April 4, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 4:23 AM

DONALD WHO (profanity alert):


General Robert Neller, the commandant of the Marine Corps, let two internal Defense Department memorandums leak to The Los Angeles Times and NBC News in the past two weeks, two Pentagon sources, who asked not to be named due to U.S. military media regulations, told Newsweek.

The letters underscore the fiscal challenges the service is facing as it struggles to support security operations at the southwest border while "unplanned/unbudgeted" line items plague the general's fiscal agenda, a burden Neller asserts is an "unacceptable risk to Marine Corps combat readiness and solvency."

Posted by orrinj at 4:07 AM


Trump's border bottom line (Axios, 4/04/19)

A source who has been talking to Trump about the border situation throughout the past week said that the president remains skittish about doing anything to disrupt the markets.

Posted by orrinj at 4:06 AM


Voter ID laws don't seem to suppress minority votes - despite what Republicans might want (Ben L. Pryor, James Davis, Rebekah Herrick, 4/04/19, The Conversation)

Support and opposition to these laws primarily fall along party lines. Proponents - mainly Republicans - argue they are needed to protect the integrity of the electoral process. Opponents, who tend to be Democrats, say they're not necessary to reduce voter fraud.

Democrats have a point: In-person voting fraud is almost nonexistent. President Donald Trump's now-defunct Voter Fraud Commission, which was supposed to investigate voter fraud during the 2016 election, was unable to unearth any significant evidence.

Critics claim Republicans don't really care about electoral integrity - that voter ID laws are about suppressing the turnout of minority voters, since these voters are less likely to possess legal forms of identification. Democratic candidates and activists routinely evoke these laws as tools of voter suppression.

But a growing body of evidence - which includes a new study we just published - finds that strict voter ID laws do not appear to disproportionately suppress voter turnout among African Americans, Asian Americans or people of mixed races.

Posted by orrinj at 4:05 AM


Arab Regimes Are the World's Most Powerful Islamophobes: Middle Eastern governments have forged alliances with right-wing groups in the West dedicated to anti-Islam bigotry. (OLA SALEM, HASSAN HASSAN | MARCH 29, 2019, Foreign Policy)

It's just one example of an often-overlooked trend: the culpability of Arab and Muslim governments in fueling anti-Muslim hate as part of their campaigns to fight dissent at home and abroad. By trying to justify repression and appease Western audiences, some of these regimes and their supporters have forged an informal alliance with conservative and right-wing groups and figures in the West dedicated to advancing anti-Islamic bigotry.

Arab regimes spend millions of dollars on think tanks, academic institutions, and lobbying firms in part to shape the thinking in Western capitals about domestic political activists opposed to their rule, many of whom happen to be religious. The field of counterextremism has been the ideal front for the regional governments' preferred narrative: They elicit sympathy from the West by claiming to also suffer from the perfidies of radical jihadis and offer to work together to stem the ideological roots of the Islamist threat.

Based on dozens of conversations conducted over several years, we found that autocratic regimes in the region carefully cultivate conservative and far-right circles in the West that they believe lean toward their own anti-Islamist agendas. The two sides' political goals don't completely overlap: Western Islamophobia can be far more vehement and sweeping than the variety supported by Arab governments. Nevertheless, both sides find the partnership beneficial. Arab propagandists claim there is an inherent connection between so-called political correctness and a tendency to downplay ideologies that lead to terrorism--claims that are seized on by Western conservatives to legitimize their own arguments. "Our threshold is quite low when we talk about extremism," the Emirati foreign minister told Fox News a month after the 2017 panel discussion in Riyadh. "We cannot accept incitement or funding. For many countries, the definition of terror is that you have to carry a weapon or terrorize people. For us, it's far beyond that."

Such campaigns by Arab governments go beyond an effort to simply explain the precise threats posed by Islamists--which do indeed exist. Instead, they often involve scare tactics to play up the threat and create an atmosphere in which an alternative to these regimes becomes unthinkable from a Western policy standpoint. Such an environment also enables these regimes to clamp down on dissent at home with impunity. Terrorism becomes a catchall term to justify repression. In Saudi Arabia, even atheists are defined as terrorists under existing anti-terrorism laws.

Repression quiets their fears.

Posted by orrinj at 4:04 AM


The Era of the Old Athlete Is Over (Will Leitch, 4/03/19, New York)

In 2012, pitcher Jamie Moyer started ten games in April and May for a lousy, dull Colorado Rockies team. He was terrible. He had an ERA of 5.70, giving up almost a hit and a half an inning, and, in his final start of the season, he was drilled for four homers and seven runs in five innings. The Rockies mercifully released him after that game, a journeyman let go by a team that was already going nowhere. It was an entirely unremarkable transaction that nevertheless depressed just about every person I knew.

The reason for this was simple: Jamie Moyer was old. He was 49 years old -- he would turn 50 at the end of the season -- which, when he earned the latter of his two wins that May, made him the oldest pitcher in Major League Baseball history to win a game. It wasn't his skills that made him beloved among baseball fans, though: It was that he was pitching at all. The fact that a 49-year-old was still an active major leaguer made everyone I knew feel younger than they really were. The end of Moyer meant the end of the illusion of youth.

Every sports fan goes through this, the accelerating aging process of sports, watching our own cycle of birth, life, and death play out with our favorite players right in front of us. Athletes essentially age like dogs: Take how many years they've been playing, multiply it by seven, and that's how old their career is in normal human time, before retirement, i.e. death. (In football the life cycle is more like tsetse fly's.) A player's career is nearly over by the time many of us are still figuring out what the hell we're doing in our lives. (We're all now old enough that the players we watched in college are now running for president.) My marker was former Phillies/Tigers/Cardinals infielder Placido Polanco, who was born on October 10, 1975, the same day as me; he quit the game three years ago, though I like to kid myself he's got a comeback left in him. The day the last athlete older than you retires is a dark one indeed.

I bring all this up because sports, more than at any other time I can remember, have become deeply, almost obsessively preoccupied with youth. 

If a single WAR is worth around $8 million, it makes little sense to sign declining expensive players.

Posted by orrinj at 3:59 AM


Donald Trump wrongly claims his father was born in Germany - again (Jessica Glenza, 3 Apr 2019, The Guardian)

Trump's father, Fred Trump, was born in New York. Trump's grandfather, Friedrich Trump, was born in the German village of Kallstadt.

According to a German historian, Friedrich Trump immigrated to the US in 1885, escaping poverty and allegedly catering to miners during the Gold Rush in the western US. He returned to Germany in 1901, fell in love with Elisabeth Christ. The two married and returned to the US.

Friedrich attempted to return to Germany in 1905 when Christ became homesick, but was ejected from Germany and ordered not to return after it became apparent he failed to perform mandatory military service.

Posted by orrinj at 3:51 AM


ALL ABOUT PETE: Only accept politicians who have proved they actually care about people other than themselves... (NATHAN J. ROBINSON, 3/29/19, Current Affairs)

When he is asked about what his actual policies are, Buttigieg has often been evasive. He has mentioned getting rid of the electoral college and expanding the Supreme Court, but his speech is often abstract. In this exchange, for instance, a VICE reporter pressed Buttigieg to better specify his commitments:

VICE: I listened to you talk today. On the one hand, you definitely speak very progressively. But you don't have a lot of super-specific policy ideas.

BUTTIGIEG: Part of where the left and the center-left have gone wrong is that we've been so policy-led that we haven't been as philosophical. We like to think of ourselves as the intellectual ones. But the truth is that the right has done a better job, in my lifetime, of connecting up its philosophy and its values to its politics. Right now I think we need to articulate the values, lay out our philosophical commitments and then develop policies off of that. And I'm working very hard not to put the cart before the horse.

VICE: Is there time for that? They want the list. They want to know exactly what you're going to do.

BUTTIGIEG: I think it can actually be a little bit dishonest to think you have it all figured out on day 1. I think anybody in this race is going to be a lot more specific or policy-oriented than the current president. But I don't think we ought to have that all locked in on day 1.

This is extremely fishy. First, while there's a valid argument that "technocratic liberal wonkery" disconnected from values is uninspiring and useless, the left is not usually accused of being too specific on policy. Quite the opposite: The common critique is that behind the mushy values talk there are too few substantive solutions to social problems. Why does Buttigieg think telling people your values and coming up with plans are mutually exclusive? Why does he think having a platform means you believe you've got it "all figured out on Day 1"? Why treat policy advocates as "dishonest"? Why mention the extremely low bar of being "more policy-oriented than the current president?" And what use are values statements if you don't tell people what the values mean for action? I've seen plenty of progressive policy agendas that don't sacrifice values (e.g., Abdul El-Sayed's plans, the U.K. Labour Party's 2017 manifesto). A candidate who replies to this question with this answer should set off alarm bells.

The first thing to say about Shortest Way Home is that while it is extremely well-constructed, it is not tremendously exciting. This is because Buttigieg's life has been squeakily bland and respectable. He was born in an upper-middle-class family. His parents were both professors at Notre Dame. He did extremely well in school and took piano lessons and became the high school student body president. He won the "Profiles in Courage" essay contest. He went to Harvard.

To give a bit of color to the "from elite school boyhood to elite school undergraduate years" story, Buttigieg portrays himself as an Indiana hayseed for whom the bustling metropolis of Cambridge, MA was an alien world. So, even though he grew up on the campus of a top private university 90 minutes from Chicago, the Boston subway amazed him. "My face would[...] have stood out amid the grumpy Bostonians, betraying the fact that I was as exhilarated by the idea of being in a 'big' city as I was by the new marvels of college life." He claims to have always found something "distant and even intimidating about the imagery" of being a student. His dorm was a "wonder" because it had exposed brick, "a style I'd only ever seen in fashionable restaurants and occasionally on television." In a ludicrous passage, he suggests that he found the idea of a clock on a bank a wondrous novelty: "Looking up overhead, I could note the time on a lighted display over the Cambridge Savings Bank building. I felt that telling the time by reading it off a building, instead of a watch, affirmed that I was now in a bustling place of consequence." Uh, you can tell time off a building on the Notre Dame campus, too, albeit in analog form--clock towers are not a unique innovation of the 21st century megalopolis. (I enjoy reading these "simple country boy unfamiliar with urban ways" sentences in the voice of Stinky Peterson from Hey! Arnold.) Calculated folksiness runs through the whole book. On the cover he is literally in the process of rolling up his sleeves, his collar blue, in front of a Main Street Shopfront. There is a smattering of exaggerated Hoosierism on many a page: "You can read the progress of the campaign calendar by the condition of the corn."

But okay, that's not unexpected. He's a politician, from time to time they all have to stand by a truck on a dirt road and talk about corn. The first time I actually became concerned was when Buttigieg described Harvard Square. He writes that when he emerged off the Big City Subway, his "eyes darted around the lively scene." He mentions the newsstand where you can "get exotic newspapers like La Repubblica or Le Monde" and the motley mix of characters he saw, like the "teenage punks" and someone passing out flyers for "something edgy like a Lyndon LaRouche for President rally or a Chomsky talk down at MIT." (Same kind of thing, apparently.) There's something amiss here though. These are indeed some of the impressions you might get setting foot in the Square. But there's another fact about the world outside the Harvard gates that is instantly apparent to most newcomers: It has long had a substantial population of homeless people. In fact, it's a scene as grotesque as it is eclectic: Directly outside the Corinthian columns of the richest university on earth, people wrapped in dirty coats are begging for a buck or two from passing students. Most of the university population has trained themselves to ignore this sub-caste, to the point where they don't even see them at all, and Buttigieg is no different. The closest he gets is reporting "a mix of postdocs, autodidact geniuses, and drifters" at the Au Bon Pain. He doesn't mention seeing injustice.

Perhaps just an oversight, though every time I've passed through Harvard Square it has been my signature impression. But there was soon something even more disquieting. Talking about politics on campus, Buttigieg says:  

In April 2001, a student group called the Progressive Student Labor Movement took over the offices of the university's president, demanding a living wage for Harvard janitors and food workers. That spring, a daily diversion on the way to class was to see which national figure--Cornel West or Ted Kennedy one day, John Kerry or Robert Reich another--had turned up in the Yard to encourage the protesters.

Striding past the protesters and the politicians addressing them, on my way to a "Pizza and Politics" session with a journalist like Matt Bai or a governor like Howard Dean, I did not guess that the students poised to have the greatest near-term impact were not the social justice warriors at the protests [...] but a few mostly apolitical geeks who were quietly at work in Kirkland House [Zuckerberg et al.]

I find this short passage very weird. See the way Buttigieg thinks here. He dismisses student labor activists with the right-wing pejorative "social justice warriors." But more importantly, to this day it hasn't even entered his mind that he could have joined the PSLM in the fight for a living wage. Activists are an alien species, one he "strides past" to go to "Pizza & Politics" sessions with governors and New York Times journalists. He didn't consider, and still hasn't considered, the moral quandary that should come with being a student at an elite school that doesn't pay its janitors a living wage. (In fact, years later Harvard was still refusing to pay its workers decently.)

If you come out of Harvard without noticing that it's a deeply troubling place, you're oblivious. It is an inequality factory, a place that trains the world's A-students to rule over and ignore the working class. And yet, nowhere does Buttigieg seem to have even questioned the social role of an institution like Harvard. He tells us about his professors, his thesis on Graham Greene. He talks about how how interesting it is that Facebook was in its infancy while he was there. But what about all the privilege? Even Ross Douthat finds the school's ruling class elitism disturbing! Buttigieg thought the place fitted him nicely.

9/11 happens while Buttigieg is an undergraduate and the rest of the book's Harvard portion is spent musing on war and peace. One of the few things that does disturb him about the school is that its students are no longer expected to serve in the military. (In an extreme conservative tone, he suggests there was no excuse for a student like him not to voluntarily join the armed forces.) He says that he would spend time looking at the names of Harvard students who died in the Civil War, and that "I sometimes paused to recite a few of them, under my breath, between eating breakfast and going to class."

Posted by orrinj at 12:04 AM


Finally, Fake Bacon That Tastes Good (AC Shilton, Apr 3, 2019, Outside)

Meet Outstanding Foods' PigOut Pigless Bacon Chips, a salty-smoky-crunchy marvel of plant-based culinary craftiness. The architect behind these chips is chef Dave Anderson, who helped Impossible Foods launch its meat-free burger patty that has gone mainstream and is being sold at White Castle and Carl's Jr. and will be soon at Burger King nationwide. Now Anderson had partnered with serial entrepreneur Bill Glaser to bring home the fake bacon with their own line of meat-free products.

Anderson loved working on the Impossible Burger. It's made with heme, a molecule that comes from the roots of legumes and gives fake meat its meaty flavor. But building a burger off a specific molecule was mostly lab-based scientific work. He missed the simplicity of working with whole foods, the way he used to coax meat-like flavors from mushrooms at his restaurant, Madeleine Bistro, in Los Angeles. "Our goal is that we want to use more whole-ingredient stuff and not be so heavily reliant on the science," he says.

For PigOut's first product, Anderson kept things simple. The main ingredient in the bacon chips is king oyster mushrooms. "I came to mushrooms because there's a lot of umami and meaty texture and flavor going on," he says. Plus, mushrooms are full of health benefits, adds cofounder Glaser, who points to studies showing a range of reasons to eat more fungi: possibly slowing cognitive decline, acting like a statin and reducing blood cholesterol, and maybe even boosting the immune system.  

To make the bacon chips, Anderson deep-fries paper-thin mushroom slices in sunflower and safflower oil. The resulting texture is shockingly bacon-like. It crumbles in your mouth like the tastiest of crispy meat candy. And while nothing will ever taste exactly like the real thing, these are a damn good substitute. Heavy on the smoke, with plenty of salt and just a hint of sweetness, they're so addicting that you may find yourself powering through a bag in one sitting.

Posted by orrinj at 12:03 AM


The Story of Migration Is More Positive Than We've Been Led to Believe (MO IBRAHIM, 4/03/19, TIME)

Data shows that migrants support GDP growth in destination countries and are valuable, often indispensable parts of the workforce. Their economic contribution is considerable. Migrants' contribution to GDP is estimated at 19% in Côte d'Ivoire, 13% in Rwanda and 9% in South Africa.

Migration can invigorate growth, plug labor market gaps and offer constructive opportunities for energetic and growing youth populations. Today, 60% of Africa's population is under the age of 25 and by 2100, Africa's youth could be equivalent to twice Europe's entire population. However, the match between education and the skills needed by employers is worse than in any other world region. Technological progress in recent years has created new jobs and business models, but opportunities for young African's to master this innovation are still lacking across the continent.

This is a huge challenge we must take on. If we do not manage and foster mobility, we run the risk of losing our greatest asset: our young people.

Refusal to create legal migration routes, insufficient policies and weak mobility frameworks mean criminal networks often profit from migration more than governments. When migration is poorly managed, we all lose out. In 2016, illegal smuggling generated $7 billion in income, equivalent to the amount spent by the United States or European Union countries on global humanitarian aid in the same year. These are sobering numbers.

Humanity has always been on the move. Migrations are the fabric of our shared existence and have strengthened continents, countries and communities for millennia. Supporting migration, rather than thwarting it, is essential if we wish to meet the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and end poverty.

The political challenge for Africa -- and, indeed, the world -- is to incentivize migration in the right way, be it geographical, educational or professional.

The African Union's recent protocol on free movement, adopted a year ago, is a key step. This commitment to removing some of the barriers to migration will allow employers to recruit the skills they need, supporting economic development across Africa. But in Africa as elsewhere, the popular political will needs to press ahead. Attitudes in Africa towards migration are more positive than anywhere else in the world. African citizens are ready.

One of the ways Nativists obfuscate is to claim they're just worried about the homogeneity of recent immigration: here's a way for them to embrace diversification.

Posted by orrinj at 12:01 AM


Limited information Barr has shared about Russia investigation frustrated some on Mueller's team (Ellen Nakashima, Carol D. Leonnig and Rosalind S. Helderman April 4, 2019, Washington Post)

Members of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III's team have told associates they are frustrated with the limited information Attorney General William P. Barr has provided about their nearly two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether President Trump sought to obstruct justice, according to people familiar with the matter.

The displeasure among some who worked on the closely held inquiry has quietly begun to surface in the days since Barr released a four-page letter to Congress on March 24 describing what he said were the principal conclusions of Mueller's still-confidential, 400-page report. [...]

But members of Mueller's team have complained to close associates that the evidence they gathered on obstruction was alarming and significant.

"It was much more acute than Barr suggested," said one person, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the subject's sensitivity.

No worries: information wants to be free.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Bolton Builds Anti-China Campaign at the U.N. (COLUM LYNCH, APRIL 3, 2019, Foreign Policy)
John Bolton, the U.S. national security advisor, is leading a campaign to contain China's growing influence in the United Nations and other international organizations, a move that reflects growing alarm that Beijing is taking advantage of the U.S. retreat from the world stage to build diplomatic alliances and promote its own global interests.