the best job in the Trump administration and that she was the best person for it.

First, the U.N. is the best arena in the world for picking the right enemies. Also, the U.N. ambassador is outside the snake pits of Washington while still at the center of the media world. Haley was also blessed to have a political nonentity, Rex Tillerson, working as secretary of state.

Because it's a foreign-policy post, Haley didn't have to weigh in on every Trumpian controversy. But when she did -- on the "Me Too" movement, Russian meddling, etc. -- she did it in a way that differentiated herself from Trump and his sycophants without seeming disloyal or mealy-mouthed.

Haley made it all look easy, in part because she's a good politician -- a daughter of Indian immigrants in a state renowned for ugly politics who managed to win two governor's races.

But she's also willing to do something too few politicians with charm and luck on their side bother to do: her homework. After all, she started out as the family bookkeeper at 13.

The timing and manner of her decision was near perfect. Once again, she's not only leaving on a high note, she's leaving as the only prominent Republican around today who can simultaneously unite the party and also appeal to non-Republicans. (Which is why you can expect the knives to come out soon.)

Posted by orrinj at 8:46 AM


Posted by orrinj at 8:37 AM


Ford Prepares for Mass Layoffs After Losing $1 Billion to Trump's Trade Tariffs, Report Says (KEVIN KELLEHER October 10, 2018, Fortune)

Ford is having a bad year in 2018. Its stock is down 29%, and the tariffs imposed by President Trump have reportedly cost the company $1 billion, as the company is in the midst of a reorganization. Now, the company is announcing layoffs.

Jim Hackett, Ford's CEO, is working to engineer a $25.5 billion restructuring of the automaker, hoping to cut costs and remain competitive, the Wall Street Journal reports. But auto sales are down, and one reason is the trade tariffs that Trump has imposed on metals and other goods. According to Bloomberg, Hackett has said they have already cost the company $1 billion in profit and could do "more damage" if the disputes aren't resolved quickly.

Posted by orrinj at 8:32 AM


As suicide rates rise, Hispanics show relative immunity (CHARLOTTE HUFF, 10/12/18, KAISER HEALTH NEWS)

The young man held the medication in his hand -- and considered using it to end his life.

But then he "put it down and said, 'No. I need help,'" before heading to a Laredo emergency room, said Kimberly Gallegos, who at the time earlier this year was a mobile crisis worker for a local mental health center.

Gallegos was helping evaluate whether the patient, a Latino in his early 30s, should be immediately hospitalized or could go home safely until seeing an outpatient doctor.

He returned to the home he shares with his mother and a sibling. The family agreed to lock up the medication -- which belonged to a family member -- and watch out for any problematic behaviors and other warning signs of suicide, Gallegos recalled.

The man's experience illustrates a "suicide paradox," experts say. Even though Latinos face economic disadvantages and other stress in their lives, their suicide rate is about one-third that of non-Hispanic whites, both in Texas and nationally.

Experts attribute the relatively low suicide rate among Latinos to the culture's strong family and community support systems, which appear to provide some degree of protection.

Posted by orrinj at 8:03 AM


Trump is losing his war on the war on coal (The Week, 10/11/18)

On Thursday, the U.S. Energy Information Agency reported that estimated U.S. coal production dropped 2.7 percent from the previous week and 3.3 percent from a year earlier. Year-to-date, the EIA said, total U.S. coal production is 2.8 percent lower than during the same period in 2017. Trump essentially slowed coal's decline when he took office, but the long downward slide continues.

Posted by orrinj at 4:51 AM


The truth about Gen Z: Far from destroying a generation, the smartphone is producing a canny cohort (Eliza Filby, 04 OCTOBER 2018, UnHerd)

Zoe, 17, likes to switch off her phone and put it in another room so she's not distracted. Sitting on her bed, she opens her book and begins to read. "I've really got into actual books, they are tangible, real and my imagination can run wild," she says, with a geunine sense of wonder. She consumes anything from novels to non-fiction - especially works on feminism and art.

She used to purchase her items on Amazon but "that took loooong, like 24 hours to be delivered", so she's started going to her local library: "It's great, the books are just there waiting for you." Uploading a 'shelfie' of current reading material has become a popular status update amongst her friends.

Zoe's generation is rediscovering books in the same way that Millennials discovered vinyl; the difference is that the former are increasingly doing it as a way of logging off from their smartphones. [...]

Babyboomers are actually the fastest growing demographic on social media, revelling in the sensation of greater connectivity, but Gen Z - who have lived its realities and its damaging impact on their time and mental health - are the ones questioning the point of it all. In the US, researchers at the University of Chicago found that 58% of teens said that they had voluntarily taken a break from social platforms in the last year.

Posted by orrinj at 4:42 AM


Decent Mediocrity (MICHAEL KNOX BERAN, June 21, 2018, National Review)

Ford, for his part, adopted the Kissinger policy as his own, so much so that his closeness to the man who served as both his secretary of state and his national-security adviser, if not as his Metternich and Bismarck, created what Rumsfeld calls "a worrisome perception of dependency." It didn't help when, in response to a query, Rumsfeld was told by a National Security Council staffer that "Henry is in the middle of sensitive negotiations and therefore the President shouldn't mess in foreign affairs." Yet Ford was soon more royalist than the king. Hesitant to offend Kremlin sensibilities, he refused to receive Solzhenitsyn in the White House. Kissinger himself, who was in the Virgin Islands at the time, was more accommodating. He has suggested that, had he been in Washington, he might "have been wise enough to propose a low-key meeting with either the President or me."

Rumsfeld sensed in the predominance of Kissinger the makings of a political disaster. He "understood far better than I," Kissinger has written, "that Watergate and Vietnam were likely to evoke a conservative backlash." To Ronald Reagan, whose star was rising in the Republican party, "détente seemed like an accommodation with totalitarianism." Rumsfeld urged Ford to declaw Reagan by bringing him into the administration. "If [the Reaganites] are out," he told Ford in 1975, "they can make mischief," but "if they're in, they're in the same rowboat we are." Ford offered Reagan a seat in the cabinet, but Reagan refused it.

Plan A having failed, Rumsfeld moved to Plan B. However unfairly, Ford was coming to be perceived as a bumbling incompetent out of touch with vital elements in his party. There was only one way to restore the impression of command and reassure the GOP faithful: He must smack down the man his opponents had made out to be his Svengali. Kissinger, Rumsfeld writes, continued to "wield outsized power and influence" over Ford even as he enjoyed the constant support of his friend Nelson Rockefeller, whose aura of wealth and power made him a force in the administration in spite of his bad ideas. In every NSC meeting, Rumsfeld writes, Rockefeller "was a consistent vocal supporter of any position or view Kissinger put forward." At the same time, Rockefeller conceived himself as Ford's unofficial "head of domestic policy," a role in which the architect of the Great Society on the Hudson could only antagonize voters sympathetic to what Rumsfeld calls the "new Sunbelt, limited-government" Republicanism Reagan was selling.

Rumsfeld made his move in late October 1975. In When the Center Held, he describes how he submitted his resignation to Ford. Having failed to "get the President to take the management actions that I was convinced were required for him to succeed," he would fall on his sword. But it was not Rummy's blood that was shed in the Halloween Massacre that followed. Taking his chief of staff's counsel to heart, Ford summoned a startled Kissinger to the Oval Office and without inviting discussion outlined a reordering of the regime. Rocky was purged -- he would not have a place on the 1976 ticket. Kissinger was out as national-security adviser, though he retained the State Department. Rumsfeld himself replaced James Schlesinger at the Pentagon, where, as Kissinger tells it, he would ensure that the State Department's SALT negotiations with Moscow went nowhere. Détente was dead, and Kissinger ceased to be the prime minister of the Ford administration.

It was brilliant Machiavellian stuff, a realignment that moved Ford's government a little farther away from Nixon Republicanism, a little closer to the world of Reagan. But whether sacrificing a vizier or two and throwing the bones to the Reagan camp amounted to centrism is another question: It might as easily be read as weakness, expediency, and desperation. Ford seems less to have found a middle way than to have meandered unsuccessfully between two different paths.

The same confusion that marred the president's foreign policy spoiled his conduct of domestic affairs. As the GOP was recovering its faith in the rational self-interest of markets, Ford bizarrely launched into the volunteerist whimsies of "Whip Inflation Now," in which citizens were urged to wear shiny red buttons while planting vegetable gardens in order to stabilize prices, a program about as viable as Mao's pipe dream of promoting Chinese steel production with backyard furnaces. It is true that Ford would later, in his own words, "reverse completely" the unpropitious direction of his economic program and sign the Tax Reduction Act of 1975, which cut some $22 billion in taxes and led to the beginnings of an economic recovery. But an administration that embraced both WIN and the Laffer curve savors less of centrism than of incoherence.

...but that's it.  Even Jimmy Carter--thanks to the Afghan War and Paul Volcker--had a better term.

Posted by orrinj at 4:42 AM

THE WORLD AS IT IS (profanity alert):

Liner Notes for Jeff Tweedy's "WARM" (George Saunders, September 24, 2018, The New Yorker)

After many years of asking myself what art is for, I've arrived at this: the role of the artist is to reach across space and time and console--to offer not a cure or a prescription but, rather, non-trivial consolation.

Jeff is our great, wry, American consolation poet. I don't mean this abstractly: to see him play is to find yourself in a crowd of people being actively consoled--being moved, reassured, validated, made to feel like part of a dynamic aural friendship. Jeff told me once that what he's trying to communicate to his listener is, "You're O.K. You're not alone. I'm singing to you, but I also hear you." A testimony to the value Jeff places on this connection: after playing a number of solo acoustic shows in 2016 and 2017, he decided to make an album of those songs that seemed to speak most directly to those audiences. [...]

For a long time now, it seems to me, our culture has assumed that the function of art is to warn, to blame, to critique, to scoff, to dismiss. And those are some of its functions, for sure. But an art that only does those things is destructive. Destruction already being the dominant mode of our culture, we don't need any more of it. Anyone who advocates "burning down the house" has likely never been inside a building on fire. By what do we really live? Our lives--our real lives--are made almost wholly of attempts at tenderness. We work hard on behalf of those we love, daydream about their future happiness, go out of our way to save them even the slightest pain, comfort them when the pain arrives just the same.

Jeff is, to my mind, a warrior for kindness, who has made tenderness an acceptable rock-and-roll virtue. By "tenderness" I don't mean that New Age thing, where someone drives a spike through your head and you place hands palm to palm and do a cheesy deep bow while thanking them for the new coat rack. No: Tweedy-tenderness is sophisticated and badass and funny. It proceeds from strength and good humor and does not preclude being angry or tough or peeved. It is based on the premise that you are as real as he is and as deserving of attention, and that the world is worthy of our full and fearless interest, just as it is.

Posted by orrinj at 4:38 AM


Lake, "Progressive New World" (Mark Movsesian, 10/08/18, Law and Religion Forum)

The author is historian Marilyn Lake (University of Melbourne). Here's the description from the publisher's website:

The paradox of progressivism continues to fascinate more than one hundred years on. Democratic but elitist, emancipatory but coercive, advanced and assimilationist, Progressivism was defined by its contradictions. In a bold new argument, Marilyn Lake points to the significance of turn-of-the-twentieth-century exchanges between American and Australasian reformers who shared racial sensibilities, along with a commitment to forging an ideal social order. Progressive New World demonstrates that race and reform were mutually supportive as Progressivism became the political logic of settler colonialism.

White settlers in the United States, who saw themselves as path-breakers and pioneers, were inspired by the state experiments of Australia and New Zealand that helped shape their commitment to an active state, women's and workers' rights, mothers' pensions, and child welfare. Both settler societies defined themselves as New World, against Old World feudal and aristocratic societies and Indigenous peoples deemed backward and primitive.

In conversations, conferences, correspondence, and collaboration, transpacific networks were animated by a sense of racial kinship and investment in social justice. While "Asiatics" and "Blacks" would be excluded, segregated, or deported, Indians and Aborigines would be assimilated or absorbed. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:36 AM


Crashed and Burning: Adam Tooze reveals the unanswered questions still roiling European politics. (Ben Judah, 10/10/18, American Interest)

While it was indubitably fault lines in the American financial system had led to the crisis, Crashed also argues it was the speed and intensity of U.S. policymakers' response that ensured 2008 "did not result in a spectacular transatlantic crisis," with the economies of Britain and the Eurozone imploding completely. To save transatlantic finance the Fed licensed a core group of allied central bankers to issue dollar credits on demand: "Through this they pumped trillions of dollars of liquidity into the European banking system."

What is so jarring in Crashed is the contrast between American and German officials. "If we are looking for one crucial difference it is surely this," Tooze writes. "From the morning of September 11, 2001, America was a superpower at war." Whereas Bernanke, Geithner and Paulson knew they are imperial actors defending a financial system that ultimately undergirds American power, in chapter after chapter, we see Merkel and Schauble refusing to move.

This is a key point of Tooze's, and one worth ruminating on. The divergence in response to 2008 can be traced to how the decisions of 1991 were arrived at on either side of the Atlantic. Whereas the "liberal world order" was built to empower America, the Eurozone was built to constrain Germany. The French intention all along had been to federalize the newly united Germany just enough to prevent it from becoming an imposing hegemon. "Without a common currency," Mitterrand warned Thatcher in 1989, "we are all already subordinate to the Germans' will."

Thus, beginning in 2008, as America acted to preserve its global prerogative, we see Germans refusing to act, also to preserve their own power. At a crucial moment, America wants to remain hegemon while Germany refuses to be federalised--refuses to be the lender of last resort for its profligate European partners. "There will be no transfer union," Angela Merkel declared.

Though the European Union remained, symbolically and more, a political peace project, thereafter the Eurozone showed itself to be a conflict generator. The consequence of Germany's decision to not act was the exact mirror image of the Federal Reserve's aggressive moves--with near mirror image results. Europe's German and the Federal questions, fundamentally unanswered, were still causing trouble.

Instead of acting like the Fed in stabilizing allied economies, the ECB, squeezed by Berlin, dawdled. It showed little interest in getting involved in Central Europe. "One might have expected the ECB to extend similar support to the East European neighbors of the Eurozone," writes Tooze. But the Euro-swap lines never came. "Where the Fed had given the ECB the lifeline of dollar swap-lines," writes Tooze, "the ECB had no intention of extending equivalent privileges to Poland or Romania." Frankfurt's decision "shocked the Fed," which had expected Euro-swap lines to be extended to Poland and Hungary. But with their economies hit by a sudden stop in foreign credit supplies, all the ECB was willing to do was provide Poland and Hungary with short-term funding in exchange for first-class euro-denominated securities. "When the problem," writes Tooze, "was a shortage of euro funding, this was of no great help."

It is not possible to overstate the debt the global economy owes W, Ben Bernanke and the UR.

Posted by orrinj at 4:30 AM


How the Third Way lost its way: We forged it in response to social and economic change - now new circumstances require new policies (Bill Galston, 03 OCTOBER 2018, UnHerd)

Overall, the document declared, the old version of social democracy overstated the weaknesses of markets and undervalued the importance of individual and business enterprise to the creation of wealth. It assumed that public expenditure as a share of national income could rise indefinitely. It assumed that government could row the boat, not just steer it, and that public programmes could be effective as they proliferated without coordination or consolidation. And it assumed that the economy and polity would remain strong as family and community ties weakened.

Although the values of social democracy are timeless, the document continued, its policies must be modernised in response to changing circumstances. This means revising social democrats' long-held beliefs about the relationship between the market and the state: "government does all it can to support enterprise but never believes it is a substitute for enterprise".

It means distinguishing between social justice and equality of outcomes: the latter entailed "a neglect of the importance of rewarding effort and responsibility", burdening work with "ever higher costs", and failing to celebrate creativity and excellence. It means questioning the relationship between social justice and "ever higher levels of public spending", which can negatively affect competitiveness, job creation, and living standards.

It means righting the imbalance between rights, which have proliferated, and responsibilities, which have withered. It means limiting state regulations designed to address market failures, because "universal social safeguards can exact an excessive toll on entrepreneurship, individual responsibility, and community spirit.

As a populist, Donald advocates alternately for the First Way and the Second Way with no coherence, which renders him unable to govern.  Happily.

Posted by orrinj at 4:02 AM


Politics Are Not the Sum of a Person (Ryan Fazio, 10/08/18, Quillette)

In a letter to his wife Abigail during America's War of Independence, John Adams described the necessity of politics:

I must study politics and war, that our sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. Our sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry and porcelain.

For a country fighting for independence and a man risking his life for the cause, there is little to life beyond politics of the moment. Every marginal decision is a matter of survival. But that momentary imperative is only in pursuit of higher humanistic goals.

Politics is important, but it is only a means to an end. Human flourishing, or the good life, is the proper end of social life. Government plays but a part in laying the foundation for people to flourish in society. Like Adams, we want a relatively stable and effective regime so we can be free to pursue better, more satisfying things.

Unlike Adams, we have the space and luxury of pursuing all of them today -- even if the political radicals say otherwise. Family and friendship, economic prosperity, scientific and technological progress, medical advances, the arts and entertainment, and much more. There is far more to life than politics. We study it only so we don't have to worry about it very much. We owe it to our forefathers to not allow it to overtake the finer things in life.

Posted by orrinj at 3:57 AM


What the Primaries Say About the Future of Democrats: The progressive movement is energized, but there is not much evidence that it is taking over the party. (Elaine Kamarck, Oct. 9, 2018, NY Times)

The first thing we noticed is that there were many more self-identified progressives running in 2018 than in 2014 or 2016. In those earlier two elections, 26 percent and 29 percent of Democratic House candidates called themselves progressive; by 2018, 44 percent did. This is compelling evidence of a lively progressive movement within the party.

But in spite of their large numbers, progressives did not do as well at the polls as the candidates we identified as establishment Democrats. This past primary season, 140 establishment candidates, or 35 percent of the total establishment candidates, won their primaries, in contrast to 101 progressive Democrats, or 27 percent.

Moreover, establishment Democrats tended to win the nomination in districts that are most likely to flip from Democratic to Republican, meaning that the House Democratic Caucus that meets next January will probably be composed of fewer progressives than would be indicated by their numbers on the ballot. In congressional districts that are evenly matched or slightly Republican, there are more establishment challengers than progressive challengers. More solid Republican districts, however, have a relatively large number of progressive nominees. In these districts, it is more difficult for a Democrat to win -- unless the blue wave turns into a blue tsunami.

Our politics is so partisan because identity is all that's left over with our policies having converged.

October 11, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 11:12 AM


Michelle Obama Rebukes Clinton and Holder: 'Fear Is Not a Proper Motivator' (Jeffrey Cimmino, October 11, 2018, Washington Free Beacon)

"Today" co-host Savannah Guthrie asked Obama if her motto from a 2016 Democratic National Convention speech, "when they go low, we go high," still stands.

"Absolutely," Obama said. "Fear is not a proper motivator. Hope wins out, and if you think about how you want your kids to be raised, how you want them to think about life and their opportunities, do you want them afraid of their neighbors? Do you want them angry? Do you want them vengeful?"

"Which motto do you want them to live by?" Obama continued. "I have to think about that as a mother, as someone who's a role model to young girls. We want them to grow up with promise and hope, and we can't model something different if we want them to be better than that."

Posted by orrinj at 10:11 AM


Bannon Slams 'Horrific' Timing of Haley's Resignation Announcement (Jennifer Epstein  and John Micklethwait, October 10, 2018, Bloomberg)

Donald Trump's former chief strategist slammed Nikki Haley's decision to announce her resignation as U.S. ambassador to the UN on Tuesday as "suspect" and "horrific," saying it overshadowed positive news the president needs to help rally support ahead of next month's midterm elections.

"The timing was exquisite from a bad point of view," Steve Bannon said in an interview Wednesday with Bloomberg News Editor-in-Chief John Micklethwait at the Bloomberg Invest London forum. "Everything she said yesterday and everything she said about stepping down could have been done on the evening of November 6. The timing could not have been worse."

Bannon said Haley's announcement, which took top White House officials by surprise, distracted attention from Brett Kavanaugh's first day as a justice on the Supreme Court and last week's news about the lowest U.S. unemployment rate in five decades. Her move undermines Trump's message to voters with the Republican majority in the House of Representatives at stake, Bannon said.

Duh?  She timed it for maximum effect.

Posted by orrinj at 10:04 AM


Ironically, the GRU Gets Bitten by the Internet (Scott Stewart, 10/09/18,  Stratfor)

Last week was a rough one for Russia's military intelligence service. On Oct. 4, the U.S. Department of Justice announced the indictment of seven officers of the Main Intelligence Directorate (known as the GRU by its Russian acronym) in connection with hacking operations. At the same time, Dutch intelligence services released a report on the April arrest of four of the men that included their passport information and photos of their hacking equipment. Then independent investigators, using the internet and social media, dug up additional information on the GRU's cyberwarfare unit, confirming the identity of one of the suspects in a nerve agent poisoning in the United Kingdom and identifying the second suspect for the first time.

These developments emphasize how social media and open-source information on the internet -- though inherently neutral -- can be used for either good or ill. It is highly ironic that the GRU, which has been quite successful in using social media to stir up discord inside the United States and Europe, also has been embarrassed by open-source reporting. These recent developments also show how technological innovation is changing the spying game, and intelligence services are moving -- sometimes not so quickly -- to adapt. [...]

Sadly for Morenets, the receipt was not the end of his woes. A student in an intelligence seminar reportedly found an online dating profile for him, which happened to contain a selfie profile picture that showed the GRU building in the background. The student sleuth was associated with Bellingcat, an organization that uses open sources and social media to conduct online investigations. Working with the citizen journalism organization The Insider Russia, Bellingcat was able to confirm that Morenets was his real name, and not a pseudonym. They also discovered that his vehicle was registered to Komsomolsky Prospekt 20 in Moscow; that address is associated with Unit 26165 of the GRU, which U.S. and Dutch law enforcement say is its cyberwarfare department. Bellingcat reported that a search for other vehicles registered at that address turned up 305 names, potentially providing an extensive list of GRU cyberwarfare personnel -- an embarrassing breach of operational security for the intelligence agency.

Posted by orrinj at 9:08 AM


Real Democratic agenda: Lower health costs, less corruption, more jobs and fairness (Cheri Bustos, Hakeem Jeffries and David Cicilline, Oct. 11, 2018, USA Today)

Democrats believe America is strongest with a health care system that prioritizes people -- not one that taxes and takes advantage of  patients. We will fight to protect your right to quality and affordable health care by reining in the costs of prescription drugs, building on the current system to make it work better for everyone, and protecting those with pre-existing conditions from Republican attempts to strip them of care.

Democrats believe America is most prosperous when every American has a shot at success and plays by the same fair rules. We know that our economy is stronger when everybody's hard work is respected and pays off with higher wages, higher incomes and decent retirement benefits. We will invest in our crumbling infrastructure to create 16 million well paid jobs rebuilding roads, bridges and ports all around this country.

And Democrats believe that government exists to serve the American people, not just those with the biggest checkbooks. On day one, we will take steps to end the culture of corruption in Washington. We will strengthen ethics laws to remove the corrosive influence of lobbyists and special interests from Congress, stop foreign money from influencing our elections and create more transparency and accountability for our leaders.

Maybe the most status quo agenda any out of power party has ever run on. Which is entirely appropriate given the health of the global economy.

Posted by orrinj at 9:04 AM


Trump's tariffs now cost Americans more than Obamacare taxes (Bryan Riley & Andrew Wilford, October 10, 2018, Washington Examiner)

It's official: The latest round of tariffs now means that the total tax increase on Americans from enacted tariffs exceeds the tax increases from the Affordable Care Act, (un)popularly known as "Obamacare."

Posted by orrinj at 8:38 AM


Poll suggests Haley could be formidable challenger to Trump (ELIANA JOHNSON, 10/10/2018, Politico)

The survey, which polled likely Republican caucus-goers in Iowa as well as Republican primary voters in New Hampshire, found that nearly half -- 47 percent -- would consider another option to Trump in 2020. Of those polled, Haley topped the list among the probable early state voters, with 52 percent saying they would consider her as an alternative to Trump. The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, who announced on Tuesday that she is resigning her position at the end of the year, also had the smallest percentage of respondents -- 25 percent -- say they would not consider her at all.

...than to follow the racist idiocy of this presidency with a President Haley.

Posted by orrinj at 8:04 AM


  • Microsoft just open-sourced 60,000 of its patents

    Microsoft just open-sourced 60,000 of its patents. (2018). Fast Company. Retrieved 11 October 2018, from https://www.fastcompany.com/90249831/microsoft-just-open-sourced-60000-of-its-patents

[A]ndersen goes on to say that Microsoft's view of the open-source community has shifted:

Joining OIN reflects Microsoft's patent practice evolving in lock-step with the company's views on Linux and open source more generally . . . At Microsoft, we take it as a given that developers do not want a binary choice between Windows vs. Linux, or .NET vs. Java-they want cloud platforms to support all technologies. They want to deploy technologies at the edge-on any device-that meet customer needs. We also learned that collaborative development through the open source process can accelerate innovation.

With Microsoft's contribution of 60,000 patents, the OIN has seen its patent library multiple almost 50 times over. Previously, OIN only had ownership of 1,300 global patents.

Posted by orrinj at 4:39 AM


Moscow failures see Putin's men lose in Russian Far East (GIOVANNI PIGNI OCTOBER 4, 2018, Asia Times)

[P]utin's candidates failed to win gubernatorial elections in the two largest administrative regions of the Far Eastern Federal District: the Maritime Territory and Khabarovsk Region.

This sends a clear signal to the Kremlin.

Despite massive political attention, state subsidies and high profile investments including spaceports and shipyards, Moscow has failed to effectively address multiple socio-economic problems affecting the region.

The Russian Far East lies in close proximity to economic powerhouses China, Japan and South Korea, but continues to suffer population drain, high levels of corruption, poor infrastructure and a standard of living that is among the lowest in the country.

"I think everything will be fine," is what Putin told his candidate Andrey Tarasenko, as he prepared to run against Communist Andrey Ishchenko for the gubernatorial post of the Maritime Territory, the district's largest region.

Things turned out differently. With 95% of the vote counted, Ischenko was clearly ahead. Tarasenko came out the winner in the final result, but only due to to a display of election rigging so blatant that it was unacceptable even by Russian standards. The Central Election Committee was left with no choice but to invalidate the election.

In Khabarovsk, an even more straightforward failure awaited United Russia candidate and sitting Governor Vyacheslav Shport. He lost to Sergei Frugal of the Liberal Democrats.

Communists and Liberal Democrats are the two main constituents of the "systemic opposition" which give Russia the appearance of a functioning democracy without posing a real threat to the hegemonic rule of the pro-Putin United Russia party.

The fact that Putin's candidates lost against representatives of the systemic opposition is interpreted by many as a consequence of the highly unpopular pension reform promoted by United Russia.

But others warn that grievances about the rise of the retirement age are adding up to a pre-existing, much deeper discontent about how Moscow has been administering the country's remotest region.

Posted by orrinj at 4:37 AM


PODCAST: Episode 63: Snowflake Jacobins (Jonah Goldberg, October 2, 2018, The Remnant)

To celebrate the one-year anniversary of The Remnant, Jonah invites Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff on to discuss The Coddling of the American Mind.

The Coddling of the American Mind: In the name of emotional well-being, college students are increasingly demanding protection from words and ideas they don't like. Here's why that's disastrous for education--and mental health. (GREG LUKIANOFF AND JONATHAN HAIDT, SEPTEMBER 2015, The Atlantic)

Posted by orrinj at 4:19 AM


Deluded liberals can't keep clinging to a dead idea : Anyone looking to classical liberal thinkers to deliver the West from its present difficulties is fixated on an irretrievable past (John Gray, 03 OCTOBER 2018, UnHerd)

Writing in the introduction to On Liberty, Mill tells us that he grounds his argument for freedom not on "abstract right" but "utility - the ultimate appeal on all ethical questions; but it must be utility in the largest sense, grounded in the permanent interests of man as a progressive being". What is "man", though? Certainly not an empirically observable species.

All that can actually be observed is the miscellaneous human animal, with its many contending values and ways of life. Again, there are many understandings of progress. If Mill believed it meant increasing freedom and individuality, for the founder of modern utilitarian ethics, Jeremy Bentham, it meant maximising the satisfaction of wants. Mill spent much of his adult life vainly trying to reconcile the two.

Mill's liberalism did not rest on experience or observation. Though he was not raised as a Christian - his father, a disciple of Bentham, made sure of that - Mill was like other Victorian thinkers in relying on ideas that make little sense outside of a theistic world-view. The belief that "man" is a collective agent working out its destiny in history is a relic of Christianity, unknown in polytheistic cultures and non-western religions such as Buddhism and Taoism.

The very idea that humans share a common historical destination is a remnant of monotheism. Reframing the universal clams of western religion, Mill's secular liberalism - like his science of society - was not the result of any process of rational inquiry but an expression of faith.

Viewed historically, the liberal era was a moment in the aftermath of post-Reformation Christianity. If Europe had not been Christianised, it would most likely have been shaped by the polytheistic and mystery cults of the ancient world. Today it might resemble India. A universalistic, evangelising impulse would be weak or absent. Whether it would have been better or worse - or both - the West would not have produced political faiths like liberalism, that aim to project their values throughout the world.

Core liberal values, such as freedom of belief and expression, are by-products of early modern struggles within Christian monotheism. This fact could be passed over as long as successive versions of liberal values were underwritten by Western power. In Mill's day they rested on European colonialism, and following the collapse of communism on the supposed triumph of free-market capitalism. The illusion persisted that the rise of liberalism revealed a universal law of human development.

In the event, a liberal world order has lasted only as long as Western hegemony. 

The main problem with Jonah Goldberg's Suicide of the West is his failure to accept that the West he seeks to defend can only be grounded in Christianity. The problem for reactionaries like Mr. Gray is that no one has offered any alternative to Western hegemony (democracy, capitalism, protestantism).

Posted by orrinj at 4:17 AM


US student detained at Ben Gurion airport asked to denounce Israel boycott (Middle East Eye, 9 October 2018)

A 22-year-old American student has been detained at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv for a week and prohibited from entering Israel on the grounds that she supports the boycott, sanctions and divestment (BDS) movement.

Lara Alqasem, who has Palestinian grandparents and holds a visa to study in Israel, appealed her entry refusal to an Israeli court on Tuesday.

However, the court decided to keep her in custody for the remainder of the appeals process, according to an NBC report.

Our ideals can not be squared with Israel's reality, so they are right to worry.

Posted by orrinj at 4:13 AM


Beto O'Rourke May Benefit From an Unlikely Support Group: White Evangelical Women (Elizabeth Dias, Oct. 9, 2018, NY Times)

After church on a recent Sunday, Emily Mooney smiled as she told her girlfriends about her public act of rebellion. She had slapped a "Beto for Senate'' sticker on her S.U.V. and driven it to her family's evangelical church.

But then, across the parking lot, deep in conservative, Bible-belt Texas, she spotted a sign of support: the same exact sticker endorsing Beto O'Rourke, the Democrat who is challenging Senator Ted Cruz.

"I was like, who is it?" she exclaimed. "Who in this church is doing this?"

Listening to Ms. Mooney's story, the four other evangelical moms standing around a kitchen island began to buzz with excitement. All of them go to similarly conservative churches in Dallas. All are longtime Republican voters, solely because they oppose abortion rights. Only one broke ranks to vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016. But this November, they have all decided to vote for Mr. O'Rourke, the Democratic upstart who is on the front line of trying to upend politics in deep-red Texas. [...]

The women, who are all in their 30s, described Mr. O'Rourke as providing a stark moral contrast to Mr. Trump, whose policies and behavior they see as fundamentally anti-Christian, especially separating immigrant children from their parents at the border, banning many Muslim refugees and disrespecting women.

"I care as much about babies at the border as I do about babies in the womb," said Tess Clarke, one of Ms. Mooney's friends, confessing that she was "mortified" at how she used to vote, because she had only considered abortion policy. "We've been asleep. Now, we've woke up."

Posted by orrinj at 4:02 AM


Paul Johnson on Why We Should "Beware Intellectuals": From his countless books documenting centuries of history to his masterful ability to challenge the pseudo-intellectual left, Paul Johnson is worthy of high praise and celebration. (Lawrence W. Reed  , 10/09/18, FEE)

Johnson's perspective is often described as "conservative," but I find his work simply good, factual reporting of history, unvarnished by ideology. He doesn't cherry-pick the evidence to support a preconception, let alone a misconception. Conventional wisdom (which is to say, "left-leaning") suggests you're "mainstream" and "objective" if you claim with the flimsiest of documentation that Franklin Roosevelt saved America from the Great Depression and that you're a "conservative ideologue" if you just report the facts. Johnson reports the facts, so he gets the label his "progressive" critics hope will deter readers rather than enlighten them.

In his early days, Johnson's political outlook was, by his own admission, leftist or "progressive." But this is a man who not only writes history, he learns from it. The more Johnson learned, the less credible the progressive perspective was. By the mid-1970s, he was a cogent critic of the Left and its union allies, who were bringing Britain to its knees. He later became a friend, advisor, and speechwriter to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

My favorite of the Johnson books I've read is unquestionably his 1989 classic, Intellectuals. It's an insightful examination of the personalities and behavior of more than a dozen left-leaning thinkers--the super-pontificating, state-worshiping types that are full of prescriptions for the rest of us. Among the better-known of them are Rousseau, Marx, and Sartre; the less well-known include Bertolt Brecht, Victor Gollancz, and Lillian Helman.

Johnson is himself a consummate intellectual, the honest and scholarly kind committed to truth for the sake of it--unlike the charlatans, hypocrites, and monsters he writes about. He proves that you can be an intellectual without falling hopelessly in love with yourself, tossing self-awareness to the wind, or fancying yourself God's gift to a stupid humanity in need of your wisdom. Of the more delusional ones, he offers a cogent insight:

What conclusions should be drawn? Readers will judge for themselves. But I think I detect today a certain public skepticism when intellectuals stand up to preach to us, a growing tendency among ordinary people to dispute the right of academics, writers and philosophers, eminent though they may be, to tell us how to behave and conduct our affairs. The belief seems to be spreading that intellectuals are no wiser as mentors, or worthier as exemplars, than the witch doctors or priests of old. I share that skepticism. A dozen people picked at random on the street are at least as likely to offer sensible views on moral and political matters as a cross-section of the intelligentsia. But I would go further. One of the principal lessons of our tragic century, which has seen so many millions of innocent lives sacrificed in schemes to improve the lot of humanity, is--beware intellectuals. Not merely should they be kept away from the levers of power, they should also be objects of particular suspicion when they seek to offer collective advice.

History is conservative.

Posted by orrinj at 4:02 AM

Posted by orrinj at 3:54 AM


Climate Change Is Bad for Our Mental Health (Katie Heaney, 10/10/18, The Cut)

The study's lead author, Nick Obradovich, a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Media Lab, told CNN it's not totally clear why increasing temperatures result in increasing mental-health issues, but the data is clear. Using recent national meteorological data as well as mental health data from the CDC, the study's authors found that a one-degree Celsius increase in average temperature was linked to a two percentage point increase in the public prevalence of mental-health issues over a five-year period.

October 10, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 2:11 PM


Why young Brits are turning away from alcohol (The Week, Oct 10, 2018)
One in three young Brits does not drink alcohol, according to a new report which casts light on an emerging transformation in the nation's drinking culture.

Researchers at University College London gathered data from nearly 10,000 people, and found that the proportion of teetotal 16 to 24-year-olds increased from 18% in 2005 to 29% in 2015.

In addition, the number of young people who said they drank in excess of government-recommended limits almost halved, from 43% in 2005 to 28% over the same period.

Posted by orrinj at 2:09 PM


Why Is Israel Scared of This Young American? (Bret Stephens and Bari Weiss, Oct. 10, 2018, NY Times)

Israel, like all countries, has a right to protect its borders and to determine who is allowed in and out. But Israel is also a state that prides itself on being a liberal democracy -- a fact that goes far to explain the longstanding support for Israel among American Jews and non-Jews alike. If liberalism is about anything, it's about deep tolerance for opinions we find foolish, dangerous and antithetical to our own.

The case for such liberalism today is both pragmatic and principled. In practice, expelling visitors who favor the B.D.S. movement does little if anything to make Israel more secure. But it powerfully reinforces the prejudice of those visitors (along with their supporters) that Israel is a discriminatory police state. 

Israel could hardly be more explicit about its decision to become an illiberal democracy.

Posted by orrinj at 2:04 PM


America needs Nikki Haley to return to public service (Post Editorial Board October 9, 2018, NY Post)

She preached sense at home, too, recently telling a high-school audience: "Real leadership is about persuasion, it's about movement, it's bringing people around to your point of view. Not shouting them down, but by showing them how it is in their best interest to see things the way you do."

Leaders, she said, must "have the courage to stand up to the mob."

In 14 years in public office, Nikki Haley did just that -- not least when, as governor, she got the Confederate flag removed from the statehouse grounds in the wake of the horrific 2015 Charleston church shooting.

Enjoy your time off, Ambassador: America will need you back soon enough.

Posted by orrinj at 2:02 PM


In the farm belt and manufacturing hubs, tariffs and trade turn into election issues (Michael Collins, 10/09/18, USA TODAY)

Iowa Democrat Abby Finkenauer's campaign ad opens with the story of her sister and brother-in-law, corn and soybean farmers who the candidate explains "just want to sell their crops and make a living."

"Tariffs should be fair," Finkenauer declares, "but they shouldn't make things harder."

To drive home her point, Finkenauer closes the 30-second spot with a three-word postscript. "This," she says pointedly, "is personal."

In the nation's farm belt and manufacturing hubs, where Americans are personally feeling the fallout from President Donald Trump's duties on imported aluminum, steel and other goods, tariffs and trade have emerged as pivotal issues in the midterm elections Nov. 6.

Posted by orrinj at 4:25 AM


Putin Gets the Spies He Deserves: Bad things happen when you value loyalty over competence. (Leonid Bershidsky, October 8, 2018, Bloomberg)

It's difficult for Russians, regardless of their attitude toward Vladimir Putin's regime, to accept the bumbling incompetence of the country's supposedly elite military intelligence officers, who are getting caught all over the place carrying out pointless operations in unconscionably sloppy ways. These spies are supposed to be highly trained experts, not just tools of the current political leadership.

Yet it's possible that 18 years of Putin's rule have affected the Russian intelligence community in the same way as other areas of Russian life: They've made it less intelligent and emptied it of competent professionals. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:18 AM


Migrant families overwhelm detention capacity in Arizona, prompting mass releases  (Nick Miroff October 9, 2018, Washington Post)

A sudden influx of Guatemalan families into Arizona has overwhelmed detention facilities there and forced the government to release hundreds of parents and children over the past several days, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Tuesday.

Yasmeen Pitts O'Keefe, a spokeswoman for ICE, said the agency can no longer conduct basic reviews of migrants' case files and travel plans without running the risk of exceeding court-imposed limits on how long children can be held in immigration jails.

As a result, ICE has been dropping off busloads of families at church shelters and charities, some with ankle monitoring bracelets, others with little more than notices to appear in court.

"In light of the incredibly high volume of [families] presenting themselves along the Arizona border, ICE no longer has the capacity to conduct [case] reviews" without the risk of violating child-detention rules, O'Keefe said in a statement. "To mitigate that risk, ICE began to curtail such reviews in Arizona beginning Sunday October 7."

Posted by orrinj at 4:17 AM


Hillary says series of sex claims against Bill are NOT like the Kavanaugh confirmation because her husband faced 'intense investigation' (GEOFF EARLE, 9 October 2018, Daily Mail)

Hillary Clinton is firmly rejecting the idea that accusations against her husband are anything like the sexual misconduct allegations against new Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh or President Donald Trump.

Posted by orrinj at 4:14 AM


UK supreme court backs bakery that refused to make gay wedding cake (Owen Bowcott, 10 Oct 2018, The Guardian)

The five justices on the supreme court - Lady Hale, Lord Mance, Lord Kerr, Lord Hodge and Lady Black - found the bakery did not refuse to fulfil Lee's order because of his sexual orientation and therefore there was no discrimination on those grounds. The business relationship between Lee and Ashers did not involve people being refused jobs or services because of their religious faith, the judges added.

"It is deeply humiliating, and an affront to human dignity, to deny someone a service because of that person's race, gender, disability, sexual orientation or any of the other protected personal characteristics," Hale said in the judgment.

"But that is not what happened in this case and it does the project of equal treatment no favours to seek to extend it beyond its proper scope."

Freedom of expression, as guaranteed by article 10 of the European convention on human rights, includes the right "not to express an opinion which one does not hold", Hale added. "This court has held that nobody should be forced to have or express a political opinion in which he does not believe," she said.

"The bakers could not refuse to supply their goods to Mr Lee because he was a gay man or supported gay marriage, but that is quite different from obliging them to supply a cake iced with a message with which they profoundly disagreed."

Posted by orrinj at 4:07 AM


Saudis are said to have lain in wait for Jamal Khashoggi (Loveday Morris, Souad Mekhennet and Kareem Fahim, October 9, 2018, Washington Post)

As Jamal Khashoggi prepared to enter the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, a squad of men from Saudi Arabia who investigators suspect played a role in his disappearance was ready and in place. 

They had arrived from Riyadh, the Saudi capital, early that morning and checked in at two inter­national hotels in Istanbul before driving to the consulate in the leafy Levent neighborhood, said two people with knowledge of the investigation. One of them, the Mövenpick Hotel Istanbul, is a few minutes from the consulate by car.

By the end of the day, a 15-member Saudi team had conducted its business and left the country, departing on planes bound for Cairo and Dubai, according to flight records and the people familiar with the investigation. 

Turkish officials have previously said they believe that Khashoggi, a prominent journalist and critic of the Saudi government, was killed inside the consulate.

Trump says Saudi King wouldn't last 'two weeks' without US support (Tamara Qiblawi, 10/03/18, CNN)

Jamal Khashoggi affair highlights what happens when America abdicates role as free press defender (Trudy Rubin, 10/10/18, phillynews.com)

Here's the most astonishing thing about the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi journalist-in-exile and Washington Post columnist, who entered his country's consulate in Istanbul a week ago and never came out.

Whoever gave the order to snatch him - and all bets are that it came from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman -- assumed a renowned journalist could be kidnapped or killed with few repercussions.

In the capital of a foreign country.

This stunning assumption tells you much about the growing threats to independent journalism in an era of conspiratorial websites, populist hysteria, and dictatorial crackdowns - and the constant Trumpian drumbeat that critical journalists are the "enemy of the people."

Posted by orrinj at 4:04 AM


Posted by orrinj at 4:02 AM


The road to independence is under repair : Nicola Sturgeon may be laying the ground for a snap election to give her an unimpeachable mandate for a new poll (kenny farquharson, 10/10/18, The Times)

Two years ago in this newspaper I suggested Ms Sturgeon should embrace the idea that two referendums were required for Brexit and two for independence also. It was, I said, a potential game-changer for the nationalist cause.

Think back to the 2014 referendum. Many Scots voted "no" simply because there were too many unanswered questions. If the referendum had instead been on the principle of independence, leaving the questions to be answered in subsequent negotiations and ratified in a second vote, the result could have been very different.

Admittedly there are problems with this approach. It would incentivise the UK government to be obstructive in negotiations in the hope that a messy final deal would be rejected by voters. Nevertheless, in the here and now, it could have the virtue of freeing up a political logjam.

This week's second significant development is a little bit harder to pin down, but something is definitely shifting in SNP attitudes to how it gets past Theresa May's stubbornness about a new vote on independence. Some serious thinking is clearly going on about this impasse.

Mike Russell, the SNP's Brexit minister, is no hothead. He is Ms Sturgeon's trusted envoy on the most important issue of the age. In Glasgow this week he spoke tantalisingly of the need for a new response to Mrs Mrs May's obstinacy.

"There has to be a healthy discussion about the...democratic way in which Scotland could say it wishes to make a choice," he told a fringe meeting on Monday. In a platform speech yesterday Mr Russell added: "We are not powerless. Democracy makes us powerful. And we can devise the tools and strategies that give us power, and hope, even in the darkest of times."

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


Nikki Haley Does the Impossible: Leave the Trump Team on Good Terms (JIM GERAGHTY, October 9, 2018, National Review)

For Haley, departing now is all upside, no downside. She's done an excellent job, is arguably the most popular politician in America, and if something does go terribly wrong for this administration in the coming months or years, she'll escape any blame. Good timing.

October 9, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 6:59 PM


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A Dozen Facts about Immigration (Ryan Nunn Jimmy O'Donnell Jay Shambaugh, 10/09/18, , The Hamilton Project)

Fact 8: Output in the economy is higher and grows faster with more immigrants.
Fact 9: Most estimates show a small impact of immigration on low-skilled native-born wages.
Fact 10: High-skilled immigration increases innovation.
Fact 11: Immigrants contribute positively to government finances over the long run, and high-skilled immigrants make especially large contributions.
Fact 12: Immigration in the United States does not increase crime rates.

Posted by orrinj at 6:10 PM


Nikki Haley is popular across the political spectrum (Dave Lawler, 10/09/18, Axios)

A former Trump critic who won over many of the president's supporters by joining his administration, Haley has avoided most of the political mudslinging in Washington from her perch at the UN. She's not just popular with Republicans -- a Quinnipiac poll from April found that 55% of Democrats approve of her. That's unheard of in this political climate.

Posted by orrinj at 5:19 PM


Fliers on 4 college campuses blame Jews for Kavanaugh ruckus (JTA, 10/09/18)

Fliers blaming Jews for the sexual assault allegations against newly sworn-in Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh were posted on two University of California campuses, Berkeley and Davis, as well as at Vassar and Marist colleges, both located in the same city in New York state.

"Every time some Anti-White, Anti-American, Anti-freedom event takes place, you look at it, and it's Jews behind it," the fliers discovered Monday read.

Posted by orrinj at 5:15 PM


Is Nikki Haley jumping off a sinking ship? (Jacob Heilbrunn, October 9, 2018, The Spectator)

Her announcement caught Trump flatfooted, coming after the previous evening's revelries at the White House, where he turned a ceremony for newly minted Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh into a political pep rally that is likely to further enrage his detractors and opponents. The sudden defection of one of his big stars is exactly the kind of television programming that Trump loathes, particularly on the eve of the November midterm elections, which Politico says look increasingly ominous for Republican control of the House of Representatives.

Neocons such as Bill Kristol are celebrating, convinced that this augurs a run by Haley in 2020. She was seen as a standard-bearer for a more mainstream Republican foreign policy as opposed to Trump's nationalist sallies.

Posted by orrinj at 11:18 AM

NIKKI 2020!:

Posted by orrinj at 4:31 AM


The dark side of American conservatism has taken over (Max Boot, October 8, 2018, Washington Post)

In 1964, the GOP ceased to be the party of Lincoln and became the party of Southern whites. As I now look back with the clarity of hindsight, I am convinced that coded racial appeals had at least as much, if not more, to do with the electoral success of the modern Republican Party than all of the domestic and foreign policy proposals crafted by well-intentioned analysts like me. This is what liberals have been saying for decades. I never believed them. Now I do, because Trump won by making the racist appeal, hitherto relatively subtle, obvious even to someone such as me who used to be in denial.

...Nixon, Reagan, Bush, Bush & Trump.  Seems odd to impute the undeniable racism of the last to the rest.

Posted by orrinj at 4:21 AM


How Dangerous Is Jair Bolsonaro?: The far-right candidate will probably be Brazil's next president. What sort of damage will he do? (ISAAC CHOTINER, OCT 08, 2018, Slate)

To talk about the results, I spoke by phone on Monday with Lilia M. Schwarcz, a professor of anthropology at the University of São Paulo, and the co-author (with Heloisa M. Starling) of the new book Brazil: A Biography. During the course of our conversation, which has been edited and condensed for clarity, we discussed how dangerous Bolsonaro is likely to be if he wins, why Brazilians are so angry about their current situation, and the crucial role evangelicals played in Sunday's vote. [...]

What explains his ability to get 46 percent of the vote?

I think what explains Bolsonaro is, first, the violence in Brazil. He promises that he's going to put an end to violence. Bolsonaro has a way of speaking that he promises everything, but I don't know if he is capable of delivering the things he is promising. But we are going through an economic crisis, cultural crisis, political crisis. If you look around, everybody is like, "OK, what happened?" People are very angry. People are very mad at politicians and Bolsonaro presented himself not as a politician, even if he is, [but as] a kind of Messiah. People like these kinds of promises.

Like Trump and some of these right-wing populists, he's managed to win over religious voters, correct?

He's very much connected with evangelical churches. It's not true about Catholic churches. He's very much evangelical. Evangelical churches are all over the country. It's a very, very strong group and a very conservative group. He's also very strong in the rural areas, the person that wants to have guns, that thinks that the problem in Brazil is violence. That's true--the problem in Brazil is violence and a lack of safety. You cannot walk freely in the streets in a lot of different towns. This is a very deep problem, a very deep question in Brazil. [...]

Is there any chance that the judiciary will stand up to Bolsonaro the way it did to the Workers' Party?

I hope so. I hope the judiciary finally will show that it's a neutral power, that it has to be. Yesterday, for example, it was the first time in Brazil that when they finished counting the votes, they showed on television all the judges together to say that democracy was very strong, that we had no problems in our elections. That was a very important answer, to reassure Brazilians that they are in power. But we are talking about a person that has straight connections with the military. His vice presidential running mate, General Mourao, is from the military. Let's see what's going to happen.

Posted by orrinj at 4:14 AM


The GOP House is crumbling (STEVEN SHEPARD, 10/09/2018, Politico)

The Republican House majority continues to show signs of collapsing, with Democrats steadily gaining ground toward erasing the 23-seat margin and ending eight years of GOP control.

A total of 68 seats currently held by Republicans are firmly in play -- rated as "Lean Republican" or worse for the GOP -- presenting a stark contrast to the Democratic side, where only a half-dozen Democratic seats are in similar jeopardy. [...]

With a month to go until Election Day, there are now 209 seats either firmly or leaning in the Democratic column -- only 9 shy of the 218 the party needs to wrest away control of the chamber -- according to the latest update of POLITICO's race ratings.

Posted by orrinj at 4:02 AM


Breaking down the walls strangling China's private sector: Reformists join the fray as State-owned giants continue to dominate economic landscape and funding (GORDON WATTS OCTOBER 9, 2018, Asia Times)

Among the guests at the 20th anniversary of the Chinese Economists 50 Forum was Vice-Premier Liu He, who helped get this club for 'bean counters' up and running.

"What we learned from the past 40 years is that we must insist on a market-oriented and law-based direction of reform," Wu told Liu and a room full of economists, entrepreneurs and government officials at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing.

The 88-year-old is considered one of the preeminent economists in China and is a passionate supporter of the pro-business policies which have helped transform the country.

But those reforms are starting to stall, he pointed out.

Known as Wu Shichang, or "Market Wu," he warned against "disharmonious voices" or those that have called for an end to private ownership in China.

"[The government has to] build a consensus [on reforms] through debate and then implement them one by one," Wu said.

After the speech, Liu reportedly left the gathering. Yet President Xi Jinping's economic tsar would have agreed with the sentiments along with the majority of the audience and speakers.

During the past few months, there have been concerns about China's lack of progress in economic liberalization.

Moreover, the private sector has been hit hard by the trade war, as well as the squeeze on financing and excess production, Li Yang, the former deputy head of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, stressed.

"Many cannot survive amid this de facto discrimination," Li told the Chinese Economists 50 Forum.

The clampdown on credit as part of the broader onslaught against rising local government and corporate debt has been particularly severe for small companies struggling to obtain funding.

To underline the problems, Ma Jiantang, a senior Communist Party official at the Development Research Center of the powerful State Council, has been quoted as saying in the Chinese media that private companies are plagued by "dissatisfaction."

His comments will resonate with the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce.

In May, the ACFIC reported that more than 90% of new jobs were created by private enterprises last year, as well as 60% of GDP growth.

"At the end of 2017, there were 65.79 million individually-owned businesses and 27.26 million private enterprises in China, which employed some 340 million people," Gao Yunlong, the head of the ACFIC, told the official state-run Xinhua news agency.

Yet there have been calls from more left-wing scholars, economists and government officials to dump the private sector "experiment."

"Communists can sum up their theory in one sentence - eliminate private ownership," Zhou Xincheng, a professor of Marxism at the Renmin University of China, wrote in Qizhi, a leading policy journal of the CCP, back in January.

Beijing has already set-up CCP committees, which are common among state-owned enterprises, throughout the private sector.

Qiu Xiaoping, the deputy director of the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, has floated the idea that employees should "participate in the management" of corporations.

"Chinese Communist Party officials are increasingly calling on companies to support the creation of party organizations among their employees," China Business Review, the official magazine of the US-China Business Council, reported. "The potential for party groups to influence corporate decision making has raised concern among some US company executives."

The Dragon has no teeth.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM

MS 2?:

Migrant Children in Search of Justice: A 2-Year-Old's Day in Immigration Court (Vivian Yee and Miriam Jordan, Oct. 8, 2018, NY Times)

The youngest child to come before the bench in federal immigration courtroom No. 14 was so small she had to be lifted into the chair. Even the judge in her black robes breathed a soft "aww" as her latest case perched on the brown leather.

Her feet stuck out from the seat in small gray sneakers, her legs too short to dangle. Her fists were stuffed under her knees. As soon as the caseworker who had sat her there turned to go, she let out a whimper that rose to a thin howl, her crumpled face a bursting dam.

The girl, Fernanda Jacqueline Davila, was 2 years old: brief life, long journey. The caseworker, a big-boned man from the shelter that had been contracted to raise her since she was taken from her grandmother at the border in late July, was the only person in the room she had met before that day.

"How old are you?" the judge asked, after she had motioned for the caseworker to return to Fernanda's side and the tears had stopped. "Do you speak Spanish?"

An interpreter bent toward the child and caught her eye, repeating the questions in Spanish. Fernanda's mouse-brown pigtails brushed the back of the chair, but she stayed silent, eyes big. "She's ... she's nodding her head," the judge said, peering down from the bench through black-rim glasses. This afternoon in New York immigration court, Judge Randa Zagzoug had nearly 30 children to hear from, ages 2 through 17. Fernanda was No. 26. [...]

These young immigrants are stranded at the junction of several forces: the Trump administration's determination to discourage immigrants from trying to cross the border; the continuing flow of children journeying by themselves from Central America; the lingering effects of last summer's family-separation crisis at the border; and a new government policy that has made it much more difficult for relatives to claim children from federal custody.

These sorts of detentions make the Right feel safer, because it's about race, not crime.

Posted by orrinj at 3:55 AM


Israeli press review: Ministers slam PM over approval of Ethiopian migrants (Middle East Eye, 8 October 2018)

The Falash Mura are Ethiopian descendants of Jews who say their ancestors converted to Christianity under duress. This past conversion makes them ineligible for citizenship under Israel's sectarian immigration laws.

The reason for the ministers' opposition, writes Zeev Kamm, are concerns that it could serve as a legal precedent, allowing more Palestinians who don't have Israeli citizenship to acquire it by marrying a Palestinian who does.

The criticism came on the heels of a position paper, published by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, in which he argues that authorising the immigration of the Ethiopians would make it more difficult for the government to defend its opposition to permitting Palestinian couples with only one Israeli citizenship between them to live together inside Israel's pre-1967 borders.

After decades in which successive Israeli governments discouraged the immigration of Ethiopian Jews to Israel, campaigners shamed Israel into reversing its policy in the 1980s and airlifting the majority of the Ethiopian Jewish community into the country.

October 8, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 9:53 PM


'A betrayal beyond words': The far right melts down over Taylor Swift's endorsement of Democrats (Avi Selk October 8, 2018, Washington Post)

That a 28-year-old celebrity -- even one who had previously kept her politics private -- would weigh in on a potentially crucial midterm election seems much less strange than the story of how the far-right Internet came to believe Swift was their secret ally -- "our girl," as many put it.

The delusion traces back to the middle of the Obama administration, 2011, when a certain fraction of 4chan users convinced themselves that Swift had let them name her cat.

In some ways, it's not much different from how every other conspiracy theory arises out of nonsense on that anonymous message board:

Among the hundreds of thousands of posts written on 4chan that November, one was a kitten-naming contest. The winning name was Meredith, which -- lo and behold -- was also the name of Swift's new kitten, according to a People Magazine article that 4chan users subsequently passed around in astonishment.

The fact that Swift had named her kitten Meredith at least three days before the contest was held made little difference to those who convinced themselves she was a secret 4chan user. Amateur sleuths began sifting through the website in search of more supposed secret messages from the pop star, coming up with a photo of someone's window blinds that looked like Swift's and an anonymous message from a "conservative" "entertainer" who claimed to be "one of the 50 most famous people on the planet."

A myth that began with a kitten took a dark turn a few years later, when a neo-Nazi blogger came across a joke meme that mashed up photos of Swift with quotes from Adolf Hitler. He apparently mistook these as authentic and published them on the Daily Stormer under the headline: "Aryan Goddess Taylor Swift: Nazi Avatar of the White European People."

Posted by orrinj at 7:08 PM

Posted by orrinj at 6:50 PM


Trump Campaign Aide Requested Online Manipulation Plans From Israeli Intelligence Firm (Mark Mazzetti, Ronen Bergman, David D. Kirkpatrick and Maggie Haberman, Oct. 8, 2018, NY Times)

A top Trump campaign official requested proposals in 2016 from an Israeli company to create fake online identities, to use social media manipulation and to gather intelligence to help defeat Republican primary race opponents and Hillary Clinton, according to interviews and copies of the proposals.

The Trump campaign's interest in the work began as Russians were escalating their effort to aid Donald J. Trump. Though the Israeli company's pitches were narrower than Moscow's interference campaign and appear unconnected, the documents show that a senior Trump aide saw the promise of a disruption effort to swing voters in Mr. Trump's favor.

The campaign official, Rick Gates, sought one proposal to use bogus personas to target and sway 5,000 delegates to the 2016 Republican National Convention by attacking Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, Mr. Trump's main opponent at the time. Another proposal describes opposition research and "complementary intelligence activities" about Mrs. Clinton and people close to her, according to copies of the proposals obtained by The New York Times and interviews with four people involved in creating the documents.

Posted by orrinj at 6:45 PM


Renaming Nafta Just Might Work: Will the USMCA be any more popular than Nafta? It's worth finding out. ( Tyler Cowen, October 4, 2018, Bloomberg)

When I see USMCA, I also think of "United States Marine Corps," a connection Donald Trump himself has noted. Of course the Marines have nothing to do with international trade policy, but given the public's longstanding confidence in the military, the association is unlikely to hurt politically. Other people may confuse USMCA with USCMA, or the United States Catholic Mission Association, another positive connotation.

This next point may sound slightly cynical, but here goes: Perhaps being so easy to say and remember has been part of Nafta's problem. The sad reality is that voters do not love the idea of free trade once it is made concrete to them, and both Barack Obama and Trump campaigned against Nafta in its current form. So maybe every time people heard the name Nafta, they were reminded of how much they disliked it.

I recall, more than a decade ago, hearing talk of a supposed "Nafta superhighway," a series of roads that would supposedly bring the three Nafta countries under some kind of joint, conspiratorial rule, enforced by the movement of vehicles on these connector roads and sometimes in league with Satan himself. The alternative phrase -- "USMCA Superhighway" -- doesn't roll off the tongue as easily, so maybe it will be harder to drum up fake news about the new deal.

There is yet another advantage to the new name: Many politicians, especially Democrats, are on record as opposing Nafta. The change of name gives them a chance to rebrand their opinions, even if they do not wish to do so right now when Trump is touting his victory.

Posted by orrinj at 5:31 PM


Can Brazil's Democracy Be Saved?: A dangerous right-wing populist who preys on division and disunity looks to be headed for the presidency. (Robert Muggah, Oct. 8, 2018, NY Times)

Brazil's democracy is teetering on the edge, but its collapse is not inevitable. Its rejuvenation will demand foresight, humility, tolerance and the courage to confront what appear to be insurmountable differences. No matter who wins the second round, the coming weeks and months will see polarization deepening and the tide of hatred rising. This does not make the pursuit of a progressive middle ground and real solutions to Brazil's problems any less important.

The election underlines the scale of Brazil's divisive politics. The country's political polarization is deeply personal, cutting across age, gender and class. Many friends and family members are openly wondering whether their parents, siblings or colleagues who supported Mr. Bolsonaro were always closet authoritarians. And those who did not support him are visibly nervous, fearful of the violent resentment that his campaign unleashed.

Mr. Bolsonaro's success owes much to his power to divide. Many of his core followers -- especially the young men who make up his base -- are committed to his corruption-busting and communist-combating crusade. Others, including middle-class women, are attracted more narrowly to his "tough on crime" message. And some of the country's business elite see in Mr. Bolsonaro -- along with his running mate, the retired army general Antonio Hamilton Mourão, and his pro-market financial adviser, Paulo Guedes -- a bulwark against the return of the left-wing Workers' Party and its jailed leader, former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

Brazil's three major political parties share the blame for the country's fragmentation. Both Mr. Lula and his successor, Dilma Rousseff, regularly invoked "us versus them" rhetoric during their 13 years in power, especially when faced with mounting corruption scandals unearthed by the "Carwash" investigations. The other two main parties -- P.M.D.B. and P.S.D.B. -- also set Brazil on a collision course when they voted to unseat Ms. Rousseff in August 2016. Described by Ms. Rousseff's supporters as an illegal coup, the impeachment further divided Brazilians.

Posted by orrinj at 5:26 PM


Rudy Giuliani shares tweet calling George Soros 'anti-Christ' (GABE FRIEDMAN, October 2018, JTA)

On Saturday, Rudy Giuliani -- former New York City mayor and current lawyer for President Donald Trump -- retweeted a tweet calling George Soros the "anti-Christ." The original tweet also suggested that Soros' assets should be frozen.

Anti-Semitism is a core component of Trumpism.

Posted by orrinj at 2:59 PM


L.A. County deputies stopped thousands of innocent Latinos on the 5 Freeway in hopes of their next drug bust (JOEL RUBIN  and BEN POSTON, OCT 04, 2018, LA Times)

More than two-thirds of the drivers pulled over by the Domestic Highway Enforcement Team were Latino, according to a Times analysis of Sheriff's Department data. And sheriff's deputies searched the vehicles of more than 3,500 drivers who turned out to have no drugs or other illegal items, the analysis found. The overwhelming majority of those were Latino.

Several of the team's big drug busts have been dismissed in federal court as the credibility of some deputies came under fire and judges ruled that deputies violated the rights of motorists by conducting unconstitutional searches.

The Times analyzed data from every traffic stop recorded by the team from 2012 through the end of last year -- more than 9,000 stops in all -- and reviewed records from hundreds of court cases. Among its findings:

Latino drivers accounted for 69% of the deputies' stops. Officers from the California Highway Patrol, mainly policing traffic violations on the same section of freeway, pulled over nearly 378,000 motorists during the same period; 40% of them were Latino.

Two-thirds of Latinos who were pulled over by the Sheriff's Department team had their vehicles searched, while cars belonging to all other drivers were searched less than half the time.

Three-quarters of the team's searches came after deputies asked motorists for consent rather than having evidence of criminal behavior. Several legal scholars said such a high rate of requests for consent is concerning because people typically feel pressured to allow a search or are unaware they can refuse.

Though Latinos were much more likely to be searched, deputies found drugs or other illegal items in their vehicles at a rate that was not significantly higher than that of black or white drivers.

Posted by orrinj at 4:30 AM


On the Left, Eyeing More Radical Ways to Fight Kavanaugh (Charlie Savage, Oct. 7, 2018, NY Times)

Facing a Supreme Court controlled by five solidly conservative justices, liberals have already started to attack the legitimacy of the majority bloc and discussed ways to eventually undo its power without waiting for one of its members to retire or die.

Some have gone as far as proposing -- if Democrats were to retake control of Congress and the White House in 2020 or after -- expanding the number of justices on the court to pack it with liberals or trying to impeach, remove and replace Justice Kavanaugh.

Either step would be an extraordinary violation of constitutional and political norms. No justice has been removed through impeachment. And a previous attempt at court packing, by President Franklin D. Roosevelt after a conservative-dominated Supreme Court rejected important parts of his New Deal initiatives during the Great Depression, is broadly seen as having been misguided.

Either step would also face steep odds. Some Republicans would have to go along for them to work: a court-expansion bill would need the support of 60 senators to overcome a filibuster, and while a simple majority of the House could vote to impeach, removal would require two-thirds of the Senate.

It's not a personnel problem; it's a jurisprudence problem.  The Executive and Legislative should join in declaring Marbury v. Madison to represent Judicial overreach and restore the limits on what issues are legitimately before the Court.

Posted by orrinj at 4:25 AM


Survey of battleground House districts shows Democrats with narrow edge (Scott Clement and Dan Balz October 8, 2018, Washington Post)

Likely voters who live in 69 battleground House districts across the country narrowly prefer Democratic candidates, according to a new Washington Post-Schar School survey, a potentially worrying sign for Republicans given that the overwhelming percentage of these districts are currently in GOP hands.

With just a month to the midterm elections and with early voting set to begin in many states, the new poll highlights the challenge for Republicans as they seek to maintain their House majority at a time when President Trump's approval rating remains below 50 percent despite sustained economic growth, low unemployment and a rising stock market.

The survey of 2,672 likely voters by The Post and the Schar School at George Mason University shows that likely voters in these districts favor Democrats by a slight margin: 50 percent prefer the Democratic nominee and 46 percent prefer the Republican. By way of comparison, in 2016 these same districts favored Republican candidates over Democratic ones by 15 percentage points, 56 percent to 41 percent.

The fact that Hillary beat Donald by so many votes has tended to obscure how much the rest of the GOP beat him by and that they carried him to victory.

Posted by orrinj at 4:20 AM


Jair Bolsonaro Heads to Runoff After Missing Outright Win (Ernesto Londoño and Manuela Andreoni, Oct. 7, 2018, NY Times)

Mr. Bolsonaro's first-round victory was all the more remarkable because he lacked the backing of a major party and campaigned on a shoestring budget, relying mainly on social media to build a base. As of mid-September, the Bolsonaro campaign reported having spent about $235,000, a small fraction of the $6.3 million the Haddad campaign disclosed having spent.

Mr. Bolsonaro's rise was enabled by the political divisions that have torn the country apart in recent years.

Brazilians were outraged as leaders of the traditional parties become ensnared in an ever-widening corruption investigation that began in 2014 and became ever more despondent as the economy sputtered, joblessness grew and crime soared.

While some voters remained loyal to the Workers' Party -- which governed from 2003 to 2016 -- for its efforts to improve the lives of poor and working-class Brazilians, many came to hold it responsible for the graft and economic hardship of recent years.

Millions of Brazilians today enthusiastically embrace Mr. Bolsonaro's radical approach to law and order -- even it means killing criminals or political enemies, which were frequent themes for the candidate.

Georgewlany Smith, a 61-year-old public servant in Rio de Janeiro, said that an erosion of democratic norms and civil liberties is a price he is willing to pay for a more secure and prosperous Brazil.

"You have to consider what were the best times for Brazil," Mr. Smith said shortly after he voted for Mr. Bolsonaro in the upscale Barra de Tijuca district. "Unfortunately it was the dictatorship."

Mr. Bolsonaro has tapped into the simmering anger and desire for disruption of the status quo that has gripped many Brazilians. And he became the face of a growing conservative movement in a nation where evangelicals account for one in four voters and more than 90 federal lawmakers.

When one candidate gets popularly cast as anti-corruption and anti-crime the fight is already over.

Posted by orrinj at 4:18 AM


Police Removed A Texas Yard Sign Showing A GOP Elephant With Its Trunk Up A Woman's Skirt (Blake Montgomery, 10/07/18, BuzzFeed News)

The poster, made by Marion Stanford of Hamilton, Texas, and placed in her yard, shows an elephant painted in red, white, and blue with stars, a well-known symbol of the Republican Party. The elephant is sticking its trunk up the skirt of a young blonde girl with pigtails crying for help. Beside the image is the slogan "Your vote matters."

You are what you stand for.

Posted by orrinj at 4:15 AM


Feds freeze Russian oligarch's assets, Upper East Side mansion (Jennifer Gould Keil, October 8, 2018, NY Post)

A sprawling mansion on the Upper East Side has been frozen as part of a hard-core battle between the US government and Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, The Post has learned.

US officials say Deripaska, an aluminium billionaire, is close both with Russian mob leaders and Russian president Vladimir Putin -- and that he is on the sanctions list because he is allegedly involved in murder, money-laundering, bribery and racketeering.

Deripaska also had President Trump's ex-campaign manager Paul Manafort -- who has been convicted of crimes including money-laundering and who is cooperating with US special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe -- on his payroll for years.

Posted by orrinj at 4:13 AM


UK would be welcomed to TPP 'with open arms', says Shinzo Abe: Japanese prime minister talks Brexit, Trump, trade and North Korea in FT interview (Lionel Barber and Robin Harding, 10/08/18, Financial Times)

Japan would welcome Britain to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal "with open arms", said Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, as he urged a compromise to avoid a no-deal Brexit.

Speaking in an interview with the Financial Times at his official residence in Tokyo, Mr Abe said the UK would lose its role as a gateway to Europe after Brexit, but would still be a country "equipped with global strength".

His remarks will encourage Brexit supporters in the UK who see new opportunities for free trade outside the EU while turning up the pressure on Brussels and London to strike a timely exit deal.

The TPP is a wide-ranging trade agreement between 11 Pacific countries, including Japan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Canada, Mexico and Australia. It originally included the US but one of Donald Trump's first acts as president was to withdraw from the pact.

Joining would be a way for Britain to strike new free-trade deals with a large and fast-growing chunk of the world economy. However, it would only be possible if the UK was to leave the EU customs union and gain the power to set its own tariffs.

Posted by orrinj at 4:04 AM


The white southerners who changed their views on racism : In a follow-up to our piece on US southerners' views on race, we talk to people about their racial miseducation (Donna Ladd, 8 Oct 2018, The Guardian)

Born in 1974, she admits to regularly dropping the N-word and delighting in racist jokes with friends. "I was all in. I believed every single bit of it ... all the 'heritage' stuff."

She often regurgitated revisionist civil war tropes long embedded in southern textbooks: that secession wasn't over slavery; that the war was a glorious uprising against federal tyranny; that slaves were happy and adored their masters until the Yankees up north riled them up. She also defended the Confederate flag and monuments.

Hinman's parents did not want racist jokes and the N-word inside their home. Still, while watching the TV show In the Heat of the Night when she was a kid, she quipped that she might bring home a black boyfriend, angering her father.

"I would beat your ass to New York and back," he said.

Many white southerners had adopted an uneven racial code since violent responses to civil rights gains in the 1960s. "He didn't believe in total racism," Hinman says of her father, "but you weren't bringing [black people] home."

But in her 20s, while studying at the University of Mississippi, Hinman's views changed. She made liberal friends. Her friend Kiki described growing up on the black side of their wealthy college town, where whites seldom ventured and children enjoyed fewer opportunities. Hinman came to believe that racism is not just interpersonal name-calling, but systemic denial of equity and equality - in education, the workplace, political representation, housing, healthcare and everyday life.

Hinman realized that many whites are conditioned to believe lies that people of color were biologically inferior, more prone to crime, lazier. "It's about a sense of superiority," she says. "I might live in a trailer in Tchula, Mississippi, but at least somehow I can say I'm 'better' than these other people ... We've done really horrible stuff to black people in the name of superiority."

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 AM


Jamal Khashoggi chose to tell the truth. It's part of the reason he's beloved.  (David Ignatius, October 7, 2018, Washington Post)

George Orwell titled a regular column he wrote for a British newspaper in the mid-1940s "As I Please." Meaning that he would write exactly what he believed. My Saudi colleague Jamal Khashoggi has always had that same insistent passion for telling the truth about his country, no matter what.

Khashoggi's fate is unknown as I write, but his colleagues at The Post and friends around the world fear that he was murdered after he visited the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last Tuesday.

I have known Khashoggi for about 15 years and want to share here some of the reasons he is beloved in our profession and the news of his disappearance has been such a shock.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


A white woman was harassing two Hispanic women in a supermarket. Then something incredible happened (Independent, 10/08/18)

A woman was arrested and another hailed a 'shero' after a racist incident against two Hispanic women in a Colorado shop.

An American woman, who has been identified as Linda Dwire, was caught on film arguing with a woman called Kamira Trent, who had intervened after she saw Dwire harass two people for speaking Spanish.

The footage, which has been viewed more than half a million times, shows Trent and Dwire shouting at one another before Trent escorts her out of a City Market store in Rifle.

Trent shouts:

I'm calling the cops. You leave these women alone! Get out!

"You come from a generation that's destroying this country," Dwire fires back.

"No I do not. I have respect. You do not harass people," Trent responds.

Posted by orrinj at 3:59 AM


Mueller's Focus on Adviser to Emirates Suggests Broader Investigation (Mark Mazzetti, David D. Kirkpatrick and Maggie Haberman, March 3, 2018, NY Times)

George Nader, a Lebanese-American businessman, has hovered on the fringes of international diplomacy for three decades. He was a back-channel negotiator with Syria during the Clinton administration, reinvented himself as an adviser to the de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates, and last year was a frequent visitor to President Trump's White House.

Mr. Nader is now a focus of the investigation by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel. In recent weeks, Mr. Mueller's investigators have questioned Mr. Nader and have pressed witnesses for information about any possible attempts by the Emiratis to buy political influence by directing money to support Mr. Trump during the presidential campaign, according to people with knowledge of the discussions.

The investigators have also asked about Mr. Nader's role in White House policymaking, those people said, suggesting that the special counsel investigation has broadened beyond Russian election meddling to include Emirati influence on the Trump administration. The focus on Mr. Nader could also prompt an examination of how money from multiple countries has flowed through and influenced Washington during the Trump era.

...of course, so did the cow, Pervert farrier, 50, jailed after filming himself having sex with a cow and forcing miniature horse to penetrate him (Elaine McCahill, 8 OCT 2018, Daily Mirror)

October 7, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 6:40 PM


The Yankees (July 1946, Fortune)

It is the last half of the ninth in the 1946 opener at Yankee Stadium and the Washington visitors are leading New York 6 to 5. As the first Yankee batsman, Joe Gordon, steps to the plate, the vibrant rumble of 55,000 voices swells ever so slightly, then scales down sharply to near silence. Everybody is waiting for the pitch. As it thuds into the catcher's glove-a clean strike-the tension breaks momentarily and the crowd finds its voice. The pitcher throws two more like it and Gordon, usually a fine hitter, has struck out. An almighty, communal groan rolls over the Stadium, and Gordon, as if to chastise himself, deliberately holds his ignoble strike-out pose. He scrutinizes his bat reproachfully, and for a moment it looks as if he would fling it away in disgust. Instead, he hands it to the bat boy with exaggerated tenderness and slowly makes his way to the dugout. Over the magpie chorus of the crowd a shrill voice pipes, "Tough luck, Joe!" but from another corner of the stands comes a Bronx objection: "Ahh, that Gawdon-anhh."

Now Stirnweiss is at bat. For a big-leaguer he is short (five feet eight inches) and "hard to pitch to." When he has worked the Washington pitcher for a base on balls, the stands begin to hum and a few spectators heading for the exits pop back from the ramps to see what's up. Henrich, a left-hander, bats next. In trying to throw him a slow, teasing ball-close inside-the pitcher nicks Henrich on the wrist. It doesn't look as though Henrich tried too hard to avoid being struck, but the umpire waves him on to first base over the anguished protests of the Washington players. Then it is that the vocal thunder begins to gather. DiMaggio, greatest of the Yankee sluggers, is coming to bat. DiMaggio! DiMaggio! The name is passed around the Stadium from lip to lip like a password, a prayer-and finally, in one section of the upper tier, it turns into pure incantation: DiMaggio! thump, thump, thump; DiMaggio! thump, thump, thump ...

Amid this melee of shouting, stamping, and gesticulation, DiMaggio appears to be the only sane and poised individual in the park. He walks deliberately, but without swagger, into the batter's box, first pausing to scoop up a handful of dirt, the better to grip his bat. Fifty-five thousand pairs of eyes are fixed now on his ritual. He tugs once-just once-at the peak of his cap; he raps the plate once-just once-with the end of his bat; and he takes three-just three-half swings in the direction of the pitcher. Then he pulls back into his distinctive stance, feet wide apart, arms high, bat in air, cocked for the swing. Utterly immobile, he awaits the pitch.

Posted by orrinj at 6:29 PM


NRA's spending is way down in the 2018 midterms. Does it have 'a popularity problem?' (BEN WIEDER AND GREG GORDON, October 02, 2018, McClatchy)

The National Rifle Association's political spending is sharply down heading into the 2018 midterm elections, a shift that could reflect declining fundraising in the wake of a string of mass shootings and an FBI investigation into the group's Russia ties.

The politically potent gun advocacy group has this year spent one-tenth of what it had spent politically at this point in 2014, according to the most recent filings with the Federal Election Commission.

So far, the NRA's political action committee and political non-profit arm have spent just over $1.6 million in 2018 on outside expenditures, such as political attack ads, and direct campaign contributions to federal candidates and groups, compared to more than $16 million on similar expenses at this point in 2014.

That decline comes as the FBI investigates whether the group illegally received money from Russia to fuel its support of President Donald Trump during the 2016 election and as the group has seen a decline in dues that has deepened the group's operating deficit.

Posted by orrinj at 6:27 PM



McDonald's is a popular tourist drop-in, as exhausted travelers revel in both its Americanness -- everything just where you left it -- and its slight French touches, like macarons for dessert. But French people love their American fast food too. "Metro, boulot, dodo" goes a popular French phrase describing busy city life: subway, job, sleep. But it's not uncommon to hear a slightly different version: Metro, boulot, McDo.

While France has the second-highest number of McDonald's restaurants in Europe (Germany is still No. 1), it's seen a 4 percent growth just since 2016. And it's way out ahead of any other fast-food chain: The Bertrand Group, which owns Burger King, Au Bureau, Quick and Hippopotamus, earned less than $2 billion in 2017.

Posted by orrinj at 6:23 PM


Immigrants' Health Premiums Far Exceed What Plans Pay For Their Care (Carmen Heredia Rodriguez, OCTOBER 1, 2018, Kaiser Health News)\

President Donald Trump has repeatedly condemned U.S. immigration policy, arguing that many immigrants pose a threat to the nation and drain U.S. resources. But a study released Monday about health insurance challenges the president's portrayal.

The study in the journal Health Affairs found that immigrants covered by private health insurance and their employers contributed nearly $25 billion more in premiums in 2014 than was spent on their care. Those in the country without legal status contributed nearly $8 billion toward the surplus.

In contrast, U.S.-born enrollees spent nearly $25 billion more than they paid for in premiums.

Posted by orrinj at 4:48 AM


The Warlike Origins of 'Going Dutch': The term for splitting the bill has its roots in a bitter international rivalry. (ANNE EWBANK SEPTEMBER 25, 2018, AStas Obscura)

The insults came fast and thick. Dutch soldiers, according to the English, needed "Dutch courage," or alcohol-fueled bravado, to fight. A "Dutch uncle" was a stern and authoritative figure, not a kindly uncle. "Dutch feasts" were parties where the host got drunk first, while a "Dutch reckoning" was an unitemized bill with unexpected charges. "Dutch comfort" was the small consolation that a bad situation wasn't worse.

In essence, writes Peter Douglas of the New Netherland Institute, "Dutch" implied anything opposite or inferior to the way it should have been, and often the term was used for everything from crude insults to possibly even cookware. The Dutch oven, a lidded pot that can be used for baking, may or may not be part of this trend: It's not truly an oven, but the Dutch may have simply been good at producing them.

"To go Dutch," though, is an all-American term. As Jonathan Milder writes in Entertaining from Ancient Rome to the Super Bowl, one of the first scornful references to a "Dutch treat"--that is, not really treating someone else at all--appears in a New York Times article from 1877. The term coincides with what Milder calls "the centuries-old British sport of mocking the Dutch," but can also be a reference to the contemporary German-American habit of everyone buying their own drink (Dutch being a confused reference to Deutsch, or "German").

Posted by orrinj at 4:35 AM


Tolkien Speaks: The Secret to a Happy Marriage (SAM GUZMAN, 9/29/18, CERC)

To illustrate Tolkien's profound view of married love, I want to share an excerpt from a letter to his son, Michael Tolkien.  Here is a truncated version of his letter.

Men are not [monogamous].  No good pretending.  Men just ain't, not by their animal nature.  Monogamy (although it has long been fundamental to our inherited ideas) is for us men a piece of 'revealed ethic, according to faith and not the flesh.  The essence of a fallen world is that the best cannot be attained by free enjoyment, or by what is called "self-realization" (usually a nice name for self-indulgence, wholly inimical to the realization of other selves); but by denial, by suffering.  Faithfulness in Christian marriages entails that: great mortification.

For a Christian man there is no escape.  Marriage may help to sanctify and direct to its proper object his sexual desires; its grace may help him in the struggle; but the struggle remains.  It will not satisfy him -- as hunger may be kept off by regular meals.  It will offer as many difficulties to the purity proper to that state as it provides easements.

No man, however truly he loved his betrothed and bride as a young man, has lived faithful to her as a wife in mind and body without deliberate conscious exercise of the will, without self-denial.  Too few are told that -- even those brought up in 'the Church'.  Those outside seem seldom to have heard it.

Posted by orrinj at 4:33 AM


The Right Stuff, and Other Stuff: Tom Wolfe contained multitudes, too--some of them, at least, lasting contributions to American literature. (MICHAEL UPCHURCH, 9/18/18, American Interest)

Wolfe's provocative 1989 Harper's essay, "Stalking the Billion-Footed Beast," made an after-the-fact case for what he was up to in Bonfire. He granted that capturing the teeming multi-ethnic chaos of New York City on the page was a daunting challenge. Still, he thought it was worth a try. And he believed the best way to do it was to bring back "the big realistic novel, with its broad social sweep." Bonfire pulls it off--not that the book is soberly realistic. Instead, it's packed with stylization and artifice galore, full of farcical distorting mirrors that illuminate reality even as they warp it.

Bonfire is the tale of Sherman McCoy, a Wall Street bond salesman and self-styled "Master of the Universe," living on swanky Park Avenue. When he and his mistress, Maria Ruskin, accidentally commit a hit-and-run in the Bronx, they go straight into cover-up mode. Sherman has qualms about this; Maria has no doubts at all.

Their victim is Henry Lamb, a mild-mannered black high-school senior who grew up in the projects and had plans to go to college. Lamb, in a coma, can't testify to what happened. There is another witness to the hit-and-run, but he has good reason to avoid the authorities.

With every prismatic twist and turn the book's elaborate plot takes, and with every new piece of hearsay it incorporates, Wolfe throws shifting, conflicting light on its pivotal event: the hit-and-run accident. No one's point of view is to be entirely trusted. No one emerges cleanly from the mess.

By the time Bonfire was published, Wolfe had lived in New York City for 25 years. He had the city in his blood. As a newspaper journalist in the early phase of his career, he was familiar with both the city's high places and its low places--and he was skeptical about them all. His 659-page satire features a sprawling cast of colorfully reprehensible characters: politicians, lawyers, social climbers, journalists, black activists, drug dealers, abusive cops, and people who defy every label we can conjure.

Wolfe's New York is vital, ridiculous, acrimonious, ugly. It's also riddled with greed, and Wolfe is practically a fetishist about indexing the worth of every material object in his protagonist's life. Sherman wears a $1,800 suit ("two-button, single-breasted, with ordinary notched lapels") and $650 shoes ("New & Lingwood of Jermyn Street, London"). He lives in a $2.6 million apartment on Park Avenue and drives a $48,000 two-seat Mercedes roadster. Wolfe's frequent mentions of prestigious brand names ("Sheraton and Chippendale side tables," "a Lalique ashtray with a lion's head sculpted on the rim," "eight hundred dollars' worth of flowered cotton fabric from Laura Ashley") are like a nervous tic. It's as though Wolfe has taken an approach to fiction that Virginia Woolf disdained in her essay "Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown" (too much attention to characters' external circumstances, she said of Arnold Bennett, and not enough focus on the interior workings of their minds) and burlesqued it into the stratosphere. Still, even Woolf might have been awed by Bonfire's mastery of stream-of-consciousness technique as it pulls us into the squirming, racing mind of Sherman McCoy as he tries to evade justice.

Wolfe may have thought he was writing a "big realistic novel" but the pure frenzied energy of Bonfire's prose lifts it into the realms of the surreal.Wolfe may have thought he was writing a "big realistic novel" but the pure frenzied energy of Bonfire's prose lifts it into the realms of the surreal. However dismissive Wolfe was in "Stalking the Billion-Footed Beast" about "Absurdist novels, Magic Realist novels and novels of Radical Disjunction," many of Bonfire's touches suit those labels. The book also fits nicely into a lineage of New York-set extravaganzas that includes Robert Coover's The Public Burning, Tony Kushner's Angels in America (which debuted just a few years later), and the New York fiction of Christina Stead, especially her novel A Little Tea, A Little Chat, about war profiteering in 1940s Manhattan. (Stead's great 1938 novel, House of All Nations--about fly-by-night bankers in 1930s Paris making money off the Crash--almost reads like a template for Bonfire, and her arguments in favor of the "many-charactered novel" in which the reader has to "draw his own conclusions from the diverse material, as from life itself," would probably get a hearty "Hallelujah!" from Wolfe).

The animosities powering Bonfire have a starkly contemporary ring in the 2010s. In certain passages, Wolfe even comes close to coining the mantra, "Black Lives Matter." When the clueless, alcoholic British reporter who breaks the McCoy story asks one of his sources what the black community is "exploding over," the man reasonably explains, "They're tired of being treated as if human life in the South Bronx means nothing!"

In a recent interview comedian D.L. Hughley, citing the current flurry of white people calling the cops about African-Americans sitting in a Starbucks, sleeping in a college library and other non-events, remarked, "The most dangerous place for black people to live is in white people's imagination." That's a line that could have come straight out of Bonfire.

What does a writer who caught 1980s New York in a 659-page genie bottle do next? Take a crack at another city.

"A Man in Full" is set in an "absolutely sports-crazed Atlanta," and offers everything from real-estate scams and racial vitriol to snake-handling and prayers to Zeus. Via multiple plot strands, Wolfe explores his Urban New South setting from top to bottom. The book, despite its title, is mostly about what it's like to be un-manned. No one--rich, poor, black, white--comes out of the process unscathed.

Wolfe's protagonist Charlie Croker is a badly overextended real-estate developer whose catastrophic finances are about to make headlines in Atlanta. The path by which they become the stuff of media frenzy is extravagantly serpentine, encompassing a rape case that isn't quite a rape case, a mayoral campaign between two black candidates (one of them nicknamed "Roger Too White"), and a Bay Area frozen-food operation owned by Charlie (who, in his only voluntary attempt at economizing, instigates layoffs there). Among the newly jobless is young Conrad Hensley whose life becomes a veritable story of Job once he's let go from Croker Global Foods. Unable to support his family, he is pushed to a point where he lands in jail. There, in the book's most unusual twist, the sayings of Greek Stoic philosopher Epictetus fall into Conrad's hands and become his guiding light.

Stoicism! Wolfe could not have chosen a school of thought more out of fashion in the 1990s--or in the 21st century, for that matter. Charlie, Conrad, and Roger Too White (whose real name is Roger White II) become caught up in questions of how to maintain their integrity of character. Their stories are complemented by thematically related subplots too numerous to name here, all of them woven into a rambunctious symphony of hope and hate, honor and despair.

Wolfe's journalistic prowess lends authority to every milieu he describes, from the swankiest do at Atlanta's High Museum to the deep-freeze operations of the Croker Global Foods warehouse. His Virginia background seems also to have aided him in accurately noting distinctions of class, pedigree, and accent within the South. His portrait of good old boys suddenly "afraid to let it be known that they weren't sophisticated enough to be cosmopolites of the new Atlanta" feels right on-target. His set pieces--a truly gothic horse-breeding scene, a lender-debtor showdown in a bank conference room, a gaffe-ridden dinner party where jokes about gays are offered as witticism to suspected Jewish liberals--are vintage Wolfe. As in Bonfire, he doesn't just capture an entire city but encapsulates a whole era. And in confirming that he could pull off the same trick twice, he established himself as a novelist for the ages. We can look at our own world--at the Kushner family's shady, shaky cash-flow problems with 666 Fifth Avenue, for instance--and say, "It's like something out of a Tom Wolfe novel."

Posted by orrinj at 4:15 AM


The World's First Immigration Economy (SALVATORE BABONES | OCTOBER 3, 2018, Foreign Policy)

[A]ustralia's extraordinary economic statistics mask a more difficult economic reality.But Australia's extraordinary economic statistics mask a more difficult economic reality. At the lowest point in the spring and summer of 2013, Australia's quarterly growth rates fell to 1.7 percent. At the same time, Australia's population was growing at an annualized rate of 1.8 percent. Measured in per capita terms, then, Australia's economy actually shrank for two consecutive quarters.
Australia also experienced a "per capita recession" for four quarters during the global financial crisis and for two quarters during the dot-com bust of 2000. It recorded a quarter of negative per-capita GDP growth in 2003. Viewed this way, Australia's economy has in fact matched every U.S. recession of the last 40 years, with one additional slowdown in the first half of 1986.

Economists don't usually bother to adjust quarterly GDP statistics for population growth. For most developed nations, population growth is so slow and steady as to hardly matter on such a short-term time horizon. Not so for Australia. Australia's population has grown by nearly 45 percent since 1991. No other major developed country even comes close to that rate.

Unlike similarly fast-growing countries in Africa and the Middle East, Australia doesn't have a particularly high fertility rate. In fact, the rate is well below the replacement level required to keep its population stable. The majority of Australia's population growth comes from immigration. In turn, Australia's so-called economic miracle is based on immigration, too.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics reckons that Australia's population passed the 25 million mark "just after 11 p.m." on Aug. 7. That represents a doubling of the country's population in less than 50 years. An equivalent growth rate in the United States since 1970 would have made for two extra Californias on top of the country's actual population growth over the last half-century.

At the same time, 50 years of unparalleled immigration have given Australia the largest foreign-born population of any major developed country in modern times. As of 2016, over 28 percent of people in Australia were not born there. With immigration hitting new records in the 2017 to 2018 fiscal year, that figure is almost certain to breach 30 percent by the end of the decade. Immigration is now adding nearly 1 percent per year to Australia's population. By contrast, in the United States today, nearly 14 percent of the population is foreign-born. For America, that is nearly a record. The American foreign-born population never exceeded 15 percent even in the 1890s heyday of mass immigration.

Australia is, in essence, in the midst of an unprecedented experiment in mass immigration the likes of which the developed world has never seen. And this influx of people feeds into its growth story through several channels. The first is that more people means more demand--for everything, but especially for housing. A typical four-bedroom house in a middle-class suburb about 20 miles west of central Sydney will set you back around 1 million Australian dollars (about $700,000). Mass immigration has also led to a massive building boom that still has not kept pace with population growth in Australia's major metropolitan areas.

The second has to do with labor. In Australia, immigrants are selected based on a points system of the kind that U.S. President Donald Trump has proposed for the United States. More than two-thirds of permanent migrants to Australia are admitted on account of their education and skills. These immigrants often fail to find work that corresponds to their professional qualifications. Nonetheless, they are usually working-age adults in the most productive periods of their lives.

Their presence gives the economy a boost--and saves the government a lot of money. Australia has a universal single-payer health care system called Medicare, which is similar to the U.S. Medicare program but is open to all citizens and permanent residents. With immigration continuously boosting the population of healthy, working-age, taxpaying adults who need little medical care, Australia is able to support its national health system at relatively low cost.

Posted by orrinj at 4:13 AM


Taiwan Can Win a War With China: Beijing boasts it can seize the island easily. The PLA knows better. (TANNER GREER, SEPTEMBER 25, 2018, Foreign Policy)

Two recent studies, one by Michael Beckley, a political scientist at Tufts University, and the other by Ian Easton, a fellow at the Project 2049 Institute, in his book The Chinese Invasion Threat: Taiwan's Defense and American Strategy in Asia, provide us with a clearer picture of what a war between Taiwan and the mainland might look like. Grounded in statistics, training manuals, and planning documents from the PLA itself, and informed by simulations and studies conducted by both the U.S. Defense Department and the Taiwanese Ministry of National Defense, this research presents a very different picture of a cross-strait conflict than that hawked by the party's official announcements. [...]

One of the central hurdles facing the offensive is surprise. The PLA simply will not have it. The invasion will happen in April or October. Because of the challenges posed by the strait's weather, a transport fleet can only make it across the strait in one of these two four-week windows. The scale of the invasion will be so large that strategic surprise will not be possible, especially given the extensive mutual penetration of each side by the other's intelligence agencies.

Easton estimates that Taiwanese, American, and Japanese leaders will know that the PLA is preparing for a cross-strait war more than 60 days before hostilities begin. They will know for certain that an invasion will happen more than 30 days before the first missiles are fired. This will give the Taiwanese ample time to move much of their command and control infrastructure into hardened mountain tunnels, move their fleet out of vulnerable ports, detain suspected agents and intelligence operatives, litter the ocean with sea mines, disperse and camouflage army units across the country, put the economy on war footing, and distribute weapons to Taiwan's 2.5 million reservists.

There are only 13 beaches on Taiwan's western coast that the PLA could possibly land at. Each of these has already been prepared for a potential conflict. Long underground tunnels--complete with hardened, subterranean supply depots--crisscross the landing sites. The berm of each beach has been covered with razor-leaf plants. Chemical treatment plants are common in many beach towns--meaning that invaders must prepare for the clouds of toxic gas any indiscriminate saturation bombing on their part will release. This is how things stand in times of peace.

As war approaches, each beach will be turned into a workshop of horrors. The path from these beaches to the capital has been painstakingly mapped; once a state of emergency has been declared, each step of the journey will be complicated or booby-trapped. PLA war manuals warn soldiers that skyscrapers and rock outcrops will have steel cords strung between them to entangle helicopters; tunnels, bridges, and overpasses will be rigged with munitions (to be destroyed only at the last possible moment); and building after building in Taiwan's dense urban core will be transformed into small redoubts meant to drag Chinese units into drawn-out fights over each city street.

To understand the real strength of these defenses, imagine them as a PLA grunt would experience them. Like most privates, he is a countryside boy from a poor province. He has been told his entire life that Taiwan has been totally and fatally eclipsed by Chinese power. He will be eager to put the separatists in their place. Yet events will not work out as he has imagined. In the weeks leading up to war, he discovers that his older cousin--whose remittances support their grandparents in the Anhui countryside--has lost her job in Shanghai. All wire money transfers from Taipei have stopped, and the millions of Chinese who are employed by Taiwanese companies have had their pay suspended.

Our private celebrates the opening of hostilities in Shanwei, where he is rushed through a three-week training course on fighting in the fetid and unfamiliar jungles of China's south. By now, the PLA has put him in a media blackout, but still rumors creep in: Yesterday it was whispered that the 10-hour delay in their train schedule had nothing to do with an overwhelmed transportation system and everything to do with Taiwanese saboteurs. Today's whispers report that the commander of the 1st Marine Brigade in Zhanjiang was assassinated. Tomorrow, men will wonder if rolling power outages really are just an attempt to save power for the war effort.

But by the time he reaches the staging area in Fuzhou, the myth of China's invincibility has been shattered by more than rumors. The gray ruins of Fuzhou's PLA offices are his first introduction to the terror of missile attack. Perhaps he takes comfort in the fact that the salvos coming from Taiwan do not seem to match the number of salvos streaking toward it--but abstractions like this can only do so much to shore up broken nerves, and he doesn't have the time to acclimate himself to the shock. Blast by terrifying blast, his confidence that the Chinese army can keep him safe is chipped away.

The last, most terrible salvo comes as he embarks--he is one of the lucky few setting foot on a proper amphibious assault boat, not a civilian vessel converted to war use in the eleventh hour--but this is only the first of many horrors on the waters. Some transports are sunk by Taiwanese torpedoes, released by submarines held in reserve for this day. Airborne Harpoon missiles, fired by F-16s leaving the safety of cavernous, nuclear-proof mountain bunkers for the first time in the war, will destroy others. The greatest casualties, however, will be caused by sea mines. Minefield after minefield must be crossed by every ship in the flotilla, some a harrowing eight miles in width. Seasick thanks to the strait's rough waves, our grunt can do nothing but pray his ship safely makes it across.

As he approaches land, the psychological pressure increases. The first craft to cross the shore will be met, as Easton's research shows, with a sudden wall of flame springing up from the water from the miles of oil-filled pipeline sunk underneath. As his ship makes it through the fire (he is lucky; others around it are speared or entangled on sea traps) he faces what Easton describes as a mile's worth of "razor wire nets, hook boards, skin-peeling planks, barbed wire fences, wire obstacles, spike strips, landmines, anti-tank barrier walls, anti-tank obstacles ... bamboo spikes, felled trees, truck shipping containers, and junkyard cars."

At this stage, his safety depends largely on whether the Chinese Air Force has been able to able to distinguish between real artillery pieces from the hundreds of decoy targets and dummy equipment PLA manuals believe the Taiwanese Army has created. The odds are against him: As Beckley notes in a study published last fall, in the 1990 to 1991 Gulf War, the 88,500 tons of ordnance dropped by the U.S.-led coalition did not destroy a single Iraqi road-mobile missile launcher. NATO's 78-day campaign aimed at Serbian air defenses only managed to destroy three of Serbia's 22 mobile-missile batteries. There is no reason to think that the Chinese Air Force will have a higher success rate when targeting Taiwan's mobile artillery and missile defense.

But if our grunt survives the initial barrages on the beach, he still must fight his way through the main Taiwanese Army groups, 2.5 million armed reservists dispersed in the dense cities and jungles of Taiwan, and miles of mines, booby traps, and debris. This is an enormous thing to ask of a private who has no personal experience with war. It is an even great thing to ask it of a private who naively believed in his own army's invincibility.

October 6, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 4:16 AM


The Squid Hunter: Can Steve O'Shea capture the sea's most elusive creature? (David Grann, 5/24/04, The New Yorker)

On a moonless January night in 2003, Olivier de Kersauson, the French yachtsman, was racing across the Atlantic Ocean, trying to break the record for the fastest sailing voyage around the world, when his boat mysteriously came to a halt. There was no land for hundreds of miles, yet the mast rattled and the hull shuddered, as if the vessel had run aground. Kersauson turned the wheel one way, then the other; still, the gunwales shook inexplicably in the darkness. Kersauson ordered his crew, all of whom were now running up and down the deck, to investigate. Some of the crew took out spotlights and shone them on the water, as the massive trimaran--a three-hulled, hundred-and-ten-foot boat that was the largest racing machine of its kind, and was named Geronimo, for the Apache warrior--pitched in the waves.

Meanwhile, the first mate, Didier Ragot, descended from the deck into the cabin, opened a trapdoor in the floor, and peered through a porthole into the ocean, using a flashlight. He glimpsed something by the rudder. "It was bigger than a human leg," Ragot recently told me. "It was a tentacle." He looked again. "It was starting to move," he recalled.

He beckoned Kersauson, who came down and crouched over the opening. "I think it's some sort of animal," Ragot said.

Kersauson took the flashlight, and inspected for himself. "I had never seen anything like it," he told me. "There were two giant tentacles right beneath us, lashing at the rudder."

The creature seemed to be wrapping itself around the boat, which rocked violently. The floorboards creaked, and the rudder started to bend. Then, just as the stern seemed ready to snap, everything went still. "As it unhooked itself from the boat, I could see its tentacles," Ragot recalled. "The whole animal must have been nearly thirty feet long."

The creature had glistening skin and long arms with suckers, which left impressions on the hull. "It was enormous," Kersauson recalled. "I've been sailing for forty years and I've always had an answer for everything--for hurricanes and icebergs. But I didn't have an answer for this. It was terrifying."

What they claimed they saw--a claim that many regarded as a tall tale--was a giant squid, an animal that has long occupied a central place in sea lore; it has been said to be larger than a whale and stronger than an elephant, with a beak that can sever steel cables. In a famous scene in "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea," Jules Verne depicts a battle between a submarine and a giant squid that is twenty-five feet long, with eight arms and blue-green eyes--"a terrible monster worthy of all the legends about such creatures." More recently, Peter Benchley, in his thriller "Beast," describes a giant squid that "killed without need, as if Nature, in a fit of perverse malevolence, had programmed it to that end."

Such fictional accounts, coupled with scores of unconfirmed sightings by sailors over the years, have elevated the giant squid into the fabled realm of the fire-breathing dragon and the Loch Ness monster. Though the giant squid is no myth, the species, designated in scientific literature as Architeuthis, is so little understood that it sometimes seems like one. A fully grown giant squid is classified as the largest invertebrate on Earth, with tentacles sometimes as long as a city bus and eyes about the size of human heads. Yet no scientist has ever examined a live specimen--or seen one swimming in the sea. Researchers have studied only carcasses, which have occasionally washed ashore or floated to the surface. (One corpse, found in 1887 in the South Pacific, was said to be nearly sixty feet long.) Other evidence of the giant squid is even more indirect: sucker marks have been spotted on the bodies of sperm whales, as if burned into them; presumably, the two creatures battle each other hundreds of feet beneath the ocean's surface.

The giant squid has consumed the imaginations of many oceanographers. How could something so big and powerful remain unseen for so long--or be less understood than dinosaurs, which died out millions of years ago? The search for a living specimen has inspired a fevered competition. For decades, teams of scientists have prowled the high seas in the hope of glimpsing one. These "squid squads" have in recent years invested millions of dollars and deployed scores of submarines and underwater cameras, in a struggle to be first.

Steve O'Shea, a marine biologist from New Zealand, is one of the hunters--but his approach is radically different. He is not trying to find a mature giant squid; rather, he is scouring the ocean for a baby, called a paralarva, which he can grow in captivity. A paralarva is often the size of a cricket.

"Squid, you see, hatch thousands of babies," O'Shea told me recently, when I called him at his office at the Earth and Oceanic Sciences Research Institute, at the Auckland University of Technology. "Most of these will get eaten up by larger predators, but during periods of spawning the sea should be filled with an absolutely fantastic amount of these miniature organisms. And, unlike the adults, they shouldn't be able to dart away as easily."

Rival hunters once viewed his plan skeptically: if no one could find the animal when it was sixty feet long, how could anyone discover it when it was barely an eighth of an inch? Lately, though, many have come to see O'Shea's strategy as a potential breakthrough. "It offers several advantages," Clyde Roper, an American who is perhaps the world's foremost expert on squid, told me. Roper is a giant-squid hunter himself, who once descended underwater in a steel cage, in search of his quarry. "First, you could find the juvenile at shallower depths. That makes it a lot easier to catch. Furthermore, there are more of them around, because at that stage, even though mortality is high, the adult female will release up to four million eggs. That's a hell of a lot of baby giant squid running around." He added, "It's a matter of a numbers game, pure and simple."

Posted by orrinj at 4:09 AM


The Tag Team: These ten friends have been playing the childhood game for decades--and each year, the stakes get higher. Now, their contest is being immortalized on film. (Darryn King, 6/6/18, Hazlitt)

On a Saturday afternoon in February in downtown Seattle, Chris Amman, a neatly dressed fifty-two-year-old financial services professional, had the strange feeling he was being hunted.

After spending the morning attending to a few things in the office, Amman had a one o'clock meeting in a bar named The Brooklyn, on the ground level of his building. He'd chosen the location knowing it would be relatively quiet at that hour, all the better for detecting anything out of the ordinary. The day before, he'd paid a visit to get the lay of the land, suss out its blind spots and points of entry. He spent some time looking online for more information on the person he was scheduled to meet. His story checked out, but Amman remained suspicious.

Entering The Brooklyn a few minutes after the hour, he scanned the space, gazing past a man at the bar with a mullet, eyeing the group in the back.

He spotted the journalist, whose picture he'd seen online, and walked over to take a seat. Niceties were briefly exchanged. He ordered a beer.

And then, just as Amman was beginning to relax and feel safe, the man with the mullet rose from his barstool and stalked purposefully over. "Hey, aren't you--" he began. Amman looked up at the approaching figure. It took a moment for recognition to dawn. Then he made a run for it.

He didn't get far. The man with the mullet gave Amman a light but effective whack on the upper back. "Tag!" he said. "You're It." 

In all the usual ways, they are just like ten normal middle-aged guys. Mostly scattered around Seattle and Spokane in Washington, they have wives, children, jobs, grown-up responsibilities. When they get together, they drink a few pints, smoke cigars, watch basketball, regale each other with stories and call each other by time-honored nicknames (Amman is Lepus, Rick Bruya is Bruiser, Joe Caferro is Beef).

Unlike most adults, however, they have been playing an unprecedentedly epic and continuous game of "tag," the beloved children's playground game (called "tig" or "it" by some), for more than thirty years. They call themselves the Tag Brothers.

Posted by orrinj at 4:07 AM


Did Thomas Kuhn Kill Truth? : A debate on the nature of truth turns into a squabble over whether the father of the "paradigm shift" threw an ashtray at Errol Morris's head. (David Kordahl, Spring 2018, New Atlantis)

The preface to The Essential Tension (1977) -- Thomas Kuhn's first essay collection published post-Structure -- offers advice for students working to interpret primary sources in science. "When reading the works of an important thinker, look first for the apparent absurdities in the text and ask yourself how a sensible person could have written them." Kuhn continues, "When those passages make sense, then you may find that more central passages, ones you previously thought you understood, have changed their meaning."

Whatever your views on Kuhn, this seems like good advice. It's also the exact opposite of Errol Morris's approach to Kuhn in The Ashtray. Of course, if Morris directly experienced Kuhn as a violent maniac, this is understandable; few of us are eager to consider our abusers as important thinkers. On the other hand, with over a half-century of continued appeal, Kuhn must offer something beyond dogmatism and a halo of ash. So what, in his anger, has Morris left out?

Let's start with how well Kuhn was able to capture the way science is actually done. Unlike Kripke, Kuhn was one of us, a Ph.D. physicist whose firsthand knowledge of "normal science" allowed him to document scientific investigations in sensitive detail. To fellow scientists, many of Kuhn's claims seem less perverse than they are self-evident. When Kuhn discusses how paradigms define the way scientists approach the world, most of us will nod along, remembering the difficult years spent in reproducing classic experiments and solutions. The description of normal science as puzzle-solving within a paradigm certainly resonates with those of us actively searching for problems to tackle. By contrast, you'd be hard pressed to find a single working scientist who is out to discover necessary a posteriori truths.

Nevertheless, I suspect that beyond the fetching jargon and neat anecdotes, most scientists would in fact disagree with Kuhn's more radical claims. For instance, many physicists will agree that the world really is a certain way -- that, to the best of our knowledge, everything really is made of relativistic quantum fields. For such physicists, Einstein superseded Newton not for any sociological reason, but because he got closer to the truth.

Kuhn, however, was adamant that conflicting paradigms couldn't be compared so directly. To him, Einstein and Newton described genuinely different worlds, not simply better and worse renditions of the same one we all inhabit. The clearest articulation of Kuhn's final position can be found in The Road Since Structure (2000), a posthumous miscellany. While the presentation rehashes many of Kuhn's trademark concepts, it also acknowledges and addresses many of the usual concerns. Discussing incommensurability, Kuhn allows that we can always adopt the lexicon of a competing paradigm (listen up, Mr. Morris: this is how histories are written!), but he still maintains that we can only speak a single language at once, and hence still can't exactly translate old into new terms.

In the title essay -- a sketch for a future, never-completed book -- Kuhn calls his final view "a sort of post-Darwinian Kantianism." Kuhn's theory had always been recognized as "post-Darwinian" in the sense that he argued that the development of science, like biological evolution, is "driven from behind, not pulled from ahead." Scientific theories are accepted because of how well they solve the problems facing scientific communities at particular historical moments, rather than how well they correspond to the absolute truth about the world.

As he was working on his final book, Kuhn realized another sense in which biological evolution could provide a model for the development of science. The diversification of living things into different species, each with a specialized environmental niche, has an analogue in the diversification of science into narrowly specialized fields. And much as organisms from different species are unable to interbreed, the specialized lexicons of different scientific fields make it ever more challenging for different scientific specialists to understand one another.

The Kantian aspect of Kuhn's view has to do with Kant's notion that our experiences are inevitably filtered through certain categories of understanding, such as the concept of cause and effect. In Kuhn's words: "Like the Kantian categories, the lexicon" -- the way scientists talk about the world within a given paradigm -- "supplies preconditions of possible experience." In other words, the concepts we project on the world inextricably shape how we experience it, and scientists' paradigmatic lexicon shapes how they see the world.

Kuhn is sometimes described as a relativist, full stop; but this isn't quite right. Kuhn admits there's something objectively out there. But he qualifies that this thing-in-itself (as Kant put it) is "ineffable, undescribable, undiscussable." So what can we do?

Mostly, we talk, casting our nets over the dark sea. Once we settle on a stable way of talking, we can evaluate claims as objectively true or false. When a seemingly more useful way of talking arises, that's a scientific revolution. In this new way of talking we can once again evaluate claims as objectively true or false, even if, using the same words as before, claims that were true in the old way of talking might be false in the new way, and vice versa.

The issue here is not the denial of reality, but the denial of an absolutely preferred way of talking about it. Statements can be true or false, but not whole languages. As Kuhn puts it, "The ways of being-in-the-world which a lexicon provides are not candidates for true/false."

This is a "coherence theory" of truth, where truth applies not to the world but to statements about the world -- and even then only in a given language, only with a given use. This idea is perhaps disturbing, but it doesn't amount to what critics like Morris think. Morris charges Kuhn with claiming that the world is however we want it to be, but Kuhn in fact claims the opposite. In Kuhn's view, reality is out there, but it doesn't speak our language. It remains forever alien, non-linguistic, regardless of how well we seem to describe its various parts.

Posted by orrinj at 4:02 AM


Escaping to opportunity: Leaving impoverished public housing projects has profound long-term consequences for children, especially if they're young.  (Chris Fleisher, 10/02/18, aMERICAN eCONOMIC aSSOCIATION)

"We don't really know what's happened to the people that have been affected by (public housing demolition) at all," said Eric Chyn, assistant professor at the University of Virginia, in an interview with the AEA. "One of the hopes was that children and adults would benefit by getting out of those areas because these areas were very very difficult environments."

Chyn's paper in the October issue of the American Economic Review examines what happened when Chicago razed some of its roughest projects and forcibly relocated families.

Chyn found that children who left public housing for more stable communities were 9 percent more likely to be employed as adults and earned 16 percent more per year. The impacts were even larger for kids who were young when they moved. The findings underscore the long-term consequences that living in impoverished communities has for children and offers important insights for housing policy.    

Public housing policy ought to be based, almost entirely, on getting the urban poor out of cities and into homes of their own.

October 5, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 1:59 PM


Why is Lindsey Graham acting like this? (Ben Terris,  October 5, 2018, Washington Post)

Shortly after Trump was elected, he invited Graham to the White House for a chat. They ate lunch with Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and national security adviser H.R. McMaster, beside a flat-screen television tuned to Fox News.

Graham said the president had wanted to get his thoughts on national security, the subject that Graham considers his specialty. So, he told the president his two biggest concerns were Iran and North Korea, at which point, the television started showing archived footage of North Korean missile launches. The president, Graham said, worried that this was happening in real time.

"That's old footage, old footage!" Graham said he told him, laughing now at the memory.

Posted by orrinj at 4:19 AM


US unemployment rate falls to 49-year low of 3.7 percent (CHRISTOPHER RUGABER, 10/05/18, AP)

The U.S. unemployment rate fell to 3.7 percent in September, the lowest level since December 1969, as the longest streak of hiring on record has put millions of Americans back to work since the Great Recession. [...]

Even with unemployment at a historic low, average hourly pay increased just 2.8 percent from a year earlier, one tick below the yearly gain in August.

Posted by orrinj at 4:05 AM


Special Report: The Trump trap - Republicans duck president in key House races (Peter Eisler, Jason Lange, Sharon Bernstein, Tim Reid, 10/05/18, Reuters) 

Leonard Lance is a Republican congressman seeking re-election in a Republican district. But he has little to say about the Republican president.

Lance's campaign website, which outlines his positions on immigration, taxes and other hot issues, offers no statement of support for President Donald Trump.

On his Twitter and Facebook accounts, Lance has offered no plaudits this year for the president. When he does reference Trump, he's more likely to note their differences. He's co-sponsored bipartisan legislation to restrict the president's power to impose tariffs on imports and to require reunification of immigrant children and parents separated after being caught crossing the southern border. He's also touted his support for gun control. [...]

Among 56 House battleground districts, the Republican nominees in 19 - more than a third - have offered no support for Trump on their campaign websites or on campaign Twitter and Facebook posts made this year, a Reuters analysis shows. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


Trump mocks Al Franken for resigning quickly over sexual misconduct claims amid Kavanaugh controversy (Maggie Haberman, Emily Cochrane, 10/05/18, The Independent)

President Donald Trump mocked former Senator Al Franken on Thursday for folding "like a wet rag" and quickly resigning last year in the face of sexual misconduct allegations - an extraordinary statement as the president's Supreme Court nominee nears a vote in a confirmation process rocked by such accusations.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


Eight-year-old Swedish-American girl pulls pre-Viking era sword from lake (Catherine Edwards, 4 October 2018, The Local)

"It's not every day that one steps on a sword in the lake!" Mikael Nordström from Jönköpings Läns Museum said when explaining the significance of the find.

But that's exactly what happened to Saga Vanecek, who found the relic at the Vidöstern lake in Tånnö, Småland earlier this summer.

October 4, 2018

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John Roberts, Swing Vote (MARK JOSEPH STERN, OCT 02, 2018, Slate)

Vernon Madison has spent 33 years in solitary confinement awaiting execution for a crime he can no longer remember. A series of strokes have left the 68-year-old death-row inmate with severe cognitive impairment due to vascular dementia. He cannot see, or walk without aid, or recite the alphabet past the letter G, or process basic information. He struggles to speak and suffers incontinence. A growing portion of his brain tissue is dead. And Alabama would like to put him to death as soon as possible.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court heard arguments in Madison v. Alabama, Madison's last, best chance to avoid lethal injection. Justice Anthony Kennedy, who often swung left on capital punishment, is gone; no one has yet replaced him, and if the court deadlocks 4-4, Madison will die. It's a grim default that Chief Justice John Roberts seems eager to avoid. Throughout Tuesday's arguments, Roberts appeared eager to broker a compromise that would spare Madison's life by conceding that dementia may exempt him from the death penalty. The case provides an early glimpse of the post-Kennedy court--with the chief justice embracing his role as the new swing vote.

Administering capital punishment justly ought not be a left/right issue.

Posted by orrinj at 4:48 PM


Russian Official Linked to Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Trump Tower Lawyer, Is Dead (Nico Hines, 10.04.18, Daily Beast)

A Russian official accused of directing the foreign operations of Natalia Veselnitskaya, the lawyer who met senior Trump campaign officials in 2016, has plummeted to his death in a helicopter crash.

Russian Deputy Attorney General Saak Albertovich Karapetyan was exposed in a Swiss court this year for a plot to enlist another nation's law-enforcement official as a double-agent for the Kremlin.

Media reports in Russia say he died Wednesday night when his helicopter crashed into a forest during an unauthorized flight in the Kostroma region, northeast of Moscow.

Karapetyan, 58, was intimately familiar with some of the most notorious operations carried out under the orders of Vladimir Putin. He worked closely with Veselnitskaya as well as running some of Moscow's most high-profile efforts to thwart international investigations into Russia's alleged crimes.

Posted by orrinj at 4:45 PM


Kavanaugh is almost through -- but at what cost to the Republicans? (Jacob Heilbrunn, October 4, 2018, Spectator USA)

[T]he GOP has squeezed about as much as it can out of the Kavanaugh lemon. The price that it will pay in the midterms for ramming Kavanaugh through is the real question. Had Kavanaugh's nomination lingered on until the end of October, it would have been a potent organising instrument for the GOP. Much as in 2016, when McConnell and his confederates stymied the Merrick Garland nomination, Trump and Republican candidates would have been able to point to the signal importance of standing up for embattled white men and for ensuring that the Supreme Court becomes a conservative bastion.

Now the tables are turned. Trump will engage in some chest-thumping over the next few days. West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin will buy himself some cover by voting for Kavanaugh. But the rage that is percolating in America will be exploited by the Democrats as they point to Kavanaugh's presence on the court as a permanent blot on the judiciary. More witnesses will come forth to testify about Kavanaugh's youth. More transgressions will be identified.

The GOP really needed the stakes in the midterms to be the 5th vote on the Court, not support for the type of party that would seat Kavanaugh and taunt Ford.
Posted by orrinj at 1:13 PM


Whose History Matters? Students Can Name Columbus, But Most Have Never Heard of the Taíno People (Bill Bigelow, 10/04/18, Common Dreams)

Early in my high school U.S. history classes, I would ask students about "that guy some people say discovered America." All my students knew that the correct answer was Christopher Columbus, and every time I asked this question, some student would break into the sing-song rhyme, "In Fourteen Hundred and Ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue" -- and others would join in.

"Right. So who did he supposedly discover?" I asked.

In almost 30 years of teaching, the best anyone could come up with was: "Indians."

I brushed that answer away: "Yes, but be specific. What were their names? Which nationality?" I never had a student say, "The Taínos."

"So what does this tell us?" I asked. "What does it say that we all know Columbus's name, but none of us knows the nationality of the people who were here first?  And there were millions of them."

That indigenous peoples were uncivilized and produced no culture of any enduring value?

Posted by orrinj at 4:26 AM


Trump's growing diplomatic isolation on Iran (Ishaan Tharoor, October 4, 2018, Washington Post)

During meetings at the United Nations last week, Trump, Pompeo and Bolton railed against Iran and berated various other member states and U.N. bodies for not bending to American interests. Their approach elicited an icy reaction. At a Security Council session chaired by President Trump, every other member of the U.N.'s most powerful body scolded Washington for its rejection of the nuclear deal, an agreement the council had endorsed.

Iran's political leadership is enjoying its moment of international solidarity. After the ICJ ruling, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif termed the United States an "outlaw regime" in pursuit of a "malign" agenda, parroting U.S. attacks on Tehran. Meanwhile, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani welcomed a European proposal to create a barter system in which companies could trade with Iran without money changing hands, thus skirting U.S. sanctions. "Europe has taken a big step," he said.

Iran hopes that the ICJ's announcement, though mostly symbolic, will give a similar boost to its trade prospects. "The decision could encourage European companies, which ceased trading with Iran for fear of falling foul of President Trump, to reconsider their position, specifically those dealing in the humanitarian items outlined by the judges," wrote Anna Holligan, the BBC's correspondent in The Hague.

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These 3D-printed body parts let surgeons practice on a model before they open you up (ADELE PETERS, 10/04/18, Fast Company)

"The use of 3D printing in medicine allows us to pull the patients' anatomy off of a computer screen and put it into the physician's hands," says Todd Goldstein, director of the 3D Design and Innovation Center at Northwell Health, the hospital network. "This type of technology is a game changer for all parties involved, as it allows for physicians to better visualize the pathology, allows for patients to truly see what treatment is needed, and allows for more precise, patient-specific treatments across almost all specialties."

Posted by orrinj at 4:14 AM


Republicans Are Cutting Bait on Four House Races That Are Actually Pretty Close (JOSH VOORHEES, OCT 01, 2018, Slate)

In the past several weeks, House Republicans--either via the National Republican Congressional Committee, which serves as their official campaign arm, or the Congressional Leadership Fund, a big-dollar super PAC aligned closely with Paul Ryan--have nixed plans to spend big in defense of at least four incumbents in races that had been widely considered competitive: Reps. Mike Coffman in Colorado's 6th Congressional District, Mike Bishop in Michigan's 8th, Keith Rothfus in Pennsylvania's new 17th, and Kevin Yoder in Kansas' 3rd.

While a party could conceivably pull funding if they think they have a race wrapped up, it's clear that's not what's happening in these districts, all of which have been trending in the direction of Democrats recently. "That's Washington, D.C.," Coffman's campaign manager told the Associated Press after the CLF canceled a seven-figure ad buy in his boss's district. "One day you're up. The next day you're down." Each decision suggests that, at best, the GOP believes its money is better spent elsewhere or, at worst, that these congressmen are already as good as gone. Even the former would be a stunning admission given that the nonpartisan handicappers at the Cook Political Report currently rate all four races as competitive, with Bishop and Yoder in a toss-up column that includes 20 of their fellow Republican colleagues and another seven open GOP seats.

Kevin Yoder says he won't attend Trump Topeka rally, citing scheduling conflict (ALLISON KITE, October 03, 2018, KC Star)

Republican Congressman Kevin Yoder won't attend President Donald Trump's campaign stop in Topeka this weekend, he said Wednesday, citing a scheduling conflict in Johnson County.

House Rating Changes: Eight More GOP Seats Move Towards Democrats (David Wasserman, October 3, 2018, Cook Political Report)

Five weeks out, several personally popular Republicans who appeared to be defying the "blue wave" in Clinton-won districts are beginning to see their leads erode. GOP Reps. Carlos Curbelo (FL-26), John Katko (NY-24) and Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01) led most surveys over the summer but are now prime targets as their well-funded Democratic challengers become better-known and the Kavanaugh debate further polarizes voters into red and blue corners. [...]
After today's ratings changes, there are 15 GOP-held seats in Lean or Likely Democratic (including seven incumbents) and Democrats would only need to win 11 of the 31 races in the Toss Up column to flip the majority.

Posted by orrinj at 4:08 AM


With Bobi Wine, people power could finally win in Uganda: The singer-turned-politician is the latest young African challenging the old guard. He has put hope in the hearts of those tired of Museveni's 32-year rule (Patience Akume, 4 Oct 2018, The Guardian)

The government is terrified of Kyagulanyi. It has clobbered his supporters and journalists, and even imposed an electricity blackout as he was due to appear on Voice of America. The money it has tried to use to bribe Kyagulanyi's young supporters from the ghettoes, called the "people power" movement, betrays its desperation. It lends credence to the idea that Kyagulanyi is on to something bigger than he realises.

In August, he was arrested after his driver, Yasin Kawuma, was shot dead during a local election. The government had been restless over Kyagulanyi's ability to turn the tide of an election. Every candidate he endorses wins. After his arrest a military court charged him with unlawful possession of firearms, and the military paraded guns and tried to convince Ugandans the weapons had been found in his hotel room. When it became clear the story didn't add up, the charges were dropped and, emaciated and limping, he was released, after weeks in a military prison. He was handed over to police, charged with treason and held in a civil prison.

His arrest won him international sympathy and put him in the ranks of young Africans challenging the old guard's hold on power - alongside Rwanda's Diane Rwigara, who at 38 has stood up to Paul Kagame's presidency, as well as opposition leaders in South Africa and Zimbabwe. After pressure from social media activists, diplomatic missions and civil society organisations, Kyagulanyi was released on bail after nearly a month.

Three-quarters of Uganda's population are under 35. Kamwokya's residents support 36-year-old Kyagulanyi because he is, like them, young, hungry and angry that the only president they have known is Museveni, 74. They realise the man they sang nursery rhymes in praise of is not indispensable, and that their poverty is not inevitable. Kyagulanyi's journey from the ghetto to Magere - a middle-class area of Kampala - is an inspiration. Unlike previous opposition leaders, Kyagulanyi does not have links to the establishment or a military background. His wealth, unlike that of most of Uganda's rich, is traceable. He was born in the ghetto: a life of crime and drugs beckoned. But, through music, he rose above it, made money and changed his life. So when he talks about transformation, his supporters believe he can do for the nation what he did for himself.

Posted by orrinj at 4:02 AM


'Brazil is at war': election plays out amid homicidal violence: Latin America's largest democracy suffered a record 63,880 homicides last year and the phenomenon is driving some to support the hardline policies of candidate Jair Bolsonaro (Tom Phillips, 10/04/18, The Guardian)

Ahead of Sunday's vote, the country's uncontrolled violence is fuelling support for the far-right pacemaker Jair Bolsonaro, who has opened up a 10-point lead over his closest rival, the Workers' party (PT) candidate, Fernando Haddad, with many followers citing security as their main reason for championing the 63-year-old politician.

Many are horrified at the rise of a pro-torture populist notorious for his vicious and incendiary remarks about women, black people, indigenous communities, human rights and Brazil's LGBT community.

But Latin America's largest democracy suffered a record 63,880 homicides last year - more than 6,000 of them in the north-eastern state of Bahia, where Feira is located - and Bolsonaro has promised no-nonsense fixes, including loosening gun laws.

"Why has violence gone up? Why have weeds overtaken your backyard? It's because you didn't eradicate them, so of course they'll grow," he told a campaign event in the Amazon earlier this year. "Have we eradicated crooks in Brazil? No!"

"If someone breaks into our house or our ranch we must have the right to shoot them - and if we kill them, it's their problem for dying, not ours," he added. "This is the only way we are going to put the brakes on these crooks."

Robert Muggah, the head of a Brazilian thinktank called the Igarapé Institute, said crime had been catapulted up the political agenda by both "a sense and an objective reality" among voters that things were on the slide.

Minds had also been focused by a series of "spectacular events of egregious violence" including prison massacres, a surge in bloodshed in north-east Brazil, the collapse of efforts to "pacify" Rio's favelas, the still unsolved assassination of Rio councillor Marielle Franco and the recent stabbing of Bolsonaro himself.

Physical safety is the minimum required of the state.

October 3, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 6:57 PM


Patriotism, cosmopolitanism and democracy (DANIEL JOHNSON, September 2018, Standpoint)

We have seen how Germany moved from the decayed cosmopolitanism of the Holy Roman Empire to a nation state whose imperial aspirations brought about two world wars, whereupon Germans have returned to the cosmopolitan ideal of a unified Europe. Israel, emerging from the cosmopolitanism of the Diaspora, has reasserted the essential unity of the Jewish people in order to build a nation state, where necessary defying the anti-nationalist Zeitgeist. How, though, does Britain fit into the picture? Although the British are a "united kingdom" of different peoples, the English monarchy at its core is one of the oldest in world. The Anglo-Saxons already had a nation state long before the Norman Conquest. Yet the nature of this nation state was bound to be transformed by the creation of the British Empire, the largest in world history. The mission of this empire, no less unprecedented, was to spread the blessings of limited government and the rule of law across the globe. And indeed, the greatest legacy of the empire -- the United States of America -- is itself both a nation state, like that of the English, and a republic with a mission to preserve and promote life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Also unprecedented was the way in which the British passed the baton to the Americans in the course of the 20th century, not only without conflict, but making common cause against those empires dedicated to the destruction of Western civilisation. 

So the British present yet another trajectory, from nation state to global empire, then reverting to national status. Dean Acheson famously summed up this at times painful process by observing in 1962 that "Great Britain has lost an empire, but has not yet found a role". No wonder that British leaders were tempted to join the European project, with its promise to put an end to national conflict -- though the British people certainly did not believe that they were thereby renouncing national sovereignty. The slow realisation that this was indeed the corollary of European Union only dawned on the British when it became clear to them that they no longer had control of their borders, their laws or their destiny. Brexit marks Britain's historic decision to return to national statehood, with profound implications for Europe too. Indeed, it is uncertain how the balance between patriotism and cosmopolitanism can be restored on the Continent in the absence of a British voice. 

Yet the fact that Brexit was decided by a referendum, with the entire nation sufficiently engaged in abstract arguments about sovereignty to register a vote, does suggest that the solution to the problem must lie in more and better democracy. The nation state has been found by trial and error over the last century at least to be the largest political unit that can be governed by parliamentary democracy. The same is true, surely, for plebiscites of all kinds. The idea of democracy at a continental, let alone a global level, is nightmarish. This implies that democracy is the answer to restoring the balance between the cosmopolitan and the patriot. In a civilised discourse, there should be room for both the Rosenzweigs and the Hazonys, for those who yearn for a religious or intellectual community above and beyond the nation state and for those who find that the two are coterminous. But the only hope of reconciliation between the anywheres and the somewheres, the rootless cosmopolitans and the deplorable patriots, is for both sides to tolerate one another. And that means accepting the democratic verdict. It does not mean paralysing Congress and seeking to impeach President Trump. It does not mean using an unelected Upper Chamber to overturn Brexit. And it does not mean using executive or emergency powers to crush opposition and rewrite the rules, as Presidents Putin and Erdogan have done, and as President Macron might like to do. Democracy alone legitimises the nation state; democracy legitimises the nation state alone. International bodies, inherently non-democratic, derive their legitimacy from their national members. In order to be a true cosmopolitan, one must be a patriot first; but one can only be a patriot if one is first of all a democrat. 

Indeed, the Anglospheric innovation as regards national sovereignty is the requirement that the nation be governed democratically in order to justify said sovereignty.

Posted by orrinj at 5:11 PM


Poll: More Believe Ford Than Kavanaugh, A Cultural Shift From 1991 (Domenico Montanaro, 10/03/18, NPR)

The daylong hearing appears to have been influential in helping people decide who was telling the truth. Before the hearing, 42 percent said they were unsure whom to believe. Now, just 22 percent are unsure.

The results represent a shift from 1991, when more people said they believed then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas over Anita Hill. Hill accused Thomas of sexual harassment in the workplace. A 1991 CBS/New York Times poll, also conducted days after their dramatic, televised Capitol Hill testimonies, found that 58 percent believed Thomas more, as opposed to just 24 percent who said Hill.

"If it remains 'he said, she said,' the benefit of the doubt is very different than 1991, and it goes to Ford not Kavanaugh," said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, which conducted the poll. "It shows the reaction to the testimony and does show an underlying change in attitude than 27 years ago."

Posted by orrinj at 4:56 PM


Putin's Botched Pension Reform (ANDREI MOVCHAN, 10/03/18, Project Syndicate)

Raising the retirement age - to 60 for women and 65 for men - seems like a simple way to help close the financing shortfall. But it has proven to be spectacularly unpopular, with Putin's approval rating plummeting at least a dozen percentage points since the spring, to a level not seen since before the 2014 annexation of Crimea.

Popular opposition to the move reflects neither discomfort with change nor an unwillingness to work. With Russian male life expectancy averaging just 67 years, increasing the pension age to 65 is akin to issuing men an actuarial death sentence. (Russian women live much longer - not least because they drink far less alcohol - and will do reasonably well, by global standards, in the new system.)

But, leaving aside popular opposition, raising the retirement age addresses the wrong issue in the wrong way. The reform is meant to ease strain on the public budget, by enabling the government to reduce subsidies to the pension fund. But, while Russia's pension fund does have a massive shortfall, state subsidies to it amount to less than 10% of the total consolidated budget - less than the fluctuation caused by changes in oil prices each year. For a country with negligible sovereign debt, a stable budget surplus, and foreign-currency reserves that grow by $30 billion each year, spending an extra $30 billion to subsidize pensions should not be a major problem.

What will be a major problem is the effect of the higher retirement age on the labor market. If older workers keep their jobs for longer, younger workers will have a harder time finding employment in many fields. For companies that prefer younger employees - say, because they operate in a cutting-edge or fast-changing industry - there may even be incentive to bribe labor inspectors, in order to avoid penalties for discriminating against older workers.

Instead, Russia's leaders should recognize that the real challenge their country faces is an aging population, and that raising the retirement age is thus little more than a Band-Aid. After all, if the pension fund were to remain sustainable using this approach alone, the retirement age would have to increase by another five years in 2028. If the Russian economy remains stagnant, as expected, the pension tax (already 22% of income) will also have to rise in five years, to keep the fund's financing levels stable.

Posted by orrinj at 4:28 AM


Trump Taunts Christine Blasey Ford at Rally (Maggie Haberman and Peter Baker, Oct. 2, 2018, NY Times)

The president's advisers and his Republican allies in the Senate have implored him to restrain himself in the fight to salvage Judge Kavanaugh's nomination, and for the most part, he has kept to defending the nominee and accusing Democrats of a "con game" while not overtly disparaging Dr. Blasey. On a couple of occasions, he broke from script and directly questioned her account as unbelievable, drawing a rebuke from Ms. Collins, who called his comments "appalling," but this was the first time he mocked Dr. Blasey in this way.

Mr. Trump's impression of Dr. Blasey, 51, a research psychologist at Stanford University and a psychology professor at Palo Alto University who also goes by her married name, Ford, drew a pointed retort on Tuesday night from Michael R. Bromwich, one of her lawyers.

"A vicious, vile and soulless attack on Dr. Christine Blasey Ford," he wrote on Twitter. "Is it any wonder that she was terrified to come forward, and that other sexual assault survivors are as well? She is a remarkable profile in courage. He is a profile in cowardice."

Posted by orrinj at 4:23 AM


Nobel Prize in Chemistry Is Awarded to 3 Evolutionary Scientists (The New York Times, Oct. 3, 2018)

"This year's Nobel Laureates in chemistry have been inspired by the power of evolution and used the same principles -- genetic change and selection -- to develop proteins that solve mankind's chemical problems," the academy said in a statement on awarding the $1 million prize.

Dr. Arnold conducted the first directed evolution of enzymes, proteins that catalyze chemical reactions. Dr. Smith developed a method, known as phage display, in which a virus that infects bacteria can be used to evolve new proteins. Dr. Winter has used phage display to produce new pharmaceuticals.

Directed evolution is, of course, the opposite of Darwinism, but is what he had observed on local farms.

Posted by orrinj at 4:14 AM


The Kavanaugh Hearings Have Demonstrated How Desperately America Needs Restorative Justice: We've retreated too far into our two sides now, but at one point, there was another way. (LARA BAZELON, OCT 02, 2018, Slate)

As I watched the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings I found myself thinking, what if? What if, instead of using our clearly broken and highly politicized process to assess these claims, the parties had been offered a restorative justice process? Both Ford and Kavanaugh spoke openly--and in Kavanaugh's case, ragefully--of the personal hell they had experienced and the tremendous pain inflicted upon their families. But the hearing was not, as advertised, about "getting to the truth." Indeed, the politicized process wasn't even a reasonable example of how America's justice system is supposed to work. Some members of the judiciary committee used Ford and Kavanaugh's anguish to score political points and make headlines for themselves. Rather than providing a resolution, it sowed outrage and confusion. In the process, the harm described by Ford and Kavanaugh spread to millions of people who watched the hearings and found themselves in tears as they listened to both sides and relived their own traumas.

Imagine how differently it might have played out if Ford and Kavanaugh had met in a private room with a trained facilitator instead of making separate appearances under the klieg lights of a nationally televised hearing that many saw as a kangaroo court. In a restorative justice process, Ford could have asked Kavanaugh questions; she could have described the particulars of her suffering, how she had come to this point in her life, and what she needed to move forward.

Kavanaugh could have asked his own questions, and at the same time, he could have faced up to what many perceive to be established facts--his pattern of drunk, boorish behavior as a teenager. Digging deeper, he might have finally been able to move past his flat, repetitive denials and, as Archila suggested, "hold the harm he has done." In this process, they--and we--could have moved away from a world of sides: innocent and guilty, winner and loser. Survivors of sexual assault might have finally received some real justice, and seen some real recognition and grappling. Those who perpetrate sexual misconduct might have realized there was a way to be held accountable without being sent into permanent exile.

It would have been even more helpful had she done this at the time.

Posted by orrinj at 4:08 AM


A colossal elevator to space could be going up sooner than you ever imagined (Scott Snowden, Oct.02.2018, CNN)

For more than half a century, rockets have been the only way to go to space. But in the not-too-distant future, we may have another option for sending up people and payloads: a colossal elevator extending from Earth's surface up to an altitude of 22,000 miles, where geosynchronous satellites orbit.

NASA says the basic concept of a space elevator is sound, and researchers around the world are optimistic that one can be built. The Obayashi Corp., a global construction firm based in Tokyo, has said it will build one by 2050, and China wants to build one as soon as 2045. Now an experiment to be conducted soon aboard the International Space Station will help determine the real-world feasibility of a space elevator.

Posted by orrinj at 4:06 AM


2 Of Brett Kavanaugh's Former Classmates Withdraw Support For Him (Jennifer Bendery, 10/02/18, HuffPo)

"The reason for our withdrawal is not the truth or falsity of Dr. Ford's allegations, which are still being investigated, but rather was the nature of Judge Kavanaugh's testimony," they write. "In our view that testimony was partisan, and not judicious, and inconsistent with what we expect from a Justice of the Supreme Court, particularly when dealing with a co-equal branch of government."

I Know Brett Kavanaugh, but I Wouldn't Confirm Him: This is an article I never imagined myself writing, that I never wanted to write, that I wish I could not write. (Benjamin Wittes, 10/02/18, The Atlantic)

Despite all of that, if I were a senator, I would vote against Kavanaugh's confirmation. I would do it both because of Ford's testimony and because of Kavanaugh's. For reasons I will describe, I find her account more believable than his. I would also do it because whatever the truth of what happened in the summer of 1982, Thursday's hearing left Kavanaugh nonviable as a justice.

A few days before the hearing, I detailed on this site the advice I would give to Kavanaugh if he asked me. He should, I argued, withdraw from consideration for elevation unless able to defend himself to a high degree of factual certainty without attacking Ford. He should remain a nominee, I argued, only if his defense would be sufficiently convincing that it would meet what we might term the "no asterisks" standard--that is, that it would plausibly convince even people who vociferously disagree with his jurisprudential views that he could serve credibly as a justice. His defense needed to make it possible for a reasonable pro-choice woman to find it a legitimate and acceptable prospect, if not an attractive or appealing one, that he might sit on a case reconsidering Roe v. Wade.

Kavanaugh, needless to say, did not take my advice. He stayed in, and he delivered on Thursday, by way of defense, a howl of rage. He went on the attack not against Ford--for that we can be grateful--but against Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee and beyond. His opening statement was an unprecedentedly partisan outburst of emotion from a would-be justice. I do not begrudge him the emotion, even the anger. He has been through a kind of hell that would leave any person gasping for air. But I cannot condone the partisanship--which was raw, undisguised, naked, and conspiratorial--from someone who asks for public faith as a dispassionate and impartial judicial actor. His performance was wholly inconsistent with the conduct we should expect from a member of the judiciary.

October 2, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 6:03 PM


Trump Engaged in Suspect Tax Schemes as He Reaped Riches From His Father (DAVID BARSTOW, SUSANNE CRAIG and RUSS BUETTNER, Oct. 2, 2018, NY Times)

[T]he Times's investigation, based on a vast trove of confidential tax returns and financial records, reveals that Mr. Trump received the equivalent today of at least $413 million from his father's real estate empire, starting when he was a toddler and continuing to this day.

Much of this money came to Mr. Trump because he helped his parents dodge taxes. He and his siblings set up a sham corporation to disguise millions of dollars in gifts from their parents, records and interviews show. Records indicate that Mr. Trump helped his father take improper tax deductions worth millions more. He also helped formulate a strategy to undervalue his parents' real estate holdings by hundreds of millions of dollars on tax returns, sharply reducing the tax bill when those properties were transferred to him and his siblings.

These maneuvers met with little resistance from the Internal Revenue Service, The Times found. The president's parents, Fred and Mary Trump, transferred well over $1 billion in wealth to their children, which could have produced a tax bill of at least $550 million under the 55 percent tax rate then imposed on gifts and inheritances.

The Trumps paid a total of $52.2 million, or about 5 percent, tax records show.

Posted by orrinj at 2:51 PM


U.S. Image Slides As Trump Rated Lower Than Putin, Xi In Global Poll (Radio Liberty, October 02, 2018)

A survey of more than 26,000 people in 25 nations released by the Pew Research Center on October 1 found that only 27 percent trusted Trump to do the right thing in world affairs, compared to 30 percent who expressed confidence in Russian President Vladimir Putin and 34 percent who voiced confidence in Chinese President Xi Jinping. [...]

The Pew survey indicated that German Chancellor Angela Merkel was the most confidence-inspiring world leader, getting a thumbs-up from 52 percent of respondents -- nearly twice as many as Trump. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:10 AM


The F.B.I. Can Do This (James Comey, Sept. 30, 2018, NY Times)

Although the process is deeply flawed, and apparently designed to thwart the fact-gathering process, the F.B.I. is up for this. It's not as hard as Republicans hope it will be.

F.B.I. agents are experts at interviewing people and quickly dispatching leads to their colleagues around the world to follow with additional interviews. Unless limited in some way by the Trump administration, they can speak to scores of people in a few days, if necessary.

They will confront people with testimony and other accounts, testing them and pushing them in a professional way. Agents have much better nonsense detectors than partisans, because they aren't starting with a conclusion.

Yes, the alleged incident occurred 36 years ago. But F.B.I. agents know time has very little to do with memory. They know every married person remembers the weather on their wedding day, no matter how long ago. Significance drives memory. They also know that little lies point to bigger lies. They know that obvious lies by the nominee about the meaning of words in a yearbook are a flashing signal to dig deeper.

Once they start interviewing, every witness knows the consequences. It is one thing to have your lawyer submit a statement on your behalf. It is a very different thing to sit across from two F.B.I. special agents and answer their relentless questions. Of course, the bureau won't have subpoena power, only the ability to knock on doors and ask questions. But most people will speak to them. Refusal to do so is its own kind of statement.

Posted by orrinj at 4:04 AM


Speaking in NH, Flake says lies would disqualify Kavanaugh (TRAVIS MORIN, 10/01/18, Union Leader)

The senator spent much of his address Monday talking about the modern state of political partisanship, which he described as "a sickness in our system" that has infected the whole country. But he drew an immediate parallel to the Kavanaugh controversy when he referenced pushback he received when he called for his Senate colleagues to hear both Kavanaugh and Ford with an open mind. 

"It is surely a symptom of our disease that such a modest plea was met with rage from all sides," Flake said. "It was an interesting experiment really. Like dipping a toe into a pool of piranhas."

In an appearance earlier in the day in Boston, Flake said he wants to ensure that the FBI is able to do a "real investigation" into the allegations.

Flake has spent the last few days broadening the possibility that he may reject Kavanaugh's nomination when the full Senate votes. In an interview on CBS' 60 Minutes, Flake stated that Kavanaugh's nomination would be over if it was found he had lied in his testimony. 

In an interview after he spoke Monday night, Flake doubled down on that threat but he left room for the possibility that he could still support Kavanaugh if it were found he had lied about his history with alcohol, as some former high school and college classmates of Kavanaugh have charged since his testimony.

"Lying about your drinking, that's a little tougher and more fungible answer, I think, as to what drinking in excess means," said Flake. "But if he lied on particular things that were demonstrable, then that's disqualifying."

If he really wants to run for president he needs to oppose Donald's policies, not just his personnel.

Posted by orrinj at 4:02 AM


Trump's New Nafta Pact Looks More Like a Rebranding Than a Revolution (Shawn Donnan, October 1, 2018, Bloomberg)

The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, clinched just before a midnight deadline on Sunday, reads more like an amalgam of the existing Nafta along with certain provisions from the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership that Trump pulled the U.S. out of on his first full working day in office.

The risk, according to some economists, is that Nafta 2.0 imposes more regulatory demands on companies including automakers and ends up hurting rather than helping North America's competitiveness versus rivals like China.

...just join up and let him rename that one too.

October 1, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 6:44 PM


Fewest Americans Earning Poverty-Level Wages  (Nancy Moran, July 3, 2018, Bloomberg)

A record-low 11.4 percent of U.S. workers earned poverty-level wages last year, according to the Economic Policy Institute, and that share is likely to fall further, said Torsten Slok, chief international economist at Deutsche Bank. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:34 PM


Christianity and Resistance: An Interview with Alan Jacobs (Wen Stephenson interviews Alan Jacobs, OCTOBER 1, 2018, LA Review of Books)

WEN STEPHENSON: I've always seen you as a theologically "orthodox" Christian intellectual who is neither of "the right" nor "the left." Is that a fair description? How do you identify or describe yourself religiously, politically?

ALAN JACOBS: It's not easy for me to do. Really, for me it's a set of strivings, instead of a set of realized achievements. I do often say I'm a small-"o" orthodox Christian, in the sense that I believe in the great ecumenical creeds, the Nicene Creed, the Apostles' Creed. I see those as the template of basic Christian orthodoxy over time. But also I'm an Anglican, almost my whole adult life -- when I became a Christian in college, I really only spent a few years in kind of low-church evangelical congregations before I found the Episcopal Church and the Anglican tradition. If you're an Anglican, you get habituated to living in the midst of difference. You come to discover that, even when people can sign on to that orthodoxy, there are still enormous differences on all sorts of issues, and you learn to live with that.

As far as left and right goes, what I strive to be is what Cardinal Bernardin called the "seamless garment" Christian -- the seamless garment of life. I try to be consistently pro-life. And what that means in practice, for instance, is that my wife Teri and I do support crisis pregnancy centers, and we also are involved with the Waco Immigrants Alliance. Whoever is marginalized, whoever is despised, whoever is being left behind by society, whoever is being ignored and demeaned and treated as less than fully human, or having inferior value, then for me those are the people that Christ calls us especially to minister to. And so that's what I strive for. Of course I don't achieve it, but that's what I want to be.

And what that means is, I will freely admit to being scandalized by the number of abortions that there are in America -- it grieves me, it breaks my heart. But my heart is also broken by what my government is doing to immigrants right now. And my heart is broken by what now appears to be the everlasting legacy of white supremacy. It's broken by people who, in the richest country in the history of the world, do not have health care. There's just no excuse for that. So that's what I try to do -- to promote life wherever it is endangered, wherever it is marginalized, wherever it is demeaned. That's the kind of Christian I want to be.

Posted by orrinj at 4:03 AM


The Republican Party Abandons Conservatism: The conservative virtues remain real virtues, the conservative insights real insights, and the conservative temperament an indispensable internal gyro keeping a country stable and sane. (Eliot A. Cohen, 9/30/18, The Atlantic)

It was, however, in the epic clash over the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford that the collapse of conservatism in the Republican Party became most evident. Eleven men, most of them old, hid behind a female prosecutor wheeled in from Arizona because they could not, apparently, trust themselves to treat a victim of sexual assault with consideration and respect. So much for courage. Their anger at Democratic shenanigans was understandable, but virtually without exception, when they did summon up the nerve to speak (during Kavanaugh's turn) their questions consisted almost exclusively of partisan baying at the opposition. Genuine conservatives might have snarled initially, but would have, out of regard for the truth, tried to figure out exactly what happened to Ford 35 years ago, and whether the character of the man before them was what it was said to be.

Perhaps the collapse of modern conservatism came out most clearly in Kavanaugh's own testimony--its self-pity, its hysteria, its conjuring up of conspiracies, its vindictiveness. He and his family had no doubt suffered agonies. But if we expect steely resolve from a police officer confronting a knife-wielding assailant, or disciplined courage from a firefighter rushing into a burning house, we should expect stoic self-control and calm from a conservative judge, even if his heart is being eaten out. No one watching those proceedings could imagine that a Democrat standing before this judge's bench in the future would get a fair hearing. This was not the conservative temperament on display. It was, rather, personalized grievance politics.

Real conservatives have always prided themselves on their willingness to stand up to their own kind in the name of moral principle. Think of Senator Robert Taft opposing the North Atlantic Treaty, knowing that those positions could destroy his political career. Taft was wrong in his views, but he was principled, he was courageous, and he went down speaking truth as he saw it. William F. Buckley took on the John Birch Society in the middle of the 20th century, and the anti-Semites in the conservative camp later on. In 1993, when Buckley had to choose between loyalty to Joseph Sobran, his long-time protégé and colleague at the National Review, and rejection of bigotry, principle won and he fired his friend.

The party resembles Donald to the precise extent it has surrendered to emotion.

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 AM


House GOP cancels ad buys for vulnerable Republican (REID WILSON, 09/30/18, The Hill)

The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) has canceled more than $1 million in planned advertising aimed at helping Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.) in the coming weeks.

The decision to cut advertising, described to The Hill by a source familiar with the NRCC's strategic thinking, is a hint that Republicans are pessimistic about Yoder's chances of holding his Kansas City-area district.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


Canada-US reach free trade deal with Mexico (ROB GILLIES and PAUL WISEMAN, 910/01/18, AP) 

The new deal, reached just before a midnight deadline imposed by the U.S., will be called the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA. [...]

[I]t keeps a NAFTA dispute-resolution process that the U.S. wanted to jettison and offers Canada protection if Trump goes ahead with plans to impose tariffs on cars, trucks and auto parts imported into the United States.

"It's a good day for Canada," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said as he left his office. Trudeau said he would have more to say Monday.

Posted by orrinj at 3:56 AM


Chad Ludington's Statement on Kavanaugh's Drinking and Senate Testimony (The New York Times, Sept. 30, 2018)

In recent days I have become deeply troubled by what has been a blatant mischaracterization by Brett himself of his drinking at Yale. When I watched Brett and his wife being interviewed on Fox News on Monday, and when I watched Brett deliver his testimony under oath to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, I cringed. For the fact is, at Yale, and I can speak to no other times, Brett was a frequent drinker, and a heavy drinker. I know, because, especially in our first two years of college, I often drank with him. On many occasions I heard Brett slur his words and saw him staggering from alcohol consumption, not all of which was beer. When Brett got drunk, he was often belligerent and aggressive. On one of the last occasions I purposely socialized with Brett, I witnessed him respond to a semi-hostile remark, not by defusing the situation, but by throwing his beer in the man's face and starting a fight that ended with one of our mutual friends in jail.

I do not believe that the heavy drinking or even loutish behavior of an 18- or even 21-year-old should condemn a person for the rest of his life. I would be a hypocrite to think so. However, I have direct and repeated knowledge about his drinking and his disposition while drunk. And I do believe that Brett's actions as a 53-year-old federal judge matter. If he lied about his past actions on national television, and more especially while speaking under oath in front of the United States Senate, I believe those lies should have consequences. It is truth that is at stake, and I believe that the ability to speak the truth, even when it does not reflect well upon oneself, is a paramount quality we seek in our nation's most powerful judges.