December 3, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 6:58 PM


Legal Experts Pummel Rudy Giuiliani's Defense of Trump's Controversial Roger Stone Tweet (Colin Kalmbacher, December 3rd, 2018, Law & Crime)

Julie Rendelman is a former prosecutor and currently a defense attorney working in New York City. She also serves as an analyst on the Law&Crime Network. Rendelman thinks both Trump and Giuliani blew it here.

"Trump's tweet regarding Roger Stone is simply one of a growing number of comments by Trump designed to send a message of intimidation and bullying to those who might cross him," she told Law&Crime. "Giuliani's response is, as usual, a poorly communicated attempt to give an innocent explanation for Trump's tweet. And as we see time and time again, it appears to have backfired."

Robert Bianchi is also a former prosecutor as well as a national legal analyst and host on the Law&Crime Network. Bianchi said that Giuliani that himself, back in his prosecutor days, likely would have made easy work out of Trump's perceived message for Stone.

"Poppycock," Bianchi said of Giuliani's excuse. "When Giuliani was U.S. Attorney he would indict in a flash someone communicating with a witness-arguing it was to embolden them to stay the course and not cooperate."

Bianchi went on to note that Trump's presidential prerogatives only sweeten the potential pot here.

"Not to mention the person tweeting is under investigation and has the power to pardon, which he, Trump, in plain sight has stated is on the table. Add those comments up and it is clear to all but the dumbfounded what is cute by half and you will get burned."

Perhaps further complicating matters for himself and the 45th president, Roger Stone appears to have signaled that he received the presidential message of encouragement loud and clear.

Posted by orrinj at 6:21 PM


Unplug Electric Vehicle Subsidies and Let Consumers Decide (Nicolas Loris, December 03, 2018, Daily Signal)

Electric vehicle handouts subsidize the wealthiest Americans and, despite their being advertised as a more "climate-friendly" option, they produce next to no climate benefit for the planet.

Trump does not quite have the power to cut GM's current electric vehicles subsidies full stop. But he could play an important role in the future of the targeted tax subsidy.

Both federal and state governments have generous handouts for electric vehicles. The federal tax credit extends up to $7,500 and applies to the first 200,000 electric vehicles per manufacturer, and then a phaseout of the credit begins.

Tesla is in the phaseout period now, and General Motors Co. is close to hitting the 200,000 mark.

Congress is considering a larger package to revive and extend special tax breaks that use the tax code to pick winners and losers.

Some members want to include a permanent extension of the $7,500 tax credit and to lift the 200,000 cap. An unlimited subsidy would be a massively expensive bill for taxpayers and a win for cronyism that awards money based on preferential treatment, rather than the competitive process.

Furthermore, extending the subsidy would continue to take decision rights away from car buyers and leave them in the hands of the federal government.

Use a hammer, not a scalpel.  Government can do destruction well, but surgery poorly. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:13 PM


PODCAST: Remembering 41 (Hosted by Charlie Sykes, 12/03/18, Weekly Standard)

On today's Daily Standard Podcast, editor-at-large William Kristol and national correspondent Andrew Ferguson join host Charlie Sykes to remember President George H.W. Bush. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:01 PM


Ex-Marine admits he lured Seth Rich conspiracy theorist Jack Burkman to a hotel parking garage, then shot him (Rachel Weiner, December 3, 2018, Washington Post)

A man who worked as an investigator for conspiracy theorist Jack Burkman will serve nine years in prison for shooting and wounding his ex-boss in a complicated plot involving a fake FBI exposé. [...]

Burkman told The Washington Post in March that he hired Doherty, a onetime Marine, to investigate the death of Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich. Burkman, a Republican lobbyist, has enmeshed himself in a conspiracy theory that Rich was killed for handing Democratic emails over to WikiLeaks. Law enforcement has deemed the homicide a botched street robbery, and Rich's family has repeatedly sued right-wing news outlets for falsely reporting otherwise.

Doherty was supposed to build a psychological profile of Rich's possible killer, but Burkman said in March that he and Doherty quickly came to loggerheads over control of the project. Burkman fired Doherty in July 2017.

In court, Eastman described the plot Doherty executed months later and how police tracked him down. Doherty sent Burkman emails pretending to have information "detrimental to the FBI." Burkman paid Doherty $15,000 and arranged to pick up the documentation from under a traffic cone at the Key Bridge Marriott in Arlington on March 13.

Posted by orrinj at 2:34 PM


Wall Street rises as industrials, tech bounce on trade truce (Shreyashi Sanyal, 12/03/18, Reuters) 

Trade-sensitive industrial and technology stocks pushed Wall Street higher on Monday after the United States and China agreed on a temporary trade detente, hopes of which had driven the market last week to post its biggest gain in nearly seven years.

...were to drop all opposition to the free movement of goods and people and join the TPP and CETA and add the UK to the CMUSA. Simply by undoing his own unforced errors he'd get a boom he could claim credit for.  All he needs to do is become Bizarro-Donald.

Posted by orrinj at 2:28 PM


Posted by orrinj at 2:23 PM


Right-left rift tops ethnic tensions as biggest source of polarization in Israel (RAOUL WOOTLIFF, 12/03/18, Times of Israel)

A growing fissure between the right and left has catapulted political rifts into becoming the most powerful source of tension in Israeli society, leapfrogging long-held divisions between Jews and Arabs, a new poll of attitudes from across the widening political spectrum has found.

In 2012, just nine percent of Jewish Israelis identified the right-left divide as the worst rift in the country. Today, that number stands at 36%, according to a poll released on Monday by the Israel Democracy Institute.

Posted by orrinj at 4:09 AM


A comprehensive guide to the new science of treating lower back pain: A review of 80-plus studies upends the conventional wisdom. (Julia Belluz,  Jul 27, 2018, Vox)

The big takeaway: Millions of back patients like Ramin are floundering in a medical system that isn't equipped to help them. They're pushed toward intrusive, addictive, expensive interventions that often fail or can even harm them, and away from things like yoga or psychotherapy, which actually seem to help. Meanwhile, Americans and their doctors have come to expect cures for everything -- and back pain is one of those nearly universal ailments with no cure. Patients and taxpayers wind up paying the price for this failure, both in dollars and in health.

Thankfully, Ramin finally discovered an exercise program that has eased her discomfort. And to this day, no matter how busy her life gets, she does a series of exercises every morning called "the McGill Big Three" (more on them later). "With very rare exceptions," she says, "I find time to exercise, even when I'm on the road."

More and more people like Ramin are seeking out conservative therapies for back pain. While yoga, massage, and psychotherapy have been around for a long time, there was little high-quality research out there to understand their effects on back pain, and doctors sometimes looked down on these practices. But over the past decade, that's changed.

To learn more, I searched the medical literature on treatments for lower back pain (the most common type) and read through more than 80 studies (mainly reviews of the research that summarized the findings of hundreds more studies) about both "active" approaches (yoga, Pilates, tai chi, etc.) and passive therapies (massage, chiropractics, acupuncture, and so on). I also talked to nine experts and researchers in this field. (For more detail on our methods, scroll to the end.)

What I found surprised me: Many of these approaches really do seem to help, though often with modest effects. But when you compare even those small benefits with the harm we're currently doing while medically "treating" back pain, the horror of the status quo becomes clear. "No one dies of low back pain," one back pain expert, University of Amsterdam assistant professor Sidney Rubinstein, summed up, "but people are now dying from the treatment."

Posted by orrinj at 4:06 AM


Qatar: We're quitting OPEC in 2019 (Middle East Eye, 3 December 2018)

Qatar said on Monday it was quitting OPEC from January to focus on its gas ambitions, taking a swipe at the group's de facto leader Saudi Arabia and marring efforts to show unity before this week's meeting of exporters to tackle an oil price slide.

Doha, one of OPEC's smallest oil producers but the world's biggest liquefied natural gas (LNG) exporter, is embroiled in a protracted diplomatic row with Saudi Arabia and some other Arab states.

Qatar said its decision was not driven by politics but in an apparent swipe at Riyadh, Minister of State for Energy Affairs Saad al-Kaabi said: "We are not saying we are going to get out of the oil business but it is controlled by an organisation managed by a country." He did not name the nation.

Posted by orrinj at 4:05 AM


Robot Janitors Are Coming to Mop Floors at a Walmart Near You (Pavel Alpeyev, December 3, 2018, Bloomberg)

The world's largest retailer is rolling out 360 autonomous floor-scrubbing robots in some of its stores in the U.S. by the end of the January, it said in a joint statement with Brain Corp., which makes the machines. The autonomous janitors can clean floors on their own even when customers are around, according to the San Diego-based startup.

Walmart has already been experimenting with automating the scanning of shelves for out-of-stock items and hauling products from storage for online orders. Advances in computer vision are also making it possible to use retail floor data to better understand consumer behavior, improve inventory tracking and even do away with checkout counters, as Inc. is trying to do with its cashierless stores. Brain's robots are equipped with an array of sensors that let them to gather and upload data.

"We can take anything that has wheels and turn it into a fully autonomous robot, provided that it can go slow and stopping is never a safety concern," said Brain Chief Executive Office Eugene Izhikevich. "And it's more than just navigation. It is to robots what Android operating system is to smartphones."

Brain doesn't make its own hardware, focusing instead on developing software -- BrainOS -- that endows machines with autonomy in closed environments. At first, the machines were need to be operated by humans, who "teach" the layout of the space that needs cleaning. After that the robots can perform the task autonomously.

Posted by orrinj at 4:05 AM


Rich Americans Rank Financial Security Over Love in Relationships (Lananh Nguyen, November 30, 2018, Bloomberg)

When looking for a partner, 56 percent of affluent Americans want someone who provides financial security, versus 44 percent who want to be "head over heels" in love, according to more than 1,000 respondents surveyed by Bank of America Corp.'s Merrill Edge. Of those polled, 63 percent said they preferred a career-focused partner over a socially conscious mate.

"There's a level of realism" for couples who face economic uncertainty and a lack of financial planning, said Aron Levine, head of consumer banking and Merrill Edge, which offers online investing. "How do you keep the love of your life if you can't pay for a vacation?" he said in an interview in New York.

Family Structure: The Growing Importance of Class (Isabel V. Sawhill, January 16, 2013, Brookings)

Nearly fifty years later, the picture is even more grim--and the statistics can no longer be organized neatly by race. In fact, Moynihan's bracing profile of the collapsing black family in the 1960s looks remarkably similar to a profile of the average white family today. White households have similar--or worse--statistics of divorce, unwed childbearing, and single motherhood as the black households cited by Moynihan in his report. In 2000, the percentage of white children living with a single parent was identical to the percentage of black children living with a single parent in 1960: 22 percent.

What was happening to black families in the '60s can be reinterpreted today not as an indictment of the black family but as a harbinger of a larger collapse of traditional living arrangements--of what demographer Samuel Preston, in words that Moynihan later repeated, called "the earthquake that shuddered through the American family."

That earthquake has not affected all American families the same way. While the Moynihan report focused on disparities between white and black, increasingly it is class, and not just race, that matters for family structure. Although blacks as a group are still less likely to marry than whites, gaps in family formation patterns by class have increased for both races, with the sharpest declines in marriage rates occurring among the least educated of both races. For example, in 1960, 76 percent of adults with a college degree were married, compared to 72 percent of those with a high school diploma--a gap of only 4 percentage points. By 2008, not only was marriage less likely, but that gap had quadrupled, to 16 percentage points, with 64 percent of adults with college degrees getting married compared to only 48 percent of adults with a high school diploma. A report from the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia summed up the data well: "Marriage is an emerging dividing line between America's moderately educated middle and those with college degrees." The group for whom marriage has largely disappeared now includes not just unskilled blacks but unskilled whites as well. Indeed, for younger women without a college degree, unwed childbearing is the new normal.

These differences in family formation are a problem not only for those concerned with "family values" per se, but also for those concerned with upward mobility in a society that values equal opportunity for its children. Because the breakdown of the traditional family is overwhelmingly occurring among working-class Americans of all races, these trends threaten to make the U.S. a much more class-based society over time. The well-educated and upper-middle-class parents who are still forming two-parent families are able to invest time and resources in their children--time and resources that lower- and working-class single mothers, however impressive their efforts to be both good parents and good breadwinners, simply do not have.

The striking similarities between what happened to black Americans at an earlier stage in our history and what is happening now to white working-class Americans may shed new light on old debates about cultural versus structural explanations of poverty. What's clear is that economic opportunity, while not the only factor affecting marriage, clearly matters.

Love without responsibility and obligation is mere self-indulgence.  It's no surprise it doesn't work.

Posted by orrinj at 4:03 AM


Saudi dissident sues Israeli software firm for helping Riyadh spy on him (Middle East Eye, 3 December 2018)

A Saudi dissident is suing the NSO group, alleging that Israeli software company helped Riyadh hack his phone to spy on correspondence with Jamal Khashoggi, the journalist murdered by the kingdom's operatives two months ago.

Omar Abdulaziz, a prominent critic of Saudi Arabia's government and its powerful crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, lives in exile in Canada.

His lawsuit, filed in Montreal, follows other suits charging the Israeli company with similarly helping controversial governments in the United Arab Emirates and Mexico spy on dissidents, activists and journalists.

The NSO group is licensed to sell its technology to foreign powers by the Israeli government, and its ties with Gulf Arab countries is evidence of growing relationships between those states and Israel.

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 AM


Washington Post tripled Yemen coverage after Khashoggi's death (Cockburn, 29 November 2018 , Spectator USA)

At the time of printing, the Post had published 879 posts featuring the word 'Yemen' on in 2018. Khashoggi was killed on October 2, 2018 - 59 days ago. In the 59 days preceding his death, the Post had published 100 posts containing 'Yemen'.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


RIP, The Vishnu: He was the kindest, most decent man I've ever known (Christopher Buckley, 2 December 2018, Spectator USA)

As a boy, one of his nicknames - he had several - was 'Have-Half,' after his habit of always sharing half his sandwich with whoever was there. Another was 'Poppy,' followed years later by the somewhat more exotic 'Vishnu.'

'Have-Half' remained apt later in his life. As vice president, Mr Bush would stay over in Washington for Christmas rather than go home to Houston, so that his Secret Service detail could spend the day with their families. When, a few years ago, the two-year-old child of one of his Secret Service agents was stricken with cancer, Mr Bush shaved his own head bald in solidarity.

There are dozens, scores, hundreds such stories about George Herbert Walker Bush's noblesse oblige -or as he called it, 'noblesse noblige.' [...]

He was, to use a term that has suffered of late from desuetude, a Christian gentleman. Paradigmatically so. His love was total, unconditional. He embodied Shakespeare's admonition that 'Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds.' His soul was visible on his sleeve. And in his pocket there was always a handkerchief, usually damp.

I was present in 2004 at the National Cathedral in Washington when Mr Bush, struggling through his eulogy to Ronald Reagan, came close to breaking down. I'd seen him lose it so many times. He'd choke up during the playing of the National Anthem at a baseball game. The Navy Hymn brought forth Niagara falls. For a flinty New England blueblood Yankee, George Bush had the tear ducts of a Sicilian grandmother.

In November 1992 I phoned him at Camp David. It was a few days after his mother Dorothy had passed away. Just weeks before, he'd lost the presidency to a governor of Arkansas. Talk about a dark, drizzly November of the soul.

Dorothy Bush's funeral was the next day. I asked if he was going to give a eulogy.

'God no,' he said. 'I couldn't do it. I'd choke up. I would be permanently ensconced as a member of the Bawl Brigade.' The Bawl Brigade is Bush-speak for members of the family who cry easily. It constitutes a majority of Bushes.

He told me, 'I'd love to, but I know my limitations. I even choked up here at Camp David last night. We had our choir singing. We had a little vespers program with Amy Grant. It was so beautiful, and I found myself choking up. We had a bunch of friends up here and "Oh God," I said, "please hold back the floods."'

That was my Vishnu. I'm struggling now to hold back my own floods, but I'm also pinching myself, contemplating my amazing good fortune in having known this splendid man.

Posted by orrinj at 3:58 AM


'Twists but no plot': Trump's diminishing foreign travel reflects a president scaling back foreign ambition (David Nakamura and John Hudson December 2, 2018, Washington Post)

Trump returned to Washington on Sunday after a relatively subdued two-day visit to the Group of 20 summit in Buenos Aires, where he announced modest breakthroughs on trade but chose to avoid provocative meetings with Russian President Vladi­mir Putin and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

His performance -- coupled with his listless two-day visit to Paris days after the midterms, during which he skipped a visit to an American cemetery and appeared isolated from other world leaders -- has created the impression of a president scaling back his ambitions on the world stage amid mounting political crises. [...]

For Trump, there appears to be diminishing bandwidth to focus on foreign affairs, given that he is weighing a Cabinet shake-up and has threatened a partial government shutdown this month over border wall funding.

Furthermore, the Democrats' looming takeover of the House has posed new dangers for the White House in the form of potential subpoenas and investigations. And bombshell revelations last week involving former Trump associates in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election have rattled the White House.

Donald who?

Posted by orrinj at 3:53 AM


Alan Dershowitz says he's still advising Jeffrey Epstein (Jonathan Swan, 12/03/18, Axios)

Behind the scenes: While he was allegedly raping teenage girls, Epstein cultivated cozy relationships with America's elites.

Bill Clinton flew on Epstein's plane, nicknamed the "Lolita Express," numerous times, according to flight logs.

And Donald Trump, in a profile with New York magazine written several years before the police caught up with Epstein, praised his friend as a "terrific guy." "It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do," Trump said of Epstein, "and many of them are on the younger side."

Dershowitz was also friendly with Epstein before the broader public knew he was a pedophile.