June 17, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 6:29 PM


The Hong Kong Protests Could Be a Prelude to a Big Showdown Over Taiwan (JOSHUA KEATING, JUNE 17, 2019, Slate)

Politically, the timing of the crisis works quite well for the nationalist Tsai, who just fended off a primary challenge from the even more nationalist former Prime Minister William Tai and is facing a tough reelection fight this January.

Taiwan has maintained de facto independence since Chinese nationalist forces relocated there in 1949 after their rout by Mao Zedong's communists, but Beijing still considers it part of its own territory and has sought to bring it back into the fold. Lately, China has been pressuring the few countries that still have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan to cut them off and has stepped up military exercises in the region. Hard-liners in China's military are reportedly frustrated with what they see as an overly cautious approach to Taiwan's continued defiance.

Taiwanese leaders have been wary about declaring full independence for fear of provoking Chinese retaliation, but Tsai's Democratic Progressive Party strongly opposes closer unification with China. The party that founded modern Taiwan, the Kuomintang, now ironically promotes closer ties with Beijing. While most Taiwanese oppose reunification, most also now see it as inevitable, given China's military and economic strength.

On Jan. 2, Chinese President Xi Jinping gave a major speech on Taiwan policy, which included both carrots and sticks. Xi called reunification inevitable and did not rule out the use of force to achieve it, but he also suggested Taiwan could maintain its autonomy under a "one country, two systems" arrangement like the one in place in Hong Kong since 1997.

The speech backfired, leading to an immediate surge in support for Tsai after her party had suffered a setback in recent local elections. "That was a message to her and her team that beating up on China can be very helpful in boosting her support," says Bonnie Glaser, director of the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. After the past week, suffice to say, "one country, two systems" looks even less appealing--and resistance to Chinese rule looks just a tiny bit less futile.

Glaser says that from Tsai's point of view, the images coming out of Hong Kong are "even better" than Xi's controversial remarks. "This isn't just a speech. It's reality."

Posted by orrinj at 6:23 PM


A war is brewing between Trump and corporate America (Rick Newman, 6/04/19, Yahoo Finance)

[h]e hasn't been bluffing about his tariffs on imports from China and other countries, which so far are taking about $106 billion out of the economy on an annual basis, costing the typical household $813 per year, according to the New York Federal Reserve. Bank of America recently cut its profit forecast for big companies on account of the Trump tariffs, and warned that stock prices still aren't pricing in the possible damage, despite the recent swoon.

Some companies importing products from China are now switching to other countries not subject to the new Trump tariffs, such as Vietnam, Taiwan and Korea, according to Capital Economics. But that still entails relocation costs and new sources of production that might not be as cheap as China.

Some U.S. importers, such as camera maker GoPro, have shifted production from China to Mexico--and now face a double-whammy from Trump's surprise announcement of the Mexican tariffs. Other U.S. firms seem to be targets of Chinese retaliation. The Chinese government, for instance, is investigating FedEx for misrouting two packages meant for the offices of tech giant Huawei in China. Yes, that Huawei--the one Trump wants to shut off from U.S. suppliers as part of his trade crusade. We can play that game, too, China seems to be saying.

The tax cuts companies cheered last year contributed to a modest bump in business investment in 2018. But that has trailed off, and manufacturing activity has now slumped to the lowest level since late 2016. That implies weak economic growth of just 1.5%, according to Capital Economics. Morgan Stanley warned recently that if Trump imposes additional tariffs on Chinese imports, as he has threatened, the result could be a recession early next year.

Posted by orrinj at 6:19 PM


New statistical summary of studies on illegal drugs show shocking results (RNS Press Release Distribution Service, 6/17/19)

Releasing data that he recently shared speaking at an academic conference in Dublin. William Jeynes, a senior fellow at the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton and a Harvard graduate, noted some shocking results. The study was a meta-analysis, which is a very highly regarded statistical approach. This is because a meta-analysis statistically combines all of the studies that have ever been done on a particular topic. The findings indicated that the effects of illegal drugs and prescription opioids on the academic and behavioral -outcomes of young people are substantially more negative than is generally acknowledged in the media. The study examined the effects of marijuana, cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, amphetamines, hallucinogens, opioids, and illegal drugs overall.

Dr. Jeynes stated, "I was surprised by the magnitude of the results. I have done meta-analyses for many years and when an academic undertakes them, one has to allow the numbers to guide him. These numbers are nothing short of alarming. It leads a person to the conclusion that there is a serious disconnect between the actual results of taking these drugs and the perception by young people that they do little harm at all. I found the strong relationship between taking these drugs and acts of violence both against others and oneself particularly disconcerting." Dr. Jeynes shared that as one would expect, the impact of consuming harder drugs was greater than taking marijuana, but whether one examines the results of taking cocaine, opioids, heroin, amphetamines, or any other type of drug that is largely obtained illegally, the results are decidedly negative and substantial.

Dr. Jeynes added, "These results, together with the over 70,000 Americans that die each year from drug overdoses, should cause us to re-evaluate several of the contemporary views and policies regarding the illicit use of drugs and the use of prescription opioids."

Drugs are the bnext tobacco.

Posted by orrinj at 6:14 PM


Brazil leader signs law allowing foreign carriers to operate domestic flights (Reuters, 6/17/19) 

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Monday signed a bill into law allowing foreign airlines to operate domestic flights in Latin America's largest air market.

Posted by orrinj at 6:10 PM


Scientists discover infinite decay and rebirth in quantum particles (TRISTAN GREENE, 6/17/19, TNW)

A team of scientists recently determined certain quantum particles can regenerate after they've decayed.

No one believes in entropy.
Posted by orrinj at 4:40 PM

SCRATCH A TRUMPBOT... (profanity alert):

Lawyers for Sandy Hook families say Alex Jones sent them child porn (Daniel Tepfer, June 17, 2019, CT Post)

Conspiracy theorist and InfoWars host Alex Jones sent child pornography to the lawyers for the families of the Sandy Hook tragedy, their lawyers said.

The law firm representing the families of the 2012 mass shooting, stated in court documents filed Monday they have contacted the FBI after discovering child porn in electronic files Jones recently turned over to the Sandy Hook families as a result of their lawsuit against him for calling the tragedy a hoax.

Harvard Rescinds Acceptance Of Parkland Survivor Over N-Word Messages (Aiden Pink, 6/17/19, The Forward)

A survivor of last year's deadly shooting at a Parkland, Florida high school who recently graduated said on Monday that Harvard College had rescinded his acceptance over racist comments he had made as a 16-year-old.  [...]

There is precedent for Harvard revoking admission of accepted students, The Atlantic noted: In 2017, the elite university rescinded offers to 10 students who were found to be members of an anti-Semitic Facebook group.

Posted by orrinj at 2:09 PM


Potential Clash Over Secrets Looms Between Justice Dept. and C.I.A. (Julian E. Barnes and David E. Sanger, May 24, 2019, NY Times)

The most prominent of the C.I.A.'s sources of intelligence on Russia's election interference was a person close to Mr. Putin who provided information about his involvement, former officials have said. The source turned over evidence for one of the last major intelligence conclusions that President Barack Obama made public before leaving office: that Mr. Putin himself was behind the Russia hack.

Long nurtured by the C.I.A., the source rose to a position that enabled the informant to provide key information in 2016 about the Russian leadership's role in the interference campaign, the officials said.

John O. Brennan, the C.I.A. director under Mr. Obama, would bring reports from the source directly to the White House, keeping them out of the president's daily intelligence briefing for fear that the briefing document was too widely disseminated, according to the officials. Instead, he would place them in an envelope for Mr. Obama and a tiny circle of aides to read.

But Mr. Trump's promise to declassify a broad swath of documents suggests that Mr. Barr's mandate is more extensive than investigating any single source. Mr. Trump's comments mentioning Britain and Australia appeared to be a reference to the F.B.I.'s investigation of George Papadopoulos, a former Trump campaign aide.

An Australian diplomat told the F.B.I. in the summer of 2016 that Mr. Papadopoulos had said that Russia had made an offer to help the Trump campaign by releasing stolen Democratic emails. The F.B.I. enlisted an informant, Stefan Halper, to talk with Mr. Papadopoulos, an investigative technique that prompted Mr. Trump to accuse the bureau of spying on his campaign.

Mr. Barr has picked up on the term "spying," invoking it multiple times in recent weeks to describe steps the F.B.I. took to investigate the Trump campaign but stopping short of alleging that the bureau acted improperly.

It would have been improper for the intelligence agencies to sit on the information from Mr. Papadopoulos, Mr. King said.

"If someone came and told that to the C.I.A. or F.B.I. and they didn't open a counterintelligence investigation, they would be guilty of malpractice," he said. "If they had ignored that, it would have been unacceptable law enforcement, especially when we are dealing with an adversary trying to undermine our country."

He also said the Intelligence Committee looked at both the F.B.I.'s and the C.I.A.'s role in the origins of the Russia inquiry. He said the C.I.A. and the National Security Agency played roles in the inquiry, but said that was proper.

Some revelations about intelligence operations around the 2016 campaign have angered officials in Britain, Australia and other closely allied countries, according to former officials. Exposing further information about British or Australian cooperation in the investigation could deepen tensions with two of America's closest intelligence partners.

"It is yet another step that will raise questions among our allies and partners about whether to share sensitive intelligence with us," said Michael Morell, the former deputy director of the C.I.A. and host of the "Intelligence Matters" podcast.

One good thing about the two years of Donald is that, given his obvious synergy with Vlad, no one believes he's only collaborating because of the videos.

Posted by orrinj at 2:05 PM


In an unusual split, the Supreme Court dismissed a challenge to findings of racial gerrymandering in Virginia districts ( Tim O'Donnell, 6/17/19, The week)

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the majority opinion, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Neil Gorsuch. Justice Samuel Alito wrote the dissenting opinion, backed up by Chief Justice John Roberts, and Justices Stephen Breyer and Brett Kavanaugh.

Ginsburg argued that the House Republicans don't represent all of Virginia. "One House of its bicameral legislature cannot alone continue litigation against the will of its partners in the legislative process," she wrote.

Posted by orrinj at 2:00 PM



A new poll shows that less than 40 percent of Texans would "definitely" vote for Donald Trump in the next election, marking trouble for the president as the traditionally red state shows early signs of moving towards blue in 2020.

According to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune survey, just 39 percent of state registered voters said they would "definitely" vote to re-elect President Trump in 2020 while 43 percent said they would "definitely not" support his bid for a second term.

Posted by orrinj at 12:01 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Israel's Netanyahu Names Golan Heights Settlement After Trump (But It's Really Just a Sign) (DANIEL POLITI, JUNE 16, 2019, Slate)

President Donald Trump likes to have his name on things. And now he can add another one to the roster: a tiny Israeli settlement in the Golan Heights. The fact that it doesn't actually exist seems to be incidental as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu celebrated what the opposition criticized as a PR stunt. 

June 16, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 PM


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Posted by orrinj at 3:51 PM


Candidates for Istanbul Mayor Hold Rare Debate on Live TV (Carlotta Gall, June 16, 2019, ny tIMES)

 In a rare democratic experience for Turkish citizens, the two main candidates for mayor of Istanbul, gearing up for a repeat election on June 23, went head to head Sunday evening in the first live television debate the country has seen in 17 years.

The debate pitted Binali Yildirim, the government-backed candidate and former prime minister, against Ekrem Imamoglu, a district mayor who, supported by an alliance of opposition parties, has been leading in the polls. [...]

Ihsan Aktas of the Genar polling firm, which had correctly predicted a close race in Istanbul, said the A.K.P. "forgot how to win by winning so often." The opposition, he said, was far more motivated and united because of its opposition to Mr. Erdogan.

Opinion polls show the opposition candidate, Mr. Imamoglu, 49, just ahead of Mr. Yildirim, 63. Mr. Imamoglu, mayor of an outlying district of Istanbul for the past five years, won support with an all-embracing grass-roots campaign that played well with residents of the city.

Many have grown weary of more than 20 years of the A.K.P.'s running the city and are feeling the bite of an economic downturn as the currency, the lira, has shed much of its value over the past year.

Some analysts have predicted that a sympathy vote for Mr. Imamoglu -- who was declared winner and took up office the first time around, only to have his mandate subsequently withdrawn -- could increase his chances in the rerun. [...]

Mr. Yildirim acknowledged after the March vote that the opposition had succeeded by forming an alliance, with its three main parties putting aside their considerable differences and voting tactically for a single candidate.

But the biggest shock for members of Mr. Erdogan's party was the resistance from their own supporters. An analysis of the voters who abstained in the last round may spell similar trouble this time.

In one Istanbul district, Umraniye, 77,000 A.K.P. members did not vote, the A.K.P. lawmaker said. Considering that the margin between the candidates was only 13,000 votes, a better turnout would have changed the result, the lawmaker noted.

All told, according to Mr. Aktas of the Genar polling firm, "300,000 voters did not come out to vote for A.K.P. this time in the local elections," meaning those in March.

Most of those were ethnic Kurdish voters who had traditionally supported Mr. Erdogan. Many have been alienated by his alliance with the Nationalist Movement Party and the increasing anti-Kurdish tone of the political arena, Mr. Aktas said.

"Kurdish supporters became uncomfortable," Mr. Aktas added. "The nationalist talk caused a loss in Istanbul."

The A.K.P. has also brought influential tribal and religious leaders to Istanbul in an effort to persuade Kurdish voters, said Mehmet Ali Kulat, who runs a political consulting firm and who has polled Kurdish voters.

Mr. Yildirim spent the religious holiday of Eid al-Fitr visiting regions in southeastern Turkey to woo the Kurdish vote, even tentatively reading a message in Kurdish.

He went as far as to mention the word Kurdistan -- usually a taboo in Mr. Erdogan's Turkey -- drawing a sharp rebuke from nationalists.

Posted by orrinj at 3:45 PM


U.S. Accuses Iran Of Helping Huthi Rebels Shoot Down Drone Over Yemen (Radio Liberty, June 16, 2019)

The U.S. military says Yemen's Shi'ite Huthi rebels shot down a U.S. government-operated drone earlier this month with "assistance" from Iran.

"A U.S. MQ-9 was shot down over Yemen by what we assess to be a [Huthi] SA-6 surface to air missile on Jun 6," Lieutenant-Colonel Earl Brown, a spokesman for the U.S. Central Command, said in a statement on June 16.

Brown added that the altitude at which the drone was shot down marked "an improvement over previous [Huthi] capability, which we assess was enabled by Iranian assistance."

Rock on, brothers.

Posted by orrinj at 1:37 PM


MBS warns Iran, makes veiled attack against Turkey in wide-ranging interview (The Week, 6/16/19)

Blame game -- The crown prince joined the U.S. in blaming Iran for recent attacks against oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, which Tehran has vehemently denied. He also said that, while Riyadh does not seek war with Iran, he will not hesitate to to "deal with any threat" to Saudi Arabia's sovereignty.

Veiled attack -- Prince Mohammed also warned against "exploiting" the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi for political gains in what Al Jazeera writes was likely a veiled attack against Turkey, where Khashoggi was killed (those accused of the crime are Saudi government officials.)

Posted by orrinj at 1:26 PM


Trump campaign cutting ties with pollsters after internal numbers leaked (Chuck Todd, Kristen Welker and Ben Kamisar, 6/16/19, NBC News)

President Donald Trump's re-election campaign is cutting ties with some of its own pollsters after leaked internal polling showed the president trailing former Vice President Joe Biden in critical 2020 battleground states, according to a person close to the campaign.

The move comes after NBC News obtained new details from a March internal poll that found Trump trailing Biden in 11 key states.

Portions of the campaign's expansive March polling trickled out in recent days in other news reports.

But a person familiar with the inner workings of the Trump campaign shared more details of the data with NBC News, showing the president trailing across swing states seen as essential to his path to re-election and in Democratic-leaning states where Republicans have looked to gain traction. The polls also show Trump underperforming in reliably red states that haven't been competitive for decades in presidential elections. [...]

In Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Florida and Michigan -- three states where Trump edged Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton by narrow margins that proved decisive in his victory -- Trump trails Biden by double-digits. In three of those states -- Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Florida -- Biden's leads sit outside the poll's margin of error.

Trump is also behind the former vice president in Iowa by 7 points, in North Carolina by 8 points, in Virginia by 17 points, in Ohio by 1 point, in Georgia by 6 points, in Minnesota by 14 points, and in Maine by 15 points.

In Texas, where a Democratic presidential nominee hasn't won since President Jimmy Carter in 1976, Trump leads by just 2 points.

Rasmussen will tell him anything he wants to hear.

Posted by orrinj at 12:50 PM


THE GREATEST I HAVE EVER SEEN (Bernie Pleskoff, Jun. 15th, 2019, Clubhouse Corner)

I always get a chuckle when I offer my opinion about a player and read that my opinion was wrong. I don't think a person's opinion is ever wrong. In fact, it is an opinion. Not a fact. Be that as it may, I certainly have opinions about baseball players.

I began watching baseball seriously when I was eight years old. I believe by the time I was nine I could distinguish a good player from a bad one. I spent all my waking hours watching baseball when I wasn't in school. Frankly, I even watched baseball when I was in school.

I lived in what many call "The Golden Age of Baseball" of the 1950's and 1960's. I was fortunate to see some of the greatest players of all time. Most of them I saw live and in person.

Decades later I am watching baseball every day-even in the offseason. Baseball lives within my DNA. I don't have veins, I have seams.

Through the years I have established some favorites. I have separated players among the greatest I have ever seen, the very good I have ever seen, the good players I have seen and average players I have ever seen. In my baseball card collecting days my cards were separated by "stars" and "commons."

Today I want to share my list of the greatest players I have ever seen. They are my opinions. Am I wrong? You may think so if they aren't your favorite players.

C-Pudge & Bench

1B-Pujols & Bagwell

3B-Schmidt & Beltre

2b-Morgan & Biggio

SS-Ozzie & Ripken

RF-Ichiro & Larry Walker

CF-Trout & Griffey

LF-Rickey & Bonds

RHP-Pedro & Seaver

DH-Edgar & David

LHP-Randy Johnson & Kershaw


Manager-Davey Johnson

Posted by orrinj at 9:53 AM


Documentary views golf history through eyes of caddies (EDGAR THOMPSON, 6/15/19, Orlando Sentinel)

"This project has reconnected me with a special time in my life, and I feel inspired to tell this unique and relatively unknown story of the caddie," Baffa said. "I grew up playing golf with my dad and his brother. I have great memories of walking 18 early on a Sunday so we could get home and watch Nicklaus, Faldo or Crenshaw finish."

Growing up outside Chicago, Murray and his six brothers caddied at Indian Hill Club, earning as little as a few dollars a day for guiding golfers around 18 holes -- or in caddie parlance, "loops." Murray's career as a comedian and actor later took off due to roles like Carl Spackler, the eccentric and unhinged caddie in the 1980 classic Caddyshack.

These days, some real-life caddies have themselves become rich and famous in a profession with blue-collar, hardscrabble roots across the Atlantic Ocean in the home of golf.

Loopers traces the history of caddies to Mary Queen of Scots, at one time credited with originating the profession during the 16th century, though this historical claim has since been revised.

Irrefutably, the first caddie of renown is Tom Morris Sr. "Old Tom" became the original caddie master at storied St. Andrews and the professional game's first great player, winning five of the first eight Open Championships and fathering a son who won four more.

In Old Tom's day, a caddie's value was as much as a retriever as a resource for information on the course layout and the conditions. Golf balls known as "featheries" were not inexpensive, costing 2 to 5 shillings, or the equivalent of $10-$20. Producing these hand-sewn round leather pouches stuffed with chicken or goose feathers and coated with paint was tedious and time-consuming.

In the early part of the 20th century, an estimated 300 golfers from Carnoustie, located in Angus across the water from St. Andrews, emigrated to the United States, providing caddies and club makers to help grow a fledgling sport. [...]

During one of the lighter moments of Loopers, caddies from Lahinch Golf Club in Ireland sit around a table, sip pints of beer and share laughs and stories about their trade. Subtitles are used to help viewers unaccustomed to the thick Irish brogue.

The caddie subculture is one fewer and fewer golfers will come to understand outside of the British Isles, where loopers are as commonplace as the rain, wind, knee-high heather and neck-deep pot bunkers.

Exclusive U.S. clubs, like Augusta National, or high-end public courses like Pebble Beach, Bandon Dunes or Streamsong Resort, located 90 minutes south of Orlando, offer caddies. Generally, though, the golfer-caddie experience is less and less accessible and available due to golf carts equipped with GPS tracking and offering comfort and ease.

Loopers is a pleasing, poignant reminder of what has been lost: Two people joined at the hip with the common goal of conquering a difficult game and enjoying every step of the way.

Inside Sankaty Head Caddie Camp, the Oldest Caddie Camp in America (Maxwell Surprenant, September 1st 2015, SI for Kids)

For nine weeks every summer, 60 boys call Sankaty Head Golf Course on Nantucket Island their home. These boys have the privilege of attending Sankaty Head Caddie Camp, the last residential caddie camp in the country.

Sankaty Camp has been running 85 years without any interruption. It opened in 1930 when there were a lot of caddie camps around the country. Slowly, though, they began shutting down. World War II required young men to fight, and after the war clubs could not afford to keep them open. 

But Sankaty has stayed in operation. "This camp exists because membership believes in it," says camp director David Hinman. It costs $400,000 to run the camp, and the funding comes from member donations. 

Members help the boys on and off the golf course, too. When one boy came to camp, he had never held a golf club. A member gave him a set of clubs that he didn't need anymore. Another member donated new sneakers for all the boys. "It's like members have more children for the summer," Hinman says. 

Sankaty Golf Club members include Jack Welch, retired chairman and CEO of General Electric, and Bill Belichick, coach of the New England Patriots. 

Caddie campers pay $5 per day, which includes room and board. They caddy six days a week, and at the end of the summer, they can take home their earnings.

The boys work hard and play hard. They wake at 7 a.m. and caddy all day.  In the evening, they play organized sports such as touch football, basketball, volleyball, baseball, swimming, tennis, horseshoes, and, of course, golf.  Lights go out at 10 p.m. 

"After a long day of caddying and playing sports, there are no complaints about bedtime," Hinman says. 

Posted by orrinj at 9:39 AM

HOLY DAYS (self-reference alert)

Time and America's Pastime: Baseball With My Dad (Jessica Keating, June 15th, 2019, Imaginative Conservative)

Moments before the opening pitch of a Giants-Cardinals doubleheader at the Polo Grounds in the summer of 1934, my dad remembers Jerome "Dizzy" Dean strutting up and down the length of the Giants dugout. The scrappy Cardinals ace taunted the opposition, repeating, "You guys ain't got a chance. Nah, you ain't got a chance today. You know why? 'Cause Dean's pitchin'. Yeah, that's right. Dean's pitchin'.... Dizzy and Daffy." My dad was three. Baseball was in my father's bones before he knew he had bones. And so it is for me because it was for him. Like a treasured family heirloom, baseball has been passed down in our family from one generation to the next.

I arrived in the late-middle innings of my father's life--that long, sleepy stretch between the bottom of the fourth and the top of the seventh. By the time I was two years old, baseball had definitively revealed that I was the family's lone southpaw, much to my grandmother's dismay (and distress). This had been a matter of some debate until, seeing my sister playing whiffle ball with my dad in the front yard, I demanded my turn at bat. My father, our dutiful designated pitcher, called out, "Batter up," as I stepped into the lefthanders batter's box, and struggling to keep the plastic yellow bat over my shoulder.

Through the weaving refrain of stories told at regular intervals on 'high holy days'--Opening Day, the All-Star Game, Pennant races, the World Series, any steamy, sticky summer's day--baseball's poetic elegy was etched onto my heart from an early age. Between stories of the Great Depression, the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and the early morning paper route, my father regaled us with his baseball stories, told and retold with the same meticulous precision from one season to the next. The archive of treasures, these gems of memory taken out and polished at regular intervals, were in some mysterious way relived in the re-telling.

My early childhood was so steeped in the narrative of baseball that for years I really believed the New York Yankees were a criminal gang and I am still convinced I can remember the Baltimore Orioles' 1983 World Series victory over the Philadelphia Phillies. (I was only one-and-a-half.)

Though a Baptist, the Grandfather Judd was semi-Sabbatarian.  He did not work on Sundays and did not indulge in paid entertainments.  Except that...there is a myth-shrouded family story that he went to Game 5 of the 1955 World Series to see his beloved Dodgers beat the criminal Yankees. 

Posted by orrinj at 9:29 AM

...AND CHEAPER... (self-reference alert):


To the outside observer, my glasses look straight out of a Warby Parker ad. Only when you pull them off do you see the brand name: EyeBuyDirect.com. Yep, those Wayfarer-style glasses, with the glossy black-and-yellow tortoiseshell pattern, were purchased online -- for less than $40 after taxes. And that's including prescription lenses.

The prices were so affordable that I bought three different pairs a year later ... for a total of $103.71. There are other online options too. Zenni Optical has bare-bone frames for $6.95 a pop, and great deals can also be found at the self-explanatory 39DollarGlasses.com. There are even international options, such as French startup Lunettes Pour Tous, where you can get glasses for as little as 10 euros ($11). "This is a line of people for a line of product where everybody has the same goal: high volume, low cost, low customer interaction," says Nashville optician Rebecca Taylor, clinical spokeswoman for the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

I was cross-eyed as a kid and then wore bifocals into my 20s.  The cheap frames used to break all the time, but it was lenses that were expensive.  Nowadays the cheap frames are a few hundred dollars for no reason at all.  Such situations can not withstand markets.

"Everything is worth what people are ready to pay"
 - Andrea Guerra, CEO, Luxottica 60 Minutes, June 15, 2014

Posted by orrinj at 9:26 AM


REVIEW: Laughing Shall I Die By Tom Shippey (Jennifer Bort Yacovissi, June 16, 2019, Washington Independent Review of Books)

Here are two take-aways from Tom Shippey's latest book: One, "Viking" was a job description, not a racial or ethnic designation; and two, a quality demanded of those Vikings was a finely honed, mordant sense of humor that perhaps we modern nine-to-five cubicle-dwellers would find difficult to understand.

That sense of humor includes composing, on the spot, even as the composer is being bitten to death by a pit-full of adders, a beautiful song that will be handed down through the ages. The song concludes with the line, "Laughing shall I die," primarily because the dying Viking knows his sons are coming to wreak vengeance on the king who put him in the pit and will subject said king to a longer, slower, far grislier demise.

It's pretty funny, apparently, if you're a Viking.

For the rest of us, it's funny because the death song's composer is named Ragnar Hairy-breeches, and one of his avenging sons is named Ivar the Boneless. It turns out, though, that while Ragnar may be mostly the stuff of myth and legend, Ivar is not only an historical figure, he is a significant one.

As for the "Boneless" part, no one is quite sure of the nickname's origin, but one theory is that he was being compared to a serpent -- which to the Vikings meant a dragon -- so it's actually a compliment.

The author's stated purpose in this book is to explore what gave Vikings their edge, when they had fewer people and resources than most of the populations they came up against, as they swept across Britain and mainland Europe into Russia and the Middle East over a distinct 300-year period. He argues that their edge was "the Viking mindset. To put it bluntly, it's a kind of death cult." Their disdain of death made them hard to beat on and off the field of battle.

Posted by orrinj at 9:24 AM


Tasked To Recruit Women Candidates, GOP Rep. Susan Brooks Quits (Emily Singer June 16, 2019, National Memo)

House Republicans' pitiful number of women in their ranks could fall even further in 2020, as Rep. Susan Brooks (R-IN) announced on Friday that she is retiring rather than seeking reelection, according to USA Today.

Brooks is one of just 13 women in the House Republican caucus and serves as the head of candidate recruitment for the National Republican Congressional Committee -- which seeks to elect Republicans to the House.

As part of her role of convincing Republicans to run for the House, Brooks has said that she wants to see more women and people of color run.

"It's important that we, as a conference, do a better job of looking like America, and better representing the very diverse country that we have," Brooks told Roll Call in April.

So her decision to leave Congress in 2020 looks like a pretty bad omen for the House GOP as it desperately tries to diversify its almost entirely white male membership and win back the majority they were swept out of in spectacular fashion in 2018.

Posted by orrinj at 9:20 AM


The Stephanopoulos Interview Is Another Fine Mess for Trump (John Cassidy, June 15, 2019, The New Yorker)

One should never underestimate Trump's capacity for self-harm, of course. This is the man who, in May, 2017, fired James Comey, the director of the F.B.I., in a fit of pique, thereby siccing a special counsel on himself and everyone around him for the next two years. This week's blooper may not compare with that blunder for the ages, but it was epic nonetheless. To begin with, consider the timing. Just two days before Trump sat down with Stephanopoulos, the House Judiciary Committee began its quest to build a public case against him on the basis of Volume II of the Mueller report, which focusses on possible obstruction of justice. In a hearing devoted to legal experts, John Dean, who was Richard Nixon's White House counsel and went to prison for his role in the Watergate coverup, compared the special counsel's report to the grand-jury report to Congress that played a significant role in Nixon's downfall--the so-called Road Map. Like that document, the Mueller report "conveys findings, with supporting evidence, of potential criminal activity based on the work of federal prosecutors, F.B.I. investigators, and witness testimony before a federal grand jury," Dean said in his opening statement.

But if Monday's hearing annoyed the President--he lashed out at Dean in advance of his testimony--it didn't necessarily represent any new threat to him. Dean and the other witnesses had no news to impart. Nor could they provide any firsthand accounts of the incidents contained in the Mueller report. The hearing produced no blockbuster moment, and there were subsequent reports that some Democrats had questioned the wisdom of calling Dean. So far, so good for Trump, but then came his Rose Garden sitdown with the ABC News anchor.

It all started to go wrong for the White House when Stephanopoulos brought up Donald Trump, Jr.,'s closed-door appearance on Wednesday before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Stephanopolous asked Trump if his son should have contacted the F.B.I. when, in the summer of 2016, he received an e-mail from the British publicist Rob Goldstone offering him a meeting with some Russians connected to the Russian government who allegedly had the goods on Hillary Clinton. As he has done before, Trump defended Donald, Jr. Then he doubled down and tripled down. By the time he was done, Trump had said that "you don't" call the F.B.I. in such circumstances; asserted that the current F.B.I. director, Christopher Wray, "is wrong" to suggest you do; and vouchsafed that in the 2020 election, if the Chinese or Russians offered him information on his opponents, "I think I'd take it."

Posted by orrinj at 9:16 AM


Russia just had a mini popular uprising (Roman Dobrokhotov, 6/16/19, Al Jazeera)

But just as the arrest was unprecedented, so was the reaction of Russian society. Almost immediately after the news spread, a huge queue formed in front of the central office of the Moscow police. People were lined up for their turn to stand in an individual picket line, the only form of protest that does not require prior permission from the authorities. The picketing continued overnight.

Then three of the biggest independent newspapers - Vedomosti, Kommersant and RBC - were published on June 10 with the same front page: "We are all Ivan Golunov". There was so much noise about the arrest that it completely overshadowed the St Petersburg International Economic Forum, where Putin was trying to convince investors to put their money into Russia.

The outpouring of solidarity with Golunov was so strong that public figures who did not express enough support also faced a backlash. For example, a member of the presidential media pool, Andrei Kolesnikov, reportedly had to delete a Facebook post about the arrest after he received a barrage of critical comments from readers who found his words too cautious. Even people who would not normally engage in politics would discuss his arrest and change their avatars to messages in solidarity with Golunov.

Soon a planned protest was announced in downtown Moscow, to be held without permission from the authorities.

The reaction of the Kremlin towards the public outrage was equally unprecedented. The case threw state media into total confusion. Some propagandists supported the arrest, while others either backed Golunov outright or demanded that the messy case be sorted out and all evidence made public.

Then the unexpected happened: On June 11 Golunov was set free.

Russian authorities very rarely let anyone go under public pressure. On one of those rare occasions, opposition politician Alexei Navalny was released in 2013 - after being sentenced to five years in prison - following a spontaneous demonstration the authorities feared could turn into mass unrest. 

But this time, the authorities acted even more out of character. Golunov was not only released, he was also pronounced innocent, while the police officers involved in the planting of evidence were dismissed and, in fact, might themselves face a court case.

This basically meant that the state - for the first time in years - actually admitted to falsification of evidence in a politically motivated case.

Posted by orrinj at 9:07 AM



Physicists understood that an expanding bundle of energy would grow into a crumpled mess rather than the huge, smooth cosmos that modern astronomers observe. In 1980, the year before Hawking's talk, the cosmologist Alan Guth realized that the Big Bang's problems could be fixed with an add-on: an initial, exponential growth spurt known as cosmic inflation, which would have rendered the universe huge, smooth, and flat before gravity had a chance to wreck it. Inflation quickly became the leading theory of our cosmic origins. Yet the issue of initial conditions remained: What was the source of the minuscule patch that allegedly ballooned into our cosmos, and of the potential energy that inflated it?

Hawking, in his brilliance, saw a way to end the interminable groping backward in time: He proposed that there's no end, or beginning, at all. According to the record of the Vatican conference, the Cambridge physicist, then 39 and still able to speak with his own voice, told the crowd, "There ought to be something very special about the boundary conditions of the universe, and what can be more special than the condition that there is no boundary?"

The "no-boundary proposal," which Hawking and his frequent collaborator, James Hartle, fully formulated in a 1983 paper, envisions the cosmos having the shape of a shuttlecock. Just as a shuttlecock has a diameter of zero at its bottommost point and gradually widens on the way up, the universe, according to the no-boundary proposal, smoothly expanded from a point of zero size. Hartle and Hawking derived a formula describing the whole shuttlecock--the so-called "wave function of the universe" that encompasses the entire past, present, and future at once--making moot all contemplation of seeds of creation, a creator, or any transition from a time before.

"Asking what came before the Big Bang is meaningless, according to the no-boundary proposal, because there is no notion of time available to refer to," Hawking said in another lecture at the Pontifical Academy in 2016, a year and a half before his death. "It would be like asking what lies south of the South Pole."

Um, the atmosphere and then space?

Posted by orrinj at 8:57 AM


How Should Christians Have Sex? (Katelyn Beaty, June 15, 2019, NY Times)

A majority of adults who came of age in evangelical churches in the 1990s and 2000s were exposed to "purity culture," a term for teachings that stressed sexual abstinence before marriage. We had our own rituals, such as "purity balls," and our own merchandise, such as "purity rings." I had a "Wait for Me Journal" that I kept as a college freshman; created by a prominent Christian pop singer, the journal was designed to hold letters to my future husband. It held out the promise that if I remained pure, then God would reward good behavior with a husband -- surely before I turned 30 so that we could have lots of children.

Somehow God and I got our wires crossed, because the husband hasn't arrived. Twenty years later, I no longer subscribe to purity culture, largely because it never had anything to say to Christians past the age of 23. Yet lately, I also find myself mourning the loss of the coherent sexual ethic that purity culture tried to offer. Is consent culture the best that we have in its place?

Marry.  Problem solved.

Posted by orrinj at 8:40 AM


The New Sobriety (Alex Williams, June 15, 2019, NY Times)

 It seems not even sobriety will be saved from enjoying a made-for-Instagram moment, with new hashtaggable terms like "mindful drinking" and "sober curious." No longer do you have to feel left out or uncool for being sober. You maybe don't even have to completely stop drinking alcoholic beverages?

This is according to a new generation of kinda-sorta temporary temperance crusaders, whose attitudes toward the hooch is somewhere between Carrie Nation's and Carrie Bradshaw's. To them, sobriety is something less (and more) than a practice relevant only to clinically determined alcohol abusers. Now it can also just be something cool and healthful to try, like going vegan, or taking an Iyengar yoga class.

Anonymous? Hardly. No longer is the topic of sobriety confined to discreet meetings in church halls over Styrofoam cups of lukewarm Maxwell House. For these New Abstainers, sobriety is a thing to be, yes, toasted over $15 artisanal mocktails at alcohol-free nights at chic bars around the country, or at "sober-curious" yoga retreats, or early-morning dance parties for those with no need to sleep off the previous night's bender.

Many will tell you they never had a drinking problem. They just had a problem with drinking.

The simple act of waving off wine at a dinner party used to be interpreted as a tacit signal that you were in recovery, "on the wagon," unless you were visibly pregnant or had known religious objections.

That was fine if you identified as an alcoholic. But what about people like Ruby Warrington, 43, a British style journalist in New York who spent her early career quaffing gratis cocktails at industry events, only to regret the groggy mornings, stumbles and embarrassing texts that have long been considered part of the bargain with so-called normal drinking?

After moving to New York in 2012, Ms. Warrington tried 12-step programs briefly but decided that "Ruby, alcoholic" was not the person she saw in the mirror. Three years ago she started Club Soda NYC, an event series for other "sober curious," as she termed them: young professionals who were "kind-of-just-a-little-bit-addicted-to-booze."

These gatherings featured panels on topics like "Sex, Lies, and Alcohol," as well as New Age icebreaker activities like "deep-eye gazing" and Kundalini disco.

"It just felt to me like there was a huge gray area, and a much wider acknowledgment now of the different categories of problem drinking," Ms Warrington said.

Moderation in all things.

Posted by orrinj at 8:35 AM


U.S. Escalates Online Attacks on Russia's Power Grid (David E. Sanger and Nicole Perlroth, June 15, 2019, NY Times)

Two administration officials said they believed Mr. Trump had not been briefed in any detail about the steps to place "implants" -- software code that can be used for surveillance or attack -- inside the Russian grid.

Pentagon and intelligence officials described broad hesitation to go into detail with Mr. Trump about operations against Russia for concern over his reaction -- and the possibility that he might countermand it or discuss it with foreign officials, as he did in 2017 when he mentioned a sensitive operation in Syria to the Russian foreign minister.

Because the new law defines the actions in cyberspace as akin to traditional military activity on the ground, in the air or at sea, no such briefing would be necessary, they added.

In normal times it would be worrisome for subordinates to treat the Commander-in-Chief as the enemy, but he objectively is.

Posted by orrinj at 8:31 AM


Wall Street Donors Are Swooning for Mayor Pete. (They Like Biden and Harris, Too.) (Shane Goldmacher, June 16, 2019, NY Times)

With millions of dollars on the line, top New York donors are already beginning to pick favorites, and three candidates are generating most of the buzz: former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., Senator Kamala Harris of California and Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind.

Unsurprising, given that all three are to Donald's right.

Posted by orrinj at 8:09 AM


This Economy Is Not Aging Gracefully (Eduardo Porter, June 15, 2019, NY Times)

It might seem counterintuitive to hope for more robots, given their track record of knocking workers without a college education from the middle-income jobs that once supported a middle class. But it would be different if workers were retiring anyway.

In a study of several advanced economies from 1990 to 2015, the economists Daron Acemoglu and Pascual Restrepo found that aging was actually associated with rising living standards. As workers became scarce, businesses invested in automation to replace them, as well as in other new technologies, all of which raised productivity and incomes.

...the point of labor is to reduce our standard of living.

June 15, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 3:43 PM


Living to Regret: A new book reveals the moral legacy of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. a review of Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland, by Patrick Radden Keefe  (Jonathan Clarke, June 14, 2019, City Journal)

If you're an Irish-American Catholic, as some 13 million of us are, chances are fair that your father or your grandfather or your Uncle Pat was in a bar or social club in the Bronx, Chicago's South Side, or Dorchester, Massachusetts, on at least one occasion in the 1970s or 1980s when the hat came around with a somewhat coercive suggestion: "Make a donation for the lads, won't you?" The "lads" meaning, of course, the Irish Republican Army, which from 1969 to 1998 fought a bitter war against Protestant loyalist paramilitaries and the British Army--all for the quixotic goal of reuniting the six counties of Northern Ireland with the Republic of Ireland, which didn't want them.

In Say Nothing, Patrick Radden Keefe provides an intimate--and terrifying--account of what the "lads" were up to with their ArmaLite rifles and revolutionary pamphleteering. He constructs an entire moral atmosphere, centered around 1970s-era Belfast, and asks us to consider basic questions about the combatants' warfare. Who has the right to call oneself a soldier? What may a soldier do that is not permitted to a civilian? In the lawless Belfast of that period, paramilitaries sorted out those questions for themselves. What Radden Keefe discovers is a young, charismatic, and morally arrogant IRA, whose members later struggled with the memories of their violent deeds.

Say Nothing focuses on one of their many murders--the killing of Jean McConville, a widowed mother of ten children, who was removed from her apartment by the IRA for the crime of being a "tout," or British Army informer. McConville was blindfolded, driven to a remote location, tortured, executed, and buried in a shallow grave. Her body was not found for over 40 years. [...]

Say Nothing's first half explores the IRA's secretive culture and shadowy operations. The prose, while thrilling, also induces uneasiness when humanizing the would-be revolutionaries or describing their physical courage. Just as it seems that Radden Keefe is ready to mythologize the IRA, however, his account pivots sharply to the achievement of peace with the Good Friday Agreement, ratified in 1998. In subsequent years, those rebels who once crossed moral boundaries for the cause were left with two sets of contradictory feelings: guilt for having killed women, men, and even their fellow IRA members; and betrayal at the hands of past Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams, whose perceived abandonment of the cause of a united Ireland rendered their personal sacrifices and anguish meaningless. Radden Keefe found that many former revolutionaries had descended into alcoholism, depression, and joblessness.

Perhaps even more than McConville, Adams is the figure who haunts Say Nothing. Now retired from public office, he refused Radden Keefe's interview requests and did not participate in "The Troubles," a Boston College oral-history project from which the author drew research. Radden Keefe concludes that Adams, ever elusive, is a sociopath--arguably a fair assessment of a former guerilla leader endowed with intellect, discipline, patience, and ruthlessness.

The Other Brother recommends it highly.

Posted by orrinj at 3:38 PM


McCabe says it's 'absolutely' time to launch impeachment inquiry into Trump (CHRIS MILLS RODRIGO, 06/14/19, The Hill)

"I think we are clearly there with the results of the special counsel team," McCabe said. "There are so many witnesses who could provide important, essential testimony to Congress that can only be done in the scope of an impeachment inquiry."

"Action should be taken immediately," he continued, and it is "beside the point" whether the inquiry results in articles of impeachment.

McCabe was fired from the FBI last year after an internal report found he was not forthcoming with investigators.

He responded that his dismissal was part of a larger effort by the administration to discredit the FBI and the special counsel's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Mueller's report detailed numerous contacts that Trump associates and campaign members had with Russian figures during the 2016 race.

Posted by orrinj at 3:34 PM


How Hong Kong's Leader Made the Biggest Political Retreat by China Under Xi (Keith Bradsher, June 15, 2019, NY Times)

The risk for the Hong Kong government is that the public, particularly the young, may develop the impression that the only way to stop unwanted policy initiatives is through violent protests. With each successive major issue since Britain returned Hong Kong to Chinese rule in 1997, the level of violence at protests has risen before the government has relented and changed course.

As many as a million people marched peacefully a week ago against the extradition bill. But the government's stance did not begin to shift until a smaller demonstration unfolded on Wednesday. It began peacefully until some protesters pried up bricks and threw them at police officers, and police responded by firing rubber bullets and tear gas.  [...]

The extradition bill debacle underlines Beijing's central dilemma in Hong Kong. It wants to retain complete control, and so does not want to allow full democracy in the semiautonomous territory.

[W]ithout democracy, a succession of Hong Kong governments have blundered into political crises by underestimating or ignoring the public's concerns -- and each time, Beijing gets some of the blame.

Posted by orrinj at 5:37 AM


Iran tanker attack: Donald Trump, Mike Pompeo should follow Ronald Reagan's lead (James S. Robbins, June 14, 2019, USA Today)

Neither the United States nor Iran have an interest in open conflict, though the escalation of tensions is reminiscent of the "tanker war" during the latter part of the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988). Iran had begun attacking tankers from neutral countries that they suspected of carrying Iraqi oil, and any ships from nations supporting Iraq. The Reagan administration responded with Operation Earnest Will, reflagging Kuwaiti ships to bring them under the protection of the U.S. Navy and deter further Iranian aggression.

Trump doesn't want another war: Why a war with Iran is unlikely: Donald Trump calls the shots and he doesn't want one

Iran chose to test American commitment with a series of small-scale attacks involving laying mines and harassing U.S. and other ships with fast attack boats. The United States then conducted special operations against the mine layers and several larger scale attacks against Iran's navy and Revolutionary Guard bases in the Persian Gulf. The tit-for-tat escalation stopped with the 1988 Iran-Iraq ceasefire, effectively ending the broader conflict.

It was a tragic mistake when Ronald Reagan openly aided Saddam and his Ba'athist regime against a fellow democracy at a time when Iran was already looking for rapprochement.  Donald can obviously do something similar here by helping the Salafi/Wahhabi and given his love of the Sa'uds it's not unlikely.  Happily, his alliance with the regime has made it even more anathema to Americans and it will be easier for his successor to turn on them.

June 14, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 8:28 PM


Donald Trump trails Joe Biden by double digits in new statewide Michigan poll (Todd Spangler, 6/14/19, Detroit Free Press)

A new poll out Friday suggests more trouble for President Donald Trump's reelection hopes in Michigan, with the survey showing him 11 percentage points behind former Vice President Joe Biden in a head-to-head race.

The poll by EPIC-MRA of Lansing also suggests, for the second time since March, that a majority of Michiganders support replacing Trump or would consider voting for someone else. Less than a third said they would definitely reelect him.

Posted by orrinj at 8:26 PM


President Trump's internal polling data from March showed him far behind Joe Biden in key battleground states (KATHERINE FAULDERS, JOHN SANTUCCIandWILL STEAKIN Jun 14, 2019, ABC News)

Data from President Donald Trump's first internal reelection campaign poll conducted in March, obtained exclusively by ABC News, showed him losing a matchup by wide margins to former Vice President Joe Biden in key battleground states.

Trump has repeatedly denied that such data exists.

The polling data, revealed for the first time by ABC News, showed a double-digit lead for Biden in Pennsylvania 55-39 and Wisconsin 51-41 and had Biden leading by seven points in Florida. In Texas, a Republican stronghold, the numbers showed the president only leading by two points.

Posted by orrinj at 8:15 PM


Yoga and Meditation May Lead to an Inflated Ego (HANNAH MCDONALD JUNE 18, 2018, Mental Floss)

If you've been exasperated for years by that one self-righteous, yoga-obsessed friend, take note: Regular yoga practitioners experience inflated egos after a session of yoga or meditation, according to a forthcoming study in the journal Psychological Science.

Researchers found that yoga and meditation both increase "self-enhancement," or the tendency for people to attach importance to their own actions. In the first phase of the two-part study, researchers in Germany and England measured self-enhancement by recruiting 93 yoga students and having them respond to questionnaires over the course of 15 weeks, Quartz reports. Each assessment was designed to measure three outcomes: superiority, communal narcissism, and self-esteem. In the second phase, the researchers asked 162 meditation students to answer the same questionnaires over four weeks.

Participants showed significantly higher self-enhancement in the hour just after their practices. After yoga or meditation, participants were more likely to say that statements like "I am the most helpful person I know" and "I have a very positive influence on others" describe them.

Self-absorption makes one selfish?  Who'da dreamt....

Posted by orrinj at 7:03 PM


Gun violence lower in states that require licenses, study finds (STEPHEN JOHNSON, 14 June, 2019, Rightly Understood)

Gun violence is lower in U.S. states where people must get a license before buying a gun, according to a new paper from the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research.

Before buying a gun, states require residents to pass a federally mandated background check (if purchasing from a licensed dealer) and, depending on the state, obtain a permit or license. To obtain a gun license, states typically require people to submit fingerprints, apply for a permit, and, in some cases, complete a firearms safety course.

"Licensing differs from a standard background check in important ways," Cassandra Crifasi, deputy director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research and study lead author, said in a news release. "Comprehensive background checks are a necessary component of any system designed to keep guns from prohibited persons, but they are insufficient to reduce firearm-related deaths without a complementary system of purchaser licensing."

In addition to strengthening the screening process, licensing laws could also help to reduce gun homicides and suicides by preventing impulse purchases.

Posted by orrinj at 4:37 PM


US Reliance on OPEC Oil Hits 30-Year Low (Michael Bastasch, June 14, 2019, Daily Caller)

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


A Tanker War in the Middle East--Again? (Robin Wright, 6/14/19, The New Yorker)

Tensions in the Gulf are an eerie echo of the tanker war that erupted in the late eighties during the eight-year conflict between Iraq and Iran. The tanker war was launched in 1984, when Iraq attacked Iran's oil terminal and oil tankers at Kharg Island, in the northern Persian Gulf. Iran responded by striking tankers--initially from Kuwait and later from other nations--that ferried Iraqi oil. In 1987, as the tanker war threatened to disrupt global oil supplies, the Reagan Administration intervened. It re-registered Kuwaiti ships under the American flag, which allowed the U.S. Navy to provide military protection. Operation Earnest Will became the largest U.S. naval convoy operation since the Second World War. It included carrier battle groups from the Navy, Air Force AWACS surveillance planes, and U.S. Army Special Operations Forces. At one point, some thirty ships were deployed to escort tankers from the volatile Gulf through the Strait of Hormuz.

The U.S. intervention to protect tankers also led to direct military action with Iran. In September, 1987, U.S. aircraft spotted the Iran Ajr pushing mines into Gulf waters. Helicopter gunships opened fire. By the time the attack was over, four Iranian sailors were dead, the rest of the crew had abandoned ship (and were picked up by the U.S. Navy), and the ship was scuttled.

The timing of the U.S. attack was particularly painful for Iran. Khamenei, who was then Iran's President, was in New York for the U.N. General Assembly--the first visit by a top revolutionary leader since the 1979 upheaval that overthrew the shah. His trip followed the first covert contacts between Washington and Tehran in what became known as the arms-for-hostage swap during the Reagan Administration. In 1986, top White House officials led a secret mission to Iran. Although that diplomacy collapsed, Khamenei's trip in 1987 was designed to signal Tehran's willingness to engage with the world. Instead, the visit was overtaken by Iran's mining misadventure.

Just as we were objectively pro-Iraq then, we are objectively pro-Wahhabi now, and then blame the Shi'a for waging our wars.

Posted by orrinj at 12:01 AM


Tariff Man's Bark Is Worse than His Bite (ANNE O. KRUEGER, 6/13/19, Project Syndicate)

The Trump administration's flailing efforts to reduce the flow of migrants arriving at the US-Mexico border have long been a source of public spectacle. In this instance, after a few days of deep uncertainty, Mexico and the US announced that they had reached an agreement whereby Mexico would take steps to stem the flow of migrants, and the US would refrain from imposing tariffs. Precisely what actions Mexico would take went largely unspecified, or had already been promised months earlier.

Nonetheless, Trump, resembling British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain after his return from Munich in 1938, waved a piece of paper in front of reporters, claiming that it held proof of Mexico's commitment to accede to US wishes.

Posted by orrinj at 12:01 AM


The US Recovery Turns Ten (JEFFREY FRANKEL, 6/14/19, Project Syndicate)

Australia and most other countries date their economic expansions using the rule that defines a recession as two or more consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth. The US is almost alone in using a less mechanical process that includes employment and a variety of other economic indicators, in addition to the core criterion of GDP. (Japan's government also departs from the automatic two-quarter rule and considers other indicators.)

Troughs and peaks in the US economy are dated by the Business Cycle Dating Committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). (I am a member of this committee, but I do not speak for it, and I am writing here in a personal capacity.) The NBER's dates are regarded as official: the US Commerce Department and other government agencies rely on them in their own reporting and analysis of economic data. [...]

Assuming the current US expansion continues in July, it will break the record of ten years set in 1991-2001. But if the dates of American business cycles were determined by the rule that most other countries apply, the US recession of March to November 2001 would be erased. (It did not include two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth, but rather two negative quarters separated by a positive one.) Under that interpretation, the US record, it seems, would instead be the 17-year expansion from the first quarter of 1991 to the fourth quarter of 2007. And the current recovery would still have a long way to go to top that.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Republican blocks bill requiring campaigns to alert FBI to foreign assistance (Zachary Basu, 6/14/19, Axios)

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) blocked an effort by Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) to pass a bill via unanimous consent requiring campaigns to report any offers of foreign assistance to the FBI.

June 13, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 5:41 PM


Trump-Kim summit gave 'master manipulator' a global platform, says defector (PRI's The World, June 13, 2019)

[Yeonmi Park] is a North Korean defector who escaped from North Korea with her mother at just 13 years old.  [...]

Park spoke with The World's Carol Hills about her thoughts on the summit, Trump and the current state of North Korea. 

Carol Hills: Do you think that the summit in Singapore and the fact that Kim Jong-un was out on the world stage -- do you think that maybe that's affected him and made him have a better approach to human rights in North Korea? 

Yeonmi Park: Wow. No. North Korean human rights, it's never been this worse, this oppressed than ever before under any Kim previously. The persecution for anybody in North Korea now is so much worse than before. 

So, you think that the summit in Singapore last year gave Kim Jong-un credibility that he doesn't deserve? 

Absolutely. Trump gave him a platform to put on a show for us to watch, and Kim Jong-un is a master at brainwashing people. He's a master at manipulation and that is what he's been doing to the rest of the world too. North Koreans are not the only ones who are brainwashed, then being manipulated. The rest of the world is following his direction of believing this guy and believing this dictatorship, and somehow think this guy is doing the right thing. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:16 PM


Government office calls for Kellyanne Conway's removal in an unprecedented move (MARK SULLIVAN, 6/13/19. Co.Exist)

A federal government oversight office has called for the removal of Kellyanne Conway as President Donald Trump's advisor and key mouthpiece.

The recommendation comes from the U.S. Office of Special Counsel and is not related to related to Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian influence in the 2016 election. The office sent a letter to Trump's office Thursday saying Conway violated the Hatch Act numerous times by criticizing 2020 Democratic presidential candidates while speaking in her official capacity during TV interviews and on social media, Politico reported Thursday.

"Ms. Conway's violations, if left unpunished, would send a message to all federal employees that they need not abide by the Hatch Act's restrictions," the letter reads. "Her actions thus erode the principal foundation of our democratic system--the rule of law."

Posted by orrinj at 4:28 AM


Iranian leader tells Japan's Abe Trump "not worthy" of a reply to message (Bozorgmehr Sharafedin, 6/13/19, Reuters)

"I do not see Trump as worthy of any message exchange, and I do not have any reply for him, now or in future," Iranian state media quoted Khamenei as telling the Japanese premier.

If there's one thing Donald has accomplished it is to demonstrate that America does not honor agreements.

Posted by orrinj at 3:59 AM

60-40 NATION:

House Dems Pump Breaks on Taxpayer-Funded Abortion (Patrick Hauf, June 13, 2019, Free Beacon)

House Democrats appear at odds with the party's 2020 presidential candidates over using taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions.

The Democrat-led House of Representatives is reportedly backing away from repealing the Hyde Amendment, the 1976 policy that has prevented federal funding for abortion. Democrats have debated sneaking a repeal of Hyde into the $190 billion Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education appropriations bill. If it were to pass, federal taxpayer dollars could directly be used to pay for abortions. But supporters have run into opposition from within their own ranks. [...]

A recent Marist poll found that 54 percent of Americans oppose taxpayer funding of abortion, with only 39 percent supporting it.

Posted by orrinj at 3:55 AM


As Democratic voters warm to free trade, White House candidates struggle for positions (Ginger Gibson, 6/13/19, Reuters) 

A Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted in early June found that many Democrats were strongly opposed to the sweeping tariffs Trump proposed - and then canceled - on goods imported from Mexico as a way to stem illegal immigration.

The poll found seven out of 10 Republicans supported the tariffs, compared with seven out of 10 Democrats opposing them. [...]

"Democrats have done a poor job making the liberal case for trade," said Christina Davis, a professor at Harvard who specializes in trade and foreign relations.

The decline of organized labor's influence could open opportunities for Democrats to develop new positions, she added. [...]

Business groups in Washington are watching what Democratic presidential candidates say on the campaign trail.

Ahead of a vote on the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) - which would replace NAFTA - candidates serving in Congress like Warren may be forced to take a more definitive stance. So far, Democrats have been blocking a vote because of opposition to labor provisions, a nod to their union base.

"That very much is going to be a test," said a Washington business lobbyist who asked not to be identified. "It's very difficult for a member of Congress to say they're pro-business and then vote against USMCA. In fact, I don't think you could do it."

Posted by orrinj at 12:03 AM


Iraqi Shi'ite groups deepen control in strategic Sunni areas (John Davison, 6/13/19, Reuters) 

The only sign that Sunni-majority Mosul's newest and busiest marketplace is in Shi'ite Muslim hands is a small plaque in the office of its leaseholder from Baghdad.

"The Imam Hussein Market," it reads, dedicated to the Prophet Mohammed's grandson and most revered Shi'ite imam.

Banners of Shi'ite leaders that militiamen erected after helping drive out the Sunni extremists of Islamic State two years ago have been removed amid fears of renewed sectarian tension.

Iraq's second city, once a recruitment center for Sunni officers in Saddam Hussein's army, became an al Qaeda hotbed after the 2003 U.S. invasion that toppled the dictator, and later the base from where IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a caliphate in 2014.

Iranian-backed Shi'ite paramilitary groups that played a crucial role in driving out IS have since become dominant in the city, if less visibly than before.

...and provided safety for the formation of ISIS.
Posted by orrinj at 12:02 AM


Donald Trump's immigrant gulag (Ryan Cooper, June 13, 2019, The Week)

Probably the worst thing President Franklin Roosevelt ever did was Executive Order 9066, which ordered the arrest and incarceration of about 120,000 Japanese-Americans, nearly two-thirds of whom were American citizens. The motivation was purest paranoia and racism -- holding innocent civilians, most of whose families had lived in the United States for two or three generations, responsible for the attack on Pearl Harbor.

For many years, it was thought this was a historical aberration -- an indulgence of the worst human instincts brought on by war fever. President Carter opened an investigation into the story in 1980, and in 1988 President Reagan signed a bill granting reparations of $20,000 to each camp survivor.

But President Trump is following a similar path much further than Roosevelt ever did -- indeed, his administration recently announced they would incarcerate 1,400 children at an Oklahoma army base that was part of the Second World War camp system. Trump's immigrant gulag is already one of the greatest moral atrocities in American history, and there is every sign it is going to get worse if he isn't stopped.

Posted by orrinj at 12:01 AM


THE MOST ISLAMIC COUNTRY IS ... NEW ZEALAND? : A Muslim economist is attempting to measure how well the world's countries live by Quranic values.  (Erin Cook, JUN 13 2019, OZY)

The Islamicity Indices, compiled by the Islamicity Foundation, a U.S.-based nonprofit, measure world governments by how well they adhere to the Islamic principles set forth in the Quran, including adherence to interest-free finance, equality of education, property rights and animal rights, among others. They don't include the personal duties required of Muslims, like prayer, fasting and pilgrimages.

In the most recent survey, the highest-ranking country with a Muslim majority is the United Arab Emirates at No. 45. (The U.S. ranks at No. 23.) The lowest-ranked country is Yemen, where Islam is the state religion. New Zealand has no official religion and nearly half of the country's 5 million people identify as Christian, but it scored high in several areas tracked by the index, including anti-corruption laws and provisions to alleviate poverty.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Birthright Trips, a Rite of Passage for Many Jews, Are Now a Target of Protests (Farah Stockman, June 11, 2019, NY Times)

In 2016, Birthright added a mandatory two-hour lecture on geopolitics. Birthright also spent a year developing nearly two dozen new optional activities involving Israeli Arabs, including a visit to Givat Haviva, a center that fosters cooperation between Israel's Jewish and Arab populations.

Those activities are currently available to Birthright tours, although only some tour operators use them. They have prompted complaints on the right from Jews who felt that Arab voices were unnecessary on a trip intended to bolster Jewish identity, as well as complaints on the left when Birthright paused them temporarily for fine-tuning.

Activists say the new programming doesn't go far enough. In the fall, J Street U, a liberal Jewish organization with 60 affiliates on college campuses, circulated petitions asking Birthright to include at least one Palestinian speaker on the occupation. J Street U has also rolled out its own alternative free trip to Israel this summer, which will take students into the West Bank to meet Palestinians and Israeli settlers. Organizers say it is meant to serve as a model for how Birthright could change.

IfNotNow has called for a boycott of Birthright.

Mr. Lurie said he has spoken to both IfNotNow and J Street U about their protests.

"If your goal is to make Birthright better, I'm on your side," he said he told them. "But if your goal is to destroy Birthright, I'm totally against you."

Charles Bronfman, a co-founder of Birthright, said he understood the desire of young Jews to learn how Palestinians viewed the conflict. "I'm not going to say they don't have a point," he said. "But that is not Birthright's job."

"If they have something to teach us, let's talk about it," he said of J Street U's efforts. "Maybe we have something to teach them."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Kamala Harris Vows Executive Action to Allow Citizenship for Dreamers (Sahil Kapur, June 12, 2019, Bloomberg)

Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris unveiled a proposal Wednesday to unilaterally remove legal barriers for young undocumented "Dreamers" to pursue U.S. citizenship.

The move sets her apart from major rivals for the Democratic nomination, with a far-reaching set of executive actions aimed at allowing Dreamers, those immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children, to become American citizens. If the California senator wins the nomination, it promises to be a divisive issue in a general election battle against President Donald Trump, who has made restricting immigration a centerpiece of his platform.

Wake us when they get to general amnesty.

June 12, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 6:08 PM


The War of All Against One: Why Christians Should Not Be Populists (Justin Hawkins--Presented for Delivery at the 2019 Henry Institute Symposium on Christianity and Politics, Calvin College, April 26, 2019, Mere Orthodoxy)

I begin with an intentionally polemical anecdote. On December 7, 2015 - a day that will live in infamy - the presidential campaign of Donald Trump issued a "Statement on Preventing Muslim Immigration." That statement said that "Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on." The statement went on to quote Trump himself:

"...it is obvious to anybody the hatred is beyond comprehension. Where this hatred comes from and why we will have to determine. Until we are able to determine and understand this problem and the dangerous threat it poses, our country cannot be the victims of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in Jihad, and have no sense of reason or respect for human life. If I win the election for President, we are going to Make America Great Again."

While the language is characteristically opaque and the standards of evaluation borderline nonsensical, this statement is just one among innumerable instances in American and global politics today where a right-wing leader consolidates a base of support by identifying a foreign scapegoat and uniting opposition against that scapegoat. It is clear that this rhetoric does not accurately depict the nature of the threat it stands against. If it did, then the Trump Campaign may have identified a real threat, instead of a scapegoat.

But the antipathy toward Muslims is out of proportion with the threat of Islamist attack in America. One source noted that of domestic killings in America, "from 2009 through 2018, right-wing extremists accounted for 73 percent of such killings, according to the Anti-Defamation League, compared with 23 percent for Islamists and 3 percent for left-wing extremists. In other words, most terrorist attacks in the United States, and most deaths from terrorist attacks, are caused by white extremists." And it is pedantic to observe that this current form of populism in America has not been attended with warnings about right-wing white extremism the way they have been attended with paranoia about Islamic terrorism. Therefore, the current populist response to domestic violence in America is skewed, and it is skewed in a predictable direction: toward the identification and ostracization of scapegoats.

This populist logic of scapegoating is the subject of this essay, and the main theorist I will use to understand this phenomenon is Rene Girard. Girard's argument, in short, is that populism almost never exists in the world without scapegoating, and scapegoating is not a Christian form of politics.

Posted by orrinj at 6:06 PM


U.S. budget deficit balloons to $739 billion despite tariff revenue (BLOOMBERG, JUN 12, 2019)

The U.S. budget deficit widened to $738.6 billion in the first eight months of the fiscal year, a $206-billion increase from a year earlier, despite a revenue boost from President Trump's tariffs on imported merchandise.

The shortfall was 38.8% more than a year earlier, the Treasury Department said in its monthly budget review released Wednesday.

Posted by orrinj at 5:47 PM


For the First Time, Renewables Have the Capacity to Generate More Power Than Coal (CHIP BROWNLEE, JUNE 12, 2019, Slate)

The reality is that coal dominance of the U.S. energy sector ended a long time ago--more than 60 years ago, to be exact, when it was surpassed by natural gas. Now a new report suggests cheaper and more abundant renewable energy is knocking coal down a peg, too.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's most recent numbers found that in April, renewable energy--including wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, and hydroelectric--surpassed coal in energy generating capacity for the first time in American history. 

The Green New Deal is too slow-paced to keep up with innovation.

Posted by orrinj at 5:44 PM


As Iran stirs worries, Sisi sets vision for Arab security (Hagar Hosny June 12, 2019, Al Monitor)

Sisi said during his speech that the security of the Arab Gulf constitutes a cornerstone for Egypt's national security. He said any attack on Arab national security necessitates wise and deterrent confrontation of any enemy and that the Houthi attacks on the Saudi oil regions and the naval attacks in the UAE reflect blatant terrorism and a threat to Arab national security. Arab leaders have the responsibility to face this terrorism, he added.

Abdul Menhem Said, former director of the independent Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, told Al-Monitor by phone, "Sisi's statement that Gulf security is part of Egyptian national security during the summit reflects a relatively new expression in his vision, and it's not common among Egyptian political leaders."

Security can only follow democracy.

Republicans join Democrats to rebuke Trump's 'emergency' $8B arms sale to Saudis, Emiratis (CONOR FINNEGAN Jun 12, 2019, ABC News)

"There is no emergency. It's phony, it's made up, and it's an abuse of the law -- once again, attempting to cut Congress out of the whole picture," said the committee's chair, Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y. "This is not a dictatorship. We don't rule this country by fiat ... Remember when you were in school and you learned checks and balances? Congress is a coequal branch of government."

The committee's highest-ranking Republican, Rep. Mike McCaul, called the move "unfortunate" and said he was blindsided by it after talking to National Security Adviser John Bolton a week prior to the emergency declaration. He and Engel both questioned how it was an emergency if the transfer of most of these weapons would take months, if not years in some cases -- and why the administration didn't give Congress a formal 30-day notice instead to allow it to vote on the sales.

Posted by orrinj at 5:13 PM


Poll: Most Americans Believe Trump Is Guilty Of Criminal Conduct (Emily Singer, June 12, 2019, National Memo)

A large majority of voters, or 57 percent, believe Trump "committed crimes before he took office," according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday.

And, a whopping 69 percent of voters say that sitting presidents should be subject to criminal indictment if there is evidence they committed crimes, the poll found.

Posted by orrinj at 1:20 PM


Fear of a blue Texas: New GOP group to spend millions registering Republicans (David M. Drucker, June 12, 2019, Washington Examiner)

"In 2018, we got hammered not only in the urban areas but in the suburbs, too," Cornyn, 67, told the Washington Examiner. The third-term senator, who has sounded the alarm about the dangers of taking Texas for granted, described with a sense of relief the "substantial focus and investment, now, that will be made on voter registration."

Texas has not elected a Democrat to statewide office in more than two decades, and Trump defeated Hillary Clinton there three years ago by 9 percentage points.

But the midterm elections saw a significant shift. The Democrats captured two traditionally Republican, suburban seats in the House of Representatives, and Democrat Beto O'Rourke, now a presidential candidate, came within 2.6 points of ousting Republican Sen. Ted Cruz. Recent polling suggests Trump could be vulnerable in the state in 2020, a product of continued resistance in the suburbs of Austin, Dallas, and Houston.

Some Republicans have attributed the outcome last fall, in which the GOP also suffered losses in state legislative races, to Cruz's unpopularity and the resources invested by O'Rourke and his allies, a feat Democrats are unlikely to repeat in a national presidential contest. Senior Republican strategists in Texas are warning against that line of thinking.

"Everybody thinks it was a Cruz-Beto thing. But it's a mess," a GOP adviser said, requesting anonymity in order to speak candidly. "Independents are behaving like Democrats -- like they did in 2018."

We're just determining the scope of down-ticket losses.

Posted by orrinj at 4:17 AM


How the Tea Party became a statist-populist movement (JOE CARTER, June 12, 2019, Acton)

A recent analysis by Pew Research finds that Republicans who had positive views of the Tea Party movement in 2014 or 2015 were among Trump's most enthusiastic backers during the 2016 campaign, and continued to have very positive feelings about the president through his first year in office.

In one sense this might be surprising. Imagine traveling back to a Tea Party rally in March 2009 and telling the people like Mr. McQueen--people protesting Democrats, high taxes, stimulus spending, and Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP)--that in a decade their favorite politician/president would be a man who was (right then, in 2009) a registered Democrat who supported Hillary Clinton, donated to Chuck Schumer, and endorsed TARP, and who would (in the future, as a Republican president) propose more stimulus spending than Obama and impose the largest tax hike in post-World War II history. They would have thought you were slandering them and their movement as hypocrites.

But in another sense it's not surprising at all. For the tea party "movement" was never a movement in the sense of being motivated by a clear set of issues and principles. 

To the contrary, this is exactly what the polling at the time showed the Tea Party to be--older, whiter, maler Americans who were afraid, particularly because the UR was black, that the coloreds were going to use up the welfare money before they got their SS and Medicare checks. Donald is their avatar.

Posted by orrinj at 3:57 AM


THE HEALING POWER OF JOKES: Jews understand why humor really is the best medicine (Alter Yisrael Shimon Feuerman, June 12, 2019, The Tablet)

When my father was 50, he was run over by a drunk driver. He was very badly damaged, literally upgerisen--sliced apart--and he was brought to the Hospital for Joint Diseases in Manhattan for seven months to put him back together.

When his friends came to visit, they would see him with one leg in a Hoffmann device and the other suspended from the ceiling, like in the cartoons. What did they do? They would regale him with jokes. "You know what's Zionism?" they would ask. "It's when two rich Jews get together to send a third one to Israel." Or this: "The only thing two Jews can agree on is how much their friend should give to charity. Afterward they would ask, "Reb Chaim, does it hurt?" He would say, "Only when I laugh." For some reason he thought this was funny and he pumped and squeezed his beautiful eyelids in laughter until he would cry.

When a man is bashed up bad, a modern hospital provides a plethora of doctors--and specialists. There were the orthopedic surgeons, the plastic surgeons, the neurologists, the urologists, the infectious disease people. They moved in caravans, these medical nomads, and traipsed through his room at all hours of the day and night. I frequently slept at his side, so I saw this firsthand.

The doctors were very fine fellows, Jews of the assimilated sort. They lived uptown and in Westchester, but they hailed from the Bronx, like him--they had gone to De Witt Clinton High School or Bronx Science or some other such place. But I noticed something. When they came to examine him, they would tell jokes, too, and these jokes were of a Jewish sort. They usually had to do with a rabbi, a wonderworker caught in a compromising position, or they were about the foibles of Jewish men and the various deals that human beings make with their gods. One of his doctors, a man of generous nature and a great mind, a plastic surgeon named Lester Silver, would kibitz his way through the examination, often he made reference to arcane Talmudic minutiae, strange Halakhic rulings and the like, throwing in an occasional Yiddish word.

One of the doctors told this joke: A rabbi needs to break away from his shul. Finally, he takes a plane to Paris and checks into the Ritz and lives it up. The next day, after a stroll in Paris, he sits down for lunch in a fancy restaurant and orders suckling pig with a big juicy apple in its pisk. The rabbi's mouth waters as the waiter brings it to the table. Suddenly, the shul president and his cohorts appear. "Rabbi, Rabbi what are you doing here? Have you betrayed us?" they ask, pointing to the pig. The rabbi shrugs and says, "Will you look at how these silly Frenchies potchke up a baked apple?"

These Jewish doctors, buttoned up, credentialed to the hilt, couldn't stop themselves from kibitzing. The chief of orthopedic surgery--the late Herman Robbins--began a 13-hour surgery with my father, bone saw in hand, by saying to all staff present, "Nu, rabbi, lomir makhen hamotzi?" (Shall we make the blessing over bread?) My father remembered hearing this verbatim, even though he was under deep anesthesia.

The cultural dependence of comedy is one of the things that make it anathema to The Left.

Posted by orrinj at 12:01 AM


Hung jury thwarts federal prosecution of Arizona teacher arrested for helping migrants (THe Week, 6/12/19)

U.S. District Judge Raner Collins declared a mistrial Tuesday evening after a jury in Tucson, Arizona, couldn't agree on whether Scott Warren, a 36-year-old geology teacher and border aid volunteer, had broken the law by helping a pair of Central American migrants crossing a treacherous stretch of Arizona desert. Warren's lawyer, Greg Kuykendall, said eight jurors wanted to find Warren not guilty on all three federal counts and four jurors thought him guilty. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:01 AM


Outrage on Capitol Hill over 'completely unacceptable' US-funded scheme to shape Iran debate (Negar Mortazavi & Borzou Daragahi, 6/11/19, The Independent)

"It's completely unacceptable that American taxpayer dollars supported a project that attacked Americans and others who are critical of the Trump administration's policy of escalation and conflict with Iran," a senior Congressional aide told The Independent, on condition of anonymity. 

"This is something that happens in authoritarian regimes, not democracies."

One woman behind the harassment campaign, a longtime Iranian-American activist, has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the State Department over the years to promote "freedom of expression and free access to information."

The campaign relentlessly attacked critics of the Iran policy on social media, including Twitter and Telegram messaging app, accusing them without evidence of being paid operatives of the regime in Tehran. 

A spokeswoman for the State Department told reporters on Monday that funding for the "Iran Disinformation Project" had been suspended and is under review after it was reported that it went beyond the scope of its mandate by veering from countering propaganda from Iran to smearing domestic critics of White House policy.

State Department officials disclosed to lawmakers they had granted $1.5 for Iran Disinfo, which repeatedly targeted, harassed and smeared critics of Trump's tough stance against Iran on social media.

Among those targeted were American activists, scholars, and journalists who challenged the Trump administration's "maximum pressure campaign" against Iran.

The revelation that US taxpayer money was being used to attack administration critics has now sparked a flurry of queries.

Given the overwhelming public support for the deal they could hardly play fair.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The GoFundMe Border Wall Blocked Access To A Monument. It's Been Ordered To Keep A Gate Open Indefinitely. (Salvador Hernandez, 6/11/19, BuzzFeed News)

The viral crowdfunding effort to build a wall on the southern border aimed at deterring immigrants from crossing illegally was only recently completed, but on Monday the newly installed wall suffered a major setback -- a large gate built into the barrier was ordered opened by officials.

The controversial half-mile wall constructed along the US-Mexico border near Sunland Park, New Mexico, was erected earlier this month after organizers raised more than $23 million on GoFundMe, the online crowdfunding site. But We Build the Wall organizers failed to obtain the required authorization to build the barrier on federal land, cutting off access to waterways and a public monument.

"This is normally done well in advance of a construction project," said Lori Kuczmanski, a spokesperson for the International Boundary and Water Commission, the agency that addresses waterway issues between the US and Mexico. "They think they can build now and ask questions later, and that's not how it works."

In response, IBWC officials on Monday afternoon propped open a large gate installed in the wall. 

The point of a wall is that we need to be able to process everyone at the open gates, like Ellis Island.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Why Trump Isn't Likely to Win a Second Term: Democrats can lower expectations all they want, but polls show the president facing a decisive defeat. (Josh Kraushaar, June 11, 2019, National Journal)

Trump is in the weakest political shape of any sitting president since George H.W. Bush. Despite a historically strong economy, his job approval ratings are still badly underwater. He's never hit 50 percent job approval in any reputable national poll throughout his presidency. At least 40 percent of voters are fired up to vote against him, no matter what happens in the next year. He's already lost ground with the working-class voters who defected from the Democrats to support him in 2016, with his favorability rating dropping 19 points among that critical Obama-Trump constituency in the last two years.

The latest wave of polling is even more alarming for Trump. His campaign's own internal polling reportedly shows him trailing in many of the must-win battleground states. A new Quinnipiac survey shows Trump trailing all six Democrats tested against him; what's more, he couldn't win more than 42 percent of the vote against anyone. He's running 13 points behind Joe Biden, 9 points behind Bernie Sanders, and 7 points behind Elizabeth Warren.

In the latest Morning Consult tracking survey, Trump hits 50 percent disapproval ratings in North Carolina, Arizona, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Iowa--all states he carried in 2016. Two recent polls show Trump trailing Biden in reliably Republican Arizona (by 5) and Texas (by 4), while holding only small leads against weaker competition. He trails Sanders by 12 points in Michigan, matching his deficit against Biden.

Meanwhile, Trump isn't acting like a president seeking to build upon support from his base. His threats to impose tariffs on Mexico particularly alarmed Senate Republicans in states that he needs to win next year. Any economic downturn before the election would all but doom his already precarious prospects. His unwillingness to work with Democrats, given their aggressive oversight of his administration, makes it all the more difficult to tout any bipartisan accomplishments on the campaign trail.

Trump's clearest path to victory relies on Democrats making a series of self-destructive decisions. But even if Democrats turn leftward and nominate a weak challenger, they'd still have a credible chance at unseating Trump. The country's rampant polarization guarantees that anyone--no matter how extreme--would be well-positioned against the president.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump publicly opposes using CIA informants against North Korea's Kim (Makini Brice, 6/12/19, Reuters) 

U.S. President Donald Trump took a public stance against the use of CIA informants to spy on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Tuesday, saying it would not happen on his watch and possibly taking away a valuable tool of the U.S. intelligence community.

Kim's racial ideology makes him a natural ally of the Right.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump Administration to Hold Migrant Children at Base That Served as WWII Japanese Internment Camp (W.J. HENNIGAN, JUNE 11, 2019, TIME)

The Trump Administration has opted to use an Army base in Oklahoma to hold growing numbers of immigrant children in its custody after running out of room at government shelters.

Fort Sill, an 150-year-old installation once used as an internment camp for Japanese-Americans during World War II, has been selected to detain 1,400 children until they can be given to an adult relative, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Only the groups we hate change. (Though, of course, Donald hates the Japanese too)

June 11, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 5:13 PM


Posted by orrinj at 4:19 PM


Koch Brothers Team Up With George Soros, Patreon and Airbnb to Fight Online Extremism (Davis Richardson, 06/11/19, NY Observer)

Representatives for the Charles Koch Institute and the Anti-Defamation League will join executives from tech companies which currently include Eventbrite, Mozilla, Pinterest, Patreon and Airbnb.

"Now more than ever is the time to create communities that value diversity, inclusivity and positive change," Michael Signer, the former mayor of Charlottesville, Virginia and the founder and chair of the Communities Overcoming Extremism Project, said in a statement. "We're excited to assemble with these forward-thinking tech leaders to explore what positive outcomes we can gain from an event full of powerful conversations."

Posted by orrinj at 1:13 PM


Poll: Warren Viewed Unfavorably by 46 Percent of Massachusetts Voters ( David Rutz, June 11, 2019, Washington Examiner)

Warren, who has established herself as one of the top 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, is as likely to be viewed favorably (46 percent) as unfavorably (46 percent) with the voters who know her best in the Suffolk University/Boston Globe survey. In comparison, Republican Gov. Charlie Baker was viewed favorably by 69 percent of respondents, with just 15 percent viewing him unfavorably. Sixty-six percent said he should run for a third term.

When asked who they would support in the 2020 Democratic primary, Massachusetts voters picked Joe Biden (22 percent) over Warren (10 percent) by a significant margin. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:05 AM


Russia, in U-turn after public anger, drops case against journalist (Vladimir Soldatkin, Andrew Osborn, 6/11/19, Reuters) 

Russian police on Tuesday dropped drugs charges against journalist Ivan Golunov, a rare U-turn by the authorities in the face of anger from his supporters who alleged he was framed for his reporting and threatened to stage a mass protest in Moscow.

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 AM


NASA administrator says 'nothing has changed' after Trump's tweet about the Moon and Mars (Loren Grush, Jun 11, 2019, The Verge)

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine claims "nothing has changed" after President Trump seemed to question the space agency's plans to return humans to the Moon in a tweet last week.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


The Biggest Barrier to a Leftist Foreign Policy: Democrats: When it comes to Iran, Israel, and Latin America, Democratic leaders are closer in mindset to the Trump administration than you might think. (TYLER BELLSTROM, June 11, 2019, New Republic)

Democratic leadership on foreign relations is symbolized in no small part by Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, as the ranking Democratic member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, and Representative Eliot Engel of New York, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. And both of these individuals, while they have opposed the Trump administration's arms sales to Saudi Arabia, are closer to the Trump administration on some matters of foreign policy than one might expect. Menendez was against the Iran Deal when it was announced, believing the coordinated sanctions that were used to get Iran to the table could still coerce more concessions. Engel was also against the Iran Deal, claiming that it would not stop Iran's "destabilizing influence" in the region.

After Donald Trump, who campaigned on repealing the Iran Deal, was elected, the sanctions bill that in fact reinstituted sanctions on Iran was the "Countering Iran's Destabilizing Activities Act of 2017," which instituted sanctions on Iran and Russia at the same time, and was pushed through the House with only three Republicans voting against it based on Constitutional issues. (In the Senate then Republicans tacked on further sanctions on North Korea.) The writer of that bill was Representative Engel. On the Senate floor, Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland, the temporary ranking member for the Democrats credited Senator Menendez as the "leader on Iran sanctions," and Menendez said this was about sending a message to Iran about "violating the international order."

This wide-ranging piece of legislation put sanctions on North Koreans and their state-run businesses, Russian government officials and affiliated oligarchs for their activity in Ukraine, and Iranian nationals involved in the ballistic missile program and fighting in Syria. Every Democratic representative in the House voted for the bill. The only Democratic lawmaker to vote against it was Senator Bernie Sanders, who spoke on the floor of his fear that sanctioning Iran would lead Iran to exit JCPOA. While many media figures understandably, in the wake of the election, focused on the Russia sanctions the bill included, the Iranian sanctions furthered undermined Iranian-American relations. One year later Trump unilaterally pulled out of the Iran Deal, saying the deal did not address Iranian ballistic missiles or its destabilizing behavior in the region. On this subject, Democratic lawmakers were closer to the current administration's views than Obama's: In fact, the twelve conditions Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that Iran would have to meet before the United States is willing to withdraw sanctions bore remarkable resemblance to those mentioned in the Countering Iran's Destabilizing Activities Act, including withdrawal from Syria and ceasing the ballistic missile program.

Senator Menendez also opposed President Obama's "Cuban Thaw," something he called naïve. "There is no reason that Cuba will reform just because the American president believes that, if he extends his hand in peace, the Castro brothers will suddenly unclench their fists," he wrote in USA Today in 2014. He applauded Trump's rollback of Obama's diplomatic achievement in 2017 but even claimed it didn't go far enough in punishing the "Castro regime": The United States, he argued, "was enriching a dictator at the expense of democracy and basic human rights."

This Cold War view of Latin America seems to extend to Venezuela as well. Both Menendez and Engel have sided with the Trump administration in backing of Juan Guiado as the rightful president of Venezuela. Neither have objected to the choice of Elliot Abrams--who helped coordinate right-wing, human rights-violating paramilitaries in Latin America in the Reagan administration--as new special envoy to Venezuela. They have stopped short of allowing an authorization for military force, and have spoken "with concern" about new extreme sanctions that Trump administration have put on Venezuela's oil companies. But they have also called for Maduro's resignation, and have not backed Bernie Sanders' or Representative Ro Khanna's proposals for a negotiated settlement and new elections. Menendez has criticized Sanders' refusal to call Maduro a dictator, a label in that in the establishment thinking allows for forced regime change.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump Needs a Target to Stay Interested in His Campaign. For Now, It's Biden. (Annie Karni and Maggie Haberman, June 10, 2019, NY Times)

After being briefed on a devastating 17-state poll conducted by his campaign pollster, Tony Fabrizio, Mr. Trump told aides to deny that his internal polling showed him trailing Mr. Biden in many of the states he needs to win, even though he is also trailing in public polls from key states like Texas, Michigan and Pennsylvania. And when top-line details of the polling leaked, including numbers showing the president lagging in a cluster of critical Rust Belt states, Mr. Trump instructed aides to say publicly that other data showed him doing well.

Mr. Biden seems to have gotten into the president's head...

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


'He needs some victories': Trump lashes out over his Mexico deal: As Trump's presidency reaches the 2.5-year mark, he is more aggrieved than ever, telling advisers that he believes he'll never get fair treatment. (ANDREW RESTUCCIA, 06/10/2019, Politico)

By Monday, the president's victory lap had screeched to a halt.

As news outlets began chipping away at the agreement's veneer, pointing out that it wasn't the game-changer that Trump made it out to be, the president started lashing out, painting himself as a victim and insisting that he's not getting the credit he deserves.

In the span of three days, he fired off more than a dozen angry Twitter messages complaining about media coverage. He promised there was more to the deal than meets the eye, teasing a "very important" part of the agreement that will be "revealed in the not too distant future." And he called into CNBC for a 27-minute, impromptu interview in which he bashed the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for criticizing his approach to trade negotiations while offering few new details about the deal. [...]

"He has this insatiable need to impress people and demonstrate accomplishments and notch achievements," a former White House official said. "When he feels like he's done something that should be recognized as a success and people are not recognizing it that way, it poses an existential threat to his sense of self -- and this is what you get."

June 10, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 1:49 PM


Only the Best Deals: How Trump Got Pantsed By Mexico (PHILIP ROTNER, JUNE 10, 2019, The Bulwark)

The threat of imposing an immediate 5 percent tariff on Mexican goods, and then gradually ratcheting up the rate to 25 percent, was never real. The stock market hated it. The Chamber of Commerce and other U.S. business groups hated it. American consumers hated it. American manufacturers and farmers hated it. Even Mitch McConnell and Ted Cruz hated it.

The prospect of Trump dropping that stink bomb into the U.S. economy in the run-up to a presidential election year was always a non-starter. Not even Trump is that stupid.

And the Mexican government isn't stupid, either. They fully understood that Trump's only way out of the box he had put himself in was to find a way, any way, to withdraw his tariff threat by claiming that it had successfully forced Mexico to negotiate an immigration deal favorable to the United States.

But far from creating negotiating leverage, Trump's threat did the opposite: It immediately handed all of the leverage to Mexico.

While Trump might have created some leverage with his tariff threat had anyone believed he would follow through on it, everyone--including the Mexican government--knew he couldn't. They knew that Trump had to find a way to declare victory to give himself political cover for when he inevitably withdrew the threat.

Which meant that Mexico had Trump over a barrel. Trump's had two choices: to agree to whatever cosmetic arrangement Mexico was willing to offer; or to follow through on a threat that would be tantamount to political suicide.

Posted by orrinj at 1:38 PM


Poll: Trump Has Higher Favorability in New York Than de Blasio (David Rutz, June 10, 2019, Free Beacon)

A Siena College poll showed that 29 percent of New Yorkers view de Blasio favorably, with 53 percent viewing him unfavorably. Trump was viewed favorably by 34 percent, although he had a higher unfavorable rating at 63 percent. Only 3 percent didn't have an opinion on Trump, while 17 percent didn't have one on de Blasio.

The only thing that can save the Mayor is if Donald starts attacking him.

Posted by orrinj at 1:36 PM


U.S. senators target $1 billion a year coal subsidy, ask IRS for test results (Tim McLaughlin, 6/10/19, Reuters) 

Three U.S. senators on Monday urged the Internal Revenue Service to crack down on a $1 billion-a-year subsidy for burning chemically treated refined coal, after a new study showed some power plants using the fuel produced surging amounts of mercury and smog instead of cutting pollution.

Posted by orrinj at 1:32 PM


Justice Department to provide Mueller evidence to Congress: Nadler (Andy Sullivan, Makini Brice, 6/10/19, Reuters) 

The U.S. Justice Department has agreed to provide evidence gathered during Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation to lawmakers who are considering whether to launch impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump, a top Democrat said on Monday.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler said he will hold off on a threat to bring criminal contempt charges against Attorney General William Barr, as long as the Justice Department continues to provide materials sought by his committee.

Posted by orrinj at 1:29 PM


Southern Baptist president says racial insensitivity shows disregard for the gospel (Adelle M. Banks, 6/10/19, RNS) 

Speaking at a black church Sunday (June 9) in a city that is nearly 75% percent African American, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention, J.D. Greear, said white Christians who are racially insensitive are disregarding the gospel.

"I do not need to tell this church the church of the West has had a horrible history of racism," Greear, a pastor in North Carolina, told Sixth Avenue Baptist Church.

"And there's one primary reason that that happened: Christians lost touch with the gospel."

Greear, who had come to Birmingham for the upcoming annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, cited a verse from the New Testament book of Galatians in which he said the Apostle Paul issued a rebuke about "segregated eating," when some Christians from Jewish backgrounds stopped dining with Christians from Gentile backgrounds.

"The gospel teaches us that there's only one kind of person: human," said Greear. "We've all got the same problem: sin."

Posted by orrinj at 7:28 AM


Can You Reshape Your Brain's Response To Pain? (PATTI NEIGHMOND, 6/10/19, NPR)

But EAET, she learned from her clinical psychologist, Laura Payne, is a different sort of psychotherapy. It's one of several behavioral therapies (among other interventions) included in a report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services titled "Pain Management Best Practices." According to the report, published May 9, "Research indicates that EAET has a positive impact on pain intensity, pain interference, and depressive symptoms."

EAET was developed in 2011 by psychologist Mark Lumley at Wayne State University and his colleague Dr. Howard Schubiner. It combines some techniques from traditional talk therapies (such as probing a patient's life experience for insight and context) with those of cognitive behavioral therapy, which focuses more on skills training and changing harmful patterns of behavior.

It's an emotion-focused treatment, Lumley says, aimed at helping people who are in widespread, medically unexplained pain.

Any placebo will do.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Call immigrant detention centers what they really are: concentration camps (JONATHAN M. KATZ, JUN 09, 2019, LA Times)

Photos from a Border Patrol processing center in El Paso showed people herded so tightly into cells that they had to stand on toilets to breathe. Memos surfaced by journalist Ken Klippenstein revealed that Immigration and Customs Enforcement's failure to provide medical care was responsible for suicides and other deaths of detainees. These followed another report that showed that thousands of detainees are being brutally held in isolation cells just for being transgender or mentally ill.

Also last week, the Trump administration cut funding for classes, recreation and legal aid at detention centers holding minors -- which were likened to "summer camps" by a senior ICE official last year. And there was the revelation that months after being torn from their parents' arms, 37 children were locked in vans for up to 39 hours in the parking lot of a detention center outside Port Isabel, Texas. In the last year, at least seven migrant children have died in federal custody.
Preventing mass outrage at a system like this takes work. Certainly it helps that the news media covers these horrors intermittently rather than as snowballing proof of a racist, lawless administration. But most of all, authorities prevail when the places where people are being tortured and left to die stay hidden, misleadingly named and far from prying eyes.

There's a name for that kind of system. They're called concentration camps. You might balk at my use of the term. That's good -- it's something to be balked at.

The goal of concentration camps has always been to be ignored. The German-Jewish political theorist Hannah Arendt, who was imprisoned by the Gestapo and interned in a French camp, wrote a few years afterward about the different levels of concentration camps. Extermination camps were the most extreme; others were just about getting "undesirable elements ... out of the way." All had one thing in common: "The human masses sealed off in them are treated as if they no longer existed, as if what happened to them were no longer of interest to anybody, as if they were already dead."

Donald Trump's ex-wife once said Trump kept a book of Hitler's speeches by his bed (Business Insider Sep. 1, 2015)

"Last April, perhaps in a surge of Czech nationalism, Ivana Trump told her lawyer Michael Kennedy that from time to time her husband reads a book of Hitler's collected speeches, My New Order, which he keeps in a cabinet by his bed ... Hitler's speeches, from his earliest days up through the Phony War of 1939, reveal his extraordinary ability as a master propagandist," Marie Brenner wrote. [...]

When Brenner asked Trump about how he came to possess Hitler's speeches, "Trump hesitated" and then said, "Who told you that?"

"I don't remember," Brenner reportedly replied.

Trump then recalled, "Actually, it was my friend Marty Davis from Paramount who gave me a copy of 'Mein Kampf,' and he's a Jew."

Brenner added that Davis did acknowledge that he gave Trump a book about Hitler.

"But it was 'My New Order,' Hitler's speeches, not 'Mein Kampf,'" Davis reportedly said. "I thought he would find it interesting. I am his friend, but I'm not Jewish."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Future Is Surprisingly Bright for Gun Control Advocates (Jennifer Victor, Jun 6, 2019, Medium)

[A]ccording to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 40,000 Americans died by gun violence in 2017, the highest number recorded, with the majority of those -- nearly 24,000 -- being deaths by suicide.

But gun control advocates have reason for at least a sliver of optimism: Public sentiment is finally changing around the issue. According to Pew Research Center, for the first time in 10 years, more Americans support controlling gun ownership (52% ) than support protecting gun rights (44%). Moreover, gun control advocacy groups were more mobilized in the 2018 election than pro-gun groups.

The gun control movement was largely catalyzed after the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School. Since that tragedy, we've seen a spate of advocacy groups spring up, including Everytown for Gun Safety, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, Giffords Courage to Fight Gun Violence, and Sandy Hook Promise. (We've also, and not coincidentally, seen a spate of atrocities, with, by some accounts an average of one mass shooting per week in the years since then.) Through their outreach and legislative efforts, these organizations have helped change the national dialogue about guns. They've also arrived as a much-needed counterbalance to the goliath of the gun rights movement: the National Rifle Organization. [...]

For the first time, the campaign political activity of gun control groups swamped that of the NRA in the 2018 cycle. What's more, the gun control advocacy movement has morphed into a multi-headed behemoth capable of challenging the NRA in the legislative, judicial, and state politics arenas, and advocating for stricter gun laws with alacrity and sophistication not seen before in the gun control movement.

Many gun control groups were created in response to specific gun violence events. Notable among these are the organizations created by Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, herself a victim of gun violence, whose Giffords PAC spent nearly $18 million in the 2018 election cycle in direct and soft money expenditures. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's Everytown for Gun Safety and its super PAC, Independence USA spent another $70 million in 2018 supporting candidates who support gun control.

Their efforts appear to be working. Public support for curtailing gun access is increasing. A recent poll found near unanimous support for universal background checks, finding that 97% of Americans support the measure. At least 15 Republican candidates with A-ratings from the NRA in 2018 lost their House bids, in part due to spending and campaigning from gun control groups.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Infinite Baseball review (Nathan Washatka - June 10, 2019, Front Porch Republic)

For Noë, the self-reflective nature of the game is brought out most clearly in the act of scorekeeping, whereby a scorekeeper must make judgements about, for example, what counts as a hit (versus an error) or a wild pitch (versus a passed ball). These are questions that can only be answered within the context of the game of baseball. In order to make those decisions, we must think carefully about what a hit is, or what an error is. Such decisions require judgement.

Consider the strike zone. Noë makes a fascinating argument about role of umpires, particularly when it comes to judging balls and strikes. The strike zone, he says, is not so much a three-dimensional space as it is a "zone of responsibility." A "strike" is a pitch that the hitter should be able to hit, so we can therefore fault him for not hitting it. A "ball" is a pitch that he should not reasonably be expected to hit, so we therefore don't fault him for not hitting it. That an umpire must render judgement for every pitch--and that players, managers, and fans often argue about those decisions--is appropriate for a sport that invites self-scrutiny.

Scorekeeping--the thing that I and my teammates did all those years ago--is fundamentally an act of assigning blame (a "forensic activity") for what happens on the field. The scorecard itself captures an interpretation of what has happened. "Baseball is about what people do, about what they accomplish in the social setting of the game," Noë writes. Determining what players have done--committed an error, failed to swing at a strike--is something that requires human judgement about questions of intent and effort, no different than how a judge or jury must decide whether a victim's death was murder or manslaughter or something accidental.

Noë is quick to point out that baseball is not alone in raising questions about itself and interpreting human intent. Other sports offer a similar opportunity for self-reflection, as do many or even most complex activities--activities that Noë has elsewhere described as "organized activities."

"It is the hallmark of all characteristically human activities--language, the law, other sports--that they are, in the sense I am trying to understand, baseball-like," Noë writes.

If baseball is unique, it's because the game makes explicit this loop of practice and interpretation through the act of scorekeeping. It formalizes the process of thinking about and commenting upon the game, which in turn affects the way the game is played. Keeping score is important work. It is a "knowledge-making activity," and one that every baseball fan, in theory, participates in.

Making judgements, interpreting actions--these are skills that require attention, knowledge, and a familiarity with the larger practice in which they take place. In other words, they require work. And they are not--I repeat, not--something that can be automated, nor should we want them to be. Looking outward to other "baseball-like" activities, Noë observes, "It would be a dark consequence of life in the digital age if we forgot that keeping score is more than keeping track, and that each of us has the power to keep score."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM



What is beautiful is more than simply true and intelligible, although that is necessary; it must also be pleasing. In agreement with Aquinas, French philosopher Jacques Maritain writes that a beautiful thing is inherently desirable: "Therefore by its nature, by its very beauty, it stirs desire and produces love, whereas truth as such only illuminates."[4] Beauty is fundamentally composed of truth and attraction, both of which must be recognized for the object to be seen as beautiful.

When he esteems chivalry as highly as he does, Don Quixote is exhibiting a similar view of "the beautiful." The habit of chivalry is based in truth, for it deals with the essence of things, viewing women as women, men as men, and monsters as monsters. Chivalry is more than this, however; it is an expression of love, that other requirement for beauty. When the object of chivalry is loved, it draws its lover to itself, sharing of its beauty. We see that this principle can also find a deeper expression than chivalry, for the perfection of love is found in God, its source. God knew and loved and pursued us, the most beautiful creation, to the point of becoming one of us, and we love and pursue Him and in that degree become deified and beautiful in Him. Imitating the motion of divine love, then, Don Quixote sees things that are true, sees them as beautiful, and in pursuing them, rises to partake in them.

The lover becoming more like his beloved is the basis of our knight's defense of chivalry, which he offers to the canon of Toledo:

It is clear that any passage from any history of a knight errant is bound to delight and amaze anyone who reads it.... you will soon see how they banish any melancholy you might be feeling, and improve your disposition, if it is a bad one. Speaking for myself, I can say that ever since I became a knight errant I have been courageous, polite, generous, well-bred, magnanimous, courteous, bold, patient... (DQ, 458).

Chivalry and tales of it, therefore, dispose man to virtue, drawing him into closer union with the people and things which he loves, the things which "delight and amaze" him. To the extent that a chivalric knight becomes more like a beautiful thing and begins to understand it for what it really is, he cannot help treating it well and virtuously, as a part of himself which is good and noble.

...when readers recognized that only the Don is sane.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Tree symbolizing Trump-Macron friendship has died (AFP, 6/10/19)

[T]he tree came from a northern French forest where 2,000 US Marines died during World War II.

But a few days later, the tree was nowhere to be seen, having disappeared into quarantine.

"It is a quarantine which is mandatory for any living organism imported into the US," Gerard Araud, then the French ambassador to America, wrote on Twitter, adding that it would be replanted later.

But it was never replanted: the tree died during its quarantine, the diplomatic source said.

June 9, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 6:40 PM


How a podcast helped solve a grisly cold case: The Bear Brook podcast played a small role in identifying the victims of a serial killer (Andrew Liptak, Jun 9, 2019, The Verge)

On Thursday, New Hampshire authorities held a press conference where they identified three victims who had been killed by a serial killer in the late 1970s or early 1980s. The case was the subject of New Hampshire Public Radio's true crime podcast Bear Brook, and it played a small role in helping to identify the victims. [...]

According to Moon, this latest break from two unrelated efforts. An online investigator named Becky Heath had been following the case for more than a decade, trawling through an Ancestry.com forum where people were looking to reconnect with long-lost loved ones and comparing their stories against the profiles of the Bear Brook victims, hoping that a family member might have posted about them.

In 2017, she came across a name: Sarah McWaters. A woman had posted on the forum, noting her husband and his family had been looking for his half-sister and two family members, who had vanished in the 1970s. Heath was able to match the birthdates to the rough age ranges of the Bear Brook victims, but never followed up on the tip, until she began listening to the podcast. "I don't know why I didn't pursue it more the first time," Heath told Moon on the podcast. "I didn't really get feedback from anyone, so I didn't really pursue more." But when she began listening to the podcast last fall, she went back to her findings, and realized that she was onto something, and reached out to the author of the post, learning that Sarah's mother was married to a man named Rasmussen. She soon submitted a tip to law enforcement.

At the same time, a genetic genealogist named Barbara Rae-Venter had been working on trying to find some usable DNA from the victims. She was the one who had used DNA databases to link Rasmussen to the Bear Brook murders in 2017, and had used the same techniques to help identify the Golden State Killer last year.

But while she had been able to identify Rasmussen's identity, the bodies recovered in Bear Brook were badly decomposed. Forensics experts had been able to extract mitochondrial DNA from the remains, but to utilize Rae-Venter's techniques, they needed autosomal DNA. Rae-Venter learned of a new set of techniques that were pioneered by a UC Santa Cruz researcher named Richard Green, which would extract autosomal DNA from rootless hair.

Posted by orrinj at 11:07 AM


New rules give households right to sell solar power back to energy firms: Government also wants to encourage people with rooftop panels to install batteries (Jillian Ambrose, 9 Jun 2019, The Guardian)

Britain's biggest energy companies will have to buy renewable energy from their own customers under new laws to be introduced this week.

Homeowners who install new rooftop solar panels from 1 January 2020 will be able to lower their bills by selling the energy they do not need to their supplier.

A record was set at noon on a Friday in May 2017, when solar energy supplied around a quarter of the UK's electricity. However, solar panel owners are not always at home on sunny days to reap the benefit. The new rules will allow them to make money if they generate electricity for the grid. [...]

Chris Skidmore, the minister for energy and clean growth, said the government wanted to increase the number of small-scale generators without adding the cost of subsidies to energy bills. "The future of energy is local and the new smart export guarantee will ensure households that choose to become green energy generators will be guaranteed a payment for electricity supplied to the grid," he said. The government also hopes to encourage homes with solar panels to install batteries.

Greg Jackson, the founder of Octopus Energy, said: "These smart export tariffs are game-changing when it comes to harnessing the power of citizens to tackle climate change".

Posted by orrinj at 11:05 AM


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In Russian Cities, Mock Gravestones Are Sounding Putin's Death Knell (Matthew Luxmoore, 6/09/19, Radio Liberty)

Yet another mock gravestone bearing the name and image of President Vladimir Putin has appeared in Russia -- this time in the southwestern city of Voronezh.

"Incredible thief and liar. Political corpse," read the accompanying text featuring Putin's surname, initials, and birth year, and listing 2019 as the year of death.

Images of the installation appeared on June 5 on the Twitter account of Agit Rossia, a group that calls itself a "federal channel of agitation, news, and street protests in Russia."

Sanctions and Syria worked just as promised.

Posted by orrinj at 10:44 AM


America's Political Mood Is Now the 'Most Liberal Ever Recorded' (Eric Levitz, 6/09/19, New York)

The American public is in the mood for "big government." According to the distinguished political scientist James Stimson's "Public Policy Mood estimate" -- a widely respected tool for measuring shifts in ideological opinion across time -- the U.S. electorate is more sympathetic to left-wing economic policy today than at anytime in the past 68 years (which is as far back as Stimson's data goes).

Posted by orrinj at 10:41 AM


Koch network willing to back Democrats in 2020 (Caitlin Yilek, June 07, 2019, Washington examiner)

The influential Koch network is open to backing Democrats in the 2020 election cycle.

A memo from Emily Seidel, the CEO of Americans for Prosperity, the Koch brothers' political organization, said the group would "support the primary election of lawmakers, regardless of political party, who stick their necks out to lead diverse policy coalitions."

It's a shift in how the network has operated in past elections, donating tens of millions of dollars to support Republican candidates.

Posted by orrinj at 10:37 AM


Death on the Rio Grande: A Look at a Perilous Migrant Route (Zolan Kanno-Youngs, June 8, 2019, NY Times)

EAGLE PASS, Tex. -- The 19-year-old pregnant migrant waded toward the American shore, deep enough in the Rio Grande for waves to splash against her waist. Pushing through the river's current, and mindful of an alligator lingering upriver, she guided her friend's crying 10-year-old boy toward a Border Patrol rescue boat.

As the boat carried them on the final leg of their journey last month to the United States from Honduras, the young woman waved back to a group on Mexico's riverbank cheering her rescue.

The day before, Border Patrol agents at the Eagle Pass river crossing in South Texas had found the body of a man too decomposed to be easily identified. A couple of days earlier, a video of a man desperately trying to swim against the current before going limp and sinking circulated in Mexican news media.

And in early May, Border Patrol agents at Eagle Pass pulled the body of a 10-month-old baby from the Rio Grande after a raft carrying nine migrants overturned. Only five survived.

"The sad moments are the deaths. Unfortunately, we've seen some of those," said Bryan Kemmett, the Border Patrol agent in charge of Eagle Pass, a town of 29,000 about an hour from the larger Del Rio, Tex. "The more troubling ones, the ones more recently, are the small infants. When you see the small infant and you hear the infant dying, you think about your own children."

Posted by orrinj at 10:25 AM


Four Reasons the European Left Lost (WOLFGANG STREECK, 6/05/19, Jacobin)

[W]hen should the Left expect to make electoral progress among European workers and reformist sections of the middle class, if not now? There is an urgent need to explain the Left's disastrous failure to do this. Four reasons come to mind -- certainly, there are more.

The first and most basic reason is the seemingly total absence of a realistic anticapitalist, or at least anti-neoliberal, left-wing political strategy related to the European Union.

There is not even a debate on the crucial issue of whether the European Union can at all be a vehicle for anticapitalist politics. Instead, there is a naïve or opportunistic acceptance -- and it's hard to say which is worse -- of the feel-good "Europeanism" so popular among young people and so useful for both Green electioneering and European technocrats seeking legitimacy for their neoliberal regime.

In particular, on the Left, there's no mention of the way in which the European Union's de facto constitution limits the political space for any anticapitalist or even pro-labor program, with its safely enshrined free markets (the "four freedoms"), the de facto dictatorship of the European Court, and the balanced budget provisions under European Monetary Union, imposing austerity on countries and citizens.

In particular, any critical discussion of the European Union's central social policy -- the free movement of labor between the now economically extremely different member countries -- is strictly avoided, combined with hints of sympathy for open borders generally, including those with the outside world. This does nothing but validate the image spread by the Greens and the center-left middle-class parties of Europe being mainly about young people traveling without border controls and not needing to change money.

Moreover, this goes in tandem with entirely illusory policy projects, for example a European minimum wage. Only after insistent questioning is it admitted that a European minimum wage would in fact have to be differentiated by country. Predictably, this proposal has found no support whatsoever either in the poor countries of the union, where people find it too good to be true, or in the rich countries, where workers in particular fear that somehow they are the ones who will have to foot the bill for the Left's "European solidarity."

The EU is a capitalist project, a trade union.

Posted by orrinj at 10:20 AM


California has too much solar power. That might be good for ratepayers (SAMMY ROTH, JUN 05, 2019, Los Angeles Times)

California set two renewable energy records last week: the most solar power ever flowing on the state's main electric grid, and the most solar power ever taken offline because it wasn't needed.

There's no contradiction: As California utilities buy more and more solar power as part of the state's quest to confront climate change, supply and demand are increasingly out of sync. The state's fleet of solar farms and rooftop panels frequently generate more electricity than Californians use during the middle of the day -- a phenomenon that has sent lawmakers and some climate advocates scrambling to find ways to save the extra sunlight rather than let it go to waste.

But for ratepayers, an oversupply of solar power might actually be a good thing.

New research published in the peer-reviewed journal Solar Energy suggests California should embrace the idea of building more solar panels than it can consistently use, rather than treating oversupply as a problem to be solved. It sounds counterintuitive, but intentionally overbuilding solar facilities -- and accepting they'll often need to be dialed down in the absence of sufficient demand -- may be the best way to keep electricity prices low on a power grid dominated by renewable energy, the research found.

In a study published in March, New York-based researchers Richard Perez and Karl Rábago argue that solar power has gotten so inexpensive that overbuilding it will probably be the cheapest way to keep the lights on during cloudy or overcast days -- cheaper than relying entirely on batteries. Solar power can meet high levels of daytime electricity demand without energy storage, the researchers say, as long as there are enough solar panels on the grid during times when none of them are producing at full capacity.

Posted by orrinj at 10:15 AM


How the Watergate crisis eroded public support for Richard Nixon (ANDREW KOHUT, 8/08/14, Pew Research)

The televised Watergate hearings that began in May 1973, chaired by Senator Samuel Ervin, commanded a large national audience -- 71% told Gallup they watched the hearings live. And as many as 21% reported watching 10 hours or more of the Ervin proceedings. Not too surprisingly, Nixon's popularity took a severe hit. His ratings fell as low as 31%, in Gallup's early August survey. 

The public had changed its view of the scandal. A 53% majority came to the view that Watergate was a serious matter, not just politics, up from 31% who believed that before the hearings. Indeed, an overwhelming percentage of the public (71%) had come to see Nixon as culpable in the wrongdoing, at least to some extent. About four-in-ten (37%) thought he found out about the bugging and tried to cover it up; 29% went further in saying that he knew about the bugging beforehand, but did not plan it; and 8% went all the way, saying he planned it from beginning to end. Only 15% of Americans thought that the president had no prior knowledge and spoke up as soon as he learned of it.

Yet, despite the increasingly negative views of Nixon at that time, most Americans continued to reject the notion that Nixon should leave office, according to Gallup. Just 26% thought he should be impeached and forced to resign, while 61% did not.

A lot of key scandal events were to follow that year and into 1974, but public opinion about Watergate was slow to change further, despite the high drama of what was taking place. For example, October 1973 was a crucial month as the courts ruled that the president had to turn over his taped conversations to special prosecutor Archibald Cox, and subsequently Nixon ordered for the dismissal of Cox in what came to be known as the Saturday Night Massacre. The public reacted, but in a measured way. In November, Gallup showed the percentage of Americans thinking that the president should leave office jumping from 19% in June to 38%, but still, 51% did not support impeachment and an end to Nixon's presidency.

In the spring of 1974, despite the indictment of top former White House aides, and Nixon's release of what were seen as "heavily edited" transcripts of tapes of his aides plotting to get White House enemies, the public was still divided over what to do about the president. For example, by June, 44% in the Gallup Poll thought he should be removed from office, while 41% disagreed.

Only in early August, following the House Judiciary Committee's recommendation in July that Nixon be impeached and the Supreme Court's decision that he surrender his audio tapes, did a clear majority - 57% - come to the view that the president should be removed from office.

Posted by orrinj at 10:12 AM



IN 2018, PRESIDENT Donald Trump was seeking to jettison the landmark nuclear deal that his predecessor had signed with Iran in 2015, and he was looking for ways to win over a skeptical press. The White House claimed that the nuclear deal had allowed Iran to increase its military budget, and Washington Post reporters Salvador Rizzo and Meg Kelly asked for a source. In response, the White House passed along an article published in Forbes by a writer named Heshmat Alavi. [...]

"Heshmat Alavi is a persona run by a team of people from the political wing of the MEK," said Hassan Heyrani, a high-ranking defector from the MEK who said he had direct knowledge of the operation. "They write whatever they are directed by their commanders and use this name to place articles in the press. This is not and has never been a real person."

Heyrani said the fake persona has been managed by a team of MEK operatives in Albania, where the group has one of its bases, and is used to spread its message online. Heyrani's account is echoed by Sara Zahiri, a Farsi-language researcher who focuses on the MEK. Zahiri, who has sources among Iranian government cybersecurity officials, said that Alavi is known inside Iran to be a "group account" run by a team of MEK members and that Alavi himself does not exist.

Alavi, whose contributor biography on the Forbes website identifies him as "an Iranian activist with a passion for equal rights," has published scores of articles on Iran over the past few years at Forbes, The Hill, the Daily Caller, The Federalist, Saudi-owned al-Arabiya English, and other outlets. (Alavi did not respond to The Intercept's requests for comment by Twitter direct messages or at the Gmail address he used to correspond with news outlets.)

The articles published under Alavi's name, as well as his social media presence, appear to have been a boon for the MEK. An opposition group deeply unpopular in Iran and known for its sophisticated propaganda, the MEK has over the past decade turned its attention to English-language audiences -- especially in countries like the U.S., Canada, and the United Kingdom, whose foreign policies are crucial nodes in the MEK's central goal of overthrowing the Iranian regime.

Posted by orrinj at 10:08 AM


Gaudí's Sagrada Família wins a building permit - 137 years after work began (Associated Press,  8 Jun 2019)

Property owners have a new yardstick for measuring their frustration over building permit requests that are lost in the labyrinth of local government bureaucracy.

Barcelona city hall has finally issued a work permit for the unfinished church designed by the architect Antoni Gaudí, 137 years after construction started on the Sagrada Família basilica.

Posted by orrinj at 10:04 AM


Ilhan Omar violated Minnesota campaign finance rules, state officials say (AP and TOI, 6/09/19)

US Rep. Ilhan Omar violated state rules when she used campaign funds to pay for personal out-of-state travel and help on her tax returns and must reimburse her former campaign committee nearly $3,500, Minnesota campaign finance officials ruled this week.

The Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board said the first-term Democratic congresswoman also must pay the state a $500 civil penalty for using campaign money to travel to Florida, where she accepted an honorarium. [...]

In a statement, her congressional campaign said she is "glad this process is complete" and that she intends to comply with the board's findings.

What, no hoax?

June 8, 2019

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Mexico Agreed to Take Border Actions Months Before Trump Announced Tariff Deal (Michael D. Shear and Maggie Haberman, June 8, 2019, NY Times)

The centerpiece of Mr. Trump's deal was an expansion of a program to allow asylum-seekers to remain in Mexico while their legal cases proceed. But that arrangement was first reached in December in a pair of painstakingly negotiated diplomatic notes that the two countries exchanged. Ms. Nielsen announced the Migrant Protection Protocols during a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee five days before Christmas.

And over the past week, negotiators failed to persuade Mexico to accept a "safe third country" treaty that would have given the United States the legal ability to reject asylum seekers if they had not sought refuge in Mexico first.

He can be forgiven for not remembering trivialities.

Posted by orrinj at 4:10 PM


Poll: Support For Impeachment Hearings Grows, But Americans Split On Way Forward (Domenico Montanaro, 6/08/19, NPR)

There is a growing desire for impeachment proceedings to begin against President Trump, but Americans are still split overall on what to do after the release of the Mueller report, an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll finds.

A slim majority of Americans (52%) want one of the following: to begin impeachment proceedings (22%), to continue investigations into potential political wrongdoing of Trump (25%) or to publicly reprimand him -- that is, censure (5%).

Thirty-nine percent say no further action should be taken and that the current investigations should end.

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"NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR" AT 70 (John Rodden, 5/28/19, Modern Age)

What are a few examples of the kinds of satirical allusions and cultural references that are invariably lost to present-day readers, even literate ones? Orwell scholars such as Peter Davison, Jeffrey Meyers, and Bernard Crick have catalogued a wide variety. Consider, for instance:

Big Brother's mustachioed visage is a composite of Stalin and Field Marshal Lord Kitchener.

The caption "Big Brother Is Watching You" recalls the famous recruiting poster of 1914 in which a finger-pointing Kitchener glares: "Your Country Needs YOU."

Victory Square is an analogue to Trafalgar Square, and Big Brother replaces Nelson atop its column.

Newspeak, which aims to diminish the range of thought by reducing its linguistic resources, is a riff on C. K. Ogden's Basic English.

The Ministry of Truth resembles the BBC's Broadcast House during the war, where Orwell worked as the producer for the Indian section of the BBC's Eastern Service on the first floor (down the hall from Room 101).

The Floating Fortress in Oceania refers both to the Flying Fortress of the American air forces during World War II and to the Floating Island in Gulliver's Travels that breaks the will of recalcitrant individuals.
The division of the world into three rival superstates--Oceania, Eurasia, and Eastasia--is based on James Burnham's The Managerial Revolution (1941), a sociological vision of the near-future, post-World War II era in which a technocratic elite of totalitarian ideologues rules the globe.

The brainwashed Winston's defeatist admission that "2 + 2 = 5" alludes to the billboards erected in major Soviet cities during the 1930s that urged the citizenry to work harder and fulfill the prescribed norms of the first Five-Year Plan ahead of time (i.e., in four years, not five).

Winston's despairing line "We are the dead," which both the telescreen and Julia repeat when the couple are arrested by the Thought Police, echoes the recrimination voiced by a corpse in a poem popular during World War I, "In Flanders Fields." Written by the Canadian poet John McCrae, "In Flanders Fields" gave voice to the public outrage over the waste and futility of the Great War.

Like Communist Party members in the Soviet Union and elsewhere, Inner and Outer Party members in Oceania are called "comrade."

Sexual intercourse in Oceania is for procreation only ("Our Duty to the Party"), which nods to the puritanical, state-controlled doctrines about sexuality propagandized in Stalin's USSR.

As O'Brien tortures Winston in Room 101, he expresses with exhilaration his sadistic power hunger: "Imagine a boot stamping on a human face--forever." That famous line evokes Jack London's The Iron Heel, especially its protagonist's doomsday prophecy that "the Iron Heel will walk upon our faces."

Certain examples of Orwell's satirical allusions have biographical rather than historical relevance and sometimes are private jokes or insider gossip--yet are no less important to the satire. For instance, the BBC was a division of the Ministry of Information (MOI), known as "Miniform" in telex jargon (recalling, of course, "Minitru" and "Miniluv" in Nineteen Eighty-Four). The MOI's head was Brendan Bracken, whom BBC insiders and in-the-know Londoners dubbed "B. B." Orwell would joke with fellow BBC staffers and his wife Eileen, who worked in the MOI Censorship Department until 1944, that he had never seen "B. B." and was skeptical of his existence (just as his readers are meant to doubt the reality of Big Brother).

Posted by orrinj at 8:30 AM


Main Istanbul mayoral candidates agree to first ever TV debate (Ragip Soylu,  5 June 2019, Middle East Eye)

Istanbul's two leading mayoral candidates have agreed to take part in a televised debate ahead of a controversial repeat election that is scheduled to be held on 23 June.

Ekrem Imamoglu, mayoral candidate for the Republican People's Party (CHP), won the elections on 31 March against former prime minister Binali Yildirim, the candidate for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), but the result was cancelled by the Supreme Election Board (YSK) on the grounds of alleged unlawful staffing at polling stations.

The idea of holding a TV debate - unprecedented in Turkish electoral history - was originally pitched by Imamoglu in March, prior to the original vote, but the suggestion was dismissed by Yildirim.

Posted by orrinj at 7:12 AM


'The Cruelty Is the Point' (DAVID FRENCH, June 7, 2019, National Review)

I frequently disagree with The Atlantic's Adam Serwer, but late last year he wrote a piece that should resonate with any person who's been in the crosshairs of the MAGA right. A fundamental aspect of truly Trumpist political engagement is the intentional infliction of harm on political opponents. Cruelty is the point of their interactions. That's the purpose of their communication.

I'm making a distinction here between Trump voters and online Trumpists. There are many millions of Trump voters who are kind, decent, and generous people. They're the salt of the earth and the backbone of their communities. I know them. They're my friends and family members. They're the people who help make my community a marvelous place to live. If they were the face of Trumpism, then America would be a less polarized place.

But they're not -- not by a long shot. Donald Trump's personal pugilism has been adopted, refined, and magnified by a legion of his supporters, and these individuals live to inflict misery. They don't care to win an argument. They don't care to persuade. They want to harass and swarm and mock in a carnival fun-house imitation of the online mobs generated by the woke social-justice left.

No one has understood Trumpbots as well as Eric Hoffer, although, Steve Bannon apparently offered Michael Wolff an insight for his new book: Donald has so much contempt for himself that he inevitably ends up despising the sycophants he surrounds himself with.  His movement is essentially just a cascade of self-loathing.

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Gun violence has sharply declined in California's Bay Area. What happened? (Lois Beckett  Darwin BondGraham  Peter Andringa Abené Clayton, 4 June 2019, The Guardian)

In California's Silicon Valley, the boom and the bust are playing out simultaneously. Tech companies have made the Bay Area one of the wealthiest places on earth. But on the streets of San Francisco and the cities around it, desperation is increasingly visible. A spiraling housing crisis has made it unaffordable for many people to live in the cities where they work. More than 30,000 people across the region are now homeless, many living in sprawling tent encampments or sleeping in their cars.

For each new millionaire household the San Francisco Bay Area has produced, there are at least four new people living below the poverty level. San Francisco's property crime rate has spiked to the highest in the nation. Many people - tech newcomers and longtime residents alike - complain of feeling unsafe.

At the same time, with little fanfare, the Bay Area has seen a dramatic drop in its homicide rate, driven by a considerable decrease in deadly shootings. [...]

In the past 10 years, tens of thousands of black residents have moved out of Oakland and San Francisco, as skyrocketing rents and housing prices have made the cities increasingly unaffordable. But in the region as a whole, the total number of black residents has remained steady, as the number of black residents living in the Bay Area's outlying suburbs has increased, according to annual census estimates.

Disney World is the proper model.

Posted by orrinj at 6:33 AM


Trump attacks Nasa and claims the moon is 'a part' of Mars [Adam Gabbatt on Earth (of which New York is a part),  Jun 2019, The Guardian]

Posted by orrinj at 6:30 AM


4 Disturbing Details You May Have Missed in the Mueller Report: Some troubling-to-outright-damning episodes have been lost in the noise around its release. (Quinta Jurecic, June 7, 2019, NY Times)

Coordinating with WikiLeaks?
(VOLUME I, PP. 52-54)

How much did Mr. Trump personally know about Russian efforts to assist his campaign, and when did he know it? Three pages of heavily redacted text provide hints.

Rick Gates, a top adviser, said that the campaign was "planning a press strategy, a communications campaign, and messaging based on the possible release" of Hillary Clinton emails by WikiLeaks. After receiving a call during a drive to La Guardia Airport, Mr. Trump "told Gates that more releases of damaging information would be coming." The details are redacted, and the redactions are marked "harm to ongoing matter," perhaps related to the prosecution of Roger Stone. Mr. Mueller has alleged that Mr. Stone, a Trump affiliate, sought to obtain information about WikiLeaks' planned release of anti-Clinton material and pass that information to the campaign.

Mr. Mueller found "insufficient evidence" to charge a criminal conspiracy between the Russian government and the campaign. But the campaign was clearly keeping a close eye on Russia-linked hacking and leaking efforts and expecting to benefit from them.

This section suggests that Mr. Trump may have been in the loop on the campaign's efforts to get a heads-up about what WikiLeaks had planned. And that is a very long way from "no collusion."

Looking for Clinton's "missing" emails
(VOLUME I, PP. 49, 62-63)

At a July 27, 2016, campaign rally, Mr. Trump said, "Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing" -- referring to Clinton emails reportedly stored on a personal server. "Within approximately five hours" of Mr. Trump's remarks, according to the Mueller report, Russian military intelligence began a cyberattack against "Clinton's personal office."

After his July 27 comment, the report states, Mr. Trump "asked individuals affiliated with his campaign to find the deleted Clinton emails" -- including Michael Flynn.

Mr. Flynn, in turn, reached out to a Republican Senate staffer and a party operative who worked separately to obtain the emails. The operative raised money to support the project, which he marketed as "coordinated with the Trump campaign," and told others that he was in communication with Russian hackers who had access to emails he believed were Mrs. Clinton's. But Mr. Mueller "did not establish" that the operative had actually made contact with any real Russian hackers. And while the staffer obtained emails, an effort funded by a businessman close to the campaign found that they were not really Mrs. Clinton's either.

"Collusion" has no legal definition. But if the term means working behind the scenes with Russian actors to obtain hacked information damaging to Mrs. Clinton, then this section of the report describes just that -- collusion that took place at Mr. Trump's request. It just wasn't successful.

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Administration Cuts Education And Legal Services For Unaccompanied Minors (VANESSA ROMO &  Joel Rose, 6/05/19, NPR)

The Trump administration is canceling English classes, recreational activities including soccer, and legal aid for unaccompanied migrant children who are staying in federally contracted migrant shelters. [...]

One shelter-provider employee told The Associated Press the facility was notified on May 30 "that they wouldn't be reimbursing costs of providing education and other activities," throwing shelter officials into a panic over how they will cover the expenses, which they pay upfront.

Posted by orrinj at 5:56 AM


June 7, 2019

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Joe Biden is a Trump Republican (Curt Mills, June 7, 2019, Spectator USA)

The 2020 election looks like the last hurrah for a certain kind of Democrat who switched from Obama to Trump in 2016. Biden is uniquely well-suited to win back that contingent, and judging by open admissions of anxiety from the White House, the president knows it. The left is on the march: in many ways they will set the Democratic agenda no matter who is president. But the 2020 race is already something of a sad story for the Democratic left. Bernie Sanders's trajectory is opposite from the one he enjoyed this time four years ago. The comeback of Elizabeth Warren, a decaffeinated Sanders, represents a tactical retreat.

Biden will continue, where he can, to run a retrograde campaign. Sure, he'll reverse and back government abortion funding here, and downplay his crime bill there. The era of post-truth is now blending into the era of post-sincerity. But Biden's reactionary résumé is also to his advantage.

Biden is the sort of Democrat that the party has all but lost, but will need again in 18 months' time: middle-class, middle of the country, and middle-of-the-road politically. Biden isn't the candidate of the base of the Democratic party, who live in America's growing cities. Notoriously, he took the train to DC. But the easiest way back to Pennsylvania Avenue remains Pennsylvania itself. Rebuild the 'Blue Wall' in the upper Midwest, into which the Keystone State is becoming functionally integrated. Headquartered in Philadelphia, Biden 2020 is 'going after those wistful suburbanites' outside the city, veteran Pennsylvania politico Charles McElwee tells me. This contingent, McElwee says, would vote for Biden if the election were held today. White House beware: Biden 'could absolutely win Pennsylvania'.

Posted by orrinj at 1:30 PM


Trump Supporter Arrested For Threatening To Kill Members Of Congress (Emily Singer, June 7, 2019, National Memo)

A 54-year-old Trump supporter was arrested by federal agents for threatening to kill an unspecified number of members of Congress, the Associated Press reported, using the same language in his threats that Trump himself has used in speeches throughout the years.

According to court documents obtained by the AP, Trump fan and Utah resident Scott Brian Haven made more than 2,000 phone calls over three years with threats to members of Congress.

In 2018, Haven said in a phone call with an unnamed Senate aide that there are "far more Second Amendment people than whiny, crying liberals" -- using the same phrase Trump used in 2016 when he suggested "Second Amendment people" could act if Hillary Clinton became president.

Posted by orrinj at 1:19 PM


Rethinking Conversion (Mark Oppenheimer, June 7, 2019, The Tablet)

It may seem surprising, then, but conversion--born of the desires of thousands of people to become Jews--has become the fierce battleground joining Reform, Conservative and Orthodox Jews today, in the United States and in Israel. Orthodox Jewry won't recognize non-Orthodox conversions, the Israeli rabbinate won't recognize conversions done by some American Orthodox rabbis. Converts everywhere face discrimination, like comments from fellow Jews that they aren't "really Jewish." Instead of welcoming new Jews from every possible quarter, we have made a mess of how we treat aspiring Jews, even as we need them more than ever.

How did it come to this, that a people in demographic--and other--danger is mucking up the process of accepting new members? The simple answer is that we have lost their unique sense of how one might become a new Jew.

Posted by orrinj at 1:15 PM


Why humans (or something very similar) may have been destined to walk the Earth: The paths available to evolving organisms are far from limitless (Evolutionary biologists James Horton and Tiffany Taylor, 6/07/19, Cosmos)

Many bacterial evolution studies have found, perhaps surprisingly, that evolution often follows very predictable paths over the short term, with the same traits and genetic solutions frequently realised. Consider, for example, a long-term experiment, in which 12 independent populations of Escherichia coli founded by a single clone, have been continuously evolving since 1988. That's over 65,000 generations - there have only been 7,500-10,000 generations since modern Homo sapiens appeared. All the evolving populations in this experiment show higher fitness, faster growth and larger cells than their ancestor. This suggests that organisms have some constraints on how they can evolve.

There are evolutionary forces that keep evolving organisms on the straight-and-narrow. Natural selection is the "guiding hand" of evolution, reigning in the chaos of random mutations and abetting beneficial mutations. This means many genetic changes will fade from existence over time, with only the best enduring. This can also lead to the same solutions of survival being realised in completely unrelated species. [...]

But what about the underlying physical laws - do they favour predictable evolution? At very large scales, it appears so. We know of many governing laws of our universe that are certain. Gravity, for example - for which we owe our oceans, thick atmosphere and the nuclear fusion in the sun that showers us with energy - is a predictable force. Isaac Newton's theories, based on large scale deterministic forces, can also be used to describe many systems on large scales. These describe the universe as perfectly predictable.

If Newton's view was to remain perfectly true, the evolution of humans was inevitable. However, this comforting predictability was shattered by the discovery of the contradictory but fantastical world of quantum mechanics in the 20th century. At the smallest scales of atoms and particles, true randomness is at play - meaning our world is unpredictable at the most fundamental level.

This means that the broad "rules" for evolution would remain the same no matter how many times we replayed the tape. There would always be an evolutionary advantage for organisms that harvest solar power. There would always be opportunity for those that make use of the abundant gases in the atmosphere. And from these adaptations, we may predictably see the emergence of familiar ecosystems. But ultimately, randomness, which is built into many evolutionary processes, will remove our ability to "see into the future" with complete certainty.

There's a problem in astronomy that acts as a fitting analogy. In the 1700s, a mathematical institute offered a prize for solving the "three-body problem", involving accurately describing the gravitational relationship and resultant orbits of the sun, Earth and moon.

The winner, Joseph-Louis Lagrange, essentially proved that the problem couldn't be solved exactly. Much like the chaos introduced by random mutations, a little bit of starting error would inevitably grow, meaning that you couldn't easily determine where the three bodies would end up in the future. But as the dominant partner, the sun dictates the orbits of all three to an extent - allowing us to narrow the possible positions of the bodies to within a range.

This is much like the guiding hands of evolution, which tether adapting organisms to familiar routes. We may not be entirely sure where we'd end up if we rewound time, but the paths available to evolving organisms are far from limitless. And so maybe humans would never appear again, but it's likely that whatever alien world replaced ours would be a familiar place.

Posted by orrinj at 1:02 PM


Prosecution of 'Coward' Parkland Deputy May Put 'Unsustainable Demand on Law Enforcement' (Joel Cohen, June 7th, 2019, Law & Crime)

 Put aside the perjury charge (as Peterson certainly had a duty to the truth), Peterson has been charged, presumably because he was on duty, on the scene, yet did not enter the school with his own gun blazing. "Negligence" as a crime! Meaning, he can potentially go to jail, if convicted, for a long time largely because he lacked the strength of character to rush in to a field of battle -- as might a  fireman, to a raging fire - where (one can presume) he feared his own life would be in danger. And yes, he was a policeman (or was until he resigned in the wake of the ignominy over his "neglect") and was duty bound to protect the public, and especially the students. But filing criminal charges, even though the relevant statutes likely make out the crimes charged, for freezing in that moment? [...]

This prosecution is largely unusual, actually unheard of. Whether Peterson is convicted or not, it remains to be seen if it will turn out to have been a good thing for the public. No one can have sympathy for Peterson's conduct in having abandoned his post and students, particularly when he might have saved lives. Still, criminalizing not doing something, which is what this case effectively does, may put an unsustainable demand on law enforcement.

The real issue here is ultimately one of prosecutorial discretion. Prosecutors must gain a sense of vengeance for their communities. Clearly, the Florida State Attorney was confronted with truly awful facts. The families of victims and their community wanted, and deserved, appropriate retribution for what occurred. The principal offender, though, the trigger man Cruz, is being prosecuted to the full extent of the law. He is alive, and will be there to face that vengeance that is fully warranted. Must a prosecutor in such circumstances also pursue, as is happening here, a grossly flawed man whose actual "crime" was a breakdown in character for failing to protect and defend?

Someone has to pay the price for our willingness to tolerate gun violence.

For Soldiers, Risk of Suicide Linked With Firearm Ownership (PATRICK TUCKER, 6/07/19, Defense One)

More U.S. Army soldiers die by suicide than in combat. There are a number reasons for that, but a study published on Friday in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows a strong relationship between keeping a personal firearm and suicide among soldiers.

The study, the first of its kind, looked at the histories of 135 active duty U.S. Army soldiers who committed suicide between August 1, 2011, and November 1, 2013, dates coinciding with a peak in suicides among soldiers. Shootings accounted for 55 percent of those deaths. That, by itself, might not be surprising. What is remarkable, in the words of the researchers, is that having access to a loaded gun at home, or carrying one in public, "resulted in a 4-fold increase of the odds of suicide" compared to other soldiers.

The authors point to an existing psychological theory to explain why that might be so. The interpersonal theory of suicide posits that simply a desire to commit suicide is usually not enough to convince people to take their own life. The theory argues that people who have overcome a fear of death through repeated exposure either to personal pain or fearinducing experienecs, or the pain and fear of others, are more likely to commit suicide. Another study from 2012 found that men who keep loaded weapons also exhibit a reduced fear of death.

Posted by orrinj at 12:58 PM


Trump's Tariffs Have Already Wiped Out Tax Bill Savings for Average Americans (Laura Davison, June 7, 2019, /Bloomberg)

President Donald Trump's trade wars have already wiped out all but $100 of the average American household's windfall from Trump's 2017 tax law. And that's just the beginning.

That last $100 in tax-cut gains also could soon disappear -- and then some -- because of additional tariffs Trump has announced or is considering. If the president makes good on his threats to impose levies on virtually all imports from China and Mexico, those middle-earning households could pay nearly $4,000 more as they shell out more for a vast range of goods -- from avocados to iPhones.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


Biden reverses position on federal funding for abortion (Reuters, 6/07/19) 

Biden, the front-runner in the race for the 2020 Democratic nomination and a former vice president, said he had changed his long-held position on the Hyde Amendment because the right to an abortion was now under assault in many states and increasingly inaccessible for low-income women.

"I can't justify leaving millions of women without access to the care they need and the ability to exercise their constitutionally protected right," Biden said in a speech in Atlanta.

"If I believe healthcare is a right, as I do, I can longer support an amendment that makes that right dependent on someone's zip code," he said.

Indeed, if abortion is a woman's right there is no restriction that can be justified logically.
Posted by orrinj at 12:01 AM


Why do US evangelicals support Trump? They're giving Christianity a bad name :The politicisation of evangelicals is dangerous - especially when they're supporting a loveless, graceless amoralism  (Tim Farron, 5 Jun 2019, The Guardian)

[O]ne thing I know for sure is that we are instructed to love God and to love our neighbour - and that means that someone who separates children from their mothers, bans Muslims from entering his country, and countenances torture, is worthy of rebuke.

So not only is it wrong to support Trump on this basis, it is also dangerous. Dangerous because it contributes to the tribal politicisation of evangelical Christians.

The right is often found decrying identity politics, but is it possible that they are as guilty of it as anyone else? In 2000 and 2004, the evangelical Christian movement in the US allowed itself to become politicised as never before, as it lined up behind George W Bush. Though Christians' association with Bush was counterproductive, it was, however, understandable. He was a professing evangelical Christian who sought to live in accordance with the Bible's teaching.

But evangelical Christians' political marriage to Trump is much harder to fathom. In his private life the president has demonstrated a flagrant disregard for the dignity of others, an utter contempt for equality, and far more concern for his own rights and reputation than the wellbeing and care of others. His attitude to refugees and migrants demonstrates a lack of compassion and understanding for the vulnerable that at times beggars belief.

The politicisation and tribalism of Christianity is dangerous and, in the case of Trump, stands in direct opposition to the values of the saviour who Christians seek to follow. One who gave up his rights to save others rather than trampling on the rights of others to promote himself. Some Christians may believe they are bringing about God's purposes, but in reality they are causing his name to be associated with the very things he stands against.

Indeed, it is possible that this association with Trump's loveless, graceless amoralism could write Christianity out of the public square even faster than the dominance of secularism might on this side of the Atlantic. Where a Christian worldview is dismissed and derided in the UK, association with Trump means many may actively reject it in the US. In fact, the impact of the politicisation of evangelical Christians is not just damaging to Christianity in the US. Churches in Britain have been taking the word "evangelical" out of their name for fear of the association.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Rabbinate's master race of Jews: Using DNA to prove Jewishness is distasteful. Worse, it is a dangerous and dramatic deterioration in how we define the Jewish people (Shuki friedman, JUN 7, 2019, Times of Israel)

On the upcoming holiday of Shavuot, we will read the Book of Ruth, reminding us once again of the significant difference between conversion then and today. Speedy conversion seems to have been the norm in the days of Ruth, the woman who would become the grandmother of the ultimate king of Israel -- King David. Contrast that with the official state conversion process and the associated procedures for establishing Jewish lineage that we have in Israel today. In recent years, the high bar set by halacha, Jewish law, for gaining recognition as a Jew has been raised even higher by a disturbing trend of using genetic testing to establish candidates' Jewishness -- essentially, a "geneticization" of the Jewish people.

Currently, such tests are private initiatives, which the state's rabbinical courts are prepared to accept as evidence of Jewishness. The willingness by an official body to adopt genetic testing as proof of Jewishness marks the first step in the creation of a genetically-based Judaism and the widespread use of genetic databases. Beyond the fact that the use of genetics to prove Jewishness is distasteful, it constitutes a dramatic deterioration in the way we define the Jewish people. This is a revolution that must be nipped in the bud.

In Israel and around the world, there are hundreds of thousands of people who see themselves as belonging to the Jewish people but who would have a hard time in gaining official recognition as Jews from the Israeli Chief Rabbinate. After thousands of years in which membership in the Jewish people was largely a matter of claiming such membership, along with some halakhic evidence, the last three decades have seen the Chief Rabbinate adopting increasingly harsh procedures to establish the Jewishness of those who have immigrated to Israel. Many of these immigrants have been forced to endure a bureaucratic nightmare, for lack of the detailed documentation required by the rabbinate -- and, in certain cases, have had to undergo a full conversion process.

In recent years, with advances in genetic science and the fact that genetic testing has become affordable and widely accessible, genetic tests have become a tool for rabbis and rabbinical courts to establish petitioners' Jewishness. The rabbis' underlying premise is that it is possible to identify certain genetic markers in the genetic profiles of some Jews, and thus anyone whose cells hold these same genetic markers is undoubtedly Jewish. Currently, the existing genetic markers make it theoretically possible to establish the Jewishness of some Jews, and presumably, if sufficient resources are invested in this project for a sufficient length of time, genetic markers can be found for most of the world's Jews. Accordingly, against the backdrop of rabbinical willingness to accept genetics as proof of Jewishness, a genetic laboratory has now been set up with this very purpose, and is encouraging Jews to be tested and to add themselves to the database.

Bizarro Nuremberg.
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Poll: Majority Want To Keep Abortion Legal, But They Also Want Restrictions (Domenico Montanaro, 6/07/19, NPR)

Even though Americans are solidly against overturning Roe, a majority would also like to see abortion restricted in various ways. In a separate question, respondents were asked which of six choices comes closest to their view of abortion policy.

In all, 61% said they were in favor of a combination of limitations that included allowing abortion in just the first three months of a pregnancy (23%); only in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the woman (29%); or only to save the life of the woman (9%).

June 6, 2019

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Trump Faces a Rocky Road to 270 (Josh Kraushaar, 6/04/19, National Journal)

3. New Hampshire

Now the map gets markedly more difficult for Trump. His next-best bet is New Hampshire, where he had his narrowest loss of 2016, falling short by fewer than 3,000 votes. The Granite State has voted twice for Republican Gov. Chris Sununu.

But all the other in-state indicators are dismal for the president. His job approval rating was merely 39 percent, according to the April Morning Consult survey. And Senate Republicans are pessimistic about their prospects of unseating Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, who's up for reelection in 2020.

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The Use and Misuse of Income Data and Extreme Poverty in the United States (Bruce D. Meyer, Derek Wu, Victoria R. Mooers, Carla Medalia, May 2019, NBER Working Paper No. 25907)

Recent research suggests that rates of extreme poverty, commonly defined as living on less than $2/person/day, are high and rising in the United States. We re-examine the rate of extreme poverty by linking 2011 data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation and Current Population Survey, the sources of recent extreme poverty estimates, to administrative tax and program data. Of the 3.6 million non-homeless households with survey-reported cash income below $2/person/day, we find that more than 90% are not in extreme poverty once we include in-kind transfers, replace survey reports of earnings and transfer receipt with administrative records, and account for the ownership of substantial assets. More than half of all misclassified households have incomes from the administrative data above the poverty line, and several of the largest misclassified groups appear to be at least middle class based on measures of material well-being.

Our greatest "poverty" problem is obesity.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Fox News' Tucker Carlson has some effusive, dubious praise for Elizabeth Warren (Peter Weber, 6/06/19, The Week)

Congressional Republicans, in thrall to Wall Street and "libertarian zealots," failed to learn from the 2016 election and never "understood and embraced the economic nationalism that was at the heart of Donald Trump's presidential victory," Carlson said. But "many of Warren's policy prescriptions make obvious sense," like buying American and encouraging workplace apprenticeships. "She sounds like Donald Trump at his best," he added.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM



"I was sick of hanging around all day. I wanted to be doing something."

Lawrence Peter Berra was signed by the Yankees as a 17-year-old and assigned to the team's affiliate in Norfolk, Virginia, near the U.S. Navy shipyard. The 5-foot-8 prospect quickly demonstrated his prowess behind the plate and in the batter's box, once driving in 23 runs in a doubleheader. But with his country at war, Berra, like so many other ballplayers of the day, including major leaguers Ted Williams and Bob Feller, put his baseball career on hold, enlisting in the Navy when he turned 18.

"I kind of enjoyed it. We had our own boat."

The young Berra signed up to join the "amphibs," even though he didn't really understand the concept. "They asked for volunteers to go on a rocket boat," he later put it. "I didn't even know what a rocket boat was." As it turned out, a rocket boat, also known as a landing craft support small (LCSS), was a 36-foot wooden-hulled vessel with steel plating. The seamen referred to them as "big bathtubs" -- bathtubs that came equipped with 48 rockets, one twin .50-caliber machine gun and two .30-caliber machine guns. It would be the LCSS' job to fire on the beaches at Normandy to help clear the way for the landing crafts. "We called it landing craft suicide squad," Berra said.

"I'd have to say I was involved."

Berra was next stationed in Plymouth, England, where for three weeks he and his fellow seamen waited. They didn't know when they were going out or what was coming next -- and they weren't allowed to share details of anything in their letters home. Early on June 4, Berra's LCSS set off aboard the USS Bayfield, a Coast Guard transport that was the smallest craft to take part in the invasion, the largest amphibious assault in history.

"I never saw so many planes in my life. It was like a black cloud."

Berra's boat was lowered from the Bayfield at 4.30 a.m. on June 6. Most stories about the invasion focus on the troop-filled landing crafts that poured their contents onto the Normandy beaches, but the tip of the spear for the invasion was actually the 24 LCSS crafts, including Berra's, that approached the German fortifications first and were the most vulnerable to enemy fire. Berra manned a machine gun and helped load the rocket launcher, but he couldn't help marvel at the spectacle of it all. "Boy, it looks pretty, all the planes coming over," he said at one point about the Allied planes overhead. "You better get your head down in here, if you want it on," the officer on his boat retorted.

"Nothing happened to us. That's one good thing."

Berra's boat received little fire from the Germans on the beach, and the crew spent the next two weeks helping relay messages and direct new arrivals. At one point, Berra's gun crew was directed to fire at enemy planes. They shot one down ... an American plane. "The pilot was mad as hell, and you could hear him swearing as he floated down in his parachute," Berra recalled. "I remember him shaking his fist and yelling, 'If you bastards would shoot down as many of them as us, the goddamn war would be over.'"

"Being there at Omaha may have changed my life a little."

June 5, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 6:04 PM


Poll shows Biden beating Trump in Texas (CAITLIN OPRYSKO, 06/05/2019, Politico)

A new poll out Wednesday spells danger for President Donald Trump's reelection chances in one of the unlikeliest of places: Texas.

The Quinnipiac University poll shows that Joe Biden would top Trump by four points -- 48 percent to 44 percent -- in a general election matchup there, an outcome the ruby red state hasn't seen in four decades.

Democrats don't need to Texas to beat Donald, just to tie him down defending states that would be unlosable for a Republican.

Posted by orrinj at 1:13 PM


Joe Biden's long evolution on abortion rights still holds surprises (Heidi Przybyla, 6/05/19, NBC News)

As recently as Tuesday, Biden reaffirmed his support for Roe, telling voters in New Hampshire that it is "the law of the land, a woman has a right to choose." He added that if the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade while he was president, he would "push" legislation to keep it legal.

Yet his presidential campaign confirmed to NBC News that Biden still supports the Hyde Amendment, a four-decade-old ban on using federal funds for abortion services, except in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the woman.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Why Trump now wants talks with Iran: If Tehran blocks the Strait of Hormuz it could send the price of oil soaring and cause a global recession (PEPE ESCOBAR, 6/05/19, Asia Times)

The great Bilderberg secret of 2019 had to do with why, suddenly, the Trump administration has decided that it wants to talk to Iran "with no preconditions".

It all has to do with the Strait of Hormuz. Blocking the Strait could cut off oil and gas from Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Iran - 20% of the world's oil. There has been some debate on whether this could occur - whether the US Fifth Fleet, which is stationed nearby, could stop Tehran doing this and if Iran, which has anti-ship missiles on its territory along the northern border of the Persian Gulf, would go that far.

An American source said a series of studies hit President Trump's desk and caused panic in Washington. These showed that in the case of the Strait of Hormuz being shut down, whatever the reason, Iran has the power to hammer the world financial system, by causing global trade in derivatives to be blown apart.

The Bank for International Settlements said last year that the "notional amount outstanding for derivatives contracts" was $542 trillion, although the gross market value was put at just $12.7 trillion. Others suggest it is $1.2 quadrillion or more.

Tehran has not voiced this "nuclear option" openly. And yet General Qasem Soleimani, head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps' Quds Force and a Pentagon bête noire, evoked it in internal Iranian discussions. The information was duly circulated to France, Britain and Germany, the EU-3 members of the Iran nuclear deal (or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), also causing a panic.

Oil derivative specialists know well that if the flow of energy in the Gulf is blocked it could lead to the price of oil reaching $200 a barrel, or much higher over an extended period. Crashing the derivatives market would create an unprecedented global depression. Trump's former Goldman Sachs Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin should know as much.

And Trump himself seems to have given the game away. He's now on the record essentially saying that Iran has no strategic value to the US. According to the American source: "He really wants a face-saving way to get out of the problem his advisers Bolton and Pompeo got him into. Washington now needs a face-saving way out. Iran is not asking for meetings. The US is."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Republicans ready to quash Cuccinelli: The GOP-led Senate is relishing the chance to derail the nomination of Trump's immigration pick. (BURGESS EVERETT and ELIANA JOHNSON, 06/04/2019, Politico)

Ken Cuccinelli has spent years attacking Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans. Now, it's time for payback.

President Donald Trump wants Cuccinelli, who most recently led the anti-establishment Senate Conservatives Fund, to be director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. But there may be nobody in Washington whom McConnell and his allies would take more pleasure in defeating, and the bottom line is Cuccinelli has little chance of getting approved for the job, Republican senators said.

June 4, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 8:05 PM


A tailor explains Trump's style disaster (Cockburn, June 4, 2019, Spectator USA)

'Those trousers are just wrong,' Chris says. 'They've clearly been bought, and not made. They're about four inches too long. They're perfectly straight, about the same size at the top as they are at the bottom, and they're probably about 20 inches at the ankle. He probably thinks it covers up a certain amount of fatness, that if he has wide-bottomed trousers it'll disguise the width of his hips and waist. If anything, it does the opposite when they're that straight'.

'The white tie is just abysmal,' Chris reflects. 'The trousers are a similar cut to chinos. I suspect they're not high-waisted, so he's had to get an extra-long waistcoat to cover the top of the trousers. So now you've got at least four inches of white showing between the coat and the trousers. Look at Prince Charles. With proper military fashion, you don't see any white in between, and the coat is just covering the waistcoat.'

Chris considers Trump's innovative display of snowy acres of waistcoat. 'That waistcoat must be buttoned around his crotch. He's a big guy, but there's no excuse not to have something that fits. Now, a lot of men these days do wear white tie with about in inch of white showing. It can frame the coat, and it can look nice. If you're Fred Astaire, it'll accentuate the length of your legs. But not four inches.'

If Trump's trousers and waistcoat are too big, his coat is too small. 'That tail coat is appalling. The sleeves are two inches too long, the jacket body is three inches too short. The tails are five inches too short. The whole thing is just short and boxy.'

'The tails are meant to touch the back of your knees, but they're on his mid-thigh,' Chris says, more in sorrow than anger. 'The whole coat is way too short for him. Why would he do this? The whole thing is just so wrong, on so many levels. There's a fellow in the background, looking at him and smirking. I can imagine he's thinking, "What a twit!"'

Chris suspects Trump's chino-like dress trousers are inspired by his golf outfits. 'That's Biff from Back to the Future,' he confirms.

Dressed to distress - fashion statements of the Trumps on tour (Jess Cartner-Morley, 4 Jun 2019, The Guardian)

The Trumps have dressed for this trip with all the nuance and subtlety that is their trademark. After Melania flew to London dressed as Big Ben, Tiffany appears to have typed "Jane Austen World Book Day costume" into the Amazon search bar and came up with an evening gown in a shade of claret that gave her the vibe of a midwestern bridesmaid who is, like, really into Downton Abbey.

In her custom Dior Dancing on Ice dress, Melania looked like white-tie I, Tonya, but it is Ivanka who, as ever, strikes terror into the heart with her replicant-like ability to almost convincingly model modern metropolitan dress. The ghostly image of Ivanka and Jared gazing out from behind a palace curtain had every bit as much cosy warmth as Grant Wood's 1930 American Gothic portrait...

The remake of The Omen is going well.
 The remake of The Omen is going well. Photograph: Tim Rooke/Rex/Shutterstock

Nothing though beats the Queen giving Donald a book and, just in case anyone didn't get the joke, an abridged edition.

Posted by orrinj at 6:04 PM


Stocks Jump as Fed's Powell Suggests Rates Could Come Down (Jeanna Smialek and Matt Phillips, June 4, 2019, NY Times)

The Federal Reserve chairman, Jerome H. Powell, said on Tuesday that the central bank was prepared to act to sustain the economic expansion if President Trump's trade war weakened the economy. His remarks sent stocks soaring as investors predicted a cut in interest rates.

Posted by orrinj at 5:54 PM


Rep. Steve King Was Kicked Off House Committees Over White Nationalism. Now Some In The GOP Want Him Back. (Aiden Pink, 6/04/19, The Forward)

Some Republicans in the House of Representatives are trying to get Rep. Steve King back on congressional committees, months after he was kicked off them for making offensive comments about white nationalism, Politico reported Monday.

Politico named three leaders of the effort, but noted others were involved as well. "It was unfair the way it was quoted," one of the leaders, Rep. Louie Gohmert, told Politico, referring to the January interview King did with The New York Times in which King said, "White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization -- how did that language become offensive?"

Posted by orrinj at 5:51 PM


Republican Justin Amash stands by position to start impeachment proceedings despite criticism (Leigh Ann Caldwell and Alex Moe, 5/28/19, NBC News)

Cathy Garnaat, a Republican who supported Amash and the president said she was upset about Amash's position but wanted to hear his reasoning. She said that she will definitely support Trump in 2020 but that Tuesday night was the first time she had heard that the Mueller report didn't completely exonerate the president.

"I was surprised to hear there was anything negative in the Mueller report at all about President Trump. I hadn't heard that before," she said. "I've mainly listened to conservative news and I hadn't heard anything negative about that report and President Trump has been exonerated."

Posted by orrinj at 2:13 PM



Posted by orrinj at 4:10 AM


Immoral Conduct and Moral Witness: Does the sexual depravity of Martin Luther King, Jr. negate his work and witness in the cause of racial justice? (REV. EUGENE F. RIVERS AND ROBERT P. GEORGE, 6/03/19, Public Discourse)

Like many Americans, we have long admired the work and witness of Martin Luther King, Jr. His leadership and courage in a supremely just cause have inspired our own work. What, then, are we to make of recent revelations that he exploited his fame and status to have affairs with countless women, treating them as mere sex objects, and perhaps even stood by laughing as a colleague committed a rape in his hotel room?

We will not hide the fact that we have been devastated by these revelations. Nor will we pretend that they have not lowered King in our estimation. Having said that, we have never been under the illusion that he was faultless or sinless. It has long been known that he was sometimes unfaithful to his wife Coretta. While we have not excused his adulteries, we believed that they represented the succumbing to human weakness of a man who was frequently on the road away from his wife and family and who was, for a variety of reasons, attractive to young women. We also believed that when he sinned he knew he was sinning, did not approve of his own conduct or recommend it to others, and was genuinely--if, alas, only temporarily--remorseful about having veered from the path of virtue.

On these latter points, it now seems clear that we were wrong. As he traveled the country, he sought out women to use for nothing more than sexual pleasure; he took advantage of his stature and fame to seduce them; he participated in orgies; and, as we've noted, there is evidence that he allowed a colleague to force himself on an unwilling woman--indeed, a woman who objected to being asked to perform an immoral act.

All of this is to be condemned. It is to be condemned unequivocally--no ifs, ands, or buts. It was against the biblical Christian faith that King presented himself as holding and in whose name he spoke against racial injustice. It was against the natural moral law, which he rightly invoked in denouncing segregation and Jim Crow. It was against the Gospel proclaimed then and now by faithful Christians of all traditions and, with special force, by those of the Black church tradition which King inherited from his father, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Sr.

As was pointed out by the late historian Eugene D. Genovese, the principal philosophical difference between King, Jr. and King, Sr. was the former's embracing of theological liberalism--especially the denial of the historicity and literal meaning of Christian doctrines such as the Resurrection of Christ. Were King Jr.'s personal moral delinquencies underwritten in part by this theological liberalism? It is, of course, impossible to say with certainty. Yet, if we look at the Christian denominations that over the past several decades have abandoned traditional Christian moral teachings--especially on questions of marriage, sexual morality, and the sanctity of human life--they are the traditions into which theological liberalism made the biggest inroads decades before.

By contrast, Christian traditions that have resisted theological liberalism have remained faithful to traditional Christian moral teachings, including the belief that marriage is the conjugal union of husband and wife and that sex outside the bond of marriage is morally impermissible, and the teaching that the life of the child in the womb and that of the frail elderly person must be protected against the crimes of abortion and euthanasia.

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 AM


Israel's new election highlights tense ties to ultra-Orthodox (ARON HELLER, 6/04/19, Times of Israel)

The trigger for Israel's unprecedented repeat election touches upon one of the major fault lines in Israeli society -- the role of the growing ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in modern life.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's prospective government collapsed last week at least nominally over the issue of military draft exemptions for ultra-Orthodox men, a source of longtime resentment among the secular majority of Jewish Israelis who are required to serve.

The conflict over the draft law is just one of several deep disagreements over the role of religion in Israeli society. While the ultra-Orthodox parties wield significant political influence, experts say their cloistered communities are being left behind by modern society, with long-lasting negative consequences for the future of the country.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


Trump Offered States Obamacare 'Relief.' They Don't Want It. : Not a single state has applied for a State Relief and Empowerment Waiver that's meant to lower premiums. Why not? (MATTIE QUINN | JUNE 3, 2019, Governing)

In October, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) encouraged states to apply for new "State Relief and Empowerment Waivers," which would allow them to sell health insurance plans that duck Obamacare regulations and use federal subsidies to make them more affordable.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), President Barack Obama's signature health law, requires health plans to cover "essential health benefits," such as preexisting conditions, mental health care and maternity care. The relief waivers would let people buy plans, with subsidies, that don't include that coverage.

When CMS Administrator Seema Verma announced the waivers, she told reporters it was one way for state lawmakers to "get out from under the onerous rules under Obamacare."

Almost seven months later, not one state has applied. [...]

[A]fter a couple years of trial and error, along with state intervention, "the marketplaces are fairly stable at the moment," says Corlette.

Ideology does not fare well against reality.
Posted by orrinj at 12:01 AM


The Coming G.O.P. Apocalypse: Stumbling blind into the age of diversity. (David Brooks, June 3, 2019, NY Times)

[T]oday's generation gap is not based just on temporary intellectual postures. It is based on concrete, lived experience that is never going to go away.

Unlike the Silent Generation and the boomers, millennials and Gen Z voters live with difference every single day. Only 16 percent of the Silent Generation is minority, but 44 percent of the millennial generation is. If you are a millennial in California, Texas, Florida, Arizona or New Jersey, ethnic minorities make up more than half of your age cohort. In just over two decades, America will be a majority-minority country.

Young voters approve of these trends. Seventy-nine percent of millennials think immigration is good for America. Sixty-one percent think racial diversity is good for America.

They have constructed an ethos that is mostly about dealing with difference. They are much more sympathetic to those who identify as transgender. They are much more likely than other groups to say that racial discrimination is the main barrier to black progress. They are much less likely to say the U.S. is the best country in the world.

These days the Republican Party looks like a direct reaction against this ethos -- against immigration, against diversity, against pluralism. Moreover, conservative thought seems to be getting less relevant to the America that is coming into being.

Matthew Continetti recently identified the key blocs on the new right in an essay in The Washington Free Beacon. These included the Jacksonians (pugilistic populists), the Paleos (Tucker Carlson-style economic nationalists), the Post-Liberals (people who oppose pluralism and seek a return to pre-Enlightenment orthodoxy). To most young adults, these tendencies will look like cloud cuckooland.

The most burning question for conservatives should be: What do we have to say to young adults and about the diverse world they are living in? Instead, conservative intellectuals seem hellbent on taking their 12 percent share among the young and turning it to 3.

Conservatives never processed the Tea Party, which was just older, whiter, wealthier males who were afraid the coloreds would use up the government benefit money they were counting on.  Then we doubled down with Nativism and Birtherism.  Now we confront the monster, late, but not too late.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Botched family reunifications left migrant children waiting in vans overnight (Jacob Soboroff and Julia Ainsley, 6/03/19, NBC News)

Under the blistering Texas sun last July, 37 migrant children boarded vans for what was supposed to be a 30-minute ride. At the end of the road from Harlingen to Los Fresnos lay the promise of hugs, kisses and long overdue reunification with their parents, from whom they were taken when the Trump administration began systematically separating migrant families who crossed the border illegally.

But when the children, all between 5 and 12 years old, arrived at Immigration and Customs Enforcement's adults-only Port Isabel Detention Center, rather than seeing their parents, they saw a parking lot full of vans just like theirs, with children from other facilities who, just like them, were waiting to be processed and reunified with their parents.

It was 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, July 15, 2018.

Not until 39 hours later -- after two nights in a van -- did the last child step out of a van to be reunited. Most spent at least 23 hours in the vehicles.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


GOP lawmakers discuss vote to block Trump's new tariffs on Mexico, in what would be a dramatic act of defiance (Erica Werner, Seung Min Kim and Damian Paletta June 3, 2019, Washington Post)

Congressional Republicans have begun discussing whether they may have to vote to block President Trump's planned new tariffs on Mexico, potentially igniting a second standoff this year over Trump's use of executive powers to circumvent Congress, people familiar with the talks said.

The vote, which would be the GOP's most dramatic act of defiance since Trump took office, could also have the effect of blocking billions of dollars in border wall funding that the president had announced in February when he declared a national emergency at the southern border, said the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the talks are private.

Trump's plans to impose tariffs on Mexico -- with which the United States has a free-trade agreement -- rely on the president's declaration of a national emergency at the border. But the law gives Congress the right to override the national emergency determination by passing a resolution of disapproval.

Someone finally notice the "You break it, you own it" sign?

June 3, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 8:06 PM


Miracle Workers: What the Resistance Can Still Learn from Arendt (John Thomason, June 3, 2019, Commonweal)

What has interested journalists most about Trump is his lies, and Origins does indeed contain insights into the role of lies in totalitarian movements. "What convinces masses are not facts," Arendt writes, "but only the consistency of the system of which they are presumably part." The application of this insight to contemporary American politics is obvious. Trump's rhetoric has substantial appeal precisely because it subordinates truth to a closed but consistent ideological system. These sorts of systems are so resilient, Arendt argued, because they appeal to both gullibility and cynicism, conditioning people to "believe everything and nothing, to think that everything was possible and that nothing was true." These are the conditions that allow a leader like Trump never to have to account for his lies. The Origins of Totalitarianism is therefore a prescient corrective to naïve claims that appeals to facts and truth can combat Trumpism.

Arendt has thus been welcomed to the #Resistance primarily as a prophetic psychotherapist, one who foretold the pathological appeal of Trumpism to the masses. It's likely that nothing would have pleased her less. Her account of the way totalitarian movements engulfed mid-century Europe was never meant to be merely descriptive. By examining how societies had become so debased that they fell prey to movements that treated every individual as utterly expendable, Arendt was taking the first steps toward articulating and recovering a positive vision of the kind of politics that might redeem those societies. In other words, her perennially popular descriptive views of the great crimes of the twentieth century (outlined most famously in Origins and Eichmann in Jerusalem) cannot responsibly be severed from her prescriptive views about the proper flourishing of politics. [...]

For Arendt, the root of freedom and therefore politics is just this kind of spontaneity, the ability of any person or group of people to initiate an unforeseen or unexpected event. How to promote and sustain this freedom is one of the slipperiest questions in Arendt's work. But even though the Hungarian Revolution was quickly crushed by the Soviet behemoth, in the five years that followed Arendt only became more convinced that this "fact" of freedom could not be stamped out from the human condition entirely. In a 1960 lecture called "Freedom and Politics," she explained why. "If one is serious about the abolition of political freedom," she declares, "it is not sufficient to prohibit what we generally understand by political rights.... One must take possession of even those areas we are accustomed to regard as outside the realm of politics, precisely because they, too, contain a political element." One recalls here Václav Havel's account of the grocer who one day simply removes the state party's slogan from his shop window, and in doing so exposes the nakedness of the regime to his neighbors. As long as necessity and coercion do not exercise complete and all-consuming rule over one's life, this kind of spontaneity, and therefore freedom, is always possible.

This account of freedom corresponds to something like Maslow's hierarchy of needs; at the base of the hierarchy are subordinate, lesser freedoms--freedom from want, freedom from coercion--that must be satisfied for the best and highest form of freedom to flourish. The pinnacle is public freedom, in which individuals can fully exercise their capacity for spontaneity in full view and appreciation of their peers and equals. Arendt believed that something called politics could only correspond to the full exercise of this highest freedom, the only kind that could mean "more than not being forced."

Arendt believed that this loss of a higher, positive vision of political freedom was the result of a Western philosophical tradition that disdained politics in favor of contemplation, one concerned, as Arendt would put it, with man and not with men. For the pre-Platonic Greeks, however, politics was an end in itself: the participation in shared enterprises with their peers, the expression of their full humanity in word and deed. In a 1953 lecture at Princeton, Arendt called this a "unique, outstanding way of life, of being-together, in which the truly human capacities of man, as distinguished from his mere animal characteristics, could show and prove themselves." Even though Western philosophy utterly abandoned this conception, in Arendt's view, it could not excise it from language. Therefore, it could not excise it from thought: "To the historical belongs what is really an astounding fact...that in all European languages we use a word for politics in which its origin, the Greek polis, can still be heard."

This is one reason Arendt believed there was still hope to restore the ethos of the polis in modern times. But we need not exalt the ancient Greek polis and its attendant injustices to recover the virtues that Arendt felt it promoted. For Arendt, the essential question of modernity was how to reconcile universal equality with freedom. 

Republicanism for Republicans (Brink Lindsey, Winter 2019, National affairs)

However much we may differ from one another, however many distinctions we draw among ourselves in a modern, sprawling, pluralistic society, there is one thing that binds all Americans together as moral and civic equals: the res publica, or commonwealth, under whose laws we all live and within whose institutions we can all participate to make those laws better. In the republican worldview, all Americans are "real Americans," because we all pledge allegiance to "one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." As Lincoln said in his first inaugural address, "We are not enemies, but friends," because we are all members of one, all-embracing body politic. We're all in this together.

This civic conception of patriotism stands in stark contrast to the blood-and-soil conception increasingly evident on the conservative right. Conservatives today all too frequently distinguish between "real Americans" -- white, native-born, Christian, and disproportionately rural -- and the rest of the country, vowing to "take their country back" from fellow citizens they regard as the equivalent of foreign occupiers.

Such attitudes and rhetoric are utterly poisonous. They are also deeply un-conservative, given that a creedal rather than ethnic understanding of American national identity is among our oldest and most cherished political traditions. This raises some questions: Why the need for a republican turn on the right? Isn't it possible to resist populist ethno-nationalism in the name of genuine conservatism?

Of course such a response is possible, and many good conservatives are doing precisely that -- if so far with a notable lack of success. The problem is that, under contemporary conditions, the language of conservatism pulls its users naturally and almost irresistibly toward the ethnocentrism and dark divisiveness we see so much of today. In the rapid social change we've been undergoing since the 1960s, one common denominator has been a quest for civic equality by traditionally oppressed and disadvantaged groups -- blacks, Hispanics, women, gays. In these circumstances, a political right that expresses itself in terms of conservatism -- "standing athwart history, yelling Stop" -- slips all too easily into a defense of the status quo by the traditionally dominant groups. This has been a recurring, and recurringly disgraceful, theme of postwar conservatism. Opposition to school desegregation, hostility to the civil-rights movement, excuse-making for sexism, demonization of homosexuality, and most recently a rising tide of intolerance toward the foreign-born -- all are black marks in the annals of the American right. This need not be where the intellectual tradition of American conservatism points, of course. But it has too often been where the rhetoric of conservatism has been taken (and allowed) to gesture.

Making matters worse is postwar conservatism's enduring self-conception as the antithesis of liberalism. Not just its rival, its opposite number, its balance and counterweight -- no, in the conservative imagination, liberalism is too often the enemy. From the Buckleyite beginnings of the modern conservative intellectual synthesis, liberalism was presented as an alien, un-American, elitist ideology that was on the same continuum as, and acted as the enabler of and apologist for, totalitarian communism. Since the Cold War ended and communism passed from the scene, the caricaturing has now elevated liberalism to public enemy number one. Today, "owning the libs" has become an end in itself; inflicting a loss on the other side is a victory regardless of the implications for policy or the national welfare.

Obviously, people on the left routinely caricature and demonize conservatives as well. An accounting of the failings and excesses of today's left would occupy an essay of at least the length of this one. But that is no excuse for anything. This is not just a point about civility. A politics that justifies its own abuses by reference to those of its opposition amounts to little more than a negation.

And even more important, a conservatism that views itself as the negation of liberalism is actually wrong about itself, or at least about the tradition whose name it has taken. American conservatism, at its best, has been about conserving the broad liberal tradition of individualism and the rule of law -- both by promoting those essential pre-liberal attachments to family, faith, community, and nation on which a liberal order depends, and by checking both the excesses of reformist liberalism and the illiberalism of the left. Conservatives have tried to draw a distinction between old, good, "classical liberalism" and new, bad, "modern liberalism," but the distinction ignores deep and important continuities.

The misconceived blanket opposition to liberalism has made the center-right vulnerable to its own most illiberal elements, which have now remade conservatism in their own odious image. Among the repugnant lowlights: animus against the foreign-born carried to the point of orphaning and caging children; acquiescence in blatant corruption by the president and top officials; mindless trashing of the liberal international order and the global economy; restricting the franchise for some voters rather than insisting it be preserved as the bedrock of a republican form of government and confidently competing for the votes of all Americans; and systematic subversion of the rule of law to stymie investigations of foreign tampering with our elections. It will be very difficult to beat this back, to restore decency and honor to the right, using only the rhetoric of conservatism -- especially in its current degraded state.

The rhetoric of republicanism, by contrast, tilts easily in the needed direction. At its emotional core is patriotism, a fundamental moral passion of the right. But with that passion conceptualized in civic rather than ethnocentric terms, republicanism reorients patriotism away from divisiveness and instead enshrines it as a universal, unifying principle.

The conservative right's ethno-nationalism already generates intense opposition -- but from the left, where the critique is marbled with open-borders cosmopolitanism and outright hostility to nationalism of any kind and American exceptionalism in particular. The left's campaign may ultimately succeed given the trajectory of demographic change in this country, but whether it succeeds or fails, the effect on the right is to strengthen the conflation of patriotism and white identity politics.

A republican movement on the right, on the other hand, can criticize ethno-nationalism as fundamentally unpatriotic and unfaithful to American exceptionalism -- that is, in terms that carry real weight with conservatives. Republicanism thus offers an opportunity to actually weaken right-wing attachment to ethno-nationalism internally rather than simply mobilizing against it externally and hoping to outlast it.

And a republican right could do more than just give right-wing ideological arguments for abandoning white identity politics. By refashioning the right's domestic-policy agenda, republicans could also give voters new reasons to vote Republican and thus reduce the political dependence on pandering to white fears and resentments.

Conservatism, relying heavily on libertarian thinking, now often identifies "small government" as its chief desideratum of economic and social policy: lower taxes to spur initiative, fewer regulations to lighten the load on business, less government spending to reduce dependency and the need for taxes. That orientation was constructive in the 1960s, '70s, and '80s as pushback against left-liberalism's infatuation with top-down planning and hostility to the spontaneous innovations and adjustments of competitive markets.

But as liberal suspicion of markets abated, and as structural changes in the economy meant that a rising tide now lifted the rich's yachts a great deal while ordinary folks' rowboats rose little or not at all, the idée fixe of small government has risked becoming an intellectual dead end. Rising to the challenge of new conditions means embracing the need for major structural regulatory reform, not so much to unburden business as to expose it to more robust competition by removing regulatory subsidies and barriers to entry. It also means embracing the need for active government in some key arenas -- to help people develop the skills they need to thrive in an increasingly demanding labor market, and to provide social insurance that protects people against the inevitable losses and dislocations associated with a dynamic market economy.

Republican principles point the way to a new center-right approach to economic governance. The pole star for republican governance is the public interest, or the common weal -- the values that we share across ethnic, regional, sectarian, and class lines and that require collective action for their advancement. As Lincoln, the towering figure of the American republican pantheon, ably summarized the matter, "The legitimate object of government, is to do for a community of people, whatever they need to have done, but can not do, at all, or can not, so well do, for themselves -- in their separate, and individual capacities." This is a statement both of the limits of government and of the uses of it.

Relative to libertarian dreams of minimal government, the public-interest standard may seem vague and permissive. But its flexibility is simply a recognition of reality's messy complexity; libertarian efforts to delineate the proper role of government within clear, bright lines are as intellectually incoherent as they are hopelessly utopian. The ideal of the public interest, informed by deep republican skepticism of concentrated power, can serve as a powerful constraint on government. Fidelity to a public-interest standard means relentless opposition to the manipulation and takeover of policymaking by insiders, as well as to policies, however well-meaning, that fail to accomplish their stated purposes. Although shrinking government just to make it smaller is not the goal, hostility toward corruption and wastefulness does push toward making government simpler and more transparent.

A new approach to domestic policy is further aided by the republican conception of liberty as non-domination. The basic intuition here is that freedom requires a level of personal independence among the citizenry, and that in turn requires a broad middle class and limited extremes of wealth and poverty. In the republican view, excessive imbalances of power and status undermine government in the public interest because both the rules themselves and their administration will end up slanted in favor of the powerful.

Opposition to domination leads simultaneously toward a deep appreciation of markets and the recognition of a vital supporting role for government. Competitive markets are a bulwark of independence because they encourage a proliferation of options; they are an important check against arbitrary power because they subject market actors to accountability at the hands of their customers. But for market competition to operate as intended, government has a few big jobs to do. First, it must provide and enforce rules that structure and sustain competition; second, it must secure the broad enabling conditions that allow people to participate successfully in the market system and protect them from the hazards of life when their participation goes awry.

These republican ideas can be developed into a rich conceptual framework for active but limited government. The public interest, as an enabling principle, frees center-right policymaking from the libertarian cul-de-sac and reorients it toward problem-solving governance. The public interest, as a limiting principle, then distinguishes center-right problem-solving from the center-left variety by directing attention to the possibility of insider capture and other unintended consequences, and by focusing on policy designs that minimize these pitfalls. An understanding of freedom as non-domination, meanwhile, pushes the center-right toward greater concern with inequality as a political (as opposed to essentially economic) problem and a clearer recognition of the realities of structural disadvantage.

Republican principles thus supply the intellectual tools the center-right needs to resume the main work of governance: helping real people to improve their lives in tangible ways. And if the center-right can better attend to the material as well as the more-than-material interests of its base among rural voters and the white working class, it will not have to rely on divisive culture-war theatrics to mobilize support.

As suggested, recovering our republicanism requires returning to the classic view of republican liberty.

Posted by orrinj at 7:44 PM


House Passes $19.1 Billion Disaster Bill Despite Earlier GOP Efforts To Stall It (Kelsey Snell, 6/03/19, NPR)

The House has approved a $19.1 billion disaster aid package despite earlier objections from Republicans.

The legislation was approved 354-58. All those who opposed it were Republicans. The Senate already passed the bill overwhelmingly and it heads to the president's desk for his signature.

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Don't Let Trump Win All the Nationalists: Loyalty to a nation-state, especially when tempered by more universal values, is a force for good. (Tyler Cowen, May 30, 2019, Bloomberg)

Nationalism's reputation was already low among intellectuals when President Donald Trump claimed the label for himself. "You know what I am?" the president said at a political rally last year. "I'm a nationalist, OK? Nationalist. Use that word."

In response, Harvard historian Jill Lepore published a column titled "Don't Let Nationalists Speak for the Nation," in which she wrote: "Nationalism is an abdication of liberalism. It is also the opposite of patriotism." Both of those claims would probably confuse the American people (not to mention me), or seem outright objectionable.

All of which raises the question: What might a sane nationalism look like -- a nationalism broadly consistent with a centrist cosmopolitanism?

I start with a primary commitment to cosmopolitanism and the notion that borders are morally arbitrary. A person is no better or worse if he or she was born on one side or the other of the Rio Grande. For most of human history, of course, such borders either did not exist or were not enforced. If I see a bystander drowning in a lake, I feel an obligation to help; it would never occur to me to first ask about citizenship. And don't tell Donald Trump, but I don't even feel compelled to root for the U.S. in the Olympics.

The plot thickens, however, when considering more practical political issues. This is a world where just about all of the habitable territory has been carved up into nation-states. Regardless of whether that is your moral ideal, it is not a system likely to change anytime soon. Furthermore, at least since the end of World War II, this system has performed pretty well. Living standards have risen greatly, progress has spread and, for the most part, liberty and democracy have expanded. The recognition of these facts follows readily from a doctrine that I call practical nationalism.

As Jonah Goldberg often says, when you have to qualify your support by saying you mean the good kind of nationalism you're conceding that Nationalism is evil.

Posted by orrinj at 7:30 PM


A FEAR OF 'WHITE EXTINCTION' IS PROVOKING RACIAL BIAS AMONG AMERICAN WHITES: New research finds that such fears are provoked by demographic shifts, and in turn prompt stronger support for conservative policy positions.  (TOM JACOBS, 6/03/19, Pacific Standard)

Remember white people? Once upon a time, they dominated American life. But at some point in the 21st century, beset by low birth rates, they gradually died out.

Yes, that's an absurd notion. But new research suggests that, for some white Americans, it's a real fear--one that stimulates racial bias and political conservatism.

"White population decline does not merely trigger the threat considered in most studies of demographic change--that is, status threat," write University of Minnesota psychologists Hui Bai and Christopher Federico. "Our work suggests that it may additionally elicit fears that the in-group will actually cease to exist."

Victimology is always repellant, but especially coming from us.

Posted by orrinj at 6:55 PM


A Former Hotel Partner Alleges the Trumps Evaded Taxes in Panama (Ben Protess and Steve Eder, June 3, 2019, NY Times)

The owners of a luxury hotel in Panama City that ousted the Trump Organization as property managers last year accused it on Monday of evading taxes in Panama and creating a "false light" around the hotel's finances.

The accusations, made in a legal filing in Manhattan federal court, are fraught with potential diplomatic and legal complexities for President Trump, as they essentially assert that his family business cheated a foreign country's government.

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Figure linked to Trump transition charged with transporting child pornography (Devlin Barrett and Rachel Weiner June 3, 2019, Washington Post)

George Nader, who has a previous conviction on such charges, was charged in federal court in Virginia and is expected to make an initial court appearance in New York.

Nader played an unusual role as a kind of liaison between Trump supporters, Middle East leaders and Russians interested in making contact with the incoming administration in early 2017.

Officials said Nader, 60, was charged by criminal complaint over material he was traveling with when he arrived at Washington Dulles International Airport on Jan. 17, 2018, from Dubai. At the time, he was carrying a cellphone containing visual depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct, officials said. The charges were unsealed after his arrest Monday morning at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.

Posted by orrinj at 5:30 PM


Iran to US: Stand by commitments and we'll talk (Al-Monitor, June 3, 2019)

President Hassan Rouhani also responded, stating, "When they put aside the oppressive sanctions, when they stand by their commitments, when they themselves return to the negotiation table which they quit, the path for them is not closed, it is open." Rouhani further said, "[Iran] will not be dominated by any power" and cited "mutual respect within the framework of international laws" as being necessary for talks.

The day before Pompeo's comments, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif remarked, "Some people think we have a problem with Trump. It is not so." Rather, he said, the main obstacle to negotiations is the United States not sticking to its "commitments," meaning the JCPOA.

Posted by orrinj at 1:36 PM


Liberals go after Joe Biden, trying to blunt his presidential candidacy and the recent centrist surge in the Democratic Party (Sean Sullivan June 2, 2019, Washington Post)

The liberal wing of the Democratic Party launched a sudden volley of attacks against presidential candidate Joe Biden and his allies over the weekend, showing a new urgency to wrest control of the party from moderate forces that had seized an advantage in recent months.

Another year of stories like this and the staff manages to keep him from speaking in public and Uncle Joe can start fitting the curtains.

Posted by orrinj at 1:33 PM


A Middle East Peace Plan Built on Un-American Principles (Kori Schake, 6/02/19,  The Atlantic)

The Trump administration's Middle East peace plan sounds more like Chinese foreign policy than it does American foreign policy. American policy invokes the principle our Founders enshrined in our culture: that people have inherent rights and loan them in limited ways to governments for agreed purposes. We fail often to uphold this principle, but it is a genuine departure for an American administration not to even acknowledge it.

Moreover, other nations are less wary of our power because of our values. By tapping into the universal aspiration for human dignity and political liberty, American policy has been cheaper and easier to advance, because it works with the grain of positive political change. Our successes are seen as the advancement of a cause, not just the advancement of our interests.

China's policy, domestic and foreign, is based on the premise that the government will create conditions for prosperity and in return people must forsake political liberty. They prioritize "an emphasis on economic rights over individual political rights in the development of global norms," as Michael Swaine has argued, and want an international "community of common destiny for mankind" on Chinese terms.

China would erase the truths we hold to be self-evident that all people are endowed by our creator with inalienable rights by betting that their citizens, the citizens of developing countries--and even the cosseted rich of the liberal West--will accept incursions on their liberty in order to have greater prosperity or affordability.

China's defense minister, General Wei Fenghe, outright said so at the International Institute for Strategic Studies' Shangri-la Dialogue in Singapore last weekend, justifying the forcible internment of more than a million Uygur people by arguing, "the living standard of the local people has improved."

Jared Kushner and the rest of the Trump administration appear deaf to Benjamin Franklin's warning that "those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." But the Palestinians, Jordanians, and others with hard experience of difficult trade-offs can hear it, which is why the administration's Middle East peace plan is both dead on arrival and also bad American foreign policy.

Posted by orrinj at 4:26 AM


The Bolsonaros Try to Behave (Kind of. For Now.) (BRIAN WINTER, JUNE 3, 2019, Americas Quarterly)

It won't go down with the Treaty of Versailles, Nixon-to-China, or other historic triumphs of diplomacy. But when Jair Bolsonaro walked across the street from the Palácio do Planalto for a surprise visit to Congress last week, his intentions were clear. The official cause was an homage to Carlos Alberto de Nóbrega, a popular comedian. Yet Brazil's president was there to try to repair relationships badly frayed by his constant attacks on Twitter and elsewhere on what he has long called a corrupt, "communist" political establishment. 

"Our two branches together have everything it takes to change Brazil," Bolsonaro declared. Asked by reporters what prompted the visit, the president smiled and said: "There are moments where you have to go honor your colleagues. And life goes on."

The visit came a day after Bolsonaro unexpectedly met with the heads of Congress and the Supreme Court, attempting to forge a "pact of understanding" in which all three branches would support a range of measures from pension reform to a reduction in bureaucracy. The initiative, which Chief Justice José Antonio Dias Toffoli first floated last year, seeks to put an end to the so-called guerra de poderes, the institutional power struggle that has paralyzed Brazil since 2016. Bolsonaro also pointedly distanced himself from the more radical elements of a pro-government demonstration on May 26, including those advocating for Congress to be shut down. "That's more Maduro's thing," he said, referencing the Venezuelan dictator. Meanwhile, Bolsonaro and his sons have been relatively subdued on social media and IRL, compared at least to their flamethrowing of previous months. Among those who appreciate the truce is Rodrigo Maia, the chief of Congress' House of Deputies, a frequent target of the Bolsonaro boys - and the key to getting any legislation passed this year. "(The president) has built in the last few weeks... the dialogue that is necessary for things to go forward," Maia told Estado de S.Paulo in an interview published Monday. 

It's all evidence that Bolsonaro is - inconsistently, tenuously - trying out a less confrontational approach to governing in the hope of saving his presidency and Brazil's economy, both of which have been flashing bright red DANGER signs in recent weeks. With Bolsonaro's reform agenda stuck in Congress, the euphoria that gripped Brazil's business community following the 2018 election has vanished. Data published last week showed GDP shrank 0.2% in the first quarter, raising the specter of a "double-dip" recession ahead. Bolsonaro's popularity ratings continue to fall, to 34% in a recent poll. Two of Brazil's last four elected presidents were impeached after they lost control of both the economy and Congress; just five months into Bolsonaro's government, the i-word is now out in the open once again. Many of Bolsonaro's advisers, particularly those from the comparatively moderate "military wing" of his Cabinet, have begged the president for months to temper his rhetoric and try to work with Brasília's old guard; some believe Bolsonaro has finally understood how much trouble he's in, and that their message is getting through.  

The reforms are all that matters.
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


'It's a miracle': Helsinki's radical solution to homelessness: Finland is the only EU country where homelessness is falling. Its secret? Giving people homes as soon as they need them - unconditionally (Jon Henley, 3 Jun 2019, The Guardian)

When the policy was being devised just over a decade ago, the four people who came up with what is now widely known as the Housing First principle - a social scientist, a doctor, a politician and a bishop - called their report Nimi Ovessa (Your Name on the Door).

"It was clear to everyone the old system wasn't working; we needed radical change," says Juha Kaakinen, the working group's secretary and first programme leader, who now runs the Y-Foundation developing supported and affordable housing.

"We had to get rid of the night shelters and short-term hostels we still had back then. They had a very long history in Finland, and everyone could see they were not getting people out of homelessness. We decided to reverse the assumptions."

As in many countries, homelessness in Finland had long been tackled using a staircase model: you were supposed to move through different stages of temporary accommodation as you got your life back on track, with an apartment as the ultimate reward.

"We decided to make the housing unconditional," says Kaakinen. "To say, look, you don't need to solve your problems before you get a home. Instead, a home should be the secure foundation that makes it easier to solve your problems."

With state, municipal and NGO backing, flats were bought, new blocks built and old shelters converted into permanent, comfortable homes - among them the Rukkila homeless hostel in the Helsinki suburb of Malminkartano where Ainesmaa now lives.

Fewer homeless, a Bush legacy (David Frum, April 29, 2013, CNN)

For three decades, we have debated what causes homelessness and how to deal with it. Is homelessness a mental health problem? A substance abuse problem? A problem caused by gentrification and urban redevelopment? Or something else again?

The Bush administration substituted a much simpler idea -- an idea that happened to work. Whatever the cause of homelessness, the solution is ... a home.

In 2002, Bush appointed a new national homeless policy czar, Philip Mangano. A former music agent imbued with the religious philosophy of St. Francis of Assisi, Mangano was seized by an idea pioneered by New York University psychiatrist Sam Tsemberis: "housing first."

The "housing first" concept urges authorities to concentrate resources on the hardest cases -- to move them into housing immediately -- and only to worry about the other problems of the homeless after they first have a roof over their heads. A 2004 profile in The Atlantic nicely summarized Tsemberis' ideas: "Offer them (the homeless) the apartment first, he believes, and you don't need to spend years, and service dollars, winning their trust."

The Abolitionist: Bush's homelessness czar has some new ideas. Will liberals listen? (DOUGLAS MCGRAY, JUNE 2004, The Atlantic)

With his dark tailored suits and his silver banker's coif, Philip Mangano looks like a liberal Democrat's idea of a conservative Republican's idea of an advocate for the poor--which, as the Bush Administration's homelessness czar, he happens to be. It is difficult to imagine Mangano fasting on the Capitol steps in a ratty Army-surplus jacket, as the late activist for the homeless Mitch Snyder once did, much less winning over the bleeding hearts in the nonprofit world by promising to apply the President's governing philosophy to their cause. But the latter is precisely what he does. "Any investment we make will be research-and-data-driven, performance-based, and results-oriented," I heard him declare on a cold March morning in New York City, to a gathering of social workers and housing advocates. It is something he has said again and again.

Mangano's message is as pure an example as can be found in government of "compassionate conservatism," which argues that traditionally liberal social concerns can be advanced through such conservative principles as responsibility and accountability. Though this was the centerpiece of George W. Bush's 2000 presidential campaign, the "compassion agenda" heralded in the President's inaugural address seemed to dissolve in the face of partisanship, underfunding, and an all-consuming foreign policy. What was once a unifying theme is now likely to be invoked by his rival as evidence of Bush's hollowness. "What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith, but has no deeds?" John Kerry recently asked an audience in Jackson, Mississippi, quoting from the Book of James. Mangano is nevertheless making a compelling case for compassionate conservatism in an unlikely field.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


'A.I., Captain': The Robotic Navy Ship of the Future: Defense contractor Leidos' Sea Hunter is the first of a new class of warships that use artificial intelligence in place of a crew.(Aaron Pressman, May 22, 2019, Fortune)

When it was first put in the water in 2016, Sea Hunter was a slick gray beast, fierce-looking and intentionally tough to board. The ship lacked not just the interior amenities to house a crew, like sleeping quarters, a galley, and bathrooms, but also handrails along the sides and padding on the deck for traction. The Navy, after all, had asked for an autonomous ship that could track enemy submarines and resist boarders. But when the testers from Leidos launched its very first trips along the Columbia River in Oregon, it became apparent that they needed to add handrails and an anti-skid coating on the deck for safer human boarding. There's also a small, bolted-on pilot's cabin for shelter and some metal rails for connecting gear. Cook, the senior program manager, says some of the additions make him cringe. "It's like a roof rack on a Corvette," he says.

But without them, it would have been all but impossible for the engineers to come aboard and fix the engine two years later, while tossing on the high seas. In under an hour, Crabtree and the Navy engineers restarted the craft, tracing the problem to an easily corrected software setting.

While the airborne drones commonly used by the military are piloted by remote control, and some autonomous under­water craft use computer-controlled collision avoidance programs, Sea Hunter was designed to achieve an even higher level of self-control--a challenge not unlike that designing autonomous vehicles. Though sea traffic is nowhere near that of highway driving, the stakes of an error are significantly higher. And there are no road signs, traffic lanes, or dividing lines for the software to track. Cook, a self-described "autonomy snob," says, "I think a [self-driving] car is easier."

Leidos designed Sea Hunter to meet the fundamental rules of human ship-to-ship encounters, which require that a ship follow different procedures depending on its features and functions. Typically, one ship is to stay on course and the other is to give way. But the priorities differ for sailboats vs. powerboats, the direction of the wind, and many other criteria. Sea Hunter uses sensor data from cameras and radar to assess any other craft it encounters and properly choose the correct maneuver.

Some of the largest savings achieved by unmanned vessels come from long missions. Sea Hunter could remain at sea for weeks, voyaging from California to Hawaii and back almost twice without returning to base. The fiberglass hulled boat isn't meant for the front lines of battle but could serve as a prototype for future autonomous ships built with a variety of materials and missions in mind.
I was the Navy that sought the big test--an ocean crossing with "no human hands on"--to prove that the concept of unmanned vessels was ready for a much bigger push. After Sea Hunter passed with flying colors, the Navy Department issued requests in April for the design of truly combat-ready medium-size and large-size (up to 300 feet long) unmanned surface vessels. Says Rear Adm. Ronald Boxall, director of surface warfare for the Navy: "We're looking for a mix of ships that gives us the most lethality per dollar." Unmanned ships are "in a research and development phase right now, but they could cross into an operational procurement phase relatively quickly when we think we're ready."

June 2, 2019

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Trump proposes the biggest tax hike in 30 years (Courtenay Brown, 6/02/19, Axios)

If Trump's 5% tariff on Mexican goods takes effect later this month, the president's trade policies would constitute a bigger tax hike than Bill Clinton's in 1993.

A growing economy invites immigration.  Only a declining one can preserve precious racial hygiene.

Posted by orrinj at 7:05 PM


'No middle ground.' Bernie Sanders jabs Joe Biden at California Democratic Party convention (HANNAH WILEY, JUNE 02, 2019, Sacramento Bee)

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders told a California Democratic Party convention Sunday that America's best path forward is to the left.

Speaking to a crowded room of Bernie supporters, the Vermont senator said that in order to advance a "political revolution," Democrats must not settle for 'middle ground' on issues ranging from environmental policy to cutting prescription drug prices.

Uncle Joe, who has been ceded the middle ground by both parties.

Posted by orrinj at 6:56 PM


Mulvaney: Request to Hide McCain Ship During Trump Visit Was "Not an Unreasonable" Ask (DANIEL POLITI, JUNE 02, 2019, Slate)

Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney defended the request that came from the White House to hide the USS John S. McCain during President Donald Trump's visit to Japan. It was not "an unreasonable thing to ask," Mulvaney said.

Pity the poor Trumpbots, continually left defending their hero even after he stops pretending.

Posted by orrinj at 6:18 PM


Poll: A majority of American Jews disapprove of Trump's handling of Israel relations (Jacob Kornbluh,  June 2, 2019, The Hill)

On the president's handling of U.S.-Israel relations, a majority -- 54 percent -- disapprove of his conduct, including 45 percent who strongly disapprove. Only 36 percent approve.

The poll numbers contrast with the views of Israeli Jews, who overwhelmingly agree with Trump's handling of the U.S.-Israel relationship -- 79 percent approve while 10 percent disapprove.

Posted by orrinj at 9:13 AM


Democracy for Every Israeli and Palestinian. It's Not Hard (Gideon Levy, Jun 02, 2019, Ha'aretz)

Israel is stuck in neutral. Everything is at a standstill. So it's time to fantasize, to dream about a general election, but a different kind, a dream about democracy. It won't happen soon, but one day it will. Israel will have to become a democracy because it doesn't have the right to exist otherwise.

Without real elections, it's not a democracy. What it imagines as democratic is an electoral trick. A fundamental rule in democracies is the universal right to vote. One person, one vote. Equality. There's no democracy without that. There's no such thing as democracy in installments for one ethnic group or one geographic area.

If the United States decided to deprive the southern states of the right to vote, it would cease being democratic. If Germany did the same against the country's Jews, it would again be declared a threat to humanity.

Elections in Israel aren't general elections and so they're not democratic. The country can continue to masquerade as the only democracy in the Middle East. A new law letting the Knesset override Supreme Court decisions could represent the final declaration of the end of Israeli democracy. The end of the masquerade.

If adjoining towns are distinguished by their right to vote in elections that determine the fate of both, that's not democracy. If the West Bank settlement of Itamar goes to the polls, but not the West Bank Palestinian city of Nablus, that's not democracy. If the Jews of the West Bank town of Hebron vote in elections but the Palestinian residents of Hebron don't, that's apartheid. It's that simple and that's how things are.

Posted by orrinj at 9:06 AM


Barr's Playbook: He Misled Congress When Omitting Parts of Justice Dep't Memo in 1989 (Ryan Goodman, April 15, 2019, Just Security)
On Friday the thirteenth October 1989, by happenstance the same day as the "Black Friday" market crash, news leaked of a legal memo authored by William Barr. He was then serving as head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC). It is highly uncommon for any OLC memo to make headlines. This one did because it was issued in "unusual secrecy" and concluded that the FBI could forcibly abduct people in other countries without the consent of the foreign state. The headline also noted the implication of the legal opinion at that moment in time. It appeared to pave the way for abducting Panama's leader, Gen. Manuel Noriega.

Members of Congress asked to see the full legal opinion. Barr refused, but said he would provide an account that "summarizes the principal conclusions." Sound familiar? In March 2019, when Attorney General Barr was handed Robert Mueller's final report, he wrote that he would "summarize the principal conclusions" of the special counsel's report for the public.

When Barr withheld the full OLC opinion in 1989 and said to trust his summary of the principal conclusions, Yale law school professor Harold Koh wrote that Barr's position was "particularly egregious." Congress also had no appetite for Barr's stance, and eventually issued a subpoena to successfully wrench the full OLC opinion out of the Department.

What's different from that struggle and the current struggle over the Mueller report is that we know how the one in 1989 eventually turned out.

When the OLC opinion was finally made public long after Barr left office, it was clear that Barr's summary had failed to fully disclose the opinion's principal conclusions. It is better to think of Barr's summary as a redacted version of the full OLC opinion. That's because the "summary" took the form of 13 pages of written testimony. The document was replete with quotations from court cases, legal citations, and the language of the OLC opinion itself. Despite its highly detailed analysis, this 13-page version omitted some of the most consequential and incendiary conclusions from the actual opinion. And there was evidently no justifiable reason for having withheld those parts from Congress or the public.

Posted by orrinj at 9:05 AM


June 1, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 7:40 PM


In January, Virginia GOP killed bill to ban sales of large-capacity magazines (Robert McCartney June 1, 2019, Washington Post)

A Virginia bill designed to ban sales of large-capacity magazines similar to those used by the Virginia Beach gunman died in committee in January on a party-line vote.

The fate of the legislation, SB1748, was so widely expected that the outcome drew virtually no public attention. For more than 20 years, Republicans and a few rural Democrats in the General Assembly have killed almost every measure aimed at restricting gun ownership.

The GOP blocked a major push for gun control after the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings, where 33 people died. 

They exist to kill people.

Posted by orrinj at 5:41 PM


Democratic Frontrunner Joe Biden Gets a D-Minus from Greenpeace, But No One Cares (Andrew Stiles, May 31, 2019, Free Beacon)

Biden tied for dead last in the rankings, along with former Gov. John Hickenlooper (D., Colo.) and Rep. Tim Ryan (D., Ohio), two of the random white dudes who are, for some reason, running for president. Another random white dude, Gov. Jay Inslee (D., Wash.) topped the field with a grade of A-minus. Inslee is essentially running a single-issue, climate-focused campaign.

All you need to know about Donald and his minions is that Uncle Joe is to his right on economics, law enforcement, the environment and foreign policy.

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How Rory Stewart went from 'Florence of Belgravia' to PM hopeful: The MP has taken a roundabout route to power - and drawn admiration and derision along the way (Esther Addley,  1 Jun 2019, The Guardian)

It would take a bold speculator to back Stewart for anything other than crushing defeat. And yet in the past week the MP has been capturing attention and praise with a campaign that is as idiosyncratic as he is. Stewart, now international development secretary, has embarked on a whistlestop tour of the country, chatting to shopkeepers in Warrington and students in Edinburgh, visiting a mosque in Woking and exchanging "rusty" Dari with Afghans in Barking.

His many media interviews, meanwhile, in which he has surgically outlined why he would rule out a no-deal Brexit (he is the only candidate to do so), have won broad and sometimes surprising support from left and right. Columnists in the Spectator have praised his "refreshing ridiculousness" and argued he can "save the Tories". Writers in the Guardian have praised him for putting "principle before power" and suggested he could come through the centre ground as a surprising winner. The scientist Brian Cox and Gary Lineker are admirers.

Why? "He is the very opposite of a career politician who has spent his life in the Westminster bubble," says Stewart's friend the documentary producer Jemima Khan, "and he is not afraid to get out and speak to people and to listen.

"The skills that a leader most needs right now ... are common sense, logic, diplomacy and pragmatism - not hyperbole, jingoism and wishful thinking."

"It's clear that he is talking to people - young people, people who are disaffected with politics or who haven't voted Conservative recently - in a way that other people aren't," argues Victoria Prentis, one of the MPs backing him.

Stewart's talent, she says, is that he "reaches the parts other Tories can't"; it is a phrase, word for word, that one used to hear about Johnson.

If the two men certainly have plenty in common - prep school, Eton, Oxford (where Stewart, like Cameron, did PPE) - Stewart has a much more eccentric biography than the man he describes, damningly, as "a very talented journalist". The son of a senior MI6 officer who would wake the young Roderick at 6am to practice fencing in Hyde Park, he grew up in Hong Kong and Malaysia and "a classic small country mansion" in the Scottish Borders.

He was a summer tutor to princes William and Harry, served briefly in the British army, and worked for the Foreign Office in Indonesia and Montenegro (about which he offers baroque denials that he was a spy). He walked for two years across Asia, part of which took in a traverse of part of Afghanistan in 2002, which led to a bestselling book, The Places In Between.

He has worked as the deputy to a US "governate coordinator" of an Iraqi region, been a lecturer at Harvard, and run a small NGO in Kabul. He has been the subject of a well-received play in London, been profiled by Time Magazine and (unmissably) the New Yorker, and has sold the film rights of his Afghanistan book to Brad Pitt's production company. In 2008 Esquire declared him one of the 75 most important people of the 21st century.

Posted by orrinj at 3:31 PM


Revoke Ilhan Omar's Marriage Fraud Immunity Card (MICHELLE MALKIN, June 1, 2019, daily Wire)

In Texas last week, 96 people were indicted on federal charges of conspiring to defraud our immigration system by arranging phony unions between American citizens and sham spouses in Vietnam.

In Bridgeport, Connecticut, three men pleaded guilty to participating in fraudulent marriages with noncitizens and sponsoring them for green cards under false pretenses.

At Fort Bragg in North Carolina last month, two soldiers and two African immigrants were indicted by a grand jury related to a scheme involving an entire ring of service members who attempted to match female soldiers with foreigners from Ghana and Nigeria. They each face between 15-35 years in federal prison and $250,000 in fines each.

In Alabama, an Indian national pleaded guilty to arranging 80 fake marriages using U.S. citizen recruits to bail out Indian foreign nationals who had overstayed their visas or Student Exchange Visitor Program requirements.

You wouldn't know it from the radio silence of Democratic leaders regarding radioactive Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar's long-festering and bizarre bigamy scheme (which she still refuses to address), but marriage fraud is a federal felony.

She's right that it's an outrage that green card marriage is a felony.  It's a mitzvah, not a crime.

Posted by orrinj at 3:29 PM


DONALD TRUMP'S WAR ON CARS IS PUSHING THE US CLOSER TO A RECESSION: New taxes on Mexican goods would be the latest blow to automakers, and would come at a precarious time (Sean O'Kane, Jun 1, 2019, The Verge)

The tariffs are on "all goods" coming to the US from Mexico, but they'd likely hit the auto industry hard. If they escalate to the 25 percent cap Trump proposed, and the automakers absorb the entire cost so as not to pass it onto consumers, it could cost General Motors (GM) $6.3 billion, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) $4.8 billion, and Ford $3.3 billion, according to a Deutsche Bank estimate. While it's unlikely that automakers will eat the entire cost, the figures help explain what's at stake. By the end of Friday, the threat of the tariffs alone had already wiped out about $17 billion of market value from the world's biggest automakers.

It is the Green New Deal.

Posted by orrinj at 11:51 AM


Nikki Haley heads to Iowa as White House chatter grows: 'She's going down the checklist' (Andy Shain, May 31, 2019 Post and Courier)

Since leaving the United Nations last year, Nikki Haley's moves have been closely watched for signs that the former South Carolina governor will run for the White House in 2024.

A new advocacy group, a new book and a series of high-profile speaking engagements were seen as steps toward a presidential bid.

Now Haley is heading to Iowa.

"You go to Iowa for one reason -- and it's not for the food," said Rick Tyler, a top aide in Texas Sen. Ted Cruz's 2016 presidential campaign. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:44 AM


Nunes demands public release of Mueller's 'backup and source documentation' (KYLE CHENEY, 05/31/2019, Politico)

Rep. Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, called Friday for the public release of all of special counsel Robert Mueller's "backup and source documentation," a call that goes even further than most Democrats' demands for more transparency around Mueller's report.

Everything he's done in this investigation has backfired....no reason to stop now.

Posted by orrinj at 7:18 AM


Watchdog says Iran in compliance with 2015 nuclear deal (SBS, 6/01/19)

The UN atomic watchdog says Iran continues to stay within the limitations set by the nuclear deal reached in 2015 with major powers, though its stockpiles of low-enriched uranium and heavy water are growing.

In a confidential quarterly report distributed to member states, the International Atomic Energy Agency said Iran has stayed within key limitations set in the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA.

Posted by orrinj at 7:16 AM


Justice Dept. Keeps Wiretaps Secret in Flynn Case, Rejecting Judge's Order (Adam Goldman, May 31, 2019, Washington Post)

 Federal prosecutors rebuffed a judge's order to release by Friday highly classified transcripts of discussions that Michael T. Flynn, the president's former national security adviser, had with the Russian ambassador during the presidential transition.

The transcripts between Mr. Flynn and Sergey I. Kislyak, formerly Russia's top diplomat in the United States, were expected to show that they talked in December 2016 about sanctions that the Obama administration had just imposed on Russia. Mr. Flynn initially denied those exchanges about sanctions both to Trump administration officials and the F.B.I. in the weeks after the discussions.

The conversations prompted concerns among senior Obama administration officials about whether the Trump transition team was flouting norms about holding off on making policy until after taking office. The phone calls were also at the center of the scandal that eventually prompted Mr. Flynn's ouster just weeks into President Trump's term.

The order this month from the judge, Emmet G. Sullivan of the Federal District Court in the District of Columbia, was unusual. The transcripts came from a secret F.B.I. wiretap of Mr. Kislyak, and their release would have provided an extraordinarily rare look at the fruits of the government's eavesdropping. Agents routinely listen to wiretaps of foreign officials, but they remain among the government's most closely held secrets.

Posted by orrinj at 7:05 AM


The Era Of An Error: a review of The Passing of an Illusion: The Idea of Communism in the Twentieth Century by Francois Furet (Michael Ignatieff, August 9, 1999, New Republic)

Fascism shared the same furious hatred of the bourgeoisie, the same loathing for bourgeois civility and order and profit and prudence, the same intoxication with political violence and ideological extremism. Furet treats communism as fascism's brother- enemy. He observes that Hitler never stinted in his respect for Bolshevik fanaticism. As he told Herman Rauschning in 1934, "there is more that binds us to Bolshevism than separates us from it... The petit bourgeois Social Democrat and the trade-union boss will never make a National Socialist, but the communist always will." But whereas communism saw itself as the self-conscious bearer of the universal values of 1789, fascism explicitly rejected the universal in favor of the nation and the individual. If communism was, in Furet's phrase, "the pathology of the universal," fascism was "the pathology of the national." Both ideologies hated each other, in Furet's words, "not only for what separated them but also for what made them alike."

They also shared a similar eschatology. Both conceived the public sphere as a place deserted by religion, "as a pure creation of human will." Fascism filled the public square with a ranting demagogue, communism with the tramping feet of the workers. Both wanted to turn the public sphere from the realm of politics into the realm of spectacle, from the deliberative sphere of citizens into the circus of true belonging. Both fascism and communism loathed mere democracy as much as they loathed mere accumulation. Both hated moral and political individualism: the idea that a nation's destiny should depend on the sovereign judgment of separate individuals.

It's why Trumpbots can excuse everything he does: our values have become irksome.

Posted by orrinj at 5:19 AM

WE ARE ALL DESIGNIST (profanity alert):

It's ghost slavery': the troubling world of pop holograms (The Guardian, 1 Jun 2019)

For the music journalist and author Simon Reynolds, the wave of hologram tours is an affront to the core notion of live performance. "To what extent are these performances in any real sense?" he asks. "A performance - whether showbiz entertainment or performance art - is by definition live, involving the unmediated presence of living performers, whereas the hologram tours are 'un-live' and involve non-presence.

 It's unfair competition: established stars continuing their market domination after death and stifling the opportunities for new artists
"On an ethical and economic level, I would liken it to a form of 'ghost slavery'," he continues. "That applies certainly when done without the consent of the star, [but rather] by the artist's estate in collusion with the record company or tour promoter.