February 6, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 6:57 PM



[T]he one thing that remains clear is just how much Mueller knows: He's uncovered "track changes" in individual Microsoft Word documents, he's referenced what specific words Russian military intelligence officers Googled three years ago, and even what the hired trolls inside the Internet Research Agency were wrote to family members. Long before the House Intelligence Committee today kicked over a few dozen transcripts, Mueller amassed some 290,000 documents from Michael Cohen, tons more from the Trump transition team, and what the White House says is 1.4 million documents it turned over voluntarily, among countless other files, documents, reports, and classified raw intelligence.

Given that foundation of knowledge, it's worth examining some of the "known unknowns," places where Mueller has been silent but where he presumably knows far more than he's chosen to say. To single out just five examples: [...]

Why the "first time"?

In last summer's GRU indictment, Mueller seemed to say more than he needed to--just like he did with "was directed" in the Stone indictment--in pointing out that "on or about July 27, 2016, the Conspirators attempted after hours to spearphish for the first time email accounts at a domain hosted by a third-party provider and used by Clinton's personal office." Mueller doesn't note in the document that this was the same day Trump invited Russia to hack Clinton's email, but in writing about the day Mueller adds two seemingly unnecessary details--first that the GRU did it "after hours," which accounting for the time difference would mean after Trump's campaign trail comments, and second, that the attack on Clinton's email directly was "for the first time," a fact that Mueller would have to prove in a trial, meaning that he has evidence that makes him confident that the action was new in Russia's strategy. 

Listen to David Priess describe Robert Mueller on this podcast and you can almost feel sorry for Donald and the Trumpbots, who have no idea what's coming.
Posted by orrinj at 6:49 PM


Another Way to Universal Health Care (KEVIN D. WILLIAMSON, February 6, 2019, National Review)

For Republicans, 2009 was a tragedy founded on sins of omission. Barack Obama came triumphant into Washington followed by crowds of celebrities and admirers literally chanting his name as a hymn of praise, and his first order of business was doing something about health care -- or, more specifically, about health insurance. Republicans responded with something less than splendiferous wit and intelligence: "We have the best health-care system in the world!" they insisted, over and over, dozens of them, often using precisely the same words. Somehow, a political strategy based on the notion that Americans like health-insurance companies proved ineffective -- surprise.

The Democrats, for their part, couldn't quite decide what they wanted. They talked about "Europe," as though there were a single "European" model of health care. Some of them talked about the British and Canadian systems, rarely if ever giving serious consideration to the question of why so few of those admired European countries rely on such systems (Germany? No. Sweden? No? Switzerland? No!) or why these national monopolies produce so many complaints among citizenries that generally support them or so many documented failures when it comes to access and timely patient care. They thought they were being clever by taking as their starting point a model associated with Mitt Romney in Massachusetts -- "Call us irresponsible radicals, will they? Well, this is a Republican plan! Take that!"

Massachusetts had looked in part to the Swiss model of health care, which the legislative engineers behind the ACA had attempted to graft clumsily onto existing American practice. [...]

In Switzerland, health insurance and the delivery of health care are entirely private enterprises. There is no Swiss NHS, no single-payer, no "public option" -- none of that. Switzerland has health care that is by European standards 1) excellent and 2) expensive. Insurance coverage, though entirely private, is universal. It is also heavily regulated and sustained through various direct and indirect subsidies, and consumption is restrained not through the god-kings of political management but through substantial out-of-pocket costs. There is a great deal of consumer choice and competition across internal political jurisdictions -- as a result of which, Switzerland has one health-insurance company for every 100,000 residents. For comparison: In 2019, the United States is expected to have one insurance company on the ACA exchanges for every 1.7 million residents.

Switzerland has an individual mandate that has nearly 100 percent compliance, which is achieved through ruthless enforcement. That enforcement is made easier by Switzerland's extraordinary civic culture, but, still: If you fail to secure health insurance for yourself, you'll get a notice from the authorities reminding you of your obligations, and if you continue in noncompliance, they'll just sign you up for a policy and start charging you both forward-going premiums and retroactive premiums and penalties covering the period of your lapse.

There is a legally defined bare-bones insurance policy in Switzerland, rather like the ACA's statutory minimum coverage. Though there is no government-run insurance program in Switzerland, these programs sometimes are described as the country's "social insurance," and the insurance companies are obliged to offer them on a nonprofit basis. Premiums aren't fixed by law, though insurers must charge everybody the same rate; because Switzerland has had nearly 100 percent compliance with its mandates since 1996 (it had about 98 percent voluntary coverage before that!), "preexisting conditions" are not much of an issue. Practice varies from canton to canton, but Switzerland subsidizes its system in two main ways: by providing direct subsidies for the premiums of low-income citizens and by providing financial support to the hospital system in general.

Dr. Thomas Zeltner, Switzerland's former secretary of health, characterized the system this way in a 2010 interview with Tsung-Mei Cheng of Health Affairs:

In Switzerland, rich and poor share the same insurance plans, and physicians and hospitals are paid the same fees for rich and poor alike. But in the U.S., fees paid vary by type of insurance. Fees for the poor in your Medicaid are much lower than fees paid by commercial insurance.

I think that is an interesting difference. We don't want the poor to be stigmatized in associating them to a specific plan. So, indirectly, we come to the same result -- we help the poor -- but it makes a huge difference when it comes to personal dignity as a patient. In Switzerland, the doctor and hospital do not even know whether you're subsidized or not. They get the same fee, regardless of who you are.

Posted by orrinj at 6:42 PM


Transcript Of Judge's Jail Visit Sheds Light On MDC Conditions: 'I Said The Man Is Suicidal. They Took It As A Joke' (JAKE OFFENHARTZ, FEB 6, 2019, The Gothamist)

[A] transcript of the visit published on Wednesday offers a disturbing look at life inside MDC, and suggests that mistreatment of detainees goes far beyond the recent electrical issues. While heat and electricity did return to most units earlier this week, those who met with the judge described immense suffering inflicted by corrections officers, and an "incredible fear of retaliation" among anyone who spoke up.

According to the transcript, which was recorded by a stenographer and released by the court, several detainees told Judge Torres that they had medical problems that had been ignored by jail staff--in some cases, life-threatening issues that were exacerbated by the dark and freezing conditions they were forced to endure during last week's bitter cold snap.

On the seventh floor, the judge described observing "abundant water" and "black, blotchy mold" on the ceiling of a jail cell. She spoke to the man incarcerated in that cell, relating that he was showing her "a very dingy yellowed blanket that is obviously water damaged" and also "his left arm that has a rash on it, and he says it's from the water dripping." Several others told Torres that they were not given adequate clothing or blankets during the heat outages, with one person saying it was like "sleeping under a waterfall."

Another detainee said that he didn't receive his medication for an entire week, causing him to pass out in his cell this past Sunday after attempting to call for help. He accused security officials of jamming the alert button, and purposefully ignoring his cries for assistance. "I still haven't been seen yet," he told the judge. "I am still in pain."

(During the hearing earlier in the day, a medical technician at MDC, Rhonda Barnwell, had seemed to admit that the jail was failing to provide adequate health care to its 1,600-person population. She added, "If the media didn't come, we'd still be in the same situation.")

The judge also met with a detainee who said his cellmate experienced a mental breakdown during the heat outages. "He asked for attention because when the power was off the emergency buttons were not working," the man said. "The officers were walking around only every hour or so. When we finally got the officers' attention...I said the man is suicidal, and I think they took it as a joke."

The man added that he "literally had to take the noose out of his cellmate's hand [as] he was trying to kill himself."

When the judge said that she was sorry to hear that, the man replied: "Thank you for being worried about us, ma'am, and treating us like human beings."

Judge Orrin G. Judd Dies; Cited Willowbrook Abuses (EDWARD HUDSON, JULY 8, 1976, The New York Times Archives)

United States District Judge Orrin G. Judd, who ordered the cleanup of the Willowbook State School for the Mentally Retarded, died yesterday, apparently of a heart attack, in Aspen, Colo., where he was attending a judicial seminar. He was 69 years old.

In his order affecting Willowbook, issued in 1973. Judge Judd had directed the state to remedy the "inhumane and shocking conditions" that he said prevailed at the Staten Island institution for the retarded.

In a more recent order reflecting his sense of compassion for those living in institutions, he ordered last January that the city's Houses of Detention in Queens and Brooklyn provide individual cells for detainees awaiting trial. [...]

An associate of the judge said last night that he had agonized over some of his recent cases.

"I know he found, just as all 'judges do that sentencing is the most difficult part of their duties," the associate said. "He was very mindful of the fact that people are cut off from normal living when they are sent to jail."

Judge Judd had developed a custom of visiting jails and detention facilities during Christmas recesses to familiarize himself with the institutions to which he was sometimes forced to send defendants.

Among the facilities the judge had visited during his career on the Federal bench was Willowbrook.

Posted by orrinj at 6:17 PM


George Allen shows a more cautious, humbler side (Marc Fisher, October 17, 2012, Washington Post)

Six years ago, then-U.S. Sen. Allen (R) -- now in a tight race with former governor Timothy M. Kaine (D) to regain his seat -- found himself portrayed in news reports and voters' minds as a colossally insensitive brute, a senator who publicly slurred an Indian American man who was working for his opponent at a campaign event, calling him "macaca."

After that, a torrent of reports about Allen's past poisoned his campaign: As a young man in California, he wore a Confederate flag pin in his high school senior class photo; later, he displayed a Confederate flag in his home (part of a flag collection, he said) and a noose in his law office (Allen said it fit the room's Western motif); associates said he had used racial slurs about black people, which Allen resolutely denied.

Then, during a debate with Democrat James Webb, a TV reporter asked Allen whether it was true that his mother's family was Jewish. Allen reacted angrily, accusing the questioner of casting "aspersions."

"My mother is French-Italian with a little Spanish blood in her," Allen responded. "I've been raised, and she was, as far as I know, raised as a Christian."

That was not true. Allen knew then (he'd learned it a month before) that his mother was indeed born and raised Jewish.

A few days later, after admitting that, Allen, feisty as ever, told an interviewer that despite his newfound Jewish heritage, "I still had a ham sandwich for lunch. And my mother made great pork chops."

Allen, who was widely believed to be using the Senate race to launch a presidential run, lost by 9,000 votes among 2.4 million cast. It was his first defeat since his initial run, for Virginia's House, in 1979.

Now, six years later, Allen points out the shofar to a visitor. There is no more denial. No more jokes. He has studied his family history, learned about his roots.

Quietly, he tells about the day he asked his mother, now 89, whether the rumors were true that she really wasn't Anglican but had grown up Jewish in Tunisia. Henrietta "Etty" Allen wept as she agreed to tell him the truth, but only "if you swear on Pop-op's head that you won't tell anybody."

George Felix Allen blushes tomato red as he speaks about his Jewish grandfather, Felix Lumbroso. The former governor stares at the floor and recalls his mother's fear of exposing her children to the hatred and venom she had seen as a child in Nazi-occupied North Africa.

After Allen's mother revealed the secret she'd kept from her husband and children for six decades, Etty Allen asked her son, "Do you still love me?"

Of course he did, and he told her so. And then she asked whether her friends would still like her if they found out.

"Oh, Mom," he said. "Of course they love you. Why wouldn't they?"

"No," said his mother, "they tell Jewish jokes." She shook with fear.

"So I felt I had to keep it secret," Allen says. He acknowledged publicly what she'd told him only after a cascade of news reports made it clear that the truth would come out.

Now, Allen says, he regrets some things he said in that losing campaign. He says he has embraced his newfound heritage. He's proud of the shofar, a gift from a Hasidic Jewish group he addressed last year.

At that meeting, he tried to blow the horn, a difficult task even for some rabbis. "I couldn't get much of a sound out of it," Allen says, but that night, "I had the best dreams."

Posted by orrinj at 5:44 PM


PODCAST: Gary Greenberg on the Placebo Effect (Russ Roberts, Feb 4 2019, EconTalk) 

Author and psychotherapist Gary Greenberg talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the placebo effect. Is it real? How does the placebo effect influence drug testing? If it's real, what is the underlying mechanism of why it works and how might it be harnessed to improve health care? The conversation concludes with a discussion of how knowledge of the placebo effect has influenced Greenberg's psychotherapy practice.

So here's an interesting thought experiment: given that patients respond to nothing more than the idea that someone cares enough to offer a treatment, even one they are told is bogus, maybe the reason nation's with National Health have so much better outcomes than us owes to nothing more than the existence of the system itself.

Posted by orrinj at 5:36 PM



YOU KNOW THE story. Despite technologies, regulations, and policies to make humanity less of a strain on the earth, people just won't stop reproducing. By 2050 there will be 9 billion carbon-burning, plastic-polluting, calorie-consuming people on the planet. By 2100, that number will balloon to 11 billion, pushing society into a Soylent Green scenario. Such dire population predictions aren't the stuff of sci-fi; those numbers come from one of the most trusted world authorities, the United Nations.

But what if they're wrong? Not like, off by a rounding error, but like totally, completely goofed?

That's the conclusion Canadian journalist John Ibbitson and political scientist Darrell Bricker come to in their newest book, Empty Planet, due out February 5th. After painstakingly breaking down the numbers for themselves, the pair arrived at a drastically different prediction for the future of the human species. "In roughly three decades, the global population will begin to decline," they write. "Once that decline begins, it will never end."

There is no selfish gene.

Posted by orrinj at 3:44 PM


"I Suffered Deep Humiliation": Woman Accusing Virginia Lt. Governor of Sexual Assault Speaks Out: Vanessa Tyson is being represented by the same attorneys as Christine Blasey Ford. (INAE OH, FEBRUARY 6, 2019, Mother Jones)

Vanessa Tyson, the woman who has accused Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of sexually assaulting her in 2004, released a statement on Wednesday detailing her allegations.

"I cannot believe, given my obvious distress, that Mr. Fairfax thought this forced sexual act was consensual," Tyson, who is now a professor at Scripps College, wrote as she outlined her encounter with Fairfax during the 2015 Democratic National Convention in Boston.

"After the assault, I suffered from both deep humiliation and shame," she continued. "I did not speak about it for years, and I (like most survivors) suppressed those memories and emotions as necessary means to continue my studies, and to pursue my goal of building a successful career as an academic."

Posted by orrinj at 3:22 PM


N.M. Governor Pulls National Guard From Border, Citing A 'Charade' At Federal Level (BILL CHAPPELL, 2/06/19, NPR)

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has ordered the majority of National Guard troops deployed at her state's Southern border to withdraw, condemning what she called a "charade of border fear-mongering" by President Trump, who has warned of an immigration emergency in the region.

"I reject the federal contention that there exists an overwhelming national security crisis at the Southern border," Lujan Grisham said, adding that the area has "some of the safest communities in the country."

The governor's order covers most of New Mexico's deployed troops, along with Guard members who have traveled from Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Wisconsin. 

Posted by orrinj at 2:59 PM


House Dems Are Going to Hand Robert Mueller Everything He'll Need for More False Statement Charges (Matt Naham, February 6th, 2019, Law & Crime)

The House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday held a vote on whether to send transcripts of some 50-plus interviews it has conducted over the course of its parallel investigation into all things Russia-Trump campaign-2016 election. [...]

Among the recognizable names who have testified before the House Intelligence Committee: President Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, Roger Stone, Boris Epshteyn, Michael Cohen, Trump's body guard Keith Schiller, Hope Hicks, and Steve Bannon.

Mueller's go-to statute has been 18 USC ยง 1001, which makes "any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation" a federal crime. Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, former Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, former deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates, former national security adviser Michael Flynn, and Dutch lawyer Alex van der Zwaan have all pleaded guilty to making false statements. [...]

It's important the remember, however, what preceded the FBI raid on Stone's Florida home.

Recall that the Washington Post reported in December 2018 that Mueller asked the House Intelligence Committee for an "official transcript" of Roger Stone's testimony. Legal experts opined that this suggested Mueller was ready to bring a charge related to testimony, which in turn suggested that false statements may be the charge:

One justification offered in the report for a possible false statements charge was that "if prosecutors want to bring a charge of lying to investigators, they must obtain a certified 'clean' copy from the transcriber or clerk who took the statement to present as an exhibit to a grand jury."

Just over a month later, Stone was arrested and charged with obstruction of an official proceeding, five counts of making false statements, and one count of witness tampering.

Was planting Devin on Team Trump.

Posted by orrinj at 2:57 PM


Stonewalling on Clinton Emails Continues Under Trump, Watchdog Says (Kevin Mooney, February 06, 2019, The Daily Signal)

Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, said Obama administration officials originally declined to assess the extent to which Clinton's email practices damaged national security.

But later, Fitton said, "President Trump's appointees got in the way of us doing it."

It's exactly the same with revealing the alien technology at Area 51.

Posted by orrinj at 12:22 PM


Virginia AG says he too wore blackface as leadership scandal deepens (Gary Robertson, 2/06/19, Reuters) 

Virginia Attorney General Mark] Herring said he now realized he showed poor judgment and caused pain to others by dressing as a rapper, donning a wig and brown makeup to perform a song with similarly attired friends.

"I had a callous and inexcusable lack of awareness and insensitivity to the pain my behavior could inflict on others," Herring said in his statement. "It was really a minimization of both people of color and a minimization of a horrific history I knew well even then."

Posted by orrinj at 11:34 AM


Posted by orrinj at 3:54 AM


Russia Starts to Worry Maduro's Grip May Slip in Venezuela (Henry Meyer  and Ilya Arkhipov, February 6, 2019, Bloomberg)

"Unfortunately, time isn't on Maduro's side,'' said Vladimir Dzhabarov, first deputy chairman of the international affairs committee in the upper house of Russia's parliament. "In a situation of worsening economic crisis, the mood in society can quickly turn against him.''

Moscow remains wary of Maduro's U.S.-backed opponents but is acutely aware how few levers it has to rescue a client who's too deep in financial distress for the Kremlin to bail him out and too far away for Russia to deploy significant military force to shore him up.

Posted by orrinj at 12:10 AM


Netanyahu election rival moots West Bank settlement removals (Dan Williams, 2/06/19, Reuters) 

Benny Gantz, a popular ex-general whose new Resilience party is gaining ground against Likud with as many as 24 projected seats, stepped into the settlements minefield on Wednesday.

"We need to find a way not to have dominion over other people," Gantz told Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper when asked about prospects for accommodation with the Palestinians, whose negotiations with Netanyahu stalled in 2014.

Posted by orrinj at 12:05 AM


Bet everything on electric: Inside Volkswagen's radical strategy shift (Edward Taylor, Jan Schwartz, 2/06/19, Reuters) 

If Volkswagen realizes its ambition of becoming the global leader in electric cars, it will be thanks to a radical and risky bet born out of the biggest calamity in its history.

The German giant has staked its future, to the tune of 80 billion euros ($91 billion), on being able to profitably mass-produce electric vehicles - a feat no carmaker has come close to achieving.

Posted by orrinj at 12:03 AM


U.S. supports 'dictators, butchers and extremists' in Middle East, says Iran (Reuters, 2/06/19)

"US hostility has led it to support dictators, butchers & extremists, who've only brought ruin to our region," Zarif wrote in the Twitter post. [...]

"Iranians--including our Jewish compatriots--are commemorating 40 yrs of progress despite US pressure, just as @realDonaldTrump again makes accusations against us @ #SOTU2019" Zarif wrote on Twitter, referring to the State of the Union address.

Posted by orrinj at 12:02 AM


The speech of a president whose power is draining (Edward Luce, 2/06/19, Financial Times)

It was the speech of a president whose power is rapidly draining. It came barely a week after Mr Trump caved into Democratic pressure to reopen the US government following a record 35-day shutdown without having secured a dime of funding for the wall. It came just eight days before the US government is set to close again unless Mr Trump agrees to whatever budget deal a bipartisan committee sends to his desk. It will not include any funding for the wall. At which point, Mr Trump will sign because he cannot afford to be blamed for another shutdown. He is then likely to declare a national emergency -- one that his most loyal enforcers, most importantly Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, have declared in advance to be constitutionally unwise. In spite of this, Mr Trump insisted on Tuesday night that "I'll get it [the wall] built". He has backed himself into a corner from which there is no escape. Without a wall, Mr Trump's base will drift away. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:01 AM


Trump shown 'meeting with Russians in Moscow in 1995' over 'building project' in newly unearthed video (Chris Riotta, 2/06/19, The Independent US)

The former mayor of Moscow has confirmed Donald Trump met with officials in Russia in the 1990s to discuss a possible building project after archival footage of the meeting was posted online.

The video, allegedly aired by Russian state television in 1995, shows the US president meeting with members of the former mayor's administration. [...]

"I know nothing about Russia," Mr Trump said during the second presidential debate against Hillary Clinton. "I don't deal there." 

He also previously told CBS4 in 2016, "I have nothing to do with Russia. I don't have any jobs in Russia. I'm all over the world but we're not involved in Russia." 

And again, in 2017, the president reiterated those claims in a tweet: "Russia has never tried to use leverage over me. I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA - NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING!"

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


'This isn't me': Gov. Northam's defiance caught advisers off guard (Gregory S. Schneider and Laura Vozzella February 5, 2019, Washington Post)

Never a natural politician, Northam, a pediatric neurologist, built his public career on the idea that he was honest. That identity was forged in college, where he enforced the ethics code as president of the Honor Court at Virginia Military Institute.

Northam laid the groundwork for his rise to governor by stumping for Democrats in every corner of the state. Instead of charisma, he had authenticity -- the warbly accent of an Eastern Shore waterman -- and that built a web of loyalty that paid off with his nine-point victory over Republican Ed Gillespie in 2017.

But his assumption that allies would give him the benefit of the doubt contributed to Northam's poor handling of the crisis over the photo, according to people close to the governor. And his shock at being so quickly discarded by the party has made it harder for Northam to accept the calls to resign, the people said.

Over the past several days, he has even toyed with the idea of leaving the Democratic Party and governing as an independent -- a sign of the degree that he is isolated from every political ally, from his state party and from the national party.

...after all, Virginia Republicans nominated Corey Stewart for the Senate and Ed Gillespie ran an openly racist campaign for governor.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Elizabeth Warren apologizes for calling herself Native American (Annie Linskey and Amy Gardner,  February 5, Washington Post)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren said Tuesday that she was sorry that she identified herself as a Native American for almost two decades, reflecting her ongoing struggle to quiet a controversy that continues to haunt her as she prepares to formally announce a presidential bid.

The key to a political apology is that you need to be able to do it once, effectively, and then move on. Sister can't seem to master it.