May 5, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 7:50 PM


It's the Bizzaro First Amendment!
Posted by orrinj at 7:36 PM


On Trump's Trade Policy, A Democratic Echo (Steve Chapman, May 5, 2019, National Memo)

If you want to get an unanimous verdict from any gathering of economists, just ask them about Donald Trump's trade policy. If it were a movie, its Rotten Tomatoes score would be zero. One expert analysis after another has torched it.

A report from the Becker Friedman Institute at the University of Chicago found his tariffs on washing machines cost consumers $1.5 billion, or more than $815,000 per U.S. job saved. A study for the National Bureau of Economic Research concluded that Trump's trade war has reduced Americans' real incomes by $1.4 billion per month.

The Tax Foundation says the new tariffs amount to a tax increase of $42 billion on Americans. A team of economists from the University of Chicago, Northwestern and Stanford estimate that tariffs and trade squabbles cut investment in U.S. manufacturing by 4.2 percent last year.

NBER notes that Trump's tariff hikes "are unprecedented in the post-World War II era in terms of breadth, magnitude and the sizes of the countries involved." They haven't worked in the most basic sense. The overall trade deficit in goods, which he promised to eliminate, hit a record high last year, and the imbalance with China.

To the surprise of no economist, his policy of blocking trade, and threatening to do so, turns out to be bad for consumers, producers and the economy. So how are Democrats running for president handling the issue? By offering their own version of protectionism.

On Monday, Bernie Sanders attacked Joe Biden by saying, "I helped lead the fight against NAFTA; he voted for NAFTA." Like Sanders, Elizabeth Warren opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a mammoth free trade deal among the United States and 11 Pacific Rim nations. Both also oppose the administration's modest revision of NAFTA, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

The positions of Sanders and Warren, write Gary Clyde Hufbauer and Euijin Jung of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, "do not differ greatly from President Trump." 

Posted by orrinj at 7:31 PM


Scoop: Inside a top Trump adviser's fundraising mirage (Alayna Treene, Jonathan Swan, Harry Stevens, 5/05/19, Axios)

A political organization run by David Bossie, President Trump's former deputy campaign manager, has raised millions of dollars by saying it's supporting Trump-aligned conservative candidates -- but has spent only a tiny fraction of that money supporting candidates. [...]

[B]ased on the 527 organization's IRS data, just $425,442 (or 3%) of the $15.4 million it spent during 2017 and 2018 went to direct political activity, which CLC defines as "direct donations to candidates or political committees, and a small number of state-level candidate ads."

Trumpbots exist to be used.
Posted by orrinj at 7:25 PM


U.S. stock futures tumble after Trump threatens China with steeper tariffs (Reuters, 5/05/19) 

Wall Street stock index futures fell on Sunday after U.S. President Donald Trump announced he would hike U.S. tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods this week and soon target hundreds of billions more.

Only Donald can slow the Obama Boom.

Posted by orrinj at 3:07 PM


Posted by orrinj at 3:04 PM

(profanity alert) HE WAS RIGHT ABOUT BEING F'ED :

Trump says Special Counsel Mueller should not testify on Russia probe (Reuters, 5/05/19) 

U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday said Special Counsel Robert Mueller should not testify in Congress about the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Posted by orrinj at 2:20 PM


Not that the Battle of Winterfell wasn't great tv, but obviously Bran should have peeled his face off to reveal that it was really Arya and then she kills the Night King. That's the biggest whiff since the final episode of Cheers failed to have Michelle Pfeiffer play Vera and come to the bar to fetch Norm home.
Posted by orrinj at 2:17 PM


Study finds sense of touch develops before birth (PAUL RATNER, 05 May, 2019, Big Think)

Figuring out exactly how we get the sense of touch has not been conclusively understood so far, despite previous studies. A new study suggests that it develops in the brain before birth.

The research was carried out on mice by a team from the Institute of Neurosciences of Alicante of the ISIC in Spain. They focused on understanding embryonic brain development and found that a "map" controlling the senses is there before the baby is born.

Prior studies indicated that once a sense of touch develops a kind of map becomes a part of the cerebral cortex. The theory was that data points from sensory input are added to this map during the newborn's development.

Posted by orrinj at 2:13 PM


Posted by orrinj at 1:27 PM


Muslim American Society investigating 'oversight' following controversial video at Philly Islamic center; event organizer 'dismissed' (Kristin E. Holmes, May 5, 2019,
A national Muslim group says it will conduct an investigation into an event at a Philadelphia Islamic center last month during which a group of youngsters sang songs it said were not "properly vetted," calling that "an unintended mistake and an oversight."

Youngsters at the Muslim American Society Islamic Center in North Philadelphia are shown in video footage speaking in Arabic during a celebration of "Ummah Day," said the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), a Middle East monitoring organization. One girl says "we will chop off their heads" to "liberate the sorrowful and exalted Al-Aqsa Mosque" in Jerusalem, according to the MEMRI. [...]

"While we celebrate the coming together of different cultures and languages, not all songs were properly vetted," the Muslim American Society, based in Washington, said in a statement issued Friday. "This was an unintended mistake and an oversight in which the center and the students are remorseful. MAS will conduct an internal investigation to ensure this does not occur again." [...]

"As a faith-based organization dedicated to moving people to strive for God-consciousness and a just and virtuous society, we affirm our long-standing position on our shared values of humanity. We stand resolutely in our condemnation of hate, bigotry, Islamophobia, xenophobia, racism, anti-Semitism and all the illnesses of hate that plague our society," MAS said in its statement.

In a subsequent statement late Saturday night, MAS said it has been informed that "the person in charge" of the April 17 event has been "dismissed" and that the organization in charge of it "will form a local commission to aid in sensitivity training and proper oversight for future programs." 

Posted by orrinj at 10:46 AM


A Chaplain. A Rabbi. A Professor. An Editor. A Soldier. These Are the Faces of Jewish America: We sat down with five very different figures, all Jewish, all American, to discuss the tectonic shifts taking place within U.S. Jewry (Yair Ettinger, 5/05/19, Ha'aretz)

Groundbreaking U.S. Rabbi Angela Buchdahl, who heads the Central Synagogue in midtown Manhattan, explains why she changed her position on Jewish intermarriage, and what it's like to be the face of Judaism for many Americans, while still not being kosher enough for Israel. 

"When I go to Israel, in some way I feel deeply at home. I also I am a unicorn or a freak. Being a female rabbi is still a little strange for most Israelis, and being Asian and Jewish - I represent a Judaism that basically does not exist in Israel. There is still peoplehood, but I bring a whole other cultural identity as a Korean woman. There are many Israelis for whom their identity is nationality and ethnicity." 

"There are two unlikely keys to [Jewish] survival, which are both relevant and irrelevant to the present century. The first key is assimilation, in the absence of which Jewish culture would have stagnated long ago. The second component - which is crucial and plays a dialectic role together with the first factor - is anti-Semitism. I'm of course talking about anti-Semitism in nonlethal doses. Without assimilation, there would be no absorption of the cultural norms and habits of the host society; but without anti-Semitism there would be no limits to this process of integration nor affirmation of Jewish difference." [...]

Prof. David Myers, a historian, finds it hard to define himself as a Zionist, and at the same time he calls himself a "tribal Jew" who thinks it will be "a serious blow" if his daughters get married outside of the tribe. 

Posted by orrinj at 10:44 AM


Live Ultrasounds Will Be Shown in Times Square to Reveal How Unborn Babies are Human Beings (MICAIAH BILGER, MAY 3, 2019, Life News)

A huge, pro-life display that demonstrates the value of unborn babies will be featured in one of America's most iconic places this weekend: Times Square in New York City.

Sponsored by Focus on the Family, "Alive From New York" will show a live, 4D ultrasound of an unborn baby in the center of Times Square for thousands to see.

Posted by orrinj at 10:41 AM

Posted by orrinj at 10:11 AM


Right-Wing Israeli Author Writes "The Virtue of Nationalism" -- and Accidentally Exposes Its Pitfalls (Murtaza Hussain, May. 5th, 2019, The Intercept)

Nationalism has a reputation for starting wars, a painful historical legacy that caused the idea to fall out of favor. But "The Virtue of Nationalism" makes the case for embracing it again as a positive force. Hazony argues that nationalism is the only defense against "imperialism" -- defined today, by Hazony and some other nationalists, as the tyranny of universal values and liberal international organizations like the United Nations, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and the International Criminal Court. The book is a rallying cry against a world of universal rights and laws. It calls instead for each individual nation to govern itself as it sees fit. Such an arrangement will bring greater peace to the world, Hazony suggests, as each country focuses on tending its own garden instead of going on ideological adventures abroad.

There's an important subtext running through the book: Hazony's anger over international criticism of Israeli human rights abuses. Despite the incredible international support extended to Israel over the years, Hazony feels that recent criticisms of its abuses amount to "a shaming campaign of a kind that few nations have historically experienced." For this insult, he's ready to cast all the liberal institutions of the world -- the ones that have been sustaining and defending Israel for decades -- as its mortal enemies. He appears positively gleeful about the potential destruction of liberal internationalism at the hands of the new nationalist vanguard. [...]

The case for the new nationalism is justified by an old ideology: the anti-imperialism of the right. This version of anti-imperialism is distinct from its left-wing variant. Right-wing anti-imperialism holds that outsiders have no legitimate interest in what countries do within their own borders. Unlike liberals and leftists, they recoil from the idea of global standards for human rights and governance. In their worldview, the major imperialists of today are the international institutions that seek to impose such standards -- notably the EU and the U.N.

These institutions, Hazony argues, are "a version of the old imperialism" which bludgeons the sovereignty of nations. Their tools are global governance and the ideology they seek to impose is liberalism. In the words of former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, they are the "globalists," a term that Hazony also uses. The heroes fighting this global empire, meanwhile, are anti-EU political movements, Trump supporters, and illiberal governments like Brazil and Hungary.

"The Virtue of Nationalism" is in large part a work of nostalgia -- calling back to and justifying historic notions of nationalism. As for the baggage that entails, Hazony gets around it by claiming that the two world wars it helped foment happened because the countries involved weren't really nations. Germany under the Nazis was actually an "empire" because it sought to interfere in the affairs of others, as the EU does. Even World War I happened not because of a scramble to steal the wealth of overseas colonies, the traditional historical explanation, but because Europeans had been seduced by the idea of making their way of life universal.

Nationalism is simply the argument that Anglospheric values ought not be applied universally (which is shared with The Left), but particularly within the Anglosphere where these ideals forbid racism and other bigotries as organizing principles for the electorate (which is distinctly the Right's project). Globalism is, after all, nothing more than Anglofication of the globe.

Posted by orrinj at 10:04 AM


Robots and Lasers Are Bringing Shipbuilding into the Digital Age (MARCUS WEISGERBER, 5/05/19, Defense One)

When the USS George Washington took shape here in the late 1980s, endless paper blueprints guided the welders and shipfitters of Newport News Shipbuilding. Now, with the aircraft carrier back in a drydock for its midlife overhaul, shipyard workers are laser-scanning its spaces and bulkheads.

They're compiling a digital model of the 104,000-ton carrier, which will allow subsequent Nimitz-class projects to be designed and planned on computers. That will help bring the shipyard's carrier-overhaul work in line with its digital design-and-manufacturing processes that are already speeding up construction and maintenance on newer vessels.

Newport News executives say these digital shipbuilding concepts are revolutionizing the way ships are designed and built.

"We want to leverage technology, learn by doing and really drive it to the deckplates," Chris Miner, vice president of in-service carriers, said during a tour of the shipyard. This is the future. This isn't about if. This is where we need to go." [...]

Parts for the future USS Enterprise (CVN 80) -- the third Ford-class carrier -- are being built digitally. Data from the ship's computerized blueprints are being fed into machines that fabricate parts.

"We're seeing over 20 percent improvement in performance," Miner said.

When the Navy announced it would buy two aircraft carriers at the same time, something not done since the 1980s, James Geurts, the head Navy acquisition, said digital design would contribute to "about an 82 percent learning from CVN79 through to CVN 81" -- the second through fourth Ford ships. Geurts called the savings "a pretty remarkable accomplishment for the team."

In the future, even more of that data will be pumped directly into the manufacturing robots that cut and weld more and more of a ship's steel parts.

"That's the future," Miner said. "No drawings. They get a tablet. They can visualize it. They can manipulate it, see what it looks like before they even build it."

Posted by orrinj at 9:57 AM


Seafood Without The Sea: Will Lab-Grown Fish Hook Consumers? (CLARE LESCHIN-HOAR, 5/05/19, NPR)

[Lou Cooperhouse's] company, BlueNalu (a play on a Hawaiian term that means both ocean waves and mindfulness), is racing to bring to market what's known as cell-based seafood --- that is, seafood grown from cells in a lab, not harvested from the oceans.

BlueNalu is aiming for serious scalability -- a future where cities around the globe will be home to 150,000-square-foot facilities, each able to produce enough cell-based seafood to meet the consumption demands of more than 10 million nearby residents.

But unlike Impossible Foods, BlueNalu is not creating a plant-based seafood alternative like vegan Toona or shrimpless shrimp. Instead, Cooperhouse and his team are extracting a needle biopsy's worth of muscle cells from a single fish, such as a Patagonian toothfish, orange roughy and mahi-mahi.

Those cells are then carefully cultivated and fed a proprietary custom blend of liquid vitamins, amino acids and sugars. Eventually, the cells will grow into broad sheets of whole muscle tissue that can be cut into filets and sold fresh, frozen or packaged into other types of seafood entrees.

But unlike today's wild-caught or farmed fish options, BlueNalu's version of seafood will have no head, no tail, no bones, no blood. It's finfish, just without the swimming and breathing part. It's seafood without the sea.

Posted by orrinj at 9:51 AM


What Biden and Trump Have In Common: Before reinventing himself as an Obama ally, the former VP built his career as an icon of white working-class grievance. (Joshua Alvarez May 5, 2019, Washington Monthly)

Joe Biden is one of those Democrats who makes you wonder if there really is a liberal party in America, or if one is even possible. The substance of Biden's politics--the legislation he's authored or voted on, the actions he's taken when political convictions mattered--has, as the New York Times' Jamelle Bouie notes, a consistent pattern: "For decades Biden gave liberal cover to white backlash [against the Civil Rights movement]. He wasn't an incidental opponent of busing; he was a leader who helped derail integration. He didn't just vote for punitive legislation on crime and drugs; he wrote it."

Biden built his career as the political avatar of the white "Middle America" everyman--protective of his blue-collar job, suspicious of cities, and even more suspicious of societal change. Biden's candidacy and potential election to the presidency, Bouie writes, might "affirm the assumptions" of Trump's politics, in particular that white resentment and racial chauvinism make up the "center of American politics." Biden will likely present himself "as the real embodiment of working-class white identity." By taking up that role, however, he would not be repudiating Trump's politics--he'd be affirming it.

Obviously, Biden did not invent his constituency, nor did he invent the racialized politics that earned him consistent reelection. Stoking--or at least attending to--parochial whites' fears and resentments is the dirty energy fueling American politics. Lyndon Johnson understood what's "at the bottom of it" and told Bill Moyers in a Tennessee hotel barroom in 1960: "If you can convince the lowest white man he's better than the best colored man, he won't notice you're picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he'll empty his pockets for you."

Johnson's knowledge of how white anxiety works, and of how easily it can be exploited, haunted him four years later. The night he signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act into law, he told Moyers, "I think we just delivered the South to the Republican party for a long time to come."

Posted by orrinj at 9:09 AM


Theresa May wanted Biden to reassure her US-UK 'special relationship' holds (SBS, 5/05/19)

Former US vice president Joe Biden, who is a candidate for president in 2020, says British Prime Minister Theresa May has asked him for reassurance about the "special relationship" between the UK and the US.

Posted by orrinj at 9:05 AM


White gang members forcibly tattoo a racial slur on a member and spell it wrong, cops say (DAVID J. NEAL, MAY 02, 2019, Miami Herald)

White members of a gang forcibly covered a fellow gang member's gang tattoo with a phrase including a racial slur, according to Marion County Sheriff's Office.

The evidence on Michael Hart's neck said, "F--- you, Niger."

What are you smocking? A brief guide to Trump's many misspellings. (Jeva Lange, December 10, 2018, The Week)

The most powerful man in the world is flummoxed by basic grammar.

Practically every week, there's a minor hullabaloo over President Trump's shaky grasp of the English language, from his head-scratching grammatical tics to his painfully obvious misspellings. The errors have become so much of a trademark that his staffers reportedly make them on purpose to imitate his style.

Posted by orrinj at 8:17 AM


Inside Sanders' trip to the USSR: 1988 honeymoon laid the groundwork for presidential bid (MICHAEL KRANISH, May 04, 2019, The Washington Post)

Bernie Sanders was bare-chested, towel-draped, sitting at a table lined with vodka bottles, as he sang This Land Is Your Land to his hosts in the Soviet Union in the spring of 1988.

The just-married socialist mayor from Vermont was on what he called "a very strange honeymoon," an official 10-day visit to the communist country, and he was enthralled with the hospitality and the lessons that could be brought home.

"Let's take the strengths of both systems," he said upon completing the trip. "Let's learn from each other." [...]

An examination by The Washington Post of the trip -- based on interviews with five people who accompanied Sanders, as well as audio and video of it -- provides a fresh look at this formative time for Sanders, foreshadowing much of what animates his presidential bid.

As he campaigns for president a second time, Sanders, an independent who is running in the Democratic primaries, takes credit for moving the party to the left, and he now finds himself competing with candidates who advocate for the kind of activist government positions Sanders touted during his Soviet trip, such as government-sponsored health care for all.

As he stood on Soviet soil, Sanders, then 46 years old, criticized the cost of housing and health care in the United States, while lauding the lower prices -- but not the quality -- of that available in the Soviet Union. Then, at a banquet attended by about 100 people, Sanders blasted the way the United States had intervened in other countries, stunning one of those who had accompanied him.

"I got really upset and walked out," said David F. Kelley, who had helped arrange the trip and was the only Republican in Sanders' entourage. "When you are a critic of your country, you can say anything you want on home soil. At that point, the Cold War wasn't over, the arms race wasn't over, and I just wasn't comfortable with it."

Sanders declined to be interviewed for this article. Jeff Weaver, his senior adviser, said the trip fits into Sanders' effort to form partnerships between people who may seem at odds with each other.

"Just like his politics in the U.S. are animated by bringing ordinary people together," Weaver said, the trip to the Soviet Union "was an example of that, if you can get people from everyday walks of life together, you can break through some of the animosity that exists on a governmental level."

Sanders often has stressed the difference between his views as a democratic socialist and communist dogma, noting that he supports democratic elections and business enterprises that were inimical to the Soviet system. Sanders, who in 1988 had been mayor of Burlington for seven years, took the trip at a time when he was trying to put himself on the national stage. He wrote that Burlington, a city of about 40,000, had a foreign policy because "I saw no magic line separating local, state, national and international issues. ... How could issues of war and peace not be a local issue?"

He already was known as a firebrand on foreign affairs, finding much to like in socialist and communist countries.

Sanders had visited Nicaragua in 1985 and hailed the revolution led by Daniel Ortega, which President Ronald Reagan opposed. "I was impressed," Sanders said then of Ortega, while allowing that "I will be attacked by every editorial writer for being a dumb dope." At the same time, Sanders voiced admiration for the Cuban revolution led by Fidel Castro, whom Reagan and many others in both parties routinely denounced.

Sanders, in turn, said Americans dismissed socialist and communist regimes because they didn't understand the poverty faced by many in Third World countries. "The American people, many of us, are intellectually lazy," Sanders said in a 1985 interview with a Burlington television station.

Russia Says Trump Initiated Friday's 1.5-Hour Call With Putin (Justin Sink, May 4, 2019, Bloomberg)

President Donald Trump initiated a lengthy call with his Russian counterpart on Friday, in which Vladimir Putin urged sanctions relief for North Korea and warned against interference in Venezuela, the Russian embassy in Washington said.

The leaders' call lasted for 1.5 hours, according to a post on the embassy's Facebook page, and the pair discussed a "shared commitment to step up dialogue in various areas, including on issues of strategic stability." White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Friday the leaders spoke for more than an hour.

Trump tweeted about the chat for a second time on Saturday, saying there was "tremendous potential for a good/great relationship with Russia." [...]

On Friday, Trump told reporters at the White House that Putin had assured him Moscow isn't seeking to "get involved" in the crisis in Venezuela, despite assertions by the U.S. president's top national security advisers that the Kremlin is offering critical support to Nicolas Maduro's regime.

"He is not looking at all to get involved in Venezuela other than he'd like to see something positive happen for Venezuela," Trump said of Putin. "And I feel the same way." [...]

Trump said Saturday on Twitter he was confident Kim "does not want to break his promise to me."

Posted by orrinj at 8:09 AM


Kamala Harris Sticks the Landing: Being a former prosecutor can come in handy when questioning the attorney general. (RUSSELL BERMAN, MAY 1, 2019, The Atlantic)

Harris, by contrast, dispensed with any speechifying. She has said that, as the Democratic nominee, she would "prosecute the case" against the president. And on Wednesday, she set about to prove it. As has been her standard practice with Trump nominees and administration officials, she launched right into her questions as if she were cross-examining a witness. As the most junior Democrat on the committee, she was the last of 10 to question Barr. But she covered terrain that no one else had, and an attorney general whose slipperiness and legalistic hairsplitting had frustrated Democrats for several hours finally appeared to be caught off guard.

"Attorney General Barr, has the president or anyone at the White House ever asked or suggested that you open an investigation of anyone?" Harris began. "Yes or no?"

Barr briefly stammered.

"Could you repeat the question?" he asked.

Ultimately, the attorney general said no one had directly asked him to open an investigation, but he allowed that the topic had come up. "I'm trying to grapple with the word suggest," he told Harris. "I mean, there have been discussions of matters out there that they have not asked me to open an investigation, but ..."

The question was relevant, given Trump's habit of using his Twitter account to demand that Barr's predecessor, Jeff Sessions, launch inquiries of Hillary Clinton and other Democrats who have criticized him. Her point apparently made, Harris moved on to the Mueller report. She asked the attorney general whether he had reviewed the underlying evidence Mueller's team had compiled before he reached his conclusion that the president would not be charged with a crime.

Barr said that he had not, and neither had Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who had previously overseen the Mueller probe, after Sessions recused himself. "We accepted the statements in the report as factual record," he said. "We did not go underneath it to see whether or not they were accurate."

Harris seemed to anticipate Barr's answer, and pounced. "As the attorney general of the United States, you run the United States Department of Justice," she began. "If, in any U.S. attorney's office around the country, the head of that office, when being asked to make a critical decision about--in this case--the person who holds the highest office in the land, and whether or not that person committed a crime, would you accept them recommending a charging decision to you, if they had not reviewed the evidence?"

Barr tried to pass the decision off to Mueller, but Harris stopped him. "You made the decision not to charge him," she declared.

Harris then questioned whether Rosenstein's involvement in the decision was ethical, given that the report documented how he was also a witness in the firing of FBI Director James Comey--an incident Mueller investigated for possible obstruction of justice. She asked Barr whether Rosenstein had been cleared by career officials in the department's ethics office of potential conflicts of interest. Barr again seemed flustered, at one point turning around to aides to consult on his answer. Rosenstein was cleared of a conflict before Barr's arrival in February, the attorney general eventually replied.

Soon Harris's time was up. She left the hearing soon after and called on Barr to resign.