April 6, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 12:26 PM


Posted by orrinj at 9:03 AM


Baseball books that hit it out of the park: Seven baseball writers share their favorite classic books about the game.  (Randy Dotinga, 4/03/19, CS Monitor)

WRITER John Thorn, official historian, Major League Baseball ("Baseball in the Garden of Eden")

FAVORITE BOOK "The Universal Baseball Association Inc., J Henry Waugh, Prop.," by Robert Coover (1968)

COMMENT "It's not only the greatest of baseball novels, but a crystal-ball view into the brain of the obsessed fantasy-baseball player - and all of us who often prefer baseball to real life."

Mr. Coover ultimately loses control of the narrative, but what makes this the closest thing we have to the GMN is that it's not just a book about baseball but about God and Man. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:58 AM


Against the Statheads: Major League Baseball's statistics revolution benefits the bosses most of all  (Kyle Paoletta, April 4, 2019, The Baffler)

THE MOST TALKED ABOUT PLAYER in baseball doesn't exist. It's not Mike Trout, the LA Angel widely viewed as the most meteoric talent to stride across an outfield in decades, and it's not Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, the two free agents who signed to $300 million deals this offseason. Each of these players may rate among the most recognizable in the sport, but in terms of attention from baseball writers, general managers, and owners, none of these superstars can approach the Replacement Level Player.

Not that the Replacement Level Player is a gold standard--just the opposite. The concept has its origins in 2001, when Baseball Prospectus's Keith Woolner attempted to articulate a not particularly intuitive concept: how terrible can a player be and still make the major leagues? The metric he developed to answer that question, Value Over a Replacement Player, or the positively Star Trekian VORP, posed the Replacement Player as a minor league lifer, the sort that's useful for little beyond spending a week in the majors filling in for an injured star. VORP was later refined into Wins Above Replacement--WAR-- a more all-encompassing figure that measures how many extra wins a player contributes to a team's record as compared to what that Triple-A scrub could. If one can't "play above replacement level," then they surely can't hack it in the big leagues, and no appellation is more cutting than that of being "worse than replacement level," a subprime distinction held by only thirty-nine players last season. The best of the best are the players like Trout, who routinely lifts the Angels to ten more wins each season than they would have recorded with a Replacement Level phantasm.

Baseball-Reference--an encyclopedic source heavily relied upon by baseball writers--introduced their version of WAR in 2010. Since then, it has completely overtaken the sport. Over the next three years, Bleacher Report would call it "Baseball's Most Perfect Statistic" and ESPN proclaimed, "WAR is the Answer." Last season, a debate briefly surfaced over which Red Sox deserved the American League's MVP award more, WAR darling Mookie Betts or the power-hitting J.D. Martinez, who surpassed him in home runs and runs batted in: two marks of hitting prowess that have reigned since the sepia-tinted years of Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker. Martinez' gaudy numbers didn't cut it. He slipped all the way to forth in the MVP vote, behind Betts and two other players who lapped him in WAR. In a few short years, WAR has gone from a peripheral stathead obsession to baseball's most irreplaceable metric.

Despite its name, the rise of WAR has influenced today's baseball fans and writers to think about the sport not in terms of wins and losses but dollars and cents. As Rick Paulas pointed out in Vice last year, even as the reliance on analytics has led to some "players who once weren't appreciated getting their just due," it has more importantly precipitated a discourse that comes "down to who's worth the money and who's not." Paulas nods to the emergence of the concept of "surplus value," analysis that determines which teams are winning more games than you'd expect based on their payroll. Which is to say, the teams underpaying their players the most. The need to identify arbitrage opportunities is in the DNA of these stats: when he introduced the concept of the Replacement Level Player back in 2001, Woolner wrote "A commodity which is easily available to all teams at no or low cost confers no competitive advantage, and therefore is of minimal value."

The type of "value" all these teams are searching for is exemplified by pitcher Gio Gonzalez's 2017 campaign. That year, he recorded a remarkable 6.5 WAR for the Nationals, a mark that, if you believe the number crunchers, was worth $68 million in value to his team's billionaire owner--while Gonzalez was paid only $12 million. Likewise, a similar notion of value allowed the Angels to justify the jaw-dropping twelve-year, $430 million contract extension Trout recently signed to. Sure, that's DuckTales money, but based on Trout's yearly WAR, he could easily outplay the money he's being paid in a third of the time he's signed for.

WAR (worker above replacement value) is, of course, driving the entire global economy and the fact that a machine can do your job more cheaply than you is why you'll support UBI:

Posted by orrinj at 8:55 AM


Posted by orrinj at 8:34 AM


Economic Growth from Octavian to Obama (Marian L. Tupy, 4/13/18, @HumanProgress) 

As the population of Western Europe recovered, incomes waxed and waned, neither falling to their pre-plague levels, nor rising above their mid-14th century maximum. Thus, as late as 1831, the average GDP per person in France was only $1,534. Put differently, in the 18 centuries that separated the reigns of the first Roman Emperor and the last French king (Louis Phillipe), incomes rose by a paltry 50 percent. The Industrial Revolution, a British import, changed French fortunes considerably. Between 1831 and 1881, incomes rose by 100 percent ($3,067). As such, France made twice as much economic progress in 50 years as it did in the previous 1,800 years. In 2016, French GDP per capita stood at $38,758, meaning that a modern Frenchman is roughly-speaking 24 times better off (in real terms) than his ancestor 200 years ago. Remarkable.

France, of course, was not alone. Similar stories unfolded in other parts of the West.  A year before the Declaration of Independence, American GDP per person stood at $1,883. By the time Barack Obama left office, U.S. GDP per person stood at $53,015 - a 27 fold increase. Today, abundance is no longer restricted to the West. As previously under-developed countries embraced industrialization and trade, they prospered. In 1978, when China started to reform its failing communist economy, its GDP per person stood at $1,583 (French levels in the early 1830s). By 2016, it rose to $12,320 (the French level in 1964). To put that progress in perspective, China grew as much in 38 years, as France did in 130 years. That, too, is noteworthy, for it demonstrates that, given correct policies, countries don't have to reinvent the wheel. They can adopt ideas and technologies that took advanced countries millennia to develop and leapfrog from extreme poverty into the Age of Abundance within a couple of generations.  

Posted by orrinj at 8:26 AM


How Trump Betrayed the General Who Defeated ISIS (Robin Wright, April 4, 2019, The New Yorker)

The United States had struggled to identify or create a credible rebel force in Syria. Mazloum had a standing militia that proved it could fight, even with only vintage weapons. Between 2011 and 2013, without foreign support, it had pushed Syrian government forces out of northern Kurdish towns during the Arab Spring and fought off an Al Qaeda franchise that moved on Kurdish turf. A senior U.S. military official looked for an introduction. The United States was not the only country interested in the Kurdish general, U.S. officials told me. On the morning of August 18th, Mazloum met Qassem Suleimani, the head of Iran's Quds Force, the most élite unit in the Revolutionary Guard. The Iranians had rushed in--faster than the Americans did--to help the Iraqis hold off the isis juggernaut. Hours after meeting the Iranian commander, Mazloum rendezvoused with the American official in Suleimaniya, a Kurdish city in northern Iraq.

Mazloum came with complications, however. His original militia was the People's Protection Units, or Y.P.G.; it was Kurdish. Its political arm sought autonomy in Syria. Many of its members, including Mazloum, had trained with a militant Turkish movement--the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or P.K.K.--which was waging an insurgency to win autonomy in Turkey. The P.K.K. was on the U.S. and Turkish lists of terrorist organizations. Its leader, Abdullah Öcalan, had lived in the Kurdish region of Syria for two decades before he was imprisoned, in 1999, in Turkey. Öcalan was a personal friend of Mazloum's; they were once photographed swimming together in the Euphrates River. "For a period of time, I served in P.K.K. ranks," Mazloum told me. "Öcalan was working here, and the people here had loyalty to him. But the Y.P.G. is not a terrorist organization. Always the Turks like to paint everything in Syria like it's the P.K.K., but this is not true." Yet Mazloum has relatives who are still with the P.K.K. Huge posters of Öcalan adorned every Y.P.G. and S.D.F. base I visited.

The American overture to Mazloum had both conditions and limits, senior U.S. officials told me. The U.S.-backed coalition could provide strategic advice but no major arms, because of the Y.P.G.'s history. If the Kurds took territory from isis, they had to include other ethnic or religious groups, notably Arabs and Christians, in setting up governance and security. The Kurdish militia had to accept that its region would remain part of Syria--and not try to break away into an independent Kurdish state. And they had to vow not to attack Turkish interests. If any of those terms were violated, the U.S. would walk away. Mazloum opted for an alliance with the Americans. "At the time, isis was getting stronger every day," he told me. "We were at capacity just stemming the tide and protecting our area. The United States intervening in this fight changed the balance of power between us and isis."

The makeshift alliance was tested a few weeks later, when isis invaded Kobani, a strategic town built as a whistle stop on the Berlin-Baghdad railway. Kobani is Mazloum's home town. He incorporated it into the nom de guerre by which he is known. (His real name is Ferhat Abdi Şahin.) isis seized sixty per cent of the city, forcing most of its forty thousand residents to flee across the border to Turkey. In October, 2014, I watched from a nearby hill in Turkey as isis pounded Kobani with thundering artillery. isis's black-and-white flag billowed on the horizon.

Kobani proved to be a turning point for Washington. The Obama Administration expanded its intervention, from Iraq into Syria, with air strikes on isis forces in Kobani. Among the targets was Mazloum's home. isis had seized it as an operations center. Mazloum approved the U.S. decision to destroy it, a senior U.S. official told me. The marriage of American air power and a tough local militia on the ground--dubbed the "hammer and anvil" strategy--succeeded. After a gruelling five-month battle, isis experienced its first defeat. In January, 2015, Mazloum's militia hoisted its yellow banner atop Kobani's highest hill; fighters, both male and female, danced by firelight amid the city's bombed-out ruins. Kobani, where more than thirteen hundred Kurds perished, still ranks as the longest, deadliest, and most vicious battle with the Islamic State. It later became a base used by U.S. Special Forces and a small team of U.S. diplomats.

The partnership deepened in the second phase. In April, 2015, the U.S. approached Mazloum about leading the war against isis beyond Syria's Kurdish regions. The Obama Administration was on the verge of abandoning a separate Pentagon program to train fifteen thousand Syrians in Turkey and Jordan. Five hundred million dollars had been allocated for the program; ultimately, fifty million dollars were spent, and it produced only a handful of trained soldiers. "I wasn't happy with the early efforts," Secretary of Defense Ash Carter admitted at a news conference in Washington at the time. "So we have devised a number of different approaches." They relied heavily on Mazloum's militia. [...]

The joint campaign faced sporadic challenges--menacing warnings from the Syrian government, the deployment of Russian mercenaries nearby, and constant criticism from Turkey. In November, 2017, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called Trump, who was in Florida, preparing for a round of golf with Tiger Woods, to complain about U.S. arms flowing to Kurds in the S.D.F., which Erdoğan considered a terrorist group. Surprising his aides, Trump promised to stop the shipments. Former U.S. officials familiar with the call told me that the President did not fully grasp the details, players, or regional politics of his own decision to arm the Kurds--or that it was the decision that enabled the Kurdish-led S.D.F. to liberate Raqqa. U.S. officials had to convince Trump that the weapons were essential because the war with isis was not over, a former Pentagon official told me The U.S. arms shipments to the Kurds continued.

The campaign against isis was nearly derailed again when Turkish-backed fighters invaded Afrin, one of three Kurdish cantons in northern Syria, in January, 2018. The offensive followed news that the U.S. planned to create a border force of several thousand--half from the S.D.F. and half new recruits--to better secure the Syrian borders with Turkey and Iraq. Tens of thousands of foreign fighters had passed through Turkish territory to join the caliphate. The U.S.-backed border force was designed to deal with a problem that Erdoğan had not addressed. Erdoğan countered that the U.S. was "creating a terror army" and vowed to "suffocate" it.

The Turkish-backed invasion forced Mazloum to pull S.D.F. troops away from the front line with isis, to defend Afrin--this time without U.S. air power to support them. Washington disapproved of Ankara's offensive, but Turkey was a nato ally. The S.D.F. was no match for Turkey's tanks, artillery, and warplanes. After two months, Mazloum's militia retreated. Relations soured with the United States; the offensive against isis stalled. U.S. intelligence predicted that Mazloum might even end the partnership. "We're on the two-yard line," a senior U.S. Special Forces commander told NBC News. "We could literally fall into the end zone. We're that close to total victory, to wiping out the isis caliphate in Syria. We're that close, and now it's coming apart."

The S.D.F. was also scrambling to administer and secure the region--roughly a third of Syria--that it had liberated. Towns were war-ravaged. Basic services were destroyed. Many residents had fled. In Arab areas, the S.D.F. turned to tribal sheikhs to help form new city councils. "The S.D.F. did not just clear territory. They held it," McGurk, the former lead coördinator of the campaign, told me. "They recruited locals to govern and established a permissive security environment. That's what allowed us to be in Syria with a very light U.S. footprint."

Mazloum's militia, which included a large female force, returned to the isis battlefront last fall. The final hurdle was to clear Deir Ezzor province, which is home to Syria's most valuable oil fields. In December, the S.D.F. captured Hajin and began mapping out the next two months of operations with U.S. Special Forces. Their focus was on eliminating the stubborn Islamic State pockets near the Iraqi border and stabilizing liberated areas to prevent an isis resurgence. "We have obviously learned a lot of lessons in the past, so we know that once the physical space is defeated we can't just pick up and leave," McGurk told reporters on December 11th. "We're prepared to make sure that we do all we can to ensure this is enduring." U.S. goals, he added, "will take some time."

Six days later, Mazloum was summoned by General Joseph Votel, the head of U.S. operations in the Middle East, for a video conference. The timing, at midnight in Syria, was unexpected. So was the message. "I was the first one to hear the words," Salar Malla, Mazloum's aide-de-camp and translator, told me. "Before you translate anything, you have to absorb it. I spoke the words, but I didn't believe them."

General Votel informed Mazloum that he had received a letter from the White House two hours earlier, ordering the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria. Votel did not know the details, he told Mazloum, but he had wanted the Kurd to hear it from him rather than from the media. "It was a surprise," Mazloum told me, at his forward operating base. "We didn't believe that in the middle of the battle, when we're fighting against isis, when we're fighting against all the others, that our partners would abandon us. To be honest, the painful point for us was that America is a great country. How could a great country behave like that and abandon its allies in the middle of the fight? And, from that time on, how are people going to trust in the Americans or partner with them in any fight in the future?"

Trump had made the decision unilaterally, U.S. officials told me. There had been no interagency review, no conferring with military brass, no discussions with the dozens of other countries in the U.S.-led coalition. Many were as surprised as Mazloum was. The pivot had been another telephone conversation with President Erdoğan. The Turkish leader asked why the U.S. needed two thousand troops in Syria if the caliphate was collapsing. Two days later, Trump tweeted, "We have defeated isis in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency." The problem was that isis had not yet collapsed. It still had tens of thousands of fighters, families, and fans in pockets of the Euphrates River Valley.

In Washington, the backlash to Trump's abrupt decision was immediate. Defense Secretary James Mattis pleaded with the President to change his mind; when he didn't, Mattis resigned. So did McGurk. Even Trump's Republican allies expressed outrage. Lindsey Graham called the decision a "stain on the honor of the United States." A bipartisan group of senators appealed to the White House. "If you decide to follow through with your decision to pull our troops out of Syria, any remnants of isis in Syria will surely renew and embolden their efforts in the region," they wrote.

In a rare public statement, Mazloum also appealed to Trump, asking him to keep at least half of the two thousand troops in place until all of the Islamic State's territory was liberated. "We would like to have air cover, air support and a force on the ground to coordinate with us," Kobani told reporters travelling with an American military delegation. "American forces must remain beside us." Trump had once pledged to protect the S.D.F., Mazloum said. "I want him to live up to his word." In a separate conversation, he admitted to me, "We're worried about being alone again."

Mazloum did not waver, however. "Immediately, we started thinking of the phase after the American presence in Syria, and how we're going to distribute our forces and depend on our own capacity to preserve those gains," he told me. "At the end of the day, this is an internal American decision, and we cannot intervene in it. So we started thinking about how we're going to be able to fight and do policy without them."

A senior U.S. official who had worked closely with Mazloum reflected, "Never once did he not live up to exactly what he said he was going to do." The S.D.F. fought on as the United States quietly began pulling out troops and equipment. The final front line was Baghouz, the farming hamlet near the Iraqi border. It was a long slog, with repeated pauses to allow civilians, including the families of isis fighters, to leave. "We don't want the images from our last battle to be bloody," Mazloum told me. "We're not isis."

When Baghouz finally fell, on March 23rd, Mazloum hosted a small liberation ceremony at his base. "It was a great day that we celebrated with all our friends and allies," he messaged me on WhatsApp. "We are proud about what we did, that victory is not just for Kurds. It is for all humanity." Mazloum invited his American counterparts to attend. In front of the stars and stripes, a band of young Syrians dressed in red-and-gold uniforms played the American national anthem.

Posted by orrinj at 8:19 AM


Finland gave people free money. It increased their trust in social institutions.: New results are in for a landmark experiment in basic income. (Sigal Samuel  Apr 6, 2019, Vox)

After the government chose 2,000 unemployed citizens at random and gave them a check of 560 euros ($635) every month for two years ending last December, the recipients reported less stress than the control group. That was true even for recipients who felt they were still struggling to make ends meet, according to new findings released by Kela, a Finnish government agency.

The recipients also reported that they felt more trust toward other people and social institutions -- from political parties to the police to the courts -- than they did before getting a basic income.

The new findings add to initial results released in February that showed receiving free money made recipients happier without making them any less likely to join the workforce. Although this wasn't everything the Finnish government was hoping for -- its stated goal was to boost employment -- it still offered an important counter to critics of basic income, who often claim getting free money will induce people to work less. The evidence does not support that.

It may seem intuitive that getting a guaranteed, regular infusion of cash will make people happier and less stressed (even if that cash isn't enough to cover all their needs). But that's kind of the point: This is a pretty obvious way to increase citizens' well-being, yet most countries aren't doing it.

...giving them a stake in a proftable economy.
Posted by orrinj at 8:14 AM


Do Democrats Want a U.S.-Saudi Alliance or Not? (Eli Lake, April 5, 2019, Bloomberg)

Does it matter to America which side wins the civil war in Yemen? It most certainly does -- although congressional Democrats seem to need a reminder why.

The question arises after the House passed a resolution Thursday to end U.S. support for Saudi Arabia in that conflict by a vote of 247 to 175. While some Republicans in both chambers supported the resolution, it enjoyed near unanimous support from Democrats in Congress.

As Senator Chris Murphy put it last month during the debate over the resolution in the Senate, where it passed by a vote of 54 to 46: "We should not be associated with a bombing campaign that the U.N. tells us is likely a gross violation of human rights."

Murphy is not wrong that Saudi Arabia has caused famine and misery in Yemen. It has destroyed not just schools but school buses, and prevented the delivery of humanitarian aid. Add to this the Saudis' murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi and their lies and half truths about it, and it's easy to see why members of Congress would want to end U.S. support for the Saudis' war in Yemen.

Nonetheless, this approach is short-sighted. To focus solely on Saudi Arabia's role in the Yemen conflict is to give Iran a pass for making it worse -- by, for example, giving its Houthi clients missiles capable of reaching Riyadh. If the Houthis prevail, then Iran will have access to a port in the Red Sea, from which it can make more mischief in the Middle East.

The American war is against Salafism not self-determination.

Yemen Cannot Afford to Wait (ROBERT MALLEY &  STEPHEN POMPER, 4/06/19, Defense One)

[H]owever indirectly the U.S. may be culpable for the calamity befalling Yemen, it is culpable nonetheless. The roots of the country's failure go deep: from Sanaa's repeated neglect of Houthi and southern grievances, to Yemeni elites' betrayal of the promises of the 2011 uprising, to President Hadi's ineffective and corrupt governance before the war, to the Houthi's toppling of the government in late 2014 and subsequent conquest of the rest of the country, and finally to the Saudi-led coalition's reaction to that move in the aftermath. At so many of these turns, the U.S. arguably mishandled its response. From the outset, it focused on the fight against Al-Qaeda. That blurred its vision of Hadi's failings and helped it miss the fact that, however obliging a counterterrorism partner he might have been, he widely was perceived by Yemenis as having let them down as their nation's leader. But at none of those turns was the price ultimately to be paid higher than in the American decision to support the coalition's battle.

Why the U.S. got entangled in this war--and why a president so determined to keep the country out of another Mideast military mess nonetheless got caught in this one--makes for a painful a story. In March 2015, Saudi Arabia came to the U.S. with a request for support in a campaign it vowed to conduct regardless. After that, and although events took place a mere four years ago, memories blur. In our conversations, many former U.S. officials found it hard to recall what precisely the Saudis asked for, what specific commitments the administration made in response, and when certain types of assistance started to flow. Some, including one of us who attended the deliberations, recall a deeply ambivalent president who greenlighted U.S. support but insisted it be confined to the defense of Saudi territory and not extend to the war against the Houthis. Others don't recall hearing about that instruction, and struggle to reconcile it with what the U.S. actually did during the war--including refueling coalition sorties and replenishing weapons stocks.

Yet all agree the decision ultimately came without much debate. The reason, at bottom, was straightforward: Here was a partner (Saudi Arabia) seeking help in restoring a government (that of President Hadi) the U.S. regarded as legitimate and a loyal ally in the war against al-Qaeda. That government had been toppled by an insurgent group (the Houthi or Ansar Allah); although the extent of its ties to Iran was debatable and debated, their existence was indisputable. Plus, all this came at a time when relations between Washington and Riyadh already were deeply damaged by disagreements over the Obama administration's response to the Arab uprisings and, even more so, its negotiations over a nuclear deal with Tehran. As Riyadh saw it, doing nothing would mean permitting control by a Hizbollah-like organization of its southern border, ensconcing a perpetual threat. Rebuffing the Saudi request at any time likely would have provoked a serious crisis in Saudi/U.S. bilateral relations. Doing so while the U.S. was seeking a landmark agreement with the kingdom's sworn enemy could have brought them to breaking point. That was a risk even a president skeptical of the wisdom of Saudi policies and willing to call into question elements of the relationship was not prepared to take.

it's exactly like Shi'a self-determination in Lebanon.

Posted by orrinj at 7:56 AM


Homeland Security Disbands Domestic Terror Intelligence Unit (Betsy Woodruff, 04.02.19, Daily Beast)

The Department of Homeland Security has disbanded a group of intelligence analysts who focused on domestic terrorism, The Daily Beast has learned. Numerous current and former DHS officials say they find the development concerning, as the threat of homegrown terrorism--including white supremacist terrorism--is growing.

In the wake of this move, officials said the number of analytic reports produced by DHS about domestic terrorism, including the threat from white supremacists, has dropped significantly. People in and close to the department said this has generated significant concern at headquarters.

"It's especially problematic given the growth in right-wing extremism and domestic terrorism we are seeing in the U.S. and abroad," one former intelligence official told The Daily Beast.

The group in question was a branch of analysts in DHS's Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A). They focused on the threat from homegrown violent extremists and domestic terrorists. The analysts there shared information with state and local law enforcement to help them protect their communities from these threats.

Posted by orrinj at 7:36 AM


Rouhani says Iran ready to expand gas, power trade with Iraq (Reuters, 4/06/19) 

President Hassan Rouhani called on Saturday for Iran and neighboring Iraq to expand their gas and electricity dealings and boost bilateral trade to $20 billion, state TV reported, despite difficulties caused by U.S. sanctions against Tehran.

"The plans to export electricity and gas and hopefully oil continue and we are ready to expand these contacts not only for the two countries but also for other countries in the region," Rouhani said after a meeting with visiting Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, in remarks carried by state television.

Posted by orrinj at 7:35 AM


Posted by orrinj at 7:24 AM


Rituals of Honor in Hospital Hallways (Tim Lahey, M.D., April 2, 2019, NY Times)

The double doors of the surgical intensive care unit opened into a hallway crowded with dozens of hospital employees. A hospital bed emerged, and we all fell silent.

Most beds roll out of the I.C.U. briskly, en route to radiology or an operating room, whirring with the beeps and blinks of monitors and the quick conversation of busy nurses.

This bed was different. It moved at a stately pace, and the team that accompanied it was changed as well. Nurses steered, but there was no chitchat this time. A tall anesthesiologist leaned over the head of the bed to squeeze a bag valve oxygen mask with clocklike regularity.

People in street clothes trailed close behind the bed, unsure of where to look. These were the parents of the young woman in the bed, the one we had all come to honor.

This was an "honor walk" for a dying patient about to donate her organs to others.

Whether in Idaho or Tennessee or Oregon, hospitals across the United States are holding honor walks as dignified ways to honor each patient's final contribution.

Posted by orrinj at 7:09 AM


Here Comes the Story of the Hurricane (Lona Manning, 4/06/19, Quillette)

Sports reporters Joel Hammer and Steve Crossman spent 18 months researching and reinvestigating the case and promised listeners of the BBC's podcast that they would provide the "full" and "true" story. Their in-depth look at the crime provides far more detail about the murders than can be gleaned from Bob Dylan's 1975 protest song or the hagiographic 1999 Norman Jewison film starring Denzel Washington. Dylan accused the prosecution team of framing Carter for the slayings and called them "criminals in their coats and their ties" who were "free to drink martinis and watch the sun rise." Crossman and Hammer are likewise very critical of the prosecution; for example, they think that Alfred Bello should never have been allowed to testify. How could the life of such a man, be in the palm of some fool's hand? And they argue that the prosecution ignored--or perhaps even suppressed--an investigation into a very plausible suspect, Eddie Rawls (who is now deceased). But they stop short of calling it a frame-up and an attempt at judicial murder.

On the other hand, Crossman and Hammer think the "racial revenge motive" was a reasonable one. The very first newspaper accounts of the slaughter at the Lafayette Grill included the speculation that the murders were committed in revenge for the slaying, earlier that night, of black bartender Roy Holloway and this would also be the prosecution's contention. That Crossman and Hammer now accept the plausibility of this theory is a significant concession to the prosecution's version of events, not least because it was Judge Lee Sarokin's rejection of this motive which led him to overturn the second conviction--the prosecution's case, he ruled, had been based on "racism rather than reason."

Coincidentally, on the front page of the East Bergen Record, under the murder story, there was a wire service article about Stokely Carmichael proclaiming "Black Power" at a rally in Mississippi, an event which marked the transition from the peaceful civil rights tactics of Dr. Martin Luther King to the radical activism of the Black Panthers. These two articles encapsulated all the elements of the Lafayette Grill case that continue to be debated over 50 years later. Why did someone walk into a working-class bar and slaughter the occupants? Was the black community in Paterson in a ferment that night because a white man blew off Holloway's head with a shotgun? And what, if anything, did this have to do with the state of race relations in America at the time?

In addition to conducting lengthy interviews with people connected to the case, including Carter's co-defendant, John Artis, Hammer and Crossman studied trial transcripts, newspaper accounts, and books in their search for answers about a case which has come to be synonymous with wrongful convictions and racial injustice. They found an unpublished investigator's report. They uncovered a forgotten stash of cassette tapes of interviews with Carter (who died in 2014). We hear Carter's rich, bombastic utterances throughout the podcasts, hence the podcast series name, "The Hurricane Tapes."

While reviewing the tapes, which Carter made with his co-author Ken Klonsky for his 2011 memoir Eye of the Hurricane, the reporters came to realize that Carter wasn't always truthful, or, as they put it, he is a "complicated" man. Consequently, they warn their listeners that Carter's claims should be taken with a grain of salt. This--evidently unbeknownst to the BBC and their research staff--is the understatement of the decade.

Everything Carter says has to be checked against the record, and checked against what he himself has said over the years. Did he grow up in a nightmare of poverty, violence and racism, as he says on the tapes, or was he telling a reporter the truth in 1975 when he said, "I grew up at a time and in a locality where racism didn't exist... I never knew what racism was. I grew up in a multi-racial situation." (It is true that the violent street gang he led, the Apaches, was integrated.)

Carter's accounts of his movements on the night of the murders were inconsistent and changed significantly from the night of his arrest to the trial a year later. He coached alibi witnesses to lie for him--but most significantly, he rewrote his entire life story to claim that he was an outspoken civil rights activist, which is why he was framed for murder. This particular lie was so successful that he managed to enlist Bob Dylan and other celebrities as supporters. Later, he attracted the loyal support of a group of people called "The Canadians," pro bono legal representation, and he ended up with his arm around Denzel Washington, who proclaimed, "this man is love."

So, Carter's stories deserve more scrutiny than they receive from Crossman and Hammer.

Posted by orrinj at 6:50 AM


Victimology 101: Rousseau, Victimhood, and Safe-Spaces (Steven Kessler, 4/06/19, Imaginative Conservative)

Rousseau believed Man lived in "the state of nature," which was a fictitious utopia. Human beings were naturally benevolent, naturally equals, independent of their fellow beings, and uninhibited when it came to self-expression. It wasn't until a person took private property for himself did society commence, and with it, the loss of Man's qualities associated with the state of nature.

As Rousseau proclaimed:

The fundamental principle of all morality, upon which I have reasoned in all my writings and which I developed with all the clarity of which I am capable is that man is a being who is naturally good, loving justice and order; that there is no original perversity in the human heart, and the first movements of nature are always good.[1]

Man is born benevolent, but corrupted by society. Evil comes not from Man's fallen nature, but is introduced from external forces, via society.

This is the philosophical basis of liberal victimhood. We are not responsible for our choices, but rather are victims of circumstance. We are not responsible for our portions via our choices, but they are instead dictated to us via society. To those who uphold this belief, our portions in life are not earned, nor are our portions something we are capable of changing via our choices, hard work, or good fortune. Instead, our portions in life are dictated to us via society, and we are either dealt a winning hand as victors, or are left with a losing hand as victims.

The centuries long conflict between the Anglosphere/Scandinavia and continental Europe proceeds from this rejection of fundamental Christian faith. The End of History consists of nothing more than the universal return or journey to the insight we maintained throughout.

Posted by orrinj at 6:33 AM

Cheesy Crustless Quiche with Broccoli and Ham  (SALLY VARGAS, March 11, 2019, Simply Recipes)

Prep time: 15 minutesCook time: 30 minutesYield: 4 to 6 servings

Vegetable oil spray (for the pan)
1 medium stalk broccoli, stem and crown
5 ounces ham steak, cubed
1 1/2 cups grated cheddar (about 7 ounces)
2 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
Special equipment:
9-inch round baking dish or pie pan

1 Prepare the oven and baking dish: Place a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Spray a 9-inch round ceramic baking dish or pie pan with vegetable oil. Have a baking sheet on hand.

2 Prepare the broccoli: Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Cut a sliver off the bottom of the broccoli stem and peel the stem with a vegetable peeler. Slice the stem into 1/2 inch-thick, bite-size pieces. Cut the broccoli crown into small florets.

Cook the broccoli in the boiling water for 4 to 5 minutes, or until tender. Strain the broccoli to remove the water, and spread the broccoli over the bottom of the baking dish.

3 Add the ham and cheese to the baking dish: Distribute the ham cubes over the broccoli. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cheese to sprinkle on top of the filled quiche. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the broccoli.

4 Make the custard: In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs and egg yolks together. Whisk in the cream, salt, and pepper. Pour the cream mixture over the filling in the pan and sprinkle the top with the reserved cheese.

5 Bake the quiche: Set the baking dish on the baking sheet and place it in the oven. Decrease the oven temperature to 350ºF.

Bake the quiche for 30 minutes, or until the top is golden and the center puffs, but is still slightly wobbly in the center.

6 Cool the quiche: Set the baking dish on a wire rack to cool for at least 30 minutes before cutting into wedges. Quiche can be served warm or at room temperature.

Posted by orrinj at 6:26 AM


It May Be the Most Cursed Film Ever. These 5 Crew Members Saw It Through. (Sopan Deb, April 4, 2019, NY Times)

When Terry Gilliam began work on "The Man Who Killed Don Quixote," one of its producers was about 11 years old.

That would be Gilliam's daughter, Amy, who is now 41.

The movie has to be one of the unluckiest passion projects in history: In a three-decade stretch, Gilliam, now 78, endured several financing stops and starts, a rotating cast of committed and uncommitted cast members, and a brutal flash flood that wiped out an entire set. In fact, a documentary about the failure to make the movie -- the 2002 "Lost in La Mancha" -- was completed before the actual movie.

But finally, "The Man Who Killed Don Quixote" is no longer just a project. Sisyphus moved the boulder to the top of the hill. After debuting at the Cannes Film Festival last year, it is a completed work that will make its American debut on April 10 in a one-night showing at 700 theaters across the country, before a limited theatrical run with a currently unknown date.

Gilliam himself, in his effort to make the film, has been likened to Quixote, but he prefers a different comparison: "The film is Quixote. I'm Sancho Panza because I'm the guy who just keeps pushing it forward," he said in a phone interview from London. "My feet are on the ground most of the time."

While he didn't make the journey alone, Gilliam had very little of the same company along the way. Only a few people involved in the final product were there when he first tried to film it in 2000: They include his daughter; a co-writer, Tony Grisoni; the cinematographer, Nicola Pecorini; and the production designer, Benjamín Fernández. The Quixote costume designed for the original production was used in the finished version.

In interviews, those who had stayed with Gilliam on this ride could be described as the director's own Sancho Panzas: equal parts loyal and astounded that Gilliam kept pressing on, even under the most challenging circumstances. [...]

But Gilliam spent nearly two more decades trying to bring it to fruition. "It's partly that everybody else says, 'Forget it, move on,'" Gilliam said. "I think that's the main driving force. I don't like reasonable people telling me to be reasonable."

The entire point of Don Quijote, to Cervantes's eternal chagrin, was that the Don's rejection of Reason is a gift to the world:

Ah, sir, may God forgive you for the damage you've done to the whole rest of the world, in trying 
    to cure the wittiest lunatic ever seen!  Don't you see, my dear sir, that whatever utility there might 
    be in curing him, it could never match the pleasure he gives with his madness?  But I suspect that, 
    despite all your cleverness, sir, you cannot possibly cure a man so far gone in madness, and, if 
    charity did not restrain me, I would say that Don Quijote ought never to be rendered sane, because 
    if he were he would lose, not only his witticisms, but those of Sancho Panza, his squire, any one of 
    which has the power to turn melancholy into happiness.

Posted by orrinj at 6:24 AM


Biographer Robert Caro Pauses as He Prepares His Final Lyndon B. Johnson Volume (KARL VICK,  APRIL 4, 2019, TIME)

The desk in Robert Caro's office has a rounded notch, a clean little half circle that lets him snug his wooden chair into his custom-made workstation. Instead of legs, the top rests on a pair of sawhorses. Shims raise the surface to where his elbows naturally rest when Caro's pen rolls across the white legal pads on which he writes the first drafts of his epic biographies.

The height was calibrated by President John F. Kennedy's personal physician, Janet G. Travell, M.D., a specialist in back pain whom Caro sought out after hurting himself playing basketball. Travell decided to assess his condition by watching him work. "So she sat on the floor in my office, and she said to me, 'Do you know you sat at your desk for three hours without moving?'" Caro recalled. "She said, 'I've never seen anyone concentrate like you.'" When he finished The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York (1974), Caro dedicated it to his researcher, Ina, who is also his wife, and to Travell, who made possible all that would follow.

"The most comfortable position in the world is not lying in bed," Caro says. "It's sitting at this desk."

It's where America's most honored biographer has spent much of the past five decades, grinding out the first four books of what was conceived as a trilogy, the magisterial The Years of Lyndon Johnson. Now 83, Caro has paused in the work of the final volume to publish Working, a conversational, behind-the-scenes compendium addressing the questions he hears most often, starting with, Why do your books take so long to write? Eight years passed between The Path to Power, the first in the Johnson series, and Means of Ascent (1990), a dozen more before Master of the Senate and another 10 until The Passage of Power, which delivered LBJ to the White House.

The first 100,000 words of the untitled finale lie in a wooden inbox on the desk. I read the first words upside down and, since he didn't tell me not to, will report that Chapter 1 begins, "When he was young ..."