July 21, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 11:33 AM


Meet the woman who ties Jeffrey Epstein to Trump and the Clintons: Heiress Ghislaine Maxwell paved the way to presidents. (BEN SCHRECKINGER and DANIEL LIPPMAN 07/21/2019, Politico)

Maxwell first grew close with the Clintons after Bill Clinton left office, vacationing on a yacht with Chelsea Clinton in 2009, attending her wedding in 2010, and participating in the Clinton Global Initiative as recently as 2013, years after her name first emerged in accounts of Epstein's alleged sexual abuse.

"Ghislaine was the contact between Epstein and Clinton," said a person familiar with the relationship. "She ended up being close to the family because she and Chelsea ended up becoming close." (Lawyers for Maxwell did not respond to requests for comment, and a spokesperson for Clinton disputed the idea that the two women were ever close.)

Trump's ties to Maxwell and her late father, the publishing tycoon Robert Maxwell, meanwhile, go back even further, to at least the late 1980s.

"He really likes her," said Steven Hoffenberg, a former mentor to Epstein who pleaded guilty in 1995 to running a massive Ponzi scheme, of Trump and Maxwell. "He was friendly with her father."

In the 1980s, Trump and Robert Maxwell, the Czech-born owner of London's Daily Mirror tabloid, rubbed shoulders on the high-flying Manhattan party circuit.

An item from a May 1989 gossip column placed Trump and both Maxwells together at a party aboard the elder Maxwell's yacht, named the Lady Ghislaine, that featured caviar flown in from Paris and former Republican senator John Tower of Texas. The item notes that Trump compared his own larger yacht with Maxwell's.

As it happened, Trump's yacht, the Trump Princess, had originally belonged to the Saudi arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi (uncle of the slain Washington Post contributor Jamal), and Maxwell's yacht had originally belonged to one of Adnan's brothers. [...]

Virginia Roberts Giuffre, a former changing room attendant at Mar-a-Lago who has accused Epstein of sexually abusing her as a minor, alleges in a lawsuit that she was first approached at the club in 1998 by Ghislaine Maxwell, who convinced her to meet Epstein and joined him in the abuse. Maxwell has denied wrongdoing.

Posted by orrinj at 9:24 AM


Battle for the Senate Coming Down to Five Key Races (Josh Kraushaar, July 21, 2019, National Journal)

The battle for the Senate is coming down to five states where Republicans are defending seats: Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Maine, and North Carolina. If Democrats can't hold Sen. Doug Jones's seat in ruby-red Alabama--a very difficult task--they'll need to win at least four of those five races. (Should Trump win reelection, they'll need a clean sweep.)

Georgia and Texas, once seen as compelling opportunities, are looking further out of reach for Democrats. And despite GOP dysfunction in Kansas and strong Democratic fundraising against Mitch McConnell in Kentucky, those conservative states are still heavily favored to elect Republicans next year.

But the GOP's standing in the traditional swing states is looking more tenuous. The prospect of a Democratic sweep isn't out of the question, especially given the polarized nature of the electorate. If Democrats simply carry the states where Trump is viewed unfavorably, they'd win at least 50 Senate seats.

Down the ballot, Morning Consult's latest round of polls measuring the approval ratings of sitting senators should also concern Republicans. While most senators boast net-positive approval ratings, three Republicans up in 2020 are in precarious shape.

That list includes Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who has long enjoyed strong bipartisan support even in tough political times. She now holds the highest disapproval rating in the country. Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina has the lowest approval rating of any senator, according to the survey. Sen. Cory Gardner, running in the bluest state of any Republican up in 2020, is viewed favorably by only 37 percent of Coloradans.

The two other swing-state GOP senators aren't faring much better. Sen. Martha McSally of Arizona holds a 40-37 job approval-disapproval rating, a sign of vulnerability. And Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa, despite her reputation as a popular figure back home, holds a tenuous 42-38 approval-disapproval rating.

Just as importantly, Donald was carried in 2016 by the underticket, where Republican governors and congressional candidates out-polled him, but dragged along enough party-line voters to save him.

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New Zealanders hand over 10,000-plus guns and weapons parts in buyback scheme (SBS, 7/21/19)

Owners have until December 20 to hand in their weapons and the government has set aside NZ$208 million (A$200 million) to compensate them for up to 95% of the original cost.

The buyback comes four months after a lone gunman with semi-automatic weapons attacked Muslims attending Friday prayers in Christchurch on New Zealand's South Island, killing 51 people.

More than 2,000 people have surrendered 3,275 firearms, 7,827 parts and accessories and in return authorities have paid them slightly more than NZ$6 million (A$5.76 million) since the buyback began last Saturday, a police spokesperson told Reuters by telephone on Sunday.

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NASA's Next 50 Years : A half-century after Apollo, the agency risks irrelevance. It's time for a real -- and different -- mission.  (Robert Zubrin, Summer 2019, New Atlantis)

NASA deserves a lot of credit. A space agency funded by 4 percent of the world's population, it is responsible for launching 100 percent of the rovers that have ever wheeled on Mars; all the probes that have visited Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto; nearly all the major space telescopes; and all the people who have ever walked on the Moon. But while its robotic planetary exploration and space astronomy programs continue to produce epic results, for nearly half a century its human spaceflight effort has been stuck in low Earth orbit.

The reason for this is simple: NASA's space science programs accomplish a lot because they are mission-driven. In contrast, the human spaceflight program has allowed itself to become constituency-driven (or, to put it less charitably, vendor-driven). In consequence, the space science programs spend money in order to do things, while the human spaceflight program does things in order to spend money. Thus, the efforts of the science programs are focused and directed, while those of the human spaceflight program are purposeless and entropic.

This was not always so. During the Apollo period, NASA's human spaceflight program was strongly mission-driven. We did not go to the Moon because there were three random constituency-backed programs to develop Saturn V boosters, command modules, and lunar excursion vehicles, which luckily happened to fit together, and which needed something to do to justify their funding. Rather, we had a clear goal -- sending humans to the Moon within a decade  -- from which we derived a mission plan, which then dictated vehicle designs, which in turn defined necessary technology developments. That's why the elements of the flight hardware set all fit together. But in the period since, with no clear mission, things have worked the other way.

Neither the space shuttle nor the International Space Station were designed as parts of any well-conceived plan to send humans to the Moon or Mars. Insistence that they be included as part of such programs only served to make them infeasible. More recently, other constituencies in NASA have made demands that any expedition to the Moon or Mars make use of new hobbyhorses, including variously a space station or asteroid fragment in lunar orbit, or high-powered electric propulsion, none of which are necessary, desirable, or arguably even acceptable for near-term human exploration.

NASA's current plan for the "Lunar Gateway" space station (formerly known as the Deep Space Gateway, and then until a few months ago as the "Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway," or LOP-G -- I am not making this up) is a case in point. If you want to understand the merit of this project, consider a business proposition where you are offered a chance to rent an office in Saskatoon. Under the terms proposed, you will need to pay to build the office building and agree to a thirty-year lease at $100,000 per month rent, with no exit clause. In addition, you will need to spend one month per year in Saskatoon and travel through Saskatoon on your way to anywhere else for the rest of your life.

That, in a nutshell, is the Gateway project. It will cost a fortune to build and a fortune to maintain, and it will add to the propulsion requirements and timing constraints of all missions to the Moon and Mars that are forced to stop there -- as they surely will, since otherwise the pointlessness of building it will be revealed to the public. It is not an asset but a liability, or rather an entitlement, created for no other purpose but to provide a mechanism to drain agency funds to NASA's largest contractors.

This is unacceptable. NASA's space program is our space program. It does not belong to the major aerospace contractors, or even to NASA's management. It belongs to us. That some of the money NASA's human spaceflight office throws around on useless projects might end up in the hands of entrepreneurial space companies is not enough. The American people deserve a space program that is really going somewhere. We are paying for it. We have a right to insist on real results.

The mission needs to come first. The NASA human spaceflight program needs a clear, driving goal, which should be to initiate a permanent human presence on the Moon and Mars within a decade. Such a deadline is as necessary as a defined destination, because without it, the goal has no force, and activities will continue to be directed by the entropic pressure of vendors or political constituencies, rather than by the alleged purpose.

Rather than continue paying for endless cost-plus contracts to "develop" things with no real purpose, NASA needs to set clear goals and contract for services to support those goals. So, for example, let's say enabling human lunar exploration is the goal -- as it currently supposedly is. NASA should put out a request for proposals to industry for systems to deliver cargos to the Moon, and astronauts round-trip, offering to match development costs dollar for dollar and to award a certain number of missions to the best bidders. Whoever got such a contract would be strongly incentivized to minimize development cost and time because they would be paying half the cost out of pocket and would not start making a profit until actual missions began.

Mr. Zubrin is always worth reading and this is no exception.  One of the best reasons to launch such a mission is to break us out of our current self-absorption feedback loop and turn our attention beyond ourselves.  There's a great bit in the 13 Minutes to the Moon podcast where Neil Armstrong (I think) is talking about going on a world tour after reaching the moon and instead of people congratulating him or America they all marvel at what "we" did.

Posted by orrinj at 7:37 AM


Hymn society tournament reveals 'greatest hymn of all time' (Adelle M. Banks, 7/19/19, RNS)

 "Holy, Holy, Holy!" has been chosen in a March Madness-like tournament as "the greatest hymn of all time."

The Hymn Society in the United States and Canada announced the winner on Thursday (July 18), the last day of its annual conference in Dallas.

"Some matchups were real nail-biters, while in others one hymn blew its opposition out of the water!" reads a Thursday post on the society's Facebook page. "Yesterday was the final round and we can safely say that the Greatest Hymn of All Time -- as chosen by you -- is: Holy, Holy Holy!!!"

More than 800 people, mostly members of the 1,200-member Hymn Society, voted on the society's website, on Facebook and, in the last rounds, in person at the conference during the competition that featured brackets similar to the springtime NCAA basketball tradition.

Hymn experts said it was fitting, if not surprising, that "Holy, Holy, Holy!" -- which trounced "Amazing Grace," 70% to 30% in the second round -- defeated its musical challengers.

Christopher Phillips, author of the 2018 book "The Hymnal: A Reading History," said "Holy, Holy, Holy!" is "something of a natural champion among hymns of various eras.

"The words and music have a stately, majestic quality, something many worshippers want to associate with the traditional hymn repertoire," he said.

Phillips, a professor at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania, added that the hymn's tune by English clergyman John B. Dykes is one of the 19th century's best. The words by Anglican bishop Reginald Heber, he said, "are an elegant way of affirming the basic belief in the Trinity that unites most Christian denominations regardless of other doctrinal differences."

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We ran a second-half baseball sim and here are the results (Nando Di Fino, Jul 16, 2019, The Athletic)
I don't remember how I discovered OOTP Baseball, but I was instantly hooked. To the point where I'd get yelled at for spacing out and getting lost in the game as I ran my team into the year 2023, overseeing a World Series champion Padres team that featured Jedd Gyorko (the lone holdover), League MVP Miguel Sanó, José Berríos, and an aging Stephen Strasburg.

I made trades, I hoarded minor leaguers, I fired my head scout and manager in 2018 and replaced them quickly for the first of three title runs in four years. And it was awesome. But there was another real-life element that I quickly discovered.

A prospect named Christian Walker was my starting first baseman in fictional 2018, and was putting up monster numbers -- to the point where I felt the need to trade away my incumbent, Anthony Rizzo, for prospects. It got Walker on my fantasy radar, I grabbed him in real-life dynasty leagues... and here we are, several years later, when he's an impact first baseman for the Diamondbacks.

There were other prospects who popped up on my fantasy radar thanks to playing OOTP several seasons into the future. And some final-year stats for established players in the fictional universe were great, too -- everything from unexpected players hitting 40-plus home runs to Cy Young awards for previously unheralded pitchers. When it came close to fruition in real life the next year, I took notice.

So I dropped the OOTP developers a note and asked if they'd run a sim for the second half of this season for us -- with the idea being that maybe the process would unearth some surprise performances fantasy players could dig deeper on. There were plenty, along with some weird splits for a few players and a devastating injury for a jinxed closer.

Away we go...

Posted by orrinj at 7:24 AM


A Surprising Reason Your Health Care Costs More in Retirement (ELIZABETH O'BRIEN, July 10, 2019, Money)

Health care is one of retirees' biggest expenses, but it's not just because older people tend to access more medical services. Even if you never visit the doctor, your insurance bill will be higher in retirement than it was when you were working, according to a new analysis.

That's because retirees pay a bigger share of their premiums under Medicare than they did under their employer's health insurance. Employers generally subsidize around 75% of their employees' health insurance premiums, leaving employees responsible for just a quarter of the monthly costs, according to HealthView Services, a Danvers, Mass.-based company that provides health care cost data to financial advisors.

In retirement, however, you're responsible for 100% of your Medicare premiums. And that often comes as a surprise.

Posted by orrinj at 6:55 AM


How Trump's 2020 reelection strategy could work -- but probably won't (Harry Enten, 7/20/19, CNN)

[T]rump's really trying to thread the needle here. A lot of things can go wrong.

His net approval rating remains negative (currently -9 points), as it has throughout a presidency in which he has focused on hardline immigration policies and racial resentment.

Further, Trump's Republican Party lost the 2018 midterm elections, which were held under similar conditions as today. Trump's net approval rating was -9 points in the 2018 exit poll. The result was that Trump's Republican Party lost 40 House seats and the House popular vote by 9 points.

In the final weeks of that cycle, Republicans were not helped by Trump continuously pointing out in the final weeks of that campaign that migrants were coming up through Central America. Voters who decided in the final month of the 2018 campaign were as likely to vote Democratic as those who decided before then.

It remains unclear if Trump can compensate his unpopularity by demonizing the Democratic nominee this time around.

And remember, Trump also risks raising turnout among nonwhite voters. That's not a big deal in a state like Wisconsin, which is very white. It could, however, take Sunbelt states moving to the left, like Arizona and Texas, and put them into play for the Democrats.

If either Arizona or Texas go blue, it opens up a lot of electoral college paths for the eventual Democratic nominee.

Even in '16, he managed to lose to the least popular nominee ever, other than himself, Trump and Clinton Finish With Historically Poor Images (LYDIA SAAD, 11/08/16, Gallup)

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton head into the final hours of the 2016 presidential campaign with the worst election-eve images of any major-party presidential candidates Gallup has measured back to 1956. Majorities of Americans now view each of them unfavorably on a 10-point favorability scale, a first for any presidential standard-bearer on this long-term Gallup trend. Trump's image is worse than Clinton's, however, with 61% viewing him negatively on the 10-point scale compared with 52% for her.

Once he does for GOP competitiveness in FL, AZ & TX what Pete Wilson did to CA maybe the GOP will come to its senses.

Posted by orrinj at 6:47 AM


Bill Buckley and the Jews (Jonathan Tobin, 3/03/08, JewishWorldReview.com)

In order to give life to that movement, Buckley specifically chose to rid its ranks of people who espoused the sort of anti-Semitism that once was inescapable on the American right.

Buckley would himself acknowledge that prejudice was a presence in his own home growing up. And as a youngster, Buckley admitted that he was a fan of Charles Lindbergh and his "America First" movement, whose flirtation with anti-Semitism was of a piece with its advocacy of appeasement of Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany.

But as National Review took flight in the late 1950s, anti-Semitic writers found themselves on the outside looking in. So, too, did apologists for the extremist John Birch Society.

But despite the fact that his conservatism was one that was informed by his own Catholic faith (something that was consistently made clear in the pages of National Review), Buckley made his journal, and by extension, the movement for which it served as an unofficial bible, off-limits to the anti-Semitism that was commonplace in the world in which he grew up.

Though he didn't always agree with all of its policies, Buckley was also a consistent supporter of Israel. A staunch anti-Communist, he was also deeply supportive of the movement to free Soviet Jewry at a time when many in this country (including some Jews) were loath to speak out because it might be interpreted as opposition to a policy of detente with Moscow.

Long after he chased the Birchers out of NR, Buckley found himself forced to confront the issue again. When longtime colleagues Pat Buchanan and Joseph Sobran used their bully pulpits on the right to bash Israel and stigmatize Jews for their support for the state, it was again Buckley who took on the haters.

Buckley repudiated Sobran's writing, which he labeled anti-Semitic, and pushed him off the magazine's masthead.

As the issue continued to percolate in the aftermath of the Persian Gulf war in December 1991, he devoted an entire issue of the magazine to an essay titled "In Search of Anti-Semitism" (which was also the title of the book he later published on the same subject), in which he took on Buchanan, who was preparing an insurgent run for the White House against the first President Bush.

His conclusion was damning: "I find it impossible to defend Pat Buchanan against the charge that what he did and said during the period under examination amounted to anti-Semitism, whatever it was that drove him to say and do it," Buckley wrote.

Though Buchanan would continue to snipe away on television, it was largely Buckley's doing that he and others like him would do so from outside a perch in one of our two major parties rather than inside it.

How William F. Buckley, Jr., Changed His Mind on Civil Rights: The man who boasted he purged the conservative movement of 'kooks' and bigots was once a strong defender of racial discrimination--even violence. What changed? (Alvin Felzenberg, 5/13/17, Politico)

When the conservative editor and intellectual William F. Buckley, Jr., ran for mayor of New York in 1965, he may have been the first conservative to endorse affirmative action, or, as he called it, "the kind of special treatment [of African Americans] that might make up for centuries of oppression." He also promised to crack down on labor unions that discriminated against minorities, a cause even his liberal opponents were unwilling to embrace. Buckley pointed out the inherent unfairness in the administration of drug laws and in judicial sentencing. He also advanced a welfare "reform" plan whose major components were job training, education and daycare.

In 1969, in his capacity as founding editor of National Review, launched a decade and a half earlier as a "conservative weekly journal of opinion" that stood in opposition to the dominant liberal ethos of the time, Buckley toured African-American neighborhoods in Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles and Atlanta organized by the Urban League and afterward singled out for special praise "community organizers" who were working "in straightforward social work in the ghettos." In an article in Look magazine months later, Buckley anticipated that the United States could well elect an African-American president within a decade, and that this milestone would confer the same reassurance and social distinction upon African Americans that Roman Catholics had felt upon the election of John F. Kennedy. That, he said, would be "welcome tonic" for the American soul.

This Buckley, who emerged in the years after 1965, bore little resemblance to the one who, eight years earlier in 1957, had penned an editorial he titled "Why the South Must Prevail"--in which he declared the white race the more "advanced" race and, as such, the most fit to govern. What happened in those eight years that sparked this change in attitude and policy advocacy on Buckley's part? How did a man who later proclaimed his greatest legacy was keeping the conservative movement free of bigots, kooks and anti-Semites move past a nakedly racist editorial like that?

It was the convergence of political shifts--particularly in the South, where the more genteel, states' rights-focused politicians were giving way to more overtly racist, populist demagogues--and his own personal introspection, rooted particularly in his religious faith and his own intellectual concerns about the integrity of conservatism. Buckley's evolution makes for important context today, particularly in the wake of the 2016 election. As Republican standard-bearers struggle with how to discourage the alt-righters and white nationalists and new wave of populists that Donald Trump's campaign apparently surfaced, they might do well to pay attention to how exactly Buckley began his search and how he charted out a new course for conservatism at a time when polarization over civil rights threatened to tear the GOP apart.

"Why the South Must Prevail" is shocking to the 21st century reader. The piece put National Review on record in favor of both legal segregation where it existed (in accordance with the "states' rights" principle) and the right of southern whites to discriminate against southern blacks, on the basis of their "Negro backwardness." The editorial defended the right of whites to govern exclusively, even in jurisdictions where they did not constitute a majority of the population.

In the same op-ed, Buckley concluded that as long as African Americans remained "backward" in education and in economic progress, Southern whites had a right to "impose superior mores for whatever period it takes to affect a genuine cultural equality between the races." In defense of his position that whites, for the time being, remained the "more advanced race," Buckley pointed to the name a major civil rights organization, The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People had adopted for itself as evidence that its founders considered its constituents "less advanced." He offered no guidance as to how blacks might attain what he called "cultural equality," save for by the sufferance of the white population.

It's important to understand how Buckley rationalized such thinking because it's at the root of his later transformation. National Review justified its position on the grounds that whites were "the more advanced race," and as such were "entitled to rule." Buckley, the author of the editorial, made no mention of the role Southern whites had played, through the social and legal systems they had put into place, in keeping Southern blacks from rising to the point where he--or their white neighbors--would consider them "advanced" and therefore eligible to participate in the region's governance. He went so far as to condone the violence whites committed to perpetuate segregation.

National Review's opposition to federal civil rights legislation put it at odds not only with self-proclaimed "modern Republicans" such as Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon. (In 1957, years before he adopted the southern strategy, Nixon was one of the highest-profile defenders of civil rights in the Republican Party). But it also put him at odds with conservative Republicans, whom the magazine supported editorially, such as Senate Minority Leader William Knowland, the 1957 Civil Rights bill's primary sponsor.

Buckley's 1957 opposition to legislative and other attempts to enforce Brown vs. Board of Education, the 1954 Supreme Court decision that declared segregated schools unconstitutional, betrayed more than a defense of the rights of states to impose segregation and unequal treatment of citizens, but also his reservations about democracy's capacity to enhance freedom. In a subsequent editorial of "clarification," Buckley proposed in the name of racial equality an alternative to disenfranchising all African Americans on account of their race: All states should disenfranchise the uneducated of all races. He saw no reason to confine such practices to the South. In Buckley's view, too many ignorant people were being allowed to vote elsewhere.

As he contemplated the merits of the franchise and to whom to extend it, Buckley had restated views he had advanced while a student at Millbrook, his preparatory school. In a term paper he had written for his headmaster, Buckley maintained that uneducated voters might be manipulated by demagogues into surrendering some of their freedom in exchange for benefits raised through taxation of the citizenry. In staking out this position, Buckley was taking his place in a long line of conservative theorists beginning as far back as Aristotle, who saw in such democratic practices the roots of tyranny.

It was these intellectual currents that turned Buckley away from the Southern politicians of the time--and toward his reversal on civil rights.

Posted by orrinj at 6:44 AM


Russia's Secret Intelligence Agency Hacked: 'Largest Data Breach In Its History' (Zak Doffman, 7/20/19, Forbes)

Red faces in Moscow this weekend, with the news that hackers have successfully targeted FSB--Russia's Federal Security Service, making off with 7.5 terabytes of data which exposed secret projects to de-anonymize Tor browsing, scrape social media, and help the state split its internet off from the rest of the world. The data was passed to mainstream media outlets for publishing.

A week ago, on July 13, hackers under the name 0v1ru$ reportedly breached SyTech, a major FSB contractor working on a range of live and exploratory internet projects. With the data stolen, 0v1ru$ left a smiling Yoba Face on SyTech's homepage alongside pictures purporting to showcase the breach. 0v1ru$ then passed the data itself to the larger hacking group Digital Revolution, which shared the files with various media outlets and the headlines with Twitter--taunting FSB that the agency should maybe rename one of its breached activities "Project Collander."

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What most Americans are looking for in a new home: solar panels (EILLIE ANZILOTTI, 7/21/19, Fast Company)

Proponents say that mandating rooftop solar will cause the cost of installations to drop even further and also potentially encourage more innovation in distributed solar and home energy storage. In preparation for an influx of solar from rooftop installations, grid utilities might also be forced to make much-needed upgrades to energy distribution infrastructure.

And there's another benefit to the rooftop solar mandate proponents cite that's harder to quantify: its influence on public opinion. Requiring rooftop solar on new homes normalizes it. The idea is that if homeowners in older buildings see solar installations go up on new homes, they might be more persuaded to switch their own energy systems to renewable. And it's likely that the increased visibility of home solar installations might make people more amenable to supporting larger-scale policy shifts in favor of renewable energy.

Though this public-opinion ripple effect is difficult to quantify, a new study from CITE Research, a market research firm for communications campaigns, finds evidence that it's already happening. In a nationally representative poll of 2,000 people, 70% said that they would support a version of California's rooftop solar policy being mandated nationwide.

"We've seen all the surveys about general support for solar," says David Bywater, CEO of Vivint Solar, a residential solar installation company that commissioned the survey. He nods specifically to a 2016 Pew Research study that found 89% of Americans supported expanding rooftop solar. But the fact that support for a national mandate around rooftop solar is nearly as high shows that public sentiment is translating into policy. "In a lot of cases, people might say that California's policy is the big hand of government overreaching," Bywater says. "But it's actually what the people want."

...is the belief that Democrats are backing the 30% position, when, actually, the GOP is.  It's how we got killed by health care in 2018.

Posted by orrinj at 6:23 AM


Novak Djokovic's epic final reveals flaws in a two-set stroll meriting an equal purse (Andrew Anthony, 21 Jul 2019, The Guardian)

[A]t Wimbledon this year the winner of the men's title Novak Djokovic earned £2.3m, while the winner of the women's title Simona Halep got exactly the same amount. It has been a principle for a number of years now that there is no difference in men's and women's pay at the top of tennis. So normalised has it become that to question the policy is to immediately occupy the misogynistic position - and who but some unreconstructed neanderthal wants to do that?

Well, here goes: there is something wrong about equal pay, at least in the four grand slam tournaments. The problem was exemplified in this year's respective Wimbledon singles finals. Djokovic took four hours and 57 minutes to beat Roger Federer in an epic match that tested every aspect of the two competitors: skill, stamina, mental strength, you name it.

Halep, by contrast, finished her match against Serena Williams in just 56 minutes. That is more than four hours less time than the men's final. The Romanian played the match of her life and deserved to win. But still, 56 minutes? You don't book Centre Court by the hour. One reason for the disparity is that in grand slam events, men play the best of five sets. But the women play the same as they do in any other tournament on the circuit: the best of three sets.

...they'd advocate having them compete against each other on equal terms.

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July 20, 2019

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Polishing the Nationalist Brand in the Trump Era (Jennifer Schuessler, July 19, 2019, NY Times)

 Amy Wax, a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania who was removed from teaching first-year students last year after writing an article questioning the abilities of black students, offered what she called "the cultural case" for reduced immigration.

She defended President Trump's vulgar comment last year disparaging immigration from certain countries, to laughter and applause. And she dismissed the idea that immigrants somehow became American simply by living here, which Ms. Wax (borrowing a term used by white nationalists and self-described "race realists") mocked as the "magic dirt" argument.

There's no reason that "people who come here will quickly come to think, live and act just like us." she said. Immigration policy, she said, should take into account "cultural compatibility."

"In effect," she said, this "means taking the position that our country will be better off with more whites and fewer nonwhites."

Turns out, you can judge a person by the color of their skin, not the content of their character, if you're a Nationalist.

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This "virtual power plant" made of solar and batteries means Oakland can stop burning jet fuel (ADELE PETERS, 7/19/19, Fast Company)

When the demand for electricity surges in Oakland, California, a power plant burning jet fuel switches on, pumping pollution into the western part of the city. But the plant will soon close--and will be replaced in part by a network of solar panels and batteries installed in affordable apartment buildings in the area.

"If it's a really hot summer day, and everyone has their air-conditioning on and demand for electricity is really high, we can work with [the grid operator] to discharge those batteries and provide electricity to the grid so that another fossil fuel power plant doesn't have to turn on to serve that demand," says Audrey Lee, vice president of energy services at Sunrun, the company that is building the new "virtual" power plant.

At the jet fuel plant, the plant's owner will install another massive battery system that can take electricity from the grid when demand is low and then release it when it's needed. Other battery storage systems in the area will also help. But the installation at apartment buildings is a unique way to solve the problem. The power will go first to the low-income families living in the buildings, then fill the batteries, with any excess electricity going back into the general grid. The system will be ready in 2022.

Posted by orrinj at 5:34 PM


Buckley and Me: An Immigrant's Journey into American Conservatism (EMINA MELONIC, July 6, 2017, National Review)

You could say that I always had conservative tendencies. But I prefer to call them American. I was born and grew up in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Up until the start of the Bosnian war (the Siege of Sarajevo began in April 1992), I lived an ordinary life like most people there. That is, if you consider living in Communist Yugoslavia normal. The Soviet Union it was not, but neither was it "socialism with a human face."

I was born a Muslim, and for the most part I considered myself a cultural and ethnic Muslim rather then a fully practicing one. I began to think more deeply about my identity only once the war began. Muslims were targeted and eliminated. The Bosnian war brought the phrase "ethnic cleansing" into the public sphere.

As much as I was close to death more times than I'd care to remember, I was spared. I left my home by the end of 1992 in a convoy of women and children bound for a refugee camp in the Czech Republic.

Having spent almost four years in the camp, I did not want to go back to Bosnia. I was set on coming to America, and so I applied through the refugee resettlement program. My application was rejected and, out of both anger and desire, I wrote an appeal. That was a success, and I found myself on American soil in May 1996, just a few months shy of my 17th birthday.

Parallel to my geographic travels and constant uprooting was an odyssey of the mind. In many ways, books saved my life and kept me from being overcome by the darkness of my painful memories.

As I got older, I found myself navigating through the world of politics. Everything was political then, trending toward the absurd. On the surface, I subscribed to many of the liberal theories du jour. University space has a way of leading you into that abyss of identity politics, political correctness, and the worst offender of them all, collectivism. And yet, I was growing more and more restless. I was always interested in the order of things. By nature, I am a seeker of the True, the Good, and the Beautiful, and I found myself increasingly surrounded by acts that were contra naturam.

Then I discovered William F. Buckley, Jr.

Sadly, were he alive today, WFB would be apologizing for helping to make Donald possible, just as he had to apologize over civil rights and Anti-Semitism on the Right.
Posted by orrinj at 5:14 PM


Posted by orrinj at 5:05 PM

ALL RACE, ALL THE TIME (profanity alert):

Trump Employs an Old Tactic: Using Race for Gain (Peter Baker, Michael M. Grynbaum, Maggie Haberman, Annie Karni and Russ Buettner, July 20, 2019, NY Times)

Over decades in business, entertainment and now politics, Mr. Trump has approached America's racial, ethnic and religious divisions opportunistically, not as the nation's wounds to be healed but as openings to achieve his goals, whether they be ratings, fame, money or power, without regard for adverse consequences.

He was accused by government investigators in the 1970s of refusing to rent apartments to black tenants (he denied it but settled the case) and made a name for himself in the 1980s by championing the return of the death penalty when five black and Hispanic teenagers were charged with raping a jogger. They were later exonerated. He threatened to sell his Mar-a-Lago estate to the Unification Church in 1991 and unleash "thousands of Moonies" if city officials in Palm Beach, Fla., did not allow him to carve up his property.

Taking on competitors of his Atlantic City casinos, he questioned whether rival owners were really Native Americans entitled to federal recognition -- then later teamed up with another tribe when there was money to be made. With his eye on the White House, he opened a yearslong drive to convince Americans that President Barack Obama was really born in Africa.

His own campaign in 2016 was marked by slurs against Mexicans, a proposed Muslim ban and other furors. To deflect criticism, two campaign officials said they regularly positioned a supporter nicknamed "Michael the Black Man" so cameras would show him behind Mr. Trump at his rallies.

In the White House, Mr. Trump equated "both sides" of a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., referred to African nations as "shithole countries" and said Nigerian visitors to the United States would never "go back to their huts."

His political calculation, which got him elected, was that 20% of America is as racist as he is and most Republicans are reactionary enough to vote for him just because Democrats oppose him.

Posted by orrinj at 12:35 PM


Posted by orrinj at 12:26 PM


Trump's Attacks Will Not Stop Me (Salma Elsayed, July 20, 2019, The New York Times)

On Nov. 7, 2018, I woke up to some astounding news: Two Muslim women had been elected to the House of Representatives. And in my Queens district, a young progressive, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who had defeated our longtime congressman, went on to become the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. At that moment, seeing what women like me were able to achieve, I became convinced that my own political aspirations could become a reality.

This week, I watched in horror as President Trump escalated attacks on one of those new Muslim congresswomen, Ilhan Omar, at a campaign rally in North Carolina, including falsely accusing her of being a supporter of Al Qaeda, as audience members chanted "Send her back." Ms. Omar responded eloquently to his vicious attacks, tweeting, "I am where I belong, at the people's house and you're just gonna have to deal!" But I worry about those chants turning into something more sinister.

When I was growing up, I thought I wanted to pursue a career in medicine. I was surrounded by many women in medicine with a similar background to mine: My doctor was a Muslim woman, and many of the older Muslim girls I knew were aspiring physicians, nurses or pharmacists. There were no Muslim politicians for me to look up to, so I did not even consider that career path as an option.

Then in January 2018 I was invited to go to the Women's March with Seventeen magazine. I was 16 at the time and it was inspiring to meet everyday Americans turned activists, actresses, politicians -- some of them Muslim, like me. As I reflected on my experience at the march, I began to think that maybe I could be a force for change. I felt compelled to do something about the systems put in place that hurt me as a low-income, Muslim, Arab-American woman and others like myself. I wanted to help those both within and outside my community.

The future looks like the Squad, not the Proud Boys.

Posted by orrinj at 12:22 PM


Russians rally for independent candidates to stand in elections (Deutsche-Well, 7/20/19)

Thousands of people turned out in Moscow on Saturday to support the right of opposition candidates to be allowed to take part in elections to Moscow's city legislature, which are set to take place on September 8. The protest in the center of the Russian capital was organized by the country's Libertarian Party and had been authorized. The independent monitor "White counter" said 22,500 people attended the rally, while police put the figure at 12,000.

Protesters in the crowd chanted "Let them run!," "This is our city!" and "For free elections!"

Opposition politician Alexei Navalny was present, shaking protesters' hands and talking to the candidates who weren't registered. This issue is one of the rare ones to unite Russia's usually divided opposition.

Navalny made this point as he addressed the crowds: "Usually it is my exclusive right" not to be registered for elections, he joked, referring to the 2018  presidential elections in which he was not allowed to run. "But this has united us."

Navalny told journalists the mayor's office in Moscow would not be able to ignore such a huge crowd. He also insisted authorities could not ignore the huge number of people who planned to vote for independent candidates and had added their names to the signature lists the candidates need to collect to be registered.  

Posted by orrinj at 11:59 AM


Gulf crisis: story began with UK's seizure of Iranian-flagged ship in Gibraltar (Patrick Wintour, 20 Jul 2019, The Guardian)

[T]here were some oddities to the British decision. Few previous shipments of oil to Syria have been impounded. The Spanish claim that the British acted under the instruction of the Americans. The Trump administration is trying to freeze all Iranian oil exports as part of its policy of maximum economic sanctions designed to force the Iranians to reopen talks on the nuclear deal signed in 2015.

But Britain opposes that US policy, arguing that it is counterproductive and only likely to strengthen the hands of hardliners in Tehran.

Carl Bildt, the former Swedish prime minister and co-chair of the European council on foreign relations, pinpointed the ambiguities of the British action in Gibraltar: "The legality of the UK seizure of a tanker heading for Syria with oil from Iran intrigues me. One refers to EU sanctions against Syria, but Iran is not a member of the EU. And the EU as a principle doesn't impose its sanctions on others. That's what the US does."

To the Iranian eye, the British action had nothing to do with an EU embargo, and everything to do with an desire to support the US squeeze on Iranian oil exports, the quickest route to bringing the Iranian economy to its knees. Some reports estimate that Iranian exports are down to 200,000 barrels a month.

Britain's efforts to extricate itself started to emerge at the weekend, when Jeremy Hunt, the foreign secretary, rang his Iranian opposite number, Javad Zarif, and said the ship could be released if there was an undertaking that the ship would no longer travel to Syria.

But trust between Hunt and Zairif is low: Zarif feels let down by Hunt on a range of bilateral issues, including the case of Nazaninin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the Iranian dual national imprisoned in Tehran.

Posted by orrinj at 9:47 AM


Donald Trump in new attack on Sadiq Khan with Katie Hopkins retweet (Mark Townsend, 20 Jul 2019, The Guardian)

Donald Trump has retweeted the British far-right commentator Katie Hopkins and launched another attack on Sadiq Khan.

Referring to a message from Hopkins that the Met's Twitter account had been targeted by hackers on Friday night, in which she said officers had "lost control of London streets" and "lost control of their Twitter account too", Trump tweeted: "With the incompetent mayor of London, you will never have safe streets!" [...]

Hopkins, who once wrote a column comparing migrants to "cockroaches" and "feral humans", was last week banned from speaking at Eastbourne's new conference center.

Earlier this month Trump retweeted a tweet from Hopkins in which she praised a number of far-right politicians and said "the fightback by proud nations is on".

Katie Hopkins condemned for blaming Pittsburgh Tree of Life synagogue shooting on 'Chief Rabbi's support for mass migration' (Ben Welch, 10/28/18, The JC)

Right-wing commentator Katie Hopkins has been condemnd for blaming the "Chief Rabbi and his support for mass migration" into Europe for the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting in which 11 died.

Robert Bowers, the suspected shooter, is purported to have kept a social media account that sent antisemitic messages in the hours before the attack.

Two days after the mass shooting stunned the Jewish communty, Ms Hopkins tweeted she was "watching the pin-the-blame on the donkey".

"Look to the Chief Rabbi and his support for mass migration across the Med," she wrote. "There you will find your truths."

Posted by orrinj at 6:58 AM


New Poll Shows Trump Losing Georgia And North Carolina In 2020 (Dan Desai Martin, July 19, 2019, National Memo)

Trump's monumental unpopularity is threatening his reelection chances in two red states in the deep south: Georgia and North Carolina. A PPP poll released Friday shows Trump losing both states to a generic Democrat.

In Georgia, Trump trails 50 percent - 46 percent, while his numbers in North Carolina are slightly worse, trailing 49 percent - 44 percent.

Seems like a very fine idea for him to drive up black voter turnout to help elect President Harris.

Posted by orrinj at 6:56 AM


Apollo 11: How we landed on the Moon: Explore the crucial 13 minutes that took humans to the Moon in 1969. (BBC World Service, 7/20/19)

Join us as we count down the final 13-minute descent from 18:45 GMT on Saturday 20 July

Download the story of the Apollo 11 mission with the 13 Minutes to the Moon podcast.

Posted by orrinj at 6:52 AM


Pakistan's former tribal regions vote in first provincial election (Jibran Ahmad, 7/20/19, Reuters) 

The former Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), a mountainous cluster of seven districts and six towns along the Afghan border that resisted efforts at outside control for hundreds of years, were merged into the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa last May.

The result of the vote for the provincial assembly is unlikely to have much direct impact on national politics or Prime Minister Imran Khan's government in Islamabad.

But the election marks a significant milestone for a region that has been a byword for unrest since before the days of the British rulers of India, who generally left tribal elders to administer their own justice in a system that continued after Pakistan gained its independence in 1947.

"It is a historic day," said Ajmal Wazir, the government's adviser on the tribal areas. "The polling process is continuing smoothly."

The elections will see 16 seats contested by 285 candidates from all the main national parties as well as independents. But the issue of how parliamentary democracy can be brought to a region that was for centuries governed by often harsh tribal custom has added uncertainty to the process.

There is no Pakistan; recognize their nation(s).

Posted by orrinj at 6:48 AM


What Crisis? The Case for Not Panicking Over Pension Debt.: New research released this week shows that even pension plans with big unfunded liabilities are likely to survive in the long term. (LIZ FARMER | JULY 19, 2019, Governing)

[A]ccording to research that debuted this week, lawmakers shouldn't worry too much about accumulating pension debt. "There's an assumption that fully funding pensions is the right thing to do," said the Brookings Institution's Louise Sheiner at the paper's presentation. "Most of the work in this area has been about calculating how unfunded these plans are [and] that's led to a lot of concern that these plans are in a huge crisis."

Sheiner, along with co-authors Byron F. Lutz of the Federal Reserve Board and Jamie Lenney of the Bank of England, say that's not the case. They argue that pension debt is stable as long as its size relative to the economy doesn't increase. "When you approach the pension situation from a public finance [and sustainability] angle," Sheiner said, "there's less of a crisis than is typically portrayed."

The paper, which was presented at the Brookings Institution's annual municipal finance conference in Washington, D.C., finds that pension benefit payments as a share of GDP are currently at their peak level and will remain there for the next two decades. That's because the 2008 market crash came at a time when pension plans were starting to see baby boomers retire, meaning they dropped in value just when payments to retirees were starting to increase.

By 2040, however, the reforms instituted by many plans following the financial crisis will gradually cause benefit cash flows to decline significantly. Since those changes were to current employees' plans, governments won't see the full effect of those savings until those workers retire.

All of this means that, according to the research, the worst of it is over for most pension plans. For the next 40 or so years, the ratio of pension debt as a share of the economy is expected to remain the same, as long as the plans achieve moderate investment returns and governments continue to make consistent payments equal to or slightly higher than they are now.

Posted by orrinj at 6:24 AM


UNDOCUMENTED WORKERS ARE ESPECIALLY VULNERABLE TO BORDER PATROL IN VERMONT: Recent arrests exemplify the danger that workers face in the supposedly progressive state. (ARVIND DILAWAR, 7/20/19, Pacific Standard) 

Provisions of the Constitution that prohibit "unreasonable searches and seizures" are effectively curtailed in border zones like Vermont. Within a 100-mile range of a border, Customs and Border Protection agents can detain, question, and search anyone without reasonable suspicion or a warrant; within a 25-mile range, they can additionally enter private land. In Vermont, many of Border Patrol arrests have specifically targeted workers in the dairy industry.

"Vermont is very dependent on milk," says Teresa Mares, an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Vermont. "It's the main agricultural commodity in the state. And it's an industry that's dependent on hiring workers from outside of the country."

In her recent book Life on the Other Border: Farmworkers and Food Justice in Vermont, Mares provides a snapshot of the state's dairy industry and its relationship with undocumented workers. Approximately 80 percent of the state's farmland is dedicated to supporting dairy production, which accounts for 70 percent of the state's agricultural sales. The industry provides up to 7,000 jobs and employs at least 1,000 Latinx migrants--90 percent of whom are thought to be undocumented. Dairy farms are reliant on these undocumented workers to fill a local labor shortage, and undocumented workers are attracted to dairy farms due to the stability of the year-round work, as compared to other seasonal farm work, and the relatively low cost of living, with farm owners often providing housing.

Despite the attraction of Vermont's dairy farms, the industry also poses unique threats to undocumented workers. As Mares highlights in Life on the Other Border, more than 90 percent of Vermont's residents live within 100 miles of the U.S.-Canada border and a significant number of the state's dairy farms are within the 25-mile range. In addition, Vermont is home to a relatively high density of Border Patrol stations--four, compared to zero in neighboring New Hampshire. These factors combined render many undocumented dairy farmworkers legally susceptible to immigration enforcement in an area where they have a relatively high likelihood of encountering Border Patrol officers, who are armed with extraordinary powers.

Besides their legal susceptibility, Vermont's undocumented dairy farmworkers are also especially vulnerable to racial profiling. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 94 percent of the state's residents identify as white, and in rural counties that are home to a significant number of dairy farms, such as Orleans, that figure is higher than 96 percent. The lack of diversity makes undocumented dairy farmworkers, who typically come from indigenous or Latinx backgrounds, hypervisible as people of color and, therefore, exposed to racial profiling.

Both location and demographics contributed to the arrests of three undocumented dairy farmworkers in Vermont last month. Newport, where they were arrested, is fewer than five miles from the border, meaning Border Patrol were able to stop and question them without probable cause or a warrant, and the workers' hypervisibility as people of color attracted Border Patrol's interest in the first place. While ICE declined to answer questions from Pacific Standard (Adrian Smith, ICE public affairs officer, would only state that "unlawfully present Mexican nationals ... were transferred to ICE custody from U.S. Customs and Border Protection"), a Border Patrol spokesperson told local newspaper Seven Days that the workers were pursued "based on information from a concerned citizen."

"The 'suspicious activity' here was nothing more than shopping while brown," says Will Lambek, staff member of Migrant Justice, a community organization for dairy farmworkers.

Posted by orrinj at 6:21 AM


Ilhan Omar on her 9/11 comments, Trump, and US-Saudi relations: The US politician discusses Donald Trump's defamatory statements against her, and his links to 'hostile' foreign states. (Al Jazeera, 20 Jul 2019 09)

Responding to Trump's accusations, Omar tells Al Jazeera: "Those [9/11] are horrific attacks. There's no question about it, that's not a debatable thing. Innocent Americans lost their lives that day, we all mourn their deaths ... And I think it's quite disgusting that people even question that and want to debate that."

Trump made the comments after Omar said Muslims in America have lost access to their civil liberties because they are collectively seen to be responsible for the attacks claimed by al-Qaeda.

"What is important is the larger point that I was speaking to," Omar clarifies, "which is about making sure that blame isn't placed on a whole faith, that we as Muslims are not collectively blamed for the actions of terrorists."

"I do not blame every single white person when we have a white man who massacres children at a school, or moviegoers in a movie theatre. And I think this really horrendous narrative that says, as a Muslim, I'm supposed to explain, apologise, for the actions of someone who's also terrorising me, is absurd."

Omar is critical of Trump's leadership and has supported calls for him to be impeached.

"I always said it wasn't the question of whether he should be impeached, but when. And we are seeing now so many people are coming to that conclusion," she says. "This president said he didn't see any problem in having a foreign, hostile government [Russia] intervene in our elections. He didn't understand how that could be a problem ... We do not accept information that is going to change the trajectory of our elections, from hostile governments."

Omar is vocal in her opposition to other US-foreign allegiances, including the relationship with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

"How can we make a decision to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia, knowing that they have been part of causing one of the most atrocious humanitarian crises in Yemen, when we know that they have a hand in what's happening right now in Sudan, what's happening in Libya, and the list can go on and on and on," she says.

"Our alliedship with Saudi Arabia and the Emirates is immoral. I believe that it is one of the most absurd alliedships; it doesn't fit with any of our values. When we think about what is in the interest of our national security, entrusting them to help us with that is like trusting a thief to watch over your shop. We know that they can't be trusted in that process."

Omar acknowledges the challenges posed by the current US administration, but believes the polarisation it creates has resulted in some positive side effects, including mass mobilisation of voters and the election of the most diverse Congress in US history.

July 19, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 7:17 PM


Prostitution Rumors or Porn Star Payoffs: What Was Hope Hicks Really Talking About?: New documents raise questions about what Trump's former aide told Michael Cohen. (Dan Friedman, 7/19/19, MoJo)

The unsealed affidavit does not flatly assert that the Hicks was part of a discussion about paying off Daniels. But it supported that possibility. On Thursday night, Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) wrote to Hicks and her attorney, Robert Trout, asking her to clarify apparent inconsistencies in her testimony "in very short order--but not later than August 15, 2019." Nadler said that unsealed material "raises substantial questions about the accuracy" of several of Hicks' claims.

In a statement Friday, Trout said that Hicks' testimony was accurate. "Reports claiming that Ms. Hicks was involved in conversations about 'hush money' payments on October 8, 2016, or knew that payments were being discussed, are simply wrong," Trout said. "Ms. Hicks stands by her truthful testimony that she first became aware of this issue in early November 2016, as the result of press inquiries, and she will be responding formally to Chairman Nadler's letter as requested."

Hicks previously offered more detail on the October 8 call with Trump and Cohen. During her June testimony, she said the call was about rumors she'd heard about "a tape involving Mr. Trump in Moscow with, you know--can I say this?...with Russian hookers, participating in some lewd activities." Hicks explained that she "wanted to make sure that I stayed on top of it before it developed any further, to try to contain it from spiraling out of control." She said she had heard that the gossip site TMZ might have "access to this tape," and she knew Cohen was friendly with TMZ founder Harvey Levin.

Posted by orrinj at 7:12 PM


Three Members of California-Based White Supremacist Group Sentenced on Riots Charges Related to August 2017 "Unite the Right" Rally in Charlottesville (Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Virginia, July 19, 2019)

Charlottesville, VIRGINIA - Benjamin Daley, Michael Miselis, and Thomas Gillen, members of the white-supremacist organization formerly known as the Rise Above Movement (RAM), were sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Charlottesville for violence they committed as part of their conspiracy to riot, including at the August 2017 Unite the Riot Rally in Charlottesville, and other alleged political rallies in California. The announcement was made by United States Attorney Thomas T. Cullen, Special Agent in Charge David W. Archey of the FBI's Richmond Division, and Colonel Gary T. Settle of the Virginia State Police.

Daley, 26, of Torrance, Calif., was sentenced today to 37 months in prison. Gillen, 25, of Redondo Beach, was sentenced to 33 months in prison. Miselis, 30, of Lawndale, Calif., was sentenced to 27 months in prison. A fourth defendant, Cole Evan White, will be sentenced at a future date. All four defendants previously pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to riot.

"These defendants, motivated by hateful ideology, incited and committed acts of violence in Charlottesville, as well at other purported political rallies in California," U.S. Attorney Cullen stated today.  "They were not interested in peaceful protest or lawful First Amendment expression; instead, they intended to provoke and engage in street battles with those that they perceived as their enemies.  I am grateful for the diligence and hard work of the FBI and Virginia State Police in bringing these violent white supremacists to justice."

Posted by orrinj at 6:59 PM


Why I Left Planned Parenthood: I believe abortion is about health care, not politics. Many of my colleagues disagreed. (Leana S. Wen, July 19, 2019, NY Times)

In my farewell message to colleagues, I cited philosophical differences over the best way to protect reproductive health. While the traditional approach has been through prioritizing advocating for abortion rights, I have long believed that the most effective way to advance reproductive health is to be clear that it is not a political issue but a health care one. I believed we could expand support for Planned Parenthood -- and ultimately for abortion access -- by finding common ground with the large majority of Americans who can unite behind the goal of improving the health and well-being of women and children.

When the board hired me to chart this new course, I knew that it would be challenging. Few organizations, let alone organizations under constant siege, accept change easily. Indeed, there was immediate criticism that I did not prioritize abortion enough. While I am passionately committed to protecting abortion access, I do not view it as a stand-alone issue. As one of the few national health care organizations with a presence in all 50 states, Planned Parenthood's mandate should be to promote reproductive health care as part of a wide range of policies that affect women's health and public health.

In fairness, it's like conservatives thinking the Tea Party wanted smaller government.

Posted by orrinj at 6:40 PM


Nativism Isn't New: 'The Guarded Gate' (Tom Deignan, July 17, 2019, Commonweal)

It is with such messy and complicated American realities in mind that we read Daniel Okrent's important new book. Its title refers to a nasty anti-immigrant poem by Thomas Bailey Aldrich, published in the august Atlantic Monthly in 1892--the very same year Ellis Island officially opened. Aldrich's verses ("Wide open and unguarded stand our gates, / And through them presses a wild motley throng /... In street and alley what strange tongues are loud, / Accents of menace alien to our air...") reflect the profound nativist sentiment of an era when as many as a million immigrants were entering the U.S. annually. The newcomers--largely Catholic and Jewish immigrants from central and eastern Europe--terrified the Protestant American establishment, particularly what Okrent calls the "Brahmin intelligentsia." These were men like one-time U.S. Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, who wrote in 1891 that it was time to "guard our civilization against an infusion which seems to threaten deterioration," or Boston school committee member Joe Lee, who declared "the Catholic Church a great evil," and feared Europe was being "drained of Jews--to its benefit no doubt but not ours."

The broader arc of The Guarded Gate traces the slow but steady merger of this long-standing American nativism with something new: scientific racism.

Okrent, best known as the first public editor of the New York Times, and the author of lively popular histories about Prohibition and Rockefeller Center, acknowledges his own personal connection to this material. His maternal grandfather, a physician, emigrated from Romania in 1922, managing "to slip in before the gates clanged shut two years later." Consequently, Okrent confesses that he "can't claim spotless objectivity as I tell the fateful story of how a perverse form of 'science' gave respectability to the drastic limits imposed on the number of Jews, Italians, Greeks, Poles, and various other eastern and southern Europeans seeking to come to America between 1924 and 1965." The Guarded Gate also explores the role Okrent's own publisher played in spreading many of this era's more heinous ideas: the 1916 publication of Madison Grant's seminal book, The Passing of the Great Race, made Charles Scribner's Sons "effectively the official publisher of the scientific racism movement," he writes.

The story of this "perverse science" is terrifying and complex, with a sprawling cast of characters, and Okrent's narrative occasionally feels a touch bumpy, zigzagging back and forth through decades, with characters disappearing and reappearing. Overall, though, The Guarded Gate exerts a chilling power. One would be hard-pressed to exaggerate either the breadth or the intensity of the anti-immigrant animus Okrent chronicles. Cabot Lodge and others insisted that the era's immigrants were "far removed in thought and speech and blood from the men who have made this country what it is." And it wasn't just the Brahmins. The editors of the Nation worried about the "foreign vote," the New York Times feared the scheming of a "secret Polish society" in Pennsylvania, and a mob in New Orleans was so blinded by rage they lynched eleven Italians in 1891.

Not content with vilifying immigrants whose misfortune it was to be impoverished devotees of minority religions, the nativists of the day were fired up by thinkers like Edward A. Ross, who rose to prominence, Okrent writes, via articles and books "expressing his belief that many of the immigrants coming into the United States early in the twentieth century were members of 'the lower races'--in truth, scarcely human." Once a scientific rationale for nativism was established, it was only a matter of time before the political class responded--with the notorious Johnson-Reed Act of 1924, which targeted what our current president might call the "shithole countries" of the day, radically reducing Catholic and Jewish immigration to the U.S. "America of the Melting Pot Comes to an End," the New York Times blared in April of 1924.

The story doesn't end there. Okrent's is just the latest book--others include Hitler's American Model by James Q. Whitman, and Hitler's American Friends by Bradley W. Hart--to highlight the significant contribution made by American eugenicists to what would become the Nazis' Final Solution. (Okrent also notes that the Johnson-Reed Act deprived thousands a place of refuge from the Nazis.) The Guarded Gate closes with a nod to the immigration reforms of 1965, which flung open America's gates once more.

It's no coincidence that abortionism and Nativism share the same roots and rationales.

Posted by orrinj at 6:38 PM


It's Going to Get so Much Worse (NOAH ROTHMAN, 7/18/19, Commentary)

The president's instincts in this moment were telling. Presidential reelection campaigns are typically base elections. Energizing reliable voters within the incumbent's existing coalition and depressing the opposition draws the straightest line between points A and B. As Trump's record in politics demonstrates, he has always seen his most racially toxic supporters as valid members of his base--not necessarily because they are racially toxic, but because he believes they are members of a broader forgotten class of Americans for whom he presumes to speak.

That's why Trump declined to denounce David Duke when he had the chance, only doing so when his reluctance became a scandal. It's why he indulged in Birtherism and legitimized Alex Jones and Infowars with campaign trail appearances. It's why he took on Steve Bannon, the self-described proprietor of a "platform for the alt-right," as his campaign chairman and chief strategist despite his lack of political experience. It's why he couldn't bring himself unequivocally to condemn violent white nationalists, one of whom murdered a woman in Charlottesville, Virginia.

There's an ugly condescension inherent in the unspoken assumption that repudiating bigotry might fracture the president's winning coalition of voters who are otherwise underserved by elite opinion-makers on the coasts, but there is no better explanation for Trump's politically foolish compromises. Trump's approach to constituency maintenance routinely manifests in the stoking of racial and class tensions, and there's no reason to expect that to abate when the presidency is on the line.

Posted by orrinj at 6:33 PM


Loudest Republican voice against 'send her back' in Wisconsin is a congressman from Trump country (Molly Beck, 7/18/19, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Wisconsin Republicans have tried their best to steer clear of the aftermath of President Donald Trump's use of a racist trope that led thousands of his supporters at a rally Wednesday night to chant "send her back" about a black Muslim congresswoman.

One exception is U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher, who represents -- of all places -- the heart of Trump country. 

"This is not a good look for the United States of America," Gallagher, of Green Bay, said in a video posted on his official Twitter account after characterizing as "abhorrent" the chant calling for the deportation of Democratic U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota. 

"We don't want to spend the next year engaging in this endless tribal warfare and Twitter nonsense because we're not going to get anything done, the problems are just going to continue to get worse and politics are going to become an exercise in the absolute absurd," he said.

Gallagher also was the only Wisconsin Republican to respond to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel request this week seeking reaction to a series of tweets in which Trump suggested Omar and three other Democratic congresswomen who are not white go back to the "crime infested places from which they came." 

You knew from his Remnant appearance he was one of our best hopes.

Posted by orrinj at 6:28 PM


US Anti-Apartheid Movement Helped Bring Change to South Africa (Chris Simkins, April 24, 2014, Voice of America)

It's been 20 years since the end of apartheid in South Africa, the system of racial segregation that curtailed the rights of black South Africans for decades. One of the strongest protest movements outside South Africa to dismantle apartheid was in the United States during the 1980s.

Television news images of the violent struggles to end apartheid in South Africa captured the attention of Americans in the 1980s.  

They also galvanized support for the U.S. anti-apartheid movement. Former U.S. Congressman Ron Dellums was one of the leaders of the movement.

"Challenging apartheid in South Africa became a logical next place to go," he said.

Dellums worked to expose the plight of South Africa's blacks along with the injustices carried out by the white minority government. Dellums introduced anti-apartheid legislation in Congress banning trade and investment in South Africa, and also led many demonstrations in which ordinary people and many celebrities were arrested.

"They went out there to put themselves on the line to say, 'Look if South Africans could be beaten and jailed the least we could do is go out there and experience some discomfort ourselves and be one with our sisters and brothers in the struggle to liberate them," he said.

Howard Dodson, director of the Howard University Library, remembers protesting with his son outside the South African consulate in Atlanta.

"The anti-apartheid activities in the United States actually reverberated around the world leading other people to develop their own demonstration activities and that was probably as critical to the overthrow of apartheid as anything else that was going on," he said.

Students also protested on university campuses - calling on schools and corporations get rid of their investments in South Africa.

1st Session
H. RES. 496

Affirming that all Americans have the right to participate in boycotts in pursuit of civil and human rights at home and abroad, as protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution.

July 16, 2019

Ms. Omar (for herself, Ms. Tlaib, and Mr. Lewis) submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary


Affirming that all Americans have the right to participate in boycotts in pursuit of civil and human rights at home and abroad, as protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution.

    Whereas boycotts have been effectively used in the United States by advocates for equal rights since the Boston Tea Party and include boycotts led by civil rights activists during the 1950s and 1960s in order to advocate for racial equality, such as the Montgomery bus boycott, and promote workers' rights, such as the United Farm Workers-led boycott of table grapes;

    Whereas Americans of conscience have a proud history of participating in boycotts to advocate for human rights abroad, including--

    (1) attempting to slow Japanese aggression in the Pacific by boycotting Imperial Japan in 1937 and 1938;

    (2) boycotting Nazi Germany from March 1933 to October 1941 in response to the dehumanization of the Jewish people in the lead-up to the Holocaust;

    (3) the United States Olympic Committee boycotting the 1980 summer Olympics in Moscow in protest of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the preceding year; and

    (4) leading the campaign in the 1980s to boycott South African goods in opposition to apartheid in that country;

    Whereas the Supreme Court, in the 1966 case Rosenblatt v. Baer, held that the First Amendment to the Constitution ensures that "[c]riticism of government is at the very center of the constitutionally protected area of free discussion";

    Whereas the Supreme Court held in the 1982 case NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware that "[t]he right of the States to regulate economic activity could not justify a complete prohibition against a nonviolent, politically motivated boycott ... .";

    Whereas the Supreme Court has recognized various activities as "expressive conduct" warranting constitutional protection, such as flag burning, wearing black armbands, silent sit-ins, and creating and designing custom wedding cakes; and

    Whereas despite this tradition, governments and nongovernmental organizations alike have sought to criminalize, stigmatize, and delegitimize the use of boycotts in an attempt to stifle constitutionally protected political expression: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives--

(1) affirms that all Americans have the right to participate in boycotts in pursuit of civil and human rights at home and abroad, as protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution;

(2) opposes unconstitutional legislative efforts to limit the use of boycotts to further civil rights at home and abroad; and

(3) urges Congress, States, and civil rights leaders from all communities to endeavor to preserve the freedom of advocacy for all by opposing antiboycott resolutions and legislation.

Posted by orrinj at 6:01 PM


Senator's speech on 'cosmopolitan elites': anti-Semitic dog whistle or poli-sci speak? (BEN SALES, JULY 19, 2019, JTA)

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., gave a speech condemning "cosmopolitan elites" and their plan to weaken America through their international network and their control of big business.

Hawley made the remarks Thursday at the National Conservatism Conference in Washington, D.C., a gathering of nationalist thinkers organized by Yoram Hazony, an American-Israeli professor.

Aside from referring to Jesus as a "Jewish rabbi," he didn't mention the Jews by name in the speech. But critics of the speech found parallels to the use of the term "rootless cosmopolitan," an anti-Semitic smear popularized by Joseph Stalin in the mid-20th century. Nazis also used "cosmopolitan" as an anti-Semitic term.

Said Hawley, "For years the politics of both Left and Right have been informed by a political consensus that reflects the interests not of the American middle, but of a powerful upper class and their cosmopolitan priorities. This class lives in the United States, but they identify as 'citizens of the world.' They run businesses or oversee universities here, but their primary loyalty is to the global community."

Posted by orrinj at 5:32 PM


Redditors Are Stapling Bread to Trees in Sheffield, England (MATTHEW TAUB, JULY 19, 2019, Atlas Obscura)

Sheffield, in truth, is only the most recent locale to become the focus of the subreddit "BreadStapledToTrees," or BSTT, in which people post and discuss photos of their staplings. The forum was actually launched in 2017 by a user who has since deleted his Reddit account. Nevertheless, the subreddit has accumulated some 213,000 members. According to prominent BSTT member I_Say_Fool_Of_A_Took (real name Andy Chamberlain), the founding user and his friend had originally envisioned a subreddit about "whole wheat bread stapled to trees," before they ultimately decided that was too specific. Soon, they opened the floor to...any kind of bread stapled to trees.

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...FROM MY COLD DEAD FACE (selfreference alert):

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Architect of Modern Nativism Dies, but His Ideas Hold Sway Under Trump (Noah Lanard, 7/19/19, MoJo)

When John Tanton, a Michigan ophthalmologist and environmentalist, launched the modern anti-immigration movement in 1979, he had a simple but radical goal: eliminate nearly all immigration to the United States. To do that, Tanton hoped to turn opposition to immigration into a high-minded cause embraced by people of all political persuasions. Charges of nativism, Tanton assumed, would sink his new endeavor.

On Tuesday, Tanton died at the age of 85. Despite his initial warnings about nativism, Tanton spent the last decades of his life issuing increasingly extreme warnings about immigrants of color and became a hero to white nationalists. It was fitting, then, that news of his death didn't spread until Wednesday evening, just as President Donald Trump was leading a reelection campaign rally on a platform of unabashed racism.

Under Trump, Tanton's once-fringe ideas have become the guiding philosophy of a White House obsessed with immigration. The Federation for American Immigration Reform, the group Tanton founded four decades ago, now has alumni in key posts across the federal immigration bureaucracy. And for the first time ever, all three immigration agencies are led by people who follow FAIR's playbook. Stephen Miller, the president's immigration guru, is a savvier and far more influential Tanton.

In a 1989 oral history, Tanton recalled that the two defining events of his childhood in Detroit were Pearl Harbor and the city's 1943 race riot. After leaving the city for a farm in the wake of the riot, Tanton grew up to be a conservationist. He took to population control activism with a convert's fervor after reading the Stanford biologist Paul Ehrlich's warnings about overpopulation.

Inspired by the ideas of the ecologist Garrett Hardin, Tanton came to see immigration as a neglected piece of the population puzzle. In his 1974 essay "Lifeboat Ethics: the Case Against Helping the Poor," Hardin proposed allowing people in the developing world to starve to death in the name of tough-love population control and criticized immigration because it "moves people to the food." 

Most Migrants at Border With Mexico Would Be Denied Asylum Protections Under New Trump Rule (Michael D. Shear and Zolan Kanno-Youngs, July 15, 2019, NY Times)

Long before a surge of migrants from Central America overwhelmed the southwestern border, the Trump administration was already waging a broad assault on the rules determining who can seek asylum in the United States.

But on Monday, the administration announced one of its most restrictive rules yet for a system, enshrined in international law, that Mr. Trump has called "ridiculous" and "insane."

In a move that would stop virtually all Central American families who are fleeing persecution and poverty from entering the United States, Trump administration officials said they would deny asylum to migrants who failed to apply for protections in at least one country they passed through on their way north.

The reason our Nativists insist that they only oppose illegal immigration is because they support eliminating legal immigration.

Posted by orrinj at 11:57 AM


Poll: Michelle Obama most admired woman in the world (JUDY KURTZ, 07/18/19, The Hill)

Michelle Obama is the most admired woman in the world, according to a new poll.

The former first lady led the pack in a survey released Thursday by market research firm YouGov.

Obama came out ahead of an array of high-profile women, besting Oprah Winfrey in second, actress Angelina Jolie, who came in third, and Queen Elizabeth II, fourth on the list.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Americans Continue to Support Puerto Rico Statehood (JUSTIN MCCARTHY, 7/19/19, Gallup)

Two in three Americans (66%) in a June Gallup survey said they favor admitting Puerto Rico, now a U.S. territory, as a U.S. state. This is consistent with the 59% to 65% range of public support Gallup has recorded for Puerto Rico statehood since 1962.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Donald Trump Hates America (David Brooks, July 18, 2019, NY Times)

In Trump's version, "American" is defined by three propositions. First, to be American is to be xenophobic. The basic narrative he tells is that the good people of the heartland are under assault from aliens, elitists and outsiders. Second, to be American is to be nostalgic. America's values were better during some golden past. Third, a true American is white. White Protestants created this country; everybody else is here on their sufferance.

When you look at Trump's American idea you realize that it contradicts the traditional American idea in every particular. In fact, Trump's national story is much closer to the Russian national story than it is toward our own. It's an alien ideology he's trying to plant on our soil.

Trump's vision is radically anti-American.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Allies play hard to get on U.S. proposal to protect oil shipping lanes (Sylvia Westall, John Irish, 7/19/19, Reuters) 

The United States is struggling to win its allies' support for an initiative to heighten surveillance of vital Middle East oil shipping lanes because of fears it will increase tension with Iran, six sources familiar with the matter said.

Donald's hatred of Muslims has the better of his isolationism, but there's no reason for our allies to play along. He hates them too.

July 18, 2019

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How Obamacare brought health coverage to the people, in four amazing charts (MICHAEL HILTZIK, JULY 18, 2019, LA Times)

There are many elements to the conservative mantra that the Affordable Care Act is a "disaster" -- it's too expensive, it doesn't cover all that many people, it's driven up costs for everyone, etc., etc. None of this is news to anyone who follows healthcare affairs. Nor is the fact that these criticisms all are either false or misleading.

A new study from the Society of Actuaries graphically shows how false and misleading. It documents the sharp rise in coverage and medical utilization in the individual health insurance market starting in 2014, when the ACA's insurance exchanges began operating. The actuaries also document that costs and utilization trends in the large- and small-group market -- health insurance provided by employers -- remained stable, fell, or continued trends that already existed before the advent of the exchanges.

The report, a collaboration with the Health Care Cost Institute (hat tip to David Anderson of Duke), is crystal clear about the reasons for the jumps in coverage and utilization. Chiefly, the launch of the individual exchanges resulted in a "surge of pent-up demand in both previously uninsured populations and previously uncovered services."

Simply put, many of the new entrants into the health coverage market had been uninsured "due to preexisting conditions," which had resulted in their being refused coverage or offered insurance at inordinately high premium rates. The ACA, moreover, mandated coverage of conditions that previously had been routinely excluded from individual health plans, notably maternity services.

Before the ACA, insurers in the individual market charged women of childbearing age sky-high premiums for policies including maternity coverage, on the perfectly fair assumption that they would probably use it. That discouraged the entry of those women into the insurance market. "Similarly, male members or other members not likely to give birth would select individual coverages that excluded maternity so as to pay a lower premium," the actuaries observe.

Under the ACA, the cost of maternity care is spread among the entire insurance pool. That gives younger women more financial incentive to buy coverage. In effect, non-pregnant buyers subsidize pregnancy. Despite the idiotic posturing of conservatives (including President Trump's own Medicare and Medicaid director, Seema Verma) that maternity coverage should be optional, this is plainly the proper policy, as the cost of propagating the species shouldn't be imposed exclusively on women aged 18-45.

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FBI documents point to Trump role in hush money for porn star Daniels (Jonathan Allen, Jonathan Stempel, 7/18/19, Reuters) 

FBI documents unsealed on Thursday suggest that Donald Trump was actively involved in engineering a hush-money payment shortly before the 2016 election to a porn actress who said she had a sexual encounter with him, as his personal lawyer Michael Cohen, campaign team and others scrambled to head off a scandal.

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Dartmouth professor who flew on NASA mission backs future exploration of space (LAURA EARLE, 7/18/19, Valley News)

 Fifty years ago Saturday, millions of Americans tuned in to watch the Apollo 11 lunar module land on the moon.

Thirteen-year old Jay Buckey, who grew up on Long Island, was one of those eager viewers. Watching Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin take those first steps on the moon, Buckey fell in love with space.

This childhood admiration grew into a lifetime commitment to NASA research and space exploration.

"I always thought that space was a very exciting thing and something I wanted to be a part of," said Buckey, a professor at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, medical director of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center's hyperbaric medicine program and director of its space medicine innovation laboratory.

In 1998, Buckey fulfilled his dream of going to space. As a payload specialist for the final Spacelab mission, he conducted a number of studies on how entering and leaving space affects the nervous system and brain. While the research couldn't be totally conclusive due to a lack of further studies, it did suggest that the presence of gravity is essential to certain aspects of development, such as balance and the nervous system, he said.

Buckey, a Hanover resident, still remembers the feeling of liftoff from NASA's Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Fla.

"It's very exciting. For launch morning, it's the first time I was in the space shuttle where it actually got turned on," he said.

Today, at 63, Buckey continues to conduct research for NASA. He also runs the clinical hyperbaric oxygen program at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. This treatment consists of a chamber with high-pressure levels of oxygen, which can help heal damaged blood supply. It's useful as therapy for people suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning, severe anemia or radiation injuries, among other major health problems. The program at Dartmouth-Hitchcock started because Buckey needed the chamber to study a bubble detector, a technology for detecting decompression sickness.

Posted by orrinj at 12:38 PM


Donald Trump Says He's 'Never Used Racist Remarks.' I Know Different.: His recent attacks on immigrants fit a pattern of bigoted behavior toward minorities I watched for years. (JACK O'DONNELL November 07, 2018, POLITIC0

We can go back to the start of his career in the early 1970s and the outrage he expressed when Trump and his father were charged by the federal government with discriminating against African-Americans in the rental housing they owned in New York City. Trump's response was to hire Roy Cohn, who then countersued, calling the Justice Department attorneys "storm troopers" and "Gestapo." The Trumps ultimately agreed to integrate their buildings, but the Justice Department acknowledged they never really complied. Because they didn't want to. As Donald saw it, and I remember him voicing a version of this idea within the inner circle of his executives on several occasions: "Blacks don't want to live with whites, so why isn't it OK for whites not to want to live with blacks?" I know that in similar fashion he despised the affirmative action guidelines (50 percent female and 30 percent minority at every level) we were required to implement to maintain our gaming license. He would say it was not realistic and a waste of money to train people who did not have the ability.

I recall one busy Saturday night, walking the cas[***]o floor with him, when he saw what he considered an inordinate number of black customers. "It's looking a little dark in here," he calmly stated. It was his way of telling me to limit our charter bus programs in urban neighborhoods. I ignored him and continued to run the business in the best interest of Donald, the bondholders and the employees.

His prejudices didn't stop at the color of one's skin. Everyone was subject to judgment. It could be their ethnicity, their gender, their religion. It could be their social "caste." Like the time we were speaking of the fiancée of one of our executives who had died in a tragic helicopter crash while returning to Atlantic City from a news conference with Donald in New York. The woman happened to be a cocktail server at the ca[***]o. Donald's take was, "Poor girl. Her ticket out was Jon. She got lucky. Now she will be serving drinks the rest of her life."

Sometimes his petty prejudices begat very public tirades. One day, he flew into a rage over a limousine driver who arrived to pick him up wearing gray shoes, soiling his image by "looking like a f------ Puerto Rican."

In 1988, shortly after I was promoted to president of Trump Plaza Hotel & Cas[***]o, he invited me up to New York for lunch. There was a lot to talk over one issue in particular: one of our senior managers, who happened to be African-American. Donald considered him incompetent and wanted him fired. When I acknowledged some shortcomings in the man's performance, he instantly became enthused. "Yeah, I never liked the guy," he said. "And isn't it funny, I've got black accountants at Trump Castle and Trump Plaza. Black guys counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day."

I was mortified. We were in a restaurant in Trump Tower. I worried he'd be overheard. But he went on, "Besides that, I've got to tell you something else: I think the guy is lazy, and it's probably not his fault because laziness is a trait in blacks. It really is. I believe that. It's not anything they can control."

Then, eyeing me closely, he said, "Don't you agree?"

When I told him in no uncertain terms that I did not, he swiped aside my objections with a chop of his hand. "Ah, it's a trait," he said.

Where did the bigotry come from? Was he possessed of some insatiable inner need for reassurance that there is a social order of which he occupies the pinnacle? Certainly, he was no less self-obsessed back then. No less brittle, mercurial, vindictive. I think it explains in no small part the reflexive ease with which he slinks into the most sordid identity politics whenever he feels threatened, as when he claimed the judge presiding over the federal lawsuits in the Trump University swindle, the American-born Gonzalo Curiel, was "Mexican" and therefore biased against him. He's suggested the same of any Muslim judge. Knowing Donald, I'm sure he wondered how a "Mexican" came to be a judge in the first place.

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Meet John Houbolt: He Figured Out How To Go To The Moon, But Few Were Listening (SCOTT NEUMAN, 7/18/19, NPR)

There was also a third way -- a dark horse candidate favored by a minority of engineers led by Houbolt at NASA's Langley Research Center. Lunar orbit rendezvous, or LOR, would require only one Saturn V and two smaller vehicles to go to the moon -- a mother ship to stay in lunar orbit, which came to be known as the command module, while a lightweight lunar module, designed solely to land and return from the lunar surface, made the descent.

The catch? Astronauts, circling the moon nearly a quarter of a million miles away from any possibility of rescue, would have to link up the two spaceships to get home.

To the NASA establishment, that sounded way too risky. Nearly all but Houbolt and his group of supporters at Langley dismissed it out of hand.

At the time, no one had ever done rendezvous or docking in space -- maneuvers that are considered the bread and butter of spaceflight today but that were daunting and untried concepts in the early 1960s.

"If rendezvous had to be part of Project Apollo, critics of LOR felt that it should be done only in Earth orbit," according to the NASA fact sheet. In case the maneuver was unsuccessful, the astronauts could easily return home. However, "if a rendezvous around the moon failed, the astronauts would be too far away to be saved. Nothing could be done," it said.

Houbolt believed the risks of LOR were manageable. And further, he was adamant that a rendezvous of two spacecraft in lunar orbit wasn't just one possible method for a moon mission, but the only one that had any chance of meeting Kennedy's nearly impossible deadline.

To Houbolt, it was a simple equation involving the need to save weight, time and money. Lunar orbit rendezvous accomplished all three. But despite the obvious advantages, Houbolt faced an uphill battle. "He got batted down by pretty much everybody," Launius says.

There was von Braun's opposition, but also vehement pushback from Faget, the Mercury capsule designer.

In one meeting attended by NASA Associate Administrator Robert Seamans, von Braun and Faget, Houbolt pitched LOR. After the presentation, Faget rose from his seat to denounce Houbolt's plan.

"His figures lie!" Faget proclaimed. Amid a stunned silence in the room, Faget added, "He doesn't know what he's talking about!"

The outsider gets a hearing

His idea for getting to the moon may have been roundabout, but Houbolt himself was direct. He was also an outsider among the group of engineers studying a moonshot.

"Houbolt was not part of the program, and that is really where a core issue comes into play," Launius says. "He went to his boss and his boss sort of shouted him down and said, 'What are you doing?' because he wasn't working in this area at all."

Frustrated with his inability to get anyone to listen, in November 1961, Houbolt wrote a letter to Seamans, essentially going straight to the top of the NASA hierarchy. The move was a breach of protocol that Houbolt acknowledged in the letter was "somewhat unorthodox." But, he insisted, "[the] issues at stake are crucial enough to us all that an unusual course is warranted."

"Do we want to go to the moon or not?" Houbolt asked rhetorically, challenging the administrator to act. "Why is Nova, with its ponderous size, simply just accepted, and why is a much less grandiose scheme involving rendezvous ostracized or put on the defensive?"

The letter got Seamans' attention.

"It was rather strident in the way it was written," the former NASA official recalled in a 2008 documentary. "My first reaction was, 'I'd like some way to get that son of a gun off my back.' "

In a reply to Houbolt, Seamans promised to put LOR into active consideration.

Months later, at a June 1962 meeting, von Braun unexpectedly reversed course and publicly announced that he was recommending lunar orbit rendezvous.

Despite their differences, Houbolt -- who left the space agency in 1963 -- was invited by von Braun to mission control in Houston to witness the historic Apollo 11 landing on July 20, 1969.

The BBC's Thirteen Minutes to the Moon podcast is terrific.

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Send Her Back! Send Her Back! (ANDREW EGGER, JULY 18, 2019, The bulwark)

If you think about it, the chant was more wretched even than Trump's own despicable attacks against Omar and her cohorts. At least Trump was merely urging Omar and her colleagues to leave of their own accord. The North Carolina crowd sounded thirsty for them to be thrown onto a trans-Atlantic barge in a sack.

In another way, however, the chants of "Send her back" and those of "Lock her up" are two sides of the same coin. Both are acts of deliberate transgression against what many Trump supporters have come to view as the supposedly stifling ethics of our cultural elites. But while such transgression may have started, in the minds of some, as a way of pushing back for unpopular truths, it is increasingly clear that many on the right these days just enjoy the transgression for the perverse pleasure of it. If "Send her back" is what's going to send those damn media types into a tizzy, you can bet that's what they're going to chant.

The danger here--besides the obvious repulsiveness of the chant itself--is that this accelerating culture of political transgression is like a ratchet that can only turn one way. For a critical mass of conservatives, it is a sign that a given act is actually praiseworthy and brave if it draws condemnation from the despised left-wing media. "Send her back" is a chant that might make some cringe today--but once it's been digested by the media cycle and the battle lines drawn, and it's been repeated at rally after rally, it will become, in the minds of Trump's fans, just another handy weapon for triggering the pearl-clutching libs.

At which point it will be stale. And they'll need a new, more baldly indefensible, transgression. And so on, and on, and on.

...of all this, is the eagerness with which decent America anticipates Donald dropping an "N"-bomb so we can all watch the Trumpbots defend that too.  We've all always known that Donald was a racist; watching our allies, friends, etc. reveal themselves to be so too is disheartening.  We thought we were better than this.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Once Trump Talked About 'American Carnage.' Now He Says Critics Should Leave. (Peter Baker, July 16, 2019, NY Times)

America stinks. At least that's what Donald J. Trump seemed to be saying before becoming president.

He did not believe in "American exceptionalism," he said, because America was not exceptional. Instead, it was a "laughingstock" that was no better than Vladimir V. Putin's Russia. By promising to make America great again, he made it clear that he believed it was not great anymore. [...]

Ben Domenech, a founder and publisher of The Federalist, a conservative online publication, said the debate of recent days reminded him of a "South Park" episode where the characters say that America has problems, but anyone who does not root for the home team should get out of the stadium.

"The president is doing the same thing, with an added tinge of xenophobia," said Mr. Domenech. "It's tribal, it ramps up the intensity of everything, but it plays both in his interest and the interests of the congressional members involved from their perspective."

Mr. Trump was less bothered by criticism of the United States in the years leading up to his election. He repeatedly said "our country is a laughingstock" and took issue with the term "American exceptionalism." In 2013, he praised Mr. Putin for an "amazing" Op-Ed in The New York Times that said the United States was not special and criticized Mr. Obama for asserting American exceptionalism.

Speaking on CNN, Mr. Trump said, "You think of the term as being fine, but all of a sudden you say, what if you're in Germany or Japan or any one of 100 different countries? You're not going to like that term. It's very insulting, and Putin really put it to him about that." As for whether Americans were exceptional, he said, "Why would we be?" citing the disastrous Iraq war.

He likewise rejected the term in 2016 as a presidential candidate when asked about his praise for Mr. Putin's Op-Ed. "And that's basically what Putin was saying, is that, you know, you use a term like 'American exceptionalism,' and frankly, the way our country is being treated right now by Russia and Syria and lots of other places and with all the mistakes we've made over the years, like Iraq and so many others, it's sort of a hard term to use," he said on Fox News.

During other interviews, he has said the United States was no better than Russia when it came to its moral values on the international front. During a conversation with Bill O'Reilly on Fox shortly after Mr. Trump took office, the host pointed out that "Putin's a killer." Mr. Trump replied by saying, "What, do you think our country is so innocent?"

Mr. Trump's affinity for Russia was so pronounced during the campaign that Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, now the Republican leader in the House, privately told colleagues that "I think Putin pays" Mr. Trump. Last year, Mr. Trump blamed poor relations with Russia on "many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity" -- to which the Russian Foreign Ministry then tweeted, "We agree."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump's Rally Seals It: "Send Her Back" Is the Official Position of the GOP (Jeremy Schulman, 7/18/19, MoJo)

Near the beginning of his campaign rally Wednesday evening, Donald Trump let loose a string of insults and smears against the four congresswomen of color who he'd previously said should "go back" to the countries they came from. All four lawmakers--Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts--are US citizens. All but Omar, who emigrated from war-torn Somalia as a child, were born here. Omar and Tlaib went on to become the first Muslim women to serve in Congress.

But Trump and his adoring fans in Greenville, North Carolina, don't think these members of Congress qualify as Americans. As the president did his best to link Omar to Islamic terrorists, the crowd broke into a chant of "Send her back, send her back." Trump paused his speech and basked in the moment. He seemed to realize he'd hit upon this election's version of the infamous "Lock her up" chant. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump invokes KKK slogan 'love it or leave it' at North Carolina rally (RASHIDA YOSUFZAI, 7/18/19, SBS)

"If they don't love it, tell them to leave it" - that was US President Donald Trump's message about four Democratic congresswomen at a rally in North Carolina, where supporters called for one of four female politicians - who was born overseas - to be "sent back".

"Let 'em leave," Mr Trump said of the four women. "They're always telling us how to run it, how to do this, how to do that. You know what? If they don't love it, tell 'em to leave it."

But the 'love it or leave it' line is an eerily familiar slogan of the Klu Klux Klan in North Carolina, according to Australian National University US politics expert Jennifer Hunt.

Dr Hunt, who grew up in North Carolina, said the "Love it or Leave it" slogan was used by the KKK years ago when it claimed to be fighting "communism and integration".

If it weren't tragic, it would be fun to watch just how much racism the Trumpbots are willing to defend. 
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Italy's far-right Salvini moves to round up Roma, Sinti (Deutsche-Welle, 7/17/19)

Roma, Sinti, and Camminanti are traditionally nomadic ethnic groups that have lived in Europe for hundreds of years.

According to the Council of Europe, Italy has one of the lowest concentrations of these groups in the EU, with a population of between 120,000 and 180,000, according to the AFP. More than half of these people are Italian citizens who have integrated into mainstream society, AFP claims.

Despite this, hate crimes and prejudice against Roma, Sinti, and Camminanti are rampant, particularly against the less fortunate, some of whom still live in unofficial settlements.

Some 26,000 members of these groups were living in emergency shelters or camps across Italy in 2017, according to the advocacy group Associazione 21 Luglio.

Salvini, who is also leader of the far-right Lega party, has called for non-Italians found amongst the Roma, Sinti, and Camminanti to be rounded up and sent back to their countries of origin.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Ethiopian-Israeli parents petition against Haredi schools' rejection of children (SUE SURKES, 7/18/19, Times of Israel)

A group of Ethiopian-Israeli parents has petitioned a court against the refusal of four ultra-Orthodox schools in Jerusalem to register their children for the coming school year.

One of the children has been offered a place in a school far from his home. The other three are without places. [...]

In previous years, the same four -- currently aged three to six -- have had to travel long distances for their education, with their families having to shoulder the transportation costs. One of the children spent an extra year in kindergarten because he was not accepted to one of the four schools, despite a professional opinion that he was ready to move up a year.

The petition was submitted after the parents appealed to the Jerusalem Municipality and the Education Ministry. According to the petition, officials from both bodies visited the schools in question and invited the parents and children to come, but did not invite them into the talks with senior school staff.

Largman said that the petition charged not only discrimination against the families but an almost complete absence of Ethiopian-Israeli children in the institutions, indicating a pattern of behavior.

July 17, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 6:41 PM


Posted by orrinj at 6:25 PM


The Cancer Is Spreading: Trump's racism isn't veiled anymore. As bad as it is, there's an even bigger danger. (JONATHAN V. LAST  JULY 17, 2019, The Bulwark)

This week American Greatness published an anonymously written poem titled "Cuck Elegy." I'm not going to link to it. It is an attack on David French and other conservatives who the author believes are too invested in getting the approbation of the left and not willing enough to fight . . . well, for whatever.

And midway through the verse are these lines:

The "Global South"? "The mocha-skinned Lazarus"?

"You are more rich than him if not in cash, then in your white skin"?

I don't know to read this as anything other than racism--and not just racism, but actual, honest-to-God, KKK-style white nationalism.

Especially since--again--the author is using a pseudonym. Which is the writerly equivalent of wearing a hood. If there was an innocent interpretation for this, then the author's name would be on it.

It is not a coincidence that this post appeared on a website devoted to the perpetual and total defense of Donald Trump 72 hours after Trump started telling some of America's elected representatives to "go back to your own country."

This is how the cancer spreads.

Posted by orrinj at 5:47 PM



on writ of certiorari to the united states court ofappeals for the district of columbia circuit

[June 26, 2008]

    Justice Stevens, with whom Justice Souter, Justice Ginsburg, and Justice Breyer joindissenting.

    The question presented by this case is not whether the Second Amendment protects a "collective right" or an "individual right." Surely it protects a right that can be enforced by individuals. But a conclusion that the Second Amendment protects an individual right does not tell us anything about the scope of that right.

    Guns are used to hunt, for self-defense, to commit crimes, for sporting activities, and to perform military duties. The Second Amendment plainly does not protect the right to use a gun to rob a bank; it is equally clear that it does encompass the right to use weapons for certain military purposes. Whether it also protects the right to possess and use guns for nonmilitary purposes like hunting and personal self-defense is the question presented by this case. The text of the Amendment, its history, and our decision in United States v. Miller307 U. S. 174 (1939) , provide a clear answer to that question.

    The Second Amendment was adopted to protect the right of the people of each of the several States to maintain a well-regulated militia. It was a response to concerns raised during the ratification of the Constitution that the power of Congress to disarm the state militias and create a national standing army posed an intolerable threat to the sovereignty of the several States. Neither the text of the Amendment nor the arguments advanced by its proponents evidenced the slightest interest in limiting any legislature's authority to regulate private civilian uses of firearms. Specifically, there is no indication that the Framers of the Amendment intended to enshrine the common-law right of self-defense in the Constitution.

    In 1934, Congress enacted the National Firearms Act, the first major federal firearms law.1 Upholding a conviction under that Act, this Court held that, "[i]n the absence of any evidence tending to show that possession or use of a 'shotgun having a barrel of less than eighteen inches in length' at this time has some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia, we cannot say that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear such an instrument." Miller, 307 U. S., at 178. The view of the Amendment we took in Miller--that it protects the right to keep and bear arms for certain military purposes, but that it does not curtail the Legislature's power to regulate the nonmilitary use and ownership of weapons--is both the most natural reading of the Amendment's text and the interpretation most faithful to the history of its adoption.

    Since our decision in Miller, hundreds of judges have relied on the view of the Amendment we endorsed there;2 we ourselves affirmed it in 1980. SeeLewis v. United States, 445 U. S. 55 , n. 8 (1980).3 No new evidence has surfaced since 1980 supporting the view that the Amendment was intended to curtail the power of Congress to regulate civilian use or misuse of weapons. Indeed, a review of the drafting history of the Amendment demonstrates that its Framers rejected proposals that would have broadened its coverage to include such uses.

    The opinion the Court announces today fails to identify any new evidence supporting the view that the Amendment was intended to limit the power of Congress to regulate civilian uses of weapons. Unable to point to any such evidence, the Court stakes its holding on a strained and unpersuasive reading of the Amendment's text; significantly different provisions in the 1689 English Bill of Rights, and in various 19th-century State Constitutions; postenactment commentary that was available to the Court when it decided Miller; and, ultimately, a feeble attempt to distinguish Miller that places more emphasis on the Court's decisional process than on the reasoning in the opinion itself.

    Even if the textual and historical arguments on both sides of the issue were evenly balanced, respect for the well-settled views of all of our predecessors on this Court, and for the rule of law itself, see Mitchell v. W. T. Grant Co., 416 U. S. 600636 (1974) (Stewart, J., dissenting), would prevent most jurists from endorsing such a dramatic upheaval in the law.4 As Justice Cardozo observed years ago, the "labor of judges would be increased almost to the breaking point if every past decision could be reopened in every case, and one could not lay one's own course of bricks on the secure foundation of the courses laid by others who had gone before him." The Nature of the Judicial Process 149 (1921).

    In this dissent I shall first explain why our decision in Miller was faithful to the text of the Second Amendment and the purposes revealed in its drafting history. I shall then comment on the postratification history of the Amendment, which makes abundantly clear that the Amendment should not be interpreted as limiting the authority of Congress to regulate the use or possession of firearms for purely civilian purposes.


    The text of the Second Amendment is brief. It provides: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

    Three portions of that text merit special focus: the introductory language defining the Amendment's purpose, the class of persons encompassed within its reach, and the unitary nature of the right that it protects.

"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State"

    The preamble to the Second Amendment makes three important points. It identifies the preservation of the militia as the Amendment's purpose; it explains that the militia is necessary to the security of a free State; and it recognizes that the militia must be "well regulated." In all three respects it is comparable to provisions in several State Declarations of Rights that were adopted roughly contemporaneously with the Declaration of Independence.5Those state provisions highlight the importance members of the founding generation attached to the maintenance of state militias; they also underscore the profound fear shared by many in that era of the dangers posed by standing armies.6 While the need for state militias has not been a matter of significant public interest for almost two centuries, that fact should not obscure the contemporary concerns that animated the Framers.

    The parallels between the Second Amendment and these state declarations, and the Second Amendment 's omission of any statement of purpose related to the right to use firearms for hunting or personal self-defense, is especially striking in light of the fact that the Declarations of Rights of Pennsylvania and Vermont did expresslyprotect such civilian uses at the time. Article XIII of Pennsylvania's 1776 Declaration of Rights announced that "the people have a right to bear arms for the defence of themselves and the state," 1 Schwartz 266 (emphasis added); §43 of the Declaration assured that "the inhabitants of this state shall have the liberty to fowl and hunt in seasonable times on the lands they hold, and on all other lands therein not inclosed," id., at 274. And Article XV of the 1777 Vermont Declaration of Rights guaranteed "[t]hat the people have a right to bear arms for the defence of themselves and the State." Id., at 324 (emphasis added). The contrast between those two declarations and the Second Amendment reinforces the clear statement of purpose announced in the Amendment's preamble. It confirms that the Framers' single-minded focus in crafting the constitutional guarantee "to keep and bear arms" was on military uses of firearms, which they viewed in the context of service in state militias.

    The preamble thus both sets forth the object of the Amendment and informs the meaning of the remainder of its text. Such text should not be treated as mere surplusage, for "[i]t cannot be presumed that any clause in the constitution is intended to be without effect." Marbury v. Madison, 1 Cranch 137, 174 (1803).

    The Court today tries to denigrate the importance of this clause of the Amendment by beginning its analysis with the Amendment's operative provision and returning to the preamble merely "to ensure that our reading of the operative clause is consistent with the announced purpose." Ante, at 5. That is not how this Court ordinarily reads such texts, and it is not how the preamble would have been viewed at the time the Amendment was adopted. While the Court makes the novel suggestion that it need only find some "logical connection" between the preamble and the operative provision, it does acknowledge that a prefatory clause may resolve an ambiguity in the text. Ante, at 4.7 Without identifying any language in the text that even mentions civilian uses of firearms, the Court proceeds to "find" its preferred reading in what is at best an ambiguous text, and then concludes that its reading is not foreclosed by the preamble. Perhaps the Court's approach to the text is acceptable advocacy, but it is surely an unusual approach for judges to follow.

"The right of the people"

    The centerpiece of the Court's textual argument is its insistence that the words "the people" as used in the Second Amendment must have the same meaning, and protect the same class of individuals, as when they are used in the First and Fourth Amendment s. According to the Court, in all three provisions--as well as the Constitution's preamble, section 2 of Article I, and the Tenth Amendment --"the term unambiguously refers to all members of the political community, not an unspecified subset." Ante, at 6. But the Court itself reads the Second Amendment to protect a "subset" significantly narrower than the class of persons protected by the First and Fourth Amendment s; when it finally drills down on the substantive meaning of the Second Amendment , the Court limits the protected class to "law-abiding, responsible citizens," ante, at 63. But the class of persons protected by the First andFourth Amendment s is not so limited; for even felons (and presumably irresponsible citizens as well) may invoke the protections of those constitutional provisions. The Court offers no way to harmonize its conflicting pronouncements.

    The Court also overlooks the significance of the way the Framers used the phrase "the people" in these constitutional provisions. In the First Amendment , no words define the class of individuals entitled to speak, to publish, or to worship; in that Amendment it is only the right peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances, that is described as a right of "the people." These rights contemplate collective action. While the right peaceably to assemble protects the individual rights of those persons participating in the assembly, its concern is with action engaged in by members of a group, rather than any single individual. Likewise, although the act of petitioning the Government is a right that can be exercised by individuals, it is primarily collective in nature. For if they are to be effective, petitions must involve groups of individuals acting in concert.

    Similarly, the words "the people" in the Second Amendment refer back to the object announced in the Amendment's preamble. They remind us that it is the collective action of individuals having a duty to serve in the militia that the text directly protects and, perhaps more importantly, that the ultimate purpose of the Amendment was to protect the States' share of the divided sovereignty created by the Constitution.

     As used in the Fourth Amendment , "the people" describes the class of persons protected from unreasonable searches and seizures by Government officials.     It is true that the Fourth Amendment describes a right that need not be exercised in any collective sense. But that observation does not settle the meaning of the phrase "the people" when used in the Second Amendment . For, as we have seen, the phrase means something quite different in the Petition and Assembly Clauses of the First Amendment . Although the abstract definition of the phrase "the people" could carry the same meaning in theSecond Amendment as in the Fourth Amendment , the preamble of the Second Amendment suggests that the uses of the phrase in the First and Second Amendment s are the same in referring to a collective activity. By way of contrast, the Fourth Amendment describes a right against governmental interference rather than an affirmative right to engage in protected conduct, and so refers to a right to protect a purely individual interest. As used in the Second Amendment , the words "the people" do not enlarge the right to keep and bear arms to encompass use or ownership of weapons outside the context of service in a well-regulated militia.

"To keep and bear Arms"

    Although the Court's discussion of these words treats them as two "phrases"--as if they read "to keep" and "to bear"--they describe a unitary right: to possess arms if needed for military purposes and to use them in conjunction with military activities.

    As a threshold matter, it is worth pausing to note an oddity in the Court's interpretation of "to keep and bear arms." Unlike the Court of Appeals, the Court does not read that phrase to create a right to possess arms for "lawful, private purposes." Parker v. District of Columbia, 478 F. 3d 370, 382 (CADC 2007). Instead, the Court limits the Amendment's protection to the right "to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation." Ante, at 19. No party or amicus urged this interpretation; the Court appears to have fashioned it out of whole cloth. But although this novel limitation lacks support in the text of the Amendment, the Amendment's text does justify a different limitation: the "right to keep and bear arms" protects only a right to possess and use firearms in connection with service in a state-organized militia.

    The term "bear arms" is a familiar idiom; when used unadorned by any additional words, its meaning is "to serve as a soldier, do military service, fight." 1 Oxford English Dictionary 634 (2d ed. 1989). It is derived from the Latin arma ferre, which, translated literally, means "to bear [ferre] war equipment [arma]." Brief for Professors of Linguistics and English as Amici Curiae 19. One 18th-century dictionary defined "arms" as "weapons of offence, or armour of defence," 1 S. Johnson, A Dictionary of theEnglish Language(1755), and another contemporaneous source explained that "[b]y arms, we understand those instruments of offence generally made use of in war; such as firearms, swords, & c. By weapons, we more particularly mean instruments of other kinds (exclusive of fire-arms), made use of as offensive, on special occasions." 1 J. Trusler, The Distinction Between Words Esteemed Synonymous in the English Language37 (1794).8 Had the Framers wished to expand the meaning of the phrase "bear arms" to encompass civilian possession and use, they could have done so by the addition of phrases such as "for the defense of themselves," as was done in the Pennsylvania and Vermont Declarations of Rights. The unmodified use of "bear arms," by contrast, refers most naturally to a military purpose, as evidenced by its use in literally dozens of contemporary texts.9 The absence of any reference to civilian uses of weapons tailors the text of the Amendment to the purpose identified in its preamble.10 But when discussing these words, the Court simply ignores the preamble.

    The Court argues that a "qualifying phrase that contradicts the word or phrase it modifies is unknown this side of the looking glass." Ante, at 15. But this fundamentally fails to grasp the point. The stand-alone phrase "bear arms" most naturally conveys a military meaning unless the addition of a qualifying phrase signals that a different meaning is intended. When, as in this case, there is no such qualifier, the most natural meaning is the military one; and, in the absence of any qualifier, it is all the more appropriate to look to the preamble to confirm the natural meaning of the text.11 The Court's objection is particularly puzzling in light of its own contention that the addition of the modifier "against" changes the meaning of "bear arms." Compare ante, at 10 (defining "bear arms" to mean "carrying [a weapon] for a particular purpose--confrontation"), with ante, at 12 ("The phrase 'bear Arms' also had at the time of the founding an idiomatic meaning that was significantly different from its natural meaning: to serve as a soldier, do military service, fight or to wage war. But it unequivocally bore that idiomatic meaning only when followed by the preposition 'against.' " (citations and some internal quotation marks omitted)).

    The Amendment's use of the term "keep" in no way contradicts the military meaning conveyed by the phrase "bear arms" and the Amendment's preamble. To the contrary, a number of state militia laws in effect at the time of the Second Amendment 's drafting used the term "keep" to describe the requirement that militia members store their arms at their homes, ready to be used for service when necessary. The Virginia military law, for example, ordered that "every one of the said officers, non-commissioned officers, and privates, shall constantly keep the aforesaid arms, accoutrements, and ammunition, ready to be produced whenever called for by his commanding officer." Act for Regulating and Disciplining the Militia, 1785 Va. Acts ch. 1, §3, p. 2 (emphasis added).12 "[K]eep and bear arms" thus perfectly describes the responsibilities of a framing-era militia member.

    This reading is confirmed by the fact that the clause protects only one right, rather than two. It does not describe a right "to keep arms" and a separate right "to bear arms." Rather, the single right that it does describe is both a duty and a right to have arms available and ready for military service, and to use them for military purposes when necessary.13 Different language surely would have been used to protect nonmilitary use and possession of weapons from regulation if such an intent had played any role in the drafting of the Amendment.

*  *  *

    When each word in the text is given full effect, the Amendment is most naturally read to secure to the people a right to use and possess arms in conjunction with service in a well-regulated militia. So far as appears, no more than that was contemplated by its drafters or is encompassed within its terms. Even if the meaning of the text were genuinely susceptible to more than one interpretation, the burden would remain on those advocating a departure from the purpose identified in the preamble and from settled law to come forward with persuasive new arguments or evidence. The textual analysis offered by respondent and embraced by the Court falls far short of sustaining that heavy burden.14 And the Court's emphatic reliance on the claim "that the Second Amendment ... codified a pre-existing right," ante, at 19, is of course beside the point because the right to keep and bear arms for service in a state militia was also a pre-existing right.

    Indeed, not a word in the constitutional text even arguably supports the Court's overwrought and novel description of the Second Amendment as "elevat[ing] above all other interests" "the right of law-abiding, responsible citizens to use arms in defense of hearth and home." Ante, at 63.


    The proper allocation of military power in the new Nation was an issue of central concern for the Framers. The compromises they ultimately reached, reflected in Article I's Militia Clauses and the Second Amendment , represent quintessential examples of the Framers' "splitting the atom of sovereignty." 15

    Two themes relevant to our current interpretive task ran through the debates on the original Constitution. "On the one hand, there was a widespread fear that a national standing Army posed an intolerable threat to individual liberty and to the sovereignty of the separate States." Perpich v. Department of Defense, 496 U. S. 334340 (1990) .16 Governor Edmund Randolph, reporting on the Constitutional Convention to the Virginia Ratification Convention, explained: "With respect to a standing army, I believe there was not a member in the federal Convention, who did not feel indignation at such an institution." 3 J. Elliot, Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution 401 (2d ed. 1863) (hereinafter Elliot). On the other hand, the Framers recognized the dangers inherent in relying on inadequately trained militia members "as the primary means of providing for the common defense," Perpich, 496 U. S., at 340; during the Revolutionary War, "[t]his force, though armed, was largely untrained, and its deficiencies were the subject of bitter complaint." Wiener, The Militia Clause of the Constitution, 54 Harv. L. Rev. 181, 182 (1940).17 In order to respond to those twin concerns, a compromise was reached: Congress would be authorized to raise and support a national Army18 and Navy, and also to organize, arm, discipline, and provide for the calling forth of "the Militia." U. S. Const., Art. I, §8, cls. 12-16. The President, at the same time, was empowered as the "Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States." Art. II, §2. But, with respect to the militia, a significant reservation was made to the States: Although Congress would have the power to call forth,19 organize, arm, and discipline the militia, as well as to govern "such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States," the States respectively would retain the right to appoint the officers and to train the militia in accordance with the discipline prescribed by Congress. Art. I, §8, cl. 16.20

    But the original Constitution's retention of the militia and its creation of divided authority over that body did not prove sufficient to allay fears about the dangers posed by a standing army. For it was perceived by some that Article I contained a significant gap: While it empowered Congress to organize, arm, and discipline the militia, it did not prevent Congress from providing for the militia's disarmament. As George Mason argued during the debates in Virginia on the ratification of the original Constitution:

"The militia may be here destroyed by that method which has been practiced in other parts of the world before; that is, by rendering them useless--by disarming them. Under various pretences, Congress may neglect to provide for arming and disciplining the militia; and the state governments cannot do it, for Congress has the exclusive right to arm them." Elliot 379.

    This sentiment was echoed at a number of state ratification conventions; indeed, it was one of the primary objections to the original Constitution voiced by its opponents. The Anti-Federalists were ultimately unsuccessful in persuading state ratification conventions to condition their approval of the Constitution upon the eventual inclusion of any particular amendment. But a number of States did propose to the first Federal Congress amendments reflecting a desire to ensure that the institution of the militia would remain protected under the new Government. The proposed amendments sent by the States of Virginia, North Carolina, and New York focused on the importance of preserving the state militias and reiterated the dangers posed by standing armies. New Hampshire sent a proposal that differed significantly from the others; while also invoking the dangers of a standing army, it suggested that the Constitution should more broadly protect the use and possession of weapons, without tying such a guarantee expressly to the maintenance of the militia. The States of Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts sent no relevant proposed amendments to Congress, but in each of those States a minority of the delegates advocated related amendments. While the Maryland minority proposals were exclusively concerned with standing armies and conscientious objectors, the unsuccessful proposals in both Massachusetts and Pennsylvania would have protected a more broadly worded right, less clearly tied to service in a state militia. Faced with all of these options, it is telling that James Madison chose to craft the Second Amendmentas he did.

    The relevant proposals sent by the Virginia Ratifying Convention read as follows:

"17th, That the people have a right to keep and bear arms; that a well regulated Militia composed of the body of the people trained to arms is the proper, natural and safe defence of a free State. That standing armies are dangerous to liberty, and therefore ought to be avoided, as far as the circumstances and protection of the Community will admit; and that in all cases the military should be under strict subordination to and be governed by the civil power." Elliot 659.

    "19th. That any person religiously scrupulous of bearing arms ought to be exempted, upon payment of an equivalent to employ another to bear arms in his stead." Ibid.

    North Carolina adopted Virginia's proposals and sent them to Congress as its own, although it did not actually ratify the original Constitution until Congress had sent the proposed Bill of Rights to the States for ratification. 2 Schwartz932-933; see The Complete Bill of Rights 182-183 (N. Cogan ed. 1997) (hereinafter Cogan).

    New York produced a proposal with nearly identical language. It read:

    "That the people have a right to keep and bear Arms; that a well regulated Militia, including the body of the People capable of bearing Arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defence of a free State... . That standing Armies, in time of Peace, are dangerous to Liberty, and ought not to be kept up, except in Cases of necessity; and that at all times, the Military should be kept under strict Subordination to the civil Power." 2 Schwartz 912.

    Notably, each of these proposals used the phrase "keep and bear arms," which was eventually adopted by Madison. And each proposal embedded the phrase withina group of principles that are distinctly military inmeaning.21

    By contrast, New Hampshire's proposal, although it followed another proposed amendment that echoed the familiar concern about standing armies,22described the protection involved in more clearly personal terms. Its proposal read:

    "Twelfth, Congress shall never disarm any Citizen unless such as are or have been in Actual Rebellion." Id., at 758, 761.

    The proposals considered in the other three States, although ultimately rejected by their respective ratification conventions, are also relevant to our historical inquiry. First, the Maryland proposal, endorsed by a minority of the delegates and later circulated in pamphlet form, read:

    "4. That no standing army shall be kept up in time of peace, unless with the consent of two thirds of the members present of each branch of Congress.

.     .     .     .     .

    "10. That no person conscientiously scrupulous of bearing arms in any case, shall be compelled personally to serve as a soldier." Id., at 729, 735.

    The rejected Pennsylvania proposal, which was later incorporated into a critique of the Constitution titled "The Address and Reasons of Dissent of the Pennsylvania Minority of the Convention of the State of Pennsylvania to Their Constituents (1787)," signed by a minority of the State's delegates (those who had voted against ratification of the Constitution), id., at 628, 662, read:

    7. "That the people have a right to bear arms for the defense of themselves and their own State, or the United States, or for the purpose of killing game; and no law shall be passed for disarming the people or any of them unless for crimes committed, or real danger of public injury from individuals; and as standing armies in the time of peace are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be kept up; and that the military shall be kept under strict subordination to, and be governed by the civil powers." Id., at 665.

    Finally, after the delegates at the Massachusetts Ratification Convention had compiled a list of proposed amendments and alterations, a motion was made to add to the list the following language: "[T]hat the said Constitution never be construed to authorize Congress to ... prevent the people of the United States, who are peaceable citizens, from keeping their own arms." Cogan 181. This motion, however, failed to achieve the necessary support, and the proposal was excluded from the list of amendments the State sent to Congress. 2 Schwartz 674-675.

    Madison, charged with the task of assembling the proposals for amendments sent by the ratifying States, was the principal draftsman of the Second Amendment .23 He had before him, or at the very least would have been aware of, all of these proposed formulations. In addition, Madison had been a member, some years earlier, of the committee tasked with drafting the Virginia Declaration of Rights. That committee considered a proposal by Thomas Jefferson that would have included within the Virginia Declaration the following language: "No freeman shall ever be debarred the use of arms [within his own lands or tenements]." 1 Papers of Thomas Jefferson 363 (J. Boyd ed. 1950). But the committee rejected that language, adopting instead the provision drafted by George Mason.24


Posted by orrinj at 3:13 PM


Scotland is generating so much wind energy, it could power all its homes twice (STEPHEN JOHNSON, 17 July, 2019, Rightly Understood)

Scotland's wind turbines have generated enough electricity this year to power all of its homes twice over, according to Weather Energy.

In the first half of 2019, Scotland's wind turbines produced more than 9.8 million megawatt-hours of electricity, which is about enough to power 4.47 million homes. There are 2.46 million homes in Scotland.

Posted by orrinj at 11:32 AM


Former Supreme Court justice roots for Cubs (AP, Oct. 26, 2016)

A lot of Chicago Cubs fans have waited a long time to see them win the championship. In this case, it feels like forever.

How many people can say they went to the very first World Series game at Wrigley Field?

That was in 1929, and future Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens was there. He was in the box seats behind third base a few Octobers later, too, and saw Babe Ruth call his shot.

"Very definitely," Stevens told The Associated Press this week by phone from Florida. "He pointed his bat."

Posted by orrinj at 11:29 AM


Andrea Camilleri, author of Inspector Montalbano novels, dies at 93 (Angelo Amante, 7/17/19, Reuters)

He published his first book when he was 53, but it made little impact and he subsequently gave up writing for many years, only producing the first Montalbano novel, "The Shape of Water", in 1994, when he was almost 70.

The 26th novel in the series, "The Cook of Alcyon", hit Italian bookstores at the end of May. Camilleri said in 2006 he had prepared a final installment chronicling the death of his detective hero which was locked in his publisher's safe.

The popularity of both the chain-smoking Camilleri and his food-loving alter ego Montalbano soared after Rai started adapting the adventures of the Sicilian detective in 1999, subsequently selling the series worldwide.

The Montalbano novels are set in the fictional town of Vigata, which closely resembles Camilleri's hometown of Porto Empedocle -- a port in southern Sicily. Sicilian life and cooking infuses the mysteries, as does local dialect.

The television series has fueled a tourism renaissance on the island, with Italians and foreigners alike regularly flocking to the small and picturesque towns of Ragusa, Scicli and Modica where the fictional Montalbano conducted his investigations.

Posted by orrinj at 11:21 AM


Trump attacks on 'the squad' drive wedge between campaign and critical voters (David M. Drucker, July 17, 2019, Washington Examiner)

President Trump's incendiary claims that his Democratic critics in Congress are un-American are driving a deep wedge between his 2020 campaign and critical elements of the coalition he needs to secure a second term.

Suburban women and college-educated whites sidelined doubts about Trump and provided support crucial to his victory over Hillary Clinton. But many, fed up with the president's antics and rhetoric, defected to the Democratic Party in midterm elections two years later. Senior Republican strategists are warning that Trump's divisive attacks on the four female minority congressional Democrats could permanently exile these key voting blocs, costing the president reelection.

"Republicans want this election to be about the economy and judges. If it's about Trump's tweets and temperament, it's likely that Democrats will have an enthusiasm advantage," said Alex Conant, a GOP operative who has advised presidential candidates.

White identity politics drives Trump, and the Republican Party under him (Michael Scherer,  The Washington Post)

Trump won the 2016 election with the help of blue-collar white voters, some of them longtime Democrats, who are more conservative on immigration and more likely to embrace racial solidarity. Two years later, the 2018 midterm election showed suburban and college-educated whites recoiling at the same policies and statements, propelling Democrats to recapture control of the House.

"Trump is proposing a giant swap: Republicans can no longer count on suburban women and we will continue to lose college-educated men and women, while we increasingly pick up working white Americans without college degrees," said Ari Fleischer, who was a White House press secretary for President George W. Bush and who has spoken with Trump campaign advisers about their strategy for increasing turnout.

As much as conservatives would like to dismiss Donald as an accident that happened to our party, Donald knows that it is precisely his racism that will appeal to the Right and that they will defend him no matter what, so long as he maintains his racist course.

Poll: Most Americans call Trump's tweets targeting 4 congresswomen 'un-American' (7/17/19, Susan Page, USA TODAY) 

More than two-thirds of those aware of the controversy, 68%, called Trump's tweets offensive. Among Republicans alone, however, 57% said they agreed with tweets that told the congresswomen to go back to their "original" countries, and a third "strongly" agreed with them. [...]

[T[he dispute could be costly for Trump among some key voters in his bid for a second term. Three-fourths of the women polled called his tweets offensive. Independents by more than 2-1 said they were "un-American."  

Overall, 59% called the president's tweets "un-American."

Posted by orrinj at 11:17 AM


WATCH: Archived Footage Shows Trump, Epstein Laughing About Women At Mar-a-Lago (Aiden Pink, 7/17/19, The Forward)

Producers at NBC News uncovered a 1992 clip showing President Trump and accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein talking about women at a party at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort.

The footage was captured for a profile of Trump's then-bachelor life on Faith Daniels' NBC talk show. It features a party Trump threw with NFL cheerleaders at Mar-a-Lago -- then his private residence before it became a resort. Epstein was also there, and the footage shows the two appearing to discuss the women dancing in front of them.

Although their exact conversation cannot be heard over the sound of the music, NBC reported that Trump appears to say, "Look at her back there. She's hot." He then added something that made Epstein bend over with laughter.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


CNN Invites White Supremacist Richard Spencer to Talk About Trump's Racist Tweets (Kelly Weill, 07.17.19 , CNN)

CNN interviewed white supremacist Richard Spencer during a Tuesday segment on President Donald Trump's racist tweets, in another example of a news outlet normalizing far-right radicals by giving them a mainstream platform.

The segment on Jake Tapper's The Lead covered neo-Nazis' support for Trump's racist attacks on four progressive congresswomen of color. The spot included an interview with Spencer who said Trump is playing a "con game" and that his attacks were not racist enough.

"He gives us nothing outside of racist tweets," he said. "And by racist tweets, I mean tweets that are meaningless and cheap and express the kind of sentiments you might hear from your drunk uncle while he's watching [Sean] Hannity."

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'Apollo 11 in Real Time' website replays every second of historic mission (STEPHEN JOHNSON, 16 July, 2019, Big Think)

Apollo 11 in Real Time is a "mission experience" a website, created by Ben Feist, that replays the Apollo 11 mission second by second, starting with archival footage and audio taken 20 hours before launch, and ending just after Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins step onto the USS Hornet recovery ship. The website lets viewers switch between multiple camera angles and also includes:

All mission control film footage
All TV transmissions and onboard film footage
2,000 photographs
11,000 hours of Mission Control audio
240 hours of space-to-ground audio
All onboard recorder audio
15,000 searchable utterances
Post-mission commentary
Astromaterials sample data

You can start at the beginning, 1 minute to launch, or you can join the 'in progress' view to see exactly where the mission was at this very second 50 years ago.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Israel has almost as many religious restrictions as Iran, report says: Israel is one of the top 20 most religiously restrictive countries in world, with sixth-highest level of 'interreligious tension and violence' -- a worse score than Syria, says Pew (BEN SALES, 7/17/19, JTA)

The report, published Monday by the Pew Research Center, tracks the rise of religious restrictions globally. Israel was one of the top 20 most religiously restrictive countries in the world, according to Pew.

It also has the fifth-highest level of "social hostilities related to religious norms," and the sixth-highest level of "interreligious tension and violence" -- a worse score than Syria.

The report cited incidents in Israel like harassment of people who drive cars near haredi Orthodox neighborhoods on Shabbat, or government officials who "defer in some way to religious authorities or doctrines on legal issues."

Israel self-defines as a Jewish state. Its haredi Orthodox Chief Rabbinate controls all recognized marriage, divorce, burial and Jewish conversion in the country, which means that non-Orthodox weddings, divorces, funerals and conversions are not recognized by the state. The state likewise does not recognize intermarriages conducted in the country. Most cities do not run public transit on Shabbat.

Regarding restrictions on Jews worldwide, the report pointed out government interference in circumcision in Germany and Slovenia. And the report noted rising anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi activity, including assaults on Jews, in Europe and the United States.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM

REAGAN WEPT (profanity alert):

Four House Republicans Join Democrats To Condemn Trump's Racist Comments (Cody Fenwick, July 16, 2019, National Memo)

The following Republicans approved the resolution:

Rep. Will Hurd of Texas
Rep. Susan Brooks of Indiana
Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan
Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania

Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, who recently left the GOP after calling for Trump's impeachment, also voted in favor of the resolution.

Watch Kris Kobach Say He Might Vote for Trump Even if Trump Says, "I Am a Racist" (MATTHEW DESSEM, JULY 16, 2019, Slate)

Barring telepathy, there is no way for a human being to establish him or herself as "a racist" more convincingly than saying, "I am a racist." And yet Kobach, who is so worried about left wingers unfairly throwing around the word "racist," says, "Um, I don't know. That would be a really tough question. I'd have to know who was running against him." OK, then!

Here's the complete exchange:

Kris Kobach: No, he didn't pick a race battle. He picked a battle, and then the left, and you, choose to characterize it as a race battle. It's not about race.

Chris Cuomo: What do you want me to do when he makes a racist comment? I call him a demagogue, because I don't want to get into the business of what he thinks he is. Because in our political culture, if he says, "I'm not a racist," then it gives guys like you cover to defend him. But let me ask you something: If the president said, "I am a racist. That's why I said it," what would you do?

Kobach: Uh, then I would not defend him, because there's no excuse for racism in America, period.

Cuomo: Really?

Kobach: Really.

Cuomo: Would you still support him as president?

Kobach: Um, I don't know. That would be a really tough question.

Cuomo: You have to think about it? You have to think about whether or not you would support a racist?

Kobach: If he said, if he said, if he said, if he says it's ...

Cuomo: Really?

Kobach: I'd have to know who was running against him.

Cuomo: A racist?

July 16, 2019

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3-Year-Old Asked To Pick Parent In Attempted Family Separation, Her Parents Say (ROBERT MOORE, 7/15/19, NPR)

At a Border Patrol holding facility in El Paso, Texas, an agent told a Honduran family that one parent would be sent to Mexico while the other parent and their three children could stay in the United States, according to the family. The agent turned to the couple's youngest daughter -- 3-year-old Sofia, whom they call Sofi -- and asked her to make a choice.

"The agent asked her who she wanted to go with, mom or dad," her mother, Tania, told NPR through an interpreter. "And the girl, because she is more attached to me, she said mom. But when they started to take [my husband] away, the girl started to cry. The officer said, 'You said [you want to go] with mom.' "

...victims would be having to make Sophie's choice....

Posted by orrinj at 5:55 PM


What the U.S.-China Trade War Is Really About (Tyler Cowen, July 15, 2019, Bloomberg)

Start with President Donald Trump, who himself has mixed motives. He has favored tariffs and protectionism since the 1980s, when he focused on Japan.

Hmmmm...how are the Japanese and Chinese similar....

Posted by orrinj at 5:37 PM


Planned Parenthood Removes Leana Wen as President (Shane Goldmacher, July 16, 2019, NY Times)

Dr. Wen had been the first physician to lead the organization in decades. The people familiar with the move said there had been internal strife over her management, and that the group felt it needed a more aggressive political leader to fight the efforts to roll back access to abortions.

She fundamentally misunderstood the mission, Leana Wen wanted to broaden Planned Parenthood's mandate. Now she's out as president (AINSLEY HARRIS, 7/16/19, Fast Company)

While Wen spoke of fighting back--both in the courts and by mobilizing Planned Parenthood's 13 million supporters--she also hoped to broaden the organization's mandate to include services like addiction treatment, mental health services, and pre- and post-natal care. She further talked about serving not just women but men and nonbinary people. "The way that I think about our work, and why I took on this role, I believe that the best way to take on abortion care is to contextualize it as the fundamental healthcare that it is," she said. "I believe that the best way to protect Planned Parenthood is to make clear that we are a healthcare organization and that we provide essential services to millions of people around the country."

Posted by orrinj at 5:34 PM


Apartment oversupply puts squeeze on rents (Nigel Gladstone, July 14, 2019, SMH)

An investor-led building boom has almost doubled the size of the Sydney apartment rental market in two years, forcing landlords to drop rents more than $100 a week in some areas to secure tenants, and casting a shadow over the thousands of units still under construction.

The number of flats listed on real estate websites to rent has more than tripled in 15 postcodes, including around Gordon, Miranda, Botany, Sutherland and Homebush. This oversupply has left some areas struggling to find tenants, rental bond data shows.

Posted by orrinj at 3:22 PM


A Border Patrol Agent Reveals What It's Really Like to Guard Migrant Children: With the agency under fire for holding children in deplorable conditions and over racist and misogynistic Facebook posts, one agent speaks about what it's like to do his job. "Somewhere down the line people just accepted what's going on as normal." (Ginger Thompson July 16, 2019, Pro Publica)

It's rare to hear from Border Patrol agents, especially since the Trump administration has put them at the front lines of its sweeping immigration crackdown. Public access to them is typically controlled and choreographed. When approached off duty, agents say they risk their jobs if they speak about their work without permission. As a result, much about the country's largest federal law enforcement agency -- with some 20,000 agents policing the borders and ports -- remains shrouded in secrecy, even from congressional oversight, making it nearly impossible to hold it accountable.

Disturbing glimpses of some agents have recently begun to fill the void, including some that were published recently after ProPublica obtained screenshots from a secret Facebook group for current and former Border Patrol agents that showed several agents and at least one supervisor had posted crude, racist and misogynistic comments about immigrants and Democratic members of Congress. The posts raised questions about whether the deplorable detention conditions on the border were out of the control of Customs and Border Protection, as the agency had asserted, or a reflection of its culture.

Other reports followed, including one from CNN that described agents attempting to humiliate a Honduran immigrant by trying to force him to be photographed holding a sign that read in Spanish, "I like men." The Intercept published more degrading posts from the secret Facebook group, and it reported that it appeared that Border Patrol Chief Carla Provost had once been a member. Provost has not commented.

But there was some nuance. An account of life inside a Border Patrol detention facility outside El Paso, Texas, by The New York Times and The El Paso Times, revealed that two agents there had expressed concerns about the conditions to their supervisors.

The agent who spent June in McAllen doesn't see his reality in any of those depictions. He's in his late 30s and is a husband and father who served overseas in the military before joining the Border Patrol. He asked not to be identified because he worried that his candor could cost him his job and thrust him and his family into the middle of the angry public debate over the Trump administration's border policies.

His comments come at a particularly fraught moment, as politicians on the left compare the Border Patrol's detention facilities to "concentration camps" and senior Trump administration officials, including most recently Vice President Mike Pence, dismiss descriptions of the inhumane conditions as "unsubstantiated."

When asked about Pence's comments, the agent said the damning descriptions of the facilities are "more substantiated than not." And, while he didn't embrace the term concentration camp, he didn't dispute it either. He searched out loud for a term that might be more accurate. Gulag felt too strong. Jail didn't feel strong enough.

He came around to this: "It's kind of like torture in the army. It starts out with just sleep deprivation, then the next guys come in and sleep deprivation is normal, so they ramp it up. Then the next guys ramp it up some more, and then the next guys, until you have full blown torture going on. That becomes the new normal."

Posted by orrinj at 3:11 PM


Kellyanne Conway to reporter asking about Trump's racist tweets: 'What's your ethnicity?' (Tim O'Donnell, 7/16/19, The Week)

During a press conference on Tuesday, when reporter Andrew Feinberg asked Conway what countries Trump was referring to in his tweets (considering three of the four congresswomen Trump told to "go back" to the "places from which they came" were born in the United States), Conway responded by asking "what's your ethnicity?" 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


What's in a Name? The Origins of Judea, Philistia, Palestine and Israel (GRIFFIN JUDD,  JULY 16, 2019, Honest Reporting)

In a different situation, this would merely be a debate over semantics: Levant, Canaan, Judea, Philistia, Palestine, Israel, they would all be different names for the same place.

Unfortunately, a key feature of Palestinian nationalism is the erasure of Jewish history, and so what the land is called does matter.  The Palestinian Authority routinely denounces archeological finds in the city of Jerusalem as fake or illegitimate (see here, here, and here). It is common to hear claims that "Jesus was a Palestinian," but this is misleading; Jesus was most likely born in Bethlehem, which today is within the borders of the West Bank, but he was Jewish and at his time of birth Bethlehem was part of the Herodian Tetrarchy, a Jewish client state of Rome. Furthermore, claiming that Jesus was a Palestinian (or Israeli, or Arab, or Middle Easterner, etc.) is inherently wrong because none of these terms existed at the time. Jesus would certainly not have identified himself as Palestinian, because that concept existed only as a place name, and not even one in widespread use.

To be sure, the conclusion to draw is not that Palestinian Arabs have no national history or heritage, because they most certainly do. However, the Palestinian narrative of descent from Canaan continuously through to today is disingenuous at best and outright false at worst, because it implies that the idea of Palestine as a nation has existed for just as long, and this is demonstrably false.

In summary, the name Palestine originally had nothing to do with the Palestinian people, but instead was associated with first the Philistines and then the area where they had lived, while the Palestinian people are a mix of indigenous and Arabic populations who assumed the label off of the example of the British Mandate.

In contrast, the Jewish people are historically connected to the names of Judea/Judah and Israel. While this by no means invalidates Palestinian claims to peoplehood, it is important to recognize what is truth and what is not.

Blood Brothers: Palestinians and Jews Share Genetic Roots: Jews break down into three genetic groups, all of which have Middle Eastern origins - which are shared with the Palestinians and Druze. (Josie Glausiusz, Oct 20, 2015, Ha'aretz)

Confronted by the violence sweeping over Israel, it can be easy to overlook the things that Jews and Palestinians share: a deep attachment to the same sliver of contested land, a shared appetite for hummus, a common tradition of descent from the patriarch Abraham, and, as scientific research shows - a common genetic ancestry, as well.

Several major studies published in the past five years attest to these ancient hereditary links. At the forefront of these efforts are two researchers: Harry Ostrer, professor of pediatrics and pathology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, New York, and Karl Skorecki, director of medical and research development at the Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa. Back in June 2010, and within two days of each other, the two scientists and their research teams published extensive analyses of the genetic origins of the Jewish people and their Near East ancestry.

"The closest genetic neighbors to most Jewish groups were the Palestinians, Israeli Bedouins, and Druze in addition to the Southern Europeans, including Cypriots," as Ostrer and Skorecki wrote in a review of their findings that they co-authored in the journal Human Genetics in October 2012.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


None dare call it racism: Afraid of the r-word, Republicans? Here's a better one to describe this president (Robert A. George, JUL 15, 2019, NY Daily News)

Contrary to Ryan, Trump's comments about Curiel were not "textbook" racist. Mexican-Americans, after all, are not a race, but an ethnicity (as, say, Puerto Rican AOC, is). So, for the sake of precision let's say that these words aren't explicitly racist.

But, let's take in toto what this president has said. If we do, we discover that "racism" is actually too limiting a word.

The person who smears Mexican immigrants as rapists and murderers (even grudgingly admitting "some are good people") is clearly a nativist bigot.

The person who initially attempted to pass by executive fiat a ban on Muslim immigrants is clearly an Islamaphobic bigot.

The person who caviled for years that the first black president -- of Kenyan heritage -- wasn't really born here (despite voluminous, contemporaneous, evidence to the contrary) is clearly a xenophobic bigot.

The person who suggests that four members of Congress should just shut up or "go back" to other countries is clearly an ignorant and xenophobic bigot. Ignorant because of the "four Progressive Congresswomen" Trump alludes to, Ilhan Omar, is Somali-born, but a naturalized American; Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a New York-born Latina; Rashida Tlaib is a Michigan-born Arab; Ayanna Pressley is a black Cincinnati-born, Chicago-raised Massachusetts representative.

He's xenophobic, because even if all were born elsewhere, America welcomes all, even those who find, at times, the need to criticize it.

Indeed, when he doubles down and declares "If they're not happy here, they can leave," it is he who is being the anti-American bigot.

This is something the Republican Party didn't just once believe, in fact it as much as told this Trinidadian-born, partly British-raised immigrant.

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Sufjan Stevens and the Curious Case of the Missing 48 States: More than 15 years ago, a young indie folk artist set a course to traverse the United States of America through song, accruing acclaim, a fan base, and lots of anticipation along the way. Or did he? (Zach Schonfeld  Jul 15, 2019, The Ringer)

Remember when indie rock turned into a whimsical, state-by-state geography lesson? Sufjan Stevens was our banjo-plucking pied piper, traversing the map while delivering two outlandishly baroque masterpieces about specific U.S. states. First came Michigan. Then Illinois. Then Illinois again, sort of. And then--well, we're still waiting.

Michigan and Illinois seemed to unite the whole cynical swath of music lovers: Here were two kid-friendly, parent-friendly, grandparent-friendly concept albums capable of topping Pitchfork's year-end lists and delighting your history teacher all at once. Yet by the last decade's end, the singer's overarching conceit had been mysteriously abandoned: Sufjan Stevens did not write and record an album about all 50 states. He didn't even make it out of the Great Lakes region. No wonder millennials have trust issues.

I was reminded of the 50 states project recently while traveling through Michigan. As I passed Ypsilanti and Romulus--names familiar to me, I confess, because of Sufjan Stevens--I couldn't resist revisiting the singer's tribute to his home state. Then I thought of the years I spent waiting for 48 more state albums, and I wrote a silly tweet. It touched a nerve. "This hits hard," one fan responded. "I even paid to see him dance in neon in 2010 cause I craved that sweet sweet Dakotas double album that never was." I'd tapped into a diaspora of Sufjan fans, of people who'd spent their college years sipping Natty Light while secretly wondering when the singer might tackle Alabama.

My subsequent investigation has undercovered indie-folk corruption of the most galling degree: Stevens never really planned on recording 50 state albums. That was a joke. We were duped, our trust stolen in an audacious act of grand theft banjo. (Stevens was not available for comment for this article, and while I'd love to tell you that is because he is busy conducting scrupulous research into Delaware, that's just wishful thinking.)

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After 2016 Bible Slip, Trump Lashed Out at 'So-Called Christians,' Book Says (Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Martin, July 15, 2019, NY Times)

Furious after he was criticized by evangelicals for stumbling in his reference to a book of the Bible during the 2016 campaign, Donald J. Trump lashed out at "so-called Christians" and used an epithet in describing them to a party official, according to a new book.

Mr. Trump's anger was aroused after he stumbled in an appearance at Liberty University by referring to Second Corinthians as "Two Corinthians" as he was competing for the votes of evangelicals -- traditionally critical to a Republican's success in the Iowa caucuses -- with Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.

Allies of Mr. Cruz's, including Bob Vander Plaats, a well-known evangelical leader in Iowa, seized on the slip-up to taunt Mr. Trump.

According to a new book, "American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump," by Tim Alberta, the chief political correspondent for Politico Magazine, Mr. Trump was incensed by Mr. Vander Plaats and others "hanging around with Ted," and referred to them in the most vulgar of terms. [...]

For his part, in 2016, Mr. Cruz was candid with friends about his view of evangelicals who backed Mr. Trump. "If you're a faithful person, if you believe that Jesus Christ died for your sins, emerged from the grave three days later and gives eternal life, and you're supporting Donald Trump," the book quotes Mr. Cruz saying to friends, "I think there's something fundamentally wrong with you."

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New National Poll Shows Trump Losing Badly To Biden, Sanders (Dan Desai Martin, July 15, 2019, National Memo)

Trump can't get more than 44 percent support when facing top Democratic challengers in a new poll from NBC News and the Wall Street Journal.

Americans appear like they may be ready to reject Trump and replace him with Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), or Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released on Sunday.

In the nationwide poll, Trump never manages to get more than 44 percent of support, while each of the candidates listed would win the popular vote if it were held today.

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Let Them Work: Detention centers at the border are full of able-bodied people. Our economy needs workers. Maybe we can work something out. (LINDA CHAVEZ  JULY 16, 2019, The Bulwark)

In the past, parents who could not feed their children often made the difficult decision to leave them behind with family members in the home country while they sought work in other countries. For the last hundred years, millions ofmen, mostly Mexican, came north, crossing the porous border illegally, to work in fields, plants, and factories, sending money back to support their families when work was available and returning home when jobs dried up. 

Employers were eager to hire them--which did not become illegal until 1987-and, at least in prosperous times, the government was happy to turn a blind eye. In the 1940s, the Bracero Program formalized the arrangement, sending illegal migration plummeting, by providing temporary work visas for some 4.6 million Mexicans. Even after the Bracero Program ended in 1964, Mexicans continued to come to the U.S. for seasonal work--albeit without documentation. As the Cato Institute had pointed out, Ronald Reagan remarked in 1977 in one of his regular radio addresses, "'It makes one wonder about the illegal alien fuss. Are great numbers of our unemployed really victims of the illegal alien invasion or are those illegal tourists actually doing work our own people won't do?," Reagan asked. "One thing is certain in this hungry world; no regulation or law should be allowed if it results in crops rotting in the fields for lack of harvesters.'" 

Of course, Reagan famously granted amnesty in 1986 to some 3 million illegal immigrants, but the inept and ineffective legislation Congress passed that year to try to deal proactively with the problem of illegal immigration did little to stem the flow because it did not address the real issue: namely, how to provide employers with a reliable flow of immigrant labor for niche industries and markets where Americans shunned available jobs. Unsurprisingly, less than a decade later with the economy booming, more and more migrants made the trip north so that by 2000 the population of illegal immigrants had grown to more than 12 million. 

In successive administrations from Bush '41 to Trump, the response has been to throw money at enforcement rather than recognizing the role of labor market forces in driving immigration. Conservatives used to understand market economics--maybe some still do, but Trump's appointees and supporters clearly refuse to. With unemployment at historic lows, the economy producing more jobs than there are workers to fill them, and an aging native population, we must find a way to expand our labor force--and quickly. Why not give those adult asylum seekers languishing in CPB facilities who are willing and eager to work the right to do so by releasing them and granting temporary work permits immediately, as we once did, instead of making them wait at least six months? Many of these migrants have skills that are sorely needed in agriculture, construction, and other services. 

July 15, 2019

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Trump Tells America What Kind of Nationalist He Is (Adam Serwer, 7/15/19,  The Atlantic)

When President Donald Trump declared himself a "nationalist," he was telling the truth, but he was inadequately specific.

On Sunday morning, the president told four members of Congress to "go back" to the countries "from which they came." The remark, a racist taunt with a historic pedigree, inspired a flurry of fact-checking from mainstream journalists who were quick to note that Rashida Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, and Ilhan Omar are American citizens, and that only Omar was born abroad, in Somalia. It was a rather remarkable exercise in missing the point.

When Trump told these women to "go back," he was not making a factual claim about where they were born. He was stating his ideological belief that American citizenship is fundamentally racial, that only white people can truly be citizens, and that people of color, immigrants in particular, are only conditionally American. This is a cornerstone of white nationalism, and one of the president's few closely held ideological beliefs. 

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Pondering Pigouvian possibilities (Skakel McCooey, 7/15/19, CapX)

Pigou, one of founding members of the Economics department at Cambridge, focused his work on externalities -- consequences of activities that affect third parties but are often not reflected in the cost of the goods or services involved. Because these externalities are effectively "market failures", Pigou suggested imposing taxes to raise the price associated with these actions. Therefore, activities that carry negative externalities would be disincentivised and their price would be, more or less, correct. [...]

The irony is that Pigouvian "taxes" hardly deserve their title. Unlike most other taxes, which warp the market, Pigou's creation corrects a market flaw to reflect the true price of harmful actions.

To Republican politicians, a Pigouvian tax by any other name would certainly smell sweeter. Perhaps a simple re-brand to a "Carbon Correction" could dissociate the negative connotation of the word "tax" from positive action of curbing climate change.

Labels aside, some conservative groups have already jumped on board.

While many proposals exist, one which is especially popular is from the Climate Leadership Council (CLC) -- a conservative group -- which prices carbon at $40 per ton and gradually increase each year. This fee would be imposed at the point where fossil fuels enter the environment -- the mine, well, or port. The returns would be rebated to the American public.

A clever "border carbon adjustment" would add a fee on foreign goods entering the US from countries that did not tax carbon. This would not only keep domestic goods competitive, but also incentivise trading partners -- like China and India, who have significant emissions -- to set ambitious prices on carbon as well.

As plans like these begin to emerge from conservative groups, the tide in the Republican Party may be shifting. Polling by Republican opinion guru Frank Luntz -- who championed the term "climate change" as a less "frightening" alternative to "global warming"-- suggests that the CLC plan enjoys 2-1 support among Republican voters, including 75 per cent support with GOP voters under 40.

Posted by orrinj at 5:51 PM


Burger King has fun 'game' for customers: Guess if your burger is meat (MELISSA LOCKER, 7/15/19, Co.Exist)

Burger King has a dare for its customers. The fast food chain recently launched two plant-based burgers in Sweden, one a meatless version of the classic Whopper and the other a chicken-free version of its chicken sandwich, called the "Rebel Whopper" and "Rebel Chicken King" respectively. The chain is so convinced that its vegetarian versions are indistinguishable from the animal-based versions that it is daring their customers to tell the difference.

Posted by orrinj at 5:48 PM

60-40 SQUAD:

AOC and "the Squad" Are Actually the Sensible, Mainstream Centrists in Their Fight With Nancy Pelosi (BEN MATHIS-LILLEY, JULY 15, 2019, Slate)

The original dispute between the freshman lefties and the ostensibly pragmatic/moderate members of the "Blue Dog" and "Problem Solvers" caucuses turned on whether the House should have taken extra time to negotiate with the Senate in order to insert care standards and accountability measures, like a requirement that Congress must be notified within 24 hours after the death of a child in custody, into the border-funding bill. The progressives wanted to take the time to advocate for such concessions, while, in the words of the Washington Post, the moderates "wanted to see the House act to address the border crisis, not get locked in a conflict with the Senate, especially with Congress about to leave Washington for a week-long Fourth of July recess." The Blue Dogs moreover wanted to protect funding for Border Patrol guards and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

You can see what the moderates were thinking: They would score a bipartisan feather in their caps by passing an administration-friendly bill that included money for "border security" in addition to humanitarian relief, just in time for America's birthday.

Like many Democratic initiatives, this reasoning relies on a '90s-style model of what the average voter wants--a collaborative relationship between the president and Congress, say, and conservative-leaning immigration policies. But that model doesn't accord with polling in the Trump era. In 2018, large majorities of voters across the U.S. consistently told pollsters that they wanted to see a Democratic Congress elected to act as "a check" on the administration. This was true, as my colleague William Saletan pointed out at the time, not just in traditionally liberal areas but in swing states Trump won. In Arizona and Ohio, for example, voters--all voters, not just Democrats--said by 16-percentage-point margins (!) that their congressional votes were meant to "send a message that we need more Democrats to be a check and balance to Donald Trump" rather than to elect "Republicans who will help Donald Trump pass his agenda."

Trump's positions on border issues, meanwhile, are also landslide-level unpopular. A late-June CNN poll found that Americans disapprove of the way that Trump is "handling immigration" by a 57-40 percent margin, that 60 percent support "allowing refugees from central American countries to seek asylum in the United States" while only 35 percent do not, and that they choose "developing a plan to allow some people living in the U.S. illegally to become legal residents" over "deporting all people living in the U.S. illegally" 80 percent to 15 percent. The gap is too large to be just a partisan one, and a January Quinnipiac poll found that 50 percent of independents trusted Democrats in Congress more than Trump on the issue of border security against only 37 percent who trusted Trump, while an April Washington Post-ABC poll of "suburban" voters found that they disapproved, 42-33 percent, of the president's "handling of illegal immigration."

Given all of this, it would seem that the Democratic faction that's playing smart politics is the one advocating for tougher oversight of the Trump administration on an issue where swing voters generally take the Dems' side, and not the faction that wants to accommodate the administration and fund ICE.

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Donald Trump's Tweets Were Malicious, and Republican Silence is Deafening (DAVID FRENCH, July 15, 2019, National Review)

The blessings of liberty accrue to all Americans, including immigrants. And while all Americans should be deeply grateful for their freedoms and for American opportunity, it's a simple fact that immigrant citizens have actually done something to earn their status. They've often migrated here at great personal cost, learned a new language, built a life in a new land, passed a test most Americans can't pass, and then swore an oath that most Americans have never sworn.

By contrast, what must natural-born citizens do to earn their citizenship? Survive labor and delivery. That's it. If anything, natural-born citizens should exercise the most gratitude. What did we do to earn our liberty?

American polarization is reaching a dangerous phase. On a bipartisan basis, criticism of presidents and our political opponents is escalating. I'm old enough to remember all the way back to 2015, when GOP hatred for Barack Obama even on occasion trumped Republican patriotism. Remember when Mike Huckabee actually urged American Christians not to join the military so long as Obama -- or someone like him -- remained president? Which country should he go back to so that they can somehow earn back our respect?

Trump is fully employing malice as a political strategy. It's not clever. It's not shrewd. It's destructive and wrong. The fact that so few Republicans can muster enough courage to state this obvious truth speaks to a sad reality -- the rot extends far beyond 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Although, Mr. French does underestimate the universality of our creed: they need not have immigrated here to criticize America. 
Posted by orrinj at 1:54 PM


NEW RESEARCH DEBUNKS THE MYTH THAT MEXICAN IMMIGRANTS CAN'T ASSIMILATE: A new study finds that immigrants from our neighbor to the south are learning English and regularly interacting with non-Mexicans at higher rates than in previous decades. (TOM JACOBS, 7/15/19, Pacific Standard)

"Migrants surveyed over the last 20 years are learning and using English at increasingly higher rates, and are growing less isolated from non-Mexicans over time," writes Brown University sociologist David Lindstrom.

Lindstrom reports that this shift occurred "despite the rise in anti-immigrant public sentiment, and policies designed to marginalize unauthorized migrants." While levels of economic integration have stayed stagnant over that period, this largely reflects the challenges of the 70 percent of respondents who lacked authorization to be in the country, and thus didn't have the necessary documents to fully enter the financial system.

Lindstrom utilized data from the Mexican Migration Project, which tracks the behavior and attitudes of Mexican immigrants to the United States. He analyzed survey responses from 4,137 heads of households who had immigrated to America for some period of time between the years 1997 and 2016.

The respondents were a mix of people who regularly traveled back and forth from Mexico to the U.S. to work (the large majority without their spouses or children), along with people who moved to the U.S. permanently, and others who ultimately moved back to Mexico.

Lindstrom measured six types of integration: linguistic (how well the respondents understood English, and whether they used it at home and/or work); social (whether they had close relationships with whites, blacks, or Asian Americans); family (whether their spouse and children lived in the U.S.); employment (whether they were paid by check and had taxes withheld from their wages); financial (whether they had an American bank account or credit card); and asset (whether they owned a home or business in the U.S.).

Lindstrom found that Mexican immigrants' linguistic and social integration have steadily increased over the years. "The general trend for Mexican migrants is one of increasing contact and interaction with people outside of the Mexican community, regardless of whether they were temporary, long-term, or settled migrants," he writes.

"On the other hand, employment, financial, and asset integration ... do not appear to have changed over time," he adds. That reflects the limitations faced by undocumented immigrants, who generally cannot obtain the legal forms of identification needed to, say, open a checking account.

He also discovered that, "contrary to concerns that migrant networks might encourage insularity from the host society," having family members in the U.S. is "associated with higher levels of integration in all domains." This finding suggests that the process derisively known as "chain migration" actually facilitates integration into American society.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Christopher Steele, the Man Behind the Trump Dossier (Jane Mayer, Jan. 30th, 2018, The New Yorker)

Inevitably, though, word of the dossier began to spread through Washington. A former State Department official recalls a social gathering where he danced around the subject with the British Ambassador, Sir Kim Darroch. After exchanging cryptic hints, to make sure that they were both in the know, he asked the Ambassador, "Is this guy Steele legit?" The Ambassador replied, "Absolutely." 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Churches jump into action with threat of immigration sweeps (SOPHIA TAREEN, 7/15/19, AP) 

As a nationwide immigration crackdown loomed, religious leaders across the country used their pulpits Sunday to quell concerns in immigrant communities and spring into action to help those potentially threatened by the operation.

A Chicago priest talked during his homily about the compassion of a border activist accused of harboring illegal immigrants, while another city church advertised a "deportation defense workshop." Dozens of churches in Houston and Los Angeles offered sanctuary to anyone afraid of being arrested. In Miami, activists handed out fliers outside churches to help immigrants know their rights in case of an arrest.

"We're living in a time where the law may permit the government to do certain things but that doesn't necessarily make it right," said the Rev. John Celichowski of St. Clare de Montefalco Parish in Chicago, where the nearly 1,000-member congregation is 90 percent Hispanic and mostly immigrant.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


No One's Studying Hebrew Anymore -- That's A Big Problem (Aviya Kushner, July 11, 2019, The Forward)

College enrollment in Hebrew courses is dropping sharply, and this downward spiral may soon have profound effects on the American Jewish community.

Modern Hebrew enrollment fell 17.6 percent between 2013 and 2016, according to a report from the Modern Languages Association, while Biblical Hebrew suffered a 23.9% decline. [...]

Hebrew is a tiny player in the college language scene, where Spanish dominates. Out of 1,417,921 enrollments in college courses tracked in the MLA report, Spanish accounted for 712,240 of that total.

Those statistics only tell part of the story, because Hebrew is more than a traditional "foreign language" for Jews. The Hebrew language is the gateway to the prayers, the Torah, and other foundational Jewish texts. While the common second language for much of the world today is English, the common language for the Jewish community is now Hebrew.

As the Jewish world splits into two large communities in America and Israel, Hebrew is even more critical as the language that can connect American Jewry and Israeli Jewry; without Hebrew, much of contemporary Israeli culture is simply inaccessible.

July 14, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 7:29 PM


Posted by orrinj at 7:02 PM


WHY EVERYONE LOVES MACARONI AND CHEESE: Popularized by Thomas Jefferson, This Versatile Dish Fulfills America's Quest for the 'Cheapest Protein Possible' (GORDON EDGAR, MAY 24, 2018, Zocalo Public Square)

Being a judge at a macaroni and cheese competition in San Francisco taught me a lot about American food. The competitors were mostly chefs, and the audience--the online tickets sold out in minutes--was soaking up the chance to be at a "Top Chef" kind of event, but more urban and cool. The judges included a food writer, an award-winning grilled-cheese-maker, and me, a cheesemonger.

We awarded the win to a chef who made mac and cheese with an aged Vermont cheddar. The audience, however, chose another contestant. When he arrived at the winner's circle, he made a stunning announcement: His main ingredient was Velveeta. [...]

To understand the evolution of macaroni and cheese is to realize that pursuit of the "cheapest protein possible" has been a longstanding quest of the American food system. At times, cheese itself has shared a similar trajectory. Cheesemaking, which began 10,000 years ago, was originally about survival for a farm family or community: taking a very perishable protein (milk) and transforming it into something less perishable (cheese) so that there would be something to eat at a later date. Many of us today think of cheese in the context of tradition, flavor, or saving family farms, but a basic goal--whether a producer is making farm-made cheddar or concocting the cheeseless dairy product Velveeta--has always been getting as much edible food from a gallon of milk as possible. Cheesemakers weren't always successful at this. Cheese is vulnerable to mold, rot, and maggots, not to mention pitfalls like excess salt. Many generations of cheesemakers have tossed countless bad batches, which meant feeding a lot of precious protein to their farm animals instead of their families.

The first cheese factory in the U.S. was built in 1851, making cheddar one of the first foods affected by the Industrial Revolution. Before that, all cheese made in the United States was made on a farm, usually by the farm wife or--on prosperous farms--a cheese maid or an enslaved woman. As foods industrialize, they often go from being made by women to being made by men, and so it was with cheese: Women were mostly absent from the make rooms of these new cheese factories, and didn't return to cheesemaking until the artisanal cheese revolution of the past few decades.

Processed cheese, which was invented 107 years ago, is basically cheese that is emulsified and cooked, rendering it much less perishable (but also no longer a "living food" because, unlike natural cheese, processed cheese's flavor will no longer alter with age). The advent of processed cheese has led over the years to innovations like Kraft Singles, Easy Cheese, powdered "sauce" for boxed mac and cheese, and Velveeta--a type of processed cheese when it was invented in 1918, and now a dairy-based processed food, with 22 ingredients, that is no longer regulated as a cheese.

Processing cheese was a good way to make food for soldiers at war, to turn safe but not-as-good-as-standard cheese into edible food, and to save producers when there was a glut in the market and too much cheese to sell. It was also a good way to get nutrients to people who didn't have refrigeration. Ironically, perhaps, it was the culmination of the age-old cheesemakers' goal: producing as much edible food as possible from the original protein.

Posted by orrinj at 6:09 PM


How Americans see climate change in 5 charts (CARY FUNK AND BRIAN KENNEDY, 4/19/19, Pew Research)

Partisanship is a stronger factor in people's beliefs about climate change than is their level of knowledge and understanding about science. In 2016, 93% of Democrats (including leaners) with a high level of knowledge about science said climate change is mostly due to human activity, compared with 49% of Democrats with low science knowledge, based on a nine-item index. By contrast, Republicans and GOP-leaning independents with a high level of science knowledge were no more likely than those with a low level of knowledge to say climate change is mostly due to human activity. A similar pattern was found for people's beliefs about energy issues. These findings illustrate that the relationship between people's level of science knowledge and their attitudes can be complex.

Posted by orrinj at 3:00 PM


Edmund Burke & the French Revolutionaries (Bradley J. Birzer, March 7th, 2018, iMAGINATIVE cONSERVATIVE)

When Burke examined the French Revolutionary arguments against the French aristocracy, he found, not surprisingly, that while the Revolutionaries had acquainted themselves very well with the particular evils as practiced by particular aristocrats, they had missed the norm, the essence of the aristocratic class.

Certainly, the Anglo-Irish statesman and philosopher agreed, one could find mistakes, some of which might be horrendous. Of those French aristocrats who lived at the end of the eighteenth century, Burke observed three general failings. First, French aristocrats behaved as children long after they had attained adulthood. They took from their families more than they gave, well past the years of irresponsibility. Second, too many French aristocrats had absorbed and manifested the ignobility of enlightenment philosophy, themselves disgusted with the past and ready thoughtlessly to revolutionize society. They had come to see the past, tradition, mores, norms, and association as means by which to shackle rather than to promote human dignity and freedom. They had, in other words, Burke worried, read way too much Locke and Rousseau and not enough Socrates and Cicero. Third, he claimed, the old aristocracy has held onto its privileges too long and too tenaciously, not allowing the many who had earned it in the eighteenth century into their own ranks. Thus, Burke noted with regret, by being both ignorant in philosophy and selfish in position, they had failed to see the creation of their own enemy class, those who had worked and given, but had not received the titles and honors so richly bestowed. Nowhere in French society did this prove more blatant than in the military orders. There, the old aristocracy remained obnoxiously over-represented, endangering the internal as well as the external order of French society.

Despite these failings, though, Burke noted with much satisfaction that when the French Revolution began in 1789, the monarch as well as the majority of aristocrats apologized for their selfish errors and had been the first to admit that their own orders needed reform for the good and benefit of the whole of society.

Read their instructions to their representatives. They breathe the spirit of liberty as warmly, and they recommend reformation as strongly, as any other order. Their privileges relative to contribution were voluntarily surrendered; as the king, from the beginning, surrendered all pretence to a right of taxation. Upon a free constitution there was but one opinion in France. The absolute monarchy was at an end. It breathed its last, without a groan, without struggle, without convulsion.

Such an apology and a reform (or series of reforms) the real revolutionaries mightily feared. Never had they actually sought reform of French society, whatever their claims and protestations. Instead, from the moment they began the revolution in 1789, they wanted to destroy and overturn all that opposed them and to do so utterly and completely, leaving no remnant and no possible opposition. To destroy as violently and wholly as possible, they needed to make a caricature of the aristocrat and the monarch. They needed to take the particular evils of each and make the average person believe them the universal and norm of each. Rather than examining the human condition, the true revolutionaries exaggerated its faults as manifested in the elites of society. They, Burke claimed in true Aristotelian and Thomistic fashion, redefined the thing, claiming its accidents to be its essence. Being revolutionaries, they could not create, they could only mock and pervert. Though the revolutionaries claimed to hate the violence and errors of the aristocracy, they submitted themselves to the very same evils, creating excuses for their own sins, as if necessary to expiate all of those of the past.

Posted by orrinj at 11:18 AM


How do we fix the fallout from the never-ending Kim Darroch affair? Put him in the House of Lords (Denis MacShane, 7/14/19, The Independent)

Darroch was calm, professional and much liked by journalists. He was completely straight and "did friendly" much better than FCO Old Etonian or Wykehamist effortless superiority. Over the years in his company, I never heard him say anything party political. He served the government of the day to the best of his ability,

He was then our man in Brussels after a stint as Blair's No 10 Europe adviser in the later years, when the Blair star in Europe dimmed after Iraq and his opportunistic pledge of a referendum on the EU constitution - the first promise by a British prime minister to go down the road of a populist plebiscite on Europe.

Following that, he was called back by David Cameron to be national security adviser, again one of the most sensitive top government jobs, reserved for the safest of safe hands, his last posting was Washington.

This is the Foreign Office's most prestigious overseas embassy job and only goes to the best diplomat of his generation. His reports back to the FCO in 2017 with the actually rather obvious remarks about President Trump would have been read by the then foreign secretary, Johnson, in his red box of papers taken home every night. His political team would have seen them too, as well as political aides in Downing Street.

It is no problem to photocopy such documents and the hopes that Scotland Yard can find an email trail to reveal the leaker through its recently launched investigation are not realistic. Nor are the attempts to class reporting on the leaks as a "criminal matter", as Neil Basu, assistant commissioner, suggested on Saturday to much criticism.  

No 10, and more broadly the British state establishment, certainly owe Sir Kim. His prompt resignation when Johnson failed to support him stopped the story dead. The media firestorm kept alive by President Trump's continuing attacks on Darroch relegated the Tory leadership contest off all front pages until Johnson refused to back Darroch in his ITV debate with Jeremy Hunt. He has behaved with nothing but honour and dignity since.

Putting him in the Lords would send a signal to President Trump that his coarse, bullying vulgarity in attacking Darroch has had no impact on the government and British public opinion. Rather the opposite. Darroch would be seen as having been rewarded and honoured by Britain.

Posted by orrinj at 11:07 AM


Trump Goes on Racist Tweetstorm, Tells Congresswomen: "Go Back" Where You Came From (DANIEL POLITI, JULY 14, 2019, Slate)

President Donald Trump launched a bizarre, racist attack against a group of progressive Democratic congresswomen, saying they should "go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came."

Posted by orrinj at 10:59 AM


Republicans ready to dive off a cliff on Obamacare (BURGESS EVERETT, 07/14/2019, Politico)

Republicans have no real plan to establish a new health care system if the courts strike down the Affordable Care Act before the 2020 election. But plenty of them are rooting for its demise anyway -- even if it means plunging the GOP into a debate that splits the party and leaves them politically vulnerable.

After a decade of trying to gut Obamacare, Republicans may finally get their wish thanks to a Trump administration-backed lawsuit. Its success would cause chaos not only in the insurance markets but on Capitol Hill. And Republican senators largely welcome it -- even if they don't know what comes next.

Posted by orrinj at 7:21 AM


A 1995 Novel Predicted Trump's America (Alec Nevala-Lee, July 12, 2019, NY Times)

[A]s he said of his most ambitious novel: "I wrote 'The Tunnel' out of the conviction that no race or nation is better than any other, and that no nation or race is worse; that the evil men do every day far outweighs the good."

Kohler, its narrator, is a 50-year-old professor of history at a thinly disguised version of Purdue University, where Gass himself taught for more than a decade. As the novel opens, he has just completed a book, "Guilt and Innocence in Hitler's Germany," that he'd once hoped would be his masterpiece. When he sits down to write the introduction, however, he finds that he despises it, and he starts to pour out his life story instead -- his dismal boyhood, his unhappy marriage, his failed love affairs. He also begins to dig a tunnel to nowhere out of his basement, although this evocative symbol occupies only a fraction of the narrative, which is dominated by Kohler's seemingly endless flood of rage, interspersed with typographical tricks, cartoons and obscene limericks.

At first it can be hard to understand why Gass dedicated so much of his career to writing in such an unbearable voice. As we learn more about Kohler, however, we find that Gass is assembling a case study with the meticulousness of a psychological profiler. We gradually discover that Kohler -- who keeps a trunk of Nazi memorabilia hidden under his porch -- is drawn to the Hitler era because it reveals the unspeakable truth about his own soul. As a young man, he studied in Germany, and on Kristallnacht, he was so swept up by the fury that he hurled a brick at the window of a Jewish grocery store.

After brooding over his actions, he concludes that violence is an eruption of disappointment -- the attacker hurts those whom he sees as unfairly advantaged, even if it costs him everything. Kohler connects this irrational longing for revenge to the Holocaust, as well as to a distinctly American bitterness caused by "an implicit promise broken, the social contract itself," which deprives its victims of the happiness that they had seen as an inalienable right. This theory of history reflects his own toxic envy, but the picture that emerges of Kohler himself is painfully real, and his humiliation over his own minor failures leads him to exhibit what Gass diagnosed as "a slightly hidden fascist mentality" common in the United States.

This is an immensely important theme, and Gass explores it relentlessly. His narrator's memories begin with his bigoted father, who scorned the ideas -- "free trade, for instance" -- that his son learned at school, while dismissing immigrants as "parasites, scabs, seducers" and ranting against "those who let these people into the country in the first place, when there were few enough jobs." Gass methodically depicts what he elsewhere called the "fascism of the breakfast table," as domestic combatants "crow over every victory as if each were the conquest of a continent, grudge every defeat as if it were the most meanly contrived and ill-deserved bad luck a good sport ever suffered," in performances that can expand outward to define an entire culture. He also devotes many pages to the small towns over which "sunsets were displayed in the deepest colors of catastrophe, the dark discordant tones of the Last Trump."

As Kohler recalls the resentments of his father's generation -- "They were America, damn it, and Americans should come first" -- he offers a word of advice to those who have been abandoned by history: "Don't invest in a future you will never see, a future which will despise you anyway, a future which will find you useless. Pay for your own burial plot. Get the golf clubs out. Die with a tan your daughter's thighs would envy." This sense of betrayal, which can shade into vengefulness, leads to a radical strain of politics that Gass later described in an interview: "Fascism is a tyranny which enshrines the values of the lower middle class, even though the lower middle class doesn't get to rule. It just gets to feel satisfied that the world is well-run. It likes symbols of authority and it likes to dress up. It likes patriotic parades."

In the novel's most prophetic passages, Kohler fantasizes about forming a movement called the "Party of the Disappointed People." He draws pictures of its insignia and merchandise (including special caps) and explains: "What the other parties avoid, we shall embrace. We shall be the ones with the handshakes like the Shriners, the symbols, the slogans as if we were selling something, the shirts, the salutes and the flags." By definition, its constituents feel disenfranchised by life, so they need powerful collaborators: "If we were to recover a bit of pride, we might be able to make ourselves into harassing gangs. So we shall make our pitch to the huddled elites, the ins who are on the outs."

The party will need to be circumspect about its intentions -- Kohler proposes a secret hand signal that will allow its members to recognize one another -- until a public figure arises to amplify its anger: "What a pool of energy awaits the right voice." Kohler's ideal tyrant is modeled on Hitler, but he also looks ahead to the demagogue of the future. "And now the hero comes -- the trumpet of his people. And his voice is enlarged like a movie's lion. He roars, he screams so well for everyone, his tantrums tame a people. He is the Son of God, if God is Resentment. And God is Resentment -- a pharaoh for the disappointed people." Kohler anticipates the role of the media -- "TV faces and their blatant lies are now our leaders" -- and contemplates the shape of such a man's life: "Our favorite modern bad guys became villains by serving as heroes first -- to millions. It is now a necessary apprenticeship."

Posted by orrinj at 7:08 AM


One Screw Short: a review of Pakistan's Nuclear Bomb: A Story of Defiance, Deterrence and Deviance by Hassan Abbas (Owen Bennett-Jones, July 2019, London Review of Books)

The story begins with Iran in the mid-1980s. In the face of repeated Iraqi chemical weapons attacks, the government in Tehran decided to revive the shah's nuclear programme - overcoming Ayatollah Khomeini's reservations about the bomb's sharia-compliance. Iran needed help to get started and turned to Pakistan's military dictator, General Zia, who authorised Pakistan's nuclear scientists to engage with their Iranian counterparts. At the time Washington was threatening Pakistan with sanctions for its work on the bomb, and Zia may have calculated that low-level nuclear co-operation with Iran could be used as a negotiating chip to be traded in later: the co-operation could always be ended if sanctions looked imminent, as a way of averting the threat.

So the general, always adept at managing the relationship with Washington, directed his officials to help the Iranians - but not to give them anything substantial. Between 1986 and 2001 Pakistan provided Iran with designs for a uranium enrichment facility as well as key components needed to make a bomb. By the time the co-operation began, Khan had already put together an international network of suppliers and middlemen to procure the materials Pakistan needed for its own nuclear programme - a network that eventually included businessmen and engineers in Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea, Turkey, South Africa and Switzerland. A front company in Dubai, Gulf Technical Industries, was run by a British businessman who lived near Swansea. This loose confederation saw Iran as a potential new customer; Khan's name gave their sales pitch credibility. In 1987, Pakistan sent Iran two used centrifuges which, in line with Zia's directives, were of limited use: Khan himself was already working on a more advanced model. Abbas believes the person in charge of the day to day management of the nuclear relationship with Iran was General Beg, at the time vice chief of army staff, who once claimed that Tehran had offered him $10 billion for nuclear weapons technology. In the event Pakistan sold it much more cheaply.

An indication of quite how tight a grip Pakistan's military kept on all this is that Benazir Bhutto knew nothing about it until well into her first term as prime minister - and even then found out only by accident. In the autumn of 1989, as she told Abbas and others, she was at a conference in Tehran when President Rafsanjani invited her into a quiet corner to discuss a sensitive matter. He said he wanted to reaffirm the agreement their two countries had reached on 'special defence matters'. Unaware of any such arrangement, Bhutto said: 'What exactly are you talking about, Mr President?' 'Nuclear technology, Madam Prime Minister, nuclear technology,' Rafsanjani replied. Back home, Bhutto asked the president and army chief what he'd been talking about; they pretended they hadn't a clue.

Abbas concludes that the initial phase of co-operation with Iran was conducted without the army's institutional support - but that Khan had the tacit backing of a small number of senior individuals. It's a rather odd way of looking at it. If a serving army chief makes major strategic commitments to a foreign power it's hard to see how the outcome can be considered a freelance or rogue operation.

Then there was the deal with North Korea, which came about during Bhutto's second term in office. This time, more aware of the need to placate the Pakistani deep state, she offered to do its bidding. The journalist Shyam Bhatia, who had known Bhutto at Oxford, interviewed her in Dubai in 2004. In the course of their conversation, Bhatia says, Bhutto revealed that in 1993, while she was prime minister, she had personally carried discs with data on uranium enrichment into Pyongyang. She had even bought an overcoat with especially deep pockets so as to conceal the discs on her journey. Loyal friends of Bhutto have rejected the claim outright, insisting that she and Bhatia were only distant acquaintances. But when you listen to the tape of the 2004 interview - and hear them discuss Bhutto's brother Murtaza, whom Bhatia had met in Damascus - it's clear that the two knew each other well. Frustratingly, the comments about taking the data to Pyongyang weren't recorded - Bhatia says Bhutto asked that the tape recorder be switched off before she told the story.

There were of course other senior Pakistanis involved in the arrangement with North Korea. Khan has claimed that three army chiefs, Generals Kakar, Karamat and Musharraf, knew all about it. Karamat's possible involvement, first publicly alleged in the Washington Post in 2011, is particularly interesting. The Post claimed that in 1998, in order to secure military support for the deal, Khan gave Karamat - chief of army staff at the time - half a million dollars of North Korean money in cash, for use in 'secret army funds'. Apparently this was not enough to win him over, so Khan hand-delivered him another $2.5 million - some of it hidden in a cardboard box under a layer of fruit, some in a canvas bag.

The story's provenance was rock-solid: the source was a British journalist turned Washington think-tanker, Simon Henderson, who had established a relationship with Khan in the 1970s while working in Pakistan as a stringer for the BBC and the Financial Times. They kept in touch. Khan had good reason to unburden himself to Henderson. In 2004, after Pakistan's involvement in nuclear proliferation became known to the world, Khan appeared on TV to make a confession: he himself took 'full responsibility' for the nuclear deals, which 'were inevitably initiated at my behest'. He added - in words which the state presumably insisted he include - that 'there was never any kind of authorisation for these activities from the government' or the military. He was under house arrest for the next five years, and being made a lone scapegoat must have rankled. So once he was released he started naming names in public. Eventually he sent Henderson a copy of a letter from a North Korean official that detailed the secret payments.

Given the seriousness of the allegation, the Post put considerable resources into verifying the document. Having satisfied themselves that it was genuine, they splashed it on the front page. Karamat strongly denied the allegation but chose not to sue. The fate of what should have been a world-class scoop was instructive. Washington was heavily invested at the time in trying to improve relations with Pakistan so as to further US goals in Afghanistan: no one in the administration could see any advantage in holding the Pakistani army to account, and with the exception of the Post the press toed the government line. Khan must have been deeply frustrated. Having got the story published on the front page of a major Western newspaper he should have been in a position to begin a conversation about nuclear proliferation that involved a central pillar of the Pakistani state. But nobody took any notice.

Posted by orrinj at 6:59 AM


Rowing team of cancer survivors launches at record-breaking Prouty fundraiser (SARAH EARLE, 7/13/19, Valley News)

The survivors' team rowed about a mile of the 15-mile course, and the team's inaugural row was a small but poignant part of the event, which brought more than 200 rowers to Kendal Riverfront Park. In total, more than 4,400 people came out for the rowing, walking, biking and golf at the 38th annual Prouty fundraiser, which was created in honor of Audrey Prouty by four nurses who treated her during her nine-year battle with ovarian cancer. [...]

Using a boat on loan from the Upper Valley Rowing Foundation, the team had just a few weeks to learn the sport.

"Learning to row is a challenge. There's a lot of nuances," Wallace said. "It was a good experience, though."

This was a banner year for the Prouty, as organizers said the event raised more than $3.3 million for patient support services and cancer research at the Norris Cotton Cancer Center. That's the most money ever raised by event day and just a few thousand dollars shy of the Prouty's previous record, said Jean Brown, executive director of the Friends of the Norris Cotton Cancer Center. Because more money always trickles in after the race, she's certain this year will break past records.

"This has been a really exciting year," Brown said. "There's a really good feeling in the community about the cancer center."

Appreciation for the cancer center was a key motivation for Donna Palatucci, Sue Goulet and Hatsy McGraw as they walked the 7K at the Prouty on Saturday. The three friends have been walking together every year since 2005, the same year that Palatucci was diagnosed with cancer.

Palatucci, who lives in Windsor, recalled the massages she received at the cancer center, and the musicians who came in and played the harp while she was waiting for treatment. She knows how much those little things can mean.

"We also have a good friend who is in treatment right now," said McGraw, who met Palatucci and Goulet while she was living in Windsor and now lives in Hartland.

All three of the women, who joke that they are the "Prouty cover girls" because their photo was once on the front of a Prouty publication, have lost friends and family members to cancer. They have walked through drenching rains and heat waves alike, and they even recalled having to wait out a thunderstorm in the Frances Richmond Middle School gym. They've also witnessed the growth of the event, which was started in 1982 after Audrey Prouty's death and is now the biggest charity challenge north of Boston.

"This is really important to us every year. We really try not to miss," McGraw said.

Posted by orrinj at 6:38 AM


Alabama senator says Trump opposed to Sessions Senate bid (JORDAIN CARNEY, 07/11/19, The Hill)

Posted by orrinj at 6:15 AM


Trump axed Iran deal to spite Obama: How the British ambassador called the President's actions 'diplomatic vandalism' fueled by 'personality reasons' - as revealed in more explosive cables that have sparked a free speech row while Iran tensions mount (ISABEL OAKESHOTT and GLEN OWEN, 7/14/19, THE MAIL ON SUNDAY

Sir Kim's Iran memo was sent in May 2018, after Mr Johnson - who was then Foreign Secretary - had been dispatched to Washington to make a last ditch plea to President Trump not to abandon the nuclear deal with Iran designed to prevent the regime from building an atomic bomb.

Despite a frantic 26 hours of meetings with Trump's closest advisers, it became clear that the President was not going to change his mind.

After Mr Johnson returned to London, Sir Kim told No 10 in a 'diptel' (diplomatic telegram) that Mr Trump's Administration was 'set upon an act of diplomatic vandalism'. The Ambassador wrote that Mr Trump appeared to be abandoning the deal for 'personality reasons' because it had been agreed by his predecessor Barack Obama.

Sir Kim suggested there were splits among the President's closest advisers and said the White House lacked a 'day-after' strategy on what to do following withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as the deal was called.

...you can't really blame just his racial animus towards the UR when it's matched by his hatred of Muslim democracy.

The Prejudice First Model and Foreign Policy Values: Racial and Religious Bias among Conservatives and Liberals (Richard Hanania & Robert Trager, July 5, 2019, SSRN)

Scholars of foreign policy preference formation have accepted what Rathbun et al. (2016) call the "vertical hierarchy model," which says that policy attitudes are determined by more abstract moral ideas about right and wrong. This paper turns this idea on its head by introducing the prejudice first model, arguing that foreign policy preferences and orientations are in part driven by attitudes towards the groups being affected by specific policies. Three experiments are used to test the utility of this framework. First, when conservatives heard about Muslims killing Christians, as opposed to the opposite scenario, they were more likely to support a humanitarian intervention and agree that the United States has a moral obligation to help those persecuted by their governments. Liberals showed no religious preference. When the relevant identity group was race, however, liberals were more likely to want to help blacks persecuted by whites, while conservatives showed no racial bias. In contrast, the degree of persecution mattered relatively little to respondents in either experiment. In another experiment, conservatives adopted more isolationist policies after reading a text about the country becoming more liberal, as opposed to a paragraph that said the United States was a relatively conservative country. The treatment showed the opposite effect on liberals, although the results fell just short of statistical significance. While not necessarily contradicting the vertical hierarchy model, the results indicate that prejudices and biases not only help influence foreign policy attitudes, but moral perceptions of right and wrong in international politics. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:14 AM



For as long as he can remember, Tim Sherstyuk has been tinkering away in his parents' basement. He built his first computer at age 11, his first software program at 13 and filed his first patent application at 19. Two years later, he dropped out of school to build a company that has the potential to significantly improve the lifespan and charging speed of batteries -- with huge consequences for the planet.

GBatteries is on the verge of enabling electric vehicles to charge as fast as it takes to fill a tank of gas, a benchmark Sherstyuk says could retire the internal combustion engine once and for all.

July 13, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 6:55 PM


Migrant Children Report Sexual Assault, Abuse at Arizona Border Facility (TAYLOR MAHLANDT, JULY 10, 2019, Slate)

Customs and Border Protection agents at a facility in Yuma, Arizona, are facing allegations of sexual assault and mistreatment of migrant children, according to documents obtained by NBC News. The outlet reviewed nearly 30 accounts from government case managers dating from April 10 to June 12 that detail an environment in which kids were allegedly neglected, denied basic provisions, and verbally and physically abused by those running the facilities. This mirrors the dismal conditions that have been criticized in Texas border facilities, like those in El Paso and Rio Grande Valley.

One 15-year-old Honduran girl described being sexually assaulted by a CBP agent during a pat-down. She said the agent "put his hands down her bra, pulled down her underwear and groped her" while laughing and speaking to other agents in English, leaving her feeling humiliated.

In another case, a boy recounted officers using offensive slurs in Spanish, calling children "puto" while giving orders. Retaliation by agents was also mentioned in the reports. In one such instance, after a group of children complained about the taste of their water and food, CBP agents allegedly removed the mats from their cells, leaving them to sleep on concrete. Detainees in Yuma also report being denied phone calls, regular showers and clean clothes, going to bed hungry, and being detained longer than 72 hours.

We should be able to expect better of them than that they act like Donald.

Posted by orrinj at 6:35 PM


When Does America Reckon with the Gravity of Donald Trump's Alleged Rapes?: In light of the new legal scrutiny of Jeffrey Epstein, it's time to re-examine all the sexual misconduct allegations against the president. (LAURA BASSETT, July 11, 2019, GQ)

In 2016, "Jane Doe" filed a lawsuit against Trump alleging a "savage sexual attack" in 1994, when she was 13 years old, in which he tied her to a bed at Epstein's house, raped her, and struck her in the face. The account was corroborated by a witness who claimed to have seen the child perform sexual acts on both Trump and Epstein.

Just as he has a patten of sexual predation, Trump also seems to have a pattern of threatening victims who come forward. Jane Doe alleged in the lawsuit that Trump told her she shouldn't ever say anything if she didn't want to "disappear like Maria," a 12-year-old girl who had also been abused along with her. Jane Doe dropped the lawsuit in November 2016, days before Trump's election, after her attorney, Lisa Bloom, cited "numerous threats" against her client. (Trump denied the allegations, and Bloom declined to comment for this story.)

Even if the Epstein proceedings fail to produce evidence against Trump, there is enough already in the public record--including words recorded out of his own mouth--to substantiate a shockingly prolific history of sexual misconduct. The first rape allegation against him was by his ex-wife Ivana, who in a deposition in the early 1990s described a violent assault by her husband in 1989 in which he pulled out fistfuls of her hair and jammed himself inside her. She clarified while he was running for president in 2015--and while under a gag order that prevents her from discussing her marriage with Trump without his approval--that the alleged rape was not in a "criminal sense." What she, likely coached by Trump's team, seemed to be implying is that a man has a right to sex with his wife, regardless of his level of violence or her protestations (all 50 states have laws against non-consensual sex, or rape, within a marriage).

Even though Michael Cohen, Trump's former personal lawyer and fixer, claimed that "you cannot rape your spouse," he was so invested in squashing the story that he dramatically threatened a Daily Beast reporter who was writing about the incident that same year. "I will make sure that you and I meet one day while we're in the courthouse. And I will take you for every penny you still don't have. And I will come after your Daily Beast and everybody else that you possibly know," Cohen said. "So I'm warning you, tread very fucking lightly, because what I'm going to do to you is going to be fucking disgusting. You understand me?"

The allegations have piled up against Trump for almost 40 years now. Businesswoman Jessica Leeds told The New York Times that in the 1980s, he grabbed her breasts and reached up her skirt on an airplane without her consent. "He was like an octopus," she said. "His hands were everywhere."

In total, and not counting the young Jane Doe who rescinded her lawsuit, more than 20 women have accused Trump of sexual misconduct so far, and many of them have produced witnesses and corroborators. Five have produced at least two witnesses. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:14 PM


A Deeper Look at Vietnam's Trade Deal With Europe: The EU's drive to become the defender of multilateralism promises further opportunities for Southeast Asia. (Stuart Brown, July 12, 2019, The Diplomat)

On June 30, Vietnam signed a trade agreement and investment protection agreement with the European Union (EU). In doing so, the country became the second member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), following Singapore, to conclude a major trade agreement with the EU. Although the news was partly upstaged by the EU's agreement with the South American trade bloc Mercosur just a few days earlier, the deal has important implications not only for Vietnam's relationship with Europe, but for the EU's wider role in Southeast Asia.

There are obvious economic benefits for both sides, with a 99 percent reduction in tariffs envisaged. From day one, around 65 percent of EU exports to Vietnam will be tariff free, with most other areas being fully liberalized over the next 10 years. For Vietnamese exports to the EU, 71 percent of exports will be tariff free from day one, with 99 percent liberalized within seven years.

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Just as importantly from the European perspective, the deal allowed the EU to further strengthen its credentials as the chief defender of free trade and multilateralism, at a time when the protectionist instincts of Donald Trump and an entrenched trade conflict between the United States and China continue to dominate global affairs.

Indeed, the contrast between the approach pursued by Trump in Vietnam and the deal with the EU could hardly have been greater. In the days leading up to the agreement, the U.S. president had sharply rebuked the country, labeling Vietnam "almost the single worst abuser of everybody." Trump's ire, as ever, was linked to a burgeoning trade deficit between the United States and Vietnam. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:04 AM


Border Patrol Agents Circulate 'Challenge Coin' Mocking Care for Migrant Kids (Dara Lind July 13, 2019, National Memo)

An unofficial commemorative coin has been circulating among Border Patrol agents at the U.S./Mexico border, mocking the task of caring for migrant children and other duties that have fallen to agents as families cross into the U.S.

On the front, the coin declares "KEEP THE CARAVANS COMING" under an image of a massive parade of people carrying a Honduran flag -- a caricature of the "caravan" from last fall, which started in Honduras and attracted thousands of people as it moved north. (While the caravan included many women and children, the only visible figures on the coin appear to be adult men.)

The coin's reverse side features the Border Patrol logo and three illustrations: a Border Patrol agent bottle-feeding an infant; an agent fingerprinting a teen boy wearing a backwards baseball cap; and a U.S. Border Patrol van. The text along the edge reads "FEEDING ** PROCESSING ** HOSPITAL ** TRANSPORT."

Trump's former ICE chief advocates for extended detention of families (RAFAEL BERNAL, 07/12/19, The Hill)

Former Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) chief Thomas Homan told a House panel Friday that migrant families seeking asylum should wait out their legal process in detention. [...]

He added that the "unprecedented attack and vilification of the men and women of ICE and the Border Patrol" is negatively affecting agent morale.

"They have to wake up every day and see the news reports and comments from representatives in Congress that they are Nazis, white supremacists, that they operate concentration camps, that they abuse women and children," said Homan.

"Those that make those outrageous statements believe that once you decide to carry that ICE badge or the Border Patrol badge, that you lose your sense of humanity and love for another person," he added.

Reporters With Pence Find Migrants Confined In 'Horrendous' Conditions (Cody Fenwick July 12, 2019, Alternet)

While traveling with Vice President Mike Pence to Texas, pool reporters negotiated access to see an outdoor portal at the McAllen Border Station. And what they found, as documented in a pool report and photos by reporter Josh Dawsey of the Washington Post, was an absolutely horrifying scene.

There were about 400 men caged in a fenced-in area outdoors, "so crowded that it would have been impossible for all of the men to lie on the concrete," Dawsey reported.

"There were no mats or pillows -- some of the men were sleeping on concrete," he said. "The stench was horrendous."

He described the weather as "sweltering hot."

The men in the cages began shouting at the press when they came by, saying that they've been kept there for 40 days or longer. Dawsey said they appeared dirty. The patrol agent in charge at the station admitted some of the men hadn't showered for 10 or 20 days because the facility only recently got showers.

as Mr. Homan said, sit back and enjoy it.
Posted by orrinj at 5:02 AM


New Zealanders give up weapons at first gun buyback event after Christchurch mosque killings (SBS, 7/12/19)

Police Minister Stuart Nash said the objective was to "remove the most dangerous weapons from circulation".

With armed police monitoring the handover, 169 firearms owners handed in 224 weapons and 217 parts and accessories. They were then crushed in hydraulic presses.

More than NZ$433,600 ($290,300) was paid out to gun owners in exchange for their weapons.

Regional police commander Mike Johnson said 903 residents in the Canterbury region, which includes Christchurch, had registered 1,415 firearms to be handed in.

"Police recognise that this is a big change for the law-abiding firearms community and we are hearing really positive feedback from people as they come through today that they are finding the process works well for them," Johnson said.

"Canterbury firearms owners' attitude towards this process has been outstanding."

Ray Berard, who moved to New Zealand from Canada 25 years ago, handed in an assault rifle. He told reporters he had been in the Canadian army and on the Canada shooting team but believed there was no place for military-style firearms in modern society.

"My wife is working as one of the project directors on the hospital rebuild and we were there on the day of the shooting and watched the 35-odd hearses leave the next day," he said.

Posted by orrinj at 4:42 AM


The Neo-Nationalists Are Coming to Town (GABRIEL SCHOENFELD  JULY 12, 2019, The Bulwark)

"You know, they have a word," said Donald Trump at one of his rallies last year, "it's sort of became old-fashioned--it's called a 'nationalist.' And I say, really, we're not supposed to use that word. You know what I am? I'm a nationalist, okay? I'm a nationalist. Nationalist. Nothing wrong. Use that word. Use that word."

The word is being used. Nationalism of a certain "old-fashioned" and nasty sort is making a comeback here in the United States and around the world. Inextricably associated with the most destructive war in human history, it has long been looked at askance by thinking people who remember the bloodshed it unleashed. But now, in an era in which liberal democracies and the very idea of liberal democracy are under assault, the taboo surrounding nationalism is being stripped away.

Starting Sunday, Washington will be home to a three-day gathering for those "who understand that the past and future of conservatism," according to the conference website, "are inextricably tied to the idea of the nation." [...]

Along with Bolton, giving one of the keynote addresses is none other than Tucker Carlson of Fox News, who regularly dabbles in nationalism's unwholesome side.

Authoritarianism? "You've got to be honest about what it means to lead a country, it means killing people," said Carlson, speaking to Fox & Friends about Trump's meeting with North Korean tyrant Kim Jong-un.

Demonization? To Carlson immigration is something that "makes our own country poor and dirtier and more divided." Or as he said on another occasion, "I actually hate litter which is why I'm so against illegal immigration."

Bigotry? This is the same Tucker Carlson who has called Iraqis: "semiliterate primitive monkeys." 

In this ugliness, Carlson is not alone. Another featured speaker, Michael Anton, formerly of the Trump administration's national security council and author of the notorious "Flight 93 Election" essay, warns that "a republic that opens its doors to immigrants must choose carefully whom and how many to accept." He cautions darkly against "the ceaseless importation of Third World foreigners with no tradition of, taste for, or experience in liberty." The racialist tenor of such statements is as transparent as Donald Trump's comments about the "very fine people" among the white supremacists carrying tiki torches as they marched in Charlottesville.

According to Yoram Hazony, the Israeli-American student of political philosophy who is the principal organizer of the conference, liberal principles, "have brought us to a dead end." He lumps "universal liberalism" together with Marxism and Nazism as a potentially "genocidal" ideology that fuels "the desire for imperial conquest." In liberalism's stead, he is a proponent of what he calls "conservative democracy." He favors a tradition in which, among other things, the state "upholds and honors the biblical God and religious practices common to the nation." In other words, in the American context, he would bid farewell to the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

Hazony opposes liberal democracy root and branch and also the very idea of a pluralistic society. "The overwhelming dominance of a single cohesive nationality," he writes, "is in fact the only basis for domestic peace within a free state." He approvingly quotes Johann Gottfried Herder, the 18th-century father of German nationalism, who warns against "the wild mixing of races and nationalities under one scepter."

Posted by orrinj at 4:39 AM


'This wasn't just a briefing': Pompeo grilled CIA analysts on Russia findings: The DOJ is now reviewing those same findings after Mike Pompeo found no wrongdoing in how the agency concluded Russia wanted to help Trump in 2016. (NATASHA BERTRAND 07/12/2019, Politico)

Attorney General Bill Barr has ordered an investigation into whether the CIA was correct to determine that Russian President Vladimir Putin wanted to boost Donald Trump during the 2016 election.

But that question has already been asked and answered at the CIA's highest levels -- by Mike Pompeo, a Trump loyalist, according to three people familiar with the matter.

Just after Pompeo took over as CIA director in 2017, he conducted a personal review of the CIA's findings, grilling analysts on their conclusions in a challenging and at times combative interview, these people said. He ultimately found no evidence of any wrongdoing, or that the analysts had been under political pressure to produce their findings.

"This wasn't just a briefing," said one person familiar with the episode. "This was a challenging back and forth, in which Pompeo asked the officers tough questions about their work and how they determined Putin's specific objectives." Pompeo also asked about CIA's work with the FBI on the Russia probe in 2016. Two U.S. officials further confirmed to POLITICO that the interview occurred and was robust.

Additionally, a congressional official said Pompeo and his deputies never gave any indication to lawmakers, even behind closed doors, that the CIA had acted improperly or drawn incorrect conclusions about Putin's desire to help Trump get elected.

And IG Horowitz is now co-operating with Christopher Steele's investigation.

Posted by orrinj at 4:36 AM


Letters in Amy McGrath campaign launch video were postmarked the same day (Niels Lesniewski & Stephanie Akin, 7/12/10, Roll Call)

Kentucky Senate candidate Amy McGrath's three-minute campaign launch  video retells her personal story of getting no answer to letters to members of Congress, then features four Kentuckians writing to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for help with personal crises.

The video implies that McConnell never responded, but it appears the letters were sent Tuesday, the same day that McGrath announced her bid for the Democratic nomination to challenge him. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:34 AM


Acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan under federal investigation for alleged leaks (Anna Giaritelli, July 12, 2019, Washington Examiner)

Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan is at the center of a federal investigation into the leak of confidential government information in late June that forced Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to call off a nationwide operation, three senior administration officials told the Washington Examiner.

Posted by orrinj at 4:28 AM


Gov. Bill Lee signs Nathan Bedford Forrest Day proclamation, is not considering law change (Natalie Allison, 7/12/19, Nashville Tennessean)

Gov. Bill Lee has proclaimed Saturday as Nathan Bedford Forrest Day in Tennessee, a day of observation to honor the former Confederate general and early Ku Klux Klan leader whose bust is on display in the state Capitol.

Duncan Hunter sends more Islamophobic campaign mailers in California (LAURA BARRÓN-LÓPEZ and ZACH MONTELLARO 07/12/2019, pOLITICO)

Indicted Rep. Duncan Hunter is sending Islamophobic mail pieces to voters in his Southern California district, attacking his Democratic opponent, Ammar Campa-Najjar, for his deceased grandfather alleged ties to a 1972 terrorist attack.

The mailers show a photo of one of the terrorists involved in an attack on Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics wearing a ski mask on one side, and photos of Campa-Najjar and Muslim Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, on the other. 

July 12, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 9:14 PM


Dogs Are Bad And Owners Are 'Accursed,' Israeli Orthodox Rabbis Rule (Cnaan Liphshiz, 7/12/19, JTA)

More than a dozen rabbis from the city of Elad near Tel Aviv issued an edict declaring all dogs bad and warning residents that keeping them will make them accursed.

The edict, dated to June 14, contains the signatures of all the Sephardic rabbis in Elad, a city of about 46,000 residents where most of the population is haredi Orthodox and the city's chief rabbi, Mordechai Malka, the news site bhol reported Friday.

"We have heard and have seen that lately, a serious phenomenon has spread in our city Elad, in which young boys and children walk around publicly with dogs. This is strictly forbidden, as explained in the Talmud and by the Rambam, anyone raising a dog is accursed and especially in our city where many women and children are afraid of dogs," the anti-canine edict states.

Posted by orrinj at 7:13 PM


Report: Border Patrol Chief Participated in Facebook Group Where Agents Joked About Migrant Deaths (MOLLY OLMSTEAD, JULY 12, 2019, Slate)

Carla Provost, the chief of the United States Border Patrol, was one of a number of Border Patrol personnel to participate in a Facebook group in which members joked about migrant deaths and made other offensive comments about immigrants and asylum-seekers, the Intercept reported Friday. The group's discovery led to two separate investigations by government watchdog groups into unprofessional behavior.

Posted by orrinj at 2:34 PM


U.S. House passes $733 billion defense policy bill after Trump threatens veto (Mike Stone, 7/12/19, Reuters)

The U.S. House of Representatives approved a $733 billion defense policy bill on Friday, defying President Donald Trump's veto threat by including provisions like a clampdown on funding for his planned wall on the border with Mexico.

U.S. appeals court judges spar with Trump lawyer over bid to block House subpoena (Jan Wolfe, 7/11/19, Reuters)

The three judges on the panel did not say how or when they would rule. But they repeatedly sparred with Trump's personal lawyer William Consovoy over his central argument that the subpoena is unconstitutional because it is "law enforcement" that would not further Congress' main task of enacting laws.

Judge David Tatel said the House is already working on legislation relating to presidential conflicts of interest and government ethics, and suggested that the financial records requested from Mazars are reasonably related to that effort.

"These bills have passed the House and are directly related to the subject of this subpoena," Tatel said.

Trump is reportedly 'eager' to fire Dan Coats (The Week, 7/12/19)

As Labor Secretary Alex Acosta resigns, yet another administration departure could be imminent.

President Trump has been telling confidants that he's "eager" to remove Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, Axios reported on Friday. In fact, Trump has reportedly been saying he'd like to get rid of the entire Office of the Director of National Intelligence -- or at least "downsize" it, since he's been told scrapping the whole office isn't possible.

Posted by orrinj at 2:28 PM


A Midsummer Overview Of The Democratic Field (Nate Silver, 7/11/19, 538)

Tier 1: The front-runners: Biden, Harris and Warren

Biden, Harris and Warren represent three relatively distinct, but fairly traditional, archetypes for party nominees:

Biden, as a former vice president, is a "next-in-line" candidate who is rather explicitly promising to perpetuate the legacy of President Obama and uphold the party's current agenda. It might not be exciting, but these candidates have pretty good track records.

Harris is a coalition-builder who would hope to unite the different factions of the party -- black, white, left, liberal, moderate, etc. -- as a consensus choice.

Warren is offering more red meat (or should it be blue meat?) and would represent more of a leftward transformation from the status quo. But she's simpatico enough with party elites and has broad enough appeal that she isn't necessarily a factional candidate in the way that Sanders is. Instead, a better analogy for Warren might be Ronald Reagan; they are not comparable in terms of their backgrounds or their political styles, but they are both candidates who straddle the boundary between the ideological wings of their party and the party establishment.

On an empirical basis, the Biden and Harris strategies have produced more winners than the Warren one, although all three approaches are viable. That doesn't mean that Biden, Harris and Warren are the only candidates pursuing these strategies. Cory Booker's coalition could look a lot like Harris's, for instance, were he ever to gain traction. But they're the only candidates who are both (a) taking approaches that have worked well in the past and (b) polling reasonably well at the moment. That puts them in the top tier.

How you would rank them within the top tier is harder. But we should probably start with the fact that Biden is still ahead of the other two in the polls. It's closer in early state polls, and it's closer once you account for the fact that Harris and Warren still aren't as well-known as Biden is. But Biden's lead is nontrivial -- he's ahead of Harris by 12 percentage points (and Warren by 13) in the RealClearPolitics average.

And while you might claim that Harris and Warren have momentum, you need to be careful with that. Often, polling bounces from debates and other events fade, so it's at least possible that Harris and Warren are at their high-water marks. Or not. But Biden is (POKER ANALOGY ALERT!) a bit like a poker player who's just lost a big pot. Before, he had way more chips than Warren and Harris did; now, he has only slightly more than they do. But you'd still rather be the candidate with more chips than fewer, momentum be damned.

Unless ... the way you lost that hand reveals something about your game that could come back to bite you again in the future. Biden wasn't very effective in the debates, according to the voters we surveyed along with Morning Consult. And some of his decline in the polls has to do with what could be Biden's two biggest vulnerabilities: his electability halo bursting and voters expressing concern about his age. The age problem isn't going away. And while Biden can still make an electability case -- there are plenty of polls showing him doing better than other Democrats against President Trump -- voters are at least likely to scrutinize his argument rather than take it for granted.

Only Biden and Kamala appeal to two of the three core constituencies required: the folks who just want reassurance; black women and Progressives.  

Posted by orrinj at 2:22 PM


Absurd, Shocking, Embarrassingly Bad: So say conservatives about Trump's health care lawsuit. (David Leonhardt, 7/11/19, NY Times)

[E]ven some conservative legal experts who supported past efforts to throw out the law think this challenge is outrageous. Jonathan Adler of Case Western University has called the current case "just absurd," as well as "unmoored" and "shocking." Ted Frank, a lawyer at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, called the trial judge's decision "embarrassingly bad." Ilya Somin of George Mason University has signed a brief opposing the lawsuit.

And conservative writers including Philip Klein of the Washington Examiner and the Cato Institute's Michael Cannon have criticized the lawsuit. The headline on Klein's piece is: "I hate Obamacare, but Texas judge's decision on its unconstitutionality is an assault on the rule of law."

How has this case managed to go so far? Jonathan Cohn of HuffPost has written a helpful summary.

The brief version is: The Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that the health law was legal even though it overreached in requiring people to buy health insurance, because that requirement -- known as the mandate -- wasn't really a requirement. People could choose not to have insurance and instead pay a fee, which meant that the mandate was more akin to a tax on the uninsured.  Congress clearly has the right to impose taxes.

Trump's tax law, passed in 2017, reduced this fee on the uninsured to zero. In the current lawsuit, the plaintiffs have taken advantage of this change to argue that the mandate is now back to being a mandate rather than a tax -- even if it's an irrelevant mandate, because ignoring it brings no penalty. As Cohn wrote, "It doesn't take a fancypants law degree to see that the new scheme is, if anything, less intrusive than the old one -- a point that the attorneys for California and the U.S. House [who were arguing against the Trump administration] made several times."

Given the advantages of incumbency and the inheritance of the Obamaconomy, Donald still has a non-zero chance of re-election, unless he succeeds in demolishing Obamacare.

Posted by orrinj at 2:17 PM


New book details how Republican leaders learned to stop worrying and love Trump (Josh Dawsey July 11, 2019, Washington Post)

"These guys have all convinced themselves that to be successful and keep their jobs, they need to stand by Trump," Rep. Justin Amash (Mich.), who recently left the GOP over his differences with Trump, said in an interview for the book. "But Trump won't stand with them as soon as he doesn't need them. He's not loyal. They're very loyal to Trump, but the second he thinks it's to his advantage to throw someone under the bus, he'll be happy to do it."

Alberta dings Vice President Pence and others for seeking to defend Trump as an evangelical and humble man behind the scenes seeking to help his country -- while casting aside their core convictions. He reports that the vice president's wife, Karen Pence, did not want to appear in public with her husband after the "Access Hollywood" tape and that Pence disagreed with Trump on many key issues, from immigration to trade.

Now, Pence's oldest friends joke about whether Trump has blackmail material on him.

"Pence's talents for bootlicking -- he was nicknamed 'the Bobblehead' by Republicans on Capitol Hill for his solemn nodding routine whenever Trump spoke -- were at their most obscene during meetings at the White House," Alberta writes. 

Mick Mulvaney is cast as ambitious and clear-eyed about Trump before the election, telling fellow lawmakers that he read "The Art of the Deal" and could play to Trump's ego while blocking his worst inclinations.

"We're not going to let Donald Trump dismantle the Bill of Rights," Mulvaney said to Alberta in 2016 when he was still a congressman from South Carolina. "For five and half years, every time we got to the floor and try to push back against an overreaching president, we get accused of being partisan at best and racist at worst. When we do it against a Republican president, maybe people will see it was a principled objection in the first place." 

Now, as the president's acting chief of staff, Mulvaney says to others that he "lets Trump be Trump."

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), who basked in Trump's glory during a large rally that helped him win a tight Texas race down the stretch of the 2018 midterms, once felt differently about the president.

Cruz "told confidantes there was 'no way in hell' he was prepared to subjugate himself to Trump in front of tens of millions of viewers," Alberta writes. " 'History isn't kind to the man who holds Mussolini's jacket,' Cruz told friends in 2016." Even later, he bemoaned Trump for seeking to end birthright citizenship, saying he would cost the party seats.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) told Alberta in June 2016 that he wishes the Republican-controlled Congress could have done things differently to "avoid creating this environment that was conducive to someone like Donald Trump becoming the nominee." Jordan is now on Fox News defending Trump more than almost any other of the president's allies.

Posted by orrinj at 8:26 AM

rIGHT FROM THE BEGINNING (profanity alert):

The Forgotten Man: On Murray Rothbard, philosophical harbinger of Trump and the alt-right (John Ganz, 12/15/17, The Baffler)

True, Trump may not be a man of ideas, but his presidency and political style were imagined by one man: the libertarian economist and philosopher Murray N. Rothbard, who died in 1995. Not long before his death, Rothbard rejoiced when he saw in the emergence of David Duke and Pat Buchanan, in 1992, his long-held vision for America's right and concluded that what was needed was more of the same:

And so the proper strategy for the right wing must be what we can call "right-wing populism": exciting, dynamic, tough, and confrontational, rousing and inspiring not only the exploited masses, but the often-shell-shocked right-wing intellectual cadre as well. And in this era where the intellectual and media elites are all establishment liberal-conservatives, all in a deep sense one variety or another of social democrat, all bitterly hostile to a genuine Right, we need a dynamic, charismatic leader who has the ability to short-circuit the media elites, and to reach and rouse the masses directly. We need a leadership that can reach the masses and cut through the crippling and distorting hermeneutical fog spread by the media elites.

Despite the eerie accuracy of his vision, Rothbard's name is not widely known.

Despite the eerie accuracy of his vision and his prolific writing on every subject from contemporary cinema to the Federal Reserve system, Rothbard's name is not widely known. It's not likely to be found in bibliography of a contemporary economist's paper, but you will find it scrawled on the seamy underbelly of the web, in the message boards of the alt-right, where fewer voices are more in the air than Rothbard's. One can look at the recent profiles of neo-fascists to find the name Rothbard, and that of his favorite pupil and protégé, Hans Hermann-Hoppe, again and again. In The New Yorker's piece on Mike Enoch, the founder of the "Daily Shoah" podcast, Enoch notes that his path to the alt-right began with reading Rothbard, Ayn Rand, and Ludwig von Mises. When asked how he began to move "so far right," Tony Hovater, the Indiana Nazi from the infamous New York Times profile, "name-drops Murray Rothbard and Hans-Hermann Hoppe." Chris Cantwell, the crying Nazi of Vice News notoriety, says he was a "big fan of Murray Rothbard" and then went on to "read Hans-Hermann Hoppe's Democracy: The God that Failed."  Trump backer Peter Thiel's essay, "The Education of a Libertarian," shows the clear influence of Rothbard's apostle Hoppe, who invited Thiel to a conference that also hosted American Renaissance's Jared Taylor and VDARE's Peter Brimelow. For a time before his death, Rothbard had the ear of Pat Buchanan. Paul Gottfried, the erstwhile ally of Richard Spencer, who is sometimes credited with coining the term "alternative right," was a friend and admirer of Rothbard, and he also delivered the Murray N. Rothbard Memorial lectures at the Mises Institute.

Inching more to the mainstream, Andrew Breitbart and Steve Bannon's fusion of libertarianism and populism seems Rothbardian in inspiration. Indeed, Justin Raimondo, Rothbard's disciple and the author of the biography Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard, pronounced in February 2017, "Bannonism is libertarianism." A few days, later Bannon announced his fight for the "deconstruction of the administrative state," a goal that would have garnered Rothbard's enthusiastic applause. Rothbard and Bannon apparently also both share an appreciation for Vladimir Lenin as political sensei, but the latter's familiarity with the Russian revolutionary's ideas might very well have come from the former's writings.

The literature about Rothbard tends to be hagiographic; at times, almost literally so. One biographer, right off the bat, compares him to Saint Augustine and Soren Kierkegaard. Raimondo, sounding like something that might have been written in the nineteenth century about Beethoven or Goethe, is taken by the man's physiognomy: "The high forehead, the nose prominent but finely formed, the half-smile exuding an earnest intelligence." The Mises Institute, named for Rothbard's mentor, the Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises, which served his intellectual home for many years, is almost a personality cult dedicated to the memory of Rothbard the Great; its website is sprinkled with many fond reminiscences of his intellectual and personal virtues. [...]

No matter how abstract the economics he liked were, Rothbard never lost his taste for concrete politics. He was particularly drawn to the first reactions against the early stirrings of civil rights legislation. In 1948, he horrified his fellow Jewish students by leading a meeting of a Students for Thurmond group. He claimed toward the end of his life to have founded the group, but if he did, he did not cop to it in his effusive fan letter to Strom Thurmond's States Rights Democrats in Jackson, Mississippi: "Although a New Yorker born and bred, I was a staunch supporter of the Thurmond movement; a good friend of mine headed the Columbia Students for Thurmond, which I believe was the only such collegiate movement north of the Mason-Dixon line." But he only regretted that Thurmond's movement was too regional, too Southern, saying it was "imperative for the States Rights movement to establish itself on a nation-wide scale" where "[it] could grow into a mighty movement if you have the will and vision. There are millions of Americans throughout the country, Republicans and Democrats, who would flock to your banner."

He did not find himself at home with the New Right rallying around William F. Buckley's National Review.

But it was Joseph McCarthy and McCarthyism that provided Rothbard with one of his main political inspirations. In 1954, when Roy Cohn was forced to resign as McCarthy's counsel, Rothbard wrote a speech for Students for America's George Reisman to give at what would be a raucous goodbye fete for Cohn at the Hotel Astor. With McCarthy in attendance, Reisman declaimed Rothbard's words:

There's been only one thing wrong with the famous methods of you or that other great American Senator Joe McCarthy: You have been too kind, too courteous, too considerate, too decent to realize in the fullest sense the viciousness and venom of the left's smear bund that's dedicated to drive every effective anti-communist from public life. The communists and their New Dealer cousins may have their family quarrels at times, but essentially they have been united, united for 21 years in a popular front regime of the left. [...]

The other big idea that Rothbard cooked up during his years at the Volker Fund was to borrow from a particular tradition on the left, one that would've been very familiar from his Bronx boyhood. In a 1961 memo entitled "What Is To Be Done," after Lenin's 1901 pamphlet of the same name, Rothbard outlined a strategy for the movement:

Here we stand, then, a "hard core" of libertarian-individualist "revolutionaries," anxious not only to develop our own understanding of this wonderful system of thought, but also anxious to spread its principles--and its policies--to the rest of society. How do we go about it? I think that here we can learn a great deal from Lenin and the Leninists--not too much, of course--but particularly the idea that the Leninist party is the main, or indeed only, moral principle.

What Rothbard thought the libertarian movement needed to copy from Leninism were professional cadres of dedicated ideologues to organize cells and spread the faith. After an abortive attempt to woo the New Left in the late 1960s and early 1970s, this was almost certainly the vision Rothbard brought to Charles Koch, when he inspired him to found the Cato Institute at the Koch's ski lodge in Vail. Justin Raimondo illustrates the scene vividly: "Over the course of a weekend, in the winter of 1976," Raimondo writes, "Rothbard and the heir to one of the largest family held corporations in the nation talked into the night. As the roaring fire in the elaborate stone fireplace, burned down to flickering embers, Rothbard outlined the need to organize and systematize the burgeoning libertarian movement and bring order out of chaos." [...]

The writing Rockwell produced on behalf of Ron Paul in the 1980s and early 1990s is quite frank in its racism, homophobia, and paranoia about AIDS--part of what Rothbard described as an "Outreach to the Rednecks." By 1990, the Ron Paul newsletters started discussing David Duke in favorable terms. But it was in 1992, after David Duke's failed presidential run, that Rothbard in an article entitled "Right Wing Populism," from the Rockwell-Rothbard Report, fully puts Duke's politics in the context of his earlier articulated "populist short-circuit" strategy. There he encourages emulation of Duke:

It is fascinating that there was nothing in Duke's current program or campaign that could not also be embraced by paleoconservatives or paleo-libertarians: lower taxes, dismantling the bureaucracy, slashing the welfare system, attacking affirmative action and racial set-asides, calling for equal rights for all Americans, including whites: what's wrong with any of that?

Ultimately it was Pat Buchanan who was to be Rothbard's man in 1992.

Rothbard applauded The Bell Curve for destroying "the egalitarian myth" that "has been the major ideological groundwork for the welfare state."

But the clearest expression of Rothbard's racism comes in his review of Charles Murray's and Richard Herrnstein's book The Bell Curve in 1994. As far back as his undergraduate years Rothbard believed that the statistical regularities expressed in bell curves were a load of bulls[**]t: "Well, what is the evidence for this vital assumption around a normal curve? None whatever. It is a purely mystical act of faith." He stayed remarkably consistent in his review of Murray's book: he thought there was entirely too much reliance on boring numbers and evidence, that it doesn't get to the good stuff fast enough: ". . . the Herrnstein-Murray book almost drowns its subject in statistics and qualifications, and it tries to downplay the entire race issue, devoting most of its space to inheritable differences among individuals within each ethnic or racial group." He applauds the book for destroying "the egalitarian myth" that "has been the major ideological groundwork for the welfare state, and, in its racial aspect, for the entire vast, ever expanding civil rights-affirmative action-set aside-quota aspect of the welfare state. The recognition of inheritance and natural inequalities among races as well as among individuals knocks the props out from under the welfare state system." Rothbard continues:

If and when we as populists and libertarians abolish the welfare state in all of its aspects, and property rights and the free market shall be triumphant once more, many individuals and groups will predictably not like the end result. In that case, those ethnic and other groups who might be concentrated in lower-income or less prestigious occupations, guided by their socialistic mentors, will predictably raise the cry that free-market capitalism is evil and "discriminatory" and that therefore collectivism is needed to redress the balance . . . In short; racialist science is properly not an act of aggression or a cover for oppression of one group over another, but, on the contrary, an operation in defense of private property against assaults by aggressors.

Here what Rothbard meant when he talks about non-aggression and self-defense is made plain: the ideological rampart of the post-welfare order against egalitarian attacks would have to be scientifically dressed up racism, defending the "property rights" of the rightful masters, sorted to the top by the ineluctable logic of the market. At this point his appeal to the alt-right shouldn't be much of a mystery.

Justin Raimondo was the gay, ferociously anti-war precursor to Donald Trump (Curt Mills, July 11, 2019, Spectator USA)

Justin Raimondo is dying. It's October 2018 and I am headed to the 'Raimondo Ranch', in Sebastopol, northern California, to visit the home of the founder of Antiwar.com, the cult website that kept the faith in the early days of the net as Bill Clinton mindlessly bombed Yugoslavia, and George W. Bush leveled Iraq. No one cared, of course. And everyone else was wrong.

Raimondo is a legend. The 'ranch' is no paleoconservative plantation. It's a quaint shack with a garden that looks like it's used to grow marijuana, but charmingly probably isn't. The property will go to Yoshi, who Raimondo describes as his boyfriend, though in fact the pair are married. Raimondo wouldn't like such talk: if you want a spouse, get a wife, seems to be his sentiment, but he will bend the knee for those he loves.

Raimondo cuts an ascetic figure: wiry, chain-smoking, dressed punky but plainly. His reputation is the same to friends and enemies: warrior-monk and a[***]hole.

There is no God, Raimondo says. This is it; this is all there is. 'My country's f[***]ed up,' he tells me, through tears. Time is short. [...]

Like a lot of people who encountered him, I am still grappling with what to make of Justin Raimondo. He was a conservative, of sorts, committed at his death to the new Republican party as a vehicle of national salvation. When I asked him if he considered himself an intellectual, not merely a brawler, he answered hesitantly: 'I would say yes.'

As a tween reader of Antiwar and kindred publication The American Conservative, anti-Bush staples, I found meeting Raimondo reminded me of that scene in Almost Famous, when the green reporter protagonist, William Miller encounters underground rock journalist Lester Bangs. Bangs tells Miller: 'It's just a damned shame you missed out on rock 'n' roll. It's over.'

Proto-Trumps are dropping like flies. Raimondo's demise was followed this week by the death of Ross Perot, the anti-Bush populist, whom acolytes Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham, remarkably for any viewer with long-term memory, paid moving tribute to on primetime Fox News Tuesday night. Justin Raimondo may be dead, but the sentiment that the country is to the dogs and the wars are very much to blame is alive as it's ever been.

Raimondo's death comes at an inflection point for Trumpism. On the one hand, if Trump leaves office today, he will be the first American president of my lifetime to not push the union into a new war. On the other hand, Trump's been maddeningly sluggish on the promise of the 2016 campaign: we're still in Syria, we're still in Afghanistan, and we've riskily turned up the heat on Iran. Tehran's already 120 degrees in the summer.

Consider Raimondo as a dying optimist - at least on Donald Trump - however. He was also, oddly for a libertine, a culture warrior.

It's common nowadays to wonder what happened to the conservatism that gave us Ike, Reagan and the Bushes that we have been stuck with the open racism of Donald, but the ideological Paleocons/Libertarians always lurked under the movement and periodically popped their heads out: Wallace, Perot, Buchanan, etc.   As much good as W did, his failure to lance the immigration boil, followed by the election of a black man and the threat of a woman president, allowed a disease of the extremities to infect the brain.

Posted by orrinj at 8:12 AM


Humans Fold: AI Conquers Poker's Final Milestone: A new program outperforms professionals in six-player games. Could business, political or military applications come next? (Jeremy Hsu, July 11, 2019, Scientific American)

During a 2017 casino tournament, a poker-playing program called Libratus deftly defeated four professional players in 120,000 hands of two-player poker. But the program's co-creator, Tuomas Sandholm, did not believe artificial intelligence could achieve a similar performance against a greater number of players.

Two years later, he has proved himself wrong. Sandholm has co-created an AI program called Pluribus, which can consistently defeat human experts in six-player matches of no-limit Texas Hold'em poker. "I never would have imagined we would reach this in my lifetime," says Sandholm, a professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University.

Past AI victories over humans have involved two-player or two-team games such as checkers, chess, Go and two-player no-limit poker. All of these games are zero-sum--they have just one winning side and one losing side. But six-player poker comes much closer to resembling real-life situations in which one party must make decisions without knowing about multiple opponents' decision-making processes and resources. "This is the first major benchmark that is not two-player or two-team zero-sum games," says Noam Brown, a research scientist at Facebook AI Research and co-creator of Pluribus. "For the first time, we're going beyond that paradigm and showing AI can do well even in a general setting."

Posted by orrinj at 8:09 AM


As Its Drug Pricing Plans Fall Through, Trump Administration Turns To Congress To Act (Selena Simmons-Duffin, 7/11/19, npr)

The Trump administration has dropped one of the meatiest portions of its plan to reduce drug prices.

The Department of Health and Human Services said it will no longer pursue a rule that would have prohibited the payment of certain rebates on drugs in Medicare Part D and Medicaid plans.

Posted by orrinj at 7:29 AM


China June trade surplus with U.S. rises 11% to $29.92 billion (Reuters)

 China's trade surplus with the United States, a major source of friction with its biggest trading partner, rose 11% in June to $29.92 billion from $26.9 billion in May, customs data showed on Friday.

All that racial hysteria wasted....

Posted by orrinj at 7:10 AM


The White House social media summit was full of hypocrisy -- and comedy (Casey Newton, Jul 12, 2019, The Interface)

At the White House today, amid much concern that conservative voices are being silenced by social media platforms, President Donald Trump (after a "morning of tweets [that] was off the rails, even by his standards") stood before a group of activists to deliver a message of support. "Some of you are extraordinary," the president said. "The crap you think of is unbelievable."

Posted by orrinj at 6:55 AM


PODCAST: Ben Wittes on What Congress Should Ask Mueller (Charlie Sykes, July 10th, 2019, The Bulwark)

On today's Bulwark podcast, Lawfare's Benjamin Wittes joins host Charlie Sykes to discuss the upcoming Mueller hearing, the recent reporting about Russia's involvement promoting the Seth Rich conspiracy, the resignation of Ambassador Kim Darroch, and the future of the emoluments clause.

While the main discussion is, of course, worthwhile--Mr. Wittes lays out the rather simple task before Congress in their questioning of Mr. Mueller--the highlight is the exchange about Kim Darroch, whose intelligence background makes him particularly contemptuous of the current occupant of the Oval.  Mr. Wittes tells a variation of this story, to illustrate how closely knit the Anglosphere is and why our friends responded so forcefully to Donald's collusion with Vlad:

The Time U.S. Spies Thought Al Qaeda Was Ready to Nuke D.C. (Shane Harris, 09.10.16, The Daily Beast)

On Christmas Eve 2003, Gen. Michael Hayden, the director of the secretive U.S. National Security Agency, made a secure phone call to his British counterpart, David Pepper, the director of the Government Communications Headquarters.

"Happy Christmas, David," Hayden said, speaking to Pepper from NSA headquarters at Ft. Meade, Maryland, about 20 miles from the Capitol in Washington, D.C. Such social calls weren't unusual. The NSA and GCHQ were the closest of allies in a global hunt for the phone calls, emails, and other electronic communications of spies and terrorists.

But Hayden had more on his mind than season's greetings. In recent days, the NSA had been collecting what Hayden would later describe as a "massive amount of chatter"--phone calls and emails from terrorists--that suggested al Qaeda was planning multiple attacks inside the United States, timed to the holidays.

"One more thing, David," Hayden said after the two men exchanged pleasantries. "We actually feel a bit under threat here. And so I've told my liaison to your office that should there be catastrophic loss at Ft. Meade, we are turning the functioning of the American [signals intelligence] system over to GCHQ."

There was a long pause as Pepper absorbed what his American colleague had just told him.

Posted by orrinj at 6:49 AM


How the Department of Defense Bankrolled Silicon Valley: THE CODE: Silicon Valley and the Remaking of America By Margaret O'Mara (Stephen Mihm, July 9, 2019, NY Times)

Shockley turned out to be a boss from hell, and, in a legendary rupture, a handful of his most talented employees -- the "Traitorous Eight" -- parted ways from him and founded Fairchild Semiconductor. Fairchild became the Valley's ur-corporation: Its founders subsequently launched many more storied firms, from the chip maker Intel to the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins.

O'Mara argues persuasively that Fairchild "established a blueprint that thousands followed in the decades to come: Find outside investors willing to put in capital, give employees stock ownership, disrupt existing markets and create new ones." But she makes clear that this formula wasn't just a matter of free markets working their magic; it took a whole lot of Defense Department dollars to transform the region. Conveniently, the Soviets launched Sputnik three days after Fairchild was incorporated, inaugurating a torrent of money into the tech sector that only increased with the space race.

Something similar happened again in the 1980s, when Ronald Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative and Darpa's Strategic Computing Initiative -- aimed at threats posed by the Soviet Union and Japan, respectively -- funneled even more resources into the region's companies. Defense money, O'Mara observes, "remained the big-government engine hidden under the hood of the Valley's shiny new entrepreneurial sports car, flying largely under the radar screen of the saturation media coverage of hackers and capitalists."

But it was how these defense dollars got distributed -- via Stanford and a growing number of subcontractors in the region -- that mattered as much, if not more. O'Mara argues that the decentralized, privatized system of doling out public contracts fostered entrepreneurship. So, too, did Congress, which passed the Small Business Investment Act in 1958, offering generous tax breaks to the kinds of start-ups proliferating in the shadow of Stanford.

These same factors prevailed at other aspiring tech hubs, notably Route 128 outside Boston, which housed several iconic firms, including Wang and Polaroid. Yet California eventually bested Route 128, and not just because the state had a clear edge when it came to winter weather.

The sources of its success, O'Mara contends, had to do with a host of regulations and legal decisions that governed how firms in the Valley did business. Foremost among these was California's longstanding prohibition on noncompete clauses. This made it easy for employees to job-hop and share news of the latest innovations without fear of reprisal or recrimination. The turnover was staggering at Valley start-ups compared with established corporations such as I.B.M. on the other side of the country. But the creativity unleashed in the process left other regions far behind.

No less important was the passage of the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965, which unexpectedly led to an influx of newcomers, many of them skilled in the technical fields that are Silicon Valley's bread and butter. Between 1995 and 2005, more than half the founders of companies in the Valley were born outside the United States.

There's a hilarious EconTalk where the normally data-driven Russ Roberts simply can't process the determinative role government played in these tech businesses.

Posted by orrinj at 6:46 AM


No, my marriage is not a "second holocaust": For some Jews, marrying out is a greater threat than antisemitism (Giles Fraser, 11 JULY 2019, UnHerd)

Childhood sweethearts, Boris and Rosa Shoenbaum, were born in 1896 in the small town of Beresteczko, in what is now western Ukraine. They were wealthy and lived in a large 11-bedroom house in Lvov, with servants. In June 1941, the German army occupied the town in the course of Operation Barbarossa, the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. Before the Nazis arrived there were 330,000 Jews in Lvov. By the end of the war, almost none were left.

Two of the very few who did survive were Grisha and Luba, the Shoenbaum's two children. The family were originally taken off to the local concentration camp, Janowaska. But Boris bribed his captors, and managed to engineer their escape. Within days, Boris and Rosa had been recaptured and shot. But the teenage Luba managed to pass herself off as a Christian and got a job as a local housekeeper. She hid her brother in a local clock tower for three years, secretly taking him food as he struggled to stay alive amid the constant fear of discovery and the stench of pigeon shit.

After the war, Luba made her way to Israel where she became a financial advisor to the government. Even as an elderly woman in Tel Aviv, she would cross herself and exclaim "Jesus, Mary and Joseph" - the deception had been so deep. Her little brother, Grisha, now Gregory, left for America where he became an eminent biochemist, working to alleviate the side effects of chemotherapy at St Jude's Children's Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. He passed away last month at the age of 91. Luba, also now passed away, was my wife's grandmother. Every year, my mother-in-law goes to Yad Vashem to light a candle for Boris and Rosa.

A few months ago, my wife had a baby boy, and we have named him Jonah Boris. Given this back story, you can imagine how much we appreciated it when some of my more delightful Twitter followers decided that Boris (my son now inevitably nicknamed Jo Bo) was a less than appropriate name, with some interpreting this as indicative of fascist sympathies. My reaction was unpublishable.

So too was my reaction to the latest comments of the newly appointed Israeli education minister, Rafi Peretz that intermarriage - Jews 'marrying out' - "is like a second holocaust". His comment, made last week, during a government cabinet meeting is indicative of a growing rift between hard line Israeli nationalists and the increasingly liberal Jewish diaspora, especially in places like the United States. Peretz was commenting on a briefing given to the Netanyahu government by Dennis Ross, formerly a senior official in the Obama administration, on recent trends in Jewish communities around the world. Peretz pointedly commented that over the last 70 years, the Jewish community has "lost six million people" - a figure that is commonly understood to be the number of Jews that were murdered in the Shoah.

Posted by orrinj at 6:35 AM


Trump's cave on Census stuns allies (Jonathan Swan, 7/11/19, Axios)

Top figures in the conservative legal community are stunned and depressed by President Trump's cave in his fight for a citizenship question on the 2020 Census.

The state of play: Sources say Leonard Leo and other Federalist Society stalwarts were shocked and floored by how weak the decision was. "What was the dance ... all about if this was going to be the end result?" a conservative leader asked.

"A total waste of everyone's time. ... It's certainly going to give people pause the next time one has to decide how far to stick one's neck out."

One GOP strategist called it a "punch in the gut."

Like Proud Boys meeting Antifa....

Posted by orrinj at 6:33 AM


Can Christian Compassion Influence How We Treat Migrants?: Finding a holistic solution to the humanitarian crisis at the border is going to take more than an enforcement-deterrence only approach. (ALAN CROSS,  JULY 11, 2019, The Bulwark)

Christians have been speaking out about this and have gotten louder over the past week. Dr. Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptist Convention tweeted recently that "The reports of the conditions for migrant children at the border should shock all of our consciences. Those created in the image of God should be treated with dignity and compassion, especially those seeking refuge from violence back home. We can do better than this."

This should be a pretty basic, run of the mill response from a Christian theologian to reports of migrant children sleeping on concrete floors and not being able to bathe for weeks at a time or have their diapers changed. But, in an odd turn of events (or what would have been considered odd just two years ago), Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University, represented another take on the collision of religion and politics and fired back at Dr. Moore over what he perceived to be a swipe at President Trump. He tweeted, "Who are you @drmoore? Have you ever made a payroll?  Have you ever built an organization of any type from scratch? What gives you authority to speak on any issue? I'm being serious.  You're nothing but an employee- a bureaucrat."

Falwell's perspective is ridiculous. He himself has inherited his wealth and position from his own father as have many others. But, he demonstrates that what cannot be inherited is compassion.

Jesus shows us how to have compassion for others. Matthew 9:35-36 says "And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." When Jesus saw the crowds, instead of judging them or rejecting them or ascribing base motives to them, he was moved with compassion for them. Jesus says something similar in Luke 10:33 when he says that the Good Samaritan had "compassion" on the man beaten and lying on the side of the road by tangibly caring for him. This kind of compassion doesn't come automatically to individuals, nor is it inherited by a nation from past generations. It has to be cultivated through the development of character and through proximity and engagement with people in need. And that isn't always an easy process. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:28 AM


The Real Story of Brazil's Pension Reform (MONICA DE BOLLE, JULY 11, 2019, Americas Quarterly)

The Brazilian pension reform has become a defining issue for the left and the anti-left. For leftists, or those identified by the anti-left as members of that camp, Bolsonaro and any policy proposed by members of his government are the target of attacks and rejection. Facts and hard evidence have become just as irrelevant for this group of society as they are for Bolsonaro supporters and others. The left has staged a visceral campaign against pension reform in Brazil, often citing half-truths or unverified information to back up their arguments, mirroring the approach of Bolsonaro and his die-hard base of supporters on other highly-charged themes such as gender and climate issues. The left's fight against pension reform has thus served to rally anti-leftists in support of pension reform, leading to street demonstrations and unrelenting pro-reform posts on social media. Add to the mix the fact that the current Congress leans conservative and has all the ingredients to deliver a seemingly shocking vote in favor of the reform, which even claimed support from moderate deputies who did not associate themselves with the positions of their left or center-left parties.

Thus head scratch no more. Brazil's pension reform vote is only surprising if one analyzes it from the viewpoint of relatively normal political conditions. Brazil today, not unlike much of the world, is anything but normal.

July 11, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 7:40 PM


Islamist leader elected new speaker of Algeria parliament (Al Jazeera, 7/11/19)

Algerian legislators have elected an Islamist opposition figure as speaker of Algeria's parliament, according to state media.

Slimane Chenine, the leader of a parliamentary alliance of three small Islamist parties, will replace Mouad Bouchareb of the National Liberation Front (NLF), the party that was led by former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, state television reported late on Wednesday.

Bouchareb resigned on July 2 amid pressure from protesters and politicians, three months after Bouteflika stepped down following weeks of nationwide protests and pressure from the powerful military.

Posted by orrinj at 7:35 PM


Trump ends bid for citizenship question on US 2020 census (Al Jazeera, 7/11/19)

After months of legal battles, US President Donald Trump on Thursday dropped his bid to include a citizenship question on the 2020 census.

Posted by orrinj at 7:32 PM


Bolsonaro's first 6 months (RAFAEL JUNQUEIRA, July 11, 2019, Acton)

Bolsonaro has, so far, kept promises he made during his campaign. As part of his platform, he promised to repair anti-market foreign policies, implemented by past presidents. On his first international trip as president, he met with President Trump in the White House to discuss trade, after which the United States gave support for Brazil's entrance into the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development). "Brazil and the United States have never been closer than they are right now," President Trump declared after the meeting

June 28 marked yet another international victory, when Mercosul -the South American trade bloc consisting of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay- reached the biggest agreement in its history with the European Union. Classified by Bolsonaro as "historic", the agreement is predicted to generate an investment of $87.5 billion in Brazil in the next 15 years. This agreement has been deliberated on for 20 years, and was supported by the Brazilian Minister of Foreign Affairs Ernesto Araujo and the Minister of Economics Paulo Guedes, who, both appointed by Bolsonaro, played crucial roles in the execution of the agreement.

While Bolsonaro has considerable authority in dictating foreign policy, his sovereignty in domestic affairs differs greatly. In its first six months, it's become obvious that the executive branch has a large obstacle to clear: Congress. Brazil's Congress is firmly committed to barricading Bolsonaro's executive agenda. 

Bolsonaro has a peculiar method of doing politics. He despises what he calls "old politics," in which politicians form alliances to exchange favors that generate mutual benefit for the parties involved. Instead, Bolsonaro intends to create a transparent political scene where politicians act according to their preferences and ideologies. Unfortunately, this method is unworkable in Brazilian politics.

Posted by orrinj at 11:55 AM



THE SUN BLANKETS the Earth with enough photons every hour to meet the entire world's energy needs for a year. The question is how to efficiently convert them into electricity. Even under small-scale, laboratory conditions the world's best single-junction solar cells, the kind found in most solar panels, still max out at capturing 29 percent of the sun's energy. That puts them just shy of the hard limit of about one third that solar researchers calculated half a century ago. But scientists studying photovoltaics--the process by which sunlight is converted into electricity--have also long suspected that this limit is not as hard as it once seemed.

Posted by orrinj at 11:50 AM


Annual Polling Confirms Sustained Public Confidence in U.S. Intelligence (Steve Slick, Joshua Busby, Kingsley Burns, July 10, 2019, LawFare)

This second round of polling, which we led at the University of Texas at Austin, confirmed a modest increase in Americans' assessment of the intelligence community's utility and effectiveness, notwithstanding persistent expressions of hostility and distrust by the president. Starting before his inauguration, President Trump vigorously rejected the intelligence community's consensus judgment on Russia's interference in the 2016 elections, and since then he has repeatedly attacked these agencies and their former leaders. In 2018, the president went so far as to accuse the intelligence community of spying on his 2016 campaign, and his supporters labeled it as an anti-democratic "deep state" hostile to his administration.

But despite the unprecedented public antagonism from the chief executive, most Americans, including Republicans, continue to express confidence in the intelligence community.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Conspiracy theorists, far-right agitators head to White House with social media in their sights (Ben Collins and Monica Alba, 7/10/19, NBC News)

While the Trump administration has generally embraced the far-right social media sphere, Thursday's event will be one of the first to bring that digital ecosystem into the real world. Disinformation researchers who spoke with NBC News said the event further legitimizes a network of social media personalities who repeatedly target politicians and social media users with disinformation, trolling and harassment campaigns.

"I feel like maybe the rest of us are in denial, or disbelief, that these kinds of internet celebrities and social media influencers are already a powerful force shaping our culture," said Erin Gallagher, who maps influence networks of targeted harassment and disinformation. "The people and topics that they elevate with their massive platforms are incredibly toxic and will have very damaging long-term effects on society."

The toxicity of at least one of the attendees has already caused problems for the event.

Cartoonist Ben Garrison, who was initially invited to the summit, is no longer attending. Garrison faced criticism for a cartoon that showed George Soros as a puppetmaster. The Anti-Defamation League called the cartoon "anti-Semitic" in 2017. Images of Soros, a Democratic donor who is frequently the target of conspiracy theories, have been a recurring trope in Garrison's cartoons.

Various people have posted on social media their invitations to the event, but it's unclear whether all will be attending, given some controversy over their past online behavior.

Conspiracy theorist Bill Mitchell, an online radio host and frequent guest on Infowars who has promoted the Qanon conspiracy theory, has tweeted that he will attend the event. Tim Pool, a YouTube personality who has pushed the false conspiracy theory that former Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich leaked hacked emails to WikiLeaks, also plans to attend the event.

Right-wing commentator Ali Alexander also received an invitation. Alexander made headlines in recent weeks for questioning Kamala Harris's ethnicity in a tweet that was retweeted by Donald Trump Jr., the president's son. Harris was born in Oakland, Calif., and her father and mother are immigrants from Jamaica and India, respectively.

Pity our poor Trumpist friends; when they look in the mirror this is who looks back.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Netanyahu meets with head of Ukrainian party that includes neo-Nazis (SAM SOKOL, 7/11/19, JTA)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has come under fire in recent years for allegedly failing to confront anti-Semitism and revisionism in Central and Eastern Europe, met Wednesday with the head of a Ukrainian political party whose membership includes ultranationalists and neo-Nazis.

As Jews to them, so Arabs to him.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Migrant Children Report Sexual Assault, Abuse at Arizona Border Facility (TAYLOR MAHLANDT, JULY 10, 2019, Slate)

Customs and Border Protection agents at a facility in Yuma, Arizona, are facing allegations of sexual assault and mistreatment of migrant children, according to documents obtained by NBC News. The outlet reviewed nearly 30 accounts from government case managers dating from April 10 to June 12 that detail an environment in which kids were allegedly neglected, denied basic provisions, and verbally and physically abused by those running the facilities. This mirrors the dismal conditions that have been criticized in Texas border facilities, like those in El Paso and Rio Grande Valley.

...if these really were concentration camps then things exactly like this would be going on....
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


'It could have been any of us': Disdain for Trump runs among ambassadors in US (DAVID E. SANGER, 7/11/19, SBS)

Ask members of the Washington diplomatic corps about the cables that Sir Kim Darroch, the British ambassador who resigned Wednesday, wrote to London describing the dysfunction and chaos of the Trump administration, and their response is uniform: We wrote the same stuff.

"Yes, yes, everyone does," Gérard Araud, who retired this spring as the French ambassador, said Wednesday morning of his own missives from Washington. "But fortunately I knew that nothing would remain secret, so I sent them in a most confidential manner." [...]

"It could have been any of us," one ambassador, who is still serving and therefore spoke on the condition of anonymity, said on Wednesday.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Atlantic League Debuts 'Robot Umpires' at 2019 All-Star Game (MEGAN ARMSTRONG, JULY 10, 2019, Bleacher Report)

The Atlantic League nudged America's past time another step closer to modernization with the introduction of robots Wednesday night. During the Atlantic League's All-Star Game in York, Pennsylvania, the plate umpire wore an earpiece to allow computer technology to relay whether to call balls or strikes.

As if techno9logy hadn't done enough for us; getting rid of Joe West and Angel Hernandez would make even the car worthwhile.

July 10, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 3:59 PM


Trump 'dossier' author grilled by Justice Department watchdogs: sources (Mark Hosenball, 7/10/19, Reuters)

Three attorneys from the Inspector General's office of the U.S. Department of Justice met in person in early June with dossier author Christopher Steele in Britain, said two sources with direct knowledge of the lawyers' travels.

The interview with Steele, a former top spy on Russia for Britain's Secret Intelligence Service, or MI6, took place while Trump was in London for a formal state visit with Queen Elizabeth and a meeting with UK Prime Minister Theresa May.

Steele's dossier, made public in 2017, alleged that Moscow attempted to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and that there was potential collusion between Russia and Trump's campaign, along with other unverified and salacious claims about the president. [...]

One of the two sources said Horowitz's investigators appear to have found Steele's information sufficiently credible to have to extend the investigation. Its completion date is now unclear.

So dies the Trumpbots last hope.

Posted by orrinj at 11:12 AM


Assad hits a wall in Syrian war as front lines harden (Tom Perry, Suleiman Al-Khalidi, 7/10/19, Reuters) 

President Bashar al-Assad's assault in the northwest has been met with a painful rebel counterpunch that underlines Turkish resolve to keep the area out of his hands and shows why he will struggle to take back more of Syria by force.

More than two months of Russian-backed operations in and around Idlib province have yielded little or nothing for Assad's side. 

It's almost like the UR only used Assad and Putin to do they dying in the war on ISIS and they got nothing in return.

Posted by orrinj at 8:40 AM


Trump softened stance on Hong Kong protests to revive trade talks (Financial Times, 7/10/19)

Donald Trump told Chinese president Xi Jinping last month that the US would tone down criticism of Beijing's approach to Hong Kong following massive protests in the territory in order to revive trade talks with China.

The US president made the commitment when the two leaders met at the G20 summit in Osaka, according to several people familiar with the meeting. One person said Mr Trump made a similar pledge in a phone call with Mr Xi ahead of the G20 summit.

It would be sufficient if he were only oppressing a billion mainland Chinese, throw in what-we-must-not-call-concentration-camps-because-of-the-Holocaust for Muslims and the attempt to take over Taiwan and Hong Kong and it's no wonder Donald can look past his ethnicity.

Posted by orrinj at 8:36 AM

GIRL POWER (profanity alert):

Trump ramping up criticisms of Fox, usually a friendly venue (DAVID BAUDER and JONATHAN LEMIRE, July 8, 2019, AP)

No president has been so closely aligned with a single news outlet as Trump is with Fox News, so his criticism carried added significance. While it was not the first time he has singled out Fox, it was the most pointed, raising the question of how the network, and the president's supporters, would respond.

Trump on Sunday night wrote that watching Fox on the weekend was worse than watching CNN and MSNBC, outlets he frequently attacks. He said Fox is "loading up with Democrats" and criticized the network for using The New York Times as a source for a story. He also attacked Fox for hiring former Democratic National Committee head Donna Brazile as a contributor and poked at afternoon host Shepard Smith's ratings.

"Fox News is changing fast, but they forgot the people who got them there," Trump wrote.

Fox did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

While it was not clear what Trump was specifically responding to, he was particularly annoyed by Fox correspondent Greg Palkot's live report from a sports bar in France, where patrons erupted in a "F--- Trump" chant, according to two advisers not authorized to speak publicly about private discussions.

Fox also aired two segments about immigration Sunday that used as a hook a Times story that said workers at a child detention center in Texas are "grappling with the stuff of nightmares," according to Matthew Gertz of the liberal watchdog Media Matters for America.

Posted by orrinj at 8:21 AM


The difference being that he is the head of government leading these attacks on business. They are just consumers.
Posted by orrinj at 8:15 AM


Rapper Nicki Minaj cancels Saudi concert over women's rights concerns (SBS, 7/09/19)

Minaj's scheduled appearance in the western city of Jeddah next week as part of a cultural festival had triggered a social media backlash over human rights in the country.

"After careful reflection, I have decided to no longer move forward with my scheduled concert at Jeddah World Fest," Minaj said in a statement sent to AFP by her publicist.

"While I want nothing more than to bring my show to fans in Saudi Arabia, after better educating myself on the issues, I believe it is important for me to make clear my support for the rights of women, the LGBTQ community and freedom of expression."

Posted by orrinj at 7:48 AM


The Democrats really are coming for your guns (Lawrence G. Keane, 7/09/19, Fox News)

Anti-gun politicians once were coy about their goals. President Barack Obama told PBS's Gwen Ifill during a town hall in 2016, "And at no point have I ever, ever proposed confiscating guns from responsible gun owners. So it's just not true."

Now the presumed front-runner, former Vice President Joe Biden has put the entire firearms manufacturing industry in his crosshairs.  "Our enemy is the gun manufacturers, not the NRA, the gun manufacturers," Biden said.

Not a single candidate on the stage denounced the comment. Their silence is tacit agreement. Every Democratic candidate is now gunning for an industry that supports 312,000 jobs earning $15.7 billion in wages and has a total economic impact over $52 billion.

Republican glee/fretting over Democrats blowing their shot at Donald reflects just how disconnected the Beltway is from America on issues like guns, health care, immigration etc., where prohibitive majorities of the American people are well to the "left" of even the Democratic Party.

Americans support gun control but doubt lawmakers will act: Reuters/Ipsos poll (Chris Kahn, 2/09/19, Reuters) 

Most Americans want tougher gun laws but have little confidence their lawmakers will take action, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Friday ahead of the one-year anniversary of the country's deadliest high school shooting.

The poll of more than 6,800 adults reflects widespread frustration with state and federal lawmakers after decades of mass shootings in the United States. The Feb. 14, 2018, attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killed 17 students and staff.

According to the poll, 69 percent of Americans, including 85 percent of Democrats and 57 percent of Republicans, want strong or moderate restrictions placed on firearms. To stop gun violence, 55 percent said they wanted policies that make it tougher to own guns, while 10 percent said making firearm ownership easier would be better.

The poll shows public support for strong firearms restrictions dipped slightly from a year ago, when the media was closely following the Parkland shooting, but overall support for gun restrictions has risen since the poll started asking about gun control in 2012.

Poll Shocker: Trump Ties With 'Unnamed Socialist' (I & I Editorial Board, 7/10/19, Issues & Insights)

[T]he Post/ABC poll asked one question that others haven't, and the results are truly startling.

In its matchups of Trump versus other Democratic candidates, the poll asked people to choose between the president and an unnamed "Democratic candidate who you regard as a socialist."

The result: A tie. Trump, 46%; Socialist, 46%.

Donald is literally a Socialist, trying to control private enterprise from the White House.  The socialist candidates aren't.

Posted by orrinj at 7:39 AM


Jeffrey Epstein Was a 'Terrific Guy,' Donald Trump Once Said. Now He's 'Not a Fan.' (Annie Karni and Maggie Haberman, July 9, 2019, NY Times)

 It was supposed to be an exclusive party at Mar-a-Lago, Donald J. Trump's members-only club in Palm Beach, Fla. But other than the two dozen or so women flown in to provide the entertainment, the only guests were Mr. Trump and Jeffrey Epstein.

The year was 1992 and the event was a "calendar girl" competition, something that George Houraney, a Florida-based businessman who ran American Dream Enterprise, had organized at Mr. Trump's request.

"I arranged to have some contestants fly in," Mr. Houraney recalled in an interview on Monday. "At the very first party, I said, 'Who's coming tonight? I have 28 girls coming.' It was him and Epstein."

Mr. Houraney, who had just partnered with Mr. Trump to host events at his casinos, said he was surprised. "I said, 'Donald, this is supposed to be a party with V.I.P.s. You're telling me it's you and Epstein?'"

In fact, that was the case, an indication of a yearslong friendship between the president and Mr. Epstein that some say ended only after a failed business arrangement between them. The full nature of their eventual falling out is not clear.

But through a mutual appreciation of wealth and women, and years of occupying adjacent real estate in Palm Beach and on Page Six, the lives of the two men routinely intersected for decades -- until the connection turned from a status symbol into a liability, and Mr. Trump made sure to publicize the fact that he had barred his onetime friend from his clubs.

"In those days, if you didn't know Trump and you didn't know Epstein, you were a nobody," said Alan Dershowitz, the longtime Harvard University Law School professor who later served on Mr. Epstein's defense team when he was charged with unlawful sex with minors in 2006.

Posted by orrinj at 7:34 AM



A few months ago prominent naturalist David Attenborough told attendees at the World Economic Forum about humanity's unsustainable population growth and his certainty that it has to "come to an end" quickly. In the meantime, he told participants, we should also eat a lot less meat. In delivering this message, Attenborough was once again echoing his long standing belief that "[a]ll of our environmental problems become easier to solve with fewer people, and harder - and ultimately impossible - to solve with ever more people."

Britain's "national treasure" is hardly alone in terms of holding this view. Indeed, from Thomas Robert Malthus to Paul Ehrlich most proponents of population control measures have argued that a significant population reduction - short of being achieved by an infrastructure-destroying army - would benefit the remaining inhabitants by giving them access to more and better resources. In an online debate with economist Bryan Caplan, economic historian Gregory Clark even argued that plagues ultimately "raised material living standards." As he put it, in England "1.5 million people died prematurely in 1349. In return 6 generations got to live very well with little further excess deaths. And then 1.5 million people got to live longer as the plague weakened its grip in the 16th century, and the population returned to its earlier level. The unlucky generation of 1349 was counterbalanced by the lucky generations of 1540--1620. God smiled on the English when he delivered the plague!"

And yet, as critics of this perspective have long argued, the population growth pessimists have always had things exactly backward. After all, as urban theorist Jane Jacobs wondered two generations ago, many parts of the world, such as portions of Ireland and Sicily, had by then been almost entirely depopulated by emigration, yet far from thriving their remaining inhabitants remained poor. As she put it: "One wonders how much a population is supposed to be reduced before prosperity ensues."

Indeed, virtually all the historical evidence suggests to the contrary that a more numerous population that engages in trade and innovative behavior is always better off. This can be traced back to two essential factors. The first is that a larger population that engages in trade and the division of labor will deliver greater material abundance per capita. The second is that the greater the number of human brains, the greater the likelihood of new beneficial inventions. As the British political economist William Petty observed over a century before Malthus, it was "more likely that one ingenious curious man may rather be found out amongst 4,000,000 than 400 persons."

Furthermore, present and future advances build on past ones. The economist Fritz Machlup thus summed up past debates over half a century ago by distinguishing between the "retardation school" of technological change, whose proponents believed that "the more that has been invented the less there is left to be invented," and the "acceleration school," according to which "the more that is invented the easier it becomes to invent still more" because "every new invention furnishes a new idea for potential combination with vast numbers of existing ideas" and the "number of possible combination increases geometrically with the number of elements at hand," a perspective that has long been vindicated.

When people persist in an ideology in the face of all evidence to the contrary, it is proper to attribute to them a faith in the causes not the effects.  Those who oppose population growth oppose our population of humans, just as those who oppose immigration oppose immigrants.

Posted by orrinj at 7:16 AM


There are more bald eagle nests than Pa. game commission can count (Mary Ann Thomas, July 4, 2019, TribLIVE)

There are too many bald eagle nests for the Pennsylvania Game Commission to count on its own, and it needs the public's help.

The agency used to release bald eagle nest numbers each year around July 4, when the birds were considered threatened in the state. But a comeback from just three nesting pairs in 1983 to more than 300 today has changed that.

"The population has expanded to a point where tracking individual nests is not feasible," said Sean Murphy, an ornithologist with the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

Once you stop hunting them, the rest is easy.

Posted by orrinj at 7:07 AM


The Imaginative Conservative at 9 (Bradley J. Birzer, July 9th, 2019, Imaginative Conservative)

Following upon inspiration from the writings of Russell Kirk, Winston gave this site distinctiveness by recognizing that "conservative" must be something beyond the cravings of Young Republican politicos (though, they're certainly welcome to join in all aspects of the life of his journal) and that conservatism could and should not be merely about free-market economics and nuclear (and non-nuclear) defenses. That is, Winston understood, if one is to be conservative, one must conserve what deserves to be conserved--all that is best in experience, all that is best in metaphysical desires, and all that is best in the word, reflecting always The Word.

And, today, on day 3,285 of this journal's existence, we're still talking, listening, thinking, and imagining.

With the profound success of his dissertation-turned-book, The Conservative Mind, Kirk worried that conservatism might too easily become yet merely one more "ideology" in a world drowning in them. All ideologues, Kirk realized, failed to imagine a world beyond their own egotistical desires. Only imagination allows us to see beyond our own limitations, to place ourselves in the shoes of another, to see beyond the failures and successes of our particular slice of time.

Inspired by Harvard's Irving Babbitt and Princeton's Paul Elmer More, Kirk found still more answers and more questions in a transcendent humanism, one that took into account the vast differences of persons while also recognizing the universals that hold all together.

It is imagination, Babbitt knew, that balances our higher understanding (the rationality of the mind) with the lower understanding (the passions of the stomach). The imagination allows us to see that which is not us. Ironically, though the least human aspect of us--the light reflected in our souls--imagination is what allows us to be most human.

"Among those who took up the defense of the traditional order against Rousseau, Burke is easily first, because he too perceived in how own way the truth that cold reason has never done anything illustrious," Babbitt explained in 1924. Burke "saw that the only conservatism that counts is an imaginative conservatism." In the twentieth century, Babbitt feared, our modern imagination tended toward disunity and chaos rather than toward unity and order. Progressivism, as such, has only become "novelty and change, with the piling up of discovery on discovery."

Babbitt's best friend, Paul Elmer More, made similar observations, noting that a real progress in society demanded two things from each person: restraint of will and generosity of imagination. "The instinctive distrust of uncontrolled human nature and the instinctive reliance on the imagination--are the very roots of the conservative temper, as their contraries are the roots of the liberal and radical temper, the lack of imagination, if any distinction is to be made, being the chief factor of liberalism and confidence in human nature being the main impulse of radicalism." Properly understood, imagination is "a force for order and self-restraint and political health," More concluded in 1915.

With apologies to Jonah Goldberg, this is the home of the Remnant.

Posted by orrinj at 6:51 AM


Posted by orrinj at 6:25 AM


From Iron Lady to lame duck: Hong Kong leader's departure seen as mere matter of time (Greg Torode, John Ruwitch, 7/10/19, Reuters) 

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam's apologies and explanations for a doomed extradition bill have failed to quell political tension and her departure is now seen by many in the Chinese-ruled city as merely a matter of time in a drawn-out, long goodbye.

On Tuesday, Lam described the bill, which would have allowed people in Hong Kong, with its cherished rule of law, to be sent to mainland China for trial and pave the way for assets to be confiscated, as "dead".

But activists and protest groups said they could not trust her words and are increasing demands for her to officially withdraw the bill and step down.

And they are vowing further action, after weeks of huge and at times violent street protests that have plunged the city into its worst crisis since Britain handed it back to Chinese rule in 1997.

On Saturday, some groups will spread their message to mainland traders in a New Territories village near the city's border with China - a step seen as a further provocation of Communist Party leaders in Beijing.

And while Lam, a self-styled "Iron Lady", has vowed to stay on, her latest statements have only fueled speculation that she has already offered to quit.

Hong Kong is British, not Chinese.

July 9, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 6:24 PM


Jewish Youth Say "Never Again" As They Protest Trump's Concentration Camps (STEPHANIE RUSSELL-KRAFT, 7/09/19, In These Times)

NEWARK, NEW JERSEY--Planes on their way to the airport fly low over a crowd of young protesters chanting "Racist ICE has got to go!" More than 100 Jewish and immigrant activists have gathered outside the Elizabeth Contract Detention Center in New Jersey, where Immigration and Customs Enforcement holds approximately 300 detainees.

Rabbi Salem Pearce leads the protesters in the Mourner's Kaddish, a Jewish prayer of mourning, for six immigrant children who have died in U.S. government custody.

"There are more who are not named," she says. "There will be more."

Periodically, the sound of a shofar horn rises above the chanting. The bugle-like instrument, traditionally made of a ram's horn, is blown on Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year), and Yom Kippur, the day of atonement that follows. By sounding it at the protest, "it's like we're collectively repenting for the sins of America," explains Julia Davidovitz, a 26-year-old preschool teacher from Boston and the descendent of Jewish refugees. Her grandfather was incarcerated by the Nazis in the Minsk Ghetto, where he lost his parents and two sisters.

Down the road, a group of activists with a banner that reads "Never Again Means Close the Camps" links arms across the gate to the employee parking lot, briefly blocking employees from leaving as they demand the facility be shut down. Later in the evening, 36 protesters are arrested. 

The protest marked the beginning of two weeks of action organized by an unofficial coalition of Jewish and immigrant activists demanding an end to the detention and deportation of undocumented immigrants in the United States. Their message: that "Never Again"--an expression used in remembrance of the Holocaust--means never again for anyone.

Posted by orrinj at 6:21 PM


Bible shortage warned if Trump tariffs on China paper happen (RACHEL LAYNE, JULY 9, 2019, CBS News)

Publishers of religious books are warning that President Donald Trump's latest proposed tariffs on Chinese imports could result in a Bible shortage in the U.S.

Tens of millions of bibles are printed in China each year, with some estimates as high as 150 million. Publishers large and small testified against the proposed tariff in hearings last month, saying it would make the Bible more expensive for consumers and Christian organizations that give away Bibles as part of their ministry. The proposed tariffs are currently on hold as trade negotiations resume following months of parrying by U.S. and China officials.   

Bibles are printed on "unusually thin paper" that requires specialized machines, Mark Schoenwald, president of HarperCollins Christian Publishing, said in testimony to the  U. S. Trade Representative. Up to 75% of what it costs a publisher to make a Bible, with its complex illustrations and ultra-thin pages that make it portable, is spent in China and can't be handled elsewhere, according to Schoenwald. 

Does that include the ones with The Book of Donald?

Posted by orrinj at 6:19 PM


U.S. judge denies Justice Dept. request to shake up legal team in census case (Sarah N. Lynch, 7/09/19, Reuters)

Adding yet another hurdle for the Justice Department as it struggles to find a new path forward to adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census, U.S. District Court Judge Jesse Furman said in a court order the department's 11th-hour request to change lawyers handling the case is "patently deficient" and provides no "satisfactory reasons."

Always bet on the Deep State.

Posted by orrinj at 6:14 PM


Education minister: Intermarriage among US Jews 'like a second Holocaust' (JTA and TOI, 9 July 2019, times of israel)

The rate of intermarriage among US Jews is "like a second Holocaust," Israel's new minister of education said.

Rafi Peretz made the statement at a cabinet meeting on July 1, Axios reported Tuesday, citing three people who were in the room.

Peretz, a former chief rabbi of the Israeli army, is the leader of the Union of Right Wing Parties bloc.

Peretz said the assimilation of Jews around the world and mostly in the US was "like a second Holocaust," and also said that, due to intermarriages in the last 70 years, the Jewish people "lost 6 million people," according to the report, which added that Peretz's spokesman confirmed the account.

In other words, our homes are like Death Camps.

Posted by orrinj at 5:55 PM


The First All-Electric Mini Cooper Is Radical in Its Simplicity (ALEX LAUER, JULY 9, 2019, Inside Hook)

If electric vehicles are indeed the future, we're on the brink of a major upheaval in car design. The necessary components for EVs are different enough (bye bye internal combustion engines) that they have the potential to take forms hitherto unseen on American roads. You've seen hints at these futuristic designs from Tesla, Rivian and even top brands like Toyota. 

Where you won't see quasi-sci-fi EV design: the 2020 Mini Cooper SE, the British brand's first all-electric car which was unveiled today. Instead of pushing the limit of what a Mini could look and feel like, the company chose to design it as close to the existing, gas-powered Minis as possible. And that makes it radical.

Posted by orrinj at 12:49 PM


The long, bipartisan history of dealing with immigrants harshly (Anthony W. Fontes, 7/09/19, the Conversation)

Following a long history of more open and welcoming immigration policies, in the first half of the 20th-century U.S. attitudes toward immigration became increasingly restrictionist. Racism against immigrants of color drove immigration legislation, especially during economic downturns and political turmoil.

Beginning in 1924, the government set national immigration quotas. Due to a belief in eugenics, a pseudo-science claiming that Nordic and Anglo-Saxon races are superior to all others, the authorities effectively cut off legal immigration from all but a few Western European nations.

Lawmakers claimed it was for the sake of preserving and improving upon the nation's ethno-linguistic heritage as recorded in the 1890 census. The count excluded most African Americans and all Chinese Americans.

There were no quotas for immigrants from neighboring countries, however. And so then, as now, Mexican migrants filled industrial and agricultural labor shortages, especially across the Southwest.

But once the Great Depression began and unemployment soared, President Herbert Hoover bowed to popular pressure to preserve "American jobs for real Americans" and approved the large-scale deportation of Mexican workers and their families.

Largely carried out by local law enforcement between 1929 and 1936, the deportation dragnets rounded up hundreds of thousands of people of Mexican descent - many of them U.S.-born citizens - and forced them onto trains bound for Mexico.

The advent of World War II reignited longstanding anti-Japanese attitudes. Franklin Delano Roosevelt's administration forced nearly 120,000 people of Japanese descent - most of them U.S. citizens - into remote internment camps between 1942 and 1945. His administration also deported thousands of Japanese Americans who had renounced their citizenship under duress. And the government turned away at least 200,000 Jewish refugees who were fleeing the Nazis despite the quotas for their countries not being filled.

World War II also revived the U.S. economy, suddenly creating labor shortages in jobs left by those who had joined the war effort. Looking south for a fix, lawmakers established the Bracero program. It encouraged and regulated the flow of Mexican migrants primarily employed as farm workers from 1942 until 1965 - when a landmark immigration law abolished national quotas.

Many employers preferred to hire undocumented workers to avoid the Bracero program's bureaucracy and wage restrictions. In 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower initiated "Operation Wetback" to force hundreds of thousands of low-paid farm workers to leave the country.

Like Hoover's deportation spree, officials made little effort to differentiate between the U.S. citizens and noncitizens who got rounded up and deported. Historians have found that innumerable U.S.-born people were again among the hundreds of thousands supposedly repatriated to Mexico.

Since 2014, growing numbers of Central Americans have arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border seeking asylum. The Trump administration has gone out of its way to discourage these migrants by changing eligibility criteria, application procedures and detention practices.

Large numbers of Central Americans first began to arrive in the U.S. in the 1980s - in many cases fleeing U.S.-backed brutality. Rather than acknowledge its allies' human rights abuses, the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush labeled these asylum seekers "economic migrants." Less than 3% were granted asylum, a fraction of the approval rate for refugees fleeing communist regimes in Eastern Europe and oppression in Iran and Afghanistan.

Even so, Reagan also demonstrated generosity toward undocumented migrants. His administration's 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act provided amnesty for over 3 million undocumented immigrants - the vast majority of them from Mexico and Central America - letting them become permanent legal residents.

The 1986 law also took major steps to toughen border security to deter future undocumented migration. Combining legalization with deterrence, Reagan hoped, would fix the nation's immigration system once and for all.

However, the law created no means of regulating future migration to the U.S. Economic turmoil in Mexico during the 1980s and early 1990s - especially following the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement - pushed more migrants north. As a result, millions more people ended up living and working in the U.S. with few prospects for gaining legal status.

Aside from the complementary measures adopted during the the first Bush presidency, no president since Reagan has signed legislation for another expansive amnesty for the undocumented. With few exceptions, immigration policies have become increasingly punitive with the passage of time.

More than any other president, Bill Clinton paved the way for Trump's plans to deport millions of undocumented families, terrify others into voluntarily departing and slash legal migration. During his 1996 reelection campaign, Clinton signed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, one of the most draconian and far-reaching pieces of anti-immigration legislation in U.S. history.

The 1996 law eroded due process for many migrants seeking asylum. It created a program that enlists local law enforcement agencies into immigration enforcement. Critics of the program say it drives a wedge between the police and immigrant communities, interfering with law enforcement.

Following the law's passage, deportation numbers soared, setting new records for the numbers of immigrants detained during the Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama administrations.

Posted by orrinj at 12:41 PM


Exclusive: The true origins of the Seth Rich conspiracy theory. A Yahoo News investigation (Michael Isikoff, 7/09/19,Yahoo News)

 In the summer of 2016, Russian intelligence agents secretly planted a fake report claiming that Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich was gunned down by a squad of assassins working for Hillary Clinton, giving rise to a notorious conspiracy theory that captivated conservative activists and was later promoted from inside President Trump's White House, a Yahoo News investigation has found.

Russia's foreign intelligence service, known as the SVR, first circulated a phony "bulletin" -- disguised to read as a real intelligence report --about the alleged murder of the former DNC staffer on July 13, 2016, according to the U.S. federal prosecutor who was in charge of the Rich case. That was just three days after Rich, 27, was killed in what police believed was a botched robbery while walking home to his group house in the Bloomingdale neighborhood of Washington, D.C., about 30 blocks north of the Capitol.

The purported details in the SVR account seemed improbable on their face: that Rich, a data director in the DNC's voter protection division, was on his way to alert the FBI to corrupt dealings by Clinton when he was slain in the early hours of a Sunday morning by the former secretary of state's hit squad.

Yet in a graphic example of how fake news infects the internet, those precise details popped up the same day on an obscure website, whatdoesitmean.com, that is a frequent vehicle for Russian propaganda. The website's article, which attributed its claims to "Russian intelligence," was the first known instance of Rich's murder being publicly linked to a political conspiracy.

"To me, having a foreign intelligence agency set up one of my decedents with lies and planting false stories, to me that's pretty outrageous," said Deborah Sines, the former assistant U.S. attorney in charge of the Rich case until her retirement last year. "Maybe other people don't think it's that outrageous. I did ... once it became clear to me that this was coming from the SVR, then that triggers a lot of very serious [questions about] 'What do I do with this?'"

The Trumpbots essentially replaced the Left as useful idiots.

Posted by orrinj at 12:39 PM


Russia's Stagnation Pushes Kremlin to Renew Pressure on Georgia (Pavel K. Baev, June 25, 2019, Eurasia Daily monitor)

 Russian President Vladimir Putin likely suspects that the real economic situation in his country is worse than the officially registered sluggish growth and that the erosion of his popularity goes deeper than the slight decline reported by semi-official pollsters (Carnegie.ru, June 20). During his annual televised question-and-answer show, which also aired on June 20, Putin tried to reassure the population that their social needs were being prioritized. And yet, Russians have few reasons to be satisfied with his performance, and viewership numbers of this tired show fell to a new low (Kommersant, June 21). The contraction in personal incomes continues despite his assertions to the contrary (Vedomosti, June 24). Moreover, stagnation is no longer comfortable for Russia's predatory elites, because it generates social discontent rather than apathy, and there is no way to quell such feelings among the populace by continuing to distribute only symbolic gifts (Rosbalt, June 21).

The sudden quarrel with Georgia thus provided the policy-manipulators in the Kremlin with a perfect opportunity to produce a distraction from these unhappy domestic developments. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:31 PM


Billionaire Ross Perot, former independent presidential candidate, dies at 89 (CASSANDRA POLLOCK JULY 9, 2019, Texas Tribune)

In 1992, Perot ran for president as a third-party candidate -- and his historic percentage of the vote prompted some Republicans to blame him for President George H.W. Bush's loss to Bill Clinton, a Democrat. During that 1992 campaign, Perot spent over $63 million of his own money, and used charts and graphs that included what became his soundbite: "It's just that simple."

In 1996, when Perot ran again for president, his bid was less successful. He received 8% of the vote.

The Nativist line runs straight through Perot, Buchanan, the Reform Party, the Tea Party, Donald.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


A woman's place--at the mosque: How American Muslim women are transcending barriers to leadership. (Caitlin Yoshiko Kandil, July 9, 2019, Christian Century)

When Zariah Horton stepped to the front of a mosque in Los Angeles last year and prepared to address a congregation of Muslim women, she was assuming a position she never imagined being in. She had attended jumu'ah, or Friday prayers, at mosques in the United States for decades, but the idea of leading prayers herself had never felt like an option, because she had only seen men in the role.

"It never occurred to me, I guess due to the gender factor," she said.

But when the Women's Mosque of America opened in Los Angeles in 2014, Horton's ideas began to change. The Women's Mosque is exclusively for women. Women lead all aspects of the Friday prayer service, including making the call to prayer, delivering the sermon, and leading the congregation in prayer--activities traditionally performed by men. (According to most Islamic scholars, women are not permitted to lead men in communal prayer, but they can lead other women.) The Women's Mosque meets at the First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles, transforming a room in the church by putting up banners emblazoned with the names Muhammad and Allah in Arabic calligraphy.

Last September, Horton decided to lead the prayer, an experience she said was initially scary, but ultimately important for developing religious leadership skills. "It's important that women put ourselves out there," said Horton, a psychotherapist and life coach based in Los Angeles.

The Women's Mosque is one example of the ways Muslim women in the United States are taking on new positions of religious leadership.

July 8, 2019

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Kris Kobach, who claimed misspelled names indicated voter fraud, misspells own name in Senate race registration (The Week, 7/08/19)

The mixup was especially ironic for Kobach, who once headed President Trump's so-called voter fraud commission and dedicated his political career to demanding stricter identification for voters. As part of that fight, Kobach has tried to purge voter rolls of names that don't match registrants' state IDs, which would've included names that were misspelled during registration.

Posted by orrinj at 6:44 PM


Former DOJ Lawyer Says Census Drama Put Attorneys in "Completely Untenable" Position (JEREMY STAHL, JULY 08, 2019, Slate)

The latest bizarre twist in the Census citizenship question case came on Sunday when the Department of Justice announced that the entire team of lawyers defending the government's position in ongoing litigation would be replaced. The highly unusual move was confirmed on Monday in a series of court filings. It is likely at the behest of career officials uncomfortable with the government's position moving forward, according to former DOJ attorneys. The lawyers on the case told the courts last week that the administration would stop trying to add the citizenship question to the census, but were quickly forced to reverse that position after President Donald Trump tweeted that reports of the decision to back down were "fake." The sudden change in lawyers suggests there is some internal recognition that the government's latest census stance has become untenable.

Posted by orrinj at 12:51 PM


The Purell presidency: Trump aides learn the president's real red line: A self-described germaphobe, the 45th president is strictly enforcing proper hygiene inside the White House -- and wherever else he goes. (DANIEL LIPPMAN 07/07/2019, Politico)

He asks visitors if they'd like to wash their hands in a bathroom near the Oval Office.

He'll send a military doctor to help an aide caught coughing on Air Force One.

And the first thing he often tells his body man upon entering the Beast after shaking countless hands at campaign events: "Give me the stuff" -- an immediate squirt of Purell.

Two and a half years into his term, President Donald Trump is solidifying his standing as the most germ-conscious man to ever lead the free world. His aversion shows up in meetings at the White House, on the campaign trail and at 30,000 feet. And everyone close to Trump knows the president's true red line.

"If you're the perpetrator of a cough or of a sneeze or any kind of thing that makes you look sick, you get that look," said a former Trump campaign official. "You get the scowl. You get the response of -- he'll put a hand up in a gesture of, you should be backing away from him, you should be more considerate and you should extricate yourself from the situation."

It's No Coincidence That Hitler Was a Germaphobe: Hitler appeared to have been highly sensitive to disgust, and research shows this trait is linked to numerous dimensions of ideology. (STEPHEN JOHNSON, 31 May, 2017, Big Think)

Hitler seemed obsessed with the idea of infection. The Nazi leader was, by most accounts, a germaphobe who avoided personal contact and bathed incessantly. He was repelled by sex, horrified by venereal disease. He referred to himself as an Einsiedler - a hermit. He extolled the virtues of celibacy and claimed prostitution was for inferior races, though some have proposed Hitler himself contracted syphilis from a Jewish prostitute in Vienna in 1908. 

It was in ideology, however, where Hitler's obsession with infection thrived, becoming the essential Nazi metaphor: Germany was the body, Jews were the parasites. 

Examples are abundant in his speeches and writings:

"How many diseases have their origin in the Jewish virus! We shall regain our health only be eliminating the Jew."

"Anyone who wants to cure this era, which is inwardly sick and rotten, must first of all summon up the courage to make clear the causes of this disease."

"This is the battle against a veritable world sickness which threatens to infect the peoples, a plague that devastates whole peoples...an international pestilence."

"The Jew is a parasite in the body of other nations."

"Germany, without blinking an eyelid, for whole decades admitted these Jews by the hundred thousand. But now... when the nation is no longer willing to be sucked dry by these parasites, on every side one hears nothing but laments."

"If this battle should not come...Germany would decay and at best sink to ruin like a rotting corpse."

Do Hitler's germaphobic tendencies and obsession with the infection metaphor reveal anything about his personality traits? While it's impossible to know for sure, it seems likely that he was highly sensitive to disgust.

Over the past couple of decades, studies have linked disgust sensitivity to numerous dimensions of ideology - immigration, political affiliation, sense of justice. If Hitler ranked high on the disgust scale, there were probably deeply rooted psychological forces lurking underneath his xenophobia and murderous fantasies that research on the behavioral immune system might help bring to light.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Our friends can influence our behaviour more than we think (Michael Sanders, 7/07/19, Journal.ie)

One of the most powerful departures of behavioural economics from "standard" economics is that where standard economics tends to assume that people are individualistic, and out only for their own ends, behavioural economics embraces altruism, reciprocity, conformity, and identity. These are all aspects of our being which influence our behaviour and are inherently social. 

One of the big puzzles for economists was that they failed to foresee the financial crisis, and that even once it was well underway, it took them time to get their heads fully around it.

In part, this was because the recession didn't make any sense. In the UK, the start of the crisis really came with the "run" on Northern Rock - people queueing for hours to get their money out of their bank accounts, bringing about the collapse of the bank. This doesn't make sense, as almost nobody had enough money deposited to actually risk losing anything - the government's financial protections would have prevented it.

But despite this the queues formed, and the longer they got, the faster people rushed to join them. This instinct to conform to the behaviour of others - to follow the herd - isn't something economics could handle.

It's a theme captured in a study by Bruce Sacerdote, who exploited the random assignment of students to their college roommates to see how much you're influenced by your roommate.

The answer, as it turns out, is quite a lot - roommates tended to join the same sorts of societies, have the same hobbies, and even get about the same grades.

If this is striking, it's worth noting that it's probably an underestimate of the true effect our friends have on us. Your real friends, after years of knowing each-other, are able to exert far more influence than a mere change in GPA or a decision to sign up to the creative writing society.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


ICE Used Facial Recognition to Mine State Driver's License Databases (Catie Edmondson, July 7, 2019, NY Times)

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials have mined state driver's license databases using facial recognition technology, analyzing millions of motorists' photos without their knowledge.

...that government won't look at government records is, at least, odd.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Trump Tariff Twist That's Cost U.S. Steel $5.5 Billion (Matthew Townsend  and Joe Deaux, July 7, 2019, Bloomberg)

Exuberance over the levies dramatically boosted U.S. output just as the global economy was cooling, undercutting demand. That dropped prices, creating a stark divide between companies like Nucor Corp., that use cheaper-to-run electric-arc furnaces to recycle scrap into steel products, and those including U.S. Steel Corp., with more costly legacy blast furnaces.

Since Trump announced the tariffs 16 months ago, U.S. Steel has lost almost 70% of its market value, or $5.5 billion, and idled two American furnaces in mid-June that couldn't be run profitably at the lowest prices since 2016. Meanwhile, Nucor, down around 20%, has touted $2.5 billion in expansion projects.

The president's actions likely "sped up" up an unavoidable "evolution," said Nucor Chief Executive Officer John Ferriola in an interview last month.

July 7, 2019

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Iran didn't ask for this crisis, but it won't stand for Trump's bullying (Hossein Mousavian, 7 Jul 2019, The Guardian)

For one thing, cooperation requires dialogue between the countries' respective military establishments in the region. US Central Command (Centcom) and Iran's revolutionary guard corps' Quds force are both responsible for their countries' extraterritorial operations. The IRGC's designation as a terrorist organisation - and Iran's reciprocation against Centcom - has ended the possibility of negotiation between these two extremely influential state entities.

Next, in an unprecedentedly aggressive action, the Trump administration has imposed sanctions on Iran's ultimate source of authority according to its constitution, namely the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Just as in the US the president has the authority to determine the general trajectory of foreign policy, the supreme leader in Iran is the one who sets the foreign policy of that country. Let's not forget it was the supreme leader who allowed direct negotiation with the US over the nuclear issue in the first place. By sanctioning Ali Khamenei, Trump has effectively killed off any chance of diplomatic rapprochement so long as he is in office. And it is not only the political leadership of Ali Khamenei that is relevant here; he is also a religious scholar with millions of Shia Muslim followers - not just in Iran, but Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Bahrain and elsewhere.

In addition, last week, the treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin said the Trump administration was looking to levy penalties against Iran's foreign minister, Javad Zarif, who trained in the US and is one of the most distinguished career diplomats in Iran's recent history. Zarif has been compared to the popular prime minister Mohammad Mossadegh, who nationalised Iran's oil industry and was deposed in 1953 in a coup organised by Britain and the US. Sanctioning Zarif is a mistake if the US ever wants to reengage with Iran, because he is in charge of the diplomatic channels that would be necessary to resolve this crisis. As Wendy Sherman, who led the US negotiating team in the talks that led to the 2015 accord, put it: "I can't think of anything that makes less sense than sanctioning a key person who might actually be helpful if there is ever a dialogue with the US."

The Iran nuclear deal is the most comprehensive agreement in the history of non-proliferation. As part of it, Iran accepted the most intrusive transparency measures and stringent limits on a nuclear programme ever demanded of a non-proliferation treaty member. What is more, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) recently judged that Iran was in full compliance with the terms and conditions of the JCPOA.

But where Iran has kept its end of the bargain, it has been rewarded with sanctions and additional pressure, and the benefits Iran was supposed to receive have been suddenly snatched away. The Trump administration made a decision to undermine the diplomatic legacy of Obama, but it may not have fully understood that in doing so it would also be obliterating any possibility of brokering its own diplomatic solution.

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Hungry, Scared and Sick: Inside the Migrant Detention Center in Clint, Tex. (SIMON ROMERO, ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS, MANNY FERNANDEZ, DANIEL BORUNDA, AARON MONTES and CAITLIN DICKERSON JULY 6, 2019, The New York Times and The El Paso Times)

CLINT, Tex. -- Since the Border Patrol opened its station in Clint, Tex., in 2013, it was a fixture in this West Texas farm town. Separated from the surrounding cotton fields and cattle pastures by a razor-wire fence, the station stood on the town's main road, near a feed store, the Good News Apostolic Church and La Indita Tortillería. Most people around Clint had little idea of what went on inside. Agents came and went in pickup trucks; buses pulled into the gates with the occasional load of children apprehended at the border, four miles south.

But inside the secretive site that is now on the front lines of the southwest border crisis, the men and women who work there were grappling with the stuff of nightmares.

Outbreaks of scabies, shingles and chickenpox were spreading among the hundreds of children who were being held in cramped cells, agents said. The stench of the children's dirty clothing was so strong it spread to the agents' own clothing -- people in town would scrunch their noses when they left work. The children cried constantly. One girl seemed likely enough to try to kill herself that the agents made her sleep on a cot in front of them, so they could watch her as they were processing new arrivals.

"It gets to a point where you start to become a robot," said a veteran Border Patrol agent who has worked at the Clint station since it was built. He described following orders to take beds away from children to make more space in holding cells, part of a daily routine that he said had become "heartbreaking."

Not so much, since they're violating the First Law of Robotics.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


In leaked cables, UK ambassador calls Trump's Iran policy 'incoherent' (AFP, 7/07/19)

In one of the most recent reported dispatches filed on June 22 Darroch criticized Trump's fraught foreign policy on Iran, which has prompted fears in global capitals of a military conflict, as "incoherent" and "chaotic."

"It's unlikely that US policy on Iran is going to become more coherent any time soon. This is a divided Administration," he wrote, according to the Mail.

He allegedly said the president's assertion, that he called off retaliatory missile strikes against the Iranian regime after a US drone was shot down because it risked killing 150 Iranians, "doesn't stand up."

"It's more likely that he was never fully on board and that he was worried about how this apparent reversal of his 2016 campaign promises would look come 2020," Darroch reportedly stated, referring to the next presidential election.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM



A federal judge in February ruled that Epstein sex-trafficked underage girls and President Donald Trump's Secretary of Labor, Alexander Acosta, who served as a federal prosecutor in Miami at the time, illegally kept details of Epstein's plea from his victims. [...]

Not only has Epstein been friends with Trump for over two decades, former president Bill Clinton is also among the list of prominent people who have been associated with the convicted sex offender.

In 2002, Trump told New York magazine Epstein "enjoys his social life."

"I've known Jeff for fifteen years," Trump said. "Terrific guy. He's a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump administration 'uniquely dysfunctional', says Britain's ambassador to U.S.: newspaper (Reuters, 7/06/19) 

Britain's ambassador to the United States described President Donald Trump's administration as "dysfunctional", "clumsy" and "inept", the Mail on Sunday newspaper reported, citing a series of confidential memos.

In memos to the British government which date from 2017 to the present, Kim Darroch said Trump "radiates insecurity" and advises officials in London that to deal with him effectively "you need to make your points simple, even blunt".

"We don't really believe this Administration is going to become substantially more normal; less dysfunctional; less unpredictable; less faction riven; less diplomatically clumsy and inept," Darroch wrote in one, according to the newspaper.

In others, the newspaper said he had described the administration as "uniquely dysfunctional" and that media reports about White House "knife fights" are "mostly true".

July 6, 2019

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2nd Customs and Border Protection-connected secret Facebook group shows mocking images (Geneva Sands and Nick Valencia,  July 5, 2019, CNN)

At least one other social media group with an apparent nexus to Customs and Border Protection has been discovered to contain vulgar and sexually explicit posts, according to screenshots shared by two sources familiar with the Facebook pages.

The secret Facebook group, "The Real CBP Nation," which has around 1,000 members, is host to an image that mocks separating migrant families, multiple demeaning memes of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat, and other derisive images of Asians and African Americans.

Posted by orrinj at 4:10 PM


Proud Boys' D.C. Free-Speech Rally Goes Off With a Whimper: They were outnumbered by counter-protesters and served up a muddled message. (Will Sommer, 07.06.19, Daily Beast)

Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes took the stage in fake handcuffs meant to symbolize the effect of online censorship on his politics. He then attempted to wrench the handcuffs off himself to prove that he could overcome his social media bans--but could not manage it and had to be helped by someone else on stage. After the rally, McInnes claimed that was all part of his plan. 

McInnes went on to praise the fighting prowess of the all-men's Proud Boys group that he founded but claims to no longer lead. McInnes compared the Proud Boys to German soldiers fighting waves of Soviet troops in World War II. 

"That's how it feels to fight antifa," McInnes said, referring to left-wing antifascist demonstrators participating in the counterprotest.  

After a week of people whingeing about attacks on his SS?

Posted by orrinj at 1:07 PM


Free speech doesn't mean speech free from all consequences, despite what some conservatives argue: The "alt-right" claims that they are martyrs and dissidents in need of more government protection than anyone else feels particularly absurd in 2019. (Scott Lemieux, 7/06/19. nEW rEPUBLIC)

In a variant of Palin's theory that the First Amendment entails the right not to be criticized, the "Rally For Free Speech" seems premised on the idea that the First Amendment guarantees you the right to say whatever you want on any platform of your choice, whether or not the platform agrees to host those sayings. The lifetime bans given by Twitter to figures such as Loomer and Yiannopoulos loom large in these arguments.

To deal with the easiest question first: None of these people have had their First Amendment rights violated by being banned by social media platforms. The First Amendment constrains only the government, not corporations or private individuals. By definition, "big tech" cannot violate the First Amendment. Only government censorship can violate the constitution, and none of the would-be martyrs are even claiming to be victims of censorship by the state.

Not only is the government not suppressing their speech just because Twitter is preventing them from using its platform, they also have access to a major public space at the nation's capital where they can publicly claim that their speech is being suppressed to their heart's content.

To be more generous than the people making this argument deserve, however, it is true there are principles of "free speech" that go beyond the First Amendment. If you're an ordinary worker and your boss fires you for seeing a bumper sticker for a candidate he doesn't like on your car, your ability to speak your mind has been chilled -- although, unless you work for the government, your First Amendment rights have not been violated. If a ubiquitous social media site such as Facebook or Twitter were to ban, say, all registered Republicans (though the headliners of the rally are hardly representative of all Republicans) or all people with blonde hair from their sites, this would raise troubling free speech concerns (although they would be perfectly within their legal rights under current law).

But it should also be obvious that the idea that social media sites are required to host literally anything or anybody is absurd -- and nobody really believes that they are. Virtually nobody would suggest that Facebook or YouTube acted wrongly or threatened free speech by taking down footage of the New Zealand mosque shootings, for example. Facebook bans nude images -- even though mere nudity is never considered obscene under the First Amendment -- without generating campaigns suggesting that the practice bans free speech (though the policies often result in protests). Platforms make choices about what content they'd like to host and what content they won't allow.

Free speech also doesn't mean you have unfettered access to the particular forum of your choice. Liberty University doesn't violate my right to free speech if it refuses to invite me to give a speech urging Roe v. Wade to be upheld. Similarly, social media platforms are allowed to decide that their site's standards do not permit the dissemination of hate speech. Laura Loomer is free in the United States to speak as much anti-Muslim bigotry as she pleases, but when this bigotry violated the terms of Twitter's site, it was permitted to deny her access, and it did not violate her free speech rights when it does so. If anything, social media sites should be more aggressive, not less, in refusing to disseminate hate speech.

Posted by orrinj at 1:03 PM


America's Once and Future Concentration Camp: Postcards from a homeland outpost where Native Americans, Japanese-Americans, and now lone migrant children have been enemies of the state. (MATT FARWELL, July 3, 2019, New Republic)

Fort Sill is now where all United States soldiers and Marines in the artillery community, known since the time of Napoleon as "the King of Battle," come to learn or hone their craft--that is, how to precisely fire massive cannons so their shells kill a far-off enemy that they can't see. They learn how the King of Battle kills targets--people--based on guidance from forward observers. Approaching the cemetery, there is the distant, occasional percussion of small arms gunfire from the training ranges, and--depending on the day--an arrhythmic heartbeat of artillery thumps, the type that you can feel in your chest and sinuses as a small and thundery pressure differential.

On the map, the Beef Creek Apache Prisoner-of-War Cemetery--one of three Apache POW interment sites on the post--is tucked in between a helicopter landing zone and a rock dump, along a mosquito-filled waterway that flows down from the north Arbuckle Range, what the Army calls a "dudded artillery impact area"--an off-limits practice range where unexploded shells are presumed to remain stuck in the ground. On the road, the cemetery lies just past a sign that reads "Landfill & Rubble Pit, 1.5 miles."

A father of 12 named Kanesaburo Oshima was shot dead in spring 1942 trying to scale the camp's barbed wire while crying "I want to go home, I want to go home."
There have been many ways to get stuck at Fort Sill over the years, as the cemeteries attest. Before the announcement that lone undocumented children would be stuck here, there were the newly inducted soldiers, heads shaved for basic training, who all left eventually for far-flung postings and deployments. Before that, there were 707 Japanese-American civilians held prisoners on the post by the U.S. during World War II; one, a Hawaiian father of twelve named Kanesaburo Oshima, was shot dead in spring 1942 attempting to scale the camp's barbed wire while crying, "I want to go home, I want to go home."

In the throng of protesters assembling outside the Fort Sill gates after I arrived was Satsuki Ina, who was born in captivity in a similar California camp where her family had been held during the war; now 75, Ina told the assembled reporters why the protest was so important to her. "We are here," she said, "to say: 'Stop repeating history.'"

Posted by orrinj at 10:13 AM


Now you see it: Our brains predict the outcomes of our actions, shaping reality into what we expect. That's why we see what we believe (Daniel Yon, 7/06/19, Aeon)

One challenge that our brains face in monitoring our actions is the inherently ambiguous information they receive. We experience the world outside our heads through the veil of our sensory systems: the peripheral organs and nervous tissues that pick up and process different physical signals, such as light that hits the eyes or pressure on the skin. Though these circuits are remarkably complex, the sensory wetware of our brain possesses the weaknesses common to many biological systems: the wiring is not perfect, transmission is leaky, and the system is plagued by noise - much like how the crackle of a poorly tuned radio masks the real transmission.

But noise is not the only obstacle. Even if these circuits transmitted with perfect fidelity, our perceptual experience would still be incomplete. This is because the veil of our sensory apparatus picks up only the 'shadows' of objects in the outside world. To illustrate this, think about how our visual system works. When we look out on the world around us, we sample spatial patterns of light that bounce off different objects and land on the flat surface of the eye. This two-dimensional map of the world is preserved throughout the earliest parts of the visual brain, and forms the basis of what we see. But while this process is impressive, it leaves observers with the challenge of reconstructing the real three-dimensional world from the two-dimensional shadow that has been cast on its sensory surface.

Thinking about our own experience, it seems like this challenge isn't too hard to solve. Most of us see the world in 3D. For example, when you look at your own hand, a particular 2D sensory shadow is cast on your eyes, and your brain successfully constructs a 3D image of a hand-shaped block of skin, flesh and bone. However, reconstructing a 3D object from a 2D shadow is what engineers call an 'ill-posed problem' - basically impossible to solve from the sampled data alone. This is because infinitely many different objects all cast the same shadow as the real hand. How does your brain pick out the right interpretation from all the possible contenders?

All "progress" in science thrusts us farther back on the reality that all we "know" we know by faith. Post-modernism=Pre-modernism.

Posted by orrinj at 10:04 AM


Will a Trump Tweet Sabotage a Popular Bipartisan Bill to Restore Tribal Lands? (ALI TAL-MASON, JULY 05, 2019, Slate)

Last month marked the 85th anniversary of the passage of the FDR-era Indian Reorganization Act. It is now up to Congress to make this milestone a happy one. Hailed by supporters as the "Indian New Deal," the IRA was enacted in 1934 to revitalize Indian tribes by reinstating their homelands and tribal self-government. With its emphasis on restoring tribal sovereignty, culture, and land, the IRA is a staple of American Indian law and policy.

The heartbeat of the IRA is a provision that authorizes the Department of the Interior to acquire lands in trust for Indian tribes, largely exempt from state and local regulation. Trust lands provide resources and housing, and create eligibility for vital federal programs. A decade ago, however, in the 2009 decision Carcieri v. Salazar, the Supreme Court crippled the Interior Department's ability to properly administer the IRA's fee to trust provision. Two House bills presently before the Senate aim to change that.

On May 15, the House overwhelmingly passed H.R. 312 and H.R. 375, bipartisan measures designed to ensure that all federally recognized Indian tribes are treated equally under the IRA. Oklahoma Republican Rep. Tom Cole's H.R. 375 is critically needed to correct the damage caused by the Supreme Court's disastrous decision in Carcieri. That ruling quashed the Narragansett tribe's land trust in Rhode Island by effectively reinterpreting the IRA to apply only to tribes that were federally acknowledged at the time of its enactment in 1934. The court's finding that the Narragansett tribe was not "under federal jurisdiction" in 1934, an issue that was not even briefed by the parties, countermanded more than 70 years of agency policy, congressional mandates, and the court's own standard of review. In addition, it ignored that federal acknowledgment can only be obtained if a tribe proves that it "has been identified as an American Indian entity on a substantially continuous basis since 1900." H.R. 375 is a Carcieri fix that reasserts that the IRA applies to "any federally recognized Indian Tribe."

Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Bill Keating's H.R. 312, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Reservation Reaffirmation Act, meanwhile, is a narrowly tailored Band-Aid bill that restores the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe's reservation lands in Massachusetts and reinstates an Interior land trust decision that was invalidated by a Carcieri challenge. It exemplifies the lengthy, costly, and circuitous route federally recognized tribes must now follow post-Carcieri to try to secure their trust lands.

However, the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe's plans to build a casino near the Rhode Island border are opposed by the same c[***]no interests that benefited from the Carcieri decision. Just before the House vote on H.R. 312, seemingly out of nowhere, President Donald Trump weighed in and tweeted--invoking the racial slur that he devised as a nickname for Sen. Elizabeth Warren--that Republicans should not vote for it: "Republicans shouldn't vote for H.R. 312, a special interest casino Bill, backed by Elizabeth (Pocahontas) Warren."

Posted by orrinj at 10:02 AM


Long-Term Smoking Might Change Your Personality (Lacy Schley | July 5, 2019, Discover)

The paper outlines a series of five different long-term studies -- four in the U.S. and one in Japan -- that collectively surveyed about 15,500 people. Experts at a handful of different universities started the projects to track a whole host of things over time, like physical and mental health, relationships, behavior, etc. But for the purposes of this paper, the authors were only interested in the link between personality and smoking.

In each of the different studies, participants, who ranged in age from 20 to 92 years old, filled out a questionnaire that asked them about their smoking habits. The surveys included questions meant to assess where the participants fell on a spectrum of five personality traits, often called the Big Five: openness, extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness and neuroticism. Then, anywhere from four to 18 years later (depending on the studies), the same participants filled out the same survey again. Researchers flagged those who had quit smoking since their first survey and put them into their own "smoking cessation" group.

The results showed that, overall, people who smoked were more likely to report becoming less extraverted, open, agreeable and conscientious over the years, while also becoming more neurotic.

Posted by orrinj at 10:00 AM


California Borrowed $3 Billion for Embryonic Stem Cell Research in 2004. It Hasn't Cured a Single Patient (WESLEY SMITH   JUL 5, 2019, LifeNews)

Back in 2004, the university-biotech complex and its camp followers in the media and Hollywood convinced California voters to borrow $3 Billion to establish the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM). Its purpose was to pay for embryonic stem-cell and human-cloning research over which the federal-government imposed funding restrictions.

The campaign promised cures, and sold itself as a way to defy Bush's modest embryonic stem-cell federal-funding restrictions. Fifteen years later, the money is running out -- and whaddya know? It turns out the promises were mostly hype -- as many opponents of Proposition 71 warned at the time.

Using fetal cells was always ideology, not science.  It was supported only because it was anti-moral.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Russian state TV hosts mocked Trump's July 4th event as 'low energy' (Ellen Ioanes, 7/05/19, Business Insider)

Russian state media mocked President Donald Trump's "Salute to America" July Fourth event, The Washington Post reported on Thursday.

The hosts of Rossiya 1's "60 Minutes" program, Yevgeny Popov and Olga Skabeyeva, both scoffed at the footage of tanks rolling into Washington, DC, ahead of Trump's military extravaganza.

"The greatest parade of all times is going to be held today in Washington, that is what our Donald Trump has said. The American president announced he would show us the newest tanks," Popov said.

Popov told the audience that, "these are Abrams and Sherman tanks, used during World War II and withdrawn from service in 1957."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump Is Falling Almost 1 Million Jobs Short Vs. Obama (Chuck Jones, 7/05/19, Forbes)

Trump entered office on January 20, 2017, and starting with February 2017 he has been President for 29 months. Total job growth during that time has been 5.613 million or 194,000 per month with those results being helped by the tax cut.

Working back from January 2017, Obama's last month in office, there had been 6.423 million jobs added or 221,000 per month. The difference for the 29 months is 810,000 more jobs or 27,000 more per month than Trump.

July 5, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 8:29 PM

THE rIGHT IS THE lEFT (profanity alert):

Proud Boys Rally Rocked by Sex, Cocaine Allegations: Top speakers are fleeing and one-time allies are feuding as the gathering of MAGA faithful teeters. (Will Sommer, 07.05.19, Daily Beast)

A far-right rally scheduled for downtown Washington on Saturday has been thrown into disarray by dramatic allegations centering on cocaine, a love triangle, and the far-right Proud Boys men's group.

"The Proud Boys? More like the Joke Boys," Republican congressional candidate Omar Navarro, a key player in the bizarre feud, told The Daily Beast.

The drama has torn apart one-time allies prominent on the pro-Trump internet and cost the so-called "Demand Free Speech" rally at least one speaker, after other prominent right-wing celebrities already cited other reasons for not appearing. While the rally was meant to protest the banning of conservative figures from social media, the surrounding drama has cast a shadow over the event. 

On one side of the fight: Navarro, a perennial challenger to Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) whose losing campaigns against the liberal stalwart have become a cause celebre on the right. 

On the other: the Proud Boys, the all-male group of self-described "Western chauvinists," and DeAnna Lorraine, a self-styled MAGA relationship expert and Navarro's ex-girlfriend. 

The clash became public late on Wednesday night, when Navarro tweeted that Lorraine had been using cocaine and "sleeping with the proud boys." Navarro declared that he would no longer speak at Saturday's rally, which was organized in part by top Proud Boy leaders. [...]

"The Proud Boys are just as bad as antifa is," Navarro said.

Posted by orrinj at 6:10 PM


Posted by orrinj at 3:57 AM


Interest Rates Just Keep Falling. Economic Orthodoxy Is Falling With Them.: Investors expect even lower growth and inflation; this isn't the way it's supposed to work. (Neil Irwin, July 4, 2019, NY Times)

Consider some of the assumptions that are embedded in the economic models of the two government agencies most respected for their independence and technical expertise: the Congressional Budget Office and the Federal Reserve.

When the C.B.O. projects how legislation will affect the economy, it assumes that when the government borrows more, higher deficits will cause interest rates to rise, crowding out investment by the private sector.

Generations of college economics students have been taught that this is simply how things work, and the reason that countries should avoid running large budget deficits. But the logic just isn't holding up right now.

For example, in the spring of 2018, when the C.B.O. modeled tax cuts and spending increases that had been agreed to the preceding winter, it forecast that higher deficits would result in higher interest rates: 3.7 percent on 10-year Treasury bonds in 2019.

That is 1.75 percentage points higher than actually was the case on Wednesday. [...]

At the meeting in December 2015 where Fed officials first raised rates, for example, their consensus projection was that the longer-term level of the unemployment rate was 4.9 percent and that they would need to raise interest rates to 3.5 percent by now to keep the economy in balance and forestall inflation.

The actual results have undermined those assumptions. The unemployment rate has fallen to 3.6 percent. But the inflation rate has remained persistently below the 2 percent the Fed aims for. If anything, the growth rate of workers' wages has been slowing in recent months. That's important because higher wage growth is, in the traditional theory, the mechanism by which a tight labor market fuels overall inflation.

Moreover, the movements in bond markets the last few weeks suggest that very low inflation is likely to be the norm indefinitely, despite the low jobless rate. 

In a global economy of free trade and technology adoption what do prices have to do with antiquated things like jobs?

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Ballpark: How Baseball Stadiums Became Beautiful Again: a review of Ballpark: Baseball in the American City, by Paul Goldberger  (RICH LOWRY, June 20, 2019 National Review)

Memorial Stadium in Baltimore wasn't much of a ballpark. I didn't know that when I went there for my first major-league baseball game as a kid in the late 1970s and while walking up to our seats caught a glimpse through a tunnel of the field, the greenest, most perfect grass I'd ever seen, a color I didn't know existed. (This was long before the advent of high-def TV.) 

The lush field at the center of an enclosure of concrete and steel provides one of the themes of Paul Goldberger's new book. For him, the ballpark is the garden in the city, the rus in urbe, a sports combination of the Jeffersonian agrarian tradition and the Hamiltonian emphasis on cities and industry. 

A former architecture writer for the New York Times and The New Yorker, Goldberger calls the ballpark "one of the greatest of all American building types" and argues that, "as much as the town square, the street, the park, and the plaza, the baseball park is a key part of American public space." 

Goldberger relates the history of baseball through its physical facilities and the business, real-estate, and design considerations that created them. You couldn't do this with any other major sport. It's rare that a football stadium or basketball or hockey arena becomes memorable in its own right. The experience of baseball, in contrast, is caught up in its surroundings. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


'A Nation Built on a Universal Claim to Human Dignity' (RONALD REAGAN,  JULY 4, 1986, The Bulwark)

All through our history, our Presidents and leaders have spoken of national unity and warned us that the real obstacle to moving forward the boundaries of freedom, the only permanent danger to the hope that is America, comes from within. It's easy enough to dismiss this as a kind of familiar exhortation. Yet the truth is that even two of our greatest Founding Fathers, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, once learned this lesson late in life. They'd worked so closely together in Philadelphia for independence. But once that was gained and a government was formed, something called partisan politics began to get in the way. After a bitter and divisive campaign, Jefferson defeated Adams for the Presidency in 1800. And the night before Jefferson's inauguration, Adams slipped away to Boston, disappointed, brokenhearted, and bitter.

For years their estrangement lasted. But then when both had retired, Jefferson at 68 to Monticello and Adams at 76 to Quincy, they began through their letters to speak again to each other. Letters that discussed almost every conceivable subject: gardening, horseback riding, even sneezing as a cure for hiccups; but other subjects as well: the loss of loved ones, the mystery of grief and sorrow, the importance of religion, and of course the last thoughts, the final hopes of two old men, two great patriarchs, for the country that they had helped to found and loved so deeply. "It carries me back," Jefferson wrote about correspondence with his cosigner of the Declaration of Independence, "to the times when, beset with difficulties and dangers, we were fellow laborers in the same cause, struggling for what is most valuable to man, his right to self-government. Laboring always at the same oar, with some wave ever ahead threatening to overwhelm us and yet passing harmless ... we rowed through the storm with heart and hand . ..." It was their last gift to us, this lesson in brotherhood, in tolerance for each other, this insight into America's strength as a nation. And when both died on the same day within hours of each other, that date was July 4th, 50 years exactly after that first gift to us, the Declaration of Independence.

My fellow Americans, it falls to us to keep faith with them and all the great Americans of our past. Believe me, if there's one impression I carry with me after the privilege of holding for 5 1/2 years the office held by Adams and Jefferson and Lincoln, it is this: that the things that unite us -- America's past of which we're so proud, our hopes and aspirations for the future of the world and this much-loved country -- these things far outweigh what little divides us. And so tonight we reaffirm that Jew and gentile, we are one nation under God; that black and white, we are one nation indivisible; that Republican and Democrat, we are all Americans. Tonight, with heart and hand, through whatever trial and travail, we pledge ourselves to each other and to the cause of human freedom, the cause that has given light to this land and hope to the world.

My fellow Americans, we're known around the world as a confident and a happy people. Tonight there's much to celebrate and many blessings to be grateful for. So while it's good to talk about serious things, it's just as important and just as American to have some fun. Now, let's have some fun -- let the celebration begin!

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Pediatricians share migrant children's disturbing drawings of their time in US custody (Elizabeth Cohen, 7/04/19, CNN)

Pediatricians shared disturbing images drawn by migrant children who were recently separated from their parents while in US Customs and Border Protection custody. The drawings show people behind bars and in cages. The pictures were drawn last week by three children, ages 10 and 11, at Catholic Charities Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, Texas, after being released by CBP.

The staff at the center asked the children to depict their time in CBP custody. A social worker at the center gave the drawings to the American Academy of Pediatrics, which gave them to CNN.

"The fact that the drawings are so realistic and horrific gives us a view into what these children have experienced," said Dr. Colleen Kraft, immediate past president of the AAP. "When a child draws this, it's telling us that child felt like he or she was in jail."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Wahhabism confronted: Sri Lanka curbs Saudi influence after bombings (Alexandra Ulmer, Omar Rajarathnam, 7/05/19, Reuters) 

Sri Lanka is moving to curtail Saudi Arabian influence, after some politicians and Buddhist monks blamed the spread of the kingdom's ultra-conservative Wahhabi school of Islam for planting the seeds of militancy that culminated in deadly Easter bomb attacks. [...]

The outcry in Sri Lanka is the latest sign that Wahhabism, which critics deem a root cause of the jihadist threat, is under pressure internationally.

Jihadist organizations, including Islamic State - which claimed responsibility for the Easter bombings - follow an extreme interpretation of Islam's Salafi branch, of which Wahhabism was the original strain.

July 4, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 8:55 PM


White House staff forced to hand out VIP tickets to Trump's Fourth of July rally to anyone who will take them (Sarah K. Burris, 7/04/19, Raw Story)

Politico reporter Nancy Cook detailed the shocking desperation for White House staff as they struggle to get Washingtonians to attend President Donald Trump's Fourth of July rally. According to Cook, there's already an outbreak of "finger-pointing" about the low turnout and the festivities haven't even begun.

Cook filed the story earlier in the evening, but on "The 11th Hour," she told substitute host Ali Velshi that she's hearing White House staffers are so desperate to find people who will appear in Trump's VIP section that they're giving them to anyone who will come.

Poor Ignoranimus, he thinks May Day crowds turned out voluntarily....
Posted by orrinj at 6:48 PM


Posted by orrinj at 2:33 PM


Posted by orrinj at 7:37 AM


Health Care for Illegal Immigrants: Memo to Democrats (MARC SIEGEL, July 1, 2019, National Review)

Some notes to the candidates who raised their hands last week when asked if they would support health insurance for undocumented immigrants:

First, there are already clinics and emergency rooms across the U.S. that provide a safety net for many millions of patients, including those in the country illegally, whether or not they have health insurance.

The clinics are known as Federally Qualified Health Centers. They received grants under Obamacare from 2010 to 2015, and as they expanded they began to receive more income from patients coming in with their new Medicaid cards. I traveled to one of the clinics a few years ago on the shores of Lake Erie, in Dunkirk, N.Y., and was told by the medical director there that 85 percent of their patients now have insurance and the main problem is a shortage of doctors.

Emergency rooms across the country have the same problem. They are bound by law to see patients in an emergency whether they have insurance or not.

...the argument is about how best--or whether--to reduce the cost.

Posted by orrinj at 7:30 AM


Lincoln at Gettysburg (Diana Schaub, Spring 2014, National Affairs)

Lincoln's next two clauses mention two key ideas: liberty and equality, each of which is linked to the dominant metaphor of birth. Casting back before the advent moment in 1776 to the moment of conception, Lincoln says the nation was "conceived in Liberty." What could that mean? How literally should this language of sexual congress be taken?

Of course, "to conceive" can denote either a physical or a mental phenomenon: becoming pregnant or taking a notion into the mind. Before the nation could be brought forth into practical realization, it had to be thought of or imagined. Whence arose the concept? According to Lincoln, it originated "in Liberty." Of the handful of common nouns that appear mid-sentence throughout the speech, this is the only one Lincoln capitalized, although he might have capitalized "people" (as he did in both the Lyceum and Temperance Addresses, as well as in some of his Thanksgiving Proclamations) or "freedom" (since it is the proper name, so to speak, of the new birth prophesied at the end of the speech). The result is that "Liberty" and "God" are, in effect, the only capitalized words, since none of the sentence-starting words would normally be capitalized.

Why does Lincoln incarnate liberty in this way and what does it mean to be "conceived in Liberty"? Whenever the interpretation of Lincoln is at issue, the Bible is a good starting place. Psalms 51:5 speaks of being conceived in sin: "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me." The passage takes one back to Genesis 3:16: "Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children." Quite different is the Gospel description of the virgin conception. In Luke 1:31, the angel tells Mary, "And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son," and in Matthew 1:20, the angel assures Joseph that "that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost."

According to Lincoln's redaction, the new nation was conceived not in sin or sorrow but in liberty, although given the use that humans make of their liberty, there might not be much difference between the terms. Beneath the beautiful thought that the nation was conceived in the pure womb of liberty there lurks the afterthought evoked by the distant resonance of Psalm 51's conceived in sin. That psalm, known as the Miserere, is the most famous of the seven penitential psalms. In it, a contrite King David prays for a clean heart and a renewed spirit after his unjust taking of Bathsheba, the wife of the humble Uriah. The old Adamic/Davidic conception in sin and the new salvific one in the womb of Mary are explicitly linked through the genealogy that opens the book of Matthew. The list of 41 generations (the "begats") is interrupted only twice, once to interject that "David the king begat Solomon of her that had been the wife of Urias" and then to mention that 14 generations later the Israelites were "carried away to Babylon." Among the wages of David's sin was civil war brought on by the insurrection of his son Absalom. (William Faulkner, in Absalom, Absalom!, certainly saw parallels between the Biblical and American stories.)

In his very frank 1855 letter to his dearest friend, Joshua Speed, Lincoln uses a variant of "conceived in sin" when he declares that the Kansas-Nebraska Act "was conceived in violence, passed in violence, is maintained in violence, and is being executed in violence." But while Lincoln's poetry in the Gettysburg Address is deep enough to sound these darker echoes of sin and sorrow, the surface meaning of "conceived in Liberty" is altogether positive, although not perfectly clear. John Channing Briggs, in his wonderful 2005 book, Lincoln's Speeches Reconsidered, stresses the obscurity of Lincoln's phrasing: "Certainly, if one presses the metaphor to its sensible limit, the nation had parentage; but the manner and precise timing of its conception...is hidden as well as enacted in Liberty." Briggs refers his readers to Eva Brann's 1976 essay, "A Reading of Lincoln's 'Gettysburg Address'" (without a doubt, the best and most extensive article-length treatment available).

Leon Kass, in his admirable 2007 speech, "The Gettysburg Address and Lincoln's Reinterpretation of the American Founding," tries once again to plumb the mysteries of the nation's generation. He develops three scenarios. Perhaps Lincoln means to suggest that, just as a child might be conceived in love, the nation was conceived in liberty. Liberty, or maybe love of liberty, was the seminal passion that eventually produced the nation. Or perhaps "conceived in Liberty" indicates that the idea of a new nation was freely formed and chosen. While the Declaration itself insists on the force of "necessity," Lincoln instead highlights the operation of free will; the nation was conceived in an act of liberty. One final possibility is that Lincoln means to refer further back, even centuries back, into the colonial period. Alexis de Tocqueville, for instance, argues that the spirit of liberty was present from the first in the English colonies. He explains how the aristocratic liberty of the mother country assumed a new more democratic form in the New World. If so, then British liberty was the womb (the Latin is matrix) within which the new nation gestated.

These three speculations are not, in fact, incompatible with one another: A love of liberty, long present among the colonists, did flare up in one decisive, freely chosen act, transforming British subjects into founders.

The organic, "gentle" character of Lincoln's account of the nation's origins suggests a further concern. Perhaps Lincoln did not want to come anywhere near words like "revolution" or "independence" while in the midst of putting down "a gigantic Rebellion." For him, there is a crystal-clear distinction between a justified revolution, undertaken in response to well-documented violations of rights, and an unjustified rebellion in which one portion of a democratic people, unhappy with the results of a perfectly constitutional election, attempts to nullify that election by secession. The secessionists were in no way comparable to the American revolutionaries.

Lincoln didn't have time in this speech to explain the theoretical difference, as he did at length in other speeches, especially his First Inaugural. Instead, he found euphemisms for the American Revolution like "brought forth" and "conceived in Liberty." He uses the language of generative congress to describe an act of political separation. Given that he was resisting those who wanted a further separation, it was not the time to praise the dissolution of political bands.

created equal

After liberty, the other feature of the founding that is highlighted is equality. Lincoln says the nation is "dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal." Whereas liberty is linked backwards to the nation's conception, equality is more prospective; it involves dedication. As in the moment of christening or baptism, the infant nation is placed on a certain path. Although Lincoln quotes (accurately) from the Declaration, he puts his own gloss on it, famously introducing some key changes.

The Declaration speaks of equality as a truth held to be "self-evident" by the American people. They knew that this self-evident truth was unfortunately not evident to everyone the world over, but they expected that, in time, the scales would fall from the eyes of others (temporarily blinded by false teachings, such as that about the divine right of kings).

"Self-evident" is a term borrowed from geometry. A self-evident truth is an axiom. An axiom doesn't require proof and, in fact, it can't be proved. You just see it or you don't. If a = b and b = c, then a = c. According to the Declaration, human equality is like that; it is axiomatic. All men -- black and white, male and female -- simply are equal in the relevant sense of being endowed by their creator with natural rights to life and liberty. This is the essential truth of the human condition. This foundational truth is not invalidated by the harsh fact that most human beings, in most times and places, have lived under political orders that violate their natural rights, slavery being the most dramatic instance. According to the Declaration, despotic regimes and unjust institutions are illegitimate. It follows that people may exercise their right of revolution in order to establish new governments founded upon the consent of the governed and respectful of the individuals' pre-existing natural rights.

Although there are plenty of places where Lincoln uses the orthodox language of "axiom" or "self-evident" to describe the primary, capital "T" truths of the Declaration, his most famous formulation, here in the Gettysburg Address, calls human equality a "proposition." "Proposition" is another term borrowed from geometry. A proposition, unlike an axiom, requires a proof. That's why one must be "dedicated" to it. It's a theorem that must be demonstrated in practice. That Lincoln was well aware of the distinction between axioms and propositions is evident from a letter he wrote to H. L. Pierce in 1859, where he says:

One would start with great confidence that he could convince any sane child that the simpler propositions of Euclid are true; but, nevertheless, he would fail, utterly, with one who should deny the definitions and axioms. The principles of Jefferson are the definitions and axioms of free society.

What might explain Lincoln's shift from one Euclidean term to the other? It's not that Lincoln suddenly doubts the truth of human equality. It's rather that he wants to highlight the needfulness of translating an abstract truth into concrete political form. As early as the Lyceum Address, Lincoln described the founders as experimental scientists or mathematicians drawn to an unproven proposition. "Their ambition," he said, "aspired to display before an admiring world, a practical demonstration of the truth of a proposition, which had hitherto been considered, at best no better, than problematical; namely, the capability of a people to govern themselves." In that formulation, it was self-government -- the corollary of equality -- that needed to be proved. The current crisis, however, was more severe. At the time of the founding, there was general agreement that all were created equal, even if there was no political ability on the part of the very weak federal government to do much about the domestic institution of slavery in the states. Nonetheless, all then understood that slavery was an evil; even those who argued that slavery was necessary (and there were many of those) at least called it "a necessary evil." But subsequent generations had fallen away from this view. Led by John C. Calhoun, Southerners had taken to openly repudiating the truths of the Declaration, calling equality a "self-evident lie" and slavery a "positive good."

In the 1850s, as the crisis of the "house divided" escalated, Lincoln argued that the crisis had arisen because a substantial portion of the American people had lost sight of the truth on which their own rights depended. Lincoln put it concisely in his 1854 Peoria speech: "When the white man governs himself that is self-government; but when he governs himself, and also governs another man, that is more than self-government -- that is despotism."

Since the Civil War was brought on by a serious departure from the meaning of both equality and consent, it seems right for Lincoln, when speaking in the midst of that war, to imply that a truth once firmly held as self-evident had now moved into the ranks of a propositional truth that must be proven in action -- that action being the restoration of a Union dedicated to the principle of equality. We see here, perhaps, that the language of mathematics is not perfectly suited to (or congruent with) politics, since political truths depend on being held in the heart as true. Thus, the Gettysburg Address superimposes religious language (dedicate, consecrate, hallow) on its Euclidean substrate.

In his opening paragraph, in 30 words, Lincoln has performed an act of remembrance. His description of "our fathers" is meant to make his audience reverential. But, at the same time, the generative imagery conveys the message that each successive cohort of Americans is essential to the maturation or completion of the founding. The necessary proof is ongoing. It's up to us to live out the timeless truth to which the nation has been pledged. With this single sentence, Lincoln formed the nation's self-understanding, a self-understanding that unites filial piety with progress. Action here and now is mandated by fidelity to the past. Lincoln's political stance manages to combine liberal elements with profoundly conservative elements.

It is because the Founding was conceived in sin, enshrining slavery, that the new birth is required.
Posted by orrinj at 7:16 AM


1776: The Loyalists' Perspective (JONATHAN DEN HARTOG, 7/02/19, Law & Liberty)

With the book built around Loyalist arguments, we might ask what these were.

Frazer begins, naturally enough, with the theological ones. He points to the contests over the meaning of such passages as Romans 13 and I Peter 2, in which the apostles urge obedience to established government, including honoring and praying for the king. Frazer holds up the Loyalist clergy as consistent in their literal interpretation of these passages. He believes their commitment to the plain meaning of these inspired texts was the centerpiece of their stance of allegiance to the mother country. (There is some irony in the fact that, in this case, the Anglicans emphasized a literal interpretation, while in other settings they would want to balance the literal text with reason and church tradition.)

It should be noted that the author's sympathies are clearly with these Loyalists' endorsement of total obedience and that he is skeptical of all forms of resistance to government.

The second group of arguments centers around these men's political thought, and this section allows Frazer to draw on his background in political theory. In their writings, the Loyalists developed a vision of government that was opposed to both Tom Paine and John Locke. The Loyalists started with a mixed view of human nature: People are sinful and limited yet made for society. For humans, government is a necessity. Rather than the result of social contract, government is divinely ordained and so continuous in human experience. These clergy went so far as to root divinely ordained government in original patriarchy. On this point, although Frazer doesn't reference him, I wondered if Robert Filmer was still influencing these Loyalists.

The third set of arguments is legal and constitutional. Like the Patriots, the Loyalists studied very closely the colonial charters and worked to parse the unwritten British Constitution. Charters acknowledged royal sovereignty--did that include parliament? As the colonies had tolerated parliamentary legislation previously, the Loyalists asserted that it was an established fact, with legislation and taxation inseparable. They thus insisted on the 18th century metropole's definition of sovereignty as the king-in-parliament--the exact formulation denied by the Patriots. Further, they asserted the virtual representation of the colonists in the British Parliament, yet another idea that the Patriots rejected.

The final group of arguments is practical and prudential. The Loyalists were most pointed in the mid-1770s, before independence was declared, at which time their public voices were silenced. They acknowledged abuses by the British ministry but did not believe that such abuses justified the American policy, which seemed calculated to exacerbate divisions. They strongly questioned the legitimacy of the Continental Congresses, believing that only individual colonial legislatures had constitutional standing. They grew ever more horrified by the measures enforced by the Continental Congress as it moved closer and closer to independence.

Meanwhile, they found themselves persecuted by local committees who, with no checks or legal standing, silenced their preaching, stopped them from publishing their ideas, seized their property, and forced them to flee for their lives. Hoping to the end for reconciliation with the mother country, these Loyalists warned of all the dangers that came with launching on a plan for independence.


In presenting the Loyalist perspective, the book makes clear their beliefs and arguments. It also, however, reproduces their biases and blind spots. These Loyalists were theorists, but also actors in the conflict, and so the polemical nature of some of their arguments should not be dismissed. As I read, I kept imagining Patriots like John Adams, John Jay, and John Witherspoon demanding to answer the arguments, and it should be remembered that these debates did have two well-argued sides.  

So, for instance, the debate over Scripture remains a fascinating one to examine. Frazer says the Patriots' use of Scripture was misleading and avoided the clear meaning of the text. Other recent scholarship by James Byrd has demonstrated extensive Patriot engagement with the problems of interpreting Romans 13 and I Peter 2, and they intentionally worked to do so in a consistent, faithful way. Moreover, Daniel Dreisbach has demonstrated that Patriot pastors were often very careful in their use of scriptural passages about "liberty." Their moves from spiritual to political liberty were self-aware and explicitly considered.

Closely related to the use of the Scriptures was the debate over "passive obedience" (the Loyalist formulation) or "unlimited submission" (the Patriot formulation). Frazer supports the Loyalist disinclination to resist, although he acknowledges that some Loyalists did recognize justifiable resistance at some point (just not in the American conflict). If so, resistance became a question of degree and prudence rather than being simply out of bounds. Moreover, many Patriots wrote extensively about where and when the right to resist became the right to cut ties with England--they were cognizant of the need to get this exact point right.

In discussing resistance, Loyalists had to reckon with a key event in British history: the Glorious Revolution of 1688. It was an example of resistance to a British monarch that led to his removal, and it was within recent memory. The Glorious Revolution had been justified as Protestant resistance to a tyrannical Catholic king. That model of a successful transfer of power very much appealed to the Patriots in their own resistance to a king"whose character" (in the words of the Declaration of Independence) "is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant."

The debate over the Glorious Revolution therefore also points to the origins of the American Revolution in general. Contra many of the Loyalists (and Frazer himself), Americans were not only motivated by the political thought of John Locke. Rather, they drew on a larger Anglo-American tradition of political thought. Their own reading of British constitutionalism allowed for the protection of rights, liberties, and property. Furthermore, versions of republicanism were not new imports but part of a longer-term colonial outlook, as both Bernard Bailyn and Michael P. Winship have demonstrated.

The whole mess could have been avoided had the King just granted America its own parliament.

Posted by orrinj at 7:12 AM


The assault on conservative journalist Andy Ngo, explained (Zack Beauchamp, Jul 3, 2019, Vox)

The two main figures in these events are Ngo and antifa.

The publication where Ngo is an editor, Quillette, is widely seen as a major hub of the "intellectual dark web" -- a loose collection of anti-political correctness, anti-identity politics, anti-left media figures and reporters. Ngo is the closest thing the intellectual dark web has to a gonzo journalist, someone who goes into allegedly hostile places and documents them for his more than 200,000 Twitter followers to illustrate that the IDW is right about the threat from multiculturalism and the left.

Last year, for example, Ngo went to the UK to chronicle the supposed threat the rising Muslim population posed to British society. The resulting article, "A Visit to Islamic England," claimed England was being quietly conquered by fundamentalist Islam.

The piece was shredded by actual Brits. Most amusingly, Ngo presented a London sign reading "alcohol restricted zone" as evidence of Islamic dominance in the Whitechapel neighborhood; it was actually a public safety ordinance designed to discourage public acts of drunkenness from patrons of nearby pubs, bars, and strip clubs.

Ngo's coverage of left-wing protesters is similarly ideological. He views left-wing activists, like Muslim immigrants to the West, as a threat to free and open societies. His reporting plays up acts of vandalism, violence, and hostility to free speech without a comparable focus on the much more frequent and deadly actions of right-wing extremists.

Antifa is a perfect foil for Ngo. The group of typically black-clad activists are radicals who believe the best way to deal with the rise of white supremacy and hate groups in the Trump era is by confronting them on the street. Sometimes, this means organizing demonstrations against them; other times, it means brawling in the streets.

"They view self-defense as necessary in terms of defending communities against white supremacists," Mark Bray, a Dartmouth historian who studies antifa, told my colleague Sean Illing in a 2017 interview. "They have no allegiance to liberal democracy, which they believe has failed the marginalized communities they're defending. They're anarchists and communists who are way outside the traditional conservative-liberal spectrum."

Antifa does not have a central command structure, and its members are typically anonymous. While not all antifa activities involve physical confrontation, some do have a nasty habit of assaulting people -- including journalists, as some reporter friends of mine like Taylor Lorenz, who were attacked while live-streaming in Charlottesville, Virginia, can speak to.

Portland, where Ngo lives, has seen a particularly notable number of brawls between antifa and far-right groups in recent years. Ngo has not only documented antifa activities but published at least one member's full name alongside a picture -- "doxxing" her, in internet parlance, and exposing her to retaliation. Ngo's work on this front had made him well-known to antifa, and profoundly despised -- he claims, for example, that an antifa member assaulted and robbed him at his gym.

In mid-June, he reported advance news of an event on June 29 in Portland by the "Proud Boys" -- a far-right group who describe themselves as "Western chauvinists" and are a major antifa nemesis. Portland antifa, who organized a counterprotest, issued a statement warning about the event that criticized Ngo by name.

The stage was set for a major confrontation between Ngo and antifa. And when he showed up at their event over the weekend, that's exactly what happened.

July 3, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 10:17 PM


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America, Born of the Hebrew Bible: A new book makes the case that the American worldview has always been rooted in the Five Books of Moses (Liel Leibovitz, July 3, 2019, The Tablet)

America, G.K. Chesterton once observed, was "a nation with the soul of a church." Make that a shul: As Proclaim Liberty Throughout the Land, a powerful new book, argues, "the American Republic was born to the music of the Hebrew Bible."

Its editors--Rabbi Meir Y. Soloveichik, Matthew Holbreich, Jonathan Silver, and Stuart W. Halpern, of the Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought at Yeshiva University--make their case, in the fine tradition of our wise forefathers, by laying before us scroll after scroll of source material, showing us the Biblical thread that binds everything from the Mayflower Compact to Lincoln's second inaugural address.

Clarified by the editors' illuminating introductions, these historical documents make a strong case for just how firmly our republic was always rooted in the fertile theological soil of the Hebrew bible. Rather than the transactional spirit of John Locke, who they preceded, the pilgrims were moved by a deeper, wilder spirit. Here, we see them speaking not of social contracts--a shaky base, that, for something as unearthly as a nation--but of covenants, the newcomers to America understanding themselves to be the latest in a human chain that began with Noah and Abraham and that owes its existence to its Creator and His will.

Thus thunders John Winthrop, in 1630, that "we are entered into covenant with Him for this work... The Lord will be our God and delight in all our ways, so that we shall see much more of His wisdom, power, goodness, and truth than formerly we have been acquainted with. We shall find that the God of Israel is among us, when ten of us shall be able to resist a thousand of our enemies, when He shall make us a praise and glory, that men shall say of succeeding plantations, the Lord make it like that of New England." It's a model of a covenantal political community taken straight from the prophet Micah, who reminded us that "it hath been told thee, O man, what is good, and what the Lord doth require of thee: Only to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God."

Actually, Man's covenants with God are, likewise, transactional. Contract theory is just biblical covenanting in drabber dress.  

Posted by orrinj at 12:26 PM


Trump's New Fed Pick Judy Shelton Previously Called for Open Borders (Davis Richardson • 07/03/19, NY Observer)

President Donald Trump's newest selection for the Federal Reserve, Judy Shelton, previously called for open borders between the United States and Mexico.

In an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal published in 2000, titled "North America Doesn't Need Borders," Shelton praised former Mexico President Vicente Fox's vision of a "greater movement of people" migrating to the United States.

"His talk of open borders is deeply controversial in the U.S., though what he is really selling is the fulfillment of open markets," wrote the economist. "His proposal to combine resources across borders may strike some as too imaginative in its scope. But it is, in fact, steeped in pragmatism."

Praising Fox's efforts to expand the number of work permits granted by U.S. immigration authorities, Shelton noted how the European Union's free flow of resources was an economic "success" for participating countries like Spain, Ireland and Portugal.

"Mr. Fox does, indeed, want to shift economic power," continued Shelton. "Not from one nation to another, though, but rather from government to the people."

There is no economic argument against open borders.

Posted by orrinj at 12:02 AM


Mexicans in US routinely confront legal abuse, racial profiling, ICE targeting and other civil rights violations (David FitzGerald & Angela Y. McClean, 7/03/19, The Conversation)

[E]vidence suggests that Mexicans and other Latinos are sometimes targeted for arrest based on their race or ethnicity.

In 2014, independent monitors at a Customs and Border Protection checkpoint in Arivaca, Arizona, just north of the U.S.-Mexico border, found that vehicle occupants who appeared to be Latino were 26 times more likely to be asked to show identification than white-looking vehicle occupants, who are frequently waved through the checkpoint.

And in 2012, a U.S. Department of Justice investigation in Alamance County, North Carolina, found that the sheriff had instructed deputies to "go out there and get me some of those taco eaters" by targeting Latinos in traffic stops and other law enforcement activities.

The DOJ concluded that the county demonstrated an "egregious pattern of racial profiling" - a violation of the 14th Amendment, which guarantees everyone equal protection under the law.

Mexicans in the United States have seen their constitutional rights violated in other ways.

The most egregious example was the forced separation of families found to have crossed the border illegally.

Under this Trump administration policy, which began in April 2018, at least 2,654 migrant children - and perhaps thousands more - were taken from their parents and held in government custody while their parents were criminally prosecuted for crossing the border unlawfully.

Thirty of the children known to have been separated from their families were Mexican; the rest were from Central America. Poor record-keeping has made it difficult for all of them to be reunited with their families before their parents' deportation.

Together, these actions violate the constitutional rights to legal due process, equal protection and, according to the Southern District of California, the right of parents to determine the care for their children.

"The liberty interest identified in the Fifth Amendment provides a right to family integrity or to familial association," wrote Judge Dana M. Sabraw in a June 2018 ruling.

More routine civil rights violations happen to Mexicans in the U.S. every day, our report found.

Though children born in the U.S. are entitled by law to American citizenship regardless of their parents' immigration status, hundreds of undocumented Mexican women in Texas have been denied birth certificates for their U.S.-born children since 2013, according to a lawsuit filed by parents. In 2016, Texas settled the lawsuit and agreed to expand the types of documents immigrants can use to prove their identity.

And in both Arizona and Texas, so-called "show me your papers" laws allow police to demand identification from anyone they have a "reasonable suspicion" may be undocumented, which may lead to discriminatory targeting of Latinos.

Once in government detention, surveys conducted in Mexico of recently deported immigrants show, Mexican deportees are often badly treated.

On average, in 2016 and 2017, about half of all recently deported Mexicans reported having no access to medical services or a bathroom while in government custody. One-third reported experiencing extreme heat or cold.

Posted by orrinj at 12:01 AM


The saddest thing about the England-USA rivalry? For most Americans it doesn't exist: Alex Morgan's celebration aside, Jill Ellis's team smothered England's passion and spirit with the most hurtful sentiment of all: indifference (Tom Dart, 3 Jul 2019, The Guardian)

The 2-1 US win in the semi-final in Lyon called to mind the scene on the Death Star before it vaporises a planet. Down on the surface it's a hive of nervous energy and excitement as the tenacious underdogs scramble to mount their makeshift defences and gutsy counter-attacks. Up in the command centre, the view is calm and orderly as the workers carry out their instructions by rote, flicking a few switches to activate the superlaser. For the rebels, it's the defining battle of their lives. For the empire, it's just Tuesday.

England dipped into derangement after Steph Houghton's penalty was saved, with Millie Bright sent off and Demi Stokes dropping the ball to concede a foul throw, while the US shepherded out the match with inevitable efficiency; doing just enough, as in the quarter-final against France.

The British media tried its best to provoke some conflict after the pre-game revelation that a couple of US staffers were found in England's hotel, touring it as an option ahead of the final. Investigating the location of the breakfast buffet and the price of a 500ml bottle of Evian from the mini-bar was shaped into a spy scandal, as if Phil Neville might have accidentally left "START RACHEL DALY OUT WIDE" scrawled on the whiteboard in the Fourvière Hotel's meeting room.

Tuesday's semi-final would be a "grudge match", declared the Daily Star; "England fury at World Cup 'Spygate' row: Manager Phil Neville in war of words with the US," roared the Daily Mail. While England were planting a St George's Cross on the moral high ground and fussing over why the Americans couldn't just read the reviews on TripAdvisor, the US simply went about their business before and during the match, paying due deference to the opposition's threat but not reserving any singular treatment for Neville's team, save for a taunt.

Alex Morgan clearly likes her tea served ice-cold. (Although someone should tell her that we increasingly prefer coffee these days.) Her Lyon Tea Party celebration was the most withering put-down since the exchange between the characters Martin and Bob, a school bully, when they meet again as adults in the 1997 film, Grosse Point Blank: "Do you really believe that there's some stored-up conflict that exists between us? There is no us. We don't exist." Having said that, the US annoying England with their celebrations wasn't anything personal: they reserved the same treatment for Thailand and Chile.

The sipping tea was a nice touch, but doesn't beat Julie Ertz telling a French player, "You tried your best."

Posted by orrinj at 12:01 AM


Which countries achieved economic growth? And why does it matter? (Max Roser, 6/25/19, Our World in Data)

The average person in the world is 4.4-times richer than in 1950. But beyond the global average, how did incomes change in countries around the world? And why should we care about the growth of incomes? These are the two questions I answer in this post.

The two charts in this post show the level of GDP per capita for countries around the world between 1950 and 2016.

The first chart shows the level of GDP per capita at four different points in time: 1950 in purple, 1970 in yellow, 1990 in green, and the latest available data for 2016 in green.
The chart at the end shows it at two points in time: On the vertical axis you see the level of prosperity in 1950 and on the horizontal axis you see it for 2016.

GDP - Gross Domestic Product - measures the total production of an economy as the monetary value of all goods and services produced during a specific period, mostly one year. Dividing GDP by the size of the population gives us GDP per capita to measure the prosperity of the average person in a country. Because all expenditures in an economy are someone else's income we can think of GDP per capita as the average income of people in that economy. Here at Core-Econ you find a more detailed definition.

Look at the world average in the middle of the charts. The income of the average person in the world has increased from just $3,300 in 1950 to $14,574 in 2016. The average person in the world is 4.4-times richer than in 1950.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Explore the Balance of Payments between States and the Federal Government (Rockefeller Institute)
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Ruthless. Relentless. Victorious.: The true identity of the United States women's soccer team is not so much its style but its results: It is a team built to win, and that is what it does. (Rory Smith, July 2, 2019, NY Times)

Perhaps, in time, the quality that allowed the United States to navigate those few minutes -- and the agonizing 20 or so more that followed -- will come to be identified as its defining trait. "It was a nail-biter," Lavelle said of those minutes when everyone's fate was busy being decided somewhere else. "It was a long wait. But I think it's a time to regroup, to get together, to be ready for whatever's next."

None of it threw Jill Ellis's team. There is too much experience, too much nous, in the United States ranks for that to happen. Instead, it did all it could to tamp down the frenzy. The team that had started this tournament by running up the score against Thailand, adamant that it should, at all times, seek to attack, to go for the jugular, to never stop, started to run for the corners. Heath did it. Morgan did it. They dallied at free kicks. They looked for contact, and when they got it, they stayed down. They waited until they had the ball just right before taking throw-ins. Naeher held on to the ball for as long as she could without attracting sanction from the referee, Ellen White making her feelings on the matter plain as she did so. They drew the sting. They ran the clock.

In doing so, of course, they tried England's patience. "I don't want to say too much," White said afterward, her devastation still plain. "I could say a lot. Some of it may be a bit unsporting, but that is game management. That is how they win games."

She is right, too: that cynical side is just as much a part of the United States arsenal as Morgan's finishing or Horan's vision or Heath's technique. It is what makes them such a fearsome opponent, one capable not only of pummeling an opponent, but of asphyxiating them, too, draining them not only of time but of hope.

It speaks, deep down, to this team's true identity. There is little highbrow talk of philosophy from Ellis and her players. They do not see themselves as the standard-bearers for some idea of how the game should be played or what it should look like. It would be wrong to say there is no aesthetic quality to what they do; more that they accept that aesthetics are subjective -- what looks beautiful to some may be dull to others -- and that their concern is, primarily, with the objective.

This is a team built to win: whenever, wherever and however that might be. Morgan running for the corner was no less a manifestation of a ruthless streak than giddily cranking up the score against Thailand was almost a month ago. She was doing what was necessary to win. That is all that matters. That, to this incarnation of women's soccer's greatest dynasty, is all that there is.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


U.S. Blocked on Plan to Deny Bail to Jailed Asylum Seekers (Kartikay Mehrotra, July 2, 2019, Bloomberg)

A federal judge blocked the Trump administration's plan to jail immigrants seeking asylum and deny them bail if they crossed the U.S. border without permission.

The ruling Tuesday in a class-action lawsuit brought by asylum applicants and their advocates is the latest in a string of court defeats for the President Donald Trump's effort to prevent migrants along the southern border from reaching American towns and cities. Apprehensions of prospective asylum seekers have more than doubled in the last year, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

"It is the finding of this court that it is unconstitutional to deny these class members a bond hearing while they await a final determination of their asylum request," U.S. District Judge Marsha J. Pechman in Seattle wrote.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Proud Boys and Allies to Rally in D.C. to Capitalize on 'Trumpstravaganza': 'We are expecting a lot of Trump supporters, and especially battle-ready Trump supporters,' All Out D.C. organizer Jesse Sparks said. (Will Sommer, 07.02.19, Daily Beast)

Members of the far-right Proud Boys men's group and their allies will rally in D.C. on July 6, just a week after violence at rival Portland rallies ratcheted up tensions between groups on both the right and left. The Proud Boys event and a rival counterprotest threaten to add even more tension for what's already shaping up to be a hot, strange week in Washington. 

The Proud Boys--self-described "Western chauvinists" who adhere to a dizzying array of rules, including restrictions on how much they can masturbate--will be joined by a number of right-wing internet personalities at the "Rally for Free Speech" at D.C.'s Freedom Plaza. 

The event's website lists a number of right-wing internet provocateurs, including conservative smear-pusher Jacob Wohl, anti-Muslim activist Laura Loomer, British far-right activist Milo Yiannopoulos, and former Pizzagate promoter Jack Posobiec. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


These Pictures Show The "Dangerous" Overcrowding At Border Patrol Facilities (Hamed Aleaziz, 7/02/19, BuzzFeed News)

The Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General on Tuesday released its final report on overcrowding at several border facilities in the Rio Grande Valley -- nearly a week after BuzzFeed News reported on a draft version -- revealing shocking photographs of people crammed into small detention spaces.

Inspectors detailed how, when they visited several the facilities earlier this month, they found adults and minors with no access to showers. Many adults were only fed bologna sandwiches, and detainees were seen banging on cell windows -- pressing notes to the windows that detailed their time in custody.

Inspectors described the conditions as "dangerous" and "prolonged." Some adults were held in standing-room-only conditions for a week. There was little access to hot showers or hot food for families and children in some facilities.

The inspectors said the overcrowding and prolonged detention for the single adults represented a security risk for detainees, agents, and officers. Adults purposely clogged toilets with Mylar blankets and socks in order to be released from their cells, while some refused to return to cells after they had been cleaned. Others tried to escape.

Of course, they won't trust General Horowitz after he reports either.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM



[T]esla has yet more tidings to celebrate: On Wednesday, Thatcham Research announced that the electric sedan is one of the safest cars in Europe, especially when it comes to avoiding crashes.

In a new round of testing, Thatcham, a British nonprofit that assesses vehicle safety, awarded the Model 3 its highest rating of five stars. In crash testing, which Thatcham administers according to standards set by the European New Car Assessment Programme, the Model 3 posted a 96 percent score for how it protects adults. It got an 86 for keeping kids safe, and 74 for how it treats "vulnerable road users" like pedestrians. (That last test involves firing what looks like a half-bowling ball, intended to simulate a pedestrian's head, into the windshield at 25 mph, then examining how the vehicle absorbs the energy of the impact.)

The Model 3 secured a perfect five-star safety rating from the UK's Thatcham Research, using tests developed by the European New Car Assessment Programme.
Good crash ratings are nothing new for Tesla. Safety experts in the US and Europe have praised the automaker for making a structurally sound car by taking advantage of its electric powertrain. The lack of a big engine let Musk's engineers make the front of the car into an especially effective crumple zone. The battery that forms the floor of the vehicle improves the car's rigidity and keeps the center of gravity low, reducing the risk of a rollover. Last year, the US Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the Model 3 five out of five stars. Tesla's Model S sedan and Model X SUV have posted similar scores in the past.

What stands out in the new European results is not just that the Model 3 can take a beating, but that it can avoid one. Of the six cars that earned five stars, the Model 3 is the only one with a "safety assist" score over 80 percent. Its 94 percent is among the highest scores ever seen on a test for that category.

July 2, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 8:33 PM


Italy court lifts house arrest on German captain, says she was protecting life (SBS, 7/02/19)

An Italian judge ruled on Tuesday that the German captain of a migrant charity ship had not broken the law when she forced a naval blockade at the weekend, saying she had carried out her duty to protect life.

Carola Rackete, a 31-year-old German national, disobeyed Italian military orders and entered the port of Lampedusa on Saturday, hitting a police patrol boat as she brought some 41 African migrants to land in the Sea-Watch rescue vessel.

She was immediately detained and placed under house arrest, but in a blow for Italy's hardline interior minister, Matteo Salvini, Judge Alessandra Vella ruled that Rackete had been carrying out her duty and had not committed any act of violence.

Posted by orrinj at 8:13 PM


Pence's office tight-lipped after VP abruptly cancels New Hampshire trip to return to White House (Alex Pappas, 7/02/19, Fox News)

Vice President Pence's abrupt decision Tuesday to abandon plans to fly to New Hampshire for an opioid event -- and instead return to the White House -- has prompted confusion and conflicting statements from members of his team, as administration officials refused to divulge the reason for the last-minute change.

Say this for the VP, there's no level of humiliation he won't accept.

Posted by orrinj at 6:07 PM


Overcrowding caused 'ticking time bomb' at Border Patrol stations: Watchdog (QUINN OWEN Jul 2, 2019, ABC News)

U.S. Border Patrol agents packed migrants into overcrowded patrol stations near the Rio Grande Valley, creating conditions so poor that one facility manager called it a "ticking time bomb," according to a new government watchdog report made public on Tuesday.

In one example, Homeland Security Department inspector general investigators allege that many of the detainees were held in standing-room only conditions for a week and hadn't showered in a month.

This latest finding by the independent investigators alleges that most of the children held at children-only shelters didn't have access to showers and were not given a change of clothes.

Eighty-eight adult males held in a cell with a maximum capacity of 41, some signaling prolonged detention to OIG Staff, observed by the Office of Inspector General, June 12, 2019, at Border Patrol's Fort Brown Station.more +
The report states that 50 migrant children under the age of seven traveling without their parents were being held in custody at the facilities - some waiting more than two weeks before finally being transferred to a longer term shelter.

The government has wound up with thousands of these children it calls "unaccompanied alien minors" because it does not allow extended relatives such as aunts, uncles and grandparents to accompany children across the border. In the month of May alone, the government counted 11,000 "UACs" at the border.

The watchdog office inspected five facilities in the Rio Grande Valley. Children at three of the facilities did not have access to showers and some kids were not provided hot meals, a requirement outlined by government detention standards.

Leading a country 'means killing people': Tucker Carlson defends Trump friendship with Kim Jong Un (William Cummings, 6/30/19, USA TODAY)

Carlson said there "is no defending the North Korean regime," which he described as "monstrous and "the last really Stanilist regime in the world." 

"On the other hand, you've got to be honest about what it means to lead a country. It means killing people," Carlson continued. [...]

Carlson said that while he "is not a relativist or anything" it is the "nature and life, and certainly the nature of power" to have to choose between "the bad people and the worse people." 

"I do think that's how the president sees it," Carlson said. "He's far less sentimental about this stuff." 

Trump Laughs at Supporter's Proposal to Shoot Immigrants (Justin Baragona,  05.09.19, Daily Beast)

President Trump chuckled and joked when a supporter at his Florida rally suggested shooting immigrants as a way to decrease migrant crossings at the southern U.S. border on Wednesday night.

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France says it did not mean to embarrass Ivanka Trump with mortifying G-20 video (The Week, 7/02/19)

A short video released by France's presidential palace of Ivanka Trump awkwardly interacting with world leaders at the G-20 summit had a certain je ne sais quoi that made it go viral over the weekend, and France insists it had no intention of humiliating the U.S. president's daughter. "We didn't anticipate the reaction, and once again, we are not responsible for the use made of the clip," an official with the Élysée said in a statement.

The video, in which IMF chief Christine Lagarde appears mystified at Trump's interjection to a comment by British Prime Minister Theresa May, encapsulated for many the high profile, enigmatic, and arguably inappropriate role Trump played during President Trump's trip to the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, and to South and North Korea. There were substantive critiques about nepotism and the dangers of diplomatic amateurism, and there was some snark, as in the #UnwantedIvanka photos on Twitter in which Ivanka Trump is photoshopped into all sorts of famous events, real and fictional.

Posted by orrinj at 2:11 PM


Critics deplore this migrant shelter. Its operator just got a huge, hush-hush no-bid deal.  (MONIQUE O. MADAN, MAY 01, 2019, Miami Herald)

The Homestead shelter for unaccompanied migrant children has been shrouded in secrecy and cloaked in controversy from the moment it was reactivated in February 2018. Lawmakers scornful of President Trump's immigration policies have been blocked from visiting. Because it sits on federal land, Florida's child welfare agency is barred from investigating allegations of abuse.

Rather than close it, as activists have demanded, the feds just gave the operator, Comprehensive Health Services, a brand new contract -- one worth $341 million.

There was no competitive bidding and it happened under the radar.

By the time the contract -- the latest in a series of short-term deals -- runs out in November, CHS will have earned more than half a billion dollars for housing migrant children, a figure that inflames critics while advocates say it is justified by an out-of-control influx on the southern border. The dollar total could rise still higher since the payment escalates if the number of youths increases, as is expected.

The cost per youth, as of last month, amounts to $775 per day, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Posted by orrinj at 1:56 PM


Mike Pompeo used security detail to run errands - report (Times of Israel, 7/02/19)

In the latest scandal to rock the Trump administration, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is being scrutinized by a congressional committee for allegedly using his government security detail to run personal errands, including picking up his dog and fetching Chinese food.

According to CNN, a whistleblower has been feeding the unnamed committee information about America's top diplomat for months, describing a pattern of alleged misbehavior seemingly at odds with President Donald Trump's election promise to "drain the swamp."

Posted by orrinj at 12:27 PM


Some army cadets listen to rabbis over military commanders, former Israeli defense minister says (JTA, 7/02/19) 

Religious pre-military academies are creating "private militias" that listen to their rabbis over their military commanders, Avigdor Liberman charged.

Posted by orrinj at 12:01 AM


AOC screamed at Border Patrol agents in 'threatening manner' during tour: Witnesses (Anna Giaritelli, July 01, 2019, Washington Examiner)

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., screamed at federal law enforcement agents "in a threatening manner" during a visit to a Border Patrol facility in El Paso, Texas, and refused to tour the facility, according to two people who witnessed the incident.

A group of 14 House Democrats, including Ocasio-Cortez, and their aides kicked off their visit to the region at about 11 a.m. MST Monday at the El Paso Station on Hondo Pass Drive.

The group was standing inside the station near an area where migrants are held when Ocasio-Cortez left them to sit inside a nearby holding area with a family as the other lawmakers and aides were briefed on station operations.

"She comes out screaming at our agents, right at the beginning [of the tour] ... Crying and screaming and yelling," said one witness who said he was stunned by the outburst in front of approximately 40 people.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


An Open Letter to the Director of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum (Omer Bartov, Doris Bergen, Andrea Orzoff, Timothy Snyder, and Anika Walke, et al., 7/01/19, NYRB)

To Director Bloomfield: 

We are scholars who strongly support the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Many of us write on the Holocaust and genocide; we have researched in the USHMM's library and archives or served as fellows or associated scholars; we have been grateful for the Museum's support and intellectual community. Many of us teach the Holocaust at our universities, and have drawn on the Museum's online resources. We support the Museum's programs from workshops to education. 

We are deeply concerned about the Museum's recent "Statement Regarding the Museum's Position on Holocaust Analogies." We write this public letter to urge its retraction.

Scholars in the humanities and social sciences rely on careful and responsible analysis, contextualization, comparison, and argumentation to answer questions about the past and the present. By "unequivocally rejecting efforts to create analogies between the Holocaust and other events, whether historical or contemporary," the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is taking a radical position that is far removed from mainstream scholarship on the Holocaust and genocide. And it makes learning from the past almost impossible.

The Museum's decision to completely reject drawing any possible analogies to the Holocaust, or to the events leading up to it, is fundamentally ahistorical. It has the potential to inflict severe damage on the Museum's ability to continue its role as a credible, leading global institution dedicated to Holocaust memory, Holocaust education, and research in the field of Holocaust and genocide studies. The very core of Holocaust education is to alert the public to dangerous developments that facilitate human rights violations and pain and suffering; pointing to similarities across time and space is essential for this task.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump fumes about Cuomo, New York A.G. over state investigations (Allan Smith, 7/01/19, NBC News)

Late last year Trump's charitable foundation agreed to dissolve and give away its assets to other nonprofit organizations as a result of the New York attorney general probe, which began under Eric Schneiderman. At the time, Schneiderman's successor as attorney general, Barbara Underwood, said the nonprofit had exhibited a "shocking pattern" of illegality.

That deal did not stop the civil lawsuit Underwood filed against the foundation last year from proceeding. The New York attorney general's office continued to seek nearly $3 million in restitution and additional fines as part of the suit, as well as a ban on Trump's leading a New York nonprofit for the next decade and placing one-year bans on the charity's other board members, which include the president's adult children.

Trump has repeatedly clashed with Schneiderman through the years and later publicly criticized Underwood and James, claiming their investigations were politically motivated. The office has led significant investigations into not only his charity, but also into Trump University, the president's defunct real estate education venture.

Shortly after her election in November, James, a Democrat, vowed to "use every area of the law" to probe Trump, his family and associates, and his business. The office of attorney general has sweeping investigatory and prosecutorial powers to do just that.

Earlier this year, James subpoenaed Trump's banks, seeking information about the Trump Organization and the president's finances. Trump dismissed those efforts as "presidential harassment" and tweeted that James "openly campaigned on a GET TRUMP agenda."

James opened that probe, a civil inquiry, after Michael Cohen, the president's former attorney, testified to Congress in February that Trump inflated the worth of his assets in financial statements that he provided to banks to secure loans.

Tough having an investigation you can't obstruct.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Hanover overhauls parking with new rates, fines and mobile app (ROHAN CHAKRAVARTY, 6/30/19, Valley News)

HANOVER -- New parking rates -- and fines -- go into effect on Monday as the town of Hanover tries to do more to encourage commuters to park in lots on the outskirts of downtown, freeing up more spaces for shoppers and other short-term visitors.

Hanover has also installed technology that lets motorists use a smartphone app to pay for a meter or extend time, within legal limits of the spot, and which promises down the road to help pinpoint open spaces.

Among the fee changes:

■On-street metered rates are in some cases doubling, so 40 minutes at a meter that used to cost 50 cents is now $1.

■Parking at 10-hour lots downtown will now cost $5 a day -- or 50 cents an hour -- up from 35 cents hourly, or $3.50 per day.

■Daily parking rates for the town parking garage, which is frequently full, are rising from $15 to $20. But monthly fees for a space in a peripheral lot remain at $35.

Meanwhile, some parking fines are also rising by $5, to $15 for an expired meter and to $25 for overtime meter feeding.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Majority Backs 'Medicare for All' Replacing Private Plans, if Preferred Providers Stay (YUSRA MURAD, July 2, 2019 , Morning Consult)

55% of voters back a Medicare for All system that diminishes the role of private insurers if they retain access to their preferred providers.

Independents are 14 points more likely to back the system when told losing their private plan would not mean losing their doctor (42% to 56%).

It's hilarious that the GOP thinks it can win by running against health care.
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM



When Richard Yim moved to Canada at age 13, he was in for a rude shock. Children of all ages were running around freely and wildly, and none of them seemed to fear losing a limb or their life. "It was something so simple, the freedom to walk around," he says. That freedom did not quite exist back in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Yim, now 25, wasn't a prisoner, but he and millions of others in his homeland were held captive by land mines and other explosives buried under the ground. These are remnants of violent conflicts that began during World War II and continued during the French Indochina War, the Vietnam War, the Khmer Rouge regime and the K5 Plan to seal off the Cambodia-Thailand border.

Cambodia is by no means the only country that is riddled with mines -- the problem extends from World War II leftovers in Germany to ongoing strife in Yemen -- but the Southeast Asian nation is among the most highly affected. According to the HALO Trust, an organization in the U.K. that trains deminers and has been operating in Cambodia for decades, 64,000 casualties have been reported since 1979. Children are under constant watch, Yim says, always sticking to the same routes to and from school. Around 50 percent of the country's mines have reportedly been cleared, which still leaves behind a huge number considering that one estimate pegged the total at 10 million mines.

Human-led demining is painstaking and dangerous. The solution? Meet Jevit.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Iraq sets up 'loophole' to buy Iranian power despite US sanctions (MAYA GEBEILY, 7/01/19, AFP) 

Iraq is establishing a financial "loophole" to continue buying vital gas and electricity from Iran despite US sanctions, AFP has learned, mirroring a European mechanism that came into effect Friday.

The "special purpose vehicle" (SPV) would allow Iraq to pay for imported Iranian energy in Iraqi dinars, which Iran could use exclusively to buy humanitarian goods, three senior Iraqi officials said.

July 1, 2019

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Secret US Border Patrol hate group exposed on Facebook (TRISTAN GREENE, 7/01/19, Next Web)

Investigative journalist A.C. Thompson from ProPublica today exposed a secret Facebook group for US Border Patrol agents full of racist and misogynistic comments and memes, including calls for violent action against immigrants and Democrats.

The group, called "I'm 10-15," a reference to the Border Patrol code for "officer in custody of alien," has over 9,500 members and began in 2016. According to its introduction page it exists to serve as a Facebook "family" for Border Patrol agents:

Per the ProPublica report, agents on numerous occasions engaged in commentary or shared memes illustrating a community-wide hatred for undocumented immigrants, liberals, and Democrats.

Posted by orrinj at 2:42 PM


U.S. manufacturing stumbles under weight of trade tensions (Lucia Mutikani, 7/01/19, Reuters) 

U.S. manufacturing activity slowed to near a three-year low in June, with a measure of new orders received by factories tumbling, amid growing anxiety over an escalation in trade tensions between the United States and China.

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Early life illuminated in 3D (Cosmos, 7/01/19)

Researchers at Rockefeller University in the US have used stem cells to create a 3D model of early embryonic tissues, allowing them to simulate developmental processes as they occur in time and space.

Writing in the journal Nature Cell Biology, they say they hope this tool will make it possible to further elucidate the processes that guide embryonic growth, and ultimately lead to innovations that promote healthy pregnancies.

...and on the 8th day, God printed shower curtain rings...
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John Bolton appears surprised by report Trump might propose North Korean nuclear freeze (Peter Weber, 7/01/19, The Week)

On Sunday, after President Trump's meeting with North Korea leader Kim Jong Un at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea, The New York Times reported that the Trump administration has being working for weeks on an offer for Kim to exchange some U.S. sanctions relief for what amounted to "a nuclear freeze, one that essentially enshrines the status quo, and tacitly accepts the North as a nuclear power, something administration officials have often said they would never stand for."

Chief among those administration officials is National Security Adviser John Bolton, who did not travel with Trump to the DMZ. While Fox News host Tucker Carlson and daughter Ivanka Trump were part of Trump's official party to the DMZ, Bolton "had been sent, or sent himself, to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia," The Guardian reports. And Bolton tweeted Monday that the Times report must be wrong -- the other possibility presumably being that Bolton is not privy to Trump's national security plans.

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Everything Wrong with the Reagan Administration (Marcus Witcher, April 2019, Libertarianism.org)

When Reagan took office, the US economy was struggling under what was known as "stagflation" - high unemployment coupled with high levels of inflation. President Jimmy Carter had appointed Paul Volcker as Chairman of the Federal Reserve and Volcker was determined to get inflation under control by raising interest rates. Reagan, having read Milton Friedman and others, agreed with Volcker's approach and gave the Fed Chairman room to implement his monetary policy.[15] As expected, raising the interest rates sent the economy into recession and left Reagan with a low approval rating. [...]

Of course, Reagan also faced the challenge of getting spending cuts through a Democratic House - something that would prove extremely difficult. As such, Reagan decided to seek additional revenues in 1982 by raising taxes. He and Speaker of the House Tip O'Neil held a press conference in the Rose Garden explaining the legislation. The image alarmed some of his most ardent supporters who viewed Reagan's support for tax increases a betrayal of the Reagan Revolution.[19] Reagan explained to those who were concerned that "more than three-fourths of the revenue raised comes from increased taxpayer compliance and the closing of tax loopholes." Reagan would also maintain that O'Neil had promised him three dollars' worth of spending reductions for every dollar in tax increases. A promise - if it was indeed made - that would not be kept.

Despite the tax increases, by early 1983 the American economy was beginning to rebound. Volcker's hard medicine had tamed inflation and the Reagan tax cuts were now fully in effect. President Carter deserves some credit for appointing Volcker and for deregulating the transportation industry. Reagan built on Carter's deregulations ending price controls on gasoline. Furthermore, Reagan further decreased tax rates and simplified the tax code when he signed the Tax Reform Act of 1986.[20] The combination of sound monetary policy, tax cuts, deregulation, and increased military spending resulted in impressive rates of economic growth from 1983 through the end of the Reagan administration. Unemployment also began to decline as the American economy produced around 19 million new jobs from 1983 to 1988.[21]

Although the Reagan economic record is impressive, critics have claimed that Reagan did little to end the flow of manufacturing jobs overseas and that his policies exacerbated income inequality. The main criticism of Reagan, however, is that his administration increased the national debt by 186 percent. Reagan's insistence on dramatically increasing the defense budget (by around 35 percent) and his inability to decrease domestic spending led to an explosion of the national debt. During his administration the debt increased by $1.86 trillion.[22]

Another aspect of Reagan's economic legacy was his ability to compromise with O'Neil to save Social Security. Although Reagan had denounced the federal government's role in Americans' retirements, he signed the Social Security Reform Act of 1983 that "increased the Social Security payroll tax, raised the retirement age for recipients to sixty-seven, required federal employees to join the system, and placed taxes on the benefits of higher-income recipients"[23] Upon signing the bill, Reagan exclaimed that this "demonstrates for all time our nation's ironclad commitment to Social Security."[24] On the one hand, Reagan could be praised for his willingness to compromise his principles and work across the aisle to save a program that most Americans supported. [...]

Perhaps Reagan's greatest contribution to our political discourse today was his unflinching belief in immigration as a source of American greatness. Reagan signed comprehensive immigration reform in 1986 that granted almost 3 million people amnesty.[33] In his farewell address, Reagan described the United States as a shining city on a hill: "It was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity." Reagan continued that "if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here."[34]

Likewise, in his "Brotherhood of Man," speech, Reagan spoke about his desire to see a world where the people of the globe lived in harmony. Reagan insisted that the US was "the one spot on earth where we have the brotherhood of man." The former president declared that "if we continue with this proudly, this brotherhood of man [will be] made up from people representative of every corner of the earth, maybe one day boundaries all over the earth will disappear as people cross boundaries and find out that, yes, there is a brotherhood of man in every corner."[35] In the midst of the Trump presidency it is important to remember that an alternative Republican vision on immigration, trade, and general human flourishing exists. While Reagan's policies were a mixed bag, he continues to provide timeless rhetoric that elevates the individual above the collective and preaches tolerance rather than exclusion.

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The New Science of Building Baseball Superstars: "Sabermetrics" changed the national pastime. Now another technological revolution is transforming the game, for good or ill. (JACK HAMILTON, JULY 2019, The Atlantic)

In the mvp machine: How Baseball's New Nonconformists Are Using Data to Build Better Players, Ben Lindbergh and Travis Sawchik set out to introduce the world to what they herald as yet another revolution, which represents a synthesis of sorts. Writers at The Ringer and FiveThirtyEight, respectively, they are at once steeped in advanced analytics and fixated on player improvement. As their subtitle indicates, they explore a growing movement within baseball to use statistical metrics, biomechanical data, and cutting-edge forms of player observation to help players hone their skills.

Their book is explicitly cast in the mold of Moneyball, to which the authors devote a substantial portion of their opening chapter. As Lindbergh and Sawchik rightly point out, Lewis had surprisingly little to say about player development. The philosophy that Beane brought to the A's organization was guided not so much by what players could be as by what they were--it was about how to construct a roster out of players whose specific usefulness had been undervalued in the market. The Beane model didn't have much to offer players who were interested in actually improving, aside from maybe "try walking more" and "don't bunt so much." By contrast, "this new phase is dedicated to making players better," Lindbergh and Sawchik write. "It's Betterball. And it's taking over."

The authors report from the front lines of a technological transformation in how we look at baseball itself. A sport that has lately been understood primarily through numbers on a spreadsheet is paying newly fine-grained attention to the game as a human activity. Among the innovations discussed are a high-speed camera called the Edgertronic, which can capture minuscule variations in pitch release; a Doppler-radar system called TrackMan, used to provide input on batters' swings and pitchers' spin rates; and even more bizarre machines with even more Marvel Comics-sounding names, such as Proteus and Rapsodo, whose stories I won't spoil here. The diamond has become a panopticon, and if this strikes you as a bit creepy, you're probably right, but you also probably don't play baseball for a living.

Lindbergh and Sawchik argue that these machines and the voluminous bodies of data they yield have helped players refine their skills and extend their careers with unprecedented effectiveness. They cite reclamation projects galore, like the relief pitcher Craig Breslow, who found himself nearly out of baseball before reinventing his release point with the help of the aforementioned Rapsodo and a device called a motusTHROW. And then there are star players who have ascended to superstar status through Betterball techniques. The MVPs of the book's title are the Boston Red Sox's Mookie Betts and José Altuve of the Houston Astros, the franchise that the authors hail as Major League Baseball's premier Betterball practitioner. Betts won the American League MVP Award in 2018 after coming under the tutelage of the Betterball swing guru Doug Latta, and Altuve won the award the previous season while leading his team to a World Series victory.

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The "Child-Mothers" of America's Concentration Camps (Sady Doyle, Jun 27, 2019, Medium)

There are sorrows in this world that put speech beyond us. We've spent the past week flooded with them: Concentration camps are very real in our country, and they're being used to house children. Children are being left in dirty diapers, with matted hair and lice, "wearing clothes caked with snot and tears" untreated influenza and other diseases ravage the camps, and five children have already died. In one incident, a roomful of children was told to share a lice comb, and when they lost the comb, their beds were taken away.

And all that may seem like the limit, like the most barbarity you could stand to hear about, but it isn't. Because after you've absorbed all of that, then you hear the term "child-mothers."

"Child-mothers" doesn't mean mothers of children. It means mothers who are children. And they're locked up in the child detention camps, too. Many of them are survivors of sexual abuse, many have already undergone some kind of horror on their journey, and the conditions in the camp now put them and their babies at risk.