November 14, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 4:10 AM


Judge Napolitano Schools Fox Business Host on Jim Acosta Lawsuit: CNN Has a 'Very Good Case' (Matt Wilstein, 11.13.18, Daily Beast)

Fox News legal analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano has a way of bursting his Trump-defending colleagues' bubbles.

On Tuesday, during an appearance on Fox Business Network, Napolitano surprised host Stuart Varney by arguing that CNN has a "very good case" against the Trump administration when it comes to the company's lawsuit over Jim Acosta's White House access.

"The only grounds for revoking the pass are, 'Is the person a danger to the physical security of the president or his family?' And obviously, Acosta may have been an irritant to the president, but he was hardly a danger to him!" Napolitano said emphatically. "So I think CNN's got a very good case. I think this will be resolved quickly."

Posted by orrinj at 4:09 AM


California's New Governor Has a Problem: His Own Party: Gavin Newsom was elected easily, and he's got a $9 billion surplus to play with. So why is he so nervous? (CARLA MARINUCCI, November 14, 2018, Politico)

Brown noted that unlike his predecessor, Newsom isn't a creature at home in Sacramento's insular political cultural or statewide Democratic Party machine politics. A business owner and entrepreneur who has enjoyed the backing of the Getty oil family, Newsom has frequently been labeled a "pro-business Democrat." Early in his political career, he even described himself as a "dogmatic fiscal conservative and a social liberal'' - a profile that has earned him barbs from the party's far left.

"He's not part of the Democratic Party on a fulltime basis. He's not part of organized labor on a fulltime basis. He's not part of the business world on a fulltime basis," Brown said. While "there will all these wannabes" crowding around to get part of his circle, he said, "the lobbyist types will be disappointed. ... Newsom never performed in that way. He has paid no interest to them. But he's smart enough, and sharp enough, to have talented folks seek him out."

In the final days of his gubernatorial campaign, camped out in the back of his big blue campaign bus, Newsom acknowledged that he'd told his wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, he'd been feeling "butterflies," a combination of exhilaration, and a sobering gut check as the reality of that challenge set in.

"It's been such a long, multiyear journey," said a reflective Newsom in the waning hours of a dawn-to-dusk campaign barnstorm across California that would seal his win. And now, the reality is here: "There's an ending,' he said. "There's a real responsibility. That's the job."

Newsom acknowledged that it's daunting to be following Jerry Brown, a man who's "a master" of California political dialectic, calling him "exceptionally gifted, exceptionally skilled ... one of the best political minds of our generation."

But as much as Newsom respects Brown, he's got little time to waste -- there's a preliminary budget due on December 15, though he won't be formally sworn in until January 7. "I just want to get to work," he told POLITICO. "I'm not going to wait around for the first 100 days ... these transitions are pretty quick."

Newsom is approaching his first budget, which gets reviewed by the legislature in May, the way he approaches everything else: with deadly earnestness. It's "your first chance at a first impression ... demonstrably a reflection of your values," he said. And for one who has talked about prioritizing issues like early childhood education, he noted, it will be seen as a "proof point" of his commitments.

For months, Newsom has been quietly assembling 30 policy teams - experts in academic, tech, business and government; the groups have been examining the challenges ahead in issues ranging from health care and climate change to more granular topics like cybersecurity, job automation and government procurement. Those efforts have produced a series of in-depth policy papers over the last months.

So far, Newsom said, "I've been focusing on 'how.'" As the governor-elect, "I think the next phase is 'who.' ... You can make big mistakes in a transition - and often they're attached to personnel."

Already, Jason Kinney, a longtime Newsom advisor, resigned his spot at California Strategies, a powerhouse state lobbying firm, to help the former mayor navigate what he acknowledges will be critical decisions ahead.

And Newsom's first major picks, two veteran women in politics, have already won praise. His chief of staff - and the head of his transition team - will be Ann O'Leary, a former policy adviser to Hillary Clinton. And Ana Matosantos, who served as budget director to both Gov. Jerry Brown and Arnold Schwarzenegger, will be his Cabinet secretary - a key post that will serve as the new governor's chief contact to key government agencies and departments.

Friends say Newsom, while seeking the advice and views of his trusted staffers, relishes the work of governing, and is known to read policy papers from the moment he wakes up, highlighting in yellow and crowding the margins with notes.

"He's been looking at these issues for a long time and he is so far ahead of most people coming into this office on a policy level - because he really does love policy issues and he doesn't jump fast," said veteran Democratic consultant Gale Kaufman. "He's thoughtful in his approach."

Bill Whalen, a fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution who was previously an adviser to Republican Gov. Pete Wilson, says the new job will require Newsom to tone down his national profile and go local. "He has to spend a lot of time talking to lawmakers, staying on top of bills, building relationships," he said. "Sacramento is a lot closer to Davis than to Davos. ... He has to take care of matters at home first."

Still, Whalen says it's a good sign that Newsom is one of the few Democrats who in the last year has visited the conservative think tank, in part to explore the views of some of the nation's most preeminent economists and policy experts on the other side of the aisle. Many came away impressed with the depths of the discussion, he said.

Posted by orrinj at 4:07 AM


Donald Trump's trade war sparks squabble between aides (Alan Rappeport and Glenn Thrush, 11/14/18, AFR)

President Donald Trump's trade war is stoking an internal fight among his top economic advisers, with officials sparring both publicly and behind the scenes over the White House's approach to dealing with China, the European Union and other trading partners.

The disagreements spilled into view on Wednesday (AEDT) as Larry Kudlow, the director of the National Economic Council, accused Peter Navarro, a top trade adviser, of doing the president "a great disservice" by making hawkish comments about trade talks with China.

Kudlow said Navarro's speech last week - which included a prediction that Trump would have the "courage" to reject a bad trade deal with China - was "not authorised" by the administration.

Posted by orrinj at 4:06 AM


Has the love affair with driving gotten stuck in traffic? (Ashley Halsey III, November 7, 2018, Washington Post)

America's love affair with the automobile and those dreams of roaring off on open highways are on the wane as the nation grapples with too much stop-and-go traffic and too many hours spent behind the steering wheel.

Those findings are contained in a report to be released Thursday by Arity, a technology research spinoff created two years ago by Allstate Corporation, parent company of Allstate Insurance.

Arity underscored the growing disillusionment by using an illustration: Americans, on average, spend more time in their cars -- mostly driving to and from work -- than they receive in vacation time.

Arity researchers said most people average 321 hours in the car each year and get 120 hours of vacation.

"To me, that really crystallizes the issue," said Lisa Jillson, who leads Arity's research and design department. "I get a certain amount of vacation time, and I spend almost three times that in my car just getting back and forth to a job."

Her research showed a notable difference between millennials and baby boomers. Unhappiness with driving becomes more pronounced, with 59 percent of millennials saying they'd "rather spend time doing more productive tasks than driving," while only 45 percent of baby boomers make that same statement.

"Millennials don't see it as worth it anymore. It's not worth the [expense of] car ownership, and traffic becomes even more of a headache," Jillson said. "Boomers are more just comfortable that 'this is the way things are,' but millennials have seen how technology can impact things for the better."

Posted by orrinj at 4:03 AM


Harder Wins House Race in California for Democratic Pickup, AP Reports (Daniel Flatley, November 13, 2018, Bloomberg)

Democrat Josh Harder defeated Republican U.S. Representative Jeff Denham in California's 10th district in a race focusing largely on health care. Denham was seeking a fifth term and was first elected to the seat in 2010.

Harder, a venture capitalist, made his support of the Affordable Care Act a centerpiece of his campaign against Denham, who voted to repeal the law. California's 10th district includes part of the San Joaquin Valley, where agriculture is also a major issue.

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 AM


New York's Amazon Deal Will Be a Lasting Monument to Andrew Cuomo's Economic Incompetence (JORDAN WEISSMANN, NOV 13, 2018, Slate)

The individual flops are less important, though, than the big picture, which is that Cuomo's spending has done just about jack for upstate's overall economy. As the Investigative Post summed things up in its essential series on the governor's subsidies earlier this year:

Employment upstate has grown by only 2.7 percent during Cuomo's tenure - compared with 13.1 percent downstate and 11 percent nationally. Four of upstate's 12 major metropolitan areas have actually lost jobs since Cuomo took office.

If it were a state, upstate's job growth would rank fourth-worst in the nation, below, among others, Mississippi.

Cuomo's upstate misadventures illustrate a simple lesson: When governors try to spark growth in economically struggling areas using corporate subsidies, it tends to fail. They're simply fighting the laws of economic gravity, which lead companies to locate in parts of the country that are already thriving, because they can find talent or suppliers. There are exceptions, of course. Once in a while, a state hooks a company with incentives, and then others follow. South Carolina, for instance, has a thriving auto-manufacturing sector in large part because it cajoled BMW into locating there with a $150 million incentive package. But even when a company actually delivers the jobs it promises, it rarely leads to an industrial revival. "There are more failures than successes," Joseph Parilla, a fellow at the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program, told me. "It's like spending a lot for a lottery ticket and hoping it pans out."

The Amazon deal--which is the biggest incentive package Cuomo has offered yet--illustrates the other pitfall with corporate subsidies: When they "work," they're often unnecessary.

Contrary to what the governor says, plenty of companies come to New York City without a gift basket from Albany. That includes other tech companies like Facebook and Google, both of which say they don't receive state subsidies. There is a strong chance that Amazon would have felt compelled to open a large office in New York at some point no matter what, because it's already a center of media, tech, and advertising, and Jeff Bezos desperately needs to recruit top talent in those fields who would otherwise go to work at his competitors. Even if it didn't, there are plenty of other growing businesses that already employ thousands in NYC.

As for Long Island City? It was already the fastest-growing residential neighborhood in the entire country. The place is basically a canyon of gleaming and impersonal condos and rentals. If the land Amazon plans to build its new office on didn't get used for HQ1.5, it would just as likely get used for something else economically valuable--such as desperately needed new housing, without which New York will only be able to grow so much.

And that gets to the mistake at the heart of Cuomo's math. Even if the incentive package he gave Amazon convinced it to pick New York over, say, Dallas, something else probably would have grown in the company's absence. The counterfactual to consider isn't Amazon or nothing. It's probably Amazon or a bunch of new housing, or some other tech company and a smaller Amazon office. Meanwhile, the grants and tax incentives Cuomo gave Bezos have created a bad precedent that will lead more companies to demand the same.

Why would a major business want to be located near the financial and political capitals of the world?

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


California's Wildfire Epidemic Blamed on Bad Building Decisions (Christopher Flavelle, November 14, 2018, Bloomberg)

"It's a land-use issue," said Alice Hill, a senior adviser for climate resilience to President Barack Obama. Without so many homes being constructed in vulnerable areas at the edge of the forest, "we would still have the fires. But we wouldn't have this kind of devastation."

A paradox of California's wildfire epidemic is that it already has one of the most aggressive building codes in the nation. The state uses the most up-to-date version of model national codes, and doesn't allow local governments to opt out of those codes. It also requires that homes in areas with the highest risk of wildfire get built with fire-resistant materials and construction techniques.

"I always use California as an example," said Sara Yerkes, senior vice president of government relations for the International Code Council, the Washington-based nonprofit that releases updated model codes every three years. "The state really takes its responsibility seriously."

But Yerkes said building codes are meant to be a baseline, providing a set of minimum requirements that states can add to based on their specific environments. And she said they don't account for broader policy decisions, such as allowing subdivisions in places with high fire risks.

"There's more people now living in these areas," Yerkes said. "Maybe that's something that these local governments need to look at."

November 13, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 9:27 PM


Five days of fury: Inside Trump's Paris temper, election woes and staff upheaval (Josh Dawsey and Philip Rucker November 13, 2018, Washington Post)

As he jetted to Paris last Friday, President Trump received a congratulatory phone call aboard Air Force One. British Prime Minister Theresa May was calling to celebrate the Republican Party's wins in the midterm elections -- never mind that Democrats seized control of the House -- but her appeal to the American president's vanity was met with an ornery outburst.

Trump berated May for Britain not doing enough, in his assessment, to contain Iran. He questioned her over Brexit and complained about the trade deals he sees as unfair with European countries. May has endured Trump's churlish temper before, but still her aides were shaken by his especially foul mood, according to U.S. and European officials briefed on the conversation.

For Trump, that testy call set the tone for five days of fury -- evident in Trump's splenetic tweets and described in interviews with 14 senior administration officials, outside Trump confidants and foreign diplomats, many of whom requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

"He was frustrated with the trip. And he's itching to make some changes," said one senior White House official. "This is a week where things could get really dicey."

During his 43-hour stay in Paris, Trump brooded over the Florida recounts and sulked over key races being called for Democrats in the midterm elections that he had claimed as a "big victory." He erupted at his staff over media coverage of his decision to skip a ceremony honoring the military sacrifice of World War I.

The president also was angry and resentful over French President Emmanuel Macron's public rebuke of rising nationalism, which Trump considered a personal attack. And that was after his difficult meeting with Macron, where officials said little progress was made as Trump again brought up his frustrations over trade and Iran. 

Pity the poor Trumpbots, who had all their ethno-nationalist dreams pinned to this nullity. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:31 PM


The Women's March Is Victim Blaming. Again. (Ariel Sobel, November 12, 2018, The Forward)

I'm a reporter for The Advocate, the country's largest LGBTQ publication. The publication is as liberal as it gets; it covers feminism daily and has an editor who specifically covers the issue.

I asked Milano about the Women's March because Louis Farrakhan is an open enemy to queer people. In 2006, he said, "It's the wicked Jews, the false Jews, that are promoting lesbianism, homosexuality." And just this year, he said "Jews were responsible for all of this filth and degenerate behavior that Hollywood is putting out, turning men into women and women into men."

Collectively, the Women's March leaders have refused to apologize for praising him and have overlooked his vitriolic hatred of the marginalized communities their intersectional movement claims to represent.

Why is the Women's March ignoring these details? Why are they blaming the right when the criticism is coming from Jewish and LGBTQ liberals?

Because by painting their critics as hateful right wing nuts or privileged white ladies, they don't have to hold themselves accountable. Instead, they can shift blame for partaking in bigotry, claiming anyone who won't tolerate budding up with queer-phobia and anti-Semitism is either an alt-right troll or white feminist.

...and he's a less tanned Donald.

Posted by orrinj at 6:26 PM


Trump Weighs Replacing Chief of Staff John Kelly in White House Shake-Up (Michael C. Bender and Dion Nissenbaum, Nov. 13, 2018, WSJ)

"This is how the president works," one White House official said. "He's doused a bunch of people in gasoline and he's waiting for someone to light a match."

That's genius level.

Posted by orrinj at 6:11 PM


The More Things Stay the Same: Why the Trump Administration's Counterterrorism Strategy is Surprisingly Conventional (Christopher Fonzone and Luke Hartig, November 13, 2018, Just Security)
The most striking thing about the Trump Administration's counterterrorism strategy - which the White House finally released last month, after President Trump had been in office for nearly two years - is its utter conventionality.  President Trump has reveled in his "different kind of Presidency" since the day he took office by delivering an Inaugural Address that, unlike the hopeful speeches of his predecessors, dwelled on the "American Carnage" ravaging the country.  And some of Trump's most provocative campaign rhetoric - bringing back waterboarding and a "hell of a lot worse," filling up Guantanamo Bay, and seizing Iraqi oil - concerned his desire to "Make American Safe Again" by adopting a new, much tougher counterterrorism approach that broke sharply from what he believed were the failed policies of the past.  But the Trump Administration has not followed through on these campaign statements, and its new counterterrorism strategy is so conventional that it even largely shies away from discussing the controversial immigration and border policies that the President has embraced during his time in office.

Except his personal and staff corruption levels and a few racist trade and immigration policies he can effect by fiat and you'd barely know he'd even been president.

Posted by orrinj at 5:18 PM


National security aide headed for exit after clash with Melania Trump's office (Jeremy Diamond, Kate Bennett and Jeff Zeleny, 11/13/18, CNN)

The statement amounted to a stunning public rebuke by a first lady of a senior official serving in her husband's administration. It came after reports surfaced earlier Tuesday indicating Ricardel would be pushed out of her post after less than seven months on the job.

Neither Ricardel nor spokespeople for the National Security Council responded to CNN requests for comment.

Reflecting the fast-moving nature of the events, soon after a Wall Street Journal report surfaced Tuesday afternoon alleging Ricardel was fired and escorted off the White House grounds, a senior White House official denied the story to reporters.

The official said Ricardel was still in her office Tuesday afternoon. The official declined to speculate further about Ricardel's future in the administration.

Her departure would leave national security adviser John Bolton without one of his key allies in the administration, a deputy who has also shared his penchant for bureaucratic infighting.

It was those sharp elbows that sources said led to the first lady's stinging statement, with Ricardel most recently feuding with members of the first lady's staff over her trip to Africa. One person familiar with the matter said Ricardel quarreled with the first lady's staff over seating on the plane and use of National Security Council resources.

Posted by orrinj at 5:08 PM


Trump, stung by midterms and nervous about Mueller, retreats from traditional presidential duties (Eli Stokols, NOV 13, 2018, LA Times)

[T]rump has retreated into a cocoon of bitterness and resentment, according to multiple administration sources.

Behind the scenes, they say, the president has lashed out at several aides, from junior press assistants to senior officials. "He's furious," said one administration official. "Most staffers are trying to avoid him."

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, painted a picture of a brooding president "trying to decide who to blame" for Republicans' election losses, even as he publicly and implausibly continues to claim victory.

White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly and Kirstjen Nielsen, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, who are close allies, "seem to be on their way out," the official said, noting recent leaks on the subject. The official cautioned, however, that personnel decisions are never final until Trump himself tweets out the news -- often just after the former reality TV star who's famous for saying "You're fired!" has directed Kelly to so inform the individual.

And, according to a source outside the White House who has spoken recently with the president, last week's Wall Street Journal report confirming Trump's central role during the 2016 campaign in quietly arranging payoffs for two women alleging affairs with him seemed to put him in an even worse mood.

Publicly, Trump has been increasingly absent in recent days -- except on Twitter. He has canceled travel plans and dispatched Cabinet officials and aides to events in his place -- including sending Vice President Mike Pence to Asia for the annual summits there in November that past presidents nearly always attended.

Jordan's King Abdullah was in Washington on Tuesday and met with Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo, but not the president.

Also Tuesday, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis announced plans to travel on Wednesday near the U.S.-Mexico border to visit with troops Trump ordered there last month in what is ostensibly a mission to defend against a caravan of Central American migrants moving through Mexico and still hundreds of miles from the United States.

Trump had reportedly considered making that trip himself, but has decided against it. Nor has he spoken of the caravan since the midterm elections, after making it a central issue in his last weeks of campaigning.

Unusually early on Monday, the White House called a "lid" at 10:03 a.m. EST, informing reporters that the president would not have any scheduled activities or public appearances for the rest of the day. Although it was Veterans Day, Trump bucked tradition and opted not to make the two-mile trip to Arlington National Cemetery in northern Virginia to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, as presidents since at least John F. Kennedy have done to mark the solemn holiday.

Trump's only public appearance Tuesday was at a short White House ceremony marking the start of the Hindu holiday Diwali at which he made brief comments and left without responding to shouted questions.

Posted by orrinj at 3:58 PM


CIA considered potential truth serum for terror suspects (DEB RIECHMANN, 11/13/18, AP) 

Shortly after 9/11, the CIA considered using a drug it thought might work like a truth serum and force terror suspects to give up information about potential attacks.

After months of research, the agency decided that a drug called Versed, a sedative often prescribed to reduce anxiety, was "possibly worth a try." But in the end, the CIA decided not to ask government lawyers to approve its use.

The existence of the drug research program -- dubbed "Project Medication" -- is disclosed in a once-classified report that was provided to the American Civil Liberties Union under a judge's order and was released by the organization Tuesday.

The 90-page CIA report, which was provided in advance to The Associated Press, is a window into the internal struggle that medical personnel working in the agency's detention and harsh interrogation program faced in reconciling their professional ethics with the chance to save lives by preventing future attacks.

"This document tells an essential part of the story of how it was that the CIA came to torture prisoners against the law and helps prevent it from happening again," said ACLU attorney Dror Ladin.

We should be testing such drugs vigorously now, or we will, of course, torture next time.  The point of the story is that--unlike the sorts of torture that are immoral and should be illegal--the goal of these interrogations is just to get truthful and timely answers to vital questions about genuine threats

Posted by orrinj at 3:51 PM


Trump Points to Polls in France, Where 80 Percent Say He's a Dangerous, Incompetent Racist (Robert Mackey, November 13 2018, The Intercept)

According to the polling, conducted last week for Le Figaro, a conservative newspaper, just 20 percent of French citizens call Donald Trump competent, while 84 percent agree that he is "racist" and 83 percent say he is "dangerous." His overall approval rating comes in at 10 percent.

Trump accidentally called attention to his vast unpopularity in France after enduring a weekend of harsh criticism for his conduct during a visit to Paris to mark the anniversary of the end of the First World War -- specifically his decision to skip a ceremony honoring Americans who were killed in the conflict because it was raining.

By the time Trump had returned to Washington, even the French military had joined in, with a mocking reference to his aversion to rain on its official Twitter account.

Donald made these claims for himself when he acknowledged he's a Nationalist.

Posted by orrinj at 1:51 PM


I looked for a state that's taking gun violence seriously. I found Massachusetts. (German Lopez, Nov 13, 2018, Vox)

Over the past few months, mass shootings have repeatedly propelled gun violence into the national spotlight. Meanwhile, studies have found that the US leads developed nations in gun deaths, with one recent study in JAMA finding that the US's civilian gun death rate is nearly four times that of Switzerland, five times that of Canada, 35 times that of the United Kingdom, and 53 times that of Japan.

Yet there's been little movement, at least at the federal level, to do something about these trends in the US.

But surely, I thought, there's some place in the US getting this right, which could perhaps show a path forward for the rest of the country. So I asked gun policy researchers and experts about which state is doing the most to prevent gun violence. They pointed not to states like New Hampshire and others that have weak restrictions on firearms, but to Massachusetts, which over time built one of the most comprehensive gun control regimes in the US.

In particular, experts honed in on Massachusetts's gun licensing system, which treats the ability to own and use guns much like the ability to own and use a car: with license and registration required.

The system, experts said, is one of the major reasons Massachusetts consistently reports the lowest gun death rates in the US. Based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, Massachusetts had 3.6 gun deaths per 100,000 people in 2016. In comparison, the top three worst states for gun deaths in the country -- Alaska, Alabama, and Louisiana, all of which have loose gun laws -- each had more than 21 gun deaths per 100,000 people.

As David Hemenway, director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, put it, "All other things equal, [places] where there's strong laws and with few guns do much better than places where there's weak laws and lots of guns."

Posted by orrinj at 1:32 PM


Does anyone love our military less than President Trump? (Karen Tumulty, November 12, 2018, Washington Post)

Forget for a moment that Trump and the Republicans have been pushing, without evidence, conspiracy theories of massive election fraud. Trump's off-the-wall proposal to "go with" the election night totals would throw out a great number of military and overseas ballots, which are required by Florida law to be counted if they arrive by Friday, so long as they were postmarked by Nov. 6.

This comes after Trump on Saturday skipped a ceremony at the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery in France, where there are headstones for 2,289 U.S. troops, many of whom were killed in the bloody 1918 Battle of Belleau Wood. The names of more than 1,000 others who were never found are inscribed on a wall there. [...]

Meanwhile, now that the election is over, Trump is no longer talking about the supposed "invasion" of this country by a migrant caravan. But 5,600 U.S. troops are still having to live with the effects of the stunt he pulled, when he rushed them to the border to perform the vital mission of -- well, that still isn't exactly clear.

It is far from certain when, where or even if the destitute, footsore migrants will arrive. And yet the New York Times reported:

Instead of football with their families on this Veterans Day weekend, soldiers with the 19th Engineer Battalion, fresh from Fort Knox, Ky., were painstakingly webbing concertina wire on the banks of the Rio Grande, just beneath the McAllen-Hidalgo-Reynosa International Bridge.

Nearby, troops from Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington State were making sure a sick call tent was properly set up next to their aid station. And a few miles away, Staff Sgt. Juan Mendoza was directing traffic as his engineer support company from Fort Bragg, N.C., unloaded military vehicles.

Come Thanksgiving, they most likely will still be here.

Two thousand miles away, at the Pentagon, officials privately derided the deployment as an expensive waste of time and resources, and a morale killer to boot.

Leading up to the midterm vote on Tuesday, the military announced that the border mission would be called Operation Faithful Patriot. But Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Election Day told officials to drop the name, and the Pentagon sent out a terse news release a day later saying the operation was now simply to be known as border support. The term "faithful patriot," officials said, had political overtones.

Though he is nearly two years into his presidency, Trump has yet to visit U.S. troops in a combat zone, something his four most recent predecessors all did. Last month, Trump, who has spent more than 100 days of his presidency golfing, told the Associated Press that he believed such a trip is not "overly necessary. I've been very busy with everything that's taking place here."

All of this perhaps should not be surprising, given how Trump as a candidate mocked the suffering of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in a North Vietnamese prison and attacked a Gold Star family.

Posted by orrinj at 1:22 PM


Mystery surrounding extinct 'opposite birds' deepens : A 75-million-year old fossil shows a group of ancient birds could fly as well as their more successful peers, so why did they die out? Samantha Page, 11/13/18, Cosmos)

Scientists have completed an analysis of a rare, nearly complete fossil from a group of birds that went extinct, finding they were "aerodynamic equals" to the ancestors of today's birds.

The 75-million-year old fossil, about the size of a turkey vulture, raises new questions about why the group, known as enantiornithines, died out while euornithes, ancestors to all modern bird species, survived, the researchers report in the journal PeerJ.

"What this new fossil shows is that enantiornithines, though totally separate from modern birds, evolved some of the same adaptations for highly refined, advanced flight styles," says Jesse Atterholt, a former doctoral candidate at University of California, Berkeley, where the fossil is housed.

Posted by orrinj at 4:31 AM


The Dan Crenshaw Moment (DAVID FRENCH, November 12, 2018, National Review)

Davidson's father was a firefighter. He died trying to save others when Davidson was a young boy. In one moment, Crenshaw not only honored a true hero, but also softened American hearts towards Davidson, casting him in a new light. He's a man who carries his own pain.

It turns out that there's a market for grace in American politics. Within minutes, clips of the apology and Crenshaw's tribute to Davidson's dad rocketed across Twitter. As of this morning, the YouTube clip of the moment -- not even 48 hours old -- already had more than 5 million views. And it seems as if this is no act. This act of grace was an expression of who Crenshaw is.

In a long Washington Post profile, Crenshaw spoke of the distinct trail he wants to blaze in the age of Trump. Speaking of the president, he said, "His style is not my style. I'll just say that. It's never how I would conduct myself. But what readers of the Washington Post need to understand is that conservatives can hold multiple ideas in their head at the same time. We can be like, 'Wow, he shouldn't have tweeted that,' and still support him. . . . You can disapprove of what the president says every day, or that day, and still support his broader agenda."

Crenshaw's young. He's 34. And that means that he stands a good chance of being in Washington long after Donald Trump is gone. If he's a voice of the post-Trump GOP, then perhaps the future isn't as bleak as critics may fear.

Posted by orrinj at 4:29 AM


Why Are Young People Having So Little Sex?: Despite the easing of taboos and the rise of hookup apps, Americans are in the midst of a sex recession. (KATE JULIAN  DECEMBER 2018 ISSUE, The Atlantic)

To the relief of many parents, educators, and clergy members who care about the health and well-being of young people, teens are launching their sex lives later. From 1991 to 2017, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Youth Risk Behavior Survey finds, the percentage of high-school students who'd had intercourse dropped from 54 to 40 percent. In other words, in the space of a generation, sex has gone from something most high-school students have experienced to something most haven't. (And no, they aren't having oral sex instead--that rate hasn't changed much.)

Meanwhile, the U.S. teen pregnancy rate has plummeted to a third of its modern high. When this decline started, in the 1990s, it was widely and rightly embraced. But now some observers are beginning to wonder whether an unambiguously good thing might have roots in less salubrious developments. Signs are gathering that the delay in teen sex may have been the first indication of a broader withdrawal from physical intimacy that extends well into adulthood.

Over the past few years, Jean M. Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University, has published research exploring how and why Americans' sex lives may be ebbing. In a series of journal articles and in her latest book, iGen, she notes that today's young adults are on track to have fewer sex partners than members of the two preceding generations. People now in their early 20s are two and a half times as likely to be abstinent as Gen Xers were at that age; 15 percent report having had no sex since they reached adulthood.

Gen Xers and Baby Boomers may also be having less sex today than previous generations did at the same age. From the late 1990s to 2014, Twenge found, drawing on data from the General Social Survey, the average adult went from having sex 62 times a year to 54 times. A given person might not notice this decrease, but nationally, it adds up to a lot of missing sex. Twenge recently took a look at the latest General Social Survey data, from 2016, and told me that in the two years following her study, sexual frequency fell even further.

Some social scientists take issue with aspects of Twenge's analysis; others say that her data source, although highly regarded, is not ideally suited to sex research. And yet none of the many experts I interviewed for this piece seriously challenged the idea that the average young adult circa 2018 is having less sex than his or her counterparts of decades past. Nor did anyone doubt that this reality is out of step with public perception--most of us still think that other people are having a lot more sex than they actually are.

When I called the anthropologist Helen Fisher, who studies love and sex and co-directs's annual Singles in America survey of more than 5,000 unpartnered Americans, I could almost feel her nodding over the phone. "The data is that people are having less sex," she said, with a hint of mischief. "I'm a Baby Boomer, and apparently in my day we were having a lot more sex than they are today!" She went on to explain that the survey has been probing the intimate details of people's lives for eight years now. "Every year the whole Match company is rather staggered at how little sex Americans are having--including the Millennials."

Those With One Sexual Partner in Their Lifetime More Likely to Have Happy Marriage (Tristan Justice, October 23, 2018, Daily Signal)

New research published Monday by the Institute for Family Studies reveals that married couples who have only had sex with their spouse throughout their lifetime are more likely to report a happier marriage than those who have had multiple partners.

The study, authored by University of Utah professor Nicholas Wolfinger, found that both men and women reported higher levels of satisfaction in their marriage if their only sexual partner was their spouse.

"In sum, the surprisingly large number of Americans reporting one lifetime sex partner have the happiest marriages," Wolfinger writes. "Past one partner, it doesn't make as much of a difference."

It's a Puritan Nation.
Posted by orrinj at 4:23 AM


Federal Judge Delays Certification of Georgia Election Results (Alan Blinder, Nov. 12, 2018, NY Times)

Georgia's secretary of state, Robyn A. Crittenden, had been preparing to certify the outcome of the election as soon as Wednesday, one day after Georgia's 159 counties were to complete their tabulations and six days before state law mandated certification. But in a 56-page ruling on Monday night, Judge Totenberg forbade Ms. Crittenden, who assumed office only last week, from certifying the results until at least Friday evening.

Judge Totenberg, who had already raised concerns about Georgia's system of elections this year, wrote that the state's announced timetable for a swift certification "appears to suggest the secretary's foregoing of its responsibility to confirm the accuracy of the results prior to final certification, including the assessment of whether serious provisional balloting count issues have been consistently and properly handled."

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Posted by orrinj at 4:08 AM


The Founders' Go-To Text : a review of  Reading the Bible with the Founding Fathers by Daniel L. Dreisbach (JAMES BRUCE, 7/10/17, Imaginative Conservative)

The book is at its best--and shows how it is "the product of three decades of research"--when Dreisbach makes a point about the Bible and then uses a Founder to illustrate his observation or, even better, quotes a Founder making his point for him. Such is the case when Dreisbach claims that "the founding generation wove biblical language, often without quotation marks or explicit references" because "quotation marks and citations were unnecessary to identify the source of words so familiar to a biblically literate people."

Dreisbach's opponents may take issue with him here. Perhaps the Founders used biblical phrases without even knowing they were in the Bible. Dreisbach thinks the reverse is far more likely. The Founders knew the Bible, even if historians do not: "The failure to recognize Washington's numerous biblical references perhaps indicates widespread biblical illiteracy among modern scholars."

But whether quotation marks were unnecessary for the Founding generation isn't a matter on which Dreisbach is speculating. He turns to historical testimony. When Benjamin Franklin--hardly the poster child for Christian America--agreed to translate and publish a Boston minister's sermon for a European audience, he told the minister he would have to insert scriptural citations for the biblically illiterate non-Americans:

It was not necessary in New England where every body reads the Bible, and is acquainted with Scripture Phrases, that you should note the Texts from which you took them; but I have observed in England as well as in France, that Verses and Expressions taken from the sacred Writings, and not known to be such, appear very strange and awkward to some Readers; and I shall therefore in my Edition take the Liberty of marking the quoted Texts in the margin.

The translation that "every body" read in the Founding era was the King James Version, which has two advantages: It uses few words, and the words it uses are short. But, Dreisbach says, it also "enjoyed the favor of English authorities." Why? He hides the answer in a footnote on page 250: "The marginal notes in the Geneva Bible," its chief rival, "were an irritant to civil rulers, especially James I, because they were said to articulate a right to resist tyrannical rulers." As Dreisbach makes clear, the Founders did not require margin notes to defend a revolution. [...]

[S]ome Founders were Bible students, teachers, or even commentators. John Witherspoon was a clergyman as well as president of the College of New Jersey; his student, James Madison, could read the Bible in Greek and Hebrew. Roger Sherman published a sermon on the Lord's Supper; John Dickinson left behind a commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, and Samuel Osgood wrote "a 500-page commentary entitled Remarks on the Book of Daniel, and on the Revelations (1794)." Something tells me I'd rather read Dreisbach on Osgood than Osgood on Daniel.

The Founders made a serious push to get the Bible into people's hands. Elias Boudinot served as the first president of the American Bible Society; John Jay served as the second. John Quincy Adams, Francis Scott Key, and John Marshall served as vice-presidents.

Dreisbach exhibits impressive craftsmanship in his chapters on single verses. His chapter on Proverbs 14:34 ("Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people") shows his method at its best. He first sets the stage with some appropriate quote from a Founder, places the verse in its biblical context, and proceeds to show the extent to which the writer or speaker used, adapted, or modified the verse.

George Mason's concern for national righteousness is as striking as it is prophetic:

In a speech in the Constitutional Convention on the corrupting effects of slavery, Mason argued that slavery produces "the most pernicious effect on manners. Every master of slaves," he declared, "is born a petty tyrant." The scourge of slavery, he continued, will "bring the judgment of heaven on a Country. As nations can not be rewarded or punished in the next world they must be in this. By an inevitable chain of causes & effects providence punishes national sins, by national calamities."

When considering Proverbs 29:2 ("When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn"), Dreisbach goes so far as to consider whether the King James Version correctly translates the Hebrew text. He also nicely catalogs the different ways the same Founder could use a verse. For example, George Washington uses Micah 4:4 both as an expression of hospitality ("I should be very happy in seeing you under my vine and fig tree") and as a picture of religious liberty (in his1790 letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island).

Posted by orrinj at 4:06 AM


There Are 200 California Inmates Fighting the Camp Fire. After Prison, They Likely Won't Be Allowed to Become Firefighters (Eric Boehm, Nov. 12, 2018, reason)

Those inmate fightfighters are volunteers who earn $2 a day, and $1 an hour when fighting an active fire, while working alongside professionals who get paid an average of $74,000 per year. Those significant cost savings are part of the reason why convicts can account for up to half of the firefighting personnel on the scene at any California wildfire, according to a 2017 profile of the state's inmate firefighter program by The New York Times.

California's inmate firefighter program is open to prisoners who are not convicted of arson, sexual crimes, kidnapping or gang-related offenses, as long as they do not have a history of escape attempts and are not facing a life sentence. They receive two weeks of firefighting training and must pass a physical exam.

As I wrote in August, most of California's inmate firefighters will not be able to work in the firefighting profession after they are released because of the state's deliberately exclusionary licensing laws. Firefighters in California are required to be licensed as emergency medical technicians (EMTs), which requires taking classes and passing a few state-administered exams. No problem there, but state law allows licensing boards to block anyone with a criminal record from getting an EMT license.

These so-called "blanket bans" on letting formerly incarcerated individuals obtain mandatory licenses don't do much to improve public safety--if someone is a legitimate threat to the public, or has been convicted of certain crimes, the licensing board could block that individual application without denying a job opportunity to scores of others--and may increase crime in the long run. Indeed, a 2017 study by the Center for the Study of Economic Liberty at Arizona State University found that formerly incarcerated residents are more likely to commit a new crime within three years of being released from prison if they live in a state that prohibits them from getting a license solely due to a criminal record.

Instead of a blanket ban, California should rewrite its licensing laws to include prohibitions for specific criminal offenses--exactly how the California Department of Corrections operates their inmate firefighter program, for example, by prohibiting individuals who committed certain crimes. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:04 AM


Sinema wins Arizona Senate race (JAMES ARKIN 11/12/2018, Politico)

Sinema's victory gives Democrats their second pickup of the election, and limits Republican gains in the chamber to just one seat so far, pending a recount in Florida and a runoff in Mississippi.

Posted by orrinj at 4:02 AM


Trump is cracking (Jennifer Rubin, November 12, 2018, Washington Post)

[T]he press and the country at large should keep in mind that Trump acts out when he is weak, humiliated and cornered. He's all those things right now:

His performance in Europe was panned.

The election results get worse for Republicans with each passing day.

His great North Korea diplomacy, contrary to the gullible pundits and political spinners, was a bust. (He was snookered.)

We now have two major Middle East problems -- Iran and out-of-control Sunni despots who think (not unreasonably) they can lead him around by the nose.

He is not winning the trade war, and it may be one of many factors leading to an economic pullback before the 2020 election.

Mueller plows ahead, with possibly more indictments (e.g., Roger Stone, Donald Trump Jr.). 
The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York (aided by Michael Cohen's cooperation) has its own case(s) to pursue against Trump and/or his helpmates.

Obamacare is here to stay. It's more popular than ever, and red America has fallen in love with Medicaid expansion.

Trump's finances are no longer protected from scrutiny, nor are his daughter and son-in-law's.

In sum, we should continue to tally Trump's constitutional offenses just as we keep a running count of his lies. 

Posted by orrinj at 3:59 AM


Trump and Pelosi Set Collision Course on Immigration Policy (Jennifer Epstein  and Laura Litvan, November 13, 2018, Bloomberg)

Trump's immigration policies and the lack of deportation protections for Dreamers -- immigrants who were brought into the U.S. as children and are now adults -- helped Democrats oust House Republicans in districts with heavy concentrations of Latino voters, including Representatives Mike Coffman of Colorado and Carlos Curbelo of Florida.

For Trump, the goals he wasn't able to achieve when his own party controlled both chambers -- including funding for his border wall and lower limits on legal immigration -- will be further out of reach with a Democratic majority in the House. Democrats, meanwhile, plan to move ahead with legislation to expand protections for immigrants, showing voters what could become law if they were to win the presidency and Senate in 2020.

It is the ideal battleground for Democrats. Not only is the issue great for them but it keeps the most racist talking heads on the Right in the spotlight.

Posted by orrinj at 3:56 AM


Trump is preparing to remove Kirstjen Nielsen as Homeland Security secretary, aides say (Nick Miroff, Josh Dawsey and Philip Rucker November 12, 2018, Washington Post)

Nielsen has been reluctant to leave the administration before reaching the one-year mark as secretary on Dec. 6, but she has been unhappy in the job for several months, according to colleagues. Trump has berated her during Cabinet meetings, belittled her to other White House staff and tagged her months ago as a "Bushie," a reference to her previous service under President George W. Bush and meant to cast suspicion on her loyalty.

When Nielsen has tried to explain the laws and regulations that prevent the government from drastically curtailing immigration or  closing the border with Mexico, as Trump has suggested, the president has grown impatient and frustrated, aides said. 

Nielsen's departure would leave a leadership void at the government's third-largest agency, which has 240,000 employees and a $60 billion budget. The deputy secretary job at DHS has been vacant since April, and the White House has not submitted to Congress a nomination for that post.

Posted by orrinj at 12:59 AM


My America, 1620 (Bradley J. Birzer, 11/08/18, Imaginative Conservative)

Armed with scripture, the English Common Law, some weapons, families (for social stability), and an audacity rarely witnessed in the history of human kind, the Pilgrims made a go of it. To establish the import of the moment of community creation and to solidify their fragile community itself, the Pilgrims wrote a covenant, now incorrectly labeled the "Mayflower Compact." While the re-naming of this document demands its own essay, suffice it to note here: New England historians and archivists employed the name "Mayflower Compact" for the first time ever in the early 1790s. Attempting to define American history from Plymouth Rock, not from Charleston or some other southern port of entry, the New Englanders of the 1790s renamed the document so as not to put off non-religious Americans. Compact, after all, was more acceptable for a secular, liberal, and Lockean people. Its original name--the Plymouth Combination--made its authors too much into exactly what they were--a radically religious sect of people. When the Pilgrims used "Combination," they meant it quite literally. Combination was the English term for "covenant."

It's worth reproducing here:

IN THE NAME OF GOD, AMEN. We, whose names are underwritten, the Loyal Subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, &c. Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honour of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the first Colony in the northern Parts of Virginia; Do by these Presents, solemnly and mutually, in the Presence of God and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil Body Politick, for our better Ordering and Preservation, and Furtherance of the Ends aforesaid: And by Virtue hereof do enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions, and Officers, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general Good of the Colony; unto which we promise all due Submission and Obedience. IN WITNESS whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names at Cape-Cod the eleventh of November, in the Reign of our Sovereign Lord King James, of England, France, and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth, Anno Domini; 1620.

Once again, just imagine the audacity. With no king, no judges, no lawyers, no bureaucrats, and no bishops, a small group of people asserted the right to govern themselves as they saw fit. Though only half of the sojourners and half of the strangers made it through the winter of 1620-1621, it would be impossible to call the experiment a failure. After all, half did survive, rule themselves, and established the pattern for almost all settlement of what would become the United States.

Posted by orrinj at 12:03 AM


November 12, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 7:40 PM


Trump Job Approval (Weekly) (Gallup, 11/12/18)

Republicans must learn from the election mistake on immigration (JORDAN BRUNEAU, 11/12/18, The Hill)

No one embodies this lesson better than Kris Kobach, the Republican candidate for governor in Kansas. Kobach is a longtime and vocal immigration critic. He is the architect of harsh anti-immigration legislation in Arizona and Alabama that courts have largely invalidated. He also headed up the quixotic and now disbanded White House voter fraud commission. He successfully primaried sitting Republican governor John Colyer with the backing of Trump. Yet he managed to handily lose his race last week in Kansas, a state that Trump won by 20 points two years ago.

Throughout the country, suburban districts filled with college educated and pro-immigration voters were the bulkhead upon which the blue wave crashed. South of Miami, Democrats picked up House seats held by Republican Carlos Curbelo and the outgoing Ileana Ros Lehtinen. West of Washington and east of Denver, incumbents Barbara Comstock and Mike Coffman lost by significant margins. In Texas, Pete Sessions and John Culberson lost in the Dallas and Houston suburbs. West of Chicago, Peter Roskam and Randy Hultgren lost in the suburbs as well.

Democrats flipped multiple suburban seats near Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, and Detroit. Incumbent Dave Brat lost his reelection bid in the Richmond suburbs. Even Mia Love and Keith Yoder in the conservative leaning Salt Lake City and Kansas City suburbs lost their seats. If 2016 was the election of the disaffected Democrats in the midwest, then 2018 was the revolt of the moderate Republicans across the suburbs.

Rather than engage in a positive campaign featuring tax cuts, wage increases, full employment, and 3 percent economic growth that would appeal to suburban voters, President Trump chose to campaign on the caravan, birthright citizenship, and homages to his unpopular family separation policy. Republican election ads suggested immigrants were violent criminals. Trump called it the "election of the caravan."

Despite what the comments section at the Daily Caller may suggest, there are not enough anti-immigrant voters to win close elections. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:28 PM


More than 1 million homes planned for high-risk fire areas in California. Should they be built? (RYAN LILLIS AND KEN CARLSON, September 10, 2018, Sacramento Bee)

Not long after she bought her home in the grassy hills of western Stanislaus County, Julie Davis watched as a helicopter filled buckets of water from a nearby pond and attacked a windswept wildfire burning just outside her community.

The Diablo Grande resort area, where developers envision building hundreds of homes around two upscale golf courses about eight miles west of Patterson and Interstate 5, was spared. But Davis' neighbors remain watchful. "If anyone sees smoke, almost immediately residents are notified through a social media page," she said.

Diablo Grande is one of several growing communities in the Central Valley and Sierra Nevada foothills facing a severe risk of wildfire. More than 380,000 people between Redding and Bakersfield live in areas that state and local officials have identified as high or very high wildfire hazard zones, according to a McClatchy analysis of state and local emergency preparedness plans. Tens of thousands more in the Bay Area and Southern California also live in high risk areas.

The population under threat is rapidly growing. As many as 1.2 million new homes will be constructed "in the highest wildfire risk areas" of California between 2000 and 2050, according to a 2014 research report by environmental scientists from around the state and country.

It's fine to build them provided that banks and insurance companies charge them for the risk and they are ineligible for disaster aid.

Posted by orrinj at 7:18 PM


Conservatives are irate the Parkland shooter registered to vote from jail (Avi Selk, November 12, 2018, Washington Post)

A father of a Parkland school shooting victim appeared on "Fox & Friends" over the weekend and suggested, without evidence, that Democrats registered the accused shooter to vote from jail as part of an effort to steal Florida's election.

"It just shows you how despicable these Democrats are that they'll stoop that low to go into the prison, the jail, and register these criminals," said Andrew Pollack, whose daughter Meadow was one of 17 people Nikolas Cruz allegedly shot and killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February. "It's never been done in 20 years."

Citing a "tip from deputies at the jail," Pollack said the plan failed because Broward County -- which is now involved in a recount battle that could swing Florida's Senate and gubernatorial elections -- failed to send the inmates their ballots in time to vote.

"They probably shouldn't be voting anyway," Fox's Katie Pavlich remarked after listening to Pollack's accusations, which neither she nor her two co-hosts challenged at any point, although they contradicted all public evidence.

There was a kernel of truth at the heart of the segment and the spiraling social media outrage that accompanied it: Nikolas Jacob Cruz really did register to vote in July, listing his home address as the county jail where he awaits trial after police say he confessed to the mass shooting.

He registered as a Republican...

Posted by orrinj at 7:11 PM


Steve King dared a conservative outlet to release audio of him calling immigrants 'dirt.' It did. (Kristine Phillips November 12, 2018, Washington Post)

Rep. Steve King, the newly reelected Iowa Republican with a history of incendiary comments about race and immigration, dared a conservative magazine to show evidence that he had called immigrants "dirt."

"Just release the full tape," King, who eked out a narrow victory last week despite affiliations with white nationalism, told the Weekly Standard's online managing editor Saturday on Twitter. Days earlier, the magazine reported that King had made an inflammatory joke about immigrants.

The Weekly Standard released said recording...

Posted by orrinj at 5:16 PM


A new genetic-engineering technology could spell the end for malaria: In tests, a gene drive has already driven a small, caged mosquito population to extinction (The Economist, Nov 12th 2018)

[I]n 2012, a powerful new gene-editing tool called CRISPR-Cas9 became available. Gene drives based on CRISPR-Cas9 could easily be engineered to target specific bits of the chromosome and insert themselves seamlessly into the gap, thus ensuring that every gamete gets a copy (see diagram). By 2016, gene drives had been created in yeast, fruitflies and two species of mosquito. In work published in the journal Nature Biotechnology in September, Andrea Crisanti, Mr Burt and colleagues at Imperial showed that one of their gene drives could drive a small, caged population of the mosquito Anopheles gambiae to extinction--the first time a gene drive had shown itself capable of doing this.

Posted by orrinj at 5:05 PM


The Real Cause of the Humanities' Woes: The problem is politics (Sarah E. Chinn, NOVEMBER 09, 2018,  The Chronicle)

[C]lune's essay deflects blame from the real causes of the decrease in literary study: an ever-increasing emphasis on vocational and preprofessional education, a growing focus on quantitatively assessable outcomes, and a shift in employment choices by students away from education (which often overlapped with literary-studies majors) and toward the health sciences (the impressive statistical analysis of David Laurence at the Modern Language Association clearly shows all these changes).

...while the End of History has been killing them.

Posted by orrinj at 5:02 PM


Bolsonaro Has Investors Racing to Brazil as They Bolt From Mexico (Aline Oyamada  and Carolina Wilson, November 12, 2018, Bloomberg)

Mexican assets have underperformed peers since incoming President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador scrapped a partially built $13 billion airport project, while his party later announced proposals to cut bank fees. Lopez Obrador may not be the only factor depressing Mexican assets though. Brazil's incoming President Jair Bolsonaro is growing on investors amid plans to sell state-owned companies, reform the pension system and narrow the fiscal deficit, potentially attracting funds out of other emerging markets.

Posted by orrinj at 4:06 AM


UK calls for end to Yemen war, Khashoggi justice (Al Jazeera, 11/12/18)

UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt visits Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Monday to press for an end to the war in Yemen and to call on Saudi leaders to cooperate with an investigation into the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Posted by orrinj at 4:05 AM


Australia's terrorist attack killed far fewer people than the US's mass shooting 24 hours earlier: Why? Gun control. (Rachel Withers  Nov 11, 2018, Vox)
US gun control advocates often point to Australia's gun laws in the wake of mass shootings as evidence of how effective a solution it can be, partly because it provides such a stark before-and-after case study.

In 1996, a conservative Australian government enacted strict gun laws after 35 people died in the Port Arthur mass shooting, shocking the nation. The reforms restricted gun ownership, while outright banning automatic and semiautomatic rifles and shotguns. The government introduced a mandatory buyback of the newly illegal guns, peacefully purchasing and destroying about 650,000 firearms.

The reforms seemed to work, if lowering gun deaths is the aim. According to a 2011 review by Harvard researchers, Australia's firearm homicide rate dropped by about 42 percent in the seven years after the law passed (its firearm suicide rate fell by 57 percent). As Vox's German Lopez noted, it's hard to know how much of that drop came from the reforms, but experts think they're definitely linked:

It's difficult to know for sure how much of the drop in homicides and suicides was caused specifically by the gun buyback program and other legal changes. Australia's gun deaths, for one, were already declining before the law passed. But researchers David Hemenway and Mary Vriniotis argue that the gun buyback program very likely played a role: "First, the drop in firearm deaths was largest among the type of firearms most affected by the buyback. Second, firearm deaths in states with higher buyback rates per capita fell proportionately more than in states with lower buyback rates."

And there hasn't been a mass shooting in Australia since. "While 13 gun massacres (the killing of 4 or more people at one time) occurred in Australia in the 18 years before the [gun control law], resulting in more than one hundred deaths," the Harvard team wrote, in the 14 following years, there were none. By that metric, the US has had four in the past month alone.

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 AM


Trump Makes the Midterms Great Again: The man many see as an existential threat to the republic has done wonders for participatory democracy. (JACK SHAFER, November 06, 2018, Politico)

Am I wrong to attribute our democratic orgy to Trump? I think not. As John Hudak of the Brookings Institution points out, good economic times resound at the ballot box to the benefit of the party holding the White House, and these are very good economic times. Popular presidents also stir large midterm turnouts. Trump doesn't qualify as a popular president, with only lackluster approval ratings, but among his most devout followers he commands a godlike status that makes up for his ratings deficiencies. Could any current Democratic aspirant for the White House fill aircraft hangars and arenas in red-state America the way he does and make them howl? He's the most popular unpopular president we've ever had.

The Trump virus still seems to be having its way with red-state America. But every virus entering the body politic creates an antibody, and the Trump antibody has been equally potent. The Democrats treated Trump's special brand of politics and personality as fodder for lampoonery in 2016. But in 2018, the same package has bestirred Democrats to conduct their midterm campaigns as if waging Armageddon. It's hard to imagine Democrats mounting such a furious midterm fight against a President Romney or a President McCain. Trump arouses a competitive something in Democrats we haven't seen since Richard Nixon enraged them with his autocratic skulduggery. What he's better than Nixon at doing is capturing the Democratic responses to his provocations and then inserting them into a feedback loop. Recent example: He nominated hardcore conservative Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court and then repurposed Capitol Hill protests against Kavanaugh as an example of how the Democrats advocate mob rule.

Approaching politics like a reality show, Trump inserts new plot points into the drama whenever the going gets slow and the ratings falter. He's incredibly mindful of "ratings," even imaginary ones, making mention of them at least 24 times since becoming president, according to the Hollywood Reporter. "You know, I am a ratings person," he told Sean Hannity last month. He has repeatedly called his show, "The Apprentice," the No. 1 show on TV--even though it wasn't. He boasted about the ratings he got when he greeted returning American prisoners from North Korea, claimed credit for the high ratings "Roseanne" got on its return to the airwaves, and toasted former press secretary Sean Spicer for his "ratings."

And now he has taken credit for the midterms, too. At a campaign rally in Cleveland, Trump insisted he had made a fortune for the media he loves to bash. "You know the midterm elections used to be, like, boring, didn't they?" Trump said. "Do you even remember what they were? People say midterms, they say, 'What is that, what is it,' right? Now it's like the hottest thing."

And he's right on every count.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


The Voice of the 'Intellectual Dark Web': Claire Lehmann's online magazine, Quillette, prides itself on publishing 'dangerous' ideas other outlets won't touch. How far is it willing to go? (Amelia Lester, 11/12/18, Politico)

One evening this fall at a house in West Hollywood, the Australian editor and writer Claire Lehmann had dinner with the neuroscientist Sam Harris and Eric Weinstein, the managing director of tech entrepreneur Peter Thiel's investment firm. Joe Rogan, the podcast host, joined later on, when the group decamped to a comedy club.

You could think of the gathering as a board meeting of sorts for the "intellectual dark web," or IDW, a loose cadre of academics, journalists and tech entrepreneurs who view themselves as standing up to the knee-jerk left-leaning politics of academia and the media. Over the past year, the IDW has arisen as a puzzling political force, made up of thinkers who support "Enlightenment values" and accuse the left of setting dangerously illiberal limits on acceptable thought. The IDW has defined itself mainly by diving into third-rail topics like the genetics of gender and racial difference--territory that seems even more fraught in the era of #MeToo and the Trump resistance. But part of the attraction of the IDW is the sense that many more people agree with its principles than can come forward publicly: The dinner host on this night, Lehmann says, was a famous person she would prefer not to name.

Over steaks, Lehmann recalls, the conversation revolved around a brewing academic scandal, a prank engineered by friends of hers. They had successfully placed seven nonsensical research papers in various academic journals devoted to what they characterized as "grievance studies." One of the papers included a lengthy passage from Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf, rewritten to focus on feminism and intersectionality. Another was about rape culture in dog parks. Absurd as the papers were, they had been accepted by expert editors and published as serious research. For those in attendance, it was a ringing confirmation of just how politicized academia had become, and how blindly devoted to fashionable moralities.

It was also a big story for Quillette, the online magazine Lehmann runs and the unofficial digest of the IDW. Lehmann had known about the prank before the Wall Street Journal broke the news, and she had some time to formulate a response that would fan the flames. "I wanted the public to be aware that there are many people within the academy who are fed up with grievance studies scholarship," says Lehmann, who went on to publish responses from five like-minded academics--one of whom called the incident "a Cultural Revolution in our own backyard."

For readers and thinkers who regard themselves as intellectually curious but feel alienated from the lock-step politics of universities and the broader left, Quillette has become a haven for stories like this--and topics treated as taboo elsewhere. At times, it has drawn intense social media backlash, with contributors labeled everything from "clowns" to "cryptofascists" on Twitter. But fans of the site include pop psychologist Jordan Peterson, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, psychology professors Steven Pinker of Harvard and Jonathan Haidt of New York University, and columnists like David Brooks, Meghan Daum and Andrew Sullivan. "I continue to be impressed that Quillette publishes heterodox but intellectually serious and non-inflammatory pieces [about] ideas that have become near-taboo in academic and intellectual discourse," Pinker wrote to me in an email, "including ones connected to heritability, sex and sex differences, race, culture, Islam, free speech and violence." Haidt, co-author of the recent book The Coddling of the American Mind, called Quillette in an email "a gathering place for people who love to play with ideas and hate being told that there are ideas they are not supposed to play with." [...]

Lehmann, though, doesn't think of herself as a journalist. When I spoke with her by phone from her home in Sydney, she said she's not even very interested in politics. And as a woman and an Australian, she is an unusual gatekeeper for a group that is mostly male and almost entirely American. (They're also mostly, though not all, white, as is Lehmann.) "I'm an outsider to the debate," Lehmann concedes. "I think that helps." Whether you think the magazine is a "safe space for academics and others with novel ideas who feel stifled by oppressive social and speech norms," as Lehmann herself does, or a "hub for reactionary thought," per the website the Outline, Quillette keeps appearing in roiling controversies about speech and identity, so much so that what started as a niche destination for evolutionary psychologists is now on the front lines of the culture wars. Yet, with its increased popularity comes greater scrutiny of Quillette's controversial ideas--as well as the risk that its mostly dry, academic discussion could become flash points for extremists. Just how far will Quillette go in its devotion to iconoclasm? always that, as a mode of thought, it eventually requires you to oppose even what is right and worthwhile.

Posted by orrinj at 3:58 AM


'Being silenced is not acceptable': Doctors express outrage after NRA tells them 'to stay in their lane' (Frances Stead Sellers,  November 11, 2018, Washington Post)

At first, Judy Melinek didn't know how to respond when she learned about a National Rifle Association tweet last week telling doctors who dared enter the gun debate "to stay in their lane."

But two days later, when the West Coast forensic pathologist was on her way to the morgue to examine the body of one of the country's many forgotten gunshot victims, the words came to her.

"Do you have any idea how many bullets I pull out of corpses weekly? This isn't just my lane," she tweeted Friday. "It's my [expletive] highway."

Posted by orrinj at 3:53 AM


Trump wants no more relief funds for Puerto Rico (Jonathan Swan, 11/12/18, Axios)

President Trump doesn't want to give Puerto Rico any more federal money for its recovery from Hurricane Maria, White House officials have told congressional appropriators and leadership. This is because he claims, without evidence, that the island's government is using federal disaster relief money to pay off debt.

November 11, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 4:49 PM


Kellyanne Conway claims the doctored video of CNN's Jim Acosta is 'not altered,' just 'sped up'  (Bonnie Kristian, 11/11/18, The week)

The doctored video of CNN's Jim Acosta shared by White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was "not altered," White House counsel Kellyanne Conway claimed on Fox News Sunday, just "sped up." [...]

Independent expert analysis of the clip commissioned by The Associated Press found changing the speed of portions of the video is exactly how the alteration was accomplished. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:16 PM


Is Anyone Surprised Trump Doesn't Know the Difference Between Baltic States and the Balkans? (DANIEL POLITI, NOV 11, 2018, Slate)

Although it's hardly surprising world geography isn't Trump's strong suit, this case is particularly notable considering Melania Trump is originally from the Balkans. The first lady was born in Slovenia, which gained independence in 1991 at the start of the Balkan wars. As Le Monde wrote, Trump remained "apparently uneducated in the matter by his wife, Melania, originally from the former Yugoslavia." the idea of him listening to anything she says.

Posted by orrinj at 12:10 PM


Schumer on the Election: Kavanaugh's Confirmation 'Helped Us More Than It Hurt Us' (Jeffrey Cimmino, November 11, 2018, Free Beacon)

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., NY) said Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation helped more than hurt the Democratic Party in last week's midterm elections.

"The bottom line is, you know, the Kavanaugh dispute, I think, helped us more than it hurt us," Schumer said. "It's one of the reasons we won the House so decisively. Suburban voters, traditionally Republican, came to our side. If the coalition -- the old Democratic coalition can add suburban voters to it and continue to focus on issues like health care, which matter to working class Americans throughout the country, we're going to win."

"I think the president lost more votes because of the Kavanaugh issue than gained throughout the country," Schumer added.

Republicans needed Democrats to defeat the nomination, so a Court seat was at risk, for it to be helpful.  Instead, they were left just defending sexual assault.

Posted by orrinj at 12:06 PM


GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher loses, and the Republicans' 'bad year' may get worse yet (JOE MOZINGO  and JAZMINE ULLOA, NOV 10, 2018, la tIMES)

The defeat to Democrat real estate entrepreneur Harley Rouda represents a landmark shift away from the GOP for suburban America. No county -- no part of a county -- has been at the heart of conservatism since the 1960s like the coast between Dana Point and the Los Angeles County line.

This was John Wayne country.

Even now Republicans have a 10-point voter registration advantage in Rohrabacher's 48th Congressional District -- but President Trump and his supporters in Congress do not. [...]

"The district became much more of an anti-Trump suburb, and he no longer connected to the people there," Quinn said. "He had an opponent who was a former Republican businessman, not some wild-eyed lefty. And for at least two years, people were willing to try something new."

It is a stark change for the region once embodied by the legendary movie cowboy John Wayne -- its international airport's namesake -- who was an ultra-right John Birch Society member and lived on the harbor in Newport Beach.

Republicans have now lost three of the six races Democrats targeted most in the state. They have fallen behind or are holding thin leads in the remaining unresolved races, as suburban voters nationwide rebuked Trump and his allies in the House of Representatives.

Democrats earlier won the seats of GOP Reps. Darrell Issa of Vista, who declined to seek reelection, and Steve Knight of Palmdale, who was ousted by Katie Hill.

On Friday, Democrat Josh Harder overtook Republican Rep. Jeff Denham in the latest tally in a Modesto-area district.

In two other races, GOP Rep. Mimi Walters, who represents the Irvine area, and Republican candidate Young Kim of Fullerton are holding thin leads over their Democratic opponents, who have gained votes with each ballot count since election night.

With the three losses, Republicans will hold, at most, 11 of California's 53 seats in the House. Overall, Democrats are now in a position to make the greatest gains their party has seen in the chamber since Watergate.

"This is more than just a bad year," said Mike Madrid, a GOP political strategist. "This is essentially a realignment in California politics, and the traditional base that has served the Republican Party no longer exists."

Madrid said "a clean sweep" of GOP incumbents was possible. He said he expects the party to see worse results in 2020 because it didn't have "leadership with the strength and the foresight to get us out of this."

The Right is not Republican.

Posted by orrinj at 11:55 AM


Why California counts its ballots so slowly (REID WILSON - 11/10/18, tHE hILL)

The process of counting ballots in the nation's most populous state has always taken time. But the delays in finalizing vote counts grew longer in 2016, and they are longer again this year, because of several new laws the state legislature has passed in recent years that have slowed vote counts.

The new laws are a conscious trade-off, those involved with election administration said: They are meant to place a greater weight on enfranchising voters and counting more ballots than on counting those ballots quickly.

"We'd rather get it right than get it fast," Secretary of State Alex Padilla (D) said in an interview. "We have many policies in place to make sure that every eligible voter in California has the right to cast a ballot."

Posted by orrinj at 11:51 AM


Haredi minister appears to liken secular Jerusalem candidate to devil (Times of Israel, 11/11/18)

In a video released Sunday, Interior Minister Aryeh Deri appeared to compare Jerusalem's secular mayoral candidate Ofer Berkovitch to the devil and said he would "desecrate" the city.

Posted by orrinj at 9:09 AM


Dan Crenshaw started the week as an SNL joke and ended it as a GOP star. The real story came before that. (Dan Zak November 11, 2018, Washington Post)

Thirty-six hours after his election-night triumph, Crenshaw still hadn't caught up on sleep. There was some stale cake sitting in his campaign office, and he was juggling phone calls and a haircut he was going to be late for. He just left a luncheon with business leaders and was due early the next morning for a veterans ceremony. In two days he would make a surprise appearance on "Saturday Night Live," before heading to Capitol Hill for a two-week orientation.

A whirlwind to everyone else, it seemed, but him.

"It's life," Crenshaw said, sitting at a conference table in his Houston office last week. "It's not a challenge." He was the picture of calm. The eyepatch was off. The gold trident sparkled. Behind him was a large framed photo of Ronald Reagan. Ahead of him was the next mission.

Weirdly, his election wasn't the biggest news in Crenshaw's life last week. That came in the first minutes of Sunday, Nov. 4, during the "Weekend Update" portion of "Saturday Night Live," when cast member Pete Davidson, riffing on the midterms, presented a photo of Crenshaw, eyepatch on.

"You may be surprised to hear he's a congressional candidate from Texas and not a hit-man in a porno movie," the comedian joked. "I'm sorry, I know he lost his eye in war, or whatever."

[SNL's Pete Davidson hasn't apologized for mocking a GOP candidate who lost an eye in war]

The studio audience laughed, but everyone else took to their soapboxes. How dare liberal jokesters malign an American hero! How dare conservatives put constraints on comedy! A wave of national media came his way and Crenshaw, appearing on CNN and Fox News, was cool as a cucumber. He wasn't offended. He was just disappointed that the joke was so lame and unfunny.

Then, he says, "SNL" creator Lorne Michaels called to apologize and invite him on the show. Crenshaw hesitated. He's not an entertainer. And he had Veterans Day events over the weekend. But he saw a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to share a clear message with a national audience.

After roasting Davidson in classic "SNL" fashion ("This is Pete Davidson. He looks like if the meth from 'Breaking Bad' was a person"), Crenshaw took a moment.

"But, seriously, there's a lot of lessons to learn here," Crenshaw said, addressing the camera as he sat next to Davidson. "Not just that the left and right can still agree on some things but also this: Americans can forgive one another. We can remember what brings us together as a country." He encouraged Americans to connect with veterans by telling them, "Never forget," instead of just "thanks for your service."

"When you say 'never forget' to a veteran, you are implying that, as an American, you are in it with them. . . . And never forget those we lost on 9/11 -- heroes like Pete's father," a firefighter who died in the World Trade Center. "So I'll just say, Pete? Never forget."

"Never forget," Davidson replied.

Of course, Mr. Davidson's line was funny and Mr. Crenshaw's was not, but Mr. Davidson lost the comedic effect with his follow-up line, while Mr. Crenshaw followed up with a worthwhile civics lesson.

Posted by orrinj at 8:58 AM


Florida Begins Vote Recounts in Senate and Governor's Races (Frances Robles and Patricia Mazzei, Nov. 10, 2018, NY Times)

Florida began the first full, statewide vote recount in its history on Saturday after authorities found that tallies submitted by its 67 counties left the contests for Senate, governor and agriculture commissioner too close to call.

Recounts were also ordered in a State Senate race and two contests for the State House, a measure of the slender margins in the nation's largest swing state that have left two of the most closely watched races in the country still undecided, four days after the midterm elections.

After unofficial results came in shortly after noon on Saturday, Gov. Rick Scott's edge in the race for the Senate had slipped to nearly 12,600 votes over the Democratic incumbent, Bill Nelson. Andrew Gillum, the Democratic Tallahassee mayor who on election night had conceded his loss in the governor's race to Ron DeSantis, rose to within 33,600 votes, and retracted his earlier concession.

"Florida has never had a full statewide recount. It's about to have three," Andrew Weinstein, the national chairman of the Democratic Lawyers Council, said on Twitter. "Buckle up." [...]

Manual recounts seem almost certain in the races for Senate and commissioner of agriculture, which are already within that quarter-point margin.

A manual recount does not mean every ballot is counted by hand.

Only the votes that come up as an "undervote" or "overvote" get pulled for manual review. For example, if a voter had put a check mark next to a candidate's name instead of filling the circle out completely, a vote-counting machine could have missed it.

Posted by orrinj at 8:53 AM


Why Trump Should Be Worried About 2020 (Josh Kraushaar,  Nov. 11, 2018, National Journal)

What should worry Trump is the GOP's glaring slippage in the suburbs, where brand-name Republicans were unable to sustain the unstable coalition of white-collar professionals and populist-minded Trump fans that propelled so many down-ballot Republicans to victory in 2016. In Wisconsin, Walker lost serious ground in the deeply conservative suburban stronghold in Waukesha County. Pragmatic Rep. Martha McSally of Arizona, who evolved into a Trump ally running for the Senate, is lagging behind Trump's performance in vote-rich Maricopa County (Phoenix). Her inability to hit Trump's vote share in the state--despite her pandering to his supporters--shows how hard it will be for Republicans to play both sides of the intraparty divide.

Even in races where Republicans won--holding off Beto O'Rourke in the Texas Senate race and defeating Stacey Abrams in the Georgia governor's race--there were ominous trend lines for the GOP. Abrams, despite running a progressive campaign in a red state, notably improved on Hillary Clinton's performance in the suburban Atlanta counties that were once solidly Republican. Democratic dominance in the Texas population centers brought O'Rourke within 2 points of Sen. Ted Cruz, and flipped House seats around Houston and Dallas. If the Trump campaign has to invest valuable money in Texas and Georgia in 2020, that bodes poorly for his reelection chances (even if he holds onto both states). The shifts in these states are a lot more about Trump than about the celebrity Democratic candidates.

Importantly, there is no one the Democrats can nominate in 2020 who is as unpopular as Donald and Hillary, who he ran three million votes behind.
Posted by orrinj at 8:51 AM


Posted by orrinj at 8:47 AM


In apparent dig at Trump, Macron says patriotism the 'opposite of nationalism' (Times of Israel, 11/11/18)

Macron also asserted that "patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism. Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism."

Posted by orrinj at 8:36 AM


In Suicide Prevention, It's Method, Not Madness (The Bryant Park Project), 7/08/08, NPR)

The rate of suicide in America is 11 victims per 100,000 people.

That's almost exactly the same as it was in 1965. In spite of the rise of anti-depressant drugs, crisis hotline centers, and better treatment of mental illness, we still haven't gotten much closer to understanding or preventing suicide.

The reason for that might be that prevention focuses more on the study of illness than it does on the actual ways people attempt to kill themselves, says Scott Anderson, the author of a New York Times Magazine article, "The Urge to End It All."

In effect, it's the method, not the madness.

Anderson says that suicide is an overwhelmingly impulsive act. He cites a study of survivors that said only 13 percent reported thinking about committing suicide for eight hours or longer; 70 percent said they thought about it for less than an hour; and a whopping 24 percent said the idea had occurred to them less than five minutes before their attempt.

If that's true, then suicide is highly opportunistic, and Anderson suggests that reducing the opportunities would reduce the incidence. He says that research and anecdotal evidence appear to bear this out. For example, he notes in his magazine piece that states in which gun ownership are highest have the highest rates of suicide by gun; in fact, the higher rates of gun ownership closely track the higher rates of gun suicides by state. Yet suicide rates by other means remain roughly similar.

Anderson points to another example where simply making a change in people's access to instruments of suicide dramatically lowered the suicide rate. In England, death by asphyxiation from breathing oven fumes had accounted for roughly half of all suicides up until the 1970s, when Britain began converting ovens from coal gas, which contains lots of carbon monoxide, to natural gas, which has almost none. During that time, suicides plummeted roughly 30 percent -- and the numbers haven't changed since.

Guns and suicide: A fatal link (Karin Kiewra, Spring 2008, HSPH)

In the United States, suicides outnumber homicides almost two to one. Perhaps the real tragedy behind suicide deaths--about 30,000 a year, one for every 45 attempts--is that so many could be prevented. Research shows that whether attempters live or die depends in large part on the ready availability of highly lethal means, especially firearms.

A study by the Harvard School of Public Health of all 50 U.S. states reveals a powerful link between rates of firearm ownership and suicides. Based on a survey of American households conducted in 2002, HSPH Assistant Professor of Health Policy and Management Matthew Miller, Research Associate Deborah Azrael, and colleagues at the School's Injury Control Research Center (ICRC), found that in states where guns were prevalent--as in Wyoming, where 63 percent of households reported owning guns--rates of suicide were higher. The inverse was also true: where gun ownership was less common, suicide rates were also lower.

Posted by orrinj at 8:22 AM


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Calls for open trade to greet Pence as Trump skips Asia summit (Jack Kim, 11/11/18, Reuters) 

Asia-Pacific leaders will join the heads of Southeast Asian states this week in Singapore to renew calls for multilateralism and fresh pledges to resolve regional conflicts ranging from the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar to tensions in the South China Sea.

Notably absent when regional powers such as China, Japan and India seek to enlist support for a multilateral trading system will be U.S. President Donald Trump, whose decision to skip the Asia summit has raised questions about his commitment to a regional strategy aimed at checking China's rise.

Posted by orrinj at 8:05 AM


Critics denounce 'low energy' Donald Trump for skipping WWI cemetery ceremony (David Jackson, 11/10/18, USA TODAY)

"They died with their face to the foe and that pathetic inadequate Donald Trump couldn't even defy the weather to pay his respects to The Fallen," said Nicholas Soames, Churchill's grandson and a member of British Parliament. [...]

"Real low energy, @realDonaldTrump to not bother to honor the sacrifice of American soldiers in WWI due to some rain," tweeted Kelly Magsamen, a National Security Council adviser for both Republican and Democratic presidents.

Posted by orrinj at 7:55 AM


The Death of Europe: Two Classic Films and the Great War (Mark Malvasi, 11/11/18, Imaginative Conservative)

Emphasizing the primacy of human relationships over class identity and national antagonism, La Grande Illusion offers both a hopeful and a pessimistic vision; it is at one elegiac and tragic. Although war has shattered European civilization, Renoir maintains that people are still capable of treating each other with decency and compassion. There is no need to make enemies in war. Shared values and a common humanity are bonds stronger than politics and nationality. At the same time, the film rails against human folly, which is often animated and exaggerated by nationalist hatreds and the will to power. However artificial they may be, the divisions of class and nationality are real, and not easily overcome.

The narrative focuses on the plot of French prisoners of war to escape the fortress-prison in which the Germans have incarcerated them. The camp is a microcosm of Europe. The attempt requires cooperation among men of different nations, classes, and religions; Russians, English, and French, Orthodox, Protestant, Jewish, and Catholic must work together to achieve a common goal. The commandant, the aristocrat Hauptmann von Rauffenstein, treats his charges more as guests than as captives. He is an old-fashioned gentleman who believes that the prisoners will not try to escape since they have given their word not to do so. A former pilot, von Rauffenstein has fractured his spine in a crash. Symbolizing the condition to which the war has reduced the European aristocracy, von Rauffenstein's body is held together by a brace. He is a broken man.

His counterpart, whom he befriends, is the French aristocrat, le Captaine de Boledieu. Von Rauffenstein and Boldieu share ideals, values, and code of conduct. They even have common acquaintances. Moving effortlessly between languages, they speak to each other at some times in German, at other times in French, and even, on occasion, in English. A man of refined tastes and cosmopolitan sensibilities, von Rauffenstein is beguiled not by a strident German nationalism, but by the sentimental illusion--only one of many that Renoir tried to dispel--of gentlemanliness and chivalry, which the war has destroyed. His sense of honor, civility, and friendship are as much casualties of war as the wounded and the dead. Not cynical but more realistic, de Boldieu knows better. "Neither you nor I can stop the march of time," he tells von Rauffenstein. De Boldieu understands that the world now belongs to the commoners. It changed hands not, as von Rauffenstein thinks, with the French Revolution, but when the gentlemen who ruled Europe abandoned their principles and declared war on one another. The old order may be dying, but for de Boldieu it is the aristocracy that bears most of the responsibility for killing it.

A more venal pair of aristocrats are Generals Paul Mireau and George Broulard in Stanley Kubrick's Paths of Glory (1957), based on the Canadian writer Humphrey Cobb's novel.[4] Banned from being shown in France until 1975, Paths of Glory is loosely based on the Battle of Verdun, which Renoir also referenced in La Grande Illusion. But unlike Renoir's film, in Paths of Glory there is an expansive disparity between those who take orders and those who give them. The military hierarchy recapitulates the social hierarchy that held sway in peacetime. Examining those differences, the film becomes a meditation on injustice.

Along with Colonel Dax, Lieutenants Maréchal and Rosenthal in La Grande Illusion constitute the finest incarnations of the new order. Maréchal, a mechanic, and Rosenthal, a banker, can only succeed in escaping the Germans if they cooperate. Maréchal must overcome his anti-Semitism and recognize how little being a Jew defines Rosenthal's life. Although he is wealthy and proud, Rosenthal is generous with his comrades in the camp. He readily shares the sumptuous provisions he receives from home. So many delicacies can Rosenthal offer that the French prisoners eat and drink better than the German guards. He is a man, a human being, a good and trusted friend, who incidentally happens to be Jewish. Making their way across Germany to Switzerland, Maréchal and Rosenthal learn to acknowledge the differences that separate them while coming to share the equality of friendship. "Are you sure we're in Switzerland?" Maréchal asks Rosenthal. "It's all so alike." "Of course," Rosenthal answers. "You can't see frontiers. They were invented by men. Nature doesn't care." By the time they are climbing the Alps to freedom, their common humanity has replaced class, national, and even religious identity. The same is true of the German soldiers who have been pursuing them. Maréchal and Rosenthal are no longer the enemy. They are simply men. The Germans lower their rifles and refuse to shoot.

In addition, when Rosenthal injures himself on the journey and needs time to recuperate, the fugitives seek refuge at a remote farmhouse. There Maréchal falls in love with a German widow, whose husband has died in combat, and promises to return to her and her young daughter after the war. They celebrate Christmas together and teach each other their languages. Their affection belies the hostility that separates their countries and the carnage that their countrymen are at that moment inflicting on one another. It is, provisionally at least, a hopeful vision of the future.

But perhaps that sense of hope is the final, and the most painful, illusion.

Trump misses cemetery visit as Macron and Merkel vow unity (Kim Willsher,  10 Nov 2018 , The Guardian)

Under grey clouds and persistent drizzle, France's president, Emmanuel Macron, and Germany's chancellor, Angela Merkel, clasped hands at a solemn ceremony at Compiègne as they marked the centenary of the armistice signing.

It was the first time since 1940 that leaders from the two countries had met at the historic site, where Marshal Ferdinand Foch, supreme commander of the western front, signed the ceasefire agreement with Germany in a railway carriage.

On Saturday, as the French and German national anthems were played, the sun briefly broke through and the chancellor rested her head on the president's. The two leaders laid a wreath and unveiled a plaque celebrating their reconciliation. They then signed the visitors' book in a replica of Foch's railway carriage, known as the Compiègne Wagon, where in an act of revenge Adolf Hitler forced France to sign its capitulation in June 1940.

"We owe it to our soldiers," said Macron afterwards. Symbolically, he and Merkel sat side by side and not face to face as the French and German representatives had in 1918 and 1940.

Posted by orrinj at 7:48 AM


Dana Rohrabacher Loses, Eroding Republican Foothold in California (Adam Nagourney, Nov. 10, 2018, NY Times)

Representative Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican fixture in California who represented Orange County for 15 terms, has lost his bid for re-election. His defeat underlines the party's setbacks in a part of the state that was long a symbol of its political dominance.

The Associated Press called the race on Saturday, with Harley Rouda receiving 52 percent of the vote to Mr. Rohrabacher's 48 percent.

Mr. Rouda, 56, is a former Republican turned Democrat who became a symbol of the Democratic efforts to win back Congress this year.

Posted by orrinj at 7:42 AM


Voting Rights Foe Defeated By Native American Democrat (Matthew Chapman, November 11, 2018, National Memo)

[N]orth Dakota Republicans didn't anticipate what a massive backlash there would be to their skullduggery. Immediately after the Supreme Court let the law take effect, furious Democratic activists all over the country crowdfunded a massive effort to get street addresses and updated ID cards for Native Americans in the state.

The effort was so successful that on Election Day, Native turnout was actually higher than 2012 in several places. The high turnout was not enough to save Heitkamp, as the state's electorate has shifted significantly right of where it was six years ago -- but at the legislative level, angry Native voters flipped at least three red seats blue, including state House Majority Leader Al Carlson.

In the most poetic justice of the night, Randy Boehning, a GOP state representative in Fargo who sponsored the Native American disenfranchisement law in the first place, was unseated by Democrat Ruth Anna Buffalo -- a Native American.

November 10, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 5:53 PM


Was Lawrence of Arabia murdered? Death 'more likely assassination than accident': EXCLUSIVE Filmmaker Mark Griffin, 60, claims he has found new bombshell evidence which throws into question the official line about Lawrence's death (Matt Roper, 10 NOV 2018, Daily Mirror)

Back home he turned to writing his war memoirs The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, which immediately captured the public's imagination.

An abridged version called Revolt in the Desert, published in 1927, became an international bestseller.

But Lawrence appeared to shy away from public recognition, once turning his back on King George V and walking out of Buckingham Palace after the monarch had summoned him there to offer him a knighthood.

He also attempted to enlist back into the military using pseudonyms in an attempt to avoid the glare of celebrity.

First in the Royal Air Force using the name John Hume Ross, but he was unmasked by the press months later, and then in the Royal Tank Corp under the name Thomas Edward Shaw.

After retiring from service for good, Lawrence moved to Dorset where he lived in Clouds Hill, an isolated cottage near Wareham, and would spend much of his time roaring around the country lanes on his beloved Brough motorbikes.

Mark said his interest in finding the truth about the war hero's death began after hearing many accounts of a black car which was seen speeding from the scene of the accident, close to Clouds Hill, shortly after the fatal crash.

He said: "Black paint was found on the handlebars and petrol tank of Lawrence's Brough.

"Of course that could only happen if he had collided with a black vehicle.

"And you can see from pictures of the bike at the time that the damage on the right side of the bike is consistent with a collision with a car.

"Following the accident Lawrence's bike was examined by George Brough, the person who made the bike.

"In 1985 he testified that he had wanted to give evidence at the inquest, but that they had told him he shouldn't mention that the bike had been structurally damaged.

"So he didn't give evidence because if he had he would have had to say that it had been hit by something.

"So that got my thinking, why would they want to cover that up?" [...]

Perhaps the most credible theory, according to Mark, is that Lawrence was assassinated by the British intelligence community after hints that Winston Churchill planned for him to lead the Secret Service.

Following his death, Churchill, a friend of Lawrence, appeared to confirm the role saying he had hoped he would "take a commanding part in facing the dangers while now threaten the country."

Mark said: "Churchill was planning a huge shake-up the secret service.

"In his diary he talked of creating a directorate which would oversee the Secret Service, the police and the military all together.

"The person who but a stop to that, a guy called Quex who had run the SS since the First World War, was sacked when Churchill was made Prime Minister in 1940."

While Mark admits he doesn't know for sure what really happened, he is certain that something was covered up.

He said: "I have wondered if it was a simple accident, that a VIP was in that black car which collided with the motorbike, and that was the reason why the Secret Service needed to manage what would have been an embarrassing situation."

But he claims that it won't be long before the world will know the truth about how and why the legendary Lawrence of Arabia really died.

He said: "There is a big reveal in 2020, which will be 85 years since the event, when the National Archives will release all the top secret documents about his death.

"It will be fascinating to finally know the truth, and I think many will be shocked by what they discover."

Posted by orrinj at 5:11 PM


Posted by orrinj at 4:58 PM


GOP Rep. Denham falls behind Democrat as 3 other Republicans lose ground in Friday's ballot tally (MAYA SWEEDLER  and MICHAEL FINNEGAN, NOV 10, 2018, LA Times)

Republican Rep. Jeff Denham lost his lead over Democrat Josh Harder on Friday in one of California's four unresolved congressional races as updated ballot counts showed the GOP in growing danger of losing as many as six House seats in the state.

GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of Costa Mesa fell further behind Democrat Harley Rouda, who is now more than 7,300 votes ahead of the 15-term congressman.

Another Republican Orange County incumbent, Rep. Mimi Walters, has seen her election-night lead of 6,233 votes drop to 2,020 in her race against Democrat Katie Porter.

The tabulation Friday was also alarming for Republican candidate Young Kim of Fullerton, whose election-night lead over Democrat Gil Cisneros has shrunk to 2,672 votes.

If historical voting patterns hold, Republicans will lose all four of those seats. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:51 PM


More Provisional Ballots Found in Broward (Daniel Molina, 11/10/18, Floridian Press)

The controversy surrounding unaccounted for ballots in Broward continues as provisional ballots were found unattended in a the Tamarac Lakes Community Center.

Upon finding them Saturday night, a citizen called the Broward Sheriff's Office after finding election equipment and two locked boxes marked "Provisional Ballot Box."

Posted by orrinj at 4:46 PM


Trump's Acting Attorney General of the Country Suggested He "Believes" in States' Right to Nullify Federal Laws (ELLIOT HANNON, NOV 10, 2018, Slate)

The current acting attorney general of the United States, the highest law enforcement officer in the entire country, believes that states have the constitutional right to disobey federal laws when they deem appropriate.

The Right and Left are united by their hatred of the Constitution.

Posted by orrinj at 2:12 PM


Posted by orrinj at 2:02 PM


Nothing unusual about vote count in Arizona dragging on (NICHOLAS RICCARDI, 11/10/18, AP)

Blame the fact that Arizonans like to vote early, by mail. That sounds like a contradiction, but a mailed-in ballot requires more work for Arizona elections officials.

That's because state law requires the envelope to be sealed and signed, and for elections officials to match each signature to the one on file with the voter's registration before even opening the envelope. In this election, that's about 1.7 million individual signatures that had to be confirmed, one-by-one. A total of about 2.3 million votes were cast in Arizona.

The problem comes in the final days when the ballots flood election offices. Voters can also drop off sealed mail ballots on Election Day, adding to the pile. Those ballots can't be counted that day because the elections office is busy setting up and administering in-person voting.

The state's Republican secretary of state, Michele Reagan, added another reason: election security. To ensure against voter fraud, mail ballots dropped off Election Day - which totaled 320,000 - are double-checked with votes cast at the polls to confirm no one voted twice.

"Arizona takes elections seriously - from the poll workers to the county elections officials, and the Secretary of State's office," Reagan said in a statement Friday. "Everybody is working diligently to tabulate all of the election results in a manner that Arizonans can be proud of and, most importantly, trust the results."

It normally takes more than a week to count all the ballots in Arizona. The recorder in the state's biggest county - Maricopa, where 60 percent of votes are cast - Adrian Fontes, expects the counting to be done by Nov. 15.

Fontes added that another bottleneck in his office is the computer system. It dates from the 1980s and is designed for a less populated county that rarely voted by mail. So it can only process up to 75,000 ballots a day. Maricopa has about 350,000 ballots that have yet to be tallied.

Posted by orrinj at 11:26 AM


Peter Navarro slams Wall Streeters as 'foreign agents' hindering the White House (Curt Mills, November 10, 2018, Spectator USA)

'Wall Street and Goldman's the most important thing,' said Peter Navarro, the White House trade policy pointman, at a Washington think tank Friday. 'When these unpaid foreign agents engage in this kind of diplomacy - so-called diplomacy - all they do is weaken this president and his negotiating position.'

Posted by orrinj at 10:14 AM


James Comey discussed sensitive FBI business on his private email (Marisa Schultz, November 9, 2018, NY Post)

Fired FBI chief James Comey used his private Gmail account hundreds of times to conduct government business -- and at least seven of those messages were deemed so sensitive by the Justice Department that they declined to release them.

Posted by orrinj at 9:38 AM


Trump celebrated the midterm results, but without millennials and women he could be headed for disaster in 2020 (Evan Siegfried, 11/09/18, NBC: Think)

The party's attitude toward avoiding calamity was akin to an airline pilot playing a game of chicken with a mountain. They dismissed millennials and young voters using two flawed arguments: They don't vote and, when they ultimately do, they will have become conservative because they have "responsibilities" like having a job and paying taxes.

However, there were multiple signs that millennials and young voters in particular were going to vote this year. Poll after poll showed an increase in enthusiasm among this sector of the electorate and voter registration data saw a significant uptick in registration.

As for the claim that millennials will vote Republican as they age and assume responsibilities such as having jobs and paying taxes? It is a bunch of malarkey. The oldest millennials are now 37, have jobs, pay taxes and are busy worrying about how to pay for their kids' college educations -- and they themselves likely faced or still face massive student debt, which only heightens these concerns. Despite being marginally older, they still feel that the Republican Party does not represent them or their values, so they are continuing to support Democratic candidates.

Making matters worse, the Republican Party seems to believe that the way to win over millennials is to promote figures like Charlie Kirk, Candace Owens and Tomi Lahren, who are the Baby Boomers' idea of a millennial Republican. Each of these demagogues believe that the best way to expand the GOP is to shamelessly promote themselves while "owning the libs," in the process pushing the kinds of divisive rhetoric and ideas that make millennials turn away from the Republican Party in the first place. Even many millennial Republicans find their antics and 280-character-at-a-time, right-wing Twitter infomercials to be intellectually lacking and outright vacuous.

Making matters worse, the Republican Party seems to believe that the way to win over millennials is to promote figures like Charlie Kirk, Candace Owens and Tomi Lahren.

Continuing to rely on these soapbox orators and their obtuse drivel to bring millennials and young Americans to the GOP will continue to lead to the opposite effect. Instead, these dunces should be cast out in favor of more thoughtful conservatives who have proven they can speak to and work with audiences other than the GOP base.

Posted by orrinj at 9:36 AM


Posted by orrinj at 9:05 AM


The government is raking in billions of dollars from Trump's tariffs. Americans are the ones paying. (Gina Heeb, 11/10/18, Business Insider)

Federal revenue from tariffs in the third quarter increased by more than 33% from the same quarter last year, Treasury Department data shows. And in October -- the first full month in which all tariffs announced to date were in effect -- the monthly collection appears to have doubled from the 2017 level to about $6 billion, according to estimates from daily receipts.

Thus far, his legacy is increased taxes, regulations, Democrats in elective office and aides convicted and indicted.

Trump's trade war may have helped Democrats win the House (Jeff Stein, November 9, 2018, Washington Post)

"Family farmers in our district saw reliable markets disrupted by impulsive and unpredictable trade decisions," said Democrat Angie Craig, who unseated Rep. Jason Lewis (R). "I heard a lot of the same things: They want a representative who will listen to the concerns they have about instability stemming from the trade war."

Democratic candidates across the country tried to leverage angst about Trump's trade policies in their campaign pitches to voters. In Senate races, most Democrats who tried running on those sentiments lost. But in House races, such candidates fared much better and may have even helped swing control of the chamber to Democrats, underscoring the mixed political ramifications of one of the administration's key economic policies.

"It's very clear, based on how they lost seats in the Upper Midwest, that declining agricultural markets likely led to the overturning of the GOP majority in the House," said Joe Brusuelas, an economist with RSM, an international accounting firm. "It's hard to imagine that these seats would have flipped anyway."

In March, Trump slapped 25 percent tariffs on steel and aluminum imports to the United States, followed by two separate rounds of tariffs -- one on $50 billion in products and another on $200 billion in products -- on China.

China, Mexico and other foreign governments have retaliated by imposing their own tariffs on U.S. exports, in many instances in areas where they might hurt the president's domestic political fortunes.

They targeted Midwestern farms that export to Chinese markets, Harley-Davidson motor­cycles manufactured in the Rust Belt, and even bourbon produced in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's home state of Kentucky, among other businesses in Republican-controlled states.

Posted by orrinj at 8:58 AM


Posted by orrinj at 8:50 AM


Sessions realized too late that Whitaker was auditioning for his job (Evan Perez, Laura Jarrett and Ariane de Vogue, November 9, 2018, CNN)

On Wednesday, the attorney general received the call everyone in Washington knew was coming some day soon.

John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, asked Sessions to submit his resignation, according to multiple sources briefed on the call. Sessions agreed to comply, but he wanted a few more days before the resignation would become effective. Kelly said he'd consult the President.

Soon, the sources say, top Justice officials convened on the 5th floor suite of offices for the attorney general. Eventually, there were two huddles in separate offices. Among those in Sessions' office was Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, his deputy Ed O'Callaghan, Solicitor General Noel Francisco and Steven Engel, who heads the Office of Legal Counsel.

A few yards away, Whitaker strategized with other aides, including Gary Barnett, now his chief of staff.

The rival huddles, which haven't been previously reported, laid bare a break in the relationship between Sessions and Whitaker that had emerged in recent weeks, after it became clear that Whitaker played a behind-the-scenes role in an aborted effort to oust Rosenstein.

A source close to Sessions says that the former attorney general realized that Whitaker was "self-dealing" after reports surfaced in September that Whitaker had spoken with Kelly and had discussed plans to become the No. 2 at the Justice Department if Rosenstein was forced to resign.

In recent months, with his relationship with the President at a new low, Sessions skipped several so-called principals meetings that he was slated to attend as a key member of the Cabinet. A source close to Sessions says that neither the attorney general nor Trump thought it was a good idea for Sessions to be at the White House, so he sent surrogates. Whitaker was one of them.

But Sessions did not realize Whitaker was having conversations with the White House about his future until the news broke in late September about Rosenstein.

On Wednesday as aides began drafting Sessions' resignation letter, the distrust for Whitaker burst into the open.

The fact that Whitaker would become acting attorney general, passing over Rosenstein suddenly raised concerns about the impact on the most high-profile investigation in the Justice Department, the Russia probe led by Mueller. The Mueller probe has been at the center of Trump's ire directed at Sessions and the Justice Department. Whitaker has made comments criticizing Mueller's investigation and Rosenstein's oversight of it, and has questioned the allegations of Russian interference.

Rosenstein and O'Callaghan, the highest-ranked officials handling day-to-day oversight of Mueller's investigation, urged Sessions to delay the effective date of his resignation.
Soon, Whitaker strode into Sessions' office and asked to speak one-on-one to the attorney general; the others left the two men alone. It was a brief conversation. Shortly after, Sessions told his huddle that his resignation would be effective that day.

Posted by orrinj at 8:23 AM


Whoops! Brenda Snipes' office mixed bad provisional ballots with good ones (ALEX HARRIS, November 09, 2018, Miami Herald)

Broward's elections supervisor accidentally mixed more than a dozen rejected ballots with nearly 200 valid ones, a circumstance that is unlikely to help Brenda Snipes push back against Republican allegations of incompetence.

The mistake -- for which no one had a solution Friday night -- was discovered after Snipes agreed to present 205 provisional ballots to the Broward County canvassing board for inspection. She had initially intended to handle the ballots administratively, but agreed to present them to the canvassing board after Republican attorneys objected.

"We have found no clear authority controlling the situation faced by the board," said Broward County Attorney Andrew Meyers.

Posted by orrinj at 8:19 AM


Whitaker may have violated group's tax-exempt status (JEFF DONN, 11/10/18, AP) 

Matthew G. Whitaker, the nation's new acting attorney general, repeatedly chided presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in public statements during 2016 while he was speaking for a group that is barred by its tax-exempt status from supporting or opposing political candidates during a campaign.

Before coming to the Justice Department in 2017, Whitaker was president and executive of the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, a charitable organization that styles itself as nonpartisan government watchdog promoting ethics and transparency. The tax-exempt group -- known by its initials, FACT -- is supposed to serve the public interest under Section 501c3 of the U.S. tax code, without directly or even indirectly supporting or opposing specific candidates for office.

Yet the group has engaged in one partisan pronouncement after another, mostly directed at Democrats.

Of course, the law is backwards, the only speech the 1st protects is political and religious.

Posted by orrinj at 8:17 AM


Vote tallies due in Florida's hotly contested elections (TERRY SPENCER and BRENDAN FARRINGTON, 11/10/18, AP)

Scott had asked Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate elections departments in South Florida's Democrat-leaning Broward and Palm Beach counties after his lead narrowed in ballot-counting that continued through the week. However, a spokeswoman for the agency said Friday that there were no credible allegations of fraud; therefore, no active investigation. [...]

Scott's lead had narrowed by Friday evening to 0.18 percentage points --a lead of less than 15,000 out of nearly 8.2 million ballots cast -- below the threshold for a recount. Florida law requires a machine recount when the leading candidate's margin is 0.5 percentage points or less, and a hand recount if it's 0.25 or less.

In the race for governor, DeSantis was leading by 0.43 percentage points late Friday.

A third statewide race that could go to a recount -- the agriculture commissioner race between Democrat Nikki Fried and Republican Matt Caldwell -- is the tightest of all, with Fried holding a 3,120-vote lead, a margin of 0.039 percent.

Posted by orrinj at 8:12 AM


Rain nixes Trump stop at US cemetery in France (The Associated Press, 11/10/18)

The White House is calling off President Donald Trump's scheduled visit to a World War I cemetery due to poor weather. [...]

White House chief of staff John Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general, his wife and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will visit instead.

Posted by orrinj at 7:59 AM


The Big Blue Wave That Everyone Missed (Cody Fenwick, November 10, 2018, AlterNet)

MSNBC's Ari Melber] noted (using a lower projection of 35 House seats gained) that this was the greatest wave election in four decades for the Democrats. The only other time the party won such a big night was during President Richard Nixon's most scandalous years.

"Democratic House gains keep growing and the most favorable Senate map for one party in a century could end up close to a status quo reshuffling," said NPR politics reporter Scott Detrow. "This was not a split decision election."

As results continue to pour in, the GOP's Senate victory is looking more hollow. They defeated Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO). But Florida Democrat Sen. Bill Nelson looks poised to head to a recount against Republican Rick Scott, leaving the race in doubt. In Arizona, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema's race Marta McSally is still undecided, but it is leaning Sinema's way. And Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) was ousted by Democrat Jacky Rosen.

"There was a moment, around 10:30pm EST on Tuesday night when I thought GOP was gonna pick up SIX senate seats," said MSNBC's Chris Hayes. "They mayyyy end up with only a net gain of ONE." (FiveThirtyEight is projecting a GOP gain in the Senate of 2 seats.)

Some of the most devastating races for Democrats actually are having upsides. Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum's race appears to be heading for a recount. Stacey Abrams in Georgia is still fighting against her extremely dubious opponent for a fair vote count, and she could end up in a runoff. And though Beto O'Rourke lost decisively in Texas against Ted Cruz, he outperformed the almost all his polling and came within three points of his Republican opponent in what was thought to have been a quintessentially red state. Texas may now be considered purple.

The Washington Post's Paul Waldman pointed out, too, that Democratic gains at the state-level were extremely impressive.

"You've probably heard that over the eight years Barack Obama was president, Democrats lost a net of almost a thousand seats in state legislatures," Waldman wrote. "Which is bad, but last night Democrats gained about 300 seats, so they're well on their way to reversing those losses."

The DLCC, in fact, reported that it had flipped 350 state legislature seats by Wednesday morning -- and it may end up closer to 400.

He also noted that, even if Abrams and Gillum don't come from behind, Democrats have flipped seven governorships in their direction, while Republicans flipped none.

The degree to which this was a Donald/racism-driven disaster was most evident in NH, where voters stuck with a popular and competent Republican governor but also two Democrats for Congress and reversing control of the state legislature and Executive Council. 

For Democrats, a midterm election that keeps on giving (Dan Balz and Michael Scherer November 9, 2018, Washington Post)

Democrats appear poised to pick up between 35 and 40 seats in the House, once the last races are tallied, according to strategists in both parties. That would represent the biggest Democratic gain in the House since the post-Watergate election of 1974, when the party picked up 49 seats three months after Richard M. Nixon resigned the presidency.

Republicans will gain seats in the Senate, but with races in Florida and Arizona still to be called, their pre-election majority of 51 seats will end up as low as 52 or as high as 54. Meanwhile, Democrats gained seven governorships, recouping in part losses sustained in 2010 and 2014, and picked up hundreds of state legislative seats, where they had suffered a virtual wipeout in the previous two midterm elections.

The Democrats' gains this week are still far short of what Republicans accomplished in their historic victories of 1994 and 2010. But they would eclipse the number of seats Democrats gained in 2006, the last time the party recaptured control of the House, as well as the 26-seat gain in 1982, when the national unemployment rate was at 10 percent. This year, the election took place with the unemployment rate at just 3.7 percent.

Day by day, the outlook for Democrats in the House has improved. At the offices of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, already high spirits have been rising all week as more races fell into the party's column. One joke that has been making the rounds there goes like this: "This is actually turning out to be more of a Hanukkah than a Christmas election," meaning day after day of gifts, rather than just one.

Posted by orrinj at 7:55 AM


Sinema expands lead in Arizona Senate race: The Democratic candidate increases her lead over GOP's McSally as election authorities continued to count ballots in the uncalled race. (JAMES ARKIN and ALEX ISENSTADT 11/09/2018, Politico)

Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema expanded her lead to 20,203 votes over GOP Rep. Martha McSally Friday evening as Arizona election authorities continued to count ballots in the state's uncalled Senate race.

Sinema's lead amounts to just over 1 percentage point after more than 2 million votes have been counted. Sinema was up by 9,610 votes earlier in the day before the counties processed approximately 80,000 additional votes Friday -- but slightly more than 350,000 ballots have yet to be counted across the state. [...]

In a statement, McSally said: "Equal protection under the law is a fundamental constitutional right for American voters. As a combat veteran, I fought to protect it. And today, we won an important battle to preserve that right for rural voters in Arizona. I will continue fighting until every ballot is counted."

Posted by orrinj at 7:46 AM


The Midterms Swept in a New Class of Black Politicians: Most of the winners are under 40. And most seem likely to run for even higher offices down the line. (EDWARD-ISAAC DOVERE, 11/10/18, The Atlantic)

Tuesday saw the election of three new African American lieutenant governors, four new African American attorneys general, and seven new African American members of the House. (An eighth candidate, Steve Horsford, won back a seat he had previously held.) Other elections had reverberations lower down, like the 19 black women elected to county-judge spots in Texas or the black woman who will now become the majority leader of the New York State Senate.

Most are under 40 years old. Most are the first African Americans elected to the jobs they now hold. And most seem likely to run for even higher offices down the line.

"We stand on this stage upon the shoulders of giants who had a vision that went beyond generations," said Garlin Gilchrist, the new lieutenant governor of Michigan, claiming victory on Tuesday night. "And it's our generation's responsibility to live up to that responsibility by having our imaginations exceed our expectations."

Gilchrist got into politics two years ago, after he tried to vote in the 2016 election, had a problem with his ballot at the local library, and was urged by the people around him to run for city clerk in Detroit to address those same access issues. He lost, but ended up making a big-enough impression that Gretchen Whitmer picked him as her running mate over the summer, making him the first African American elected statewide in Michigan. Not far away, Mandela Barnes, a 31-year-old former community organizer from Milwaukee, was elected lieutenant governor after two terms in the state assembly.

In public and in interviews, many of these new elected officials talk about the larger historical legacy they're part of, and what policy problems they want to tackle now that they've won. "There is definitely the sense that there is a certain weight that comes with it," Barnes said, referring to the responsibility of being elected in this moment as a young black leader. "And I accept it."

They also talk about the racism and bias, implicit and explicit, that they faced during their campaigns. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:38 AM


We Must Hold the NRA Accountable After Another Massacre at Their Hands (David Atkins, November 10, 2018, Washington Monthly)

Reasonable countries do not allow people to randomly possess weapons of mass death. Reasonable countries do not allow men who terrorize women to possess weapons of mass death. Reasonable countries do not allow people to modify common weapons of mass death to become even more deadly to large groups, carrying even more rounds of ammunition than originally designed.

The Putin-funded National Rifle Association is in part directly responsible for the deaths. In 2016 California voters passed Proposition 63 to ban the possession of high-capacity magazines. This was in large part a response to the deadly San Bernardino shootings enabled by them. But the California chapter of the NRA sued to block implementation of the law, and the case won't be resolved until at least the middle of 2019. So Californians are still legally entitled to own high-capacity magazine attachments to handguns, instruments of death that have no purpose in any realistic self-defense situation but are extremely effective for those looking to aggressively murder as many people as possible.

Posted by orrinj at 7:33 AM


Trump played key role as candidate in hush payoffs for sexual affairs -- report (Times of Israel, 11/10/18)

Citing interviews with "three dozen people who have direct knowledge of the events or who have been briefed on them, as well as court papers, corporate records and other documents," the WSJ says Trump intervened directly on a number of occasions to "suppress stories about his alleged sexual encounters with women," and provide them with hush money.

The report appears to corroborate the account of Trump's longtime former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen who was also heavily involved in the deals and who pleaded guilty this summer to eight counts, including violations of campaign finance rules during the 2016 presidential race, implicating his former boss in the process.

Cohen told a federal judge in August that he had paid sums of $130,000 and $150,000 each to two women who claimed they had affairs with Trump, adult film star Stormy Daniels (real name Stephanie Clifford) and Playboy model Karen McDougal, acting at his boss's request in a bid to buy their silence "with the purpose of influencing the election."

Posted by orrinj at 7:30 AM


Polls: Voters Punished GOP Over Health Care Threat (Tommy Christopher, 11/10/18, ShareBlue)

According to exit polls, health care was the most important issue to 41 percent of voters -- nearly double the percentage who prioritized the next most important issue. Health care hasn't topped that list in any other exit polls for presidential or midterm elections in this century.

And of the many voters who named health care the most important issue, a whopping 75 percent voted for Democrats on Tuesday.

That's a massive repudiation of Trump and the Republicans on an issue that is not going to go away.

It wasn't just blue state voters who made their voice heard specifically on health care.

Voters in three very red states -- Idaho, Nebraska, and Utah -- voted in favor of bringing Obamacare's Medicaid expansion to their state, which those states' elected Republicans had refused to do.

Republican desperation on health care reached an absurd fever pitch when Trump tried to warn a rally crowd that Democrats were really the ones who "would obliterate Obamacare."

Unfortunately for the GOP, there is a pile of receipts that say otherwise.

...the only real question is whether the GOP wants to help shape the form of universal health care we arrive at. All electorates consider it a core obligation of government.

Posted by orrinj at 7:18 AM

60-40 NATION:

When Voters Finally Said No To NRA (Oliver Willis, November 10, 2018, Shareblue)

Voters soundly rejected the NRA and the candidates carrying water for its anti-gun-safety agenda in 2018. The gun extremists refused to change course even after mass shootings claimed the lives of dozens of innocent Americans, and their candidates suffered because of it.

The NRA was already in something of a retreat before Election Day. They significantly reduced spending on the midterm elections, cutting their donations to Republican candidates.

It did not help the NRA that the FBI, the Federal Elections Commission (FEC), and Senate investigators have opened up probes looking at the flow of Russian money to their bank accounts during the 2016 election. In that contest, the NRA gave $54 million to Republicans, with $32 million backing Trump.

Washington state held the only ballot initiative on guns, where voters were asked to strengthen their gun laws by limiting access to assault weapons. It won, with 60 percent of the vote.

On Tuesday, candidates backing gun safety won against the NRA, and they did it all over the country.

Posted by orrinj at 7:14 AM


The curse of the Honeycrisp apple (DEENA SHANKER  and LYDIA MULVANY, 11/08/18,  BLOOMBERG)

Production of Honeycrisps has doubled over the last four years, making it the fifth-most-grown variety, according to Mark Seetin, director of regulatory and industry affairs at the U.S. Apple Assn. But not everyone is a fan. Those who produce Honeycrisps often have the most cutting words for it.

"The first challenge is controlling its vigor," said Brenda Briggs of Rice Fruit Co., which has been selling apples out of Adams County, Pa., for more than 100 years. Growers, she explains, have to train the trees so that their branches don't get too tall too fast, with leaves that block the sunlight from the apples below.

The fruit is also vulnerable to bitter pit -- small, sunken brown spots that sully an otherwise perfect orb. The flaw is a result of the trees' inability to properly take up calcium from the soil. Growers spray their orchards with foliar calcium to boost their intake, but it's not always enough.

Size can also be an issue. "The fruit tends to grow very big," said Mark Nicholson of New York's Red Jacket Orchards, whose business includes about 400 acres dedicated to apples. "That's good, but at a certain point the consumer doesn't want to buy an apple the size of a grapefruit."

The thin skin that makes those first bites so juicy is also very delicate and easily sunburned. Birds love Honeycrisps more than other apples, so growers need to buy and install netting to keep them away.

Even if a producer manages to grow a decent crop of Honeycrisps, harvesting and storage come with additional hurdles. The variety is so delicate that the stems have to be clipped off so the apples don't tear one another. And while other apples can go right from tree to cold storage, Honeycrisps must first spend five to 10 days being "tempered" at a mild temperature before they can be refrigerated.

"It requires growers to do a lot more work," Nicholson said. In the end, only 55% to 60% of the fruit makes it to retail, Seetin said.

Posted by orrinj at 7:12 AM


Where the guns used in Chicago actually came from (Philip Bump. November 7, 2017, Washington Post)

[A]s a report released earlier this year by the office of Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) reveals, most of the guns recovered in Chicago came from outside the state.

Only 40 percent of the guns recovered in the city were purchased in Illinois, the report read, including hundreds purchased at gun shops outside city boundaries. The report includes maps of two gun shops from which a large number of guns recovered in Chicago were purchased. The black dots are where the guns were recovered; the red Xs are the locations of the gun stores.
Many of the guns recovered in Chicago -- a fifth of them -- were purchased in Indiana, which abuts the city's eastern border. An additional 9 percent of the guns recovered in the city came from Mississippi and Wisconsin.
This pattern is not unique to Chicago. States with tougher gun laws often discover that places with more lax legislation are the source of many of the firearms used in crimes.

Last year, the attorney general of New York issued a report about the flow of guns into his state. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman identified what he called the "iron pipeline," a string of East Coast states through which guns flowed into the state.

In New York City, for example, nearly 9 in 10 firearms come from out of state.

Posted by orrinj at 7:10 AM


Californians Tried to Protect Themselves From a Mass Shooting Like Thousand Oaks: A court wouldn't let them. (MARK JOSEPH STERN, NOV 09, 2018, Slate)

U.S. District Judge Roger T. Benitez, a George W. Bush appointee, blocked Proposition 63 in June 2017. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals later declined to lift his injunction. In his ruling, Benitez declared that the law "is a poor fit as a means to eliminate the types of mass shooting events experienced in California." He insisted that high-capacity magazines are "an incredibly rare danger to public safety."

"Of the ten mass shooting events that occurred in California," Benitez wrote, "only two involved the use of a magazine holding more than 10 rounds." He reasoned that the law was a "poor fit" as means to increase public safety. And he concluded that, as a result, Proposition 63 likely cannot survive constitutional scrutiny.

Benitez expressly discounted a Mother Jones survey that found that half of 62 mass shootings between 1982 and 2012 involved magazines with more than 10 rounds. He ignored another study that found that high-capacity magazine shootings produced 60 percent more fatalities. And he overlooked the fact that mass shootings in Virginia fell when the state banned high-capacity magazines, only to rise once more when the ban was lifted.

The shooting illustrates how illogical, how callous to human life our Second Amendment jurisprudence has become.
But leave that data aside and consider the situation in California. Benitez wrote that "only two" mass shootings in the state had theretofore involved high-capacity magazines. Only two? These massacres were the 2013 Santa Monica shooting, which killed five civilians, and the 2009 Oakland shooting, which killed four police officers. You might expect these tragedies to influence the court's reasoning. But Benitez insisted that it wasn't entirely clear whether Proposition 63 would've kept these shooters from obtaining high-capacity magazines. And the "marginal good effects" the law might've had--that is, the lives it might have saved--didn't justify the ban.

What interests lie on the other side of this dispute? Gun advocates claimed that they need high-capacity magazines to defend themselves. But an expert witness hired by the state found that an average of 2.2 shots were fired in self-defense situations. Between 2011 and May 2017, just two of the 736 incidents examined involved an individual firing more than 10 rounds in self-defense.

Posted by orrinj at 6:44 AM


Can Brazil's Bolsonaro Replicate the Chilean Miracle? (Daniel J. Mitchell  , 11/09/18, FEE)

Brazil appears to be a tragic example of what happens when societal capital erodes (or never gets established in the first place) and too many people in the country see government as a vehicle for redistribution. That environment leads to statist policies. 

This presumably helps explain why Brazil is ranked #144 in the Economic Freedom of the World report. That's not as low as some of its neighbors, such as last place Venezuela (#162) or close-to-last Argentina (#160), but it's still miserable. The country definitely deserves to be in the "Least Free" group. [...]

[I]t looks like Brazil is about to have a very good finance minister.

The UK-based Financial Times has an encouraging report:

For Brazil's new finance minister Paulo Guedes, the government of far-right president-elect Jair Bolsonaro could represent a "Pinochet" moment for Latin America's largest economy. Mr. Bolsonaro, who won elections last Sunday, ending almost 15 years of left-wing rule, will take over a moribund economy burdened by a bloated public sector when he assumes office on January 1. ...The Chilean dictator's solution was a dose of Milton Friedman-style free market economics from University of Chicago-trained academics. Mr. Bolsonaro is considering the same medicine in the form of Mr. Guedes, who has a doctorate from Chicago... For supporters of Mr. Bolsonaro, the 69-year-old Mr. Guedes' uncompromisingly free market view of the world is the only answer. "Liberals know how to do it," Mr. Guedes once said.

Since pro-market reforms turned Chile into the "Latin Tiger," let's hope Guedes is serious.

He definitely has a pro-growth agenda:

Mr Guedes--who first considered joining Mr. Bolsonaro's campaign only last year--has repeatedly said his priority is to end Brazil's 7 percent fiscal deficit through privatizations of the country's 147 state-owned enterprises. ...Mr Guedes' other plans include a radical simplification of Brazil's tax system, one of the world's most convoluted, and reforming the country's costly pension system, which is threatening to overwhelm the budget.

Sounds like Guedes has the right ideas. Assuming Bolsonaro does what is right for his country (such as enacting much-needed pension reform), Guedes could be the Jose Pinera of Brazil.

Here's a chart from Economic Freedom of the World. It shows how economic liberalization produced a dramatic increase in freedom between 1975 and 1995. Chile is now ranked #15 for economic liberty. Brazil, by contrast, has slowly lost ground since a period of pro-market reform between 1985 and 2000.

November 9, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 6:39 PM


A look at Broward elections chief Brenda Snipes' long history of trouble: Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes is now being sued by Gov. Rick Scott's Senate campaign, which alleges "fraud" in the vote count. But this is hardly the first lawsuit against Snipes, nor is it the first lengthy vote tally. (Dan Sweeney, 11/09/18, South Florida Sun Sentinel)
In a move usually reserved for elected officials accused of crimes or serious ethical violations, then-Gov. Jeb Bush removed Broward County Supervisor of Elections Miriam Oliphant from office in Nov. 2003, writing in a letter about her mismanagement of the elections office: "To leave Ms. Oliphant in office would put the voting rights of every citizen of Broward County in chronic jeopardy." The Broward elections office had a $423,000 deficit, and a disastrous 2002 primary election had seen polls open late and close early, plus 268 uncounted votes were found a year afterward, stuffed in a filing cabinet. They had never been counted. Bush named Snipes, a former principal and school administrator, to replace Oliphant. Snipes won election for the office in 2004 and has been re-elected every four years since then.

Things got off to a slightly rocky start
In her first test as supervisor, Snipes had to scramble when a handful of mail-in ballots were sent to the wrong addresses ahead of the March 2004 presidential primary. But Snipes took full responsibility and had the office recheck addresses on remaining mail-ins. A week before that election, her office informed 100,000 voters that their polling place had moved.

Despite all that, things went smoothly on Election Day, and Snipes passed her first test in office.

Mail-in ballots mysteriously vanish
By the general election in 2004, problems were more pronounced. Some 58,000 mail-in ballots were not delivered, and while the post office tried to figure out what happened, Snipes' office scrambled to send out replacements.

Counting and counting and counting ...
In an omen of elections to come, the Sun Sentinel reported that the Broward elections office was still counting ballots days after the 2004 election.

And counting and counting
In the 2006 election, after the rest of the state had finished tallying votes, Broward was still counting because of the possibility that some votes had been left in machines at polling places.

Crash landing
Also in 2006, one mail-in ballot was sent to Snipes' office with an Inverted Jenny for a stamp. The stamp, featuring a misprint of an upside down plane, is among the rarest and most valuable in stamp collecting. It turned out to be a fake.

The golden years
The 2008 election was lauded as error free, with "no meltdowns, no hanging chads, no thousands of missing ballots." The 2010 election was similarly noncontroversial.

Felons voting
Despite Gov. Rick Scott's attempt to purge felons from the voter rolls after he was elected in 2010, at least five felons managed to vote in Broward County in 2012. That year, people were still waiting in line to vote past 9 p.m., and some locations ran out of ballots. A week after the election, almost 1,000 uncounted ballots turned up in a warehouse.

And counting and counting and ...
Following those long lines, Florida was the 50th state to report election totals in 2012...

If only incompetence were a bar to office...
Posted by orrinj at 6:20 PM


In 'Becoming,' Michelle Obama Mostly Opts for Empowerment Over Politics (Jennifer Szalai, Nov. 9, 2018, NY Times)

[I]t's the moments when Obama tries to make sense of what she's seeing now, in the country, that are among the most moving -- if only because she's so clearly struggling to reconcile the cleareyed realism of her upbringing, brought about by necessity, with the glamorous, previously unthinkable life she has today. During her entire time in the White House, she says, "I had lived with an awareness that we ourselves were a provocation." She unequivocally calls the new president a "bully" and a "misogynist," watching him do everything he can to roll back her husband's legacy and replace "carefully built, compassionate policies" with what seems to be brazen cruelty. "I sometimes wonder," she writes, "where the bottom might be."

"My grandfather lived with the bitter residue of his own dashed dreams," she recalls; like many African-American men of his generation, she says, his stymied aspirations left him with "a basic level of resentment and mistrust." Her life has been different, filled with possibility, wealth and achievement. She insists on enumerating the gains the country made in the eight years before 2016, however incremental, because it would be too easy, she suggests, to succumb to despair. "Progress is slow," she tells young people nowadays; they need to rely on "their persistence, self-reliance and ability to overcome."

For all the attempts by conservatives a decade ago to paint her as a radical, Obama seems to be a measured, methodical centrist at heart. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:54 PM


Trump reportedly directed all those hush money payments himself, The Wall Street Journal reports (Kathryn Krawczyk, 11/09/18, The week)

In a massive investigation published Friday, the Journal reports Trump either personally directed, or told his former attorney Michael Cohen to make, payments to silence former Playboy model Karen McDougal and porn star Stormy Daniels. Trump previously claimed he had no knowledge of the payments before they happened, but federal prosecutors have reportedly heard otherwise -- from Cohen himself.

News that Pecker, a former longtime friend of Trump, and Cohen paid to bury McDougal's and Daniels' allegations of affairs with Trump has already been reported. But the Journal's interviews with "three dozen people who have direct knowledge of the events" reveal the payments all stemmed from a 2015 Trump Tower meeting in which Trump personally asked Pecker to keep his campaign safe from damaging stories. And when a payment to Daniels stalled, Trump reportedly urged Cohen to "get it done," forcing the lawyer to pay off Daniels himself.

Posted by orrinj at 4:26 AM


Truck full of gas cylinders set on fire, three stabbed in Australia terror attack (Tom Westbrook, Sonali Paul, 11/09/18, Reuters) 

A man set fire to a pickup truck laden with gas cylinders in the center of the Australian city of Melbourne on Friday and stabbed three people, killing one, before he was shot by police in what they called a terrorist attack.

How Australia All But Ended Gun Violence (CLIFTON LEAF February 20, 2018, Fortune)

If all this sounds too horrifically familiar--an estranged loner, an AR-15, dozens dead in a matter of minutes--there is a remarkable twist to the story. In the wake of the Port Arthur massacre, Australian lawmakers did something about it.

Within just weeks of that tragedy, elected officials in each of Australia's six states and two mainland territories--pressed forward by police chiefs across the continent and by the then-newly elected prime minister--banned semi-automatic and other military-style weapons across the country. The federal government of Australia prohibited their import, and lawmakers introduced a generous nationwide gun buyback program, funded with a Medicare tax, to encourage Australians to freely give up their assault-style weapons. Amazingly, many of them did. (Simon Chapman, an emeritus professor in public health at the University of Sydney, and an influential proponent of the original firearms legislation, has a very good summary here. You can also read his free ebook here.)

A land of roughneck pioneers and outback settlers, Australia had never embraced much government regulation and certainly not about their guns. This was a land of almost cartoonish toughness and self-reliance, home of Crocodile Dundee and Australian rules football. Here even the kangaroos box. But Port Arthur had followed too many prior deadly shooting sprees and Australians were clearly sick to death of them.

So what happened after the assault-weapon ban? Well therein lies the other half of the story twist noted above: Nothing.

Nothing, that is, in a good way.

Australian independence didn't end. Tyranny didn't come. Australians still hunted and explored and big-wave surfed to their hearts' content. Their economy didn't crash; Invaders never arrived. Violence, in many forms, went down across the country, not up. Somehow, lawmakers on either side of the gun debate managed to get along and legislate.

As for mass killings, there were no more. Not one in the past 22 years.

Posted by orrinj at 4:25 AM

60-40 NATION:

A Step Forward in the Fight Against Gun Violence: Voters across the country are pushing back against the gun lobby's agenda. (Editorial Board, November 9, 2018, Bloomberg)

[W]ashingtonians decided that keeping powerful weapons out of the hands of children and the unfit is a priority higher than convenience. (Another mass shooting, this time near Los Angeles, provides the most recent evidence of how necessary such efforts are.) 

Even more remarkable in the midterms was the number of congressional candidates running in swing districts nationwide who advocated gun-safety regulation. Among Democrats competing in the party's targeted "red-to-blue" districts held by Republicans, a majority spoke up for gun regulation. In Georgia's 6th Congressional District, gun-safety advocate Lucy McBath upset incumbent Republican Karen Handel. (McBath's son, Jordan Davis, was shot to death in 2012 by a man who didn't like the music playing from Davis's parked car.)

In Florida, Georgia and Texas, Democrats who ran on gun safety lost statewide races -- but only narrowly, charting a seismic shift in gun politics in the South. Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who had appeared in NRA advertising and earned the group's A+ rating, lost his bid to become governor to a gun-safety candidate, Steve Sisolak. A host of other candidates with A grades lost as well, including gubernatorial hopefuls in Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota and New Mexico.

Earlier this year in Vermont, another traditional gun-rights state, Governor Phil Scott signed laws to expand background checks, limit magazine capacity and enable the removal of guns from people at "extreme risk" of violence.

The prospects for gun safety have improved partly because political intensity around the issue has changed sides. Gun policy has become a top issue for voters, midterm exit polls showed. And those who favor stricter gun laws are now more likely than those who oppose them to say the issue of gun regulation is a very important voting issue, according to an October poll for Everytown for Gun Safety, an advocacy group backed by Bloomberg L.P. founder Michael Bloomberg.

Gun restrictions are just another idea that 60-80% percent of Americans support--like abortion restrictions, universal health care, immigration, etc. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:21 AM


Trump White House Unprepared for Wave of Democratic Probes (Shannon Pettypiece, November 9, 2018, Bloomberg)

The White House is unprepared to defend itself against a coming wave of investigations by newly empowered House Democrats, who have vowed to probe everything from cabinet members' ethics scandals to conflicts of interest involving the president's business empire.

President Donald Trump doesn't have a chief lawyer at the moment. Three weeks after White House Counsel Don McGahn departed, replacement Pat Cipollone hasn't started on the job as he wraps up ties with his law firm, said a person familiar with the situation. [...]

Cipollone is looking to hire 15 to 20 attorneys amid a series of departures, said another person familiar with his plans. Both people spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss personnel matters. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:20 AM


How the Swedish left moved right (Daniel Andersson, 11/09/18, Al Jazeera)

In order to survive under neoliberal hegemony, Swedish and European social democracy have moved towards the political centre under the banner of supposedly post-conflict Third Way politics. This is actually an adoption of neoliberal ideology, justifying market liberalisation, privatisation and welfare degradation as the only alternative. Over time, the move has effectively narrowed the political field and resulted in rising inequality. Today, Sweden shows the largest growth in inequality among OECD-countries.

As mainstream parties have started to look more and more the same, right-wing populists have managed to use ethnocentric xenophobia, welfare chauvinism and contempt of elites to attract those disenchanted by consensus politics.

The conflict between free markets and identitarianism could hardly be more natural.

Posted by orrinj at 4:13 AM


Georgia governor's race is still undecided as votes continue to be counted (Gregory Krieg, Kaylee Hartung and Devon M. Sayers, 11/09/18, CNN)

Kemp currently leads Democrat Stacey Abrams, with 50.3% of the vote. But there are still ballots to count. If Kemp's share drops below 50%, the contest would automatically go to a run-off on December 4, even if he ends up as the top vote-getter. [...]

By stepping down as secretary of state, a move Democrats pushed for during the campaign, Kemp ensured he will not be seen formally signing off on his own election -- a potentially embarrassing step following a contest he oversaw amid accusations his office was trying to suppress the minority vote. The certification is currently planned for next Tuesday.

Kemp will also now be on the sidelines in the event of a recount. During a campaign debate, he said he would not recuse himself. But a group of voters asked a federal judge to bar him from supervising any potential recount. The case, which was brought by Project Democracy, which alleged a conflict of interest, was dismissed this morning after Kemp's decision rendered it moot.

Posted by orrinj at 4:12 AM


Florida governor's race faces recount as Senate race gets even tighter (Steven Lemongello and Gray Rohrer, 11/09/18, Orlando Sentinel)

The Florida governor's race is heading to a machine recount and the U.S. Senate race will face a lengthier manual recount after returns from Broward County on Thursday pushed Democrats Andrew Gillum and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson closer to their Republican opponents Ron DeSantis and Gov. Rick Scott.

Mr. Scott is a decent enough sort, but it would be worth his seat to defeat DeSantis.

Posted by orrinj at 4:08 AM


Democrat Kyrsten Sinema pulls ahead in razor-close Arizona Senate race (CBS News, 11/09/18)

Democrat Kyrsten Sinema pulled ahead of Republican Martha McSally on Thursday in the Arizona Senate race by a margin of 2,000 votes. This marked the first time that Sinema has pulled ahead of McSally in the days since the election.

An additional 120,000 outstanding ballots were made available from Maricopa County Thursday. The county encompasses Phoenix and some of the state's liberal enclaves. There are an 345,000 ballots that needed to be counted per a knowledgeable source with the Arizona Secretary of State's office.

Posted by orrinj at 4:06 AM


Following investigation, Houston Chronicle retracts eight stories: Action follows external review of former staff reporter accused of fabricating sources (David Wood, Correspondent Nov. 8, 2018, Houston Chronicle)

On July 31, the Houston Chronicle published a front-page story with a provocative headline. "'We've moved on': Political anger after Harvey has eased," it declared, adding: "Experts believe disaster response is unlikely to be a factor in November."

It was a significant story by veteran reporter and Austin bureau chief Mike Ward. It asserted that Houston residents initially fed up with the uneven government response to Hurricane Harvey actually weren't going to blame politicians after all. The story began with West Houston resident Betsy Scheer, whose anger had faded. She was going to vote Republican.

"My friends are mostly the same way now," she was quoted as telling Ward.

But in the weeks after the story ran, questions were raised about the sourcing in Ward's story. No one could find Betsy Scheer. And no one could find three others quoted in the story -- Tran Ng, Martina Racelli and Jack Nito.

Quality Press outlets police themselves in this manner.

Posted by orrinj at 4:05 AM


Democrats rack up more gains in House as key tight races are called (Alex Seitz-Wald, 11/08/18, NBC News)

The House Democratic majority continued to grow Thursday as Rep. Karen Handel, the Republican who won a high-profile Georgia special election last year, conceded to challenger Lucy McBath, bringing the party's net gain of seats in Tuesday's midterm elections to 31.

That number could grow again in coming days as more outstanding races are called. Many analysts have estimated that the number will climb closer to 38 seats by the time all votes are counted, and a dozen competitive House contests remained too close to call by midday Thursday.

Posted by orrinj at 4:04 AM


Zinke prepares to leave Trump's Cabinet (BEN LEFEBVRE and ELIANA JOHNSON 11/08/2018, Politico)

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has been exploring potential roles with Fox News, the energy industry or other businesses amid growing signs that he will leave President Donald Trump's Cabinet as he faces investigations into his ethics, according to people knowledgeable about the discussions.

Posted by orrinj at 4:03 AM


Judge blocks Keystone XL pipeline (TIMOTHY CAMA - 11/08/18, The Hill)
A federal judge blocked the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline Thursday, saying the Trump administration's justification for approving it last year was incomplete.

There was never any chance of it being built.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


Whitaker backlash prompts concern at the White House (Kaitlan Collins and Betsy Klein, 11/09/18,  CNN)

There is a growing sense of concern inside the White House over the negative reaction to Matthew Whitaker being tapped as acting attorney general after Jeff Sessions' abrupt firing. [...]

Several senior officials told CNN they were surprised by the criticism, and believe it could potentially jeopardize Whitaker's chances of remaining in the post if it continues to dominate headlines.

Posted by orrinj at 3:54 AM


OOTP 19 Perfect Team mode Media Assets:

OOTP 19 Media Assets:

OOTP 19 Trailer:
November 7, 2018

Out of the Park Developments announces public beta of Out of the Park Baseball 19 that introduces Perfect Team, its all-new online baseball multiplayer strategy mode 

Out of the Park Baseball 19, an Official Licensee of, MLBPA, and, offers its owners and subscribers the chance to be the first in the world to experience the next generation of online baseball strategy

Out of the Park Developments, an official licensee of, the MLBPA, and, today announced the release of a public beta of Out of the Park Baseball 19 featuring Perfect Team, its new online baseball multiplayer strategy mode. Out of the Park Baseball 19 owners and subscribers can participate for free. The game is available via Steam, Origin, Origin Access, or directly from Out of the Park Developments.

Perfect Team is a completely new game mode in the award-winning Out of the Park Baseball strategy game. Players compete against each other in a dynamic online league universe, fielding their own versions of "Perfect Teams" pulled from digital baseball cards collected over time. Teams battle each other in simulated online leagues of 30 teams each, featuring 5 league levels (Rookie Leagues, Single A, Double A, Triple A, Major Leagues).

Players put their teams together by collecting special Perfect Team cards, assembling lineups, defining tactics, and customizing their team color scheme, name, location, weather, and ballpark. Simulations run 28 times a day, in 30-minute intervals. At that pace, an entire season is completed within one week. Between simulations, players can make changes to their team (such as modifying lineups, strategies, and tactics), scouting their upcoming opponents, making roster moves, and acquiring more cards via packs or the marketplace. But they need to be aware that the clock is ticking!

After a season is over, the top teams of a league are promoted to the next level, while the bottom teams are relegated to a league one level below. The ultimate goal is to reach one of the Major Leagues with a Perfect Team, compete for World Series titles, and climb the ranking of the best Perfect Team managers worldwide!

"We are delighted and excited to offer an all-new way for our fans and players to compete in Out of the Park Baseball," said CEO Markus Heinsohn. "This is a next-level phase for us, offering an always-on, dynamic new online experience for players that has never been available in our history. Giving players the chance to assemble completely unique teams, tailored to their preferred style, and competing against other fans from around the world, is extraordinarily fun."

"We've put everything we have and more behind Out of the Park Baseball's Perfect Team mode for several years," said CMO Richard Grisham. "As we continue to strive to make Out of the Park Baseball the definitive baseball experience, Perfect Team cements that. Fans have always been able to assemble players from the entire history of the sport, assemble lineups, and define strategies - but never against thousands of others in real time with incredibly high stakes. We are beyond thrilled to let fans try this for the first time."

The Out of the Park Baseball 19 Public Beta featuring Perfect Team mode is now available worldwide. All owners of Out of the Park Baseball 19 are eligible to participate, whether purchased from Steam, Origin, or directly from Out of the Park Baseball. In addition, subscribers to Origin Access can also participate in the Public Beta.

Out of the Park Baseball 19 sells for $39.99 and is available on Steam, EA Origin, and through the company's website at these links:

November 8, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 7:33 PM


Lina Hidalgo, a 27-Year-Old Latina, Will Lead Harris County, Texas' Biggest (Mihir Zaveri, Nov. 8, 2018, ny tIMES)

Lina Hidalgo never thought she would work in politics or run for office.

She and her family fled their home country of Colombia as a drug war raged, arriving in the United States in 2005. She studied law, public policy and political science at elite universities as she pursued a career influencing government from the outside.

But on Tuesday, Ms. Hidalgo, a 27-year-old Democrat, narrowly won an upset election to lead Harris County, which includes Houston and is the third-most populous county in the country and the largest in Texas. She beat the 11-year Republican incumbent to become the first woman and the first Latina elected to the county judge office. [...]

Tuesday's midterm elections were unlike any that Texas had seen in decades. Representative Beto O'Rourke lost to Senator Ted Cruz by less than 3 percentage points in a Senate race, one of the smallest margins in years for a Democrat running for statewide office. Democrats also flipped at least two congressional seats, 12 State House seats and two State Senate seats.

Posted by orrinj at 6:55 PM


How to Make Conservatism Compelling to Black Americans (Tosin Akintola, Fall 2018, Intercollegiate Review Online)

Conservatives have a real opportunity to make inroads into a demographic that­--despite the strong Democratic Party voting pattern--is incredibly diverse. Though black voters typically strike the ballot blue, only 59 percent of black voters actually identify as Democrats, and even within that group the majority do not identify as liberal, with 44 percent identifying as moderates and 27 percent as conservatives. While the media would have us believe that black Americans look at the world through the same lens, having the same experiences and struggles, that is just not the case. Not all black Americans are Marc Lamont Hill, but neither are they Larry Elder.

The majority of black Americans fall somewhere in the middle, and within this bloc is where conservatives can make their appeal. First, there has to be a noted effort to acknowledge the concerns of black Americans, especially young black Americans, over issues such as the militarization of police departments across the country, the war on drugs, prison and criminal justice reform, states' rights as pertains to voter discrimination, and the factions hostile toward minorities currently embedded within the Republican Party. From Roy Moore to Corey Stewart, Russel Walker to John Fitzgerald, and others like Paul Nehlen, if men like these continue to infect the Republican Party, the conservative movement has no hope of attracting black Americans en masse, nor of making a ripple in the pool of black Democrat voters.

Compassion is such a simple thing, and yet in the "facts don't care about your feelings" meme that has swept through the conservative movement, care and tact have given way to owning and destroying. During his campaign against Beto O'Rourke, Ted Cruz attempted to use a clip of Mr. O' Rourke denouncing the murder of Botham Shem Jean in his home by a police officer, as evidence of O'Rourke's anti-police bias. The fact that Cruz felt this characterization of O' Rourke would appeal to his base (and indeed it does) is telling. Yet, it was refreshing to see conservative figures condemn and decry Cruz's overt attempt to placate the most mean-spirited within the party's voting bloc. If conservatives hope to expand their movement, they'll need to be far more vocal in denouncing such tactics in the future.

...than getting Mia Love out of office.

Posted by orrinj at 6:48 PM


NPR: Neo-Puritan Revival: Why can't young feminists seem to acknowledge their agency, or fathom that they experience desire at all? (Kat Rosenfield, November 8, 2018, The Tablet)

A throughline emerges in all these cases: These are women who made decisions under their own power, but couldn't cope in the aftermath when those choices made them feel terrible. Under other circumstances, this might lead a person to contemplate the gap between her actions, her desired outcome, and the actual result--and to recognize that this kind of miscalculation is normal, human, and an essential part of the trial-and-error process by which we eventually become better judges of what will make us happy. But consent culture increasingly doesn't leave the door open for that kind of nuance. There is no room within the framework for a desired choice to lead to regret, or for a woman to say, "I wanted this in the moment, even if things didn't work out as I'd hoped." Instead, women retroactively strip themselves of their agency: "I didn't consent to feeling bad about this, hence I didn't consent to any of it."

It's not hard to understand why young women are leaning into victimhood in the aftermath of these "gray area" encounters. Societally, and particularly when it comes to sex, we remain far more comfortable with the idea of women as helpless victims than as autonomous human beings who sometimes want things that aren't good for them. Overt slut-shaming has gone out of style, but the stigma surrounding female desire lingers. And there are few things that are worse to feel than ashamed of yourself, and few things harder than owning responsibility for the choices that led you there. Under those circumstances, "Look what you made me do" can be an attractive way out, an opportunity for young women to avoid reckoning with the consequences of their own choices. Faced with the weight of self-blame, or blame from others--deserved or not-- it's all too tempting to dump it all in someone else's lap, or maybe even see him punished for not saving you from yourself. Consider this moment in the first episode of the Radiolab series, in which Prest walks home after hooking up with a former boyfriend--sex which she initially claimed not to want, but then consented to and enjoyed, a fact which leaves her angry and conflicted. Marinating in regret, she considers her decision, wondering, "Is that on me?"--only to reject the patently obvious answer: Yes, it's on you.

The easier path is a retreat from autonomy and into pre-ordained powerlessness, where "I didn't say 'no'" becomes "I couldn't," and the thousand-year weight of the patriarchy pins you in place but also shields you from responsibility. Passivity can feel like safety. But that safety comes at a cost, one that women ought to consider before they go all in on this fragile, passive brand of femininity: To admit your desires is to make yourself vulnerable, and to pursue what you want is to risk not getting it (or getting but regretting it, and having to revise your future behavior accordingly). But if your goal is to protect women at all costs from feeling bad about their choices--because you don't think they can handle it, and they probably don't know what they want anyway--then we already have a word for that. It's not feminism. It's paternalism. And it denies women a fundamental if unglamorous freedom: to not just make decisions, but to live with and learn from the consequences of their less-than-great ones.

Posted by orrinj at 6:12 PM


How Bill Nelson could ultimately win the recount in Florida's Senate race (Steve Contorno, 11/08/18, Tampa Tribune)

As of Thursday morning, two voter-rich counties were still tabulating an unknown number of ballots.

Broward County, where Nelson received 68.9 percent of the votes, was still counting early voting, vote-by-mail and Election Day ballots.

Palm Beach County, where Nelson received 58.4 percent of the votes, was still counting vote-by-mail ballots.

If the breakdown of these pending ballots is anything close to the results so far, Nelson should pick up more votes than Scott. But no one has been able to say how many uncounted ballots remain, not even Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes.

"Were finishing up with the count as we speak. And we've got to get every vote in," Snipes said. "We're not going to rush through it ... Our absolute deadline is tomorrow for the first unofficial results."

In Broward County, 695,799 people turned in ballots. But only 665,688 voted in the Senate race.

That's a 30,000 difference, a remarkable disparity given the stakes in this race and the name-recognition of these officials.

It's a degree of undervote that is non-existent in the other statewide races on the ballot. For example, more than 690,000 people voted in the governor's race. If the results as they stand are accurate, more people voted for Agriculture Commissioner than U.S. Senate.

So what happened? It's not clear. Elias dismissed bad ballot design, a theory that circulated a bit on Wednesday. Instead, Elias thinks that either a machine problem in certain precincts or marking issues on the ballot led to thousands of uncounted votes in the Senate race.

If that's the case, Elias said he expects those issues will be remedied in a recount, in which case Nelson is likely to further narrow the gap, given where this occurred.

Posted by orrinj at 6:06 PM


Appeals court upholds block on Trump's attempt to end DACA (TED HESSON 11/08/2018, Politico)

A federal appeals court on Thursday upheld a lower court's temporary order preventing President Donald Trump from ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Trump's decision to phase out the Obama-era DACA program, which allows roughly 700,000 undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children to obtain work permits and protects them from deportation, was likely "arbitrary, capricious, or otherwise not in accordance with law."

Trump and Republicans made immigration restrictions central to the midterm election campaign. In recent weeks, Trump has suggested he could revoke birthright citizenship by executive order -- a legally contentious proposition -- and ordered a massive troop surge to the U.S.-Mexico border.

The ruling Thursday by a three-judge panel represents a major setback to the administration's anti-immigration agenda. [...]

"The executive wields awesome power in the enforcement of our nation's immigration laws," the ruling reads. "Our decision today does not curb that power, but rather enables its exercise in a manner that is free from legal misconceptions and is democratically accountable to the public."

In a concurring opinion, Judge John Owens disagreed that the DACA termination was reviewable as an "arbitrary and capricious" executive decision. However, he found plaintiffs reasonably alleged the rescission was motivated by racial animus, which warranted a freeze on the termination.

"A merits decision from the district court concluding that the executive rescinded DACA because of unconstitutional racial animus would be little more than an advisory opinion if by that time thousands of young people had lost their status due to the lack of an injunction preserving it," he wrote.

During oral arguments before the 9th Circuit in May, Owens repeatedly raised questions about the possible role of racial bias in the decision to end the program.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, whose state is a party in one of the lawsuits affected by the decision, called the ruling "a tremendous victory" for the program's enrollees.

Posted by orrinj at 5:11 PM


A 69-year-old man asks to be declared 49, claiming age is as fluid as gender (Isaac Stanley-Becker, November 8, 2018, Washington Post)

In the quixotic battle against old age, some people use skin care and spin class.

That's not enough for Emile Ratelband, a 69-year-old who feels like he's in his 40s. The Dutch pensioner is asking a court in his hometown of Arnhem, southeast of Amsterdam, to change his birth certificate so that it says he took his first breath on March 11, 1969, rather than on March 11, 1949. The judges heard his case Monday and promised they would render a verdict in the next several weeks.

Ratelband sees his request as no different from a petition to change his name or the gender he was assigned at birth -- and isn't bothered that this comparison might offend transgender people, whose medical needs have been recognized by the American Medical Association. It comes down to free will, he maintains.


Posted by orrinj at 4:54 PM


Thousand Oaks shooting leaves 13 people dead, including gunman, and 18 injured (JAMES QUEALLY , RICHARD WINTON , ALENE TCHEKMEDYIAN , SEAN GREENE , SARAH PARVINI , BRITTNY MEJIA , ANDREA CASTILLO , HANNAH FRY  and LAURA J. NELSON, NOV 08, 2018, LA Times)

Suspected shooter Ian David Long, 28, lived in Newbury Park, five miles from the dance hall, officials said. He drove his mother's car to the Borderline on Wednesday night and did not say anything before opening fire, a law enforcement official said.

Long was a decorated gunner in the U.S. Marine Corps, reaching the rank of corporal, and served an seven-month tour in Afghanistan during his nearly five years in the service, according to the Department of Defense.

Neighbors on the quiet street where he lived said they were aware that Long may have been disturbed. Deputies who were called to Long's home in April for a complaint of disturbing the peace said he was acting irrationally, according to Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean. Mental health workers decided he did not meet the standard for an emergency psychiatric hold. [...]

The shooter was armed with a Glock 21 .45-caliber handgun, Dean said. A source said he purchased it legally in Simi Valley.

The gun is designed in California to hold 10 bullets, in addition to one in the chamber. The shooter's weapon had an extended magazine on it, Dean said; he added he did not know how many bullets were in the weapon or how many the magazine could actually hold.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America and demand that crazy people have access to instrumentalities whose sole purpose is to kill fellow Americans.

Posted by orrinj at 4:30 AM


Matt In VA's Political Conversion (ROD DREHER, November 8, 2018, American Conservative)
[T]he very biggest thing that changed me was living as a sexually active gay man in the city and experiencing gay male sexual culture and watching what it did to some of my friends, including one of my very best friends.

When you have been led to believe that you are a Minority, oppressed by the majority, and that the Evil Conservatives are the ones who want to hurt you -- they want to pull a Matthew Shepard on you! -- and that it is your fellow minority members, your LGBT "community," that cares about you and supports you, that you are the least safe when among the evil conservative Enemy and most safe among members of your own group... when you have been led to believe this, it is really something to watch one of your best friends get deeper and deeper and further and further down into the worst parts of the communal-sewer gay sex culture, having sex with random guys and anonymous strangers week in and week out, endlessly, it never ever leading anywhere or to anything, him growing more and more cynical and callous about himself and about his sex partners, him getting HIV, him having bad reactions to a number of the HIV drugs, him experiencing serious depression and mental illness (yes, I know people can experience this without it being due to being gay), him getting addicted to crystal meth, him being unable to hold down a job, him disappearing for long periods... when you get to the point when you find yourself wondering periodically if the next time you hear his name it's because someone is telling you that he's dead... and when he has told you, in moments of frankness, about some of the things he's allowed other men to do to him, in this strange nonchalant voice that makes your shiver, and you think about how you remember when he used to talk about wanting to find a man to be with forever and get married to, but all that kind of talk is gone, gone...

And the thing is, you don't just see this trajectory in your close friend. You see it all over, if you're a gay man, you don't even really have to look for it hard. You don't see it early, when guys are just coming out, when they are full of hope and when they are naive-and I think lots of gay guys start out genuinely wanting to find real, meaningful love -- but over time, over the years, this sick sexual culture sucks people in. And it always feels like, even if you're OK at the moment, it's waiting for YOU. I mean, maybe not for everybody, but I always feel that -- it's there, waiting for ME, too. It lies in wait, sitting somewhere inside me, happy to make itself felt sometimes. If you are a gay man, you can *always* find sex, no matter what, provided you are willing to degrade yourself to a greater or lesser degree (and probably it will need to be greater as you get older), and there is no real bottom or floor there, believe me.

Liberalism today has as a *core tenet* the idea that if you are a type of minority you are safest, happiest, and most well when among your own group and are at most risk when surrounded by the majority. But nothing could be further than the truth when it comes to gay men. The number of gay men who get killed or seriously injured due to "homophobia" or whatever is probably one-ten-thousandth of the number of gay men who have killed or seriously hurt each other via our insane sexual choices, and the idea that we make these choices because of "homophobia" causing us to have "low self-esteem" or whatever is belied by the fact that gay men make the worst sexual choices in the biggest cities and "gay meccas" where the most gays are and which are the most gay-friendly or gay-tolerant. Gay male sexual culture is so incredibly effective at making gay men internalize an understanding of both themselves and their sexual partners as worthless that it has persisted even through an epidemic that killed tens of thousands of gay men within my lifetime.

I remember a commenter on this blog, back some years ago when gay marriage was still highly contested, wrote a comment that imagined a gay man praying to God to change his sexuality because it couldn't be reconciled with his faith, and God not changing it; and then the commenter imagined a gay man praying to God to change his *religion,* for the same reason, and God not doing it, either. And I feel like that second gay man, in the sense that I find that I have come to believe something even against my own will. I *cannot* believe, anymore, that gay male sexual culture, collectively speaking, is anything but toxic, or that its toxicity can be justified or rationalized as being due to "homophobia," no matter how much I might need or want something like that to be true. Maybe gay men who lived at a time when it was much much harder to be openly gay can believe that, but I can't. My faith in sexual liberalism is broken, and since all of my liberalism was based on that, all of it is gone, too.

The notion that it is compassionate and loving to accept and endorse an inherently self-destructive behavior is deeply disordered in its own right.  

Posted by orrinj at 4:15 AM


Newly emboldened Democrats want healthcare protected - and Trump impeached (Chris Kahn, 11/08/18, Reuters)

The poll released on Thursday found that 43 percent of people who identified as Democrats want impeachment to be a top priority for Congress. That goal was second in priority only to healthcare, which played a major role in Democratic campaigns' closing arguments before Tuesday's elections.

Posted by orrinj at 4:06 AM


Republicans abandon the fight to repeal and replace Obama's health care law (Sean Sullivan,  November 7, 2018, Washington Post)

For eight years, Republicans waged a war against Barack Obama's health-care law, holding dozens of repeal votes, filing lawsuits and branding it a dangerous government takeover.

On Wednesday, they effectively surrendered.

The day after crushing midterm election losses handed Democrats control of the House, GOP leaders signaled they had no appetite to make another go at shredding the signature accomplishment of Obama's presidency anytime soon.

"I think it's pretty obvious, the Democratic House is not going to be interested in that," said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who suggested instead that lawmakers address the flaws in the Affordable Care Act "on a bipartisan basis."

Mic drop.

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 AM



Trump's move against Sessions today arrives at a moment when Trump allies are increasingly concerned about Donald Trump Jr.'s legal exposure. In recent days, according to three sources, Don Jr. has been telling friends he is worried about being indicted as early as this week. One person close to Don Jr. speculated that Mueller could indict him for making false statements to Congress and the F.B.I. about whether he had told his father about the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russians to gather "dirt" on Hillary Clinton. This source had heard that the case could revolve around Trump's former deputy campaign chairman, Rick Gates, who's cooperating with Mueller and who was deeply involved in the campaign at the time of the meeting. Trump, this person continued, is "very upset" about the risks Don Jr. faces. "The president is very depressed," this person said.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


How the House Fell: Republican Chaos and Democratic Focus (Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin, Nov. 7, 2018, NY Times)

Democrats, in turn, delivered a message about health care with the repetitive force of a jackhammer. They cracked congressional maps drawn to favor Republicans and seized an array of open seats, while also felling longtime incumbents who had grown complacent.

And in the end, President Trump may have delivered the final blow to his party across the diverse and growing metropolitan communities that decided control of the House. In the last weeks of the campaign, Mr. Trump cast aside a positive Republican message about economic prosperity in favor of stoking racial panic about immigration -- with appeals that veered into overt racism, alienating moderate swing voters and further enraging Democrats.

Republicans lost control of the House Tuesday night after eight years in power, with Democrats picking up seats in several suburban districts where the party traditionally did well. But if House Republicans were badly shaken by their defeat, few party leaders were genuinely surprised at the nature of their losses. In interviews with dozens of lawmakers, campaign strategists, activists and donors in both parties, a clear consensus emerged about the arc of the 2018 election.

It was a campaign defined early by Mr. Trump's divisive persona and hard-right ideology, and by Republican leaders' unswerving decision to align themselves with Mr. Trump and his overwhelmingly white, rural base rather than politically vulnerable moderates in Congress who hailed from the country's population centers and represented the political middle.

A campaign of retribution against Republicans who did not pledge fealty to Mr. Trump -- and to Speaker Paul D. Ryan's legislative agenda -- triggered an exodus of senior legislators that opened the way for a Democratic takeover.

Posted by orrinj at 3:46 AM


Trump Bars CNN's Acosta From the White House (Peter Baker, Nov. 7, 2018, NY Times)

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, who has also repeatedly clashed with Mr. Acosta during televised briefings at the White House, announced the decision, claiming falsely that Mr. Acosta had placed "his hands on a young woman" who was responsible for giving the microphone to reporters asking questions.

November 7, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 5:22 PM


Texas House Speaker Joe Straus: Texas and the Republican Party are "moving in opposite directions" (ALEX SAMUELS NOV. 7, 2018, Taxes Tribune)

Republicans in the Texas House were dealt a big blow Tuesday night, losing 12 seats to Democrats and two in the Texas Senate.

Joe Straus, the Republican who has presided over the House for nearly a decade, said that's because win-at-all-cost politics may be effective at the state level, but "it creates carnage down-ballot in a changing state where a Republican Party and the state of Texas are moving in opposite directions."

The "small issues" that were popular among Republican primary voters didn't resonate in November, he said.

"Something had to give sooner or later," Straus said Wednesday morning.

In a wide-ranging conversation in his Capitol office with Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith for the pilot episode of the Tribune's new podcast, Point of Order, Straus launched jabs at two fellow Republicans: Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and President Donald Trump. Straus, who is leaving the House in January, declined to weigh in on who should succeed him as the leader of the lower chamber.

He lamented that the Texas House and Senate were unable to find common ground on divisive political issues. Patrick, who presides over the Senate, should "listen more and talk less," Straus said.

Tuesday's election results might have been a direct reprimand of policies pushed by the Trump administration, he said. The Democratic pick-ups in the House Tuesday marked the biggest shift in the lower chamber since the 2010 midterm elections, when Republicans picked up more than 20 House seats. Straus decried Trump rallies that he said showcased "borderline racism."

Posted by orrinj at 5:17 PM


Blasted by Trump over Russia probe, Sessions fired as attorney general (Sarah N. Lynch, 11/07/18, Reuters) 

In a step that could have implications for the investigation led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Trump replaced Sessions with Matthew Whitaker, who will be acting attorney general. He had been Sessions' chief of staff.

The top Democrat in the U.S. Senate immediately called on Whitaker to recuse himself from the Mueller probe.

"Given his previous comments advocating defunding and imposing limitations on the Mueller investigation, Mr. Whitaker should recuse himself from its oversight for the duration of his time as acting attorney general," Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement.

In an opinion piece for CNN that appeared on Aug. 6, 2017, while he was a commentator for the network, Whitaker, a former U.S. attorney, said Mueller would be crossing a line if he investigated the Trump family's finances.

Posted by orrinj at 5:15 PM


Ozone: The Earth's protective shield is repairing (BBC, 6 November 2018)

The ozone layer, which protects us from ultraviolet light, looks to be successfully healing after gaping holes were discovered in the 1980s.

The Northern Hemisphere could be fully fixed by the 2030s and Antarctica by the 2060s.

A new United Nations report says it's an example of what global agreements can achieve.

Posted by orrinj at 5:13 PM


What if the Placebo Effect Isn't a Trick? (Gary Greenberg, Nov. 7, 2018, NY Times Magazine)

When Ted Kaptchuk was asked to give the opening keynote address at the conference in Leiden, he contemplated committing the gravest heresy imaginable: kicking off the inaugural gathering of the Society for Interdisciplinary Placebo Studies by declaring that there was no such thing as the placebo effect. When he broached this provocation in conversation with me not long before the conference, it became clear that his point harked directly back to Franklin: that the topic he and his colleagues studied was created by the scientific establishment, and only in order to exclude it -- which means that they are always playing on hostile terrain. Science is "designed to get rid of the husks and find the kernels," he told me. Much can be lost in the threshing -- in particular, Kaptchuk sometimes worries, the rituals embedded in the doctor-patient encounter that he thinks are fundamental to the placebo effect, and that he believes embody an aspect of medicine that has disappeared as scientists and doctors pursue the course laid by Franklin's commission. "Medical care is a moral act," he says, in which a suffering person puts his or her fate in the hands of a trusted healer.

"I don't love science," Kaptchuk told me. "I want to know what heals people." Science may not be the only way to understand illness and healing, but it is the established way. "That's where the power is," Kaptchuk says. That instinct is why he left his position as director of a pain clinic in 1990 to join Harvard -- and it's why he was delighted when, in 2010, he was contacted by Kathryn Hall, a molecular biologist. Here was someone with an interest in his topic who was also an expert in molecules, and who might serve as an emissary to help usher the placebo into the medical establishment.

Hall's own journey into placebo studies began 15 years before her meeting with Kaptchuk, when she developed a bad case of carpal tunnel syndrome. Wearing a wrist brace didn't help, and neither did over-the-counter drugs or the codeine her doctor prescribed. When a friend suggested she visit an acupuncturist, Hall balked at the idea of such an unscientific approach. But faced with the alternative, surgery, she decided to make an appointment. "I was there for maybe 10 minutes," she recalls, "when she stuck a needle here" -- Hall points to a spot on her forearm -- "and this awful pain just shot through my arm." But then the pain receded and her symptoms disappeared, as if they had been carried away on the tide. She received a few more treatments, during which the acupuncturist taught her how to manipulate a spot near her elbow if the pain recurred. Hall needed the fix from time to time, but the problem mostly just went away.

"I couldn't believe it," she told me. "Two years of gross drugs, and then just one treatment." All these years later, she's still wonder-struck. "What was that?" she asks. "Rub the spot, and the pain just goes away?"

Hall was working for a drug company at the time, but she soon left to get a master's degree in visual arts, after which she started a documentary-production company. She was telling her carpal-tunnel story to a friend one day and recounted how the acupuncturist had climbed up on the table with her. ("I was like, 'Oh, my God, what is this woman doing?' " she told me. "It was very dramatic.") She'd never been able to understand how the treatment worked, and this memory led her to wonder out loud if maybe the drama itself had something to do with the outcome.

Her friend suggested she might find some answers in Ted Kaptchuk's work. She picked up his book about Chinese medicine, "The Web that Has No Weaver," in which he mentioned the possibility that placebo effects figure strongly in acupuncture, and then she read a study he had conducted that put that question to the test.

Kaptchuk had divided people with irritable bowel syndrome into three groups. In one, acupuncturists went through all the motions of treatment, but used a device that only appeared to insert a needle. Subjects in a second group also got sham acupuncture, but delivered with more elaborate doctor-patient interaction than the first group received. A third group was given no treatment at all. At the end of the trial, both treatment groups improved more than the no-treatment group, and the "high interaction" group did best of all.

Kaptchuk, who before joining Harvard had been an acupuncturist in private practice, wasn't particularly disturbed by the finding that his own profession worked even when needles were not actually inserted; he'd never thought that placebo treatments were fake medicine. He was more interested in how the strength of the treatment varied with the quality and quantity of interaction between the healer and the patient -- the drama, in other words. Hall reached out to him shortly after she read the paper.

The findings of the I.B.S. study were in keeping with a hypothesis Kaptchuk had formed over the years: that the placebo effect is a biological response to an act of caring; that somehow the encounter itself calls forth healing and that the more intense and focused it is, the more healing it evokes. He elaborated on this idea in a comparative study of conventional medicine, acupuncture and Navajo "chantway rituals," in which healers lead storytelling ceremonies for the sick. He argued that all three approaches unfold in a space set aside for the purpose and proceed as if according to a script, with prescribed roles for every participant. Each modality, in other words, is its own kind of ritual, and Kaptchuk suggested that the ritual itself is part of what makes the procedure effective, as if the combined experiences of the healer and the patient, reinforced by the special-but-familiar surroundings, evoke a healing response that operates independently of the treatment's specifics. "Rituals trigger specific neurobiological pathways that specifically modulate bodily sensations, symptoms and emotions," he wrote. "It seems that if the mind can be persuaded, the body can sometimes act accordingly." He ended that paper with a call for further scientific study of the nexus between ritual and healing.

When Hall contacted him, she seemed like a perfect addition to the team he was assembling to do just that. He even had an idea of exactly how she could help. In the course of conducting the study, Kaptchuk had taken DNA samples from subjects in hopes of finding some molecular pattern among the responses. This was an investigation tailor-made to Hall's expertise, and she agreed to take it on. Of course, the genome is vast, and it was hard to know where to begin -- until, she says, she and Kaptchuk attended a talk in which a colleague presented evidence that an enzyme called COMT affected people's response to pain and painkillers. Levels of that enzyme, Hall already knew, were also correlated with Parkinson's disease, depression and schizophrenia, and in clinical trials people with those conditions had shown a strong placebo response. When they heard that COMT was also correlated with pain response -- another area with significant placebo effects -- Hall recalls, "Ted and I looked at each other and were like: 'That's it! That's it!' "

It is not possible to assay levels of COMT directly in a living brain, but there is a snippet of the genome called rs4680 that governs the production of the enzyme, and that varies from one person to another: One variant predicts low levels of COMT, while another predicts high levels. When Hall analyzed the I.B.S. patients' DNA, she found a distinct trend. Those with the high-COMT variant had the weakest placebo responses, and those with the opposite variant had the strongest. These effects were compounded by the amount of interaction each patient got: For instance, low-COMT, high-interaction patients fared best of all, but the low-COMT subjects who were placed in the no-treatment group did worse than the other genotypes in that group. They were, in other words, more sensitive to the impact of the relationship with the healer.

The discovery of this genetic correlation to placebo response set Hall off on a continuing effort to identify the biochemical ensemble she calls the placebome -- the term reflecting her belief that it will one day take its place among the other important "-omes" of medical science, from the genome to the microbiome. The rs4680 gene snippet is one of a group that governs the production of COMT, and COMT is one of a number of enzymes that determine levels of catecholamines, a group of brain chemicals that includes dopamine and epinephrine. (Low COMT tends to mean higher levels of dopamine, and vice versa.) Hall points out that the catecholamines are associated with stress, as well as with reward and good feeling, which bolsters the possibility that the placebome plays an important role in illness and health, especially in the chronic, stress-related conditions that are most susceptible to placebo effects.

Her findings take their place among other results from neuroscientists that strengthen the placebo's claim to a place at the medical table, in particular studies using f.M.R.I. machines that have found consistent patterns of brain activation in placebo responders. "For years, we thought of the placebo effect as the work of imagination," Hall says. "Now through imaging you can literally see the brain lighting up when you give someone a sugar pill."

Posted by orrinj at 5:08 PM


Scrabble's World Champion Masters the Tiles in 2 Languages (Mike Ives, Oct. 29, 2018, NY Times)

Even for a decorated Scrabble whiz, Mr. Richards, who is from New Zealand and lives in Malaysia, has a way with words.

Mr. Richards, 51, was the world Scrabble champion in 2007, 2011 and 2013. He also won the French edition of the championship in 2015 and again this year -- apparently without actually speaking that language. (He is said to have memorized the French Scrabble dictionary.)

Posted by orrinj at 1:55 PM


Good Riddance to Dana Rohrabacher, 'Putin's Man in Congress' (Vladislav Davidzon, November 7, 2018, The Tablet)

The folklore surrounding Rohrabacher's pro-Russian activity is rife with the quirky and bizarre. There was the time that he took part in a delegation of Republican congressmen on a fact-finding mission to the Russian FSB building (the FSB replaced the KGB as Russia's internal security service) led by the action movie star Steven Segal. (The portly Segal who has maintained a jet black ponytail into his late sixties even as the rest of him has gone to seed, is now a Russian citizen and has announced his candidacy for the governorship of a far Eastern province). And who could forget the time Rohrabacher bragged about having arm wrestling competitions with President Putin? Of course, there were other escapades that were only whispered about  Russia connoisseurs.

Ironically, Rohrabacher began his political life as a pro-Ukrainian firebrand. In his youth, Rohrabacher had a sideline as a Bob-Dylan-esque folk singer known to take out his guitar and serenade Ukrainian American journalists and official Soviet-Ukrainian delegations with his own ballads about the Ukrainian anarchist Nestor Makhno.

Among those who knew Rohrabacher in his younger years, like members of the Ukrainian-American diaspora active in Republican politics during the 1980s and colleagues in the Reagan administration, the Congressman's transformation from ardent cold warrior to equally ardent pro-Kremlin apologist has been a subject of bemusement for many years.

Rohrabacher's activities have become better known to the general public in recent years as special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into allegations of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign cast its gaze on the Congressman's activities. In particular, a meeting between Rohrabacher and President Trump's national security adviser Mike Flynn (an equally avid supporter of close relations with Russia) had come under the microscope.

A year ago the New York Times reported that Rohrabacher was seen as a possible Russian asset worthy of being bequeathed an FBI code name. The Times also pointed out that:

"the F.B.I. and the Senate Intelligence Committee are each seeking to interview him about an August meeting with Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, Mr. Rohrabacher said. The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, is said to be interested in a meeting he had with Michael T. Flynn, Mr. Trump's short-lived national security adviser."

Posted by orrinj at 11:57 AM


Red-State Voters Expanded Medicaid (JORDAN WEISSMANN, NOV 07, 2018, Slate)

Along with Utah, blood-red Idaho and Nebraska also embraced Medicaid expansion. Between the three, more than 300,000 lower income Americans could become eligible for coverage under the program.

The GOP decision to abandon the field after the UR passed their healthcare plan has made National Health all but inevitable.

Posted by orrinj at 4:21 AM


Despite Everything, Turkey and the U.S. Are Getting Closer (Eli Lake, November 5, 2018, Bloomberg)

It was only three months ago that President Donald Trump was boasting about sanctions designed to cripple Turkey's economy. On Monday, Turkey became one of eight countries to receive an exemption from sanctions designed to cripple Iran's economy.

Granted, in the interim, a few things happened. To start, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last month finally allowed the American pastor Andrew Brunson to leave his jail cell and return home. His imprisonment had been a major irritant with Trump, who believed Erdogan had backed out of an earlier deal to free him. Brunson's release came when Erdogan had some leverage because of Saudi Arabia's killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in the Turkish consulate in Istanbul. Erdogan's government has been dripping out details of that Saudi crime for a month, but has yet to release an audio recording of the crime itself.

Add to this Erdogan's decision to tone down his anti-American rhetoric. He used to be "defiant and outspoken" about the Iran sanctions, says Aykan Erdemir, a former member of Turkish parliament and scholar at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. No longer. The Turks have not stopped buying Iranian oil altogether, but they are buying less of it.

Quicktake: How the U.S. Can Force the World to Squeeze Iran's Oil

The U.S. line on Turkey has also softened -- beyond granting Turkey an exemption from the Iranian oil sanctions. The U.S. Treasury lifted sanctions related to the detention of Brunson last week on two senior Turkish officials.

The entirety of the WoT consists of the alliance between the Anglosphere (minus Israel), the Shi'a, Kurds and Islamist political parties to promote democracy and oppose the Salafi/Wahabbi and secular dictators.  That the alliance makes everyone uncomfortable on the psychological plane makes it no less real on the ground.

Posted by orrinj at 4:19 AM


Democrats Can Thank Trump for Their Midterms Boost: Republicans suffer the consequences of backing one of the most unpopular presidents of the polling era.  (Jonathan Bernstein, November 7, 2018, Bloomberg)

So why did the Republicans have a bad night? The basic story is pretty simple: This is what happens to a party when it controls the White House and the president is unpopular. In fact, most of what was resolved on Tuesday was probably a consequence not of the fall campaign, but of Trump's record-shattering bad year in 2017, at least in terms of approval ratings. A large group of Republicans decided to retire last year; that's when Democrats recruited many of their top potential candidates to run; and that's when Republicans failed to find good candidates in several states where they might have been competitive. 

Trump's standing recovered a bit in 2018, but as of Tuesday he was the least popular president through 656 days in the polling era. The slight uptick in his approval ratings wasn't going to be enough to help the party recover from 2017, and it's possible he cost Republicans a little more. 

And unlike George W. Bush in 2006 or Barack Obama in 2010, when poor policy outcomes (Iraq in Bush's case, a slow recovery for the economy for Obama) turned people against them, Trump's failure to date has mainly been strikingly personal. Granted, the two big Republican policy initiatives in Congress, the attempted repeal of Obamacare and the tax cut, didn't help. But Trump failed to contribute any popular policy ideas -- and certainly wasn't effective at pushing for any ideas that might have been popular, such as an infrastructure bill. 

The bottom line is that despite a solid economy and without any high-casualty war, Trump spent 2017 at around 38 percent approval, and 2018 at around 42 percent. And he has spent his entire presidency, after a brief honeymoon, solidly over 50 percent disapproval, with a large portion of that strongly disapproving. 

Given the state of the economy and the decade of growth, it took a superhuman effort to lose so the suburbs, but he was just the ubermensch to do it. Consider a really simple thought experiment: suppose that, upon being sworn in, Donald had taken a vow of silence and turned over the running of the Executive to a competent chief of staff. What would last night's results have looked like if it were being contested on only the economic boom that he inherited from the UR and the Federalist Society judiciary picks, with no policies of his own nor statements from him thrown into the mix?  

Posted by orrinj at 4:18 AM


Three Cheers for the Return of Divided Government (Eric Boehm, Nov. 7, 2018, reason)

As election results go, that's about the best possible outcome. Not only that, but it's an outcome that allows, for one night at least, the faintest hope that the crazy train of American politics over the past two years may be slowing to a more sensible pace.

Conservatives now wonder if transactional Trump might leave them in the cold (Robert Costa, November 6 , 2018, Washington Post)

Trump, meanwhile, could ignore budget hawks and the federal deficit and rally behind a more than $1 trillion infrastructure bill next year.

"He's able to move a bit because he is set with the conservatives for the next 10 years because he picked Pence and put two justices on the court," said John Brabender, a Republican consultant who works with Vice President Pence's team.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Tuesday on PBS's "NewsHour" that infrastructure "has always been nonpartisan. Hopefully we can work together to advance that agenda." Pelosi, however, could face leadership challenges of her own in the coming weeks amid Democratic unrest.

"Can we get along? Maybe," Trump said last month on "Fox & Friends," when asked about how he would handle a Democratic-controlled House.

Trump could also work with Democrats to lower the cost of prescription drugs. That is a prospect that Pelosi acknowledged to PBS, saying it's possible "if the president is serious."

A year ago, Trump worked with Democrats on a spending agreement that alarmed conservatives -- and reminded them that the former real estate investor and ex-Democrat could abandon their cause.

"The deal is a warning to Republicans -- primarily to the party establishment, which has fought Trump at every turn, but also to conservative Republicans, who have long worried about Trump shifting leftwards," Breitbart editor Joel B. Pollak wrote at the time on the hard-line conservative website.

Another ominous prospect for GOP leaders is Trump raging at his party and using them as a target as much as the Democrats, should he lash out over coming struggles and stalled items on his to-do list.

Posted by orrinj at 4:05 AM


Nancy Pelosi draws criticism for promising bipartisanship when Dems win (Filipa Ioannou, November 6, 2018, SF Gate)

"We will have accountability and strive for bipartisanship" she said in D.C. Tuesday night, echoing comments she'd made earlier in the day. "We must try."

"We have a bipartisan marketplace of ideas that makes our democracy strong," she added. "We have all had enough with division."

She also called for unity in the name of the vision of the Founding Fathers, as she had earlier in the day.

On Twitter, many on the left responded with anger, frustration and expletives, calling for Dems to take off the gloves and stop gesturing at civility.

Posted by orrinj at 4:03 AM


Trump faces restraints after Democrats seize U.S. House (John Whitesides, 11/07/18, Reuters)

[T]he Democrats will now head House committees that can investigate the president's tax returns, possible business conflicts of interest and possible links between his 2016 election campaign and Russia.

The Democrats also could force Trump to scale back his legislative ambitions, possibly dooming his promises to fund a border wall with Mexico, pass a second major tax-cut package, or carry out his hardline policies on trade.

"Today is more than about Democrats and Republicans, it's about restoring the Constitution's checks and balances to the Trump administration," Nancy Pelosi, leader of the House Democrats, told supporters at victory party. 

With the exception of a couple of the worst Trumpbots hanging on--King & DeSantis, for instance--those were pretty optimal results.

Rust Belt Defeats Are a 2020 Warning for Trump (Sahil Kapur, November 7, 2018, Bloomberg)

President Donald Trump got a warning sign on Tuesday from the Midwestern and Rust Belt states that handed him the presidency, as voters delivered big victories to Democrats and offered a road map for the crowd of candidates lining up to challenge him in 2020.

Democrats in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan swept the races for Senate and governor, and picked up valuable House seats, defeating Trump-backed Republicans at all levels.

Notorious Vote Thief and Incompetent Gubernatorial Candidate Kris Kobach Loses in Kansas (MARK JOSEPH STERN, NOV 06, 2018, Slate)

On Tuesday night, Kansas Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach lost the governor's race to Democrat Laura Kelly. Kobach built his career on voter suppression, whipping up nativist fervor by claiming that a large number of noncitizens are casting ballots. (They aren't.) He led Donald Trump's failed voter-fraud commission, then eked out a victory in the Republican gubernatorial primary against current GOP Gov. Jeff Colyer. But even in deep-red Kansas, voters appear to have rebelled against his brand of paranoid, xenophobic conservatism.

Although Kobach built up a national profile as a formidable politician, he is, in fact, deeply incompetent. He spent years promoting Crosscheck, a program that ostensibly detected double voting but actually had an error rate of 99.5 percent. He pushed a law that compelled Kansans to provide proof of citizenship in order to register to vote, then defended it himself at trial--at which point it became clear that he doesn't understand basic rules of civil procedure. A federal judge repeatedly reprimanded him during the hearings, then ruled against him and held him in contempt of court.

As Kobach struggled to defend his signature law, he led Trump's voter-fraud commission right off a cliff.

Ilhan Omar, the First Muslim Woman Elected to Congress, Led Her Speech With "As-Salam Alaikum." I'm Transported. (AYMANN ISMAIL, NOV 07, 2018, Slate)

When Minnesota state Rep. Ilhan Omar stepped on stage tonight as one of the first Muslim women ever elected to Congress--the other, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, was also elected tonight--she led with "as-salam alaikum." Then: "alhamdulillah." I'm transported. This was not an acceptance speech I expected to hear. In a cycle recently dubbed "the most Islamophobic election ever," even basic Muslim salutations on a stage like this feel like a tangible achievement.

Posted by orrinj at 4:03 AM


The first five things the Democrats should do with their House majority (Ronald A. Klain, November 7, 2018, Washington Post)

First, a bill to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 and restore Trump-repealed rules protecting overtime pay. Democrats should show their support for hard-working people who are doing everything right and still not earning enough to live on. During the 2016 campaign, Trump promised to support a minimum-wage increase; on the eve of the 2018 election, his chief economic adviser proposed abolishing the law altogether. Democrats should find out where the president and the Trump-dominated Senate really stand.

Second, legislation to strengthen the Affordable Care Act, expand its coverage and patch up the gaps that the Trump administration has punched in it. Put aside the big debate over comprehensively changing the system for later; deliver on the core promise of most Democratic campaigns in 2018.

Third, a bill to restore the Voting Rights Act and reverse Republican voter-suppression efforts. The cause of democracy should not be carried by Democrats alone, but that is what it has come to. The greatest democracy in the world should not be the one where it is hardest to participate in the democratic process.

Fourth, a simple, non-porked-up infrastructure bill, with funding for bridges and roads, airports and mass transit, clean-energy projects and new schools. Avoid the complexity and exotica that -- while good policy -- ultimately made the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act bad politics. If it doesn't employ workers in hard hats, it isn't "infrastructure" for this purpose.

And finally, a clean bill, free of extraneous issues, that grants legal status to the immigrant children known as "dreamers." Trump has promised to sign such a bill; it's time to end the uncertainty of these young people, who have so much to contribute.

...much of that just holds Donald to his promises.  Given his politics, they are his natural allies.
Posted by orrinj at 4:01 AM



When we launched the Niskanen Center in January 2015, we happily identified ourselves as libertarians. Sure, we were heterodox libertarians, but there are many schools of libertarianism beyond those promoted by Charles Koch's political operations. The school we identified with was a left-libertarianism concerned with social justice (a libertarian perspective that I've defended in debates with more orthodox libertarians here and here). That worldview lacked an institutional voice in 2015. Our ambition was to create a space for it and, in so doing, redefine what it meant to be libertarian in the 21st century.

I have abandoned that libertarian project, however, because I have come to abandon ideology. This essay is an invitation for you to do likewise -- to walk out of the "clean and well-lit prison of one idea." Ideology encourages dodgy reasoning due to what psychologists call "motivated cognition," which is the act of deciding what you want to believe and using your reasoning power, with all its might, to get you there. Worse, it encourages fanaticism, disregard for social outcomes, and invites irresolvable philosophical disputes. It also threatens social pluralism -- which is to say, it threatens freedom.

The better alternative is not moral relativism. The better alternative is moderation, a commodity that is rapidly disappearing in political life, with dangerous consequences for the American republic. [...]

Reason, as David Hume famously noted, is a slave of the passions, and libertarian passions point in one direction and one direction only: hostility to government. This passion is a powerful engine of motivated cognition, which invariably leads to weak policy analysis and dogmatism. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


You can't take the Diwali out of Indians--even when they're in America (Ananya Bhattacharya, November 6, 2018, Quartz)

Like food, fashion, and faith, Indians carry with them their beloved festivals wherever their livelihood takes them.

It's no different in the US where people of Indian origin have been living since the 1820s.

Over the years, a growing Indian immigrant population has been celebrating Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, going all out to replicate the massive festivities from their motherland.

The scale of celebrations has become such that popular US tourist spots like Disneyland in California and New York's Times Square get painted in vibrant Indian colours. Even the White House has been celebrating the festival for many years. After all, the 3.1 million Indian-Americans form one of the most successful immigrant communities in the US.

Posted by orrinj at 3:39 AM


Why the US is allowing India to develop an Iranian port (Al-Monitor,  November 6, 2018)

Even as it seeks to cut off Iran from the world economy, the Donald Trump administration acknowledged today that it will allow India to continue developing the Iranian port of Chabahar, an alternative South Asian trade route to the congested Suez Canal.

November 6, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 7:02 PM


Election Live Blog: Strong Voter Turnout, High Enthusiasm At N.H. Polls (NHPR, 11/06/18)

Oyster River High School in Durham saw throngs of student voters from the nearby University of New Hampshire campus throughout the day. The polling place is about a mile from the center of campus, and in past years the university has offered transportation for students who wanted to vote locally.

UNH did not offer its own shuttle this year, but other groups like NextGen -- a liberal PAC trying to mobilize young voters -- did. And that made a big difference for students like Avery Judd.

"To take time out of the middle of the day and either walk here or find someone with a car would have probably discouraged me from voting," said Judd, who also helped with the New Hampshire Democratic Party on campus this campaign season. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:35 PM

Posted by orrinj at 5:19 PM


Our Final Forecast In The Senate, House And Gubernatorial Races (Nathaniel Rakich, 11/06/18, 538)

Republicans have a 5 in 6 chance (82.0 percent) of holding on to the Senate in the Deluxe version of our forecast (which we'll be using as the default version of the forecast for Election Day). In other words, Republicans are a strong, but not insurmountable, favorite in the upper chamber. Any scenario from a three-seat Republican gain to a two-seat Democratic gain falls within our 80-percent confidence interval. [...]

Democrats have a slightly better chance of winning the House than Republicans do of holding the Senate. Democrats are a 6 in 7 favorite (85.8 percent) to win a majority of seats. Their average seat gain is 36, which would result in a House of Representatives with 231 Democrats and 204 Republicans. But the model considers a wide range of outcomes as still well within the realm of possibility: We think there's an 80 percent chance that Democrats gain somewhere between 20 and 54 seats.

Roughly, your expectation should be that a Republican upset in the House is about as unlikely as a Democratic upset in the Senate. However, it's much less likely that we will see an upset in both chambers at once, because polling errors tend to lean in the same direction, so if Democrats perform better than expected in the Senate, they will probably also perform better than expected in the House. [...]

Finally, our model foresees that Democratic governors will preside over an average of 24.2 states in 2019, or eight more than the party's current 16. That would mean that roughly 197 million Americans, or 64.4 percent of the country's population, would have a Democratic governor.

Posted by orrinj at 5:05 PM


Trump allies fear his primary endorsements are coming back to haunt him (Brendan Morrow, 11/06/18, The Week)

This is according to CNN's Kaitlan Collins, who mentioned during Election Night coverage Tuesday that some Trump allies feel several of the candidates he backed this year could win their Republican primary, but not a general election. Specifically, she named three Trump-backed nominees: Florida gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis, Georgia gubernatorial nominee Brian Kemp, and Kansas gubernatorial nominee Kris Kobach.

All three of these races are seen as tossups. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:05 PM


Trump hails 'beautiful' barbed wire on southern border in Montana rally speech (ALI ROGIN Nov 3, 2018, ABC News)

"We have our military on the border. And I noticed all that beautiful barbed wire going up today, barbed wire used properly can be a beautiful sight," he said.

Posted by orrinj at 7:48 AM


...but Election Day is always particularly enjoyable.
Like, one suspects, numerous Republicans, I voted straight GOP at state level but Democrat for Congress.

NH is likely to re-elect our GOP governor but send two Democrats to Congress, a level of ticket-splitting which is fairly unusual here. (Heard a great line about the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Molly Kelly: Two first names but no agenda.)

That reflects the fact that we are in a conservative epoch and most Americans are quite satisfied with their incumbent Republican governors, but that the president is profoundly unpopular and we want someone to ride herd on him, a duty which congressional Republicans completely abdicated. Open gubernatorial seats look likely to swing Democratic due to the Donald headwind.

The GOP is extremely fortunate that the Senate map was so favorable this year, making it almost impossible to lose the majority.  

Meanwhile, the stasis of a divided government could give us all a nice pause until 2020 when we get a do-over at the national level and put the awful Baby Boomer generation behind us, once and for all.

Our right to vote (John R. Allen, 11/02/18, The Brookings Institution

For much of my adult life, I served my country abroad in places where democracy was either a long-ago memory or distant idea.  These were regions that had known generations of cruel dictatorships and corrupt governance structures, where the notion of free political thought was utterly foreign and often deemed unthinkable or dangerous to those who gripped power so tightly.  And in those places, where nascent democracies were struggling to take root, I was frequently reminded of the precious gift Americans have been given: a democracy, with the freedom for every citizen to vote in peaceful elections as part of our democratic process.

Our foundational right to vote is central to our need to continually work to protect, preserve, and strengthen our democracy.  This is something for which I have fought nearly my entire life to uphold. We, as Americans, have paid a significant price for our freedom and our form of government, but we should regularly remind ourselves that democracy is by no means inevitable. Yet today our right to vote, and our belief in the inevitability of our democratic system, are too often taken for granted.

The United States is grounded upon the idea that individuals are owed the equal opportunity to voice their opinion as we, through our elected officials, chart the course of our nation.  This idea is foundational to our American values and informs a great deal about what it means to be a citizen of the United States.  And while we have important work to do to remove barriers to voting, improve voter access and enforce the rights of all voters to make their voices heard and their votes to count, we cannot allow these challenges to derail our urgency to vote in the first place.

Posted by orrinj at 4:23 AM


The 401(k) is forty and fabulous (Allison Schrager, 11/06/18, Quartz)

The 401(k) has come a long way in the last 40 years. As it evolved, policy makers have introduced improvements that are becoming standard practices. Automatically enrolling employees dramatically increase participation. Selecting low-fee index funds as the default investment option lowered costs to consumers and improved diversification. These have made 401(k)s more popular and more successful.

But problems remain. Only about 61% of  Americans employees have access to a retirement benefit at work. Smaller  employers are less likely to offer them because of high administrative costs and many part-time employees are not offered them at all. While  it's not clear that 100% of the population should be saving for retirement--for example, a worker earning low wages who will see a large income relative to their salary from Social Security may not need retirement savings--participation in 401(k)s should be higher. A new bill introduced in Congress this year that would make it cheaper for small employers to offer retirement accounts could increase coverage.

The other unresolved question is how retirees should spend the money in 401(k)s after they retire. We've figured out saving, participation, and the wisdom of using index funds, but knowing how much to spend each year and managing money after retirement is a harder problem with little margin for error. Annuities, where insurance company pays a steady income for life, are popular with economists, but no one else. It remains a problem for regulators and the retirement industry.

Retiring Baby Boomers are the first generation to retire on a 401(k), with the first reaching age 65 in 2011. Their financial security will be the first big test of the plans' success. Other countries have been successful combining 401(k)-like accounts with government pensions, ensuring most of their citizens receive 70% of their working income in retirement. With a few tweaks, those systems could work in America too.

Posted by orrinj at 4:21 AM


One Legacy of Merkel? Angry East German Men Fueling the Far Right (Katrin Bennhold, Nov. 5, 2018, NY Times)

"We have a crisis of masculinity in the East and it is feeding the far right," said Petra Köpping, minister for integration in Saxony.

When Ms. Köpping took office in 2014, she thought her job was to integrate immigrants. But as hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers began arriving in Germany a year later, a middle-aged white man heckled her at a town-hall-style meeting.

"Why don't you integrate us first?" the man had shouted.

That question, which has since become the title of a book written by Ms. Köpping, prompted her to tour her eastern home state and interview dozens of angry men. The disappointed hopes and humiliations of 1989, she found, still fester.

Some three million jobs, most of them in traditionally male industries, were lost over two years. The working-class heroes of Socialism became the working-class losers of capitalism.

East German men were abandoned by their newly united country practically overnight, Ms. Köpping said: "They are the original left-behinds."

And they were quite literally left behind -- by their women.

Long before the #MeToo movement, Communism succeeded in creating a broad class of women who were independent, emancipated, often better educated and working in more adaptable service jobs than eastern men.

After the wall came down, the East lost more than 10 percent of its population. Two-thirds of those who left and did not come back were young women.

It was the most extreme case of female flight in Europe, said Reiner Klingholz, director of the Berlin Institute for Population and Development, who has studied the phenomenon. Only the Arctic Circle and a few islands off the coast of Turkey suffer comparable male-female imbalances.

In large swaths of rural eastern Germany, men today still outnumber women, and the regions where the women disappeared map almost exactly onto the regions that vote for the Alternative for Germany today.

"There is a gender element to the rise of the far right that is not sufficiently acknowledged and studied," Mr. Klingholz said.

Time to start importing Syrian widows.

Posted by orrinj at 4:20 AM


Republicans attack Jewish candidates across the U.S. with an age-old caricature: Fistfuls of cash (Eli Rosenberg, November 6, 2018, Washington Post)

"I was revolted," Kendall recalled in a phone interview, saying he believed the ad was blatantly anti-Semitic. "Jesse is proudly and prominently a member of Juneau's Jewish community. . . . It is tough for me to process through that and not see an ill intent."

In North Carolina, the state Republican Party depicted Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) with what appeared to be a stack of bills in his hand.

In a hotly contested race outside Seattle, Republicans illustrated Kim Schrier, a Democratic candidate for Congress who is Jewish, with a wad of $20 bills fanned out in her hands.

In California, a Republican state assembly candidate tinted his Jewish challenger a shade of green in an ad, adding $100 bills to his hands for good measure.

And national outcry ensued last week after a Republican candidate's ad against a Jewish challenger in Connecticut was digitally altered in a way to play off classic anti-Semitic tropes. That advertisement, which was sent out by Ed Charamut's campaign for a state senate seat, depicts his challenger, Democratic state Rep. Matthew Lesser, holding a wad of cash in front of him, with a crazed look in his eyes. [...]

"What's stunning is that these are old images that are very similar to those from other eras and other places," said Pamela Nadell, a history professor at American University and the director of its Jewish Studies program.

"The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys wearing yarmulkes."

Posted by orrinj at 4:15 AM


Posted by orrinj at 4:13 AM


Trump Models U.S. Economy on Kansas. That's a Mistake: The better choice is one of his favorite whipping boys, California, which has a balanced budget, rapid growth and industries of the future.   (Barry Ritholtz, October 19, 2018, Bloomberg)

Kansas has been a disaster, with giant budget shortfalls, service cuts, slashed education budgets and a brain drain with young people leaving the state. The economy has failed to keep up with growth in the rest of the country and is much weaker in terms of job gains, wage increases and gross domestic product growth than neighboring states with similar economies. In 2015, for example, Kansas had one of the worst job growth rates in the country, at 0.8 percent, adding just 10,900 nonfarm jobs.

In the five years before Donald Trump was elected president in 2016, no state economy performed worse than Kansas. Things became so bad that Kansas decided to simply stop updating the public about state economic news. There's no reason to do this other than to obscure the obvious: Kansas's wounds were self-inflicted.

Compare that record with California's robust economy, increased tax base, balanced budget and job growth that exceeds the national average. The president may criticize the politics of the state, but there is little to find fault with its economy. If California were its own country, its $2.75 trillion economy and would be the world's fifth largest, after the U.S., China, Japan and Germany.

Governor Moonbeam should have been the 2016 presidential nominee.

Posted by orrinj at 4:12 AM


Trump calls Fox's Hannity onstage at campaign rally (DAVID BAUDER, 11/06/18, AP) 

Sean Hannity spoke from the stage of President Donald Trump's last midterm election rally on Monday, after Fox News Channel and its most popular personality had insisted all day that he wouldn't.

Posted by orrinj at 4:10 AM


ICE moves to silence detention center volunteer visitors (KATE MORRISSEY, NOV 06, 2018, LA Times)

Immigration officials have stopped allowing a volunteer group to visit people at Otay Mesa Detention Center unless its members agreed not to talk with the media or other groups about conditions inside.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement said members of Souls Offering Loving and Compassionate Ears must sign the Volunteer Code of Ethics to be in compliance with the agency's detention standards. The group so far has refused, arguing that detention standards don't require them to sign away their 1st Amendment rights in order to visit detainees.

"I think they're circling the wagons to stop people from knowing what's going on inside," said SOLACE volunteer Steve Gelb of Mission Valley. "It gives ICE more impunity."

Since 2012, SOLACE volunteers have made more than 1,450 visits to at least 800 immigrants at Otay Mesa. They try to give detainees who don't have anyone to visit them a feeling of humanity, emotional support and hope.

"Without SOLACE, people who are detained at Otay have very little way to communicate with the outside world," said Angela Fujii, who coordinates the program through the First Unitarian Universalist Church. "It's a very vulnerable population that we know is now suffering and being neglected."

Posted by orrinj at 4:09 AM


Joint Chiefs chair says soldiers will not be involved in denying border entry to migrants (Kate Sullivan and Ryan Browne, 11/05/18, CNN)

"There is no plan for US military forces to be involved in the actual mission of denying people entry to the United States," Dunford said, speaking at an event at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. "There is no plan for soldiers to come in contact with immigrants or to reinforce Department of Homeland Security as they're conducting their mission."

"We are providing enabling capabilities," Dunford said, explaining they were tasked with supporting the DHS.

Posted by orrinj at 4:05 AM



Sources say Trump advisers are girding themselves for Mueller to deliver the results of his investigation to the Justice Department as early as Wednesday, although it's more likely he'll wait till later this month. Sources say besides the president, the ones with the most exposure are Roger Stone and Donald Trump Jr. "I'm very worried about Don Jr.," said another former West Wing official who testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee. The possible exposure would be that Mueller would demonstrate that Don Jr. perjured himself to investigators when he said he didn't tell his father beforehand about the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting to gather "dirt" on Hillary Clinton. (Donald Trump Jr.'s lawyer, Alan Futerfas, declined to comment.)

One potential sign of how seriously Trumpworld is treating the Mueller threat has been the near total silence of Rudy Giuliani. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 AM


In secret chats, trolls struggle to get Twitter disinformation campaigns off the ground (Ben Collins, 11/05/18, NBC News)

In a private "strategy chat" with more than 40 far-right trolls, one user who tried to create a new Twitter account to spread disinformation ahead of Tuesday's midterms elections described how he had hit an immediate roadblock: Twitter banned him for deliberately giving out the wrong election date.

"Were they really banning people for saying [vote on] November 7? Lol, whoops," the user, whose name was a racist joke about Native Americans, wrote. "Maybe that's what got me shadowbanned."

The remark, seen by NBC News in a closed chat room used for planning and executing misinformation efforts, suggested that the changes that Twitter has undertaken in the past two years to avoid a repeat of the 2016 U.S. election may be working. Two years ago, the company did little to police misinformation and allowed a Russian influence campaign and politically motivated trolls to thrive.

A screenshot from a private chat in which a social media troll described getting blocked by Twitter from spreading misinformation A screenshot from a private chat in which a social media troll described getting blocked by Twitter from spreading misinformation
But the trolls are also learning from their mistakes and developing new strategies to sidestep Twitter's rules -- sometimes with new technology available on other apps -- highlighting the arms race between these groups and social media companies that are developing systems to stop them.

While much of its focus has been on foreign operations, Twitter has ramped up preventative measures against domestic troll networks that organize in private chats to push coordinated disinformation on their platform. On Friday, Twitter revealed it took down 10,000 accounts that discouraged voting, mostly accounts posing as Democrats.

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 AM


Why science can't replace religion: John Gray on the myths the "New Atheists" tell themselves. (Sean Illing, 11/04/18,

Sean Illing

I see you as someone who enjoys exposing the hypocrisies of people who enjoy exposing the hypocrisies of others. Is that how you see yourself?

John Gray

Indeed. I'm a skeptic by nature, so I'm resistant to claims by anyone to have complete answers to intractable human problems. I'm particularly annoyed by what's now called "New Atheism," and I react strongly against those who debunk the beliefs of others in a way I find bullying and shallow.

The New Atheists -- Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and others -- attack religions in the sublime confidence that these religions are myths and that they themselves harbor no myths, but that's not true.

In many cases, the New Atheists are animated by 19th-century myths of various kinds: myths of human advancement, myths of what science can and cannot do, and all kinds of other myths. So yeah, I'm compelled to attack anyone who is debunking others for their reliance on myths when the debunkers themselves can't see how their own thinking is shaped by myths.

Something as ancient, as profound, as inexhaustibly rich as religion or religions can't really be written off as an intellectual error by clever people. Most of these clever people are not that clever when compared with really clever people like Wittgenstein or Saint Augustine or Pascal -- all philosophers of the past who seriously engaged the religious perspective.

The great Anglospheric insight--since, at least, Hume--is the need to be skeptical of skepticism for exactly the same reason as other beliefs.  Which leads us back to the primacy of faith and the recognition that our choice of faiths is a simple matter of aesthetics.

Posted by orrinj at 3:55 AM


Democrats are running to the middle to win the midterms: The left is fired up, but Democrats are still relying on centrists in the 2018 campaign. (Dylan Scott,  Nov 5, 2018, Vox)

Amid Trump ramping up rhetoric about dangerous criminals streaming over the Mexican border, Democrats are relying on moderate candidates to carry them to victory in many of the most competitive races in the 2018 midterms.

Ken Harbaugh is a military veteran running in Ohio's deep-red Seventh Congressional District against Republican Bob Gibbs. Though Gibbs has held the seat for more than a decade, the University of Virginia's Center for Politics recently slid the race from Safe Republican into the Likely Republican category based on Harbaugh's strong fundraising and profile. Harbaugh is far from a lefty, but he was probably the Democratic Party's only shot to take this solidly red district that Trump won by 30 points.

Democrats are trading ideological purity for electoral viability in many campaigns -- much more so than the Republican Party, which seems to be sliding further and further to the right. A plurality of Republican voters now describe themselves as "very" conservative.

If the GOP continues to drift Right and Democrats were capable of allowing social issues to return to the local instead of the national level, the latter would be the natural majority in what is a conservative epoch.

November 5, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 6:28 PM


Star Wars Politics (Thomas Bruscino, 11/05/18, Aero)

A few years after the Star Wars prequel trilogy came out, after we had all had time to digest just how unsatisfying it had been, an independent filmmaker named Mike Stoklasa produced a series of online videos picking the movies apart, figuring out just exactly why Anakin, Jar Jar, computer Yoda and the rest bothered us so much. Published under the imprimatur of Red Letter Media, the videos are quirky and profane--and also masterpieces of film critique. [...]

[A]s Stoklasa points out, something was off about this particular galactic star war. If you look just a little bit closer, you will notice that, as grand as the stakes appear to be, the conduct and effects of the war do not extend much beyond a small handful of individuals. There are only a few dozen Jedi fighting on one side, and, by rule, two Sith on the other. Their armies are made up of literally disposable droids on one side, and nearly disposable clone troopers on the other. Most importantly, at few points is this galactic fight connected to the people that make up the galaxy, least of all on Coruscant, the capital planet itself. [...]

As I write this, the current galactic problem is the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation hearings, and the sexual assault allegations leveled against the nominee. [...]

By the time this comes to print, we will have moved on to something else. Whatever that is will be so important that we must all line up in our digital armies, increasingly backed by the implied or even literal threat that someday soon those armies will be virtual no longer.

The specific issue doesn't matter, really--not when we treat all issues as if they were battles in wars raging across our galaxy.

We are so partisan these days precisely because, given the broad consensus on nearly all policy issues at the End of History, the only stakes are which party gets to govern.  The Kavanaugh nomination was illustrative not just because the nomination fight got so ugly but because he is pretty much indistinguishable from Merrick Garland.

And, if we look at the "something else," we have moved on to, Americans (Republicans included) overwhelmingly support immigration, which Donald has staked this election cycle on opposing and Republicans are running on their support for Obamacare, which was after all just the Heritage Foundation plan. or the GOP plan from the '90s.

Look behind the partisan bickering and you find an American electorate that has a historically high popular overlap on most actual policy questions: not just pro-immigration and pro-trade but in favor of limits on both guns and abortion, while party leaders take the most extreme positions, and even in favor of universal health care, which the UR was too conservative to propose.  

Of course, if we stick with the Star Wars mode of analysis, we can find another fruitful point: it's not even apparent that "our" side is preferable to the "dark" side:  

The Case for the Empire (JONATHAN V. LAST, May 15, 2002, Weekly Standard)

Lucas wants the Empire to stand for evil, so he tells us that the Emperor and Darth Vader have gone over to the Dark Side and dresses them in black.

But look closer. When Palpatine is still a senator, he says, "The Republic is not what it once was. The Senate is full of greedy, squabbling delegates. There is no interest in the common good." At one point he laments that "the bureaucrats are in charge now."

Palpatine believes that the political order must be manipulated to produce peace and stability. When he mutters, "There is no civility, there is only politics," we see that at heart, he's an esoteric Straussian.

Make no mistake, as emperor, Palpatine is a dictator--but a relatively benign one, like Pinochet. It's a dictatorship people can do business with. They collect taxes and patrol the skies. They try to stop organized crime (in the form of the smuggling rings run by the Hutts). The Empire has virtually no effect on the daily life of the average, law-abiding citizen.

Also, unlike the divine-right Jedi, the Empire is a meritocracy. The Empire runs academies throughout the galaxy (Han Solo begins his career at an Imperial academy), and those who show promise are promoted, often rapidly. In The Empire Strikes Back Captain Piett is quickly promoted to admiral when his predecessor falls down on the job.

And while it's a small point, the Empire's manners and decorum speak well of it. When Darth Vader is forced to employ bounty hunters to track down Han Solo, he refuses to address them by name. Even Boba Fett, the greatest of all trackers, is referred to icily as "bounty hunter." And yet Fett understands the protocol. When he captures Solo, he calls him "Captain Solo." (Whether this is in deference to Han's former rank in the Imperial starfleet, or simply because Han owns and pilots his own ship, we don't know. I suspect it's the former.)

But the most compelling evidence that the Empire isn't evil comes in The Empire Strikes Back when Darth Vader is battling Luke Skywalker. After an exhausting fight, Vader is poised to finish Luke off, but he stays his hand. He tries to convert Luke to the Dark Side with this simple plea: "There is no escape. Don't make me destroy you. . . . Join me, and I will complete your training. With our combined strength, we can end this destructive conflict and bring order to the galaxy." It is here we find the real controlling impulse for the Dark Side and the Empire. The Empire doesn't want slaves or destruction or "evil." It wants order.

Significantly, on all the "issues" listed above Americans just want some order restored to our lives and we are sick of the apocalyptic partisanship because it is so disordered.

Posted by orrinj at 4:50 PM


Florida yoga shooter spouted misogynistic and racist views on YouTube (Kalhan Rosenblatt and Brandy Zadrozny, 11/04/18, NBC News)

Scott Beierle, the man who killed two women at a yoga studio in Tallahassee, Florida, before apparently killing himself, appeared to have posted dozens of misogynistic and racist videos and songs to YouTube and SoundCloud before the attack.

Tallahassee police identified Beierle, 40, as the shooter who killed Nancy Van Vessem, 61, and Maura Binkley, 21, and injured several other people inside Hot Yoga before turning the gun on himself on Friday.

An account that appears to be Beierle's posted several grainy, dimly lighted videos four years ago, which show Beierle discussing his misogyny, as well as his racist beliefs, including that interracial couples stem from mental illness and that women who are promiscuous should be crucified.

Posted by orrinj at 12:08 PM


The GOP is running plenty of racist ads this cycle, but how is this different?

Posted by orrinj at 4:35 AM


More than 4,884,528 Texans voted early in the midterm election (ELBERT WANG, DARLA CAMERON AND CHRIS ESSIG UPDATED NOV. 3, 2018, Texas Tribune)

Early voter turnout in the 2018 midterms surpassed turnout from the 2012 presidential election in the 30 Texas counties where most registered voters in the state -- 78 percent -- live. In the entire early voting period, 4,514,930 Texans cast in-person ballots and 369,598 cast mail-in ballots. This means 39.9 percent of the 12.3 million registered voters in those 30 counties have voted.

With days to go, contest for attorney general shows signs of a competitive race (EMMA PLATOFF AND PATRICK SVITEK NOV. 4, 2018, Taxeas Tribune)

Less than 36 hours before Election Day, the race for attorney general is showing signs of competition that have been absent in just about every other statewide contest.

Republican incumbent Ken Paxton, who was indicted more than three years ago on felony securities fraud charges, has been running a relatively quiet campaign with the comfortable advantage of a GOP incumbent in a state that has not elected a Democrat statewide in more than two decades.

But now he is firing back at his Democratic challenger, Justin Nelson, with a new attack ad -- the first one from Paxton that addresses the indictment -- and getting a fresh influx of high-dollar campaign donations, signals that Republicans are not taking anything for granted in the race for Texas' top lawyer.

Posted by orrinj at 4:33 AM


Posted by orrinj at 4:30 AM


U.S. Law Enforcement Failed to See the Threat of White Nationalism. Now They Don't Know How to Stop It.: For two decades, domestic counterterrorism strategy has ignored the rising danger of far-right extremism. In the atmosphere of willful indifference, a virulent movement has grown and metastasized. (JANET REITMANNOV. 3, 2018, NY Times Magazine)

The first indication to Lt. Dan Stout that law enforcement's handling of white supremacy was broken came in September 2017, as he was sitting in an emergency-operations center in Gainesville, Fla., preparing for the onslaught of Hurricane Irma and watching what felt like his thousandth YouTube video of the recent violence in Charlottesville, Va. Jesus Christ, he thought, studying the footage in which crowds of angry men, who had gathered to attend or protest the Unite the Right rally, set upon one another with sticks and flagpole spears and flame throwers and God knows what else. A black man held an aerosol can, igniting the spray, and in retaliation, a white man picked up his gun, pointed it toward the black man and fired it at the ground. The Virginia state troopers, inexplicably, stood by and watched. Stout fixated on this image, wondering what kind of organizational failure had led to the debacle. He had one month to ensure that the same thing didn't happen in Gainesville.

Before that August, Stout, a 24-year veteran of the Gainesville police force, had never heard of Richard Spencer and knew next to nothing about his self-declared alt-right movement, or of their "anti-fascist" archnemesis known as Antifa. Then, on the Monday after deadly violence in Charlottesville, in which a protester was killed when a driver plowed his car into the crowd, Stout learned to his horror that Spencer was planning a speech at the University of Florida. He spent weeks frantically trying to get up to speed, scouring far-right and anti-fascist websites and videos, each click driving him further into despair. Aside from the few white nationalists who had been identified by the media or on Twitter, Stout had no clue who most of these people were, and neither, it seemed, did anyone else in law enforcement.

There were no current intelligence reports he could find on the alt-right, the sometimes-violent fringe movement that embraces white nationalism and a range of racist positions. The state police couldn't offer much insight. Things were equally bleak at the federal level. Whatever the F.B.I. knew (which wasn't a lot, Stout suspected), they weren't sharing. The Department of Homeland Security, which produced regular intelligence and threat assessments for local law enforcement, had only scant material on white supremacists, all of it vague and ultimately not much help. Local politicians, including the governor, were also in the dark. This is like a Bermuda Triangle of intelligence, Stout thought, incredulous. He reached out to their state partners. "So you're telling us that there's nothing? No names we can plug into the automatic license-plate readers? No players with a propensity for violence? No one you have in the system? Nothing?''

One of those coming to Gainesville was William Fears, a 31-year-old from Houston. Fears, who online went by variations of the handle Antagonizer, was one of the most dedicated foot soldiers of the alt-right. Countless YouTube videos had captured his progress over the past year as he made his way from protest to protest across several states, flinging Nazi salutes, setting off smoke bombs and, from time to time, attacking people. Fears was also a felon. He had spent six years in prison for aggravated kidnapping in a case involving his ex-girlfriend, and now he had an active warrant for his arrest, after his new girlfriend accused him of assault less than two weeks earlier. On Oct. 18, the night before the event, Fears and a few others from Houston's white-nationalist scene got in Fears's silver Jeep Patriot for the 14-hour drive. Fears's friend Tyler TenBrink, who pleaded guilty to assault in 2014, posted video from their trip on his Facebook page. There were four men, two of them felons, and two nine-millimeter handguns. "Texans always carry," Fears said later.

Gainesville would be Spencer's first major public appearance since the violence of the Unite the Right rally two months before, and the city, a progressive enclave in the heart of deep-red north Florida, was on edge. Anticipating chaos, Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency -- prompting Spencer to tweet out an image of his head making its way across the Atlantic toward Florida: "Hurricane Spencer." A few days before the event, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement sent out a small, bound "threat book" of about 20 or so figures, most of them openly affiliated with Spencer or with anti-fascist groups, which Stout knew from his own research meant they weren't the people to worry about. Anonymous online chatter on sites like 4chan, meanwhile, described armed right-wing militants coming to Gainesville to test Florida's Stand Your Ground law. Stout envisioned 20 white supremacists with long guns. We're screwed, he thought.

By the morning of Oct. 19, a fortress of security, costing the University of Florida and police forces roughly half a million dollars, had been built around the western edge of the 2,000-acre campus and the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, where Spencer and his entourage arrived that afternoon. More than 1,100 state troopers and local cops stood on alert, with another 500 on standby. There were officers posted on rooftops. Police helicopters buzzed the skies. The Florida National Guard had been activated off-site, and a line of armored vehicles sat in reserve. Hundreds of journalists from around the United States and abroad were in attendance, anticipating another Charlottesville.

Some 2,500 protesters had descended on the small area cordoned off for the event, where they confronted a handful of white supremacists, most of them Spencer groupies like Fears and his friends. "Basically, I'm just fed up with the fact that I'm cisgendered, I'm a white male and I lean right, toward the Republican side, and I get demonized," Colton Fears, Will's 28-year-old brother, who was wearing an SS pin, told HuffPost. TenBrink, also 28, told The Washington Post that he had come to support Spencer because after Charlottesville, where he was seen and photographed, he had been threatened by the "radical left." He seemed agitated by the thousands of protesters. "This is a mess," he told The Gainesville Sun. "It appears that the only answer left is violence, and nobody wants that."

But Will Fears told reporters he came to Gainesville to intimidate the protesters. "It's always been socially acceptable to punch a Nazi, to attack people if they have right-wing political leanings," he said. "We're starting to push back." [...]

White supremacists and other far-right extremists have killed far more people since Sept. 11, 2001, than any other category of domestic extremist. The Anti-Defamation League's Center on Extremism has reported that 71 percent of the extremist-related fatalities in the United States between 2008 and 2017 were committed by members of the far right or white-supremacist movements. Islamic extremists were responsible for just 26 percent. Data compiled by the University of Maryland's Global Terrorism Database shows that the number of terror-related incidents has more than tripled in the United States since 2013, and the number of those killed has quadrupled. In 2017, there were 65 incidents totaling 95 deaths. In a recent analysis of the data by the news site Quartz, roughly 60 percent of those incidents were driven by racist, anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic, antigovernment or other right-wing ideologies. Left-wing ideologies, like radical environmentalism, were responsible for 11 attacks. Muslim extremists committed just seven attacks.

These statistics belie the strident rhetoric around "foreign-born" terrorists that the Trump administration has used to drive its anti-immigration agenda. They also raise questions about the United States' counterterrorism strategy, which for nearly two decades has been focused almost exclusively on American and foreign-born jihadists, overshadowing right-wing extremism as a legitimate national-security threat. According to a recent report by the nonpartisan Stimson Center, between 2002 and 2017, the United States spent $2.8 trillion -- 16 percent of the overall federal budget -- on counterterrorism. Terrorist attacks by Muslim extremists killed 100 people in the United States during that time. Between 2008 and 2017, domestic extremists killed 387 in the United States, according to the 2018 Anti-Defamation League report.

"We're actually seeing all the same phenomena of what was happening with groups like ISIS, same tactics, but no one talks about it because it's far-right extremism," says the national-security strategist P. W. Singer, a senior fellow at the New America think tank. During the first year of the Trump administration, Singer and several other analysts met with a group of senior administration officials about building a counterterrorism strategy that encompassed a wider range of threats. "They only wanted to talk about Muslim extremism," he says.

One of Bill Clinton's under-rated successes was crushing the militia movement.  It's time for another round.

Posted by orrinj at 4:23 AM


U.S. militia groups head to border, stirred by Trump's call to arms (Mary Lee Grant and Nick Miroff November 3, 2018, Washington Post)

Gun-carrying civilian groups and border vigilantes have heard a call to arms in President Trump's warnings about threats to American security posed by caravans of Central American migrants moving through Mexico. They're packing coolers and tents, oiling rifles and tuning up aerial drones, with plans to form caravans of their own and trail American troops to the border.

"We'll observe and report, and offer aid in any way we can," said Shannon McGauley, a bail bondsman in the Dallas suburbs who is president of the Texas Minutemen. McGauley said he was preparing to head for the Rio Grande in coming days.

Posted by orrinj at 4:21 AM


New Al Jazeera film uncovers 'rotting foundation' of U.S. Israel lobby: A new Al Jazeera documentary provides a sobering look at a lobby that continues to defend Israel's control of Palestinian lives, despite the many Americans turning against it. (Antony Loewenstein, 11/05/18, +972)

There's a moment near the end of the four-part, Al Jazeera documentary on the U.S. Israel lobby -- censored by its own network due to pressure from the U.S. government and incensed U.S.-based, pro-Israel lobbyists -- where the show's undercover reporter, "Tony," films a key Israel advocate in Washington. Eric Gallagher was a senior manager at The Israel Project and admits that the dominant pro-Israel lobby, AIPAC, faces an existential crisis.

"People at AIPAC know that something has changed," Gallagher says. "They know something is wrong. They are not as effective as they used to be." He worries that the day is coming soon when AIPAC wouldn't be able to deeply influence the Israel lobby crafted in the U.S. Congress, as it does today, and that the pro-Israel lobby will have to operate without AIPAC's power. "There's this big bowling ball that's being hurled towards them [AIPAC] and the response is to run faster," Gallagher continues. "They need to get on the bowling ball and start dancing."

Gallagher doesn't explain why so many Americans are turning against Israel in public opinion polls. The latest figures from The Economist and YouGov, an online data analytics firm, find that U.S. liberals, millennials, and women have turned against the Jewish state in large numbers. The 50-plus year occupation of Palestinians and their lands, constant killings of civilians in Gaza, and the Trump administration's obsessive embrace of Israel's hard-right are all factors.

Republicans and conservatives still back Israel in large numbers, as do many in the evangelical Christian community (though younger members are more skeptical). For the foreseeable future, however, Israel will likely receive unprecedented financial, military, and diplomatic support from the United States.

Tony films Gallagher in a Washington D.C. café explaining that "the foundation that AIPAC sat on is rotting. There used to be widespread public support for Israel in the United States...I don't think that AIPAC is the tip of the spear anymore, which is worrisome, because who is?"

It's a telling admission in a documentary that's full of them. 

The problem is that the Right loves Israel for the same reason other Americans have begun to criticize it: the divergence from American values in its oppression and attacks on Muslims. By appealing to those who love the state's illiberal exercise of power and driving away those who love Judaism, Israel is only adding to its demographic and theological existential crises.

Trump's veiled anti-Semitism comes home to roost in Pittsburgh: Trump is well aware of how white supremacists and others interpret his remarks. What makes it so sinister is that he keeps doing it anyway. (Edo Konrad, 11/04/18, +972)

[T]he president need not resort to Nazi anti-Semitism to inspire the bloodlust of Bowers and his ilk. After all, Jews do not categorically bother Trump. It is a particular kind of Jew -- cosmopolitan, progressive, anti-racist -- that Trump has adopted as a scapegoat for America's problems. His repeated attacks on George Soros, a Jewish billionaire who has historically funded liberal causes, is exemplary of the way right-wing leaders such as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hungarian President Viktor Orban are now deploying anti-Semitism: by using coded language to paint left-wing Jews as the source of a global conspiracy working to undermine everything their nationalist worldview represents.

Trump does not need to mention Soros' Jewish identity at all; the implication of mentioning Soros in the first place is totally clear. That's the beauty of dog-whistling -- the president doesn't have to talk about "the Jewish agenda" to make clear to his followers who or what he is referring to.

And while Trump may actually only be talking about Soros -- who holds significant political and economic power -- his most radical followers make no distinction between Soros as a person and Soros as codeword for "Jews." Robert Bowers may have despised HIAS and its support for refugees and immigrants, but his attack on a Jewish place of worship is proof that Trump's brand of veiled anti-Semitism is no less dangerous than the kind one finds on the front page of the Daily Stormer.

That is what precisely makes it so sinister: the president knows exactly what he is doing. He is well aware of what kind of violence his remarks can inspire and fuel, yet he continues to make them anyway.

In Pittsburgh, Naftali Bennett's Presence Highlights the Debate Between Netanyahu's Government and American Jews (Bernard Avishai, October 31, 2018, The New Yorker)

As Daniel Benjamin (my colleague at Dartmouth) noted in Time, earlier this week, a Pew "thermometer" poll last year found that Americans feel more warmly toward Jews than toward any other religious group--"one degree higher than Catholics, two higher than mainline Protestants, six higher than Evangelical Christians and 13 higher than Mormons." True, the Anti-Defamation League reported a fifty-seven-per-cent rise in anti-Semitic incidents last year. But for liberals, even Zionists with a liberal imagination, this could hardly be a surprise. Anti-Semitism "is bound to increase, because the causes of its growth continue to exist and cannot be removed," Theodor Herzl wrote in "The Jewish State," in 1896. The problem he pointed to was not Christian bigotry, which emancipation was slowly dispersing, but class conflict, which created workers, some of whom rise and some of whom fall. Jews, who tended to rise, naturally became the target of "mediocre intellects, who cannot find an outlet downwards or upwards," Herzl wrote. What would protect all minorities--in the case of the Jewish state, Arab Muslims--would be the same secular and liberal principles that one fights for in the West. That's why, ironically, Herzl's ideal Jewish state, which he laid out in his novel "The Old New Land," from 1902, looks much more like Squirrel Hill than like Bennett's airless settlements.

Indeed, much like Trump, Bennett has fomented bigotry in electoral campaigns and from a state position. He lobbied feverishly for the discriminatory nation-state law. (He suggested that Israeli courts throw the Israeli-Arab civil-rights group Adalah "down the stairs.") He has led the fight against asylum seekers in Israel, calling them "infiltrators" and purveyors of "threat" and "crime." He has consistently opposed civil marriage and, as education minister, tried to suppress a book about an Israeli Jew falling in love with a Muslim. He supports his government's cozying up to the Hungarian President, Viktor Orbán, who has normalized attacks on George Soros. Bennett condemns "shooting worshippers," but he is the chief advocate for the kind of settlement policy in and around Hebron that, in 1994, produced Baruch Goldstein's notorious massacre at the mosque of the Tomb of the Patriarchs.

American Jews reflexively express affection for, and fascination with, Israel as a historical achievement. But they do not require history lessons from rightist Israelis who debase liberalism, or from any Israeli who cannot see how the distinct achievement and the continual struggle of American Jews rival those of Zionists. "Go home," David Simon, the creator of "The Wire" and "The Deuce," tweeted when he heard that Bennett was on his way. "Netanyahu's interventions in US politics aided in the election of Donald Trump and his raw and relentless validation of white nationalism and fascism. The American Jewish community is now bleeding at the hands of the Israeli prime minister. And many of us know it."

Last June, in the hamlet of Wilmot, New Hampshire, where I live half the year, the caretaker of the local white-clapboard Congregationalist church, next to the public library, discovered graffiti: "No remorse for the dead kike on a pike." It wasn't clear whether "kike on a pike" threatened the local Jews--of whom there are but a few--or the crucified Jesus. But the offense was certainly taken to be anti-Semitic. Unsure of what to expect, the minister, the Reverend Sara Marean, called on local ministers and residents to show the Jewish community fellow-feeling. The following Sunday, three hundred people gathered on the church green. The speeches and the songs sounded like America. Arthur Rosen, a retired public-relations executive and the representative of the Upper Valley Jewish community, wondered aloud if the person who had written the graffiti was in the crowd, and invited him or her to forgo inflammatory Web sites and come to his home for a forgiving conversation. Nobody left the gathering feeling that the scribbler had "prevailed."

Posted by orrinj at 4:18 AM


'Trump has hijacked the election': House Republicans in panic mode (RACHAEL BADE, CARLA MARINUCCI and ELANA SCHOR 11/04/2018, Politico)

House Speaker Paul Ryan got President Donald Trump on the phone Sunday for one final plea on behalf of anxious Republicans: Please, please talk up the booming economy in the final hours before Election Day.

But Trump, unsurprisingly, had another issue on his mind. He boasted to Ryan that his focus on immigration has fired up the base, according to a source familiar with the call.

Two days out from an expected Democratic takeover of the House, Republicans focused on the chamber are profoundly worried that Trump's obsession with all things immigration will exacerbate their losses. Many of these same Republicans welcomed Trump's initial talk about the migrant caravan and border security two weeks ago, hoping it would gin up the GOP base in some at-risk, Republican-held districts.

The base may not be racist, but the Republican leadership obviously believes it is.*

[*] credit to Mr. Gillum

Posted by orrinj at 4:03 AM


Twin Pillars of a Free Society (David Shribman, 11/03/18, Uexpress)

Religion. The press. Twin pillars of a free society. Each an affirmation of personal liberty and an assertion of individual and institutional autonomy, the two were woven together from almost the very beginning of our republic and tied in a circle of sadness here this week.

For it has been true from the start of this country, and apparent to us as journalists from the start of this week of remorse and remembrance, that the freedom to worship and the freedom to think, write and publish are inextricably linked in a way none of us considered before, in a way our neighbors and fellow countrymen very likely never considered before.

But the relationship is intimate, and it is indispensable.

"Those focal points of personal and communal allegiance are vital platforms for speaking truth to power and for affirming the reality of truths not subject to state manipulation," said Lawrence H. Tribe, the Harvard Law professor regarded as one of the leading authorities on constitutional law. "That's why every tyrannical regime begins by crushing both the independent press and independent religious bodies -- and by replacing the truth as perceived and pronounced by honest journalists and incorruptible clergy with an official orthodoxy."

Moments after I discussed this notion with Tribe, I sat with a gaggle of rabbis, grim-faced mourners in the brightly lit environs of the Milky Way kosher restaurant on Murray Avenue in the heart of Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill. They were here for the funerals, some from great distance, and it struck them that the connection was not a nuance but a fundamental feature of our national character.

"They're related, for sure, and they are at the core of the founding of the United States," said Rabbi Barry Gelman of the United Orthodox Synagogue in Houston. "If either of them is endangered, we are tearing at the fabric of what America is."

His dining companion, Rabbi Adam Scheier of Congregation Shaar Hashomayim in Westmount, Quebec, Canada, chimed in:

"They're both efforts to try to make sense of the world -- the press with that which is obvious and confusing at the same time, and religion, which renders what we don't perceive but believe exists."

The First Amendment speaks of the responsibility of speaking truth to power, and of using the power of truth for the betterment of society. They are sacred responsibilities leading to sacred acts.

But there is a third element to the First Amendment, the right of the people to assemble peaceably.

That was expressed with eloquence as well in Pittsburgh this week, in vigils across the city.

Of all the poignant and potent messages, this one, expressed at one of those vigils by another man of the cloth, the Rev. Glenn Grayson, pastor of the Wesley Center AME Zion Church, seemed to speak to the moment with unusual power:

"A tragedy for Squirrel Hill is a tragedy for the Hill," he said of the historically black Hill District. "It's a tragedy for the whole city."

Second Amendment extremism is a quintessentially anti-republican effort to deny these core liberties.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


Nationalism Isn't a Bad Thing, But Trump's Version Is (Hal Brands, October 3, 2018, Bloomberg)

[T]he reason nationalism gets a bad name is that collisions between the sharpest types of nationalism -- those that take a Darwinian, survival-of-the-fittest approach to international affairs, that depict global politics as an unceasing clash in which one must dominate or be dominated, that exalt struggle as the ultimate test of a nation's worth, and that turn every international interaction into a zero-sum competition for glory and advantage -- have caused repeated geopolitical cataclysms.

This, in a nutshell, is the problem with Trump's America First nationalism. At a time when the international system is being tested by resurgent nationalism on the part of China, Russia and other powers, the Trump administration is undermining a system that has benefited the U.S. immeasurably by embracing a toxic nationalism of its own.

Trump built much of the momentum for his candidacy and presidency through foreign-policy pronouncements that have been openly hostile to the international system the U.S. built after 1945. Yet his speech at the UN was more subtly subversive. Some parts -- his paeans to the distinctive histories, cultures and traditions of different countries -- had a Kumbaya quality that might seem right at home in Turtle Bay. Until, that is, one realizes that by championing unrestrained nationalism in foreign policy, Trump is inviting a return of the brutal, destructive patterns that the UN and so much of today's international system were created to overcome.

The emergence of such hypernationalism was a critical driver of World War I -- at that point, the most violent conflict in history. Just 25 years later, the rise of predatory regimes motivated by some of the most unconstrained, aggressive nationalisms ever seen triggered an all-consuming conflagration.

This dynamic was hardly unique to the 20th century. As Charles Edel and I argue in our forthcoming book, "The Lessons of Tragedy," the clash of extreme nationalisms has been a recurring feature of geopolitics since the emergence of the modern nation-state system in the 17th century, and the result has often been to foster cycles of great-power war and all the accompanying devastation.

The determination to break this cycle was at the heart of the postwar system. Contrary to what the president argues, the U.S. never abandoned nationalism -- it never pursued a foreign policy that was intended to do anything other than promote a secure, peaceful and prosperous world in which America itself could flourish. But U.S. officials of the 1940s and after understood that the most vicious aspects of nationalism had to be tamed if the international system was not to be pulled back into violent, chaotic darkness. The great innovations of postwar foreign policy were thus expressly designed to cage and control nationalism.

America's promotion of an open global economy was meant to avert the protectionist, beggar-thy-neighbor policies that had set countries against each other in the 1930s, frustrating cooperation and hastening the spiral into depression and bloodshed.

The Right is so hostile to trade because capitalism is inherently transnational.

Posted by orrinj at 3:58 AM


When Faith in Your Fellow Human Is Ebbing, Look to Baseball (Gene Lyons, 10/31/18, Uexpress)

Watching the familiar ritual of the winners hugging, high-fiving and carrying little children around the Dodger stadium infield after winning Game 5 felt like a throwback to a better time.

In the wake of the atrocity in Pittsburgh, I felt exactly like The Washington Post's Alyssa Rosenberg: "For a few hours Sunday night ... the final game of the World Series felt like America as it could be .... When our most basic rules are regularly trampled, even a tiny, temporary restoration of the moral order provides some warmth against the encroaching cold."

Of course, every MLB club's team picture these days looks like the United Nations: black and white, Dominican, Mexican and Venezuelan, and in Boston's case, Taiwanese and Aruban as well. But the Red Sox were also among the happiest teams I've ever seen. If there were any malcontents on the bench or in the bullpen -- as there nearly always are among highly competitive professional athletes -- they were impossible to identify.

Under the leadership of rookie manager Alex Cora, the Red Sox came to embody much of what's best about America: a passion for excellence, a personal and communal determination to succeed, and an unwillingness to be divided.

According to The Boston Globe's terrific baseball writer Alex Speier, the team's "remarkable cohesion" owes itself largely to Cora. Red Sox players unanimously praise his (bilingual) communication skills and his regard for them as individuals with lives off the baseball diamond. The new Red Sox manager didn't ask for a signing bonus before coming over from the Houston Astros; he asked for a planeload of hurricane relief supplies for his hometown of Caguas, Puerto Rico.

It's no exaggeration to say that the Red Sox and Houston Astros organizations provided more effective Hurricane Maria relief than the White House. Less bureaucracy, superior leadership.

Posted by orrinj at 3:51 AM


Alfred Hitchcock's "The 39 Steps": A Coded Message? (K. V. Turley, 11/02/18, Imaginative Conservative)

In October 1932, Sir Oswald Mosley founded the British Union of Fascists (BUF). By 1934, BUF's membership had risen to 50,000. Rallies were impressive affairs. From its neo-Gothic fortress, Black Shirt House, on the King's Road in Chelsea, London, Black Shirted followers would travel to the arenas at nearby Earl's Court or Olympia where Mosley's oratory would electrify. The enemy, he pronounced, was clear for all to see: the Jews, the Reds, the whole corrupt capitalist system and its front: liberal democracy. For many, it seemed, at last, Great Britain's very own 'Strong Man' had emerged. The Hour of the Fascist had finally come. It seemed as if power was within the Black Shirts' grasp. The roars of appreciation from within and outside the arenas could be heard all over London, and indeed beyond. The national newspaper, The Daily Mail, ran an editorial entitled: 'Hurrah for the Black Shirts!' Gazing out over London from the top of Black Shirt House, Mosley must have wondered not 'If' but 'When'.

In the same city, to the north of fashionable Chelsea, was another London, Shepherds Bush. In its backstreets there existed an industrial facility: Lime Grove Studios. Built in 1915, its artisans did not make cars or armaments but films. And it was there that, in 1934, a young Alfred Hitchcock started to work on John Buchan's 1915 novel, The Thirty-Nine Steps. The plot of the novel had been changed, but its essentials were retained if stripped of the Edwardian paranoia around Empire loss. Now the story was brought up to date, and spoke instead of fears around national survival. As the thunderous applause still echoed across London from Earls Court for the Black Shirted Color Party as it carried forth into the night the Fascist flag of the BUF, just a few miles to the north, the cameras began to roll upon a thriller that spoke of fascism, of foreign agents and their fellow travellers.

The 39 Steps is one of five films that Hitchcock made in England about espionage in the mid-to-late 1930s. These films capture the growing threat felt in Britain from foreign powers. In their scenarios the nation's security was nowhere more threatened than by spies hiding in plain sight. In The 39 Steps this premise is never more clearly on display, startlingly so. [...]

Importantly, as film production commenced, the shooting script was altered. The 39 Steps 'secret' was no longer what it had been in the source material. As Hitchcock cries 'Action!' and Richard Hannay, played by Robert Donat, is pursued across the Highlands and eventually back to London, let us return to Broadstairs where truth is stranger than fiction.

On Broadstairs' North Foreland Estate there stands a 20-room mansion, called Naldera. The inspirational '39'--there were in fact 78--steps to the sea are there. For many years it had been the home of the wealthy politician, Lord Curzon. A frequent visitor to the house was his son-in-law, Sir Oswald Mosley. Mosley had married Curzon's daughter, Cynthia, in 1920.

By 1934, however, there was someone else living at Naldera. There was a man who, like the foreign agents in The 39 Steps, had impeccable manners and an immaculate English accent, and even, on occasion, was known to wear a monocle. His name was Dr. Arthur Tester. He claimed to be English. He was in fact a Nazi spy.

November 4, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 8:07 PM


'No Blame'? ABC News finds 17 cases invoking 'Trump' in connection with violence, threats or alleged assaults (MIKE LEVINE Nov 4, 2018, ABC News)

[A] nationwide review conducted by ABC News has identified at least 17 criminal cases where Trump's name was invoked in direct connection with violent acts, threats of violence, or allegations of assault.

Nearly all -- 16 of 17 -- cases identified by ABC News are striking in that court documents and direct evidence reflect someone echoing presidential rhetoric, not protesting it. ABC News was unable to find any such case echoing presidential rhetoric when Barack Obama or George W. Bush were in the White House.

The perpetrators and suspects identified in the 17 cases are mostly white men, as young as teenagers and as old as 68, while the victims represent an array of minority groups -- African-Americans, Latinos, Muslims and gay men.

Federal law enforcement authorities have privately told ABC News they worry that -- even with Trump's public denunciations of violence -- Trump's style could inspire violence-prone individuals to take action against minorities or others they perceive to be against the president's agenda.

Posted by orrinj at 8:02 PM

NIKKI 2020:

Exclusive poll: Trump's 2020 woman problem (Kim Hart, Alexi McCammond, 11/04/18, Axios)

President Trump would lose the 2020 election against every woman mentioned as a possible Democratic opponent, according to an Axios poll by SurveyMonkey, aired first on HBO Sunday night. [...]

Even though they're unlikely to run, both Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey would crush Trump if the election were held today, according to the poll conducted by SurveyMonkey.

And both women lead by double digits in favorability. Trump's favorability is just 40% among registered voters, per the poll, compared to 62% for Obama and 55% for Winfrey.

More probable but lesser-known candidates -- Democratic Sens. Kamala Harris (Calif.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.) -- would all beat Trump, too.  [...]

The two women who barely edge out Trump are Hillary Clinton and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who is in a virtual tie with the president. 

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. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:47 PM


The Luck of the Democrats (Ross Douthat, Nov. 3, 2018, NY Times)

[W]hile they were obviously unlucky in their disastrous 2016 defeat, in most respects liberalism and the Democratic Party have been very lucky since. So their optimism isn't just a gritted-teeth pose; it's an appropriate reaction to a landscape that's more favorable than it easily might have been.

To understand this good fortune, consider two counterfactuals. In the first, the last 21 months proceeded in exactly the same fashion -- with the strongest economy since the 1990s, full employment almost nigh, ISIS defeated, no new overseas wars or major terrorist attacks -- except that Donald Trump let his staffers dictate his Twitter feed, avoided the press except to tout good economic news, eschewed cruelties and insults and weird behavior around Vladimir Putin, and found a way to make his White House a no-drama zone.

In this scenario it's hard to imagine that Trump's approval ratings wouldn't have floated up into the high 40s; they float up into the mid-40s as it is whenever he manages to shut up. Even with their threadbare and unpopular policy agenda, Republicans would be favored to keep the House and maintain their state-legislature advantages. All the structural impediments to a Democratic recovery would loom much larger, Trump's re-election would be more likely than not, and his opposition would be stuck waiting for a recession to have any chance of coming back.

Then consider a second counterfactual. Imagine that instead of just containing himself and behaving like a generic Republican, Trump had actually followed through on the populism that he promised in 2016, dragging his party toward the economic center and ditching the G.O.P.'s most unpopular ideas. Imagine that he followed through on Steve Bannon's boasts about a big infrastructure bill instead of trying for Obamacare repeal; imagine that he listened to Marco Rubio and his daughter and tilted his tax cut more toward middle-class families; imagine that he spent more time bullying Silicon Valley into inshoring factory jobs than whining about Fake News; imagine that he made lower Medicare drug prices a signature issue rather than a last-minute pre-election gambit.

This strategy could have easily cut the knees out from under the Democrats' strongest appeal, their more middle-class-friendly economic agenda, and highlighted their biggest liability, which is the way the party's base is pulling liberalism way left of the middle on issues of race and culture and identity. It would have given Trump a chance to expand his support among minorities while holding working-class whites, and to claim the kind of decisive power that many nationalist leaders around the world enjoy. It would have threatened liberalism not just with more years out of power, but outright irrelevance under long-term right-of-center rule.

But instead all the Trumpy things that keep the commentariat in a lather and liberals in despair -- the Twitter authoritarianism and white-identity appeals, the chaos and lying and Hannity-and-friends paranoid style -- have also kept the Democrats completely in the game.

Posted by orrinj at 5:40 PM


Kamala Harris's Big Policy Idea Is Even Worse Than I Thought (JORDAN WEISSMANN, NOV 04, 2018, Slate)

This bill would put a lot of money into the hands of working families, and lift millions out of poverty. So what's wrong with it? Last month, I noted three issues: First, it's extremely similar to a program that already exists--the Earned Income Tax Credit--and it's not clear why you'd want to add even more complexity to our hard-to-navigate welfare state by creating a totally new benefit rather than modernize and expand the one that already exists. Second, because only workers (and some college students) receive the bill's benefits, it offers nothing to the absolute poorest Americans--those who don't have jobs. At the same time, it give zilch to families who make more than $100,000. And whether or not you think those households--which make up about 29 percent of the country--need any help, that fact alone will probably undercut its political support.

Which is a problem, since a program this expensive would be an enormous political lift. Harris's office did not score the bill before circulating it (which seemed like a bit of a gamble). But since then, the University of Pennsylvania's Penn Wharton Budget Model has concluded it would cost $3.1 trillion over a decade. The conservative Tax Foundation estimates it would be slightly cheaper: $2.8 trillion. Either way, you're talking about a big, fat chunk of federal change. If one were to total up all of the money that Washington is expected to spend on Obamacare's private insurance subsidies, the Children's Health Insurance Program, and the Social Security Disability Insurance program over the next ten years, that only gets you to $2.7 trillion.

As a couple of anti-poverty experts pointed out to me, the LIFT Act also contains a fairly serious design flaw. As it's currently written, the bill creates a serious financial penalty for getting married.

Posted by orrinj at 5:29 PM


Posted by orrinj at 8:37 AM


Customers Buy Out Doughnut Shop Early Every Day So Owner Can Be With Sick Wife (CBSLA, 11/02/18)

Donut City owner John Chhan just wants more time with his ailing wife, so his customers are helping out, a dozen doughnuts at a time.

Chhan and his wife, Stella, have owned Donut City in Seal Beach for three decades. The couple came to Orange County as refugees from Cambodia in 1979. Since then, they've worked side by side every morning to serve doughnuts at their Pacific Coast Highway shop - until recently.

Customers who missed Stella Chhan's presence behind the counter were shocked to discover she had suffered an aneurysm. She's alive, but is weak and in rehab, and John Chhan rushes home every day to be with her as soon as the shop sells out of doughnuts.

Chhan declined customers' offer to set up a GoFundMe account for the couple, saying he simply wants more time with his wife. Instead, customers have endeavored to help Donut City sell out early every day so he can return to the rehabilitation center where she is recovering.

Posted by orrinj at 6:27 AM


Anti-Liberal Zealotry Part I: Our Immoderation (Peter Berkowitz, September 14, 2018, Real Clear Policy)

Our politics increasingly encourages citizens -- members of the intellectual and political elite particularly -- to take to an extreme the perennial human propensity to take one's opinions to an extreme. This imperils liberal democracy in America.

More than most forms of government, American liberal democracy is a hybrid, multi-dimensional regime. Grounded above all in the conviction that human beings are by nature free and equal, the American constitutional order embodies a mix of principles. It draws upon and shelters a variety of traditions. And it calls upon citizens to tolerate a diversity of beliefs and practices, including beliefs with which they may intensely disagree and practices of which they may strongly disapprove.

To accommodate these manifold tendencies, the Constitution establishes complex institutional arrangements that summon the political moderation -- that is, the ability to combine and reconcile competing claims about sound policy and justice -- on which the American experiment in self-government depends. 

Resisting the Constitution's incentives to combine and reconcile, leading figures on the left and right seem bent on heightening tensions and magnifying divisions. Donald Trump's ascent to the White House exacerbated both camps' growing determination, in evidence well before Trump upended the 2016 presidential campaign, to insist that the apocalypse is just around the corner. Powerful conservative voices argued that a Hillary Clinton victory would irreversibly entrench a ubiquitous progressivism that ruthlessly uses government to redistribute wealth, regulate the economy, and restrict worship and speech. Since the election, many prominent progressive voices, joined by a few vehement conservatives (and ex-conservatives), have accused Trump of wrecking democracy in America by debasing political discourse, trampling on norms, corrupting political institutions, empowering working-class bigots and white supremacists, and undermining the rule of law.

The reality is that our politics is so partisan precisely because there are so few differences over policy at the End of History.  And this has, ironically, made compromise more difficult, because while the two sides advocate identical policies, they desperately want to deny the other side credit for achieving them.  This generates the strange phenomenon where Bill Clinton vetoes his own Welfare to Work program so Newt Gingrich doesn't get sole credit for it, where Democratic Senators (including Barrack Obama) defeat immigration reform so that W doesn't get credit for it and where Republicans fight hammer and tongs to deny the value of their own Heritage Plan for healthcare--though, revealingly, they never use their power to do anything about it.

This is why it would be so useful to organize an Obama/Bush Roadshow and have the two ex-presidents tour the country and expound upon our commonalities and discuss the sorts of overlap between the two parties on extant issues, so we could see the shape of possible compromises.  

For instance, on immigration, we could easily forge a coalition around the twinned policies of Closed Borders and Open Immigration.  What bothers even non-racists about our current situation is the aesthetics--that by allowing so much illegal immigration we essentially have no policy and no control over our own borders.  Americans don't want less immigration--nor much more--we just want an orderly process that is fair to all seeking to come here. 

A bill that set aside money to "Build the Wall" and that adopted an Ellis Island model for processing newcomers would restore that sense of orderliness.  

The recording and issuance of official identification would pull millions out of the shadow economy and help them find work, help businesses hire honestly, help law enforcement find wrongdoers, etc.   

We would get the more diverse immigrant population that many on the Right desire because people would not have to rely on sneaking over the border to get in.  Just as prior generations knew that they would be welcomed once they got here by boat, folks could fly in to anywhere and know they had not wasted their life's savings.  

Just as importantly, a more open and legalized system would allow people to return home to their nation of origin if they fail to adapt or simply choose to live elsewhere.  In the past, this was a great boon to both them and their homelands. Anyone who has ever worked with many immigrants will be familiar with the desire of some to take their experience and new wealth and return home to open their own business. A healthy policy would make that easier to do.

Given the increasing demand for labor and raw population, one can easily see a future where businesses and states would have recruiting operations at points of entry to try and lure immigrants.  This would entail offering benefits that would only speed their adaptation to and assimilation into American society. (Even illegals are currently assimilating faster than any prior cohorts, thanks to mass media.)

Of course, the fact remains that some portion of the Right--the hardcore ethno-nationalists--and of the Left--the anti-religious, environmental extremists and paleo-organized labor types--would not be satisfied with such a compromise, because they genuinely oppose immigrants.  But even that opposition would serve American purposes because it would expose their marginality.

Meanwhile, America would have moved beyond one big divisive issue.

Posted by orrinj at 6:12 AM


Roy Hargrove 1969 - 2018: A heart attack claims one of jazz's leading trumpeters at 49 (Michael J. West, 11/03/18, Jazz Times)

Roy Anthony Hargrove was born on Oct. 16, 1969 in Waco, Texas, and grew up in Dallas, where he began playing trumpet at age nine and attended the city's famous Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing Arts. During his junior year, Wynton Marsalis visited the school on an educational tour and heard young Hargrove play, encouraging him to pursue a career in jazz. Hargrove took his advice, enrolling at Berklee College of Music in 1988.

Hargrove stayed at Berklee only a year, during which he spent more time commuting to New York and attending jam sessions than he did attending class (a fact that, amusingly, he enjoyed sharing with his students after he became a teacher at Berklee). The following year he transferred to Manhattan School of Music, becoming a permanent fixture on the New York scene; that same year, 1989, he recorded his first album (Diamond in the Rough), which began a long association with alto saxophonist Antonio Hart. Other regular collaborators included bassist Christian McBride, pianists Stephen Scott and Marc Cary, and saxophonist Ron Blake. He won two Grammy Awards in 1997 and 2002.

Along with Hart, McBride, and tenor saxophonist Joshua Redman, Hargrove became the face of a new generation of "Young Lions" for jazz in the 1990s. Like those musicians, Hargrove at first made music that was steeped in the swinging hard bop tradition, but gradually began branching out into the funk, soul, and hip-hop with which he grew up. In 2000, he was featured on the seminal album Voodoo by R&B singer D'Angelo; a few years later he formed the neo-fusion project RH Factor, featuring D'Angelo as well as rappers Common and Q-Tip and his former Dallas schoolmate, singer Erykah Badu. "I had to go all the way in there," he explained about starting the band.

Hargrove never abandoned the hard bop matrix with which he'd broken through, however; he led a stable longtime quintet with saxophonist Justin Robinson, pianist Sullivan Fortner, bassist Ameen Saleem, and drummer Quincy Phillips to continue that pursuit. His soulful 2006 hard bop composition "Strasbourg-St. Denis" became both his theme song and a latter-day jazz standard. In these contexts, Hargrove also moonlighted as a singer, drawing on the deep well of Great American Songbook lyrics he'd learned over the years and proving a competent scatter.

Posted by orrinj at 6:01 AM


Drama builds around Stone in Mueller probe (MORGAN CHALFANT, 11/03/18, The Hill)

Robert Mueller continues to zero in on Roger Stone as speculation builds that the special counsel could take a major overt step in his Russia investigation following the midterm elections next week.

Stone, a longtime adviser to President Trump who briefly worked on his campaign, is viewed as central to the question of what, if anything, members of the Trump campaign knew in advance about Democratic emails hacked by Russian operatives and then released by WikiLeaks.

Legal analysts say Mueller is likely interested in determining whether the campaign helped coordinate the document dump, and views Stone as key to making that judgment.

Stone, who both publicly and privately referenced contacts with WikiLeaks during the campaign, has drawn the interest of Mueller in recent weeks and months.

Get Me Roger Stone Profiles the Man Who Created President Trump (SOPHIE GILBERT, MAY 11, 2017, The Atlantic)

Stone, at the age of 19, was the youngest person to testify to the Watergate grand jury, as an employee of the Committee to Re-elect the President. He was, he says, behind the Brooks Brothers riot during the 2000 election. And, in perhaps the most influential act of his career, he persuaded Donald Trump to get into politics. "[Stone] always likes to take on somebody that at least has a good chance of winning," the president says in an on-camera interview, showcasing his characteristic flair for self-aggrandizing compliments.

But the film, which follows Stone through his fluctuating role on the Trump campaign, is also an incisive portrait of how Stone's brand of dirty tricks--in which the only motivating factor in politics is to win--came to dominate the current state of disarray. Stone, as he's wont to do, cheerfully takes credit for all manner of shifts in the last four decades of U.S. elections, from the birth of PACs and superPACs to the rising influence of lobbyists to the dominance of anger and fear in the media. You may find yourself wondering, as the Fox host Tucker Carlson does at one point, whether all of these developments can actually be traced back to Stone, or whether he's just the most dastardly self-promoter in history. But Get Me Roger Stone is a thorough and entertaining primer into how American politics got so ugly, not to mention a crucial window into the mentality of the unorthodox 45th president.

Now in his 60s, sporting bow-ties, suspenders, and an overbearing air of insouciance, Stone resembles no one so much as a senior Pee-wee Herman. He stokes the caricature of the mustache-twirling plutocrat, being interviewed in an opulent dining room next to a three-olive martini, where he expounds on "Stone's Rules," one-sentence aphorisms like, "It's better to be infamous than never to be famous at all," and "One man's dirty trick is another man's civil political action." Extremely charismatic and unabashedly outspoken, he's a documentarian's dream. And this before the film even gets to unpacking Stone's involvement in the rise of Trump, or his embrace of the alt-right.

The Stone mystique is carefully curated. Stone recalls early on how, at a mock election at his elementary school, he took a liking to John F. Kennedy because he had "better hair" than Nixon, and he persuaded his classmates to vote for JFK by assuring them Nixon planned to introduce school on Saturdays. "For the first time ever, I understood the value of misinformation," Stone says, with a glint in his eye. [...]

This indomitable spirit pushed Stone toward his lobbying years with the firm Black, Manafort, and Stone (yes, that Manafort, and he's also interviewed in the film), which became known as "the torturer's lobby" for its list of highly unsavory clients. Stone, Toobin explains, "sees morality as a synonym for weakness." Then, in 1988, the lawyer Roy Cohn introduced Stone to Trump, and Stone was immediately taken with the brash businessman's potential. Again, the two seemed like twin souls, with their penchant for attention and their dyed blonde combovers. "I was like a jockey looking for a horse," Stone recalls. "And [Trump's] a prime piece of political horse flesh in my view."

The key to Stone's success, Paul Manafort explains, is that he sees things that others don't. Where other, more ethically minded strategists might choose optimism when it comes to the will of the American people, Stone's dogged lack of morality gives him a keen instinct for tactics that might reverberate across swing states. Hence his stoking of the flames of the birther movement, which echoed Nixon's "southern strategy." And his recent alignment with InfoWars' Alex Jones, seen hollering in one clip about "chemicals in the water that turn the frigging frogs gay." The "Lock Her Up" chant is Roger Stone. So were the guests Trump brought to a presidential debate to claim the Clintons were victimizers of women, at least one of whom was paid to appear by Stone's superPAC.

Posted by orrinj at 5:57 AM


Trump stumps in cities that don't look that much like US (JOSH BOAK, 11/03/18, AP) 

President Donald Trump is in the final stretch of a 44-city blitz for the midterm elections, but the America he's glimpsed from the airport arrivals and his armored limousine is hardly a reflection of the nation as a whole.

The president has mostly traveled to counties that are whiter, less educated and have lower incomes than the rest of the United States, according to Census Bureau data. It's a sign that he is seeking to galvanize the same group of voters that helped carry him to victory in 2016.

Posted by orrinj at 4:50 AM


'Jim Crow's Last Stand' In Louisiana May Fall To Ballot Measure (Debbie Elliot, 11/04/18, NPR Morning Edition)

The split-jury system is a vestige of Louisiana's 1898 constitution, adopted in the period after the Civil War when slavery was abolished.

Henderson says when former Confederates regained power after Reconstruction, they created a system to more easily ensnare free black people.

"They realized the only way we're going to disenfranchise all these African-Americans and be able to get this free labor, you know, we have to devise a way," Henderson says. "And this is what they concocted."

At the time, the state would lease convict labor to private landowners.

Historians and legal scholars say the intent was clear.

"That constitutional convention is really interesting," says Andrea Armstrong, a law professor at Loyola University in New Orleans.

"It put into place a number of measures in order to -- this is a quote from the convention itself -- 'to maintain the supremacy of the white race.'"

Armstrong says the legacy of the non-unanimous jury is evident today in racial disparities in the criminal justice system of Louisiana, which has the second highest incarceration rate in the country.

Posted by orrinj at 4:34 AM


GOP Candidate: No Peace In Israel Until Jews Convert To Christianity (Aiden Pink, 11/02/18, The Forward)

Mark Harris, who served as a Baptist pastor in Charlotte until resigning last year to run for office, recounted in 2011 his visit to the Holy Land.

"You cannot be in that land, as powerful and as moving as it is, without realizing the incredible tension that is constantly in that land between the Palestinians and the Jews," Harris said. "There will never be peace in Jerusalem until the day comes that every knee shall bow, every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord."

Harris went on to say that no Jewish or Muslim resident of Jerusalem would find peace unless they accepted Jesus Christ. [....]

A Harris campaign spokesperson did not return CNN's request for comment. The polling website FiveThirtyEight calls the race between Harris and Democrat Dan McCready in North Carolina's 9th district a "toss-up."

Posted by orrinj at 4:32 AM


The Myth of a 'Tight Labor Market' (Andrew L. Yarrow, August 31, 2018, RCB)

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which sorely needs some new terminology to describe the state of the U.S. workforce, counts only those who have looked for a job within the last four weeks as unemployed. Less noticed are its counts of how many Americans are "participating" in the labor force by working or being "unemployed" as a proportion of the entire "working age" population. Unfortunately, BLS seems stuck in a long-ago world where "prime working age" is still defined as between 25 and 54 years old.

The reality is that millions of us older than 54 work or seek jobs, and a fair number of Americans under 25 also work. If one expands the "prime working age" to age 64, about 18  percent of prime working age men are not in the labor force.

There are further problems with this number: 64 doesn't even bring us up to full Social Security retirement age (and many work longer); it fails to include the nation's two million incarcerated men, the at least 10-15 million men who work part-time or in the gig economy -- often not by choice -- and men like a once high-earning 60-year-old New Yorker who said: "I retired after failing to find a suitable opportunity." Also uncounted are the several million males between 16 and 24 called "NEETS" (not in education, employment, or training).

Cutting these numbers another way, millennial men's labor force participation rate is about 15 percentage points lower than that of 45-to-54-year-old men. Many, if not most of America's 17-20 million male ex-felons don't work. Despite the political focus on the Trumpian white working class, Millennials, those who have done time, and men higher up the socioeconomic ladder are also among what I call "men out."

We're left with the reality that the percentage of men not employed today is about three times what it was during the Truman and Eisenhower eras: well over 20 million men. Not the four million officially deemed to be unemployed.

The other myth is that labor force participation is too low, when the fact is that it remains at unsustainably high levels historically.  The heights were reached by simply adding women and minorities to the force without removing any white men for perfectly good political reasons. But economic forces always trump political and now white men have to compete for those jobs, so the rate is returning to historical norms and technology stands to drive the rate far lower.

Posted by orrinj at 4:30 AM


Ready for a fight: Voter enthusiasm surges among U.S. Hispanics (Chris Kahn, Daniel Trotta, 11/04/18, Reuters) 

Hispanics are more interested in voting this year than in the last U.S. congressional midterm elections in 2014 and their enthusiasm outpaces that of all U.S. adults, according to a Reuters/Ipsos national tracking poll released on Sunday.

Volunteer Bea Nevarez stands for a portrait during door-to-door canvassing in Tucson, Arizona, U.S., October 31, 2018. Picture taken October 31, 2018. REUTERS/Caitlin O'Hara
The poll also found likely Hispanic voters nearly twice as inclined to support Democrats for the House of Representatives as Republicans in Tuesday's elections.

Voter registration groups are using Republican President Donald Trump's nationalist, anti-immigrant rhetoric as an opportunity to drive up Latino enthusiasm. In an illustration of their passion, one group that is part of an alliance that has reached out to more than 1 million potential voters in Arizona took its name from the Spanish word for "fight."

Posted by orrinj at 4:20 AM


Iraq Blasts U.S. For Statements On Iranian-Backed Militias (Radio Liberty, November 04, 2018)

The Iraqi Foreign Ministry has issued a rare rebuke of its American ally, asserting that a U.S. Twitter posting concerning neighboring Iran "goes beyond diplomatic norms" and represents an "interference" in Iraq's internal affairs.

In a Twitter posting on October 30, still on its account, the U.S. State Department told Iran it must "permit the disarming, demobilization, and reintegration of Shi'a militias" operating in Iraq.

In a statement issued on November 3, the ministry called on the U.S. to delete the comments and "to avoid their recurrence in the future and to observe the rules of international law." [...]

Iranian-backed Shi'ite militias operating in Iraq took part in the U.S.-led campaign to drive the Islamic State (IS) militant group from Iraqi territory.

Iraq has since formally integrated many of the militias into its security forces, but the United States has demanded that militias be disarmed and disbanded.

The Foreign Ministry said it "would like to point out that...the statement [concerning the militias] goes beyond diplomatic norms and mutual respect for the sovereignty of states as a well-established principle of international law."

Posted by orrinj at 4:12 AM


Bahrain opposition leaders get life term over Qatar spying case (Al Jazeera, 11/04/18)

The Sunni-ruled Gulf state has been hit by waves of unrest since 2011 when security forces crushed Shia-led protests demanding a constitutional monarchy and an elected prime minister.

Opposition movements have been outlawed and hundreds of dissidents have been imprisoned - with many stripped of their nationality.

Bahrain last year ratified a constitutional amendment granting military courts the authority to try civilians charged with "terrorism", a term that is loosely defined by the Bahraini penal code.

In June, the kingdom amended its law on political rights, prohibiting "leaders and members of political associations dissolved for violating the kingdom's constitution or its laws" from running in legislative elections.

Bahrain, a key ally of the United States and home to the US Fifth Fleet, accuses Shia Iran of provoking unrest in the kingdom. Iran denies the allegations.

The United Nations and rights groups including Amnesty and HRW have criticised the Bahraini monarchy over its treatment of protesters.

A democratic Bahrain will have a Shi'a popular government.

Posted by orrinj at 4:05 AM

THE lEFT IS THE rIGHT (profanity alert):

As Brooklyn Hate Crime Suspect is Arrested, Time for the Left to Rethink Its Attitude to Anti-Semitism (Liel Leibovitz, November 3, 2018, The Tablet)

Earlier today, the New York Police Department arrested the man suspected of vandalizing the Union Temple in Brooklyn by scrawling "Hitler" and "Die Jewish rats" on its wall. The man, James Polite, is also being investigated for allegedly attempting to set several Jewish institutions throughout the city on fire.

Polite, 26, is not a white supremacist. He is African-American, was raised in part by Jewish foster parents, and was sent to Brandeis University with the help of a charity run by The New York Times. He was a Democratic party activist, a protégée of former City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, and a one-time City Hall intern who, according to the Times, worked on "initiatives to combat hate crime, sexual assault and domestic violence."

But Polite's journey through so many of contemporary liberalism's most vaunted paths--academia, politics, activism--and the kindness shown him by Jews were apparently not enough to prevent him from contracting the mind-numbing virus of anti-Semitism. [...]

Coming, as it does, on the heels of the deadly attack in Pittsburgh, Polite's case merits a moment of consideration. After the shooting in the Tree of Life synagogue left 11 dead, some pundits pointed out that President Trump bore some measure of responsibility for the attack, if only for fomenting the sort of chaotic atmosphere that empowered and invigorated the alt-right.

It's a serious accusation, and one well-worth considering carefully and at length (Benjamin Kerstein does an excellent job promoting this very argument here). But in Polite we have an equally terrifying counter-argument, one that suggests that in today's America, no one side has a monopoly on hate and chaos. When the Democratic Party's leaders, including a former president and a former attorney general, stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Louis Farrakhan on the stage at Aretha Franklin's funeral, is it any wonder that some are prone to listen when Farrakhan refers to Jews as termites? And listen they do: Earlier this week, a rabbi, Avram Mlotek, was harassed on the subway in Manhattan by a Farrakhan supporter who blamed the Jews for all the violence directed against them everywhere in the world.

And now, we've Polite. If the left is honest, it will spend the coming days and weeks asking how someone educated at a fine liberal university, on a scholarship from a fine liberal newspaper, could graduate from a job with a fine liberal politician--helping curb hate crimes, no less--to trying to intimidate and incinerate Jews. 

They're the same side.

Labour Party branch 'voted down motion condemning Pittsburgh synagogue attack' (Benjamin Kentish, 11/03/18, Independent)

A local Labour Party branch has refused to pass a motion condemning the antisemitic attack on a synagogue in Pittsburgh that left 11 people dead, according to a party activist.

Steve Cooke, the secretary of Norton West branch in the Stockton North constituency, said he was "aghast" that the motion was voted down after members claimed there was too much focus on "antisemitism this, antisemitism that".

Posted by orrinj at 4:03 AM


Myanmar by-election results 'a lesson' for Suu Kyi's party (Thu Thu Aung, Simon Lewis, 11/04/18, Reuters) 

Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) expects to have won only seven of 13 seats up for grabs in by-elections, a spokesman said on Sunday, conceding that Myanmar's ruling party needed to do more for voters from ethnic minorities.

November 3, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 6:40 PM


Tallahassee Yoga Shooter Was A Far-Right Misogynist Who Railed Against Women And Minorities Online (David Mack, Amber Jamieson & Julia Reinstein, 11/03/18, BuzzFeed News)

The man who shot dead two women at a yoga studio in Tallahassee, Florida, on Friday before killing himself was a far-right extremist and self-proclaimed misogynist who railed against women, black people, and immigrants in a series of online videos and songs.

Scott Beierle, 40, was named by Tallahassee Police as the shooter who opened fire inside the Hot Yoga Tallahassee studio, killing two and injuring four other women and a man.

Those killed were named as Dr. Nancy Van Vessem, 61, who worked at Florida State University's College of Medicine, and FSU student Maura Binkley, 21.

Posted by orrinj at 12:39 PM


Afghan Shi'ite militia battles Taliban, raising sectarian fears (Ismail Sameem, 11/03/18, Reuters) 

A week of fighting between Taliban militants and fighters loyal to a commander from the mainly Shi'ite Hazara minority has heightened fears of a dangerous new phase of sectarian violence in Afghanistan.

The clashes in the central province of Uruzgan, which have killed at least 21 people, have highlighted concerns that Hazaras, members of a mainly Shi'ite Persian-speaking minority targeted by Islamic State attacks over recent years, may take up arms in frustration at a lack of action by the government.

Posted by orrinj at 3:59 AM


The Ravenmaster by Christopher Skaife review - my life at the Tower of London (PD Smith,  3 Nov 2018, The Guardian)

Christopher Skaife has what he describes as "the oddest job in Britain". His official title is Yeoman Warder of Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress the Tower of London. He is one of the former soldiers who are selected to be the ceremonial guardians of the Tower of London and custodians of its ancient rituals. As if that isn't Gormenghastian enough, Skaife is also the Tower's ravenmaster, responsible for the safety and welfare of the seven fearsome, black-as-night corvids on whose continued residence at the Tower the fate of the nation depends, at least according to legend. As Skaife neatly puts it: "I look after the ravens - and the ravens look after us."

Skaife grew up in Dover; at the age of 16, after some run-ins with the police and fights with local gangs, he left to join the army: "My parents probably thought, well, if it's not that, he's going to end up in jail." It was, he says, "the best decision I ever made". After two decades of military service he applied to be a Yeoman Warder. He admits the ravens are now "my life".

Posted by orrinj at 3:57 AM


Muslims and Jews stand together in grieving Pittsburgh (Ali Harb, 3 November 2018, ME Eye)

Among the kippahs at a memorial service for the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre victims on Friday, there were a few hijabs.

Wasi Mohamed, executive director of the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh, addressed mourners and worshippers at the Rodef Shalom Congregation, lauding the city's unity and the Jewish community's resilience.

"This wasn't about a hateful act; this was about a hopeful community building solidarity in the shadow of a crisis," Mohamed said.

An online crowdfunding campaign launched by Muslim activists across the country and coordinated locally by Mohamed has raised more than $230,000 for victims of the attack. [...]

As Mohamed left the synagogue on Friday, several members of the Jewish community walked up to him to express their gratitude.

"The Jewish community in America and the immigrant Muslim community in America have very similar stories. The Jewish community just has been here earlier," Mohamed told MEE.

He explained that early Jewish immigrants were vilified and isolated, much like Muslims today.

Mohamed added that beyond their experiences as minority groups, Muslim and Jewish Americans share Abrahamic faiths that allow them to relate to one another.

Asked if tensions had risen between the two communities locally because of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Mohamed said the strife in the Middle East is a political - not religious - issue.

"When you don't have everything painted in the lens of Israel-Palestine, you can actually talk about faith... We're here; we can actually talk about theology and the [religious] differences - what they believe and what we believe and have intellectual dialogue and civil discourse around things," Mohamed said.

He added that personal relationships make discussions about the Middle East less divisive and more productive.

"We can talk about solutions. We can talk about how to move forward because we know each other," Mohamed said. "We won't hate each other for not agreeing."

Countering the violent extremists among us (Hady Amr, October 30, 2018, Brookings)

[W]ithin a week of the attack, President Bush addressed the nation from a leading Washington mosque to condemn anti-Muslim bigotry, saying, "The face of terror is not the true face of Islam," and, "Islam is peace."

Sure, that didn't solve things, but America's conservative president pressed forward with the vision of an inclusive America at home, while he rightly went to war against al-Qaida overseas.

Today, things are more complex. Is the "us" under attack comprised of Americans? From mail bombs sent to prominent Democrats, to the slaughter of American Jews at prayer, to a man who murdered African-Americans at a grocery store after failing to break into an African-American church, it certainly seems that a foundational ideal of America is indeed under attack.

That foundational ideal is: "E pluribus unum" ("Out of many, one"). It's printed on the coins in our pockets and on the Great Seal of the United States. 

Even more complicated and painful is to attempt to answer the question of who the "they" is. That's what brings me to shudder when I grapple with how to discuss this with my children: The "they" is also the "us." Or at least it's within us.

These murderers are effectively terrorists, and these terrorists are Americans. They are our neighbors. They are not some easily vilified foreign entity or individual. The killers are within us. They are of us. We can no longer avoid forcefully organizing ourselves to address this.

November 2, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 7:08 PM


A Disgraceful Evangelical Meeting with Mohammed bin Salman (DANIEL LARISON, November 2, 2018, American Conservative)

The American evangelicals that participated in this farce should be ashamed:

A group of prominent U.S. evangelical figures, including several of President Trump's evangelical advisers, met Thursday with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whose role in the killing of Washington Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi remains unclear. In a statement that included smiling photos, the group said "it is our desire to lift up the name of Jesus whenever we are asked and wherever we go."

In addition to its horrific policy in Yemen and the murder of Jamal Khashoggi by agents of the government, Saudi Arabia has one of the worst records for religious freedom in the world. It is one of the most dangerous places to be Christian. Meeting with the architect of the Saudi government's atrocious war in Yemen at a time when half of the people in that country are on the verge of starving to death reflects truly appalling judgment on the part of the Americans that attended. It's a disgrace...

Posted by orrinj at 6:51 PM


Pentagon rejected request for troops to act as emergency law enforcement at border (Ryan Browne and Nicole Gaouette,  November 2, 2018, CNN)

When the Trump administration first asked the Pentagon to send troops to the southern border, they wanted them to perform emergency law enforcement functions, CNN has learned.

The Pentagon said no.

According to two defense official familiar with the request, the Department of Homeland Security asked that the Pentagon provide a reserve force that could be called upon to provide "crowd and traffic control" and safeguard Customs and 

The Pentagon rejected the request on October 26, according to one of the officials, even as it signed off on providing DHS with air and logistics support, medical personnel and engineers.

The request was turned down because the Department of Defense felt that active duty troops do not have the authority to conduct that type of mission unless they are granted additional authorities by the President.

Defense officials have repeatedly emphasized the troops at the border are there to support civil authorities and that they are not expected to come into any contact with migrants.

Posted by orrinj at 6:25 PM


Judge denies Trump's request for stay in emoluments case (Jonathan O'Connell and David A. Fahrenthold November 2, 2018, Washington Post)

A federal judge on Friday denied President Trump's request to stay a lawsuit alleging he is violating the Constitution by doing business with foreign governments, a decision that paves the way for plaintiffs to seek information about customers at his D.C. hotel.

U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte in Greenbelt, Md., denied the Justice Department's request that he pause the case to allow a higher court to intervene. And Messitte sharply questioned the president's position that his business does not improperly accept gifts or payments -- called emoluments -- as defined by the Constitution.

By Trump's analysis, Messitte wrote, the term emoluments is the subject of such "substantial grounds of disagreement" that payments his business received from foreign governments could not qualify. The judge did not agree: "The Court finds this a dubious proposition."

If Donald can't cash in on this gig he'll quit.

Posted by orrinj at 6:07 PM


Nigerian Army Uses Trump's Remark About Migrants and Rock-Throwing to Justify Shooting Shiite Protesters (MATTHEW ZEITLIN, NOV 02, 2018, Slate)

Earlier this week, the Nigerian Army fired on a group of Shiite Muslim protesters in Abuja, the New York Times reported, killing as many as 40 and wounding 100. The army later posted a video on Twitter (now deleted) pointing to Trump's words about the military's potential response to migrants who throw rocks but are otherwise unarmed. The video stated, "Please Watch and Make Your Deductions," the New York Times reported, and showed Trump saying, "We're not going to put up with that. ... They want to throw rocks at our military, our military fights back."

The video was a response to Amnesty International, which criticized the Nigerian government and said the army had killed at least 45 protesters, an army spokesman told the Times.

"We released that video to say if President Trump can say that rocks are as good as a rifle, who is Amnesty International?" the army spokesman said. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:55 PM

NO ONE HATES JUST MEXICANS (profanity alert):

MICHAEL COHEN SAYS TRUMP REPEATEDLY USED RACIST LANGUAGE BEFORE HIS PRESIDENCY:  As he awaits sentencing, Trump's former lawyer says that he wants to clear his conscience and warn voters about what he sees as the president's true nature in advance of the midterm elections. (EMILY JANE FOX, NOVEMBER 2, 2018, Vanity Fair)

During our conversation, Cohen recalled a discussion at Trump Tower, following the then-candidate's return from a campaign rally during the 2016 election cycle. Cohen had watched the rally on TV and noticed that the crowd was largely Caucasian. He offered this observation to his boss. "I told Trump that the rally looked vanilla on television. Trump responded, 'That's because black people are too stupid to vote for me.'" (The White House did not respond to multiple requests for comment.)

This conversation, he noted, was reminiscent of an exchange that the two men had engaged in years earlier, after Nelson Mandela's death. "[Trump] said to me, 'Name one country run by a black person that's not a s[***]hole,' and then he added, 'Name one city,'" Cohen recalled, a statement that echoed the president's alleged comments about African nations earlier this year. (White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders denied those comments at the time. She added that "no one here is going to pretend like the president is always politically correct--he isn't." She subsequently noted that it was "one of the reasons the American people love him.")

Cohen also recounted a conversation he had with Trump in the late 2000s, while they were traveling to Chicago for a Trump International Hotel board meeting. "We were going from the airport to the hotel, and we drove through what looked like a rougher neighborhood. Trump made a comment to me, saying that only the blacks could live like this." After the first few seasons of The Apprentice, Cohen recalled how he and Trump were discussing the reality show and past season winners. The conversation wended its way back to the show's first season, which ended in a head-to-head between two contestants, Bill Rancic and Kwame Jackson. "Trump was explaining his back-and-forth about not picking Jackson," an African-American investment manager who had graduated from Harvard Business School. "He said, 'There's no way I can let this black f-g win.'" (Jackson told me that he had heard that the president made such a comment. "My response to President Trump is simple and Wakandan," he said, referring to the fictional African country where Black Panther hails from. "'Not today, colonizer!'")

In retrospect, Cohen told me that he wishes he had quit the Trump Organization when he heard these offensive remarks. "I should have been a bigger person, and I should have left," he said. He didn't, he said, because he grew numb to the language and, in awe of the job, forgave his boss's sins. Cohen, in fact, even defended the president publicly against charges of racism. Last year, he explicitly tweeted as much. Cohen explained that he defended the president because he thought the magnitude of the office would eventually force him to be more judicious with his words. "I truly thought the office would change him," he said. But it hasn't, Cohen continued. In fact, he said, it has exacerbated his rhetoric.

Posted by orrinj at 5:39 PM

OLD SOUL (profanity alert):

Is Christone 'Kingfish' Ingram the Future of the Blues? (BRIAN HIATT, 11/02/18, Rolling Stone)

Blues prodigy Christone "Kingfish" Ingram, 19, grew up in Clarksdale, Mississippi, 10 minutes away from the crossroads where Robert Johnson supposedly did some business with Beelzebub. Ingram swears he hasn't done the same  ("Nah, I didn't do any of that") but he's one of the only young people he knows of in 21st-century Clarksdale with any interest in the city's musical legacy: "The only people who care are pretty much the elderly people," Ingram says. "I do think I have an old soul, that I've been here before."

When his dad showed him a Muddy Waters documentary in fourth grade, Ingram was entranced. He started taking classes at the Delta Blues Museum in town, and absorbed a century's worth of guitar styles, building a sound that encompasses B.B. King, Jimi Hendrix and even Prince.

Posted by orrinj at 5:37 PM


Obama Asks Hecklers at Miami Rally Why They're "So Mad" (KARA VOGHT, NOVEMBER 2, 2018, Mother Jones)

At a campaign rally in Florida on Friday, Barack Obama cautioned a fired-up crowd about the dangers of divisive political rhetoric as hecklers interrupted his remarks. The repeated taunts--at times, curse words directed at the former president--prompted Obama to wonder aloud why his political opponents, who currently hold both houses of Congress and the White House, exhibit so much anger.

"Why is it that the folks who won the last election are so mad all the time?" he said. "When I won the presidency, at least my side felt pretty good."

Posted by orrinj at 2:53 PM


The CIA's communications suffered a catastrophic compromise. It started in Iran. (Zach Dorfman and Jenna McLaughlin, 11/02/18, Yahoo News)

U.S. authorities believe Iran probably unwound the CIA's asset network analytically -- meaning they deduced what Washington knew about Tehran's own operations, then identified Iranians who held that information, and eventually zeroed in on possible sources. This hunt for CIA sources eventually bore fruit -- including the identification of the covert communications system.

A 2011 Iranian television broadcast that touted the government's destruction of the CIA network said U.S. intelligence operatives had created websites for fake companies to recruit agents in Iran by promising them jobs, visas and education abroad. Iranians who initially thought they were responding to legitimate opportunities would end up meeting with CIA officers in places like Dubai or Istanbul for recruitment, according to the broadcast.

Though the Iranians didn't say precisely how they infiltrated the network, two former U.S. intelligence officials said that the Iranians cultivated a double agent who led them to the secret CIA communications system. This online system allowed CIA officers and their sources to communicate remotely in difficult operational environments like China and Iran, where in-person meetings are often dangerous.

A lack of proper vetting of sources may have led to the CIA inadvertently running a double agent, said one former senior official -- a consequence of the CIA's pressing need at the time to develop highly placed agents inside the Islamic Republic. After this betrayal, Israeli intelligence tipped off the CIA that Iran had likely identified some of its assets, said the same former official.

The losses could have stopped there. But U.S. officials believe Iranian intelligence was then able to compromise the covert communications system. At the CIA, there was "shock and awe" about the simplicity of the technique the Iranians used to successfully compromise the system, said one former official.

In fact, the Iranians used Google to identify the website the CIA was were using to communicate with agents. Because Google is continuously scraping the internet for information about all the world's websites, it can function as a tremendous investigative tool -- even for counter-espionage purposes. And Google's search functions allow users to employ advanced operators -- like "AND," "OR," and other, much more sophisticated ones -- that weed out and isolate websites and online data with extreme specificity.

According to the former intelligence official, once the Iranian double agent showed Iranian intelligence the website used to communicate with his or her CIA handlers, they began to scour the internet for websites with similar digital signifiers or components -- eventually hitting on the right string of advanced search terms to locate other secret CIA websites. From there, Iranian intelligence tracked who was visiting these sites, and from where, and began to unravel the wider CIA network.

Posted by orrinj at 12:34 PM


The appalling toll of children shot in the US (Jeff Glorfeld, 11/02/18, Cosmos)

Almost 112,000 US children were admitted to hospital suffering gunshot wounds between 2009 and 2013, prompting paediatricians to describe the situation as "a national public health crisis".

The term was used more than a year ago, in a June 2017 article in the journal Hospital Pediatrics, discussing the role of paediatricians in reducing gun-related carnage in the United States.

One of the co-authors of the piece, Shilpa Patel, part of the Children's National Health System, this week is presenting her latest research at the 2018 American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference & Exhibition, in Orlando, Florida, from November 2 to 6.

"Firearm-related injuries are leading causes of unintentional injury deaths in children and adolescents," she and her colleagues concluded in their 2017 report.

"Children are more likely to be victims of unintentional injuries, the majority of which occur in the home, and adolescents are more likely to suffer from intentional injuries due to either assault or suicide attempts.

Since then, the crisis has, if anything deepened. Presenting the latest analysis, Patel is set to tell conference attendees that figures from the US national hospital emergency-room database, known as the Nationwide Emergency Department Sample, reveal 111,839 emergency department visits for paediatric firearm-related injuries in the four years starting 2009.

Posted by orrinj at 12:27 PM


'Are You Actually an M.D.?': A Black Doctor Is Questioned as She Intervenes on a Delta Flight  (Christine Hauser, Nov. 2, 2018, NY Times)

Dr. Fatima Cody Stanford was on a Delta flight from Indianapolis to Boston on Tuesday when she noticed the woman next to her showing signs of distress. So Dr. Stanford did what she was trained to do in more than a decade of experience as a doctor -- she began to assist her.

But Dr. Stanford, who is black, said she had just started to help the passenger when a flight attendant approached and asked if she was a doctor. Dr. Stanford said yes and, without being asked, she took out her medical license, which says she is a physician registered in Massachusetts and has the letters "M.D." after her name.

"I know I don't look the part," Dr. Stanford, 39, said in an interview on Thursday. "So I just carry it with my driver's license at all times."

The flight attendant glanced at it and walked away, she said. As Dr. Stanford continued to try to calm the passenger, another flight attendant approached and asked to see the license. She, too, looked at it and walked away. Then the two flight attendants returned together and began another series of questions.

Posted by orrinj at 12:19 PM


A Conspiracy So Vastly Inept (John Middlebrook, November 2, 2018, Weekly Standard)

[E]ven in the absence of the alleged victim, Wohl and Burkman persisted with their press conference. The date given in the Wohl documents--"on or about August 2, 2010"--was also problematic. As the Washington Post reported on August 3, 2010: 

Robert Mueller [was spotted] dutifully doing his jury duty in D.C. Superior Court on Monday. The FBI director (with an ear-pieced security guy in tow) made it all the way into the jury box for voir dire on a gun-possession case and got a warm smile from the judge . . . but he was quickly excused (the "work in law enforcement?" question seemed to do it).

"Was [Mueller] only at jury duty?" Wohl asked at the press conference. "Sometimes people go to jury duty, but they're also somewhere else." Wohl and Burkman pointed out that Mueller, according to an August 6, 2010, press release on the FBI's website, had spoken at a cybersecurity conference in New York, which lasted from August 2 to August 5. The press release didn't specify the date of Mueller's speech. He delivered it on August 5.

Burkman and Wohl's story gave every appearance of being a farce--a sick one, to be sure--in the days leading up to the press conference. On October 30, the Atlantic's Natasha Bertrand reported that journalists had received an email from a "Lorraine Parsons" alleging she had been offered money to say Mueller had assaulted her.

No one has been able to confirm whether Parsons is a real person. But a woman named Jennifer Taub, a Vermont law professor, had received an email, apparently from a firm calling itself "Surefire Intelligence," offering money to Taub to discuss her "encounters" with Mueller. The Atlantic's Bertrand reported: "Taub told me she has never had any encounters with Mueller, though she does appear on CNN at times as an expert commentator on the Mueller probe."'s an article of faith on the Right that you can fake credible sexual assault allegations.

Posted by orrinj at 12:13 PM


Iranians hail Houthi 'resistance' for bringing potential end to Yemen war (Al-Monitor,  November 1, 2018)

In other Iranian papers, the Khashoggi crisis played central to a reading between the lines of the US cease-fire call. It is a "policy reversal," According to daily Khorasan, "It is a policy reversal [that] came after pressure mounted on Washington and its allies in the wake of revelations on the Saudi complicity in the journalist's murder." The paper criticized the United States for fanning the flames of the war with its "nonstop flow of arms to the Saudis."

"This war of attrition is further eroding the Saudis and their allies," wrote Reformist paper Ebtekar, which praised the Houthis for preventing a Saudi-Emirati takeover of the strategic port of Hodeidah. "The West is now at a crossroads to decide, as it finds Saudis stuck in the Yemen quagmire." The paper claimed that following the Khashoggi scandal, the Saudi allies are trying to pull the kingdom out of one of the multiple crises it is facing. 

Kayhan, a staunch supporter of Yemen's Houthi fighters, called the development a "retreat" by Washington under public pressure and "another defeat" for Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. "But let's not forget that the US move is [mere] publicity and deception ahead of the upcoming midterm elections," Kayhan wrote. The paper noted that if the administration was sincere, "it would not have rejected calls to stop selling arms to the Saudis.

The entirety of the WoT is helping Shi'a and Islamists achieve self-governance at the expense of Salafi Islamicists. 

Turkey lifts sanctions on U.S. officials, matching Washington's move  (Reuters, 11/02/18) 

Turkey lifted sanctions on Friday on the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security and Attorney General, the foreign ministry said, minutes after Washington removed two Turkish ministers from its sanctions list.

Posted by orrinj at 4:30 AM


'If They Do Not Yield -- Kill All Males': State Rep Defends Christian 'Manifesto' as FBI Investigates (Ronn Blitzer, November 2nd, 2018, Law & Crime)

Washington State Rep. Matt Shea (R-District 4a) has drawn the attention of the public, media, and law enforcement after a document associated with him was leaked, titled "Biblical Basis for War." The four-page outline, being described by local press as a "manifesto," cites sources from the Old and New Testament to show why and how to go to war, according to the Bible. The local sheriff saw a copy about six weeks ago and took immediate action.

"I gave it straight to the FBI," Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich told the local Spokesman-Review. NBC affiliate KHQ reported that the FBI and Joint Terrorism Task Force said they are investigating it.

The document gives details such as when to go to war ("When God says its [sic] time"), and what is needed to have a "Holy Army." It also describes "terms of justice and righteousness" for accepting surrender. Those include: no abortion, same-sex marriage, communism, no idolatry or occultism, and those surrendering have to follow the Bible. As for enemies who don't agree to these terms? "If they do not yield - kill all males," it says.


Posted by orrinj at 4:22 AM

THAT'S NOT CRICKET (profanity alert):

Hotdogs, hot data & home runs: What MLB's World Series is really like: 'There's the game you see, and there's the game you don't.' Jonathan Liew crossed the pond for a taste of Major League Baseball - and here's what he found (Jonathan Liew, 11/01/18, Independent)

To those steeped in the game, of course, this sort of thing is second nature. "If you've grown up with baseball, then it's not a complicated sport," one local journalist explains. Then again, as he admits, he's been watching it for 28 years. I make a quick calculation based on my current age and realise with alarm that even with a fair wind, I'll be 60 before I fully understand baseball. Even with the generous deadlines at The Independent, there's no way they're giving me that long to write this piece.

So in desperate need of a shortcut, I head down to the organised chaos of batting practice, where exceptionally bulky men thwack baseballs around in the midst of what can only be described as an utter circus: a phalanx of television crews all filming pieces to camera, journalists and VIPs milling around and catching up with old friends, the umpires solemnly striding past to inspect the boundaries, a team from the Ellen DeGeneres show conducting an interview with an earnest-looking eight-year-old boy in an umpire's outfit.

A man named Dave Dombrowski, president of baseball operations at the Red Sox, very charitably offers to give a beleaguered British journalist a few pointers. "It's kind of like when I watch cricket or rugby," he laughs. "I'd say a couple of things. Keep an eye on the starting pitcher. He's the key to the game. And the second thing is getting guys on base. If one team is consistently getting guys on base, that's a pretty good indicator of which way things are going."

The game begins, after the sort of chintzy opening festivities that America has turned into a fine art. A fiesta of fireworks. Some soft-rock monstrosity masquerading as the Stars and Stripes. Fighter jets in formation. Enough soldiers to annexe a small island nation. Literally the biggest flag I've ever seen in my life. The camera wastes no time in zooming in on some of the prominent celebrities perched in the posh seats, just behind home plate: Larry King, Jason Bateman, Rob Lowe, Kobe Bryant. 

But I've gone in the other direction, right up to the top deck on the ninth floor, where you find the cheapest tickets and the best atmosphere. Here, partisan home fans wildly celebrate every hit, every strike and every marginal call by high-fiving anyone within range. Some even bring mitts in the hope of catching foul balls. During the break between innings, they queue up to wash the whole experience down with industrial quantities of food: hot dogs, garlic fries, pizza slices the size of a ringbinder, baseball helmets filled with nachos and guacamole.

There are 81 games in a regular baseball season, but as I chat to fans on the top deck, it turns out that virtually nobody goes to all of them. For the majority, following a baseball team is a mixed-media experience, a collage of boozy evenings in front of the telly, radio commentaries in the car or truck, workplace fantasy pools, and arguing with strangers online about who screwed up on a particular play. Baseball fans love nothing better than arguing about who screwed up. In a way, it's an inversion of the customary proverb: in baseball failure has many parents, success is an orphan.

"The game will tell you something," says Alex Cora, manager of the Red Sox. "You just have to pay attention to it." And as a glorious red sunset settles on Dodger Stadium, slowly and by degrees the game begins to draw me in. It's only when studying closely that you begin to grasp the epic, gladiatorial quality of the duel: the way pitcher and batter eye each other up with a grudging respect, sanctifying their respective spaces in preparation for battle. Red Sox starting pitcher Rick Porcello tugging on virtually every loose appendage before he delivers the ball: his earlobes, his collar, his shirt front, both shoulders. The enormous Cuban Yasiel Puig, who'll hit a three-run homer in game four, thrashing himself all over with his bat, as if flagellating himself with a birch. Like any well-established sport, baseball strikes me first and foremost as a game of rituals.

It's a taut, tight game. The Dodgers take the lead with a home run at the bottom of the third. The Red Sox level in the eighth, go 2-1 up in the 13th, and then as night falls, surrender their advantage almost immediately through an error by pinch runner Ian Kinsler. Then, with the stadium clock showing 12.30am, Muncy strikes. A feral roar of relief washes over the ballpark, accompanied by a stampede of spectators rushing back from the toilets and the smoking areas. "You want baseball explained to you, my media friend?" exclaims one ecstatic Dodgers fan, recognising me from earlier. "Explain this: how come every time they hit a home run, I'm not in my f[***]ing seat?"

There's the game you see, and there's the game you don't. The following night, as Puig's enormous three-run homer puts the Dodgers into a commanding 4-0 lead in Game Four, the analytics website FanGraphs puts the Dodgers' win probability at 95.4 per cent. It's the 55th time the Dodgers have been four runs ahead this season, and they're yet to lose. But youneverknow. In the seventh inning, the Red Sox claw them back to 4-3. In the eighth, they level. In the ninth, as the Dodgers go to pieces, relief pitcher Dylan Floro is taken for five runs. The game finishes 9-6, the Red Sox 3-1 up, the World Series all but over.

Posted by orrinj at 4:12 AM


The first US official to be arrested for leaking is a Trump supporter (Max de Haldevang, October 25, 2018, Quartz)

Donald Trump has consistently claimed that a "deep state" of liberal civil servants are criminally leaking against him. However, the first official to be arrested for alleged leaks under his presidency appears to be a Trump supporter, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards, a senior adviser at the Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), is accused of leaking information about private citizens' bank transactions, called Suspicious Activity Reports. Edwards provided a reporter with data that was used in 12 articles, the Department of Justice alleges.

Posted by orrinj at 4:11 AM


As Midterm Vote Nears, Trump Reprises a Favorite Message: Fear Immigrants (Michael D. Shear and Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Nov. 1, 2018, NY Times)

In his remarks on Thursday afternoon, Mr. Trump appeared to promise a lethal response from the military if migrants threw rocks at soldiers. At Northern Command, the military headquarters overseeing the newly announced deployments to the border, military officials were shocked upon hearing the president's comments.

A Defense Department official said the American military's rules of engagement allowed deadly force to be used if a service member was faced with an imminent threat of death or injury. But the official said the military units headed to the border with weapons, such as the military police, would keep them stored unless told otherwise. The official could not say if they would be issued ammunition, but did not expect them to be in a position to use their weapons.

...our military isn't.

Posted by orrinj at 4:10 AM


Ron DeSantis, a Trump Ally, Struggles in Florida as Racial Flare-Ups Come to Fore (Patricia Mazzei and Stephanie Saul, Nov. 1, 2018, NY Times)

What seemed a winnable race for Republicans against Mr. Gillum, an outspoken progressive who supports impeaching Mr. Trump, has instead become neck-and-neck, with the charismatic Democrat drawing far larger crowds than Mr. DeSantis, a telegenic Fox News regular who has proved uneven on the trail.

In the closing weeks of the campaign, what has separated the two candidates most is how each has dealt with issues of race and identity. Mr. Gillum, who would become Florida's first African-American governor, has talked about both matters at length; Mr. DeSantis, who is white, has struggled to address questions about his past political associations with racists and xenophobes. [...]

One reason Mr. DeSantis may have stumbled is where he had come from: the conservative cocoon of the political right, where his rise to national prominence -- lifted by stoking fears of terrorism -- went little noticed because Mr. DeSantis was only a congressman in a reliably Republican seat. (He resigned after winning the August primary.)

Over nearly three terms in office, Mr. DeSantis, a 40-year-old Yale and Harvard graduate and former Navy prosecutor, became a familiar face on Fox, doing hits from Capitol Hill and flying to New York to appear from the network's flagship studio. He attended conferences billed as conservative gatherings where he made his name known in political circles that mattered.

Thrust into a marquee race in a purple state, however, Mr. DeSantis floundered.

In a Fox interview the day after the Aug. 28 primary, he said electing Mr. Gillum, 39, could "monkey this up," which Democrats denounced as a racist dog whistle. (Mr. DeSantis denied that.) News reports exposed how far-right extremists were among the organizers and attendees of some of the conferences he frequented. A white supremacist group targeted Mr. Gillum with offensive robocalls. A campaign contributor apologized for referring to former President Barack Obama with a racist slur, but Mr. DeSantis declined to return his donation.

Mr. DeSantis managed to regroup from that rough start. But the controversies have cast a shadow over his campaign.

During the candidates' last debate, Mr. DeSantis angrily rejected a question about his ties to a conservative author, David Horowitz, who has made incendiary statements.

"Are you going to play the McCarthy-ite game?" Mr. DeSantis asked, suggesting he was being found guilty by association. "How the hell am I supposed to know every single statement someone makes?"

Mr. Gillum spied his opening and pounced.

"I'm not calling Mr. DeSantis a racist. I'm simply saying the racists believe he's a racist," he said. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:04 AM


Fed's Powell Says Reduced Immigration Could Slow U.S. Economy (Craig Torres, November 1, 2018, Bloomberg)

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, in written responses to a Democratic senator, said reducing immigration could slow the economy over the longer run by limiting growth in the U.S. labor force.

The comments came in a written response to Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, a Nevada Democrat who asked Powell if he agreed with pro-immigration comments by Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari. Kashkari, whose parents came from India and wife is from the Philippines, called immigration "as close to a free lunch as there is" for the American economy, according to a Wall Street Journal opinion column in January.

The Fed chairman's remarks in the August letter to the senator underscore some of the contradictions of the administration's economic policies. While its fiscal measures could stimulate growth and investment, trade and immigration policies could work against the economy. Powell told Cortez Masto that immigration accounts for about one-half of population growth annually, and that it directly affects gains in the labor force and thus economic increases.

The point of Trumpism is to shrink the economy so that we are not attractive to immigrants and minority fertility declines.

Posted by orrinj at 4:03 AM


Profile in civility: Teen who said he'd kill Rep. Curbelo joins him in call for unity (MARTIN VASSOLO, November 01, 2018, Miami Herald)

As politicians everywhere have called for tolerance amid a wave of violence ahead of the midterm elections, Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo took political civility to new heights on Thursday by standing beside the man who just last week threatened to kill him.

A week after the FBI arrested a teenager from Homestead for saying he would kill Curbelo, the lawmaker and his 19-year-old constituent held a joint press conference during which Curbelo publicly forgave the man, saying he had fallen "into the trap of violent political speech and hateful expression" festering in the country's political landscape and had no intention of carrying out his threat.

Curbelo, who is running for reelection in Florida's 26th Congressional district, said the man, Pierre Alejandro Verges-Castro, had apologized for threatening him on Twitter and that he didn't want the incident to "ruin" Verges-Castro's life.

"I'm pretty sure he had no idea how serious what he had done was," Curbelo said. "He does now. I'm grateful to him for being willing to not just learn a lesson himself, but to stand with me here today and to share what has been a difficult experience."

We are the adults in the room, not the worst delinquents.

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 AM


Trump's Nationalism Is Breaking Point for Some Suburban Voters, Risking G.O.P. Coalition (Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, Nov. 1, 2018, NY Times)

Two years ago, the presidential election hinged in large part on a rightward shift among working-class whites who deserted Democrats.

Tuesday's House election may turn on an equally significant and opposite force: a generational break with the Republican Party among educated, wealthier whites -- especially women -- who like the party's pro-business policies but recoil from President Trump's divisive language on race and gender.

Rather than seeking to coax voters like these back into the Republican coalition, Mr. Trump appears to have all but written them off, spending the final days of the campaign delivering a scorching message about preoccupations like birthright citizenship and a migrant "invasion" from Mexico that these voters see through as alarmist.

In Republican-leaning districts that include diverse populations or abut cities that do -- from bulwarks of Sunbelt conservatism like Houston and Orange County, Calif., to the well-manicured bedroom communities outside Philadelphia and Minneapolis -- the party is in danger of losing its House majority next week because Mr. Trump's racially-tinged nationalism has alienated these voters who once made up a dependable constituency.

Opposition to racism is the founding principle of the Party.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


Saudi crown prince described journalist as a dangerous Islamist in call with White House, officials say (John Hudson, Souad Mekhennet and Carol D. Leonnig November 1, 2018, Washington Post)

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman described slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi as a dangerous Islamist days after his disappearance in a phone call with President Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner and national security adviser John Bolton, according to people familiar with the discussion.

In the call, which occurred before the kingdom publicly acknowledged Khashoggi's death, the crown prince urged Kushner and Bolton to preserve the U.S.-Saudi alliance and said the journalist was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, a group long opposed by Bolton and other senior Trump officials.

...than Muslim democracy.

Posted by orrinj at 3:56 AM


Roger Stone Sold Himself to Trump's Campaign as a WikiLeaks Pipeline. Was He? (Sharon LaFraniere, Michael S. Schmidt, Maggie Haberman and Danny Hakim, Nov. 1, 2018, NY Times)

When the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, appeared on a video link from Europe a month before the 2016 presidential election and vaguely promised to release a flood of purloined documents related to the race, the head of Donald J. Trump's campaign, Stephen K. Bannon, was interested.

He emailed the political operative Roger J. Stone Jr., who had been trying to reach him for days about what Mr. Assange might have in store. "What was that this morning???" Mr. Bannon asked on Oct. 4.

"A load every week going forward," Mr. Stone replied, echoing Mr. Assange's public vow to publish documents on a weekly basis until the Nov. 8 election.

The email exchange, not previously reported, underscores how Mr. Stone presented himself to Trump campaign officials: as a conduit of inside information from WikiLeaks, Russia's chosen repository for documents hacked from Democratic computers.

November 1, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 6:42 PM


The Gulag Archipelago: A New Foreword by Jordan B Peterson (Jordan B. Peterson, 11/01/18, Quilette)

It is a matter of pure historical fact that The Gulag Archipelago played a primary role in bringing the Soviet Empire to its knees. Although economically unsustainable, ruled in the most corrupt manner imaginable, and reliant on the slavery and enforced deceit of its citizens, the Soviet system managed to stumble forward through far too many decades before being cut to the quick. The courageous leaders of the labor unions in Poland, the great Pope John Paul II and the American President Ronald Reagan, with his blunt insistence that the West faced an evil empire, all played their role in its defeat and collapse. It was Solzhenitsyn, however, whose revelations made it positively shameful to defend not just the Soviet state, but the very system of thought that made that state what it was. It was Solzhenitsyn who most crucially made the case that the terrible excesses of Communism could not be conveniently blamed on the corruption of the Soviet leadership, the "cult of personality" surrounding Stalin, or the failure to put the otherwise stellar and admirable utopian principles of Marxism into proper practice. It was Solzhenitsyn who demonstrated that the death of millions and the devastation of many more were, instead, a direct causal consequence of the philosophy (worse, perhaps: the theology) driving the Communist system. The hypothetically egalitarian, universalist doctrines of Karl Marx contained hidden within them sufficient hatred, resentment, envy and denial of individual culpability and responsibility to produce nothing but poison and death when manifested in the world.

For Marx, man was a member of a class, an economic class, a group--that, and little more--and history nothing but the battleground of classes, of groups. His admirers regarded (continue to regard) Marx's doctrine as one of compassion--moral by definition, virtuous by fiat: "consider the working classes, in all their oppression, and work forthrightly to free them." But hate may well be a stronger and more compelling motivator than love. In consequence, it took no time, in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, for solidarity with the common man and the apparently laudable demand for universal equality to manifest its unarticulated and ever-darkening shadow. First came the most brutal indictment of the "class enemy." Then came the ever-expanding definition of that enemy, until every single person in the entirety of the state found him or herself at risk of encapsulation within that insatiable and devouring net. The verdict, delivered to those deemed at fault, by those who elevated themselves to the simultaneously held positions of judge, jury and executioner? The necessity to eradicate the victimizers, the oppressors, in toto, without any consideration whatsoever for reactionary niceties--such as individual innocence.

Let us note, as well: this outcome wasn't the result of the initially pristine Marxist doctrine becoming corrupt over time, but something apparent and present at the very beginning of the Soviet state itself. Solzhenitsyn cites, for example, one Martin Latsis, writing or the newspaper Red Terror, November 1, 1918: "We are not fighting against single individuals. We are exterminating the bourgeoisie as a class. It is not necessary during the interrogation to look for evidence proving that the accused opposed the Soviets by word or action. The first question you should ask him is what class does he belong to, what is his origin, his education and his profession. These are the questions that will determine the fate of the accused. Such is the sense and essence of red terror." It is necessary to think when you read such a thing, to meditate long and hard on the message. It is necessary to recognize, for example, that the writer believed that it would be better to execute ten thousand potentially innocent individuals than to allow one poisonous member of the oppressor class to remain free. It is equally necessary to pose the question: "Who, precisely, belonged to that hypothetical entity, 'the bourgeoisie'?" It is not as if the boundaries of such a category are self-evident, there for the mere perceiving. They must be drawn. But where, exactly? And, more importantly, by whom--or by what? If it's hate inscribing the lines, instead of love, they will inevitably be drawn so that the lowest, meanest, most cruel and useless of the conceptual geographers will be justified in manifesting the greatest possible evil, and producing the greatest possible misery.

Members of the bourgeoisie? Beyond all redemption! They had to go, as a matter of course! What of their wives? Children? Even--their grandchildren? Off with their heads, too! All were incorrigibly corrupted by their class identity, and their destruction therefore ethically necessitated. How convenient, that the darkest and direst of all possible motivations could be granted the highest of moral standings! That was a true marriage of Hell and of Heaven. What values, what philosophical presumptions, truly dominated, under such circumstances? Was it desire for brotherhood, dignity, and freedom from want? Not in the least--not given the outcome. It was instead and obviously the murderous rage of hundreds of thousands of biblical Cains, each looking to torture, destroy and sacrifice their own private Abels. There is simply no other manner of accounting for the corpses.

What can be concluded in the deepest, most permanent sense, from Solzhenitsyn's anguished Gulag narrative? First, we learn what is indisputable--what we all should have learned by now (what we have nonetheless failed to learn): that the Left, like the Right, can go too far; that the Left has, in the past, gone much too far. Second, we learn what is far more subtle and difficult--how and why that going too far occurs. We learn, as Solzhenitsyn so profoundly insists, that the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And we learn, as well, that we all are, each of us, simultaneously oppressor and oppressed. Thus, we come to realize that the twin categories of "guilty oppressor" and "justice-seeking victim" can be made endlessly inclusive. This is not least because we all benefit unfairly (and are equally victimized) by our thrownness, our arbitrary placement in the flow of time. We all accrue undeserved and somewhat random privilege from the vagaries of our place of birth, our inequitably distributed talents, our ethnicity, race, culture and sex. We all belong to a group--some group--that has been elevated in comparative status, through no effort of our own. This is true in some manner, along some dimension of group category, for every solitary individual, except for the single most lowly of all. At some time and in some manner we all may in consequence be justly targeted as oppressors, and may all, equally, seek justice--or revenge--as victims. Even if the initiators of the revolution had, therefore, in their most pure moments, been driven by a holy desire to lift up the downtrodden, was it not guaranteed that they would be overtaken by those motivated primarily by envy, hate and the desire to destroy as the revolution progressed?

Hence the establishment of the hungrily growing and most often fatal list of class enemies, right from the very first moments of the Communist revolution. The demolition was aimed first at the students, the religious believers and the socialists (continuing, under Stalin, with the old revolutionaries themselves), and was followed soon thereafter by the annihilation of the successful peasant farmer "kulaks." And this appetite for destruction wasn't of the type to be satiated with the bodies of the perpetrators themselves. As Solzhenitsyn writes, "they burned out whole nests, whole families, from the start; and they watched jealously to be sure that none of the children--fourteen, ten, even six years old--got away: to the last scrapings, all had to go down the same road, to the same common destruction." This was driven by the perceived--even self-perceived--guilt of all. How else was it possible for the hundreds of thousands or perhaps even millions of informants, prosecutors, betrayers and unforgivably mute observers to spring so rapidly into being in the tumult of the Red Terror?

Thus the doctrine of group identity inevitably ends with everyone identified as a class enemy, an oppressor; with everyone uncleansibly contaminated by bourgeois privilege, unfairly enjoying the benefits bequeathed by the vagaries of history; with everyone prosecuted, without respite, for that corruption and injustice. "No mercy for the oppressor!" And no punishment too severe for the crime of exploitation! Expiation becomes impossible because there is no individual guilt, no individual responsibility, and therefore no manner in which the crime of arbitrary birth can be individually accounted for. And all the misery that can be generated as a consequence of such an accusation is the true reason for the accusation. When everyone is guilty, all that serves justice is the punishment of everyone; when the guilt extends to the existence of the world's misery itself, only the fatal punishment will suffice.

It is much more preferable, instead--and much more likely to preserve us all from metastasizing hells--to state forthrightly: "I am indeed thrown arbitrarily into history. I therefore choose to voluntarily shoulder the responsibility of my advantages and the burden of my disadvantages--like every other individual. I am morally bound to pay for my advantages with my responsibility. I am morally bound to accept my disadvantages as the price I pay for being. I will therefore strive not to descend into bitterness and then seek vengeance because I have less to my credit and a greater burden to stumble forward with than others."

Is this not a or even the essential point of difference between the West, for all its faults, and the brutal, terrible "egalitarian" systems generated by the pathological Communist doctrine? The great and good framers of the American republic were, for example, anything but utopian. They took full stock and full measure of ineradicable human imperfection. They held modest goals, derived not least from the profoundly cautious common-law tradition of England. They endeavored to establish a system the corrupt and ignorant fools we all are could not damage too fatally. That's humility. That's clear-headed knowledge of the limitations of human machination and good intention.

But the Communists, the revolutionaries? They aimed, grandly and admirably, at least in theory, at a much more heavenly vision--and they began their pursuit with the hypothetically straightforward and oh-so-morally-justifiable enforcement of economic equality. Wealth, however, was not so easily generated. The poor could not so simply become rich. But the riches of those who had anything more than the greatest pauper (no matter how pitiful that "more" was)? That could be "redistributed"--or, at least, destroyed. That's equality, too. That's sacrifice, in the name of Heaven on Earth. And redistribution was not enough--with all its theft, betrayal and death. Mere economic engineering was insufficient. What emerged, as well, was the overarching and truly totalitarian desire to remake man and woman, as such--the longing to restructure the human spirit in the very image of the Communist preconceptions. Attributing to themselves this divine ability, this transcendent wisdom--and with unshakable belief in the glowing but ever-receding future--the newly-minted Soviets tortured, thieved, imprisoned, lied and betrayed, all the while masking their great evil with virtue. It was Solzhenitsyn and The Gulag Archipelago that tore off the mask, and exposed the feral cowardice, envy, deceit, resentment, and hatred for the individual and for existence itself that pulsed beneath.

Fortunately most of the Soviet leadership--but Mikhail Gorbachev in particular--failed to understand Solzhenitsyn's insight and believed that by allowing more open discussion that dissidents would take advantage of the opportunity to criticize Stalin and certain flaws in how Communism had been administered.  Instead, they attacked the Revolution, Lenin and the entire system root and branch and delegitimized the regime in its entirety. They had understood Solzhenitsyn as the Party had not.

PODCAST: Kevin McKenna on Solzhenitsyn, the Soviet Union, and In the First Circle (EconTalk, Sep 10 2018)

Russian Literature Professor Kevin McKenna of the University of Vermont talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the life and times of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. This is the opening episode of the EconTalk Book Club for Solzhenitsyn's masterpiece In the First Circle: The First Uncensored Edition. A subsequent episode to air in the next few weeks discusses the book itself.

Posted by orrinj at 4:47 PM


Steve King Loses It After Being Asked If He Identifies as a White Supremacist (INAE OH, NOVEMBER 1, 2018, Mother Jones)

During a candidate forum in Des Moines Thursday, King became increasingly agitated after a participant recalled an incendiary 2017 tweet from the congressman that stated, "We can't restore our civilization with somebody else's babies"--remarks King double-downed on despite widespread condemnation. The audience member began to draw a comparison between King's tweet and the xenophobic social media posts by the suspected shooter in Saturday's Pittsburgh synagogue massacre. "You and the shooter both share an ideology that is fundamentally anti-immigration," the participant said.

"Do not associate me with that shooter," King said angrily. "I knew you were an ambusher when you walked in the room, but there is no basis for that, and you get no questions, and you get no answers."

The heated exchange continued, as the participant asked what qualities might distinguish King's views from that of the shooter's. "But do you identify as a white supremacist?" he asked.

"Stop it!" King shouted.

"Then why did you meet with a white supremacist organization in Austria?" 

"You're done," King said, before telling security to remove the questioner.

...for not being able to name any differences.
Posted by orrinj at 4:43 PM


'In love with democracy,' Ilhan Omar draws diverse supporters in bid for Congress (Allison Herrera and Peter Majerle, 11/01/18, PRI)

Omar fled her native Somalia when she was 8 years old and spent four years in a refugee camp in Kenya. She came to the US as a 12-year-old and eventually settled in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis, which has long been a first stop for new arrivals in the US. There, she "fell in love with democracy" and started spending time as a community organizer until she ran for office. [...]

"She worked hard for it," says Isse. "It wasn't easy for her in our community to understand that she is the candidate. A lot of times, you know, we have reservations about women running for office."

"She represents and inspires many young Muslim women because people always stereotype about how wearing our veil is an oppression," says Shabbeleh. "And once they see Ilhan, who is so progressive and really vocal they could see that, no, we're exactly the opposite of what you assumed."

And she has inspired other Somali women. Earlier this fall, Sarah Mohamed Khalif, a 21-year-old Somali woman won a seat on a city council seat in Leuven, Belgium. On Twitter, she has praised Omar and said she too hoped to win an election.

In Sweden, Leila Ali Elmi is also inspired by what Omar has achieved. Elmi, like Omar fled Somalia when she was young. And like Omar, she went into politics. Earlier this summer, she was elected to parliament as a Green Party member. She's watched Omar's campaign and the success she's had in the US.

"Because she is a woman and because she is a woman of color, women are inspired by her to break into politics, which is male dominated," says Elmi. 

When Omar first ran, Shabbeleh's daughter was just 12 years old. Earlier this year, her daughter started high school and said she wants to run for student council. "Because she wants to start change. And that's the kind of behavior Ilhan has inspired," says Shabbeleh.

For Omar, the inspiration to get involved in politics came from her family, who were always talking about politics, world news and democracy over meals.

"What I always emphasize is that I am a representative who happens to be Somali," Omar says. "I am not a Somali representative. I am not a Muslim representative. I am not a millennial representative. I am not a woman representative. I am a representative who happens to have all of these marginalized identities and can understand the intersectionality of all of them in a very unique way."

Posted by orrinj at 4:39 PM


Trump Admin Poised to Cave on Iran Sanctions (Adam Kredo, November 1, 2018, Free Beacon)

The Trump administration is poised to offer a series of major concessions to Iran that will let it escape key economic sanctions that the administration once vowed would kick back into force in the next several days, according to multiple U.S. officials and administration insiders familiar with the state of play. [...]

While President Donald Trump vowed to enforce a bevy of new sanctions, senior officials in both the State and Treasury Departments caved to pressure from European allies and Iran, officials confirmed to the Washington Free Beacon.

Iran is now set to continue doing business on the international banking system known as SWIFT, sources said. Additionally, the Trump administration will grant waivers to several countries allowing them to continue purchasing Iranian oil, another concession that the administration once said would not take place.

Posted by orrinj at 11:48 AM


In New Hampshire, smoking saved my life (Rod Liddle, 11/01/18, Spectator USA)

I almost got killed this week. I went for a very early morning walk in a New Hampshire forest, in the icy rain. Black coat, black hood, black trousers. And so the hunter saw this hunched, awkward, shambling black beast, stumbling over sodden logs, and immediately raised his rifle to his eye and cocked the trigger. One thing, and one thing only, saved me. The armed cracker, looking through his telescopic lens, thought to himself: 'Hey, it's a bear -- but it's... smoking a cigarette?' And so, at the last second, refrained from pulling the trigger.

Posted by orrinj at 4:31 AM


Washington State Teachers Are Learning to Disarm Shooters With Aluminum Tee-Ball Bats (EMILY GILLESPIE October 31, 2018, Fortune)

To prepare for a potential school shooting, a Washington state school district is training its teachers to arm themselves-not with a gun but with an aluminum bat.

Teachers and staff at the Dayton School District, located in the southeast corner of the state, went through a safety training that included learning how to use an aluminum tee-ball bat to fend off an active shooter, King5 News reports.

Posted by orrinj at 4:30 AM


Cory Booker talk sees more than 200 attendees (Anthony Robles, 11/1/18, The Dartmouth)

As Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) took selfies and recorded videos with students and community members following a Get Out the Vote rally on Sunday night with Rep. Annie McLane Kuster (D-NH), a young girl approached Booker and told him that he "should run for president." In response, Booker told her, "If I run, I want you on my team."

Booker is considered by many to be a leading contender for the Democratic Party's nomination in the 2020 presidential elections. On Sunday, Booker also stopped at the University of New Hampshire and headlined a fundraiser in Durham before finishing his day at Dartmouth in his first visit to New Hampshire, which hosts the first primary in the country.

When Kuster introduced Booker in front of a packed audience of over 200 people in Filene Auditorium, she jokingly referred to him as the next Democratic presidential nominee.

Last cycle, the Daughter went to see John Kasich and said she liked him nearly as much as Jeb but would need to see him again before she decided....
Posted by orrinj at 4:26 AM

Posted by orrinj at 4:23 AM


How Did Life Emerge? (ADAM GAFFNEY, November 1, 2018, New Republic)

In his new book Universe in Creation: A New Understanding of the Big Bang and the Emergence of Life, Roy Gould, an education researcher at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, argues that life is neither a miracle nor an aberration, but an inevitability whose emergence is dictated by the laws of nature. He frames his book around a question posed by the physicist John Archibald Wheeler in 1983. "Is the machinery of the universe so set up, and from the very beginning," Wheeler asked, "that it is guaranteed to produce intelligent life at some long-distant point in its history-to-be?"

Gould answers Wheeler's hypothetical in the affirmative.

Posted by orrinj at 4:18 AM


Trump Admin Says It's Open to Suggestions to Prevent Far-Right Violence. Here Are a Few. (Michael German and Faiza Patel, October 31, 2018, Just Security)

First, words matter. President Donald Trump's own words, obviously, but also those of government officials investigating these acts of violence. When law enforcement officials have enough information about motive - as they surely do in these cases - they should make clear that they are treating the cases as terrorism. [...]

Perhaps more importantly, the FBI should investigate these crimes with the urgency and priority that is the hallmark of "international" terrorism investigations. In the aftermath of an attack committed by a Muslim (whether an American citizen or foreign-born), no stone is left unturned to ensure there is no broader plot. For attacks on minorities, law enforcement officials often quickly announce that the perpetrator was acting alone and highlight mental illness as a possible factor. While that may well be true in some cases, the communities attacked deserve to know that all avenues of investigation have been explored, and it is the FBI's job to give them that reassurance.

The FBI should also reorient its mission to ensure that it pays enough attention to threats to minority communities. Since 9/11, counterterrorism has been the FBI's No. 1 priority. Civil rights enforcement - which includes hate crimes, the charges typically levied in cases such as the Pittsburgh synagogue attack - ranks far lower, fifth on the Bureau's priority list. These crimes should be treated equally seriously.

Data from 2010, the most recent publicly available, show that just a few hundred agents are assigned to domestic terrorism, out of several thousand assigned to counterterrorism duties. FBI Director Christopher Wray recently claimed that the Bureau had approximately 1,000 open domestic terrorism investigations. But that doesn't tell us how many of those investigations or prosecutions target minorities as perpetrators rather than as the victims, a particularly important question given the Bureau's long history of suspicion of these very communities (from Hoover's targeting of civil rights groups up through the FBI's fantasy "Black Identity Extremist" movement).

And if the White House doesn't act, Congress should not stand idly by. Since 9/11, it has held scores of hearings on the threat from ISIS and al-Qaeda but has mostly ignored the danger posed by violent far-right movements. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:17 AM


GOP hopefuls say they fight insurance companies, just like Obama (Glenn Kessler, November 1, 2018, Washington Post)

"I looked into Scott's stance on preexisting conditions. The truth is that Scott stood up to insurance companies. And he voted to protect people with preexisting conditions."

-- "Suburban mom," speaking in an ad for Rep. Scott Taylor (R-Va.), released Oct. 28, 2018

"Now I'm leading the fight to ... force insurance companies to cover preexisting conditions."

-- Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), in a campaign ad for her Senate race, released Oct. 24

"I support forcing insurance companies to cover preexisting conditions."

-- Gov. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), in an ad for his Senate race, released Oct. 24

"Obama would force insurance companies to cover preexisting conditions."

-- Barack Obama "coin" ad, released Oct. 2, 2008 [...]

Did it suddenly become 2008 all over again?

Before Obamacare, insurance companies could consider a person's health status when determining premiums, sometimes making coverage unaffordable or even unavailable if a person was sick or had a condition that required expensive treatment. The ACA included a series of provisions that prohibited such practices, but then Republicans spent years trying to repeal the law.

Now some Republicans are stealing Obama's rhetoric and claiming they will do what the ACA - which remains largely intact, despite President Trump's efforts - already does. It's certainly an interesting turnaround.

Everyone, understandably, wants credit for the Heritage Plan.

Posted by orrinj at 4:15 AM


How Bolsonaro Happens: Seven points about the Brazilian Presidential Election (Andre Kenji de Sousa, 10/26/18, Ordinary Times)

#3) When it comes to the economy, Bolsonaro is much more similar to the 5 Star Movement/Lega Nord coalition in Italy than with Trump.

There are several comparisons between Trump and Bolsonaro, and lots of political observers saying that Trump would enact a "Brazil first" economic policy.

A big part of the problem here is that Brazil is already a pretty closed economy.  Brazil basically uses tariffs and taxes to force manufacturers to produce goods locally. If you buy a smartphone in Brazil, it's a smartphone assembled in Brazil to avoid import duties of 60%. Basically, when Trump says that if Apple wants to avoid taxes, then they should assemble their iPhones in the United States, he's saying that the United States should be more like... Brazil.

Brazil already has lots of tariffs, and they are not that popular because... surprise, they make everything more expensive. (It's not a coincidence that Foxconn is building a plant in Wisconsin after building two plants in Brazil.)

In some sense, Bolsonaro resembles the Lega Nord / 5 Star Movement in Italy.  Brazil, like Italy, needs to do unpopular reforms: the country spends too much on pensions -- something close to 11% of the GDP -- and spends too much on government workers (too many people doing administrative tasks, and too many people being too expensive for those administrative tasks). Like with the coalition in Italy, Bolsonaro's coalition wants things that do not necessarily add up.

Bolsonaro's economic guru is Paulo Guedes, a Chicago Boy who was always popular among free market libertarians in Brazil. On the other hand, another of his lieutenants, Major Olimpio, now a senator-elect, almost ran as the running mate for the gubernatorial candidate of Lula and Dilma in São Paulo. One of Olimpio's issues with Lula and Dilma is that he thought that both were too conservative on pensions.

The truck drivers' strike that happened in May is also a sign of problems to come: oil prices are increasing, and that means inevitable increases on diesel prices, unless fuel subsidies are increased. The same increases that helped to bring about the truck drivers' strike.

This fragile alliance between people that like the status quo and those who want free markets might be a problematic marriage.

#4) There is not so much of a pro-Bolsonaro vote as that there is a Anti-PT vote.

The PT, the Workers' Party, was founded in 1981 by a coalition of union leaders and intellectuals. Lula, one of these union leaders (who would become a President), became a kind of legend as the leader of a sequence of strikes among steelworkers (particularly auto workers) in 1978-80.

Lula's rhetorical style is a mixture of Jesse Jackson in the 80's and Bill Clinton. Lula, who never finished the equivalent of Middle School, does not care for speaking with perfect grammar nor for using fancy words. Lula gives speeches like a working-class dude talks in the bar. One of the reasons why Lula gets so many votes in rural areas in the Northeast (one of the poorest regions in Brazil) is a local version of the bubba vote: there is a cultural identification between Lula and low-income people in the Northeast.

That also meant that Lula was an easy target. People in the middle classes outside the Northeast always saw Lula as an uneducated ignoramus.

The fact that the PT was not only the party of labor unions but also the party of academics created a perfect mix for cultural wars.

The dynamics of Brazilian elections since the 80s have been a push-pull between people voting for the PT on one side, and people opposing the PT on the other side. That allowed center-right parties to win elections with completely mediocre candidates, just because they were not the PT.

Polls show large rejection for Bolsonaro, but they also show even larger rejection for the PT. It's the most common dynamic in Brazilian politics.

The idea of a candidate from a pretty small party with little political experience winning the Presidency because of the anti-PT vote is not exactly new. In 1989, Fernando Collor (then a first-term governor of Alagoas, a small state in the Northeast) was elected President.

The fact that PT has held four consecutive mandates doesn't help either. Additionally, Dilma Rousseff was a clumsy politician, who created lots of unnecessary problems in the economy, and the country faced a huge recession under her watch.

#5) Without Dilma's Impeachment and Lula's arrest, it would be very difficult to imagine Bolsonaro being elected.

Ironically, without two controversial political events, Brazil would probably be having an election with two normal, boring politicians.

In 2014, Dilma Rousseff was reelected by a relatively small margin. She was elected in a coalition with PMDB, a center party that was then the largest party in Brazil. It was mostly a marriage of convenience, where Dilma would get the votes from the PMDB in Congress, and PMDB would name people for the ministries.

By that agreement, the PMDB named the vice-president, Michel Temer.

When Dilma's approval rating soured after a strong recession, Temer and his allies began to articulate the idea of Dilma's impeachment. The idea, which was supported by a lot of people on Wall Street, was that Temer could pass the "reforms" that Lula and Dilma could not enact.

Sure, you put in as President a guy that was not elected to be President, who will then enact a program of reforms that were rejected on the previous election. What could go wrong? To make things worse, Temer was not really used to dealing directly with voters. He was basically a parliamentary leader in the Lower House of Congress. He had other politicians as his main constituents, and he was also was married to a woman that was 43 years his junior. Plus his party was far from clean when it came to accusations of graft and corruption.

In the end, surprise, Temer was incredibly unpopular.  So unpopular that he became toxic to the parties that supported Dilma's impeachment -- basically all the major parties on the center-right.

That situation created a vacuum that favored Bolsonaro. It was not that different from what happened in the 90s in Italy, when Operation Clean Hands devastated all the major parties and created the opening for Berlusconi, previously an outsider to Italian politics.

Brazil has a golden opportunity to make the reforms it requires democratically.

The Dictator (John Lee Anderson, Apr. 11th, 1998, The New Yorker)

Augusto Pinochet, all quibbling about definitions aside, is that rarest of creatures, a successful former dictator. According to Chilean opinion polls, roughly a quarter of his fellow-citizens revere him. He has few modern parallels, except perhaps Francisco Franco. (Pinochet was the only foreign head of state to attend Franco's funeral, in 1975. Ferdinand Marcos sent his wife, Imelda.) Like Franco, Pinochet is an ultra-conservative Catholic nationalist, a military officer with an unremarkable personality who suddenly rose to prominence. Both men imposed their power through violence, and used security forces to maintain it. And, over time, both transformed their societies and built strong modern economies. Pinochet knows that he is frequently compared to Franco, and he is cagey about the analogy. "There is an appropriate leader for each country," he said guardedly. "Franco was necessary for Spain." [...]

Pinochet climbed up through the officers' ranks, and in 1971 he was made commander general of the Army's Santiago garrison. He was by then the author of several books on military geography and on geopolitics. In August, 1973, Salvador Allende, who had become President three years earlier, appointed him Commander-in-Chief of the Chilean Army. Mrs. Pinochet says she couldn't believe it when her husband told her the news; she thought he was joking. Then, less than three weeks later, the Army staged a coup and Allende killed himself during the attack on La Moneda, the Presidential palace. Her husband would rule Chile, and she would become the First Lady. "My husband had taught me that in a normal career he'd get to be colonel. Anything above would be good fortune and a bit of luck. He became a general because of politics. They call me messianic for saying so, but I believe it was divine Providence that he got to be President."

He stayed in power for seventeen years. Upward of three thousand people were killed or "disappeared" while he was in office, and tens of thousands more were imprisoned or fled into exile. The new constitution, which was passed in 1980, gave Pinochet an eight-year term as President, but he was so confident of his popularity that in 1988 he held a referendum proposing that his tenure be extended for another eight years. To his surprise he lost, and stepped down from office two years later. A civilian, democratic government was reëstablished, and a Christian Democrat was elected President. Next year is an election year, and the man widely tipped as the winner, Ricardo Lagos, is a former Allende aide and a Socialist.

The country that the new democratic leaders inherited is prosperous, forward-looking. Santiago, the capital city--where one in every three Chileans now live--sprawls in a fertile bowl of land beneath the Andean cordillera_,_ its air amber-colored with smog, the surrounding snowcapped mountains no longer visible most days. Blue- and black-tinted glass-and-marble office blocks are displacing the villas that used to make up the city's poshest neighborhoods; vineyards are being plowed up to make way for shopping malls and American-style subdivisions. At the intersections of the traffic-clogged roads, huge billboards advertise credit cards, cell phones, and laptop computers. Santiago is a Latin-American beachhead of the thrusting, free-market ethos that transforms urban areas everywhere into mosaics of industrial parks, freeways, office complexes, and suburban sprawl. In this new Chile, the modern, fortresslike American Embassy enjoys a prominent position in a walled compound situated between the Mapocho River--an odoriferous gray flow of water that bisects Santiago--and a shining outcrop of office blocks and hotels known locally as Sanhattan.

"All of this is new. All of it! What was here before . . . was chalets, bungalows. It was beautiful, but it was . . . something different," General Julio Canessa says. "And all of this was done by the horrible Pinochet." Canessa is being theatrically sarcastic. He believes that Pinochet suffers from the same unfair criticism that taints Franco's place in history. "If it hadn't been for Franco," Canessa says, "Spain would still be part of Africa."

Chile's vaunted economic miracle was brought about by the so-called Chicago Boys, a group of Chilean disciples of the American economist Milton Friedman, who were given free reign to put their theories into practice in the mid-seventies. They encouraged generous incentives for foreign investors and the privatization of businesses that the Marxist Allende had nationalized. This resulted in an average annual economic growth rate of seven per cent for the past fourteen years, a rate three times the over-all Latin-American average. A recent United Nations study of life expectancy, salaries, access to health services, and educational standards rated Chile higher than any other Latin-American country.

This performance brought Augusto Pinochet many admirers among conservatives, including Margaret Thatcher, who sent an aide to Chile to spend six months studying Pinochet's economic reforms before she embarked on her own in Britain. [...]

The chaotic, three-year attempt by Salvador Allende to take Chile on the "road to socialism" was opposed by a large portion of the Chilean population. Allende was elected with only a third of the vote, but after he took office he moved quickly, nationalizing the copper mines and other industries, conducting large-scale land reform, and increasing government spending on social-welfare programs. He alienated the armed forces, the private sector, and traditional political parties, including the Christian Democrats. As some members of his Popular Unity coalition government pushed for more radical changes, right-wing militants responded with bombings and killings, and leftists prepared for a civil war. When the coup finally came, not many Chileans were surprised, and many middle-class citizens openly applauded it, although they could not have known that Chile would soon become a proving ground for the grisly anti-Communist dirty wars that were waged in Latin America during the seventies and eighties. If Radovan Karadzic can be given authorship of "ethnic cleansing," then Augusto Pinochet can probably be credited with adding los desaparecidos--"the disappeared"--to the modern lexicon. [...]

Pinochet's most substantial claim to being a good leader is that he oversaw the Chilean economic miracle. With Congress closed down, and political parties and union activity outlawed, there were no obstacles to the implementation of Milton Friedman's program of a free-market "shock treatment." Drastic cuts were made in public spending to cure a hyperinflating economy. Banks were deregulated, interest rates freed, and import tariffs slashed; state-owned enterprises were sold off. In response, the junta obtained lenient refinancing for Chile's foreign debt and munificent loans from the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, and other financial institutions.

Pinochet made sure that the armed forces received some of the benefits of the flourishing economy. By law, the military receives ten per cent of the profits from the copper industry, Chile's main export earner, which is still under state control. The nationalization of copper was one Allende measure that was popular across the political spectrum. Copper had been controlled by United States mining interests for decades and was a contentious national-sovereignty issue.

Aside from one major financial crisis in the early eighties, caused by bad investments and overspending, Chile's economy has grown rapidly. Along with the new foreign investments came credit cards and a robust stock market. Private, employment-linked schemes began to replace state-provided social-security and health-insurance programs; new private schools and private universities were built. Chile today has the largest middle class in Latin America, estimated at sixty per cent of its population; a ninety-five-per-cent literacy rate; low infant mortality; an average life expectancy of seventy-four years; and declining poverty levels.

Posted by orrinj at 4:14 AM


The big secret about the Affordable Care Act: It's working just fine  (Ezekiel Emanuel October 31, 2018, Washington Post)

First, enrollment is strong. During last year's enrollment period, nearly 12 million Americans bought insurance on the exchanges, and more than 25 percent of them were first-time customers. [...]

Second, premiums are lower. For Americans shopping on the exchanges, many are getting a great deal. Across the market, premiums are down in 2019. Yes, you read that right: down. A few weeks ago, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that average premiums for the benchmark silver plan are down 1.5 percent. As supporters of the ACA have consistently argued, the 2017 premium spikes were a one-time adjustment. After a few rocky years, insurers are figuring out how to price the market, and premiums are leveling out.

For example, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina recently announced that it was able to cut premiums for coverage offered in the individual market, including the health-insurance exchange, by 4.1 percent. This is the first rate decline in the North Carolina individual market ever, and it might have been larger had federal and state policy not worked at cross-purposes.

And North Carolina is not alone. According to CMS, of the 39 states on, five had double-digit declines, led by Tennessee with a drop of more than 25 percent. Other populous states, including Pennsylvania and New Jersey, had declines exceeding 14 percent. Only three states had double-digit increases, and all the states were small: Hawaii, North Dakota and Delaware. More important, the subsidized premiums across all states rose a mere 2 percent. This increase was lower than for private, employer-sponsored insurance, where premiums rose by an average of 5 percent for families and 3 percent for individuals.

These declines in premiums reflect the broader success of the ACA in controlling health-care costs. For eight years since the ACA passed, health-care costs have moderated, growing much less than during the George W. Bush administration. Indeed, per-person costs in Medicare and Medicaid have declined, and per-person costs in private insurance have increased on average less than 4 percent annually since 2010.

Finally, in 2019, many health-insurance companies are joining or expanding their presence on the ACA exchanges. 

Who could have predicted that companies would be scrambling to get back in on the action and costs would deflate....

Posted by orrinj at 4:11 AM


India, Korea Said to Agree Outline of Iran Oil Waiver With U.S. (Heesu Lee  and Debjit Chakraborty, November 1, 2018, Bloomberg)

India and South Korea agreed with the U.S. on the outline of deals that would allow them to keep importing some Iranian oil, according to Asian officials with knowledge of the matter.

Posted by orrinj at 4:05 AM


A Thorn in the Kremlin's Side (JENNA LIFHITS, October 31, 2018, Weekly Standard)

Bellingcat has found itself at the heart of some of the Kremlin's touchiest affairs over the last few years--starting with the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine in July 2014. A Russian missile killed the 298 passengers onboard and sparked months of disinformation and denials. The tragedy was "a massive catalyst both for the work of Bellingcat but also the development of the field of online open-source investigation as a whole," says Eliot Higgins, Bellingcat's founder, who is based in Leicester, England.

Higgins and a crew of volunteers cut through the Kremlin's falsehoods about what happened to the flight known as MH17, ferreting out the origins of the missile launcher used in the downing and tracking its journey into Ukraine. Obsessive curiosity is Higgins's trademark. Blogging under the name Brown Moses, he became known for using YouTube videos to identify the weapons being used in the Syrian civil war. At Bellingcat, he has put together a roster of skilled contributors who specialize in sorting through just such information mazes.

One is Aric Toler, a Kansas City-based researcher with a background in Russian literature. Toler started "for fun" in 2014, helping on the MH17 reports. He ended up working on project after project and with Bellingcat's website gaining popularity and funding, was brought on full-time. About half of the organization's income comes from grants and donations from groups like the Open Society Foundations and the National Endowment for Democracy or from crowdfunding for specific research projects. The other half comes from Bellingcat's workshops on how to responsibly leverage open-source information. Toler helps lead these five-day seminars for journalists, analysts, and others, which are offered in Western capitals as well as near Russia's border in Georgia and Armenia.

Open-source reporting centers on analyzing publicly available material in an effort to pin down objective facts about an individual or incident. Bellingcat walks people through the process on its website, showing how you can verify a video or identify the weapon used in an attack. The site's reports detail how the underlying information was obtained. "The hope is that my audience will see the process of verification and investigation, learn from that, and participate, so they learn how verification works and become skilled investigators themselves," Higgins told the Columbia Journalism Review.

Even as the site staffs up, it continues to crowdsource its work. Bellingcat asks readers whether they can identify the location of a particularly obscure photo or video, for example, or figure out what time it was taken. "It's kind of like a game, who can figure it out first," says Toler. "Some people garden and some people do other things. It's just a hobby that people have."

It's not just because of his Judaism that the Trumpbots hate George Soros.

Posted by orrinj at 4:02 AM


Ex-GOP lawmaker: I voted for Gillum over DeSantis in Florida (CHRIS MILLS RODRIGO,  10/31/18, The Hill)
Former GOP Rep. David Jolly (Fla.) is one of a number of Republicans voting for Democrat Andrew Gillum over GOP candidate Ron DeSantis in the Florida gubernatorial election, according to the Tampa Bay Times. [...]

"I've spoken to Republican voters who under-voted in the 2016 presidential race because they couldn't bring themselves to vote for Hillary Clinton," he said.

"But this go-round, they're bringing themselves to vote for Andrew Gillum. There's a break-it-so-it-can-be-rebuilt element. I also really think it's just a plain rejection of all things Donald Trump and his surrogates."

"I've turned in my ballot. I voted for Andrew Gillum" Jolly continued. "The reason is simple: it's because I've served with Ron DeSantis."

Posted by orrinj at 4:02 AM


Pro-Trump Activists Blame Charlie Kirk and Candace Owens for Losing Kanye West (Will Sommer, 10.31.18, The Daily Beast)

Pro-Trump activists are fuming after Kanye West's announcement that he's "distancing" himself from politics, with the blame falling on two right-wing personalities--Turning Point USA's Charlie Kirk and Candace Owens--who fellow conservatives say used West to push their personal brands at the expense of the conservative movement.

"They really over-grifted that situation," said Lucian Wintrich, a former White House correspondent for Gateway Pundit.

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 AM


So much for "fake news" blowhards. Traditional national news sites are thriving. (MICHAEL GROTHAUS, 11/01/18, Fast Company)

Adobe Analytics aggregated data from over 400 large news websites and apps since January 2016 encompassing over 150 billion visits. From this data Adobe discovered:

Consumers are continuing to turn to established news sources, with major traditional national news outlets seeing 22% overall visit growth during the period.

What's interesting is that all the political drama in the U.S. is driving foreign traffic to U.S. national news sites, with nearly three out of every 10 visits to U.S. news sites coming from outside the country. [...]

Also, a full 28% of traffic will come to national news sites between the hours of 8 a.m. and 11 a.m.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


Russia's Syria Problem: The Russians are discovering that success on the battlefield doesn't automatically translate to achievement of political goals. (ROBERT E. HAMILTON, 11/01/18, American Interest)

Russia's problems in Syria are now primarily political. They are the kinds of problems that killing "militants" and destroying "terrorist targets" can't solve. One way to examine these problems is geographically.

A look at the map reveals three areas where Russia's drive to reunite the country under Assad's rule is being thwarted. The first is Idlib, where some three million civilians and thousands of fighters are clustered in the opposition's last large stronghold in western Syria. The influence in Idlib of Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, one of the strongest and most radical Syrian opposition groups, was always going to make the fight there bloody and difficult.

Russia and the Assad regime have complicated their problem in Idlib by funneling fighters from other opposition groups there after they conquered territory those groups controlled. Many of these were moderate opposition groups that were parties to the 2016 Cessation of Hostilities agreement but are now likely radicalized after their sustained interaction with Jabhat Fateh al-Sham and their prior experience of being brutalized by Russian and Iranian tactics elsewhere in the country.

The enemy Russia now confronts in Idlib is not only stronger than it had previously been but also includes groups tied to Turkey, one of Russia's key partners in its drive to sideline the U.S. government and the United Nations in a postwar settlement. If Russia were to opt for a sustained bombing campaign to deal with its enemies in Idlib, it would certainly lose Turkey's support and could even bring on a confrontation with the Turkish military, which has forces deployed there. So Moscow chose to conclude an agreement with Ankara delaying military action in Idlib, kicking the can down the road.

Al-Tanf is another area where Russia's drive to unify Syria under Assad's regime is being thwarted. The problem here is the U.S. military. After several strikes by Russia and the Syrian regime on U.S.-backed groups in the region, the U.S. military established a garrison at Al-Tanf and declared a 55-kilometer security zone around this garrison. On several occasions it has enforced this zone by destroying vehicles or aircraft that have entered it.

Further complicating the situation around Al-Tanf is the existence of the Rukban camp for internally displaced persons, which sits inside the U.S. security zone. Russian claims that the Rukban camp harbors terrorists unnerve U.S. policymakers, who fear a bloodbath there if U.S. forces withdraw.

Finally, the U.S. presence at Al-Tanf, which is in the Syria-Jordan-Iraq tri-border region, is a source of reassurance for Jordan and complicates Iran's vision of a "Shi'a Crescent" stretching from Tehran to Beirut. A near-term U.S. withdrawal from Al-Tanf is therefore unlikely. But without pushing the U.S. military out of its garrison there, Russia can never satisfy its allies in Damascus and Tehran.

Syria's northeast is the last area where Russia's goals are being thwarted. Here again the problem is the U.S. military and its partner, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is a coalition of Kurdish and Sunni Arab militias. The SDF is well-led, well-trained, well-equipped, and has embedded U.S. military advisers, making it a formidable adversary. Russia's attempt to challenge the SDF by using Wagner Group mercenaries to attack it in February brought U.S. counterstrikes that killed more than 200 of the attackers.

In addition to its military success in liberating northeastern Syria from ISIL, including the group's "capital" of Raqqa, the SDF has proven politically adept. In each liberated area it has established civic councils to govern and provide essential services. The recent U.S. announcement that it will remain in Syria to thwart Iran there will boost the confidence of the SDF and further complicate matters for Moscow, Damascus, and Tehran.