February 4, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 9:20 PM


Soviet Spy Morton Sobell, History, and Betting on the Wrong Horse (Mark Tooley, February 4, 2019, pROVIDENCE)

"I bet on the wrong horse," an elderly Sobell avuncularly admitted to a reporter in 2011. He was recruited by Julius Rosenberg to spy for the Soviets during WWII when they both worked in the defense industry. Although he later claimed they only intended to help an ally against the Axis, his espionage for the Soviets continued after the war.

The Rosenberg and other collaborators were arrested in 1950, prompting Sobell to flee with his family to Mexico, only to be returned by Mexican police. He was sentenced to 30 years but was released early in 1969. Although denying guilt for espionage, he joyfully visited the Soviet Union, East Germany, Vietnam, and Cuba. The global left championed his cause as martyr wrongfully imprisoned for his politics, and he insistently wrote and spoke about his innocence.

Not until 2008 at age 91 did Sobell admit his espionage for the Soviets, acknowledging the Rosenbergs' guilt also, though minimizing the documents he shared as mostly unimportant and not threatening U.S. security. In fact, the secrets he stole likely helped shoot down U.S. pilots in Korea and Vietnam. His memoir described America as the guilty party in the Cold War.

Sobell was raised by Russian emigre Communist parents and was himself apparently a believer from his boyhood in Marxism as an inevitable historical force. The Rosenbergs also were youthful Communist zealots. They saw themselves as servants of history. Not even Stalinist mass murder discouraged their ardor. "That comes with the territory," Sobell explained.

Posted by orrinj at 9:17 PM


Prosecutors subpoena Trump inaugural committee for documents: media reports (Reuters2/04/19)

The investigation is examining whether some of the committee's donors gave money in exchange for policy concessions, influencing administration positions or access to the incoming administration, the Journal reported.

Prosecutors also showed interest in whether any foreigners illegally donated to the committee, the New York Times reported. Federal law prohibits foreign contributions to inaugural funds.

A spokeswoman for the committee told the Journal in a statement: "We have just received a subpoena for documents. While we are still reviewing the subpoena, it is our intention to cooperate with the inquiry."

Posted by orrinj at 1:25 PM


There's a chance that Trump has altered California politics for years to come, political watchers say (JOHN MYERS, FEB 03, 2019m LA Times)

A long-term Trump effect could be a fatal blow to the state's atrophied Republican Party. Half of the GOP seats in California's congressional delegation were lost in November. Its standard bearer, gubernatorial candidate John Cox, received only 38% of the vote against Gov. Gavin Newsom. Republican caucuses in the state Senate and Assembly are now at their lowest levels since the 19th century. And this was only the midterm election.

What happens when the president is on the ballot next year?

"It's time to look at another path," former Assembly GOP leader Kristin Olsen said to those who believe in traditional Republican principles. She told the Berkeley audience that it's unclear "if the [state] party can outlast Donald Trump's presidency."

Posted by orrinj at 4:02 AM


Howard Schultz and the Ghosts of 1992: Ross Perot took 20 percent of the vote from George H.W. Bush, the incumbent Republican president. Could Howard Schultz do the same thing? (MARY HARRIS, FEB 02, 2019, Slate)

"If you look at the third-party candidacies that have gotten some traction, I think the best one, the most encouraging modern example for somebody like Howard Schultz who might be thinking about running third-party, would be Ross Perot in 1992," Kornacki says.

That guy heckling Howard Schultz at a New York City bookstore, and all the people roasting him on Twitter--they're haunted by the ghosts of that 1992 election. Like Howard Schultz, Ross Perot ran as a billionaire and a Washington outsider. He actually got nearly 20 percent of the vote. It wasn't enough to win, but some say it was enough to change the outcome.

To understand how Schultz could change things in 2020, I asked Kornacki to take me back to the '90s. Even though what happened back in 1992 is not the perfect analogy for today--no story would be--there are still many similarities.

Like Schultz, Ross Perot was a well-known businessman when he decided to run for office in the early '90s. Like today, the sitting president, George H.W. Bush, was in trouble. The economy was faltering. He was worried about being implicated in the Iran-Contra affair.

"What you saw in the start of 1992 was that Bush's approval rating was plummeting," says Kornacki. "A year earlier, he'd led the country to victory in a war--the first Gulf War--to get Saddam Hussein out of Iraq. In February 1992, Bush's approval rating falls to 39 percent. It's in that climate that Ross Perot goes on the CNN program Larry King Live and is pressed about a presidential run.

"King asks him a bunch of times, Hey, you know what people are looking for? Would you run for president?" says Kornacki.

Eventually, Perot sort of relents, hinting that he would run if people were willing to organize and get him on the ballot.

"You don't have social media in the way we know it today, and yet it's this sort of viral moment," Kornacki says. "The word of that moment, the clip of that moment, spreads. It spreads slower than it would now, but over the course of days, weeks, and months, this massive--truly, truly massive--grassroots movement emerges that starts getting Perot on the ballot."

By June of 1992, Ross Perot is running in first place in the national polls. He's ahead of President George H.W. Bush, and Gov. Bill Clinton is far behind. People begin to believe that it may actually be possible--that Ross Perot might actually win the presidential election, become an independent president, and blow up the two-party system.

Posted by orrinj at 3:57 AM


Even Sean McVay isn't immune to getting outcoached by Bill Belichick (Stephen Holder, 2/04/19, The Athletic)

"There's no other way to say it: I got outcoached tonight," McVay said after his explosive offense sputtered to a halt in a 13-3 loss to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LIII. "Coach (Bill) Belichick did an outstanding job...I'm pretty numb right now, but definitely, I got outcoached. I didn't do nearly good enough for our football team." [...]

"We knew we couldn't come out here and just play one thing," Patriots safety Devin McCourty said. "We couldn't just come out and play zone. We couldn't just come out and play man. We knew McVay is too good. (Jared) Goff is too good. They got too many good skill players out there, but we also knew from a defensive standpoint we were good enough to do multiple things. It's something we worked on all year. You guys have been seeing it.

"Whether it's been two high safeties, one safety, we've done so many different things this year. And I think that goes a lot to the guys studying and coaches coming up with things that might be tough, but knowing that we can take it on and accept the challenge."

In the end, that expectation of heavy man-to-man coverage never materialized.

"This is probably the most zone we've played," McCourty said.

Much to McVay's surprise.

"They mixed it up," he said. "They had played almost exclusively man coverage principles and decided who they can take away... They had a great game plan."

He continued, "They definitely changed it up with what they had done over the past couple of weeks, especially when you look at some of the things that enabled them to have success against the Chargers and against the Chiefs. They still played some front structures that we anticipated and they did an excellent job with it... Their coverage principles were definitely mixed compared to what they put on tape. They did a great job, and it is something that I'm disappointed that I didn't do a better job of adjusting in the framework of the game. That is one of the things that makes them great."

This was a game that once again highlighted the Patriots' pliability. This is what they do: Everything is week to week with New England. They are, perhaps, the most difficult team in the league to prepare for because of the range of possibilities you must take into account.

All the Pats teams have been a function of coaching, but this was pretty much '85 Bears level out there.

How Belichick's Master Plan Unfolded (Andy Benoit, 2/04/19, SI)

[T]he Patriots defense presented Goff with a gameplan few quarterbacks could swallow. It was perhaps the most masterful strategizing seen from Bill Belichick since the last time he bested a juggernaut Rams offense, in Super Bowl XXXVI. In that Super Bowl, Belichick unveiled the totally unexpected tactic of hitting running back Marshall Faulk every time he released into a route. In this Super Bowl, Belichick unveiled another unexpected tactic: Quarters coverage, a matchup zone concept where the two outside corners and two deep safeties each cover one-fourth of the field.

"We anticipated that we would see some unscouted stuff," said Sullivan. "Playing Cover-4 was unscouted. Or it was different from them, let's put it that way." The Rams had struggled against Quarters earlier in the season, most notably in Week 13 at the Lions, who deployed it for the first time under head coach Matt Patricia, the recent Patriots defensive coordinator who runs a Belichick-style man-to-man scheme.

"The gameplan tonight kind of unfolded the way we wanted it to unfold," said one Patriots defensive assistant. "We didn't execute it perfectly, but our players did a really good job of marrying the rush with the coverage and handling this scheme."

Quarters is usually seen on passing downs, but the Patriots, just like the Lions, employed it on first and second down. That's when L.A.'s passing game, predicated heavily on play-action, is at its most dangerous. In Quarters, the two inside safeties can take away the slant and post routes that Goff throws with such great anticipation. For good measure, the Patriots beefed up their coverage prowess by replacing free safety Duron Harmon with cornerback Jonathan Jones, a third-year slot corner who had not played safety until this game. "I knew it was in the gameplan from the beginning," Jones said. "Just something we adjusted. That's the name of the game."

Because it puts both safeties back, it's dicey to play Quarters against a strong running team like Los Angeles, which is why Belichick featured a second schematic wrinkle: 6-1 fronts. New England's outside linebackers aligned up on the line of scrimmage, taking away the edges that L.A.'s foundational outside-zone runs aim to exploit. With those edges secure, New England's interior defensive linemen were more inclined to penetrate gaps, as opposed to just clogging them. That disrupted L.A.'s run-blocking cohesion. Even better, it disrupted parts of the Rams' passing game, which has been praised all season for being so well married to that run game. That marriage begins with the Rams placing receivers in tight splits, just a few yards off the ball, as opposed to out wide. It's an unconventional approach that presents more route running opportunities, especially on play-action.

Of course, all you really need to know about why Bill is so successful is that the NFL's next genius did not prepare for the defense that a Patriot's assistant used against him effectively earlier in the season.

Posted by orrinj at 12:04 AM


Pelosi: 'There's Not Going to Be Any Wall Money' in Spending Bill (Jack Crowe, 1/30/19,The National Review)

Pelosi's comments echo those made by members of her caucus 0n the committee following its initial meeting Wednesday, in which they reportedly expressed willingness to consider funding a number of technology-based border-security measures but did not offer to provide any of the $5.7 billion Trump has long demanded for the construction of additional physical barriers.

"If you're asking if there is any money for the border wall? No, there is not," Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard (D., Calif.) said at a press conference following the meeting.

Posted by orrinj at 12:02 AM


How the Foxconn Boondoggle Resembles the Fyre Festival (ANDREW EGGER,  FEBRUARY 4, 2019, The Bulwark)

Foxconn! During Donald Trump's first year in office, the mere name of the tech giant was synonymous with the president's bold promises to reinvigorate America's sagging manufacturing sector. The Taiwanese megacorporation, which assembles approximately 40 percent of the world's consumer electronics, had agreed to open a mammoth, state-of-the-art plant near Milwaukee--thanks to a king's ransom from then-Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who had promised the company an eye-popping $4 billion in tax breaks and subsidies. (An independent analysis found that the state would recoup their losses on the deal by 2043.) But even that came cheaply as far as Trump was concerned: He was bringing American jobs back, and everything else was fine print. At the groundbreaking ceremony in June 2018, Trump described the soon-to-be factory as the "eighth wonder of the world."

That was then. Now, the whole thing has devolved into chaos. Last year, Foxconn started telling everyone to lower their factory expectations, suggesting that the new plant would not be the cutting-edge "Generation 10.5" factory they'd promised, but a smaller, cheaper "Generation 6" plant. Then, this week, the tech giant abruptly announced that it wouldn't be "building a factory" after all, but a campus that would hire mostly white-collar workers for positions in areas like research and development.

"In terms of TV, we have no place in the U.S.," Foxconn representative Louis Woo told Reuters this week, citing the comparatively high cost of employing U.S. workers.

Posted by orrinj at 12:01 AM


Picture clue: cops turn to amateur web sleuths to help crack cases (Senay Boztas, 4 Feb 2019, The Guardian)

It looks like a normal bathroom tile. But when amateur internet sleuths managed to locate it, they found the missing piece in an international child abuse investigation.

This was one of the clues that led to the arrest of a suspect and the identification of nine child abuse victims.

There's nothing new about the police asking for tips - think missing person posters or episodes of Crimewatch. But the Trace an Object crowdsourcing effort launched by Europol in 2017 asks individuals and collectives to find clues for unsolved child abuse investigations by identifying parts of digital images.

It could be a slice of cheese that someone recognises as Belgian, a crumpled shopping bag or a brightly coloured child's duvet cover: it just needs a moment of recognition - human or digital - to fill in the gaps that lead police to a suspect or a victim.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Kremlin calls European moves to recognise Venezuela's Guaido foreign meddling (Reuters,  02.04.19)

The Kremlin said on Monday that moves by some European countries to recognize Juan Guaido as interim president of Venezuela amounted to foreign meddling and that Venezuelans, not foreign countries, should resolve their own domestic political issues.

Of course, it's meddling.  Maduro knows what he needs to do to make it stop.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


"We feel like second-class citizens" (Arutz Sheva, 04/02/19 )

A kohen and divorcee, a Jewess and a non-Jew, a convert and a kohen. These couples are the first voices in a new campaign by the Ne'emanei Torah v'Avodah campaign to raise awareness of couples who cannot marry in Israel, according to halakha, and find a civil solution their problem.

The Ne'emanei Torah v'Avodah (Loyal to Torah and Labor), is a religious Zionist movement that seeks to restore religious Zionism to its roots by integrating Torah with science, Zionism and modern life. Its purpose is to strengthen the integration of religious society into the general society in Israel to promote tolerance, equality and justice and to shape the Jewish-democratic character of Israeli society. The movement is committed to Halacha-Jewish Law, creating an open and critical religious culture and addressing the halachic challenges of time.

In the campaign launched today, couples in Israel are calling for the State of Israel to find a solution for them and to allow a civil registration for these couples.

"The truth is that I never thought about it, because it seems natural that if a couple wants to, they marry. But when the moment came, we had to deal with it. I come from a home that had a lot of education in Judaism and tradition and we wanted to get married," says Rinat Mezritz, a divorcee who lives in a relationship with Gilad Cohen. They have three children but are unable to register as a partner in Israel.

"You feel like a second-class citizen. It takes the wind out of the sails, and makes you a bit anti," says Gilad, her partner.