September 18, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 6:42 PM


Why it will be hard for Trump to win Wisconsin again: Milwaukee's Republican suburbs have never really warmed up to the president. That could be a big problem. (NATASHA KORECKI, 09/18/2019, Politico)

Clinton famously never made it to Wisconsin, where her failure to campaign is widely believed to have cost her a state that had not voted Republican for president since 1984 -- less than 23,000 votes ultimately decided the contest.

Democrats are determined not to make that tactical mistake again. The national party pointedly placed its nominating convention next summer in Milwaukee -- where a 19 percent drop in African American turnout doomed Clinton's chances in 2016.

Locally, the party is attempting to expand on Clinton's anemic performance in the WOW counties by tapping into a vein of anti-Trump sentiment that they say is palpable. Democrats have had teams on the ground organizing for months in the suburbs.

"I know if we get 40 percent we almost guarantee a Democrat a victory statewide," Waukesha County Democratic Party Chairman Matt Lowe said. "We're seeing so many volunteers every day that I don't think 40 percent is a total pipe dream."

The Democratic optimism is in part fueled by Trump's underwhelming 2016 performance in the WOW counties, where he lagged behind Mitt Romney's 2012 pace. Republicans there haven't entirely warmed to the president since then.

"It isn't that the Republican Party is withering away in the WOW counties; it was that they weren't particularly thrilled with Trump and they showed it by not voting for him," said Charles Franklin, director of the Marquette Law School poll. "Trump still struggles to get more than 40 percent approval, even in the WOW counties. It really is an open question about whether Republicans have come back to him here."

Democratic hopes are also colored by last year's toppling of GOP Gov. Scott Walker and a Democratic sweep of every statewide office -- a humbling defeat for what was once one of the strongest state parties in the country.

The debacle was emblematic of the political havoc unleashed by the Trump era, which hastened the end of the one-time Wisconsin GOP power triumvirate of Walker, former House Speaker Paul Ryan and former Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus.

Other pillars of the old guard have also seen fit to leave the scene: Suburban Milwaukee Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, the second longest-serving congressman in the nation and an early Trump skeptic, announced in early September he would not run for reelection. At the local level, activists and county chairs, including in Waukesha County, have also stepped aside.

Aaron Perry, a Waukesha alderman, said he grew so tired of Trump and accompanying GOP policies that in June he switched his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat.

"There comes a point where everybody has their own threshold of how much they can take," Perry said. "We're getting to the point now where there's no way he's gaining supporters. The only way for Trump to go is down."

Posted by orrinj at 6:19 PM


Netanyahu to skip UN General Assembly due to 'political circumstances' (JTA, 9/18/19) 

Netanyahu also is scuttling a meeting on the General Assembly sidelines with President Donald Trump. Trump tweeted Saturday that he would meet with the prime minister to discuss a potential mutual defense treaty with Israel.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will speak on the same day that Netanyahu was scheduled to address the world body.

Posted by orrinj at 6:13 PM


U.S. trade groups urge Congress to rein in 'Tariff Man' Trump (Andrea Shalal, 9/18/19, Reuters) 

Nearly two dozen U.S. lobbying groups have joined forces to try to rein in U.S. President Donald Trump's power to unilaterally impose tariffs amid growing concern about the negative economic impact of his trade policies.

Led by the National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC), the groups on Wednesday said they had formed the Tariff Reform Coalition to urge Congress to wrestle back greater control of trade policy and increase its oversight of the president's use of tariffs.

Trump, who has dubbed himself "Tariff Man," has imposed or planned tariffs on steel, aluminum and nearly all $500 billion in products imported from China each year, as he pursues an "America First" policy aimed at rebalancing U.S. trade ties.

Posted by orrinj at 5:28 PM


U.S. Democratic Party donor Ed Buck charged with running drug den (Alex Dobuzinskis, 9/18/19, Reuters) 

Prominent California Democratic Party donor Edward Buck has been charged with operating a drug den after injecting a man with methamphetamine in his West Hollywood home where two other men previously died of apparent overdoses, prosecutors said.

Buck, who donated to former President Barack Obama and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, is a well-known activist in California politics.

Posted by orrinj at 5:26 PM


Why an Assault Weapons Ban Hits Such a Nerve With Many Conservatives : The premise of Trumpist populism is that the political preferences of a shrinking minority of citizens matter more than democracy. (Will Wilkinson, Sept. 18, 2019, NY Times)

Democracy is what we do to prevent political disagreement from turning into violent conflict. But the premise of Trumpist populism is that the legitimacy and authority of government is conditional on agreement with the political preferences of a shrinking minority of citizens -- a group mainly composed of white, Christian conservatives.

Who, you may sensibly ask, granted Tucker Carlson's target demographic veto power over the legislative will of the American people? Nobody. They got high on their own supply and anointed themselves the "real American" sovereigns of the realm. But their relative numbers are dwindling, and they live in fear of a future in which the law of the land reliably tracks the will of the people. Therein lies the appeal of a personal cache of AR-15s.

Weapons of mass death, and the submissive fear they engender, put teeth on that shrinking minority's entitled claim to indefinite power. Without the threat of violence, what have they really got? Votes? Sooner or later, they won't have enough, and they know it.

Nearly every Republican policy priority lacks majority support. New restrictions on abortion are unpopular. Slashing legal immigration levels is unpopular. The president's single major legislative achievement, tax cuts for corporations and high earners, is unpopular.

Public support for enhanced background checks stands at an astonishing 90 percent, and 60 percent (and more) support a ban on assault weapon sales. Yet Republican legislatures block modest, popular gun control measures at every turn. The security of the minority's self-ascribed right to make the rules has become their platform's major plank, because unpopular rules don't stand a chance without it. Float a rule that threatens their grip on power, no matter how popular, and it's "my AR is waiting for you, Robert Francis."

Posted by orrinj at 5:22 PM


This report tallied the human and economic toll of gun violence in all 50 states. The cost is staggering. (Dartunorro Clark, 9/18/19, NBC News)

Gun violence hits America's youth and rural states the hardest and has reached the highest levels in decades, a report released Wednesday by Democrats on Congress' Joint Economic Committee has found.

U.S. teens and young adults, ages 15-24, are 50 times more likely to die by gun violence than they are in other economically advanced countries, according to the 50-state breakdown.

In 2017 -- the year of a mass shooting in Las Vegas that killed 58 and injured hundreds -- nearly 40,000 people died from gun-related injuries, including 2,500 school children, the report said, noting that six in 10 gun deaths in the U.S. are suicides.

That year marked the first time firearms killed more people than motor vehicle accidents, the report said.

Rural states, meanwhile, have the highest rates of gun deaths and bear the largest costs as a share of their economies. Nationally, the cost of gun violence in the U.S. runs $229 billion a year, or 1.4 percent of the gross domestic product, the report said.

Posted by orrinj at 5:10 PM


How Selling Assets Could Help Revive Brazil's Economy (JOHN H. WELCH,  SEPTEMBER 18, 2019, America's Quarterly)

Since Brazil's new government took office, policymakers and investors have rightly focused on social security reform as a crucial ingredient for the country's long-term solvency. Now that an ambitious reform package has passed the lower house, the government and Congress are looking to other areas, such as tax reform and reducing the oversized wage bill, to help boost growth.

But almost under the radar, the government has also continued a large divestiture program that started under the previous administration. President Jair Bolsonaro's government has promised to deepen that effort by selling or shuttering as many state-owned enterprises (SOEs) as possible.

This program could help Brazil with some large fiscal challenges. Social security was the most important structural reform, and others remain that are crucial for sustained economic growth. But privatization can offer improvements in efficiency and reduce or eliminate the drain from loss-making SOEs. Moreover, privatization revenue would help finance a transition to fiscal sustainability by reducing government debt issuance to cover deficits.

Brazil's federal assets set for immediate sale fall into four main categories:

1. Companies with a direct government stake, such as Eletrobras (where only IPO rights worth around $15 billion would be included) and some smaller companies.

2. Listed equity shares in private companies held by development bank BNDES and the treasury (totaling $28 billion as of February 2019; BNDES has already sold $8.5 billion this year), not counting BNDES investments in closely held companies, debentures, or funds.

3. Contingent stakes in presalt excess oil transfer rights ($21.7 billion, discounted for indemnification of Petrobras and 30% transfer to regional governments).

4. Concessions such as airports, ports, railroads, and toll roads, with an estimated value $8.4 billion (with $1.5 billion sold in 2019 so far).

Posted by orrinj at 3:00 PM


In a Close Governor's Race, a GOP Incumbent Resorts to Racism (Nancy LeTourneau, September 18, 2019, washington Monthly)

The ad features scary-looking photos of brown-skinned prison inmates with facial tattoos while the narrator says that Bevin will "outlaw" sanctuary cities--even though there are none in Kentucky. The narrator goes on to say that Beshear "would allow illegal immigrants to swarm our state," and ties Bevin to Trump.

If any of that looks and sounds familiar, it is exactly the kind of ad that Ed Gillepie aired as he was losing the Virginia governor's race in 2017. Bevin is putting all of his chips on Trump and racism as a winning combination, which might play better in Kentucky than it did in Virginia.

Posted by orrinj at 2:57 PM


 In search of the soul of Chinese food in the Upper Valley (FANG DU, 9/17/19,  Valley News)

I was born and raised in China, and so when I came to live in the Upper Valley last year, I was eager to try the American version of my native cuisine. What I found in the area's Chinese restaurants both appalled me, and invigorated me.

Let me start by saying that "Chinese food" in New England is quite different from what you'll get in my home country. China, it goes without saying, is a big country, with a culinary tradition that's as deep as it is broad. The American version simplifies it and heightens a few qualities. And some of it is just plain odd. The chefs here -- whether they operate out of take-out storefronts or conventional restaurants -- are fond of deep-fried wontons and of stir-frying sweet vegetables in way too much oil.

This recalls what you'll get if you go to an "American" restaurant in China: greasy stew, weird cheeses, cloying cookies, as if cooks had decided to wipe away all the flavor and leave nothing but sugar, salt and fat. Shadows of oily meat and sickly sweetness ran through both of these ersatz versions of great, complex cuisines made somehow lesser in translation.

But then I decided to look deeper, and went on a quest to find the soul of Chinese food in the Upper Valley. Our area represents a small drop in a big ocean. According to "Chow: Making the Chinese American Restaurant," an exhibition at the Museum of Food and Drink in Brooklyn, N.Y. (on view through Dec. 8), there are nearly 50,000 Chinese restaurants in the U.S. -- three times the number of McDonalds. You can find them everywhere with similar names: Peking Star, Oriental Garden, Star of the Orient, Dragon Garden; a real game of mix-and-match. They offer similar menus, and similar fortune cookies -- a Japanese invention that I've never seen in China. Most of them are run by staffers from the province of Fujian, which is as dependable a source for the global Chinese Food Industrial Complex as the Napa Valley is to wine or MIT is for scientists. All of these restaurants are working from a similar template, and we see it in clear focus in the Upper Valley.

Posted by orrinj at 12:19 PM


Posted by orrinj at 11:53 AM


The global anti-vaping tipping point (justin Green, 9/18/19, Axios)

Numerous states are pushing major anti-vaping efforts, testing everything from banning flavored cartridges to PSA messages aimed at teens that feel like rehashes of the anti-cigarette movement.

That now extends to local government: D.C. suburb Montgomery County is considering a rule that'd ban vape shops from within a 1/2 mile of public middle and high schools -- effectively closing 19 of the county's 22 stores, the WashPost notes.

Legal vaping manufacturers (particularly in the marijuana variety) are rushing to make sure their product doesn't get mistaken for the bootlegged cartridges that officials believe are causing some of the vaping-related lung illnesses.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM



[B]erke worked around Lewandowski's stonewalling and as much as got the Trump man to admit that he lies in public by contrasting his comments in the media--playing his appearances on a big screen--with the facts presented in the Mueller report.

The lawyer played a clip of Lewandowski on MSNBC in a May 2019 interview saying he did not remember President Trump ever asking him to "get involved with Jeff Sessions or the Department of Justice in any way, shape, or form, ever."

Yet Lewandowski had told Mueller in 2018 that Trump had directed him to deliver a message to his Attorney General Jeff Sessions that he should make a statement in support of the president and committing to limit the jurisdiction of the special counsel.

At a follow-up meeting, Trump instructed Lewandowski--who had arranged for someone else to deliver the message in the future--to tell Sessions that if he would not meet with him, he would be fired. Lewandowski made notes of both discussions with Trump and kept them in a safe.

"I have no obligation to be honest with the media because they are just as dishonest as anybody else," a rattled Lewandowski replied when Berke highlighted his lie on MSNBC.

Berke's measured, razor-sharp performance received plaudits on social media as he found a way around Lewandowski's constant references to executive privilege by focusing on his public statements in the media and in his own book about his relationship with Trump.

"Barry Berke absolutely killed it," tweeted Harvard law professor Jennifer Taub. "Every lawyer and law student must watch this segment of the hearing. Such amazing cross-examination of Corey Lewandowski."

The writer James Fallows tweeted: "Watching Barry Berke question Lewandowski, compared w question-speeches from most of the committee members, is like watching an NBA player compared with high schoolers."

Former Republican congressman David Jolly told MSNBC on Tuesday evening that Lewandowski gave Democrats "what they needed today for an article of impeachment against the president of the United States for obstruction of justice."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Jimmy Carter says he couldn't have managed presidency at 80 (BILL BARROW, 9/17/19,  AP) 

Weeks shy of his 95th birthday, former President Jimmy Carter said Tuesday he doesn't believe he could have managed the most powerful office in the world at 80 years old.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


How could anyone prefer football to rugby?: Immensely violent and hugely dignified, it's a beautiful game (Justin Webb, 9/17/19, UnHerd)

The World Cup, played over the next month or so in Japan, will be watched by fans from Tonga to Kenya, Russia to New Zealand; even the USA, where it's become a big deal in universities. And, of course, in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, both north and south.

If football really is our "national game" we are, as a group of nations, pretty bad at it. It certainly doesn't bring us joy. Sometimes when I listen to Garry or Rob, droning on during The Today Programme sports news about some ghastly score draw in the Scottish League (the only news line being that someone chucked a coin at the goalie), I wonder whether the sporting powers that be properly understand the truth: that the game really binding us together as a nation is not football but rugby union.

Every corner of the UK is good at it. The Scots are unlikely to win the World Cup but they have a fantastic team who will last the course with the world's best - and they are the weakest of the Home Nations. The Irish (including several players from Northern Ireland) could win, as might either Wales or England. Indeed Ireland, England and Wales are all in the top five world rankings.

So this World Cup should be a celebration of a sport that we are all good at: in the South Wales Valleys, the Scottish Lowlands, in Lancashire and the East Midlands, all the way down to Cornwall where the long running campaign for a national stadium is led by supporters of the Cornish Pirates rugby team. Rugby does not need to "come home" because it is already home. It is part of life.

September 17, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 7:11 PM


Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren separate themselves from the 2020 Democratic pack in new NBC/WSJ poll (John Harwood, 9/17/19, CNBC)

Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren, holding distinctly different advantages, have separated themselves from the crowded Democratic presidential field, a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows.

In the survey, conducted after the third in the Democratic Party's series of debate, the former vice president draws 31% compared to 25% for the Massachusetts senator. At 14%, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders trails Warren by a double-digit margin while 15 other candidates receive support of 7% or less.

Biden builds his edge on dominance among three chunks of Democratic primary voters. He commands 49% among African-Americans, 46% among senior citizens, and 42% among moderate and conservative Democrats.

Basically she's the opposite of Mitt in 2012--she wins the nomination by moderating which helps her in the general as well. Mitt moved so far towards the Right he blew his shot in the general.

Posted by orrinj at 6:58 PM


Israel Election 2019: Netanyahu Fails to Secure Majority, Gantz Leads, Arabs Surge, Exit Polls Show (Haaretz, Sep 18, 2019)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has failed to secure a ruling majority in Israel's second election of 2019, exit polls released by Israeli television channels on Tuesday indicate. 

All exit polls show that Netanyahu's right-wing bloc will gain between 54 to 57 seats. The biggest party, according to two of the polls, is Benny Gantz's Kahol Lavan. However, since neither Netanyahu nor Gantz appear to have gained a 61-seat majority, the two are likely to head to deliberations with President Reuven Rivlin who will determine which of them gets the mandate to try and form a governing coalition. 

Channel 12's exit polls shows Kahol Lavan leading with 34 Knesset seats, while Likud is projected to garner 33 seats. Channel 13 showed Kahol Lavan leading with 32 seats, while Likud is expected to gain 30 seats. Kan Public Broadcaster showed Kahol Lavan with 32 seats and Likud with 31.

In all three polls, the Joint List of Arab parties is projected to have the third most seats: Channel 12 gives them 11 seats, Channel 13 gives them 15 and the Kan public broadcaster gives them 13. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:43 PM


Neo-Nazis Are Glorifying Osama Bin Laden: A new wave of neo-Nazi propaganda glorifies and pulls from ISIS and al Qaeda, illustrating how the terror groups have some shared priorities. (Ben Makuch and Mack Lamoureux, Sep 17 2019, Vice)

As the threat of militant neo-Nazi groups expands and gains the attentions of federal authorities, their online propaganda tactics are taking a page out of an unlikely playbook: well-known jihadist groups.

Two neo-Nazi terror groups in particular, both revealed to be under investigation by the FBI in a recent indictment of an alleged bomber who was a member of both organizations, have recently demonstrated that they're learning from online propaganda created by ISIS and al Qaeda.

In a late May post, European neo-Nazi group Feuerkrieg Division (FKD) published a propaganda image to its now-defunct Gab page. The image featured a stylized, yet unmistakable, screengrab from an infamous ISIS how-to video promoting homemade explosives with the caption, "It's easier than you think." [...]

Similarly, Atomwaffen Division (AWD)--an American neo-Nazi group linked to five deaths in the last two years and the main inspiration for FKD--and its Canadian propagandist known under the alias "Dark Foreigner" have produced jihadist-inspired images. Recent propaganda features Osama Bin Laden, the leader and mastermind of al Qaeda and its 9/11 attack in New York City. One hyper-stylized image is a portrait of Bin Laden created by Dark Foreigner and posted with an infamous Bin Laden quote as a caption: "When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature, they will like the strong horse."

The decision by racist extremists to promote images of jihadist terror groups is a conscious one. In a June 2019 post titled "The Islamic Example" on an affiliated website, AWD explains that the culture of martyrdom and insurgency within groups like the Taliban and ISIS is something to admire and reproduce in the neo-Nazi terror movement.

..who's farming out foreign policy to them?

Posted by orrinj at 5:40 PM


Sanders campaign wracked by dissension (HOLLY OTTERBEIN and TRENT SPINER 09/17/2019, Politico)

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Some of Bernie Sanders' fiercest supporters are sounding the alarm that the campaign is bogged down by disorganization, personality clashes, and poor communication between state operations and national headquarters.

After a pair of setbacks this week -- the acrimonious shakeup of his staff in New Hampshire on Sunday and loss of the Working Families Party's endorsement to Elizabeth Warren a day later -- Sanders' allies and former aides are worried that recent disappointments are not one-off stumbles but rather emblematic of larger problems in his bid for the White House. The concerns are particularly acute in New Hampshire.

That's how it goes when you don't get to run against Hillary.

Posted by orrinj at 5:32 PM


Hillary Clinton's Zombie Impeachment Memo That Could Help Fell Trump (DARREN SAMUELSOHN, September 16, 2019, Politico)

The bizarre, only-in-D.C. twist centers on a congressional report penned by a bipartisan team of young attorneys that included Hillary before she was a Clinton and written in the throes of Watergate. Then, unlike now, not a single lawmaker had been alive the last time Congress impeached a president. They had little understanding of how to try and remove Richard Nixon from the White House. So they tapped Clinton and a team of ambitious staffers to dive into the history of impeachment, stretching back to the 14th century in England: How has impeachment been used? What were the justifications? Can we apply it to Nixon?

The resulting document became a centerpiece of the congressional push to drive the Republican president from office. But then Nixon resigned. The memo was buried.

That was just the report's first life.

In an ironic twist, the document was resurrected in the late 1990s. Republicans gleefully used it to bolster their unsuccessful bid to oust Clinton's' now-husband, President Bill Clinton. Then it faded from public conscience -- again.

Until now, that is. The 45-year-old report has become a handbook House Democratic lawmakers and aides say they are using to help determine whether they have the goods to mount a full-scale impeachment effort against President Donald Trump, the same man who three years ago upended Hillary Clinton's bid for a return trip to the White House.

Essentially, Clinton, albeit indirectly, might get one last shot at accomplishing what she couldn't in 2016 -- defeating Trump.

"I can only say that the impeachment Gods have a great sense of humor," Alan Baron, an expert on the topic who has staffed four congressional impeachments against federal judges, said of the recurring role Hillary Clinton keeps playing in this story.


Posted by orrinj at 5:28 PM


Secret Message Discovered in Milton's Epic 'Paradise Lost' (Stephanie Pappas, 9/16/19,  Live Science)

The hidden message is an acrostic, meaning a missive spelled out by the first letters in each line of the poem. It reads "FFAALL" and "FALL" -- an appropriate triple-use of the word "fall," as the poem's subject is the Biblical story of the decline of Satan, as well as the banishment of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden.  [...]

Acrostics aren't unusual in epic poetry. Milton -- who was blind when he authored most of the poem via dictation -- also spells out "SATAN" in Book 9, in a verse describing the serpent who approaches Eve in the Garden of Eden and tempts her to taste fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Milton pulled this technique from other epic poets such as Virgil, who used an acrostic to spell out "MARS" in a verse of "The Aeneid" in which the god of war is poised to act. His method was overlooked for many years, Milton's SATAN acrostic wasn't discovered until 1977. 

The new acrostic was found by Miranda Phaal, a Tufts University senior.

Posted by orrinj at 5:18 PM


Trump asks Latino supporter if he likes 'the country' or 'the Hispanics' more (The Week, 9/17/19)

Trump at one point during his rally singled out Steve Cortes, an author and member of his Hispanic Advisory Council who has appeared on cable news in support of the president. He "happens to be Hispanic, but I've never quite figured it out, because he looks more like a WASP than I do," Trump said of Cortes.

The president declared that there's "nobody that loves this country more or Hispanics more" than Cortes, who was at the rally and who Trump then directly asked, "Who do you like more, the country or the Hispanics?"

Posted by orrinj at 2:53 PM


Posted by orrinj at 2:46 PM


Study Finds Air Pollution Particles Can Get Inside the Placenta (Jillian Mock | September 17, 2019, discover)

Many of us don't give much thought to the air we breathe. But if you live in a city, near a major road, next to an industrial plant or even just have a wood burning stove, that air is often laced with miniscule pollutants. After we inhale, those particles can lodge in our lungs and travel throughout the body. For pregnant women, this may put their unborn children at risk.

A new study, published today in the journal Nature Communications, found that particles of the air pollutant black carbon can get inside the placenta, the organ that develops during pregnancy to provide the developing baby with oxygen and nutrients. The study also found that higher pollution exposure for mom was correlated with more black carbon in the placenta tissue.

The findings could potentially illustrate how air pollution impacts the health of young children before they've taken their first breaths.  

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


Sensitive Personal and Financial Data of What's Likely an Entire Country Leaked Online (ELLIOT HANNON, SEPT 17, 2019, Slate)

A chilling data leak on an unsecured server in Miami divulged sensitive personal and financial information of what appears to be the entire country of Ecuador. The discovery came from the internet security firm vpnMentor, which discovered the database containing more than 20 million individuals' data--including as many as seven million minors--on an exposed Florida-based server belonging to the Ecuadorian data and analytics company Novaestrat. Ironically, the personal data of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who had been given asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, was included in the leak.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Israel Wants Palestine's Land, but Not Its People (Raja Shehadeh, Sept. 17, 2019, NY Times)

Formal annexation won't bring about any real change or extra benefits for the Israelis who live in the occupied areas. For all intents and purposes, the Israeli government already treats them as though they were living in Israel proper (extending Israeli law to them), and gives them perks (cheap mortgages and tax relief).

That's one reason that many Palestinians I know have come to believe in a one-state solution: After all, with so many Israeli settlements in the West Bank by now, a two-state solution would be impossible to implement. That's not to say, however, that many Palestinians welcome Mr. Netanyahu's formal annexation plan as a step forward toward that goal.

Israel has always wanted this land -- without its people. And the territory Mr. Netanyahu is promising to annex is sparsely populated with Palestinians. Most Palestinians living in the areas slated for annexation have already lost their land and they would not get it back. They would simply be condemned to remaining laborers in the service of Israeli usurpers.

But Mr. Netanyahu's move would, at least, have the virtue of being clarifying: If implemented, it would confirm the demise of the 1993 Oslo Accords -- a development that many Palestinians would welcome because they have been disappointed by the agreement. Under the accords, the permanent status of the territories in the West Bank was to be negotiated between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization; outright annexation, as Mr. Netanyahu is now proposing, would be a clear violation.

For a time, the agreement was expected to bring about a negotiated peace between the two sides and freedom for the Palestinians. Instead, over the years it has enabled Israel to keep exploiting Palestinians economically, control much of their resources and exercise total dominion over their borders.

Barring the open embrace of Apartheid, the one-state solution is fatal to the notion of a "Jewish State."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The relational religion of Martin Buber: Behind the man's life's work is a broken-hearted child. (Jeffrey Johnson September 17, 2019, The Christian Century)

Behind Buber's life's work, which at its core still seems aimed at young people, is a brokenhearted child. His parents separated when he was three, and his mother left him without saying goodbye. Paul Mendes-Flohr describes the child looking out from a second-floor window at the figure of his mother walking away, without a wave, to elope with a Russian military officer.

Near the end of his life, Buber re­called feeling an "infinite sense of deprivation and loss" when an older neighbor girl told him bluntly that his mother was not coming back to him. He recalled the pain of hearing the girl's words, and he admitted that the shock of that experience never left him: "Whatever I have learned in the course of my life about the meaning of meeting and dialogue be­tween people springs from that moment when I was four."

Even when Buber was addressing the political and geopolitical forces of his age, the sadness of this event reappeared, especially when the topic intersected with existential concerns. For example, in a paper he wrote in 1933, Buber ob­served that Jews of the world were lost. Modern society had fragmented them so that they were no longer guided by "the heartbeat of a living Jewish community," and the norms and strictures of Rabbinic Judaism were not enough to guide and encourage them. Jewish community must be re­newed. Buber wrote, "It is up to us to make the world reliable again for the children. It depends on us to say to them and ourselves: Don't worry. Mother is here."

He should have become a Catholic.  They offer you Mary.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


A small town in Italy offers houses for sale for less than an espresso (Orla Barry, 9/16/19, PRI)

Italian towns like Sutera and Riace took a different approach when they saw their populations decline. The two towns opened their doors to migrants who arrived in Italy in huge numbers a few years back. The hope was to provide a home for the newcomers while also reviving the town centers. Fiore, however, doesn't believe inviting migrants to move into San Piero Patti's empty houses is the solution for the town's dwindling population. He says the issue of immigration needs to be dealt with at the national government level.

"If we have forced or spontaneous migration to San Piero [Patti], it would not be beneficial either for the migrants or the locals. We need a more cohesive political solution from the government. It cannot come from one small village."

Nepumaceno says she would welcome migrants to San Piero Patti. Her biggest worry is for her daughter, who is 1 years old. The hilltop town is undoubtedly a peaceful environment to raise a child, but for young mothers, like Nepumaceno, the issues revolve around schools and health care facilities.   
"I don't know what my daughter will find in three years. I don't know if we'll still have a school or the doctors or pharmacies. In a very short period, we could lose it all."

In 10 years, Nepumaceno says, so much has changfed in the little Sicilian town. A sense of fun and vitality has ebbed away. But in the next decade, she says, things could reverse -- starting with the sale of just one house for just 1 euro.

We need them more than they need us.  Commence the bidding...

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Team Trump: Saudis See This Attack as Their 9/11 (Erin Banco & Adam Rawnsley, 09.17.19, Daily Beast)

A top State Department official told Congress Monday evening that the Saudis view the massive attack on their oil infrastructure as their 9/11, according to two congressional sources. [...]

Brian Hook, the Trump administration's special representative for Iran, made the 9/11 comparison during a telephone briefing on Capitol Hill about the administration's latest thinking on the attack.

No matter how vile the perversities they're defending there's always worse in store for them.  Now they go to go full Salafi.

September 16, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 5:57 PM


John Bolton Already Talking With Book Agents: 'He Has a Lot to Dish' (Maxwell Tani & Asawin Suebsaeng, 09.16.19, daily Beast)

Bolton has already expressed interest in writing a book on his time in the Trump administration, and has been in contact in recent days with literary agents interested in making that happen.

"He has a lot to dish," one of the sources said, adding it was not clear if Bolton had settled on an agency yet.

Posted by orrinj at 5:55 PM


The Arizona Supreme Court Strikes a Powerful Blow for Free Speech and Religious Freedom (DAVID FRENCH, September 16, 2019, National Review)

Free speech and religious liberty are on a winning streak. Last month the Eighth Circuit Court of appeals ruled that Christian wedding photographers could not be compelled to use their artistic talents to help celebrate same-sex weddings. Today, the Arizona Supreme Court reached a similar holding, this time on behalf of Christian calligraphers and painters Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski. The case, brought by my friends and former colleagues at the Alliance Defending Freedom, is similar to multiple other wedding vendor cases. The plaintiffs do not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation (they happily serve gay customers). They merely refuse to produce art that advances ideas they find objectionable.

Posted by orrinj at 5:47 PM


Reporters Dig Into Justice Kavanaugh's Past, Allegations Of Misconduct Against Him (Terry Gross, 9/16/19, fresh air)

Pogrebin, who was in Kavanaugh's class at Yale, says that Ramirez's account "never got its due" during the confirmation hearings because "the Republicans in charge of the process ... clearly had no interest in adding yet another story and another potential victim to the public dialogue and giving [Ramirez] the legitimacy of a public forum."

"Although [Ramirez] was made available to the Senate Judiciary Committee and then her lawyers ultimately gave the FBI a list of more than two dozen potential witnesses who could add credence to her story, ultimately the Judiciary Committee determined that her allegations were not relevant to the process," Pogrebin says.

Kelly grew up in Washington, D.C., and attended a girls high school in the same social network as Kavanaugh's high school. She notes that alcohol abuse was a common theme throughout their investigation of Kavanaugh.

"The drinking was something of a throughline," Kelly says. "Generally speaking, [Kavanaugh] was regarded as a pretty polite, responsible well-mannered young person. But when he was heavily drinking -- and also at times when he was simply trying to impress his friends, like in the schoolyard -- a different side of him came out."

Speaking from vast experience, being black-out drunk doesn't excuse your actions, however unknowing.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Under the Leave and Remain tags, the evidence shows we all want similar things (Bobby Duffy, 9/16/19, Politics UK)

A 2018 review article found that these new Brexit identities now often supersede party identities that have been established for decades. For example, a majority of both Leavers and Remainers describe the other side as 'hypocritical', 'selfish' and 'closed-minded'. And this also translates to social interactions: just half of the population are now willing to talk politics with supporters of the other side of the Brexit vote, and only one in three would be happy with their child marrying someone from the other side.

But the extent to which we've become polarised on concrete issues is far less clear - and significantly under-researched, given the prevalence of the 'divided Britain' narrative. What is clear is that the electorate aren't split into simple, coherent opposing blocs: Leave and Remain identities represent coalitions of people with highly diverse views, just as party identities do.

Recent research has shown how Leave supporters are split roughly into thirds, between those who believe the UK should 'open itself up' to the rest of the world post-Brexit, those who think we should 'protect ourselves' from the rest of the world, and those in the middle. These are very distinct views of what Brexit is for and what it will achieve.

Similarly, on the Remain side, only half say they actively identify with Europe, with the other half more pragmatic and instrumental in their reasons for supporting Remain.

It's also the case that there are many aspects of attitudes and identity in the UK that are converging rather than polarising, such as views on gender equality, same-sex relationships and racial prejudice. There is also significant consensus on what government should be focusing on, with funding for health and social care and lifting families out of poverty key priorities for the public, regardless of party allegiances or Brexit preferences. And despite what we might think from the daily combative headlines, trust in other people is going up, not down. we have to substitute mere partisan affiliations.

September 15, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 5:23 PM


We used to caddy with a guy named Cool Breeze, no idea what his real name was.
Posted by orrinj at 5:18 PM


At rally, Haredi MK said to compare Lapid, Liberman to biblical enemy 'Amalek' (Times of Israel, 9/15/19)

Tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox demonstrators attended a United Torah Judaism election rally in Jerusalem on Sunday, where the community's top religious and political leaders urged them to show up to vote in Tuesday's election and blasted their secular opponents. [...]

UTJ MK Moshe Gafni compared Blue and White Party No. 2 MK Yair Lapid and Yisrael Beytenu Party leader Avigdor Liberman to the ancient biblical tribe of Amalek.

Lapid and Liberman, Gafni said, are waging a "cultural war" against the ultra-Orthodox community, Ynet reported.

Posted by orrinj at 12:39 PM


'People Actively Hate Us': Inside the Border Patrol's Morale Crisis (Manny Fernandez, Miriam Jordan, Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Caitlin Dickerson, Sept. 15, 2019, NY Times)

Two years ago, when President Trump entered the White House with a pledge to close the door on illegal immigration, all that changed. The nearly 20,000 agents of the Border Patrol became the leading edge of one of the most aggressive immigration crackdowns ever imposed in the United States.

No longer were they a quasi-military organization tasked primarily with intercepting drug runners and chasing smugglers. Their new focus was to block and detain hundreds of thousands of migrant families fleeing violence and extreme poverty -- herding people into tents and cages, seizing children and sending their parents to jail, trying to spot those too sick to survive in the densely packed processing facilities along the border.

Ten migrants have died since September in the custody of the Border Patrol and its parent agency, Customs and Border Protection.

In recent months, the extreme overcrowding on the border has begun to ease, with migrants turned away and made to wait in Mexico while their asylum claims are processed. Last week, the Supreme Court allowed the administration to close the door further, at least for now, by requiring migrants from countries outside Mexico to show they have already been denied refuge in another country before applying for asylum.

The Border Patrol, whose agents have gone from having one of the most obscure jobs in law enforcement to one of the most hated, is suffering a crisis in both mission and morale. Earlier this year, the disclosure of a private Facebook group where agents posted sexist and callous references to migrants and the politicians who support them reinforced the perception that agents often view the vulnerable people in their care with frustration and contempt.

Interviews with 25 current and former agents in Texas, California and Arizona -- some conducted on the condition of anonymity so the agents could speak more candidly -- paint a portrait of an agency in a political and operational quagmire. Overwhelmed through the spring and early summer by desperate migrants, many agents have grown defensive, insular and bitter.

The president of the agents' union said he had received death threats. An agent in South Texas said some colleagues he knew were looking for other federal law enforcement jobs. One agent in El Paso told a retired agent he was so disgusted by scandals in which the Border Patrol has been accused of neglecting or mistreating migrants that he wanted the motto emblazoned on its green-and-white vehicles -- "Honor First" -- scratched off.

"To have gone from where people didn't know much about us to where people actively hate us, it's difficult," said Chris Harris, who was an agent for 21 years and a Border Patrol union official until he retired in June 2018. "There's no doubt morale has been poor in the past, and it's abysmal now. I know a lot of guys just want to leave."

At least there are defenseless victims they can take it out on...

Posted by orrinj at 8:17 AM


Idle mines portend dark days for top US coal region (MEAD GRUVER, 9/15/19, AP) 

At two of the world's biggest coal mines, the finances got so bad that their owner couldn't even get toilet paper on credit.

Warehouse technician Melissa Worden divvied up what remained of the last case, giving four rolls to each mine and two to the mine supply facility where she worked.

Days later, things got worse.

Mine owner Blackjewel LLC filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on July 1. Worden at first figured the accounts would get settled quickly and vendors of everything from copy paper to parts for house-sized dump trucks would soon be back to doing normal business with the mines.

"The consensus was: In 30 days, we'll look back on this, and we made it through, and we'll be up and running, and it's a fresh start," she said.

What happened instead has shaken the top coal-producing region in the United States like a charge of mining explosive. Blackjewel furloughed most of its Wyoming employees and shut down Eagle Butte and Belle Ayr mines, the first idled by hardship since coal mining in the Powder River Basin exploded in the 1970s.

The turmoil comes as U.S. coal production is down over 30% since peaking in 2008. Utilities are retiring aging coal-fired power plants and switching to solar, wind and cheaper and cleaner-burning natural gas to generate electricity despite President Donald Trump's efforts to prop up the coal industry.

A decade ago, about half of U.S. electricity came from coal-fired power. Now it's below 30%, a shift that heavy equipment operator Rory Wallet saw as utilities became less willing to lock in multiyear contracts for Belle Ayr mine's coal.

"The market's changed," Wallet said. "The bankruptcies all tie into that."

And you need that toilet paper to clean up after Trumponomics.

Posted by orrinj at 8:10 AM


Sox could learn something from John Henry's other team (BILL KOCH, 9/14/19, The Providence (R.I.) Journal)

Boston's roster construction in 2019 paid little attention to that basic principle. Three contracts in particular -- David Price, Chris Sale and Nathan Eovaldi -- are untradeable, and all were negotiated by Dombrowski. No opposing executive would consummate any deal with those three players involved unless there was a significant asset attached. Price, Sale and Eovaldi are on the Red Sox books for $73.6 million in each of the next three seasons.

That lack of flexibility comes prior to what could be an offseason of considerable transition. The next hire for Dombrowski's old position faces serious questions that will shape the Red Sox roster for years to come. Resolving the immediate futures of Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Rick Porcello and Brock Holt is bound to cause some headaches.

Boston has what feels like unlimited financial resources, but spending through the final threshold of the competitive balance tax every season isn't the answer. The Red Sox can pay the fines to Major League Baseball, but losing draft position is something the organization can't afford. Boston's farm system is improving but remains ranked in the bottom third among 30 franchises.

What must make this particularly vexing for Henry is how perfectly his Liverpool machine is humming along at the moment. In June, their roster management culminated in a sixth UEFA Champions League title, the world's premier competition in club soccer. Liverpool's players on average are younger, cheaper and were more prudently acquired than the current Red Sox group by light years.

Trent Alexander-Arnold is the lone product of the club's academy system who is a regular contributor, a brilliant 20-year-old fullback who is now an England national team regular. The other 10 starters against Tottenham in the final were acquired at an average age of 24 years old -- each of them still had considerable room to grow and improve. The three players Liverpool brought off the bench included two purchased as teenagers and a third, James Milner, who was a 29-year-old free transfer from Manchester City.

Liverpool's two most expensive players, defender Virgil van Dijk and goalkeeper Alisson Becker, were acquired to address specific areas of need. The Reds spent a combined $175 million to shore up their leaky back line, adding the final missing pieces to a club that was ready to contend for titles. The Red Sox signing J.D. Martinez the year after finishing last in the American League in home runs is an appropriate comparison.

The difference here is how the available funds were generated. The Red Sox took another significant chunk out of their CBT allotment -- Martinez's salary last season counted for about 9% of the $237 million available, which Boston plowed through to win a championship. Liverpool reinvested the $130 million they took in by selling disgruntled midfielder Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona.

The Reds had purchased Coutinho from Inter Milan for just $10.5 million as a 20-year-old and cashed in for two reasons -- his value had reached its maximum, and more help was needed elsewhere on the roster.

PEDs made baseball management forget that no pitcher should ever get a contract longer than three years.

September 14, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 6:48 PM


The Commanding Heights Are No Laughing Matter (Jonah Goldberg, Sep 13, 2019, G-File)

About 20 years ago, I wrote a piece for NR arguing that The Simpsons--already TV's longest running sitcom!--constituted a victory for the right in the culture. It wasn't that the show was conservative, but that it aimed at all of the "false pieties" of the culture:
What should dismay liberals about this is that so many of today's pieties are constructs of the Left. Conservatives are accustomed to being mocked constantly in the popular culture. But the experience must come as something of a shock for hothouse liberals. For example, Homer Simpson's mother is a '60s radical still on the lam. How did she dodge the feds? "I had help from my friends in the underground. Jerry Rubin gave me a job marketing his line of health shakes. I proofread Bobby Seale's cookbook. And I ran credit checks at Tom Hayden's Porsche dealership." Some important pretensions are being punctured here--but not the usual ones.
Around the same time, Andrew Sullivan and Brian Anderson were making the case that South Park represented the same dynamic. Sullivan called it "the best antidote to PC culture we have." Anderson noted that "Lots of cable comedy, while not traditionally conservative, is fiercely anti-liberal, which as a practical matter often amounts nearly to the same thing." He quotes Matt Stone, South Park's co-creator: "I hate conservatives, but I really f**king hate liberals."
What fascinates me is the way that, in the years since, the enforcers of political correctness, perhaps not entirely consciously, recognized the threat of anti-PC humor and cracked down on it. This is exactly what Joseph Schumpeter, borrowing from Nietzsche's Genealogy of Morals, would have predicted. What Schumpeter called the New Class of intellectuals (and what Nietzsche called the priestly class) undermine virtues that don't benefit them by turning them into vices. For Nietzsche, Christianity overturned the old virtues of pride, bravery, and strength and turned them into vices, elevating humility and meekness. For Schumpeter, the new intellectual classes turned industry and entrepreneurialism into rapaciousness and greed.
Even if you don't buy all that, it is remarkable how angry the wokesters are at Dave Chapelle and co. I think it stems from the fact that, even though they prudishly want to police comedy, they don't want to give up on the vital myth that to be left-wing is to be rebellious. The problem is they can't have it both ways. They can't control the commanding the heights of the culture and also claim to be the cultural subversives and rebels.

Because all comedy is conservative the Left can no longer even attempt.

Posted by orrinj at 6:42 PM


The Communist Plot to Assassinate George Orwell (Duncan White, September 10, 2019, lIT hUB)

When George Orwell returned to Barcelona for the third time, on June 20th, 1937, he discovered that the Spanish secret police were after him. He had been forced to return to the front in order to have his discharge papers countersigned and, in his absence, the Communists had initiated a purge of their perceived enemies. Orwell was on the list. As he arrived in the lobby of the Hotel Continental, Eileen approached him calmly, placed her arm around his neck, and smiled for the benefit of anyone watching. Once they were close enough she hissed in his ear:

"Get out!"


"Get out at once."


"Don't keep standing here! You must get outside quickly!"

Eileen guided a bewildered Orwell toward the hotel exit. Marceau Pivert, a French friend of Orwell's who was just entering the lobby, seemed distressed to see him and told him he needed to hide before the hotel called the police. A sympathetic member of the staff joined in, urging Orwell to leave in his broken English. Eileen managed to get him to a café on a discreet side street, where she explained the seriousness of the situation.


David Crook, a young Englishman working for the Independent Labour Party's (ILP) Barcelona office, had become friends with both Orwell and his wife over the last few months. He was not what he seemed. He had arrived in Spain in January 1937, the month after Orwell, eager to join up with the International Brigades and fight the Fascists. He was descended from Russian-Jewish immigrants and grew up in Hampstead, attending the prestigious Cheltenham College.

Like many young men who grew up after the First World War, he was attracted to left-wing causes. He moved to New York City, where he attended Columbia University and embraced radical politics, joining the Young Communist League. As a student delegate he traveled down to Kentucky to support the famous miners' strike in Harlan County, witnessing its brutal suppression by the National Guard. On his return to London he became a member of the British Communist Party. At one meeting, the doomed poet John Cornford spoke about the Republican cause in Spain, and Crook was inspired to enlist.

Like Hyndman, Crook was thrust straight into the action at the Battle of Jarama, taking three bullets to the leg. Recovering in Madrid, he socialized with the literary set, including the brilliant war correspondent Martha Gellhorn, her lover Ernest Hemingway, Mulk Raj Anand, and Spender. At this point he came to the attention of Soviet intelligence agents. After recruiting him, the NKVD sent him to a training camp in Albacete, where he was given a crash course in sabotage and surveillance techniques.

There he became a Communist spy. Crook's mission was to infiltrate the ILP and report on all their activities. The Soviets already had one agent in place, David Wickes, who volunteered as an interpreter with the ILP and passed what information he found on to his handlers. Now Crook was to infiltrate deeper and get hold of documents. Orwell was his most prestigious target.

Posted by orrinj at 6:32 PM


On the 10th anniversary of Hans Fallada's Every Man Dies Alone (Kevin Murphy, 9/09/19, Melville House)

One of the twentieth century's greatest writers, Hans Fallada, died of heart failure in 1947. Fallada struggled with substance abuse, and after suffering a heart attack during the early winter of that year, was confined to a sanatorium where he spent his days with family and waiting for the publication of Every Man Dies Alone, his masterwork about a German couple who defy the sanctions and intimidation of the Nazis by circulating postcards of dissent in various areas of Berlin during World War II.

Every Man is as much a story about love as resistance; a testament to a middle age married couple's determination and character and the courage to pursue integrity and freedom despite facing risks of unfathomable terror. Fallada wrote the novel in what he described as a twenty-four day period of "white heat." Sadly, he would not live to see its publication--he died weeks before the book's release.

Melville House is proud to say we've published Fallada's most important books, including Little Man, What Now?, Wolf Among Wolves, The Drinker; and Every Man Dies Alone.

A great novel.

Posted by orrinj at 5:39 PM


Iranian FM mocks US following disputed report of Israeli spying in Washington (Times of Israel, 9/14/19)

"With a BFF in the #B_Team -- who empties US coffers and takes US foreign policy hostage -- SPYING on the US PRESIDENT, America doesn't need enemies," Zarif wrote, alongside screenshots of the report.

Zarif on Twitter often refers to the "#B_Team," which includes former US national security adviser John Bolton, who left the post Tuesday, Netanyahu, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, all hawks on Iran.

Posted by orrinj at 5:36 PM


Brett Kavanaugh Fit In With the Privileged Kids. She Did Not. (Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly, Sept. 14, 2019, NY Times)

Deborah Ramirez had the grades to go to Yale in 1983. But she wasn't prepared for what she'd find there.

A top student in southwestern Connecticut, she studied hard but socialized little. She was raised Catholic and had a sheltered upbringing. In the summers, she worked at Carvel dishing ice cream, commuting in the $500 car she'd bought with babysitting earnings.

At Yale, she encountered students from more worldly backgrounds. Many were affluent and had attended elite private high schools. They also had experience with drinking and sexual behavior that Ms. Ramirez -- who had not intended to be intimate with a man until her wedding night -- lacked.

During the winter of her freshman year, a drunken dormitory party unsettled her deeply. She and some classmates had been drinking heavily when, she says, a freshman named Brett Kavanaugh pulled down his pants and thrust his penis at her, prompting her to swat it away and inadvertently touch it. Some of the onlookers, who had been passing around a fake penis earlier in the evening, laughed.

To Ms. Ramirez it wasn't funny at all. It was the nadir of her first year, when she often felt insufficiently rich, experienced or savvy to mingle with her more privileged classmates.

"I had gone through high school, I'm the good girl, and now, in one evening, it was all ripped away," she said in an interview earlier this year at her Boulder, Colo., home. By preying upon her in this way, she added, Mr. Kavanaugh and his friends "make it clear I'm not smart."

Mr. Kavanaugh, now a justice on the Supreme Court, has adamantly denied her claims. Those claims became a flash point...

Posted by orrinj at 4:57 PM


Pompeo blames Iran for Saudi attacks, 'pretend' diplomacy (Reuters, 9/14/19)

"Tehran is behind nearly 100 attacks on Saudi Arabia while Rouhani and Zarif pretend to engage in diplomacy," Pompeo said in a Twitter post, referring to Iran's president and foreign minister.

Democrats vs Wahhabists.

Posted by orrinj at 1:26 PM


In challenge to Erdogan, ex-Turkey premier promises new political party (AFP, 13 September 2019)

 Former Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Friday said he would launch a "new political movement" in the latest challenge to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan from his former allies.

Davutoglu was the prime minister and chairman of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) between 2014 and 2016 until relations soured with Erdogan and he was forced out.

Posted by orrinj at 11:44 AM


Posted by orrinj at 11:35 AM


Why Sikhs wear a turban and what it means to practice the faith in the United States (Simran Jeet Singh, 9/13/19, The Conversation)

The founder of the Sikh tradition, Guru Nanak, was born in 1469 in the Punjab region of South Asia, which is currently split between Pakistan and the northwestern area of India. A majority of the global Sikh population still resides in Punjab on the Indian side of the border.

From a young age, Guru Nanak was disillusioned by the social inequities and religious hypocrisies he observed around him. He believed that a single divine force created the entire world and resided within it. In his belief, God was not separate from the world and watching from a distance, but fully present in every aspect of creation.

He therefore asserted that all people are equally divine and deserve to be treated as such.

To promote this vision of divine oneness and social equality, Guru Nanak created institutions and religious practices. He established community centers and places of worship, wrote his own scriptural compositions and institutionalized a system of leadership (gurus) that would carry forward his vision.

The Sikh view thus rejects all social distinctions that produce inequities, including gender, race, religion and caste, the predominant structure for social hierarchy in South Asia.

In the Sikh tradition, a truly religious person is one who cultivates the spiritual self while also serving the communities around them - or a saint-soldier. The saint-soldier ideal applies to women and men alike.

In this spirit, Sikh women and men maintain five articles of faith, popularly known as the five Ks. These are: kes (long, uncut hair), kara (steel bracelet), kanga (wooden comb), kirpan (small sword) and kachera (soldier-shorts).

Although little historical evidence exists to explain why these particular articles were chosen, the five Ks continue provide the community with a collective identity, binding together individuals on the basis of a shared belief and practice. 

Posted by orrinj at 10:39 AM


When even the whackjobs have given up any hope there was anything illegal... "violated protocol," sublime.
Posted by orrinj at 10:32 AM


Saudi Arabia's oil supply disrupted after drone attacks: sources (Reuters, 9/14/19)

Saudi Arabia's oil production and exports have been disrupted, said three sources familiar with the matter, after drone attacks on two Aramco plants on Saturday, including the world's biggest oil processing facility.

Posted by orrinj at 10:30 AM


Episode 134: Like a Lyman Stone (Jonah Goldberg, September 12th, 2019, remnant Podcast)

AEI adjunct fellow Lyman Stone returns to the Remnant, and to America, to discuss family formation, fertility, climate change, and more.

Posted by orrinj at 10:21 AM


UAW presidents Gary Jones, Dennis Williams implicated in federal probe (Robert Snell, Daniel Howes and Ian Thibodeau, 9/12/19, The Detroit News0

United Auto Workers President Gary Jones is an unnamed union official accused in a federal criminal case Thursday of helping orchestrate a years-long conspiracy that involved embezzling member dues and spending the money on personal luxuries, three sources told The Detroit News.

In the criminal case, federal authorities identified four current and former senior officials as complicit in the embezzlement scheme. The government did not use their names but used labels to identify the union leaders, including "UAW Official A" and "UAW Official B," and detailed numerous instances of misspending on golf, golf equipment, cigars, months-long rentals at private villas and falsified expense reports.

Multiple sources told The News that "UAW Official A" is Jones and "UAW Official B" is former President Dennis Williams. The sources spoke only on the condition that they were not publicly identified because they are not authorized to speak about the investigation.

In outlining its case, federal officials provided the most detailed accounting to date of how Jones' former aide, UAW Region 5 Director Vance Pearson, and the unnamed union officials defrauded the union by using fraudulent expense reports for items during prolonged stays in luxury Palm Springs villas. Those visits lasted days, weeks and even months beyond the union's official business purpose for being in the desert oasis.

Pearson made an initial appearance in a Missouri federal court Thursday to face charges that include embezzling union funds, mail and wire fraud and money laundering.

The criminal case outlined a pattern of corruption stretching from California to Detroit and illegal spending by union leaders who spent more than $1 million of member dues on Palm Springs villas, steakhouse dinners, 107 rounds of golf, golf gear, cigars and $400 bottles of Louis Roederer Cristal Champagne.

Posted by orrinj at 9:32 AM


Will robots free people from slavery? (KEVIN DICKINSON, 14 September, 2019, Big Think)

There are fewer slaves in the world today, per capita, than at any other point in history. Chattel slavery, the kind that lead to the Atlantic slave trade, was once a human universal. Today, it is abolished and morally condemned. Other forms of slavery, such as child labor and forced marriage, are in decline. And the United Nations has set a target to end modern slavery by 2025.

We are closer to ending this morally bankrupt practice than at any point in our history. Will the final push come in the form of robotic automation?

A map showing the estimated prevalence of modern slavery (per 1,000 people) according to the Global Slavery Index's 2018 findings. The 10 countries with the highest prevalence are noted.

The idea is simple enough. Slavery is an economic crime. Its perpetrators lure desperate and disenfranchised peoples with the promise of a livelihood. They then force their victims to do repetitive, physically demanding, and often dangerous work while cutting them off from any physical, social, and lawful means of escape.

By design, machines perform repetitive tasks without concerns for the dangers or physical demands. In richer countries, they are already employed in industries associated with chattel slavery abroad, such as mining, farming, and textiles. As the thinking goes: if automation were to become widespread and cost effective enough, it would eradicate the need for cheap human labor and render slavery economically inefficient.

Posted by orrinj at 8:25 AM


William Peter Blatty's Counter-Countercultural Parable (Kevin Mims, 9/14/19, Quillette)

[T]he Exorcist is a deeply religious novel in which Catholic priests play the most heroic roles, martyring themselves to save the life of a little girl who isn't even Catholic. (In 2011, the publisher brought out a 40th anniversary edition that had been lightly revised by Blatty to, among other things, make it more Catholic-friendly; if you plan to read The Exorcist, I recommend finding the original.) And, although the book is a cautionary tale about the harm that divorce can do to children, it is not a call for an end to all divorce, nor is it an argument against women in the workplace.

Although the demon inside of Regan accuses Chris of bringing about the divorce by putting her career ahead of her marriage, Blatty indicates that this isn't the case. He portrays Chris as a loving mother and wife, who still hopes to reconcile with her husband. The divorce is clearly the result of Howard's fragile ego and his inability to handle his wife's success. Just before they begin the exorcism, Father Merrin reminds Father Karras not to speak with the demon, warning him, "Especially, do not listen to anything he says. The demon is a liar."

Nevertheless, it is Merrin who makes the clearest plea for Americans to reconsider the idea of ending their troubled marriages. When asked by Damien Karras what the reason for demonic possession is, Father Merrin replies:

"I think the demon's target is not the possessed; it is us...the observers...every person in this house. And I think the point is to make us despair; to reject our own see ourselves as ultimately bestial...without dignity; ugly; unworthy. And there lies the heart of it perhaps...For I think belief in God is not a matter of reason at all; I think it is finally a matter of love; of accepting the possibility that God could love us. He knows...the demon knows where to strike...Long ago I despaired of ever loving my neighbor. Certain people...repelled me. How could I love them? I thought. It tormented me...How many husbands and wives must believe they have fallen out of love because their hearts no longer race at the sight of their beloveds? Ah, dear God! There it lies, I think, Damien...possession; not in wars, as some tend to believe; not so much; and very seldom in extraordinary interventions...such as here...this girl...this poor child. No, I see it most often in the little things Damien: in the senseless petty spites; the misunderstandings; the cruel and cutting word that leaps unbidden to the tongue between friends. Between lovers. Enough of these."

The Exorcist was written at a troubled time for author and country--a counter-countercultural parable by a writer uneasy with the effects of rapid liberalization on the family unit. It is perhaps unsurprising that contemporary critics overlooked Blatty's culturally unfashionable social conservatism. But, as Mary Eberstadt's sobering new assessment of the sexual revolution's legacy reminds us, his cautionary tale has aged well.

There's a reason though that the book is called The Exorcist and not The Possessed.  It is about Father Karras and his crisis of faith.  It is only by accepting the reality of Evil that he is lead back to faith in the Good.

Posted by orrinj at 8:22 AM


Schiff accuses top intel official of illegally withholding 'urgent' whistleblower complaint (KYLE CHENEY, 09/13/2019, Politico)

The nation's top intelligence official is illegally withholding a whistleblower complaint, possibly to protect President Donald Trump or senior White House officials, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff alleged Friday.

Schiff issued a subpoena for the complaint, accusing acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire of taking extraordinary steps to withhold the complaint from Congress, even after the intel community's inspector general characterized the complaint as credible and of "urgent concern."

"A Director of National Intelligence has never prevented a properly submitted whistleblower complaint that the [inspector general] determined to be credible and urgent from being provided to the congressional intelligence committees. Never," Schiff said in a statement. "This raises serious concerns about whether White House, Department of Justice or other executive branch officials are trying to prevent a legitimate whistleblower complaint from reaching its intended recipient, the Congress, in order to cover up serious misconduct."

Posted by orrinj at 7:26 AM


September 13, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 7:51 PM


Investigations Into Trump's Businesses Spark Emoluments Questions (Luke Johnson, September 11, 2019, Fortune)

Congressional investigations, including an impeachment inquiry, into President Donald Trump have expanded in a new--and unprecedented--direction. 

As part of deciding whether to recommend articles of impeachment, Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee announced on September 6 that they were probing Trump's announcement that next year's G7 would be held at a Trump-owned resort in Doral, Fla., along with Vice President Mike Pence's taxpayer-funded stay at a Trump-owned golf club in Doonbeg, Ireland. The charges represent a new front in the impeachment investigation stemming from obstruction-of-justice allegations from the Mueller Report on Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Separately, following a Politico report, the House Oversight Committee revealed on September 6 it was investigating military stays at a Trump-owned property in Turnberry, Scotland, and substantial increases in military refueling at a nearby airport since Trump won the election.

Posted by orrinj at 7:41 PM


Posted by orrinj at 7:07 PM


And Yet, Joe Persisted: Biden won, again, by demonstrating why Democratic voters have such goodwill for him. (JONATHAN V. LAST  SEPTEMBER 13, 2019, The Bulwark)

1. Joe Biden. This is the third debate he's won, and only the first one was close.

Biden has to show that he's sharp and vigorous. He's passed that test.

He has to hammer the most important difference between himself and his closest rivals: That they want to eliminate private insurance and they'll raise taxes to pay for their health care plans. Poll after poll shows that health care is one of the top three issues for Democratic voters. And Biden is the guy sitting on the spot that says "let people keep their private insurance." That's good ground.

Finally, he has to continue to show voters why people like him. And more than anyone else on stage, he nailed this. Three examples:

First, during the opening segment on Medicare for All, Biden focused most of his criticisms on Bernie Sanders (not the most likable guy on stage) rather than Elizabeth Warren (who is much more likable) even though they could have applied to either.

Second, when Julian Castro went after him for being a forgetful old man, he pushed back but didn't get ugly. He realized Castro was way out on a limb and he let him stay there.

Third, when gun control came up Biden turned to Beto O'Rourke. This is the exchange:

BIDEN: [B]y the way, the way Beto handled--excuse me for saying Beto. What the congressman . . .

O'ROURKE: That's all right. Beto's good.

BIDEN: The way he handled what happened in his hometown is meaningful, to look in the eyes of those people, to see those kids . . . to understand those parents, you understand the heartache.

What makes the praise of O'Rourke come off as genuine is the opening, where Biden calls him by his first name--obviously affectionately--and then catches himself and apologizes for not calling him "congressman."

The frontrunner is always the guy taking the most fire. Yet time and again, Biden was the most respectful person on the stage. Being respectful doesn't win you the nomination. But it's a mark of why Biden has such deep reservoirs of goodwill with Democratic voters.

There's a reason they like him.

Exit take: Toward the end, Biden was asked about his biggest professional setback. He started talking about losing his wife and daughter when protestors started screaming at him.

This struck me as synecdoche for pretty much the entire primary campaign so far: Young progressives so convinced of their own righteousness that they go after a guy like Biden at a moment like this, thinking that it helps their cause.

Posted by orrinj at 6:57 PM


'Where's my favorite dictator?' Trump reportedly asked a room full of Egyptian officials (The Week, 9/13/19)

Kim Jong Un must be jealous.

That's because it seems at last month's G7 conference, President Trump replaced him with a new "favorite dictator." While waiting for a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, Trump walked into a room of American and Egyptian officials and asked "Where's my favorite dictator?," several people who were in the room tell The Wall Street Journal.

Posted by orrinj at 5:27 PM


On the Mystery of the McCabe Grand Jury (Quinta Jurecic, Benjamin Wittes, September 13, 2019, LawFare)

McCabe's indictment had been expected on charges related to alleged lies to internal Justice Department investigators about his contacts with the media in 2016. On Thursday, Sept. 12, the New York Times and the Washington Post reported that the deputy attorney general had rejected McCabe's final appeal within the department to avoid prosecution. According to the Post, McCabe received a communication from the Justice Department informing him that "[t]he Department rejected your appeal of the United States Attorney's Office's decision in this matter .... Any further inquiries should be directed to the United States Attorney's Office." The Times writes that the decision was made by Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, and that Rosen's top aide, Ed O'Callaghan, reached out to McCabe's team on the matter.

There is a great deal of uncertainty around what happened next, almost certainly because Rule 6(e) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure forbids the government, court officials or grand jurors from disclosing matters before the grand jury. This may make the McCabe story a particularly hard nut for reporters to crack. But here's what we know.

Normally, when the Justice Department informs a criminal target that it is moving ahead with charges, particularly when the target is a high-profile one, the indictment follows immediately. Yet in this case, no indictment materialized. And that wasn't because the grand jury didn't meet.

According to the Post, rather, the grand jury was reconvened on Thursday--but no public charges against McCabe were filed. Now, McCabe's lawyer, Michael Bromwich, has written to U.S. Attorney Jessie Liu, whose office is handling McCabe's case, stating that the defense team has heard "rumors from reporters ... that the grand jury considering charges against Mr. McCabe had declined to vote an indictment"--though the defense has "no independent knowledge of whether the reporting is accurate." Bromwich added that "based on our discussion with" government lawyers, "it is clear that no indictment has been returned." [...]

This would be a very big deal--a huge rebuke to the Justice Department's conduct of this case. Grand juries do not need to be unanimous. They need to have a quorum of their 23 members, and they require only a majority to return an indictment. They also don't proceed by proof beyond a reasonable doubt, the standard at trial. Instead, an indictment issues on the lower standard of probable cause. In other words, if this is really what happened, it would mean that the Justice Department couldn't even persuade a majority of people who have heard from all of the witnesses that there is even probable cause to proceed against McCabe.

At the end of the day, it's just a prosecutor trying to curry favor and get the promotion she was denied because the GOP doesn't trust her.

Posted by orrinj at 12:40 PM


U.S. appeals court rules against Trump in foreign payments case (Andrew Chung, Jan Wolfe, 9/13/19, Reuters) 

A U.S. federal appeals court on Friday revived a lawsuit alleging President Donald Trump violated the U.S. Constitution by profiting from foreign and domestic officials who patronized his hotels and restaurants, adding to the corruption claims against Trump.

This is probably better folded into the Impeachment.

Posted by orrinj at 12:26 PM


Can solar power shake up the energy market? (Tim Harford, 11 September 2019, BBC)

[I]t wasn't until 1954 that scientists at Bell Labs in the US made a serendipitous breakthrough.

By pure luck, they noticed that when silicon components were exposed to sunlight, they started generating an electric current. Unlike selenium, silicon is cheap - and Bell Labs' researchers reckoned it was also 15 times more efficient.

These new silicon PV cells were great for satellites - the American satellite Vanguard 1 was the first to use them, carrying six solar panels into orbit in 1958.

The Sun always shines in space, and what else are you going to use to power a multimillion-dollar satellite, anyway? Yet solar PV had few heavy-duty applications on Earth itself: it was still far too costly.

Vanguard 1's solar panels produced half a watt at a cost of countless thousands of dollars.

By the mid-1970s solar panels were down to $100 (£81) a watt - but that still meant $10,000 for enough panels to power a light bulb. Yet the cost kept dropping.

By 2016 it was 50 cents a watt and still falling fast. After millennia of slow progress, things have accelerated very suddenly.

Perhaps we should have seen this acceleration coming.

In the 1930s, an American aeronautical engineer named TP Wright carefully observed aeroplane factories at work.

He published research demonstrating that the more often a particular type of aeroplane was assembled, the quicker and cheaper the next unit became.

Workers would gain experience, specialised tools would be developed, and ways to save time and material would be discovered.

Wright reckoned that every time accumulated production doubled, unit costs would fall by 15%. He called this phenomenon "the learning curve".

Recently, a group of economists and mathematicians at Oxford University found convincing evidence of learning-curve effects across more than 50 different products from transistors to beer - including photovoltaic cells.

Sometimes the learning curve is shallow and sometimes it is steep, but it always seems to be there.

In the case of PV cells, it's quite steep: for every doubling of output, cost falls by over 20%.

And this matters because output is increasing so fast: between 2010 and 2016 the world produced 100 times more solar cells than it had before 2010. [...]

[N]ow that solar PV has marched along the learning curve, it is competitive even in rich, well-connected areas.

As early as 2012, PV projects in the sunny US states were signing deals to sell power at less than the price of electricity generated by fossil fuels.

That was the sign that solar power had become a serious threat to existing fossil fuel infrastructure, not because it's green but because it's cheap.

In late 2016 in Nevada, for example, several large casino chains switched from the state utility to purchase their power from largely renewable sources.

This wasn't a corporate branding exercise: it was designed to save them money, even after paying $150m (£122m) as a severance fee.

Posted by orrinj at 12:15 PM


Heidegger, the homesick philosopher  (SAMUEL EARLE , 9/11/19, New Statesman)

[T]oday it's another of Heidegger's relationships that overshadows his life and legacy: his affiliation with the Nazi Party, which he joined in 1933 and never truly renounced. Heidegger and Hitler also shared a lover's discourse of sorts: terms such as Heimat (homeland), Volk (people) and "historical destiny", a fondness for the German forest, and contempt for cosmopolitanism and "humanism". Since the posthumous publication of Heidegger's private notebooks, their common foe is also beyond doubt, despite his feelings for Arendt: "World Jewry". [...]

Perhaps the most worrying sign of Heidegger's relevance today lies in politics - where all manner of dangerous reactionaries delight in declaring their indebtedness to him. Martin Sellner, leader of the Austrian branch of the neo-fascist network Generation Identity - which allegedly has ties to Brenton Tarrant, who murdered 51 people in attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand this year - attributes his "path of thinking to Heidegger". For the ultra-conservative thinker and adviser to Vladimir Putin Aleksandr Dugin, mastering Heidegger "is the main strategic task of the Russian people". When Steve Bannon, Donald Trump's former chief strategist, was interviewed by Der Spiegel last year, he held up a biography of Heidegger. "That's my guy," he said.

Heidegger's thought cannot be confined to a single idea or interpretation. He pined for a lost harmony and simplicity, but left one of the most divisive and complex oeuvres in the history of philosophy. He was a nature lover and a Nazi philosopher; an anti-Semite and an almost rabbinical thinker (some Nazis were suspicious of his avid Jewish readers and wanted to ban his work because of a perceived "Talmudic-Kabbalist" quality). He was obsessed with the West and is adored by its self-appointed defenders. But he was also influenced by Eastern philosophy and, convinced that the West had lost its way, he became central to anti-Western thought, inspiring the 1979 Iranian Revolution's idea of "Westoxification". Meanwhile, his more spiritual musings circulate innocently on social media, as life advice for the lost at heart.

There is no clear political philosophy in Heidegger. Born in 1889, in the small village of Messkirch, he was a philosopher whose style was often willingly - some say comically - opaque. Many of his key terms are so difficult to define that translators simply opt to keep the original German. At the time of writing, "Martin Heidegger" is one of only 174 English Wikipedia pages -out of a total 29 million - officially flagged as "incomprehensible" by the site.

This is also one of the reasons why Heidegger's standing is so fraught, even when his Nazism and anti-Semitism are set aside. The way he wrote has especially irked Anglophile readers, who suspect a man without substance. So whereas for Arendt he was "the secret king of thought" and for Levinas "the greatest philosopher of the century", Bertrand Russell, by contrast, thought Heidegger did not even warrant a place in his History of Western Philosophy (1945). "Heidegger is the only world-famous philosopher of the 20th century about whom it can seriously be argued that he was a charlatan," Bernard Williams wrote in 1981.

Posted by orrinj at 8:17 AM


As Democrats Debate, Trump Offers Alternative: A Rambling Speech (Michael D. Shear, Sept. 12, 2019, NY Times)

Moments after Democrats took the debate stage on Thursday night, President Trump delivered a rambling and disjointed 68-minute speech accusing the news media and the "radical left" of wanting to destroy America.

"Whether you like me or not, it doesn't matter," Mr. Trump told an audience of Republican House lawmakers at a conference in Baltimore. "You have to elect me; you have no choice." [...]

"The bulb that we're being forced to use -- the light doesn't look good," Mr. Trump lamented during an extended aside about his dislike for energy-efficient light bulbs. "I always look orange...

Posted by orrinj at 7:56 AM


Texas Lawmaker Issues Death Threat to Beto O'Rourke After Debate Pledge to Take Away Assault-Style Weapons (ELLIOT HANNON, SEPT 13, 2019, Slate)

It seemed inevitable that O'Rourke's call to ban ownership of military-style weapons would rile up the guns=distilled liberty true believers online, but it was, perhaps predictably, an elected Republican official--from the state of Texas no less--that led the way over the cliff. Texas state Rep. Briscoe Cain tweeted a not-so-thinly veiled threat at the presidential contender, tweeting "My AR is ready for you Robert Francis," calling O'Rourke, whose nickname is Beto, by his first and middle names.

Posted by orrinj at 7:44 AM



Between 1883 and 1887 he wrote his legendary trilogy, a fictional recounting of the glories and trials of the seventeenth-century Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Among many historical events, the novels cover the Khmelnytsky Uprising of Ukrainian Cossacks, the Swedish invasion of Poland, and wars between Poland and the Ottoman Empire. The books both secured Sienkiewicz fame in Poland and abroad, and reinforced Polish nationalism and international sympathy for the Poles' cause.

As his fame grew, Sienkiewicz became more involved in Polish nationalism and philanthropy, founding or supporting projects for starvation relief, schools, and the construction of tuberculosis sanatoriums. In 1896 he published his most celebrated novel, Quo Vadis, set amid the persecution of the early Church in Nero's Rome. The work sold 800,000 copies in the United States in eighteen months. In 1905 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature. [...]

Sienkiewicz's depiction of the ideal hero represents both an anthropomorphized vision of Poland and the kinds of Polish men and women that were required to secure and maintain a sovereign, independent Polish nation. Sienkiewicz's Poland is a glorious nation with a profound martial and religious legacy, but one suffering internal intrigues at the hands of vain, selfish Polish nobility who leave the nation vulnerable to external assaults from Germans, Russians, Cossacks, and Turks. This mirrored the Poland of his own day, which ceased to exist after its eighteenth-century partition by the competing powers of Germany, Austro-Hungary, and Russia. These not only oppressed the Polish people but also often actively sought to suppress their culture and language.

Poland required the kinds of citizens who drank deeply from their heritage and who refused to be cowed by tyrannical powers. They, says Sienkiewicz, must avoid the extremes of merciless, utilitarian violence so common among their subjugators and the apathy and sensual nihilism that enticed the disaffected youth. They must instead pursue a purity and righteousness that would appeal to foreign sympathizers and prove essential to building a soon-to-be-realized flourishing Polish civic society. In contrast to the old Poland, which disastrously catered to the interests of the landed nobility, the new Poland would exemplify the Christian virtues of charity and self-sacrifice.

Sienkiewicz's vision for the good life represents a pedagogical lesson for both Poles and Americans. It repudiates moral decadence in favor of restrained, pious virtue and civic obligation, one that is fiercely patriotic and proud of its heritage. These qualities were clearly evident in the Polish citizens who resisted the Nazis and Soviets. Indeed, these traits enabled two generations of Poles to endure--and overcome--Soviet domination.

...his depiction of the Steppes actually describes what he saw in the American Plains.
Posted by orrinj at 7:40 AM

60-40 NATION:

Small-Business Owners' Views on Health Coverage and Costs (Rhett Buttle, Katie Vlietstra Wonnenberg, and Angela Simaan, September 9, 2019, Commonwealth Fund)

Common themes emerged from this research that are aligned with anecdotal evidence and commonly held understandings and assumptions about the health care cost burden of small employers. Primarily, it is clear that health care costs are arguably the major concern for small businesses. Though small employers report taking steps to reduce the burden, often by shifting some of the costs onto their employees, few have considered dropping coverage altogether.

Increasing health care costs is not sustainable for small employers. They want change and are willing to take pragmatic steps. This desire for change does not adhere to party lines; across the ideological spectrum, small-business owners are open to a range of possible solutions. Those favored by small employers require legislative action, primarily at the federal level, to help small employers affordably provide health insurance to their employees.

Surprisingly, there was an openness to concepts that might be construed as extreme, like Medicare for All or a single-payer system. Other options, such as a Medicare or Medicaid buy-in, also found favor. Though business owners tend to be a conservative group, we did see an unexpected and almost apolitical frame on the issue of health care. Small-business owners did not ascribe blame to one actor or the other. They saw solutions as independent of party of origin, signaling an interest in policy and action from policymakers rather than a strict adherence to political ideology.

The "extreme" policies the Right wants to run against are all popular.

September 12, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 7:51 PM


How Jewish Should the Jewish State Be? The Question Shadows an Israeli Vote (David M. Halbfinger, Sept. 12, 2019, NY Times)

 For years, the resentment had been building.

In Israel, Jewish men and women are drafted into the military, but the ultra-Orthodox are largely exempt. Unlike other Israelis, many ultra-Orthodox receive state subsidies to study the Torah and raise large families.

And in a country that calls itself home to all Jews, ultra-Orthodox rabbis have a state-sanctioned monopoly on events like marriage, divorce and religious conversions.

A series of political twists has suddenly jolted these issues to the fore, and the country's long-simmering secular-religious divide has become a central issue in the national election on Tuesday.

In a country buffeted by a festering conflict with the Palestinians, increasingly open warfare with Iran and a prime minister facing indictment on corruption charges, the election has been surprisingly preoccupied with the question of just how Jewish -- and whose idea of Jewish -- the Jewish state should be.

Posted by orrinj at 7:41 PM


Trump team rushes to find escape hatch for China tariffs (BEN WHITE and ADAM BEHSUDI, 09/12/2019, Politico)

President Donald Trump's top advisers are rushing to find an escape hatch for a series of tariff increases in the coming months, worried about the potential for further economic damage.

Posted by orrinj at 3:24 PM


Why the man Trump once called 'my African American' is leaving the GOP (Yamiche Alcindor, Sep 12, 2019, PBS News Hour)

Gregory Cheadle, the black man President Donald Trump once described at a rally as "my African American," is fed up.

After two years of frustration with the president's rhetoric on race and the lack of diversity in the administration, Cheadle told PBS NewsHour he has decided to leave the Republican party and run for a seat in the U.S. House of Representative as an independent in 2020.

Now, the 62-year-old real estate broker, who supported the Republican approach to the economy, said he sees the party as pursuing a "pro-white" agenda and using black people like him as "political pawns." The final straw for Cheadle came when he watched many Republicans defend Trump's tweets telling four congresswomen of color, who are all American citizens, to go back to their countries, as well as defend the president's attacks on Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., and his comments that Cummings' hometown of Baltimore is "infested."

"President Trump is a rich guy who is mired in white privilege to the extreme," said Cheadle, of Redding, Calif., who switched from being an independent to a Republican in 2001. "Republicans are too sheepish to call him out on anything and they are afraid of losing their positions and losing any power themselves."

Always fun when the Trumpbots rant about how Donald's going to surprise us all with big support from minority voters in 2020.  He's at 3% with black women in recent polling. 

Posted by orrinj at 3:00 PM


No Man Is an Island (But Trump Is Getting Kind of Lonely) (BRUCE GYORY, SEPTEMBER 12, 2019, The Bulwark)

On August 28, the Quinnipiac poll released its survey of registered voters from August 21-26. Not only was Trump's job approval down by 2 points to 38 percent, but his job disapproval was up to 56 percent. Trump's disapproval numbers hit 51 percent among white voters, 54 percent among seniors, 60 percent among independents, 61 percent among those ages 18-34, and 62 percent among women.  

On the issues, it was even worse for Trump: 37 percent felt the economy was getting worse vs. only 31 percent who said it was getting better (a double digit rise from June among those who felt the economy was worsening), and by 41 percent to 37 percent, voters felt that Trump's economic policies were hurting more than helping the economy. On the other major issues? Nothing for Trump to tweet about. His approval rating was negative compared with his disapproval rating as follows: 38-56 percent on foreign policy, 38-59 percent on immigration, 38-54 percent on trade, and--worst of all--32-62 percent on Trump's handling of race relations. 

Little surprise then that according to Quinnipiac, Trump would lose head-to-head matchups against Biden, Sanders, Harris, Buttigieg, and Warren.  Trump's highest support levels were at only 40 percent against Warren, Harris, and Buttigieg.  Trump trailed Biden: 54-38 percent. It is worth noting that Biden carried Democrats in this poll 94-3 percent, while Trump carried Republicans against Biden by 87-10 percent. In short, Biden peeled off more Republicans than Trump peeled off Democrats. 

 Gallup released its polling data after Labor Day of its survey from August 15-30; Trump had a job approval rating of 39 percent and a disapproval rating of 57 percent. This provides a sense of how bad Trump's summer has gone: Gallup's July 1 -12 survey had Trump at 44 percent approval and 51 percent disapproval. 

Next up:  the Washington Post/ABC News poll taken from September 2-5. From their poll released July 1, to this poll released September 10, Trump's job approval declined by 6 points to 38 percent and his job disapproval increased by 3 points to 56 percent. Among registered voters only, that approval-to-disapproval rating for Trump stood at 40-55 percent. This September data also showed Trump falling to 36 percent approval with 58 percent disapproval among independents (vs. 42 percent approval to 54 percent disapproval in July). Men split evenly at 47 percent approving to 47 percent disapproving Trump's job performance, but women disapproved Trump's job performance over approval by 64-30 percent. Even 53 percent of white voting age women with less than a college education disapproved of Trump's job performance, while only 42 percent approved. 

But just as with Quinnipiac, this Washington Post/ABC News gets worse once you get beyond the beauty contest questions. Trump's economic approval rating dropped from 51 to 46 percent with disapproval on the economy jumping by 5 percent from 42 percent in July to 47 percent. It is worth following the trend lines: Last November in this poll 65 percent described the economy as excellent or good, but in this September poll that had dropped by 9 percent to 56 percent. This poll also found that by 60 percent to 35 percent the nation felt that a recession was very or somewhat likely. And only 35 percent approved of Trump's handling of the trade negotiations with China, with 56 percent disapproving. 

The drop-offs were quite pronounced among independents: who split equally at 46 percent approving and 46 percent disapproving Trump's handling of the economy, which the Washington Post noted was a severe "backsliding" from July when independents approved of Trump's handling by a 12 percent edge. Not to mention that 60 percent of independents disapproved of how Trump was handling the trade negotiations with China. Overall, 43 percent of the respondents felt that Trump's trade and economic policies had increased the chance of a recession next year, vs. only 16 percent who felt Trump's policies had decreased the chances for a recession. 

Posted by orrinj at 2:51 PM


How do Western nations rank in economic freedom in 2019?  (REV. BEN JOHNSON • SEPTEMBER 12, 2019, Acton)

The 10 most economically free nations in 2017 were:

1. Hong Kong
2. Singapore
3. New Zealand
4. Switzerland
5. United States of America
6. Ireland
7.United Kingdom
8. Canada
9. Australia / Mauritius (tie)
10. Malta (technically 11 under the Fraser Institute's rating system)

Posted by orrinj at 2:47 PM


Trump administration reinstates military aid for Ukraine (Reuters, 9/12/19) 

President Donald Trump's administration has released $250 million in military aid for Ukraine, U.S. senators said on Thursday, after lawmakers from both parties expressed concern that the White House had held up money approved by Congress.

Posted by orrinj at 8:25 AM


The controversy over "ethnonationalism" and a Trump judicial nominee, explained (Ian Millhiser  Sep 12, 2019, Vox)

The most debated aspect of Menashi's record, just in terms of the amount of heat its generated among opinion journalists and pundits, is a 2010 academic article he wrote titled "Ethnonationalism and Liberal Democracy."

That article was flagged by MSNBC's Rachel Maddow last month, when she broadcast a lengthy segment claiming that Menashi argued that "democracy can't work unless the country is defined by a unifying race."

That characterization inflamed Menashi's defenders. The Volokh Conspiracy's David Bernstein argued that, by attacking Menashi, Maddow revealed herself as the real racist. Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal's editorial board offered a more substantive reply to Maddow, claiming that the article is a relatively benign defense of "Israel as a liberal democracy and Jewish state" -- and claiming that any senator who accepts her argument drifts too far towards the "anti-Israel fringe."

The Wall Street Journal is correct that the lion's share of Menashi's article is an academic defense of Israel against scholars who "argue that liberal democracy precludes the state from adopting a particularistic ethnonational identity." Arraying himself against scholars who argue, in the words of one of Menashi's antagonists, that Israel "remains distinctive among democratic states in its resort to ethnoreligious criteria with which to denominate and rank its citizens," Menashi spends most of his article listing examples of other nations that also give favorable treatment to persons with a particular ethnonational identity.

To the extent that Menashi seeks to prove that many nations have a thread of ethnonationalism woven into their legal tapestry, his article is persuasive. He lists a wide array of laws -- a Greek law that "grants automatic citizenship to 'persons of Greek origin' who volunteer for military service," an Irish law creating a special process allowing persons "of Irish descent or Irish associations" to gain citizenship, and so forth -- that give some degree of favorable treatment to people who can trace their family's origins back to that nation.

Near the end of his article, however, Menashi diverges from his largely descriptive effort to normalize Israel, and suggests that ethnic diversity is itself harmful. "Social scientists have found that greater ethnic heterogeneity is associated with lower social trust," he writes. "Ethnically heterogeneous societies exhibit less political and civic engagement, less effective governing institutions, and fewer public goods."

"Surely," he concludes with a flourish, "it does not serve the cause of liberal democracy to ignore this reality."

Menashi's article does not lay out a policy agenda to deal with this "reality." Should the government teach citizens about diverse cultures so that they are more accepting? Does Menashi agree with University of Pennsylvania law professor Amy Wax that "our country will be better off with more whites and fewer nonwhites?"

The full answers to these questions cannot be found in Menashi's ethnonationalism article. Certainly the article, at the very least, suggests that Menashi is much more likely than the typical judge to be sympathetic to policies that seek to make the United States more homogeneous. That said, at his confirmation hearing, he did deny that the views expressed in the article shape his understanding of American law. The United States, he claimed at the hearing, is "not one of those countries" that is based on ethnic or linguistic "tradition. can we ignore the fact that these putative allies are racist?

Posted by orrinj at 7:52 AM


Nationalism as Religion: The Proper Love of Place in Today's Politics (JON D. SCHAFF, 9/11/19, Public Discourse)

People are rightly anxious about nationalism. Its connection to malignant movements in Europe and Japan in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries gives reason to demur from the nationalist cause. More recently, the association of nationalism with race-based identity politics in America speaks to the ugly, jingoistic possibilities latent in the idea. In short, nationalism is bad, it is said, because it is too parochial and too exclusionary. These extremes together make nationalism too prone to violence. Nationalism is akin to primitive tribalism and thus to be avoided. . [...]

[T]the entrance into history of Jesus Christ provides a new perspective on this nationalist interpretation of the Old Testament. Christ fulfills ancient Israel's purpose, now carried forth by the Church. Christ explicitly extends his message to Jew and Gentile alike. As Paul puts it in Galatians, in Christ "there is neither Jew nor Greek" (Galatians 3:28). The Great Commission and its call to "make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:18) suggests a mission that transcends the particularity of nations. The call to "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's" (Matthew 22:21) is often used to justify a crude division of authority between the state and the church. Which, however, are those things that are not God's? Is not all of creation His? Even Paul's famous admonition to obey worldly authorities (Romans 13) is in the context of stating that all authority comes from God. So, to be precise, there is nothing that is Caesar's independent of God. Caesar doesn't even own himself.

Similarly, Augustine's famous division between the City of God and the City of Man does not teach that the City of Man has some autonomous source of power. Augustine makes clear that each City has its proper role, but also that the City of Man has an inferior role. The role of the earthly city is essentially to create basic order and protect against rank injustice. It is the "tranquility of order" that Augustine seeks. But Augustine is not naïve about the earthly city. He famously says that worldly governments that do not properly understand their relation to the divine are "criminal gangs" or "robber bands." Augustine's political teaching in City of God is essentially this: the state's job is to protect public order and then to allow the Church to do what it needs to do, including acts of charity as well as the Church's more formal sacramental and liturgical duties.

Christians should be cautious about placing too much stake in any nation. As Christ himself suggests, the ultimate kingdom "is not of this world" (John 18:36).

Nationalism as a Substitute for the Church

In his classic work on nationalism, Imagined Communities, Benedict Anderson identified the rise of nationalism with a concomitant decline in the influence of religion. According to Anderson, the nation arose as an instrument of unity as both secularism and religious division weakened the unifying power of faith. Anderson was a Marxist, and he saw nationalism as an obstacle to his universalist ideology.

From a Judeo-Christian standpoint, political theologian William Cavanaugh has likewise argued that it is no accident that the rise of the nation coincided with the rise of secularism. Cavanaugh sees in nationalism a "migration of the holy" from church to state. 

If they weren't so destructive they'd be more pitiable.
Posted by orrinj at 7:44 AM


Posted by orrinj at 7:37 AM


Millions of Americans Are About to Get a Check From Their Health Insurer (Nancy LeTourneau, September 12, 2019, Washington Monthly)

One of the most important and least-known provisions of Obamacare was actually the brainchild of former Senator Al Franken. When health care reform was being debated in the Senate, he offered an amendment to include something called a medical loss ratio (MLR). It requires insurance companies that cover individuals and small businesses to spend at least 80 percent of the premiums they charge on patient care. For companies that cover large groups, the MLR is raised to 85 percent.

That limits private insurers to spending 15-20 percent of premium dollars on everything else, including administration, marketing, and profits. They are further required to report annually on how their premium dollars were spent, and if they exceeded those limits, pay a rebate to their customers.

Beginning in September, those rebates are about to be issued. Reporting for the Kaiser Family Foundation, Rachel Fehr and Cynthia Cox note that, for 2019, insurers will be issuing a total of at least $1.3 billion in rebates, exceeding the previous record high of $1.1 billion in 2012.

Posted by orrinj at 7:29 AM


Israel accused of planting mysterious spy devices near the White House: The likely Israeli spying efforts were uncovered during the Trump presidency, several former top U.S. officials said. (DANIEL LIPPMAN, 09/12/2019, Politico)

The miniature surveillance devices, colloquially known as "StingRays," mimic regular cell towers to fool cell phones into giving them their locations and identity information. Formally called international mobile subscriber identity-catchers or IMSI-catchers, they also can capture the contents of calls and data use.

The devices were likely intended to spy on President Donald Trump, one of the former officials said, as well as his top aides and closest associates -- though it's not clear whether the Israeli efforts were successful.

President Trump is reputed to be lax in observing White House security protocols. POLITICO reported in May 2018 that the president often used an insufficiently secured cell phone to communicate with friends and confidants. The New York Times subsequently reported in October 2018 that "Chinese spies are often listening" to Trump's cell-phone calls, prompting the president to slam the story as "so incorrect I do not have time here to correct it." (A former official said Trump has had his cell phone hardened against intrusion.)

By then, as part of tests by the federal government, officials at the Department of Homeland Security had already discovered evidence of the surveillance devices around the nation's capital, but weren't able to attribute the devices to specific entities.

No wonder we have to exfiltrate our assets.

September 11, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 9:08 PM


It's time to create a conservative ecosystem that doesn't welcome racists (Timothy P. Carney, September 04, 2019, Washington Examiner)

[I]t will serve at least two good ends: First, it will make it clear to diehard racists that they're not welcome over here. Second, it will protect impressionable young conservatives from being wooed by them.

What's needed is not mere "outreach" to black, Hispanic, or Jewish voters. Conservatives ought to make elevation of African Americans, immigrants, and religious minorities so central to conservatism that all dedicated racists will be thoroughly repelled. If we can't make them stop calling themselves the "alt-right," because they won't want to be associated with us, we can at least disgust them with such a focus.

Why? Mostly because it's the right thing to do.

Conservatives don't give it enough attention, but one of the greatest evils in the U.S. today is rank racial inequality. The median income of African Americans is below $31,000, which is less than half the median income of white Americans. More blacks are imprisoned in America than are whites, even though there are nearly five white people here for every black person.

There are a thousand points of data like this, all confirming that being an African American means living with the odds stacked against you.

Do you remember playing video games that allowed you to set the difficulty level? Imagine if you could set the difficulty level for your life. The data all suggest that being an immigrant or an African American means setting a much higher difficulty level than being a white guy.

To accept this reality doesn't require one to declare that whites are all vile racists or oppressors. It doesn't require agreeing that the U.S. is fundamentally a white supremacist nation. It just requires the sincere acceptance of two premises: First, that all humans are created equal (the official teaching of the U.S. founders and all Abrahamic religions), and second, that blacks and Hispanics have far worse outcomes in the U.S.

If both of these premises are true -- and they are -- then things in the U.S. still aren't fair and can be improved. And if the game is rigged so badly in the U.S. that thousands of young men are shot on the streets of Chicago, that tens of thousands of black babies are aborted every year, that hundreds of thousands are born out of wedlock, then isn't that a crisis that deserves attention?

Conservatives ought to make it a priority to fight for the fundamental dignity and equality of racial minorities who have been denied that dignity and equality. It will require overcoming decades of injustice, and so won't happen quickly. We won't disabuse the Left of their self-satisfied smears and conceits, but that's not the point. Conservatives will be able to take solace in the fact that we're fighting the good fight and pissing off the racists.

It's time to create a libertarian ecosystem that doesn't welcome racists (Bonnie Kristian, September 8, 2019, The Week)

Let me call libertarians to do the same.

I am far from the first to issue this appeal. The Cato Institute's Jonathan Blanks, himself black and libertarian, has written compellingly on the topic for and elsewhere, identifying a "longstanding libertarian habit of downplaying racism as a fact of life for minorities in the United States." Blanks levels much of his critique at libertarians' irresponsibly incomplete narrative of American history, which too often entails "looking backward to better times" of smaller government and freer markets while neglecting what else was happening then. For those "who must look to bills of sale and property lists to find our ancestors," Blanks writes, "the look back is with much less yearning."

Libertarian failure (or refusal) to recognize the non-state function of racism in American society today likewise makes our movement unappealing to black and other minority Americans regardless of the value of our ideas, Blanks continues. And some libertarians' willingness to partner with anti-statists of any stripe is also much to blame. This is best exemplified, of course, by the disgraceful "paleolibertarian" strategy of the 1980s and 1990s (in which some libertarians pursued "an open strategy of exploiting racial and class resentment to build a coalition with populist 'paleoconservatives'"), but it is not entirely absent from the present movement. See, for instance, this appalling post from former a Libertarian Party vice-chair, made in defense of his decision to appear on a white nationalist podcast.

This sort of thing does not only turn American minorities away from libertarians. It also turns racists toward us. And just as Carney says to conservatives, it is incumbent on libertarians to create an ideological ecosystem that doesn't welcome racism. 

Might start with the whole wing of the movement that hates Lincoln.

A Non-Racist Conservative Movement Would Kill the Republican Party (Zak Cheney-Rice, 9/09/19, NY)

[T]he flagrant racism conveyed in Trump's speeches and Jonah Bennett's emails at the Daily Caller is less intractable than a movementwide mobilization behind a racist agenda. That Republicans have built a reliable coalition of racists and purported non-racists by pairing tax cuts and abortion restrictions with the subordination of black civil rights to states' rights suggests that even those who oppose racism are willing to overlook it for their own self-interest. They're fairly unremarkable in this respect -- supporting a political movement often requires making peace with ideological differences.

But it also undermines the notion that conservatism's racism problem stems from infiltration by a few bad eggs. On the contrary, it's been apparent since the Nixon administration that the Republican Party would collapse without support from racists. Perhaps such a demise is Douthat and Carney's unstated goal. In any case, the GOP hasn't been able to convince most voters that corporate welfare, reduced protections for marginalized people, and diminished health-care options for all but the most financially secure are good things on their own terms, without using racism to sweeten the deal. This wouldn't matter if conservatism was a fringe ideology. But the writers' portrayal of their movement as one victimized by unfair smears and mischaracterization belies its status as the most powerful political movement in America today, and that conservatives control most of the country's most powerful political institutions.

Posted by orrinj at 9:08 PM


Trump Flirts With $15 Billion Bailout for Iran, Sources Say (Erin Banco & Asawin Suebsaeng,  09.11.19, Daily Beast)

President Donald Trump has left the impression with foreign officials, members of his administration, and others involved in Iranian negotiations that he is actively considering a French plan to extend a $15 billion credit line to the Iranians if Tehran comes back into compliance with the Obama-era nuclear deal.

We figured they'd impose conditions on Donald. $15 billion seems about the right price for exercising his hatred of his black predecessor.

Posted by orrinj at 9:01 PM


Exclusive: Michael Cohen is interviewed for probe into Trump Organization (Kara Scannell,  September 11, 2019, CNN)

Prosecutors with the New York district attorney's office interviewed Donald Trump's former personal attorney Michael Cohen in recent weeks as part of their investigation of the Trump Organization's handling of hush money payments, according to people familiar with the matter.

Officials from the district attorney's office, led by Cyrus Vance, interviewed Cohen at the federal prison in Otisville, New York, where he is serving a three-year sentence after pleading guilty to multiple crimes including campaign finance violations tied to payments to two women alleging affairs with Trump a decade ago. Trump has denied having affairs with the women.

Posted by orrinj at 5:47 PM


Poll: Warren now leads Trump by 7 points among registered voters after tying him in July (The Week, 9/11/19)

A new ABC News-Washington Post poll released Wednesday shows Warren beating Trump by seven points in a hypothetical match-up, 51 percent to 44 percent, among registered voters. This is compared to a poll from ABC News and The Washington Post released in July that showed Warren and Trump tied at 48 percent to 48 percent.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in the new poll also beats Trump by nine points among registered voters after leading him by just one point in July, while Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) beats him by seven points, the same margin as Warren, after previously leading him by two points. Like Warren, South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg also now beats Trump among registered voters after being exactly tied in July, although he has a smaller four-point lead.

Posted by orrinj at 5:13 PM


Trump rips into John Bolton (Dave Lawler, 9/11/19, Axios)

[Trump said,] "I don't blame Kim Jong-un. ... He wanted nothing to do with John Bolton."

Posted by orrinj at 4:59 PM


Meet Charlie Kupperman, Trump's acting national security adviser who advised a group that promotes anti-Muslim conspiracy theories (Eliza Relman, 9/11/19, Business Insider)

Civil rights groups have raised alarms about Kupperman's association with the right-wing Center for Security Policy (CSP), a DC-based think tank that has long promoted anti-Muslim conspiracy theories, including that the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated the US government. Kupperman, 68, served on CSP's board from 2001 to 2010.

CSP's founder, Frank Gaffney Jr., has promoted several anti-Muslim conspiracies, including that President Barack Obama was secretly Muslim and that Hillary Clinton's top adviser Huma Abedin worked for the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Council for American Islamic Relations (CAIR) is demanding Kupperman be removed from the administration.

"Once again this is an example of Trump elevating foxes into the hen house, where Islamophobes are well placed to direct our nation's national security priorities," Robert McCaw, director of government affairs at CAIR, told Al Jazeera.

Posted by orrinj at 4:55 PM


White House Pressed Agency to Repudiate Weather Forecasters Who Contradicted Trump (Peter Baker, Lisa Friedman and Christopher Flavelle, Sept. 11, 2019, New York Times)

The White House was directly involved in pressing a federal scientific agency to repudiate the weather forecasters who contradicted President Trump's claim that Hurricane Dorian would probably strike Alabama, according to several people familiar with the events.

Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, told Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary, to have the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration publicly disavow the forecasters' position that Alabama was not at risk. NOAA, which is part of the Commerce Department, issued an unsigned statement last Friday in response, saying that the Birmingham, Ala., office was wrong to dispute the president's warning. [...]

Mr. Ross called Neil Jacobs, the acting administrator of NOAA, from Greece where the secretary was traveling for meetings, and instructed Dr. Jacobs to fix the agency's perceived contradiction of the president, according to three people informed about the discussions.

Dr. Jacobs objected to the demand and was told that the political appointees at NOAA would be fired if the situation was not fixed, according to the three individuals, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the episode.

The political staff at an agency typically includes a handful of top officials, such as Dr. Jacobs, and their aides. They are appointed to their jobs by the administration currently in power, as opposed to career government employees, who remain in their jobs as administrations come and go.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


New Hampshire governor signs ban of oil, gas drilling off coast (HOLLY RAMER, 9/11/19, Associated Press)

New Hampshire's governor signed a ban on oil and gas drilling in the state's coastal waters on Tuesday, a move that several states have taken in response to the Trump administration's proposal to open new areas for exploration. [...]

"New Hampshire has a long and proud tradition of environmental stewardship, and today's action to ban oil and gas drilling off of our pristine coastline is another step in the right direction," Sununu said in a statement.

Governors and lawmakers from both Republican- and Democratic-led states have fought the administration's plans for expanded offshore drilling. A federal judge ruled in May that President Donald Trump had exceeded his authority when he ordered that the Arctic and parts of the Atlantic be opened to oil and gas development.

It's not Oklahoma.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Technology Trap (Ben Ramanauskas, 9/11/19, CapX)

Most works on automation either ignore the past or, if they deal with it at all, merely focus on the Luddites, casting a with a superficial glance at the Industrial Revolution and how bad it was in the factories and the slums. However, as the historian T. S. Ashton shown, although people worked in grim conditions, things were rather more complicated than that. For many, factory work was a significant step up from a life of subsistence, squalor and back-breaking agricultural labour.

Where some authors give the impression that technological change only began in early 19th century Britain, Frey reaches further back in history for his examples. The book opens with Aristotle ('When looms weave by themselves, man's slavery will end') and then moves to Ancient Rome to explain how they held back on industrialisation due to their suspicions of the private sector and the fact that their economy was reliant on slavery. We also get a fascinating snapshot of the Middle Ages and some of the technological innovations from that period such as improvements in horsepower and windmills.

Perhaps more striking is his argument that many of the key innovations of the Industrial Revolution could have been invented earlier. It was the power of guilds that hamstrung human progress. Frey draws parallels with the modern context, and expresses concerns that workers will again attempt to hold back innovation in order to protect jobs.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


September 10, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 7:09 PM


The Best Fall Foliage Train Trips to Take This Year (MAYA KACHROO-LEVINE SEPTEMBER 06, 2018, travel & leisure)

Mt. Washington Cog Railway

This three-hour experience brings visitors to the summit of Mt. Washington, where visitors can see five states, Canada, and the Atlantic Ocean. The entire experience consists of an hour ride up the mountain, an hour to take in the views from the top, and an hour back down. The multi-colored train of the Mt. Washington Cog Railway feels rustic and quintessentially New England, and the route, which runs through November, lights up in the fall. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:46 PM


The Imperialistic Sohrab Ahmari: His almost-integralism might be silly but it has something crucial in common with his foreign policy views. (MATT PURPLE, September 10, 2019, TAC)

For months now, we've been told that so-called fusionist conservatism--the synthesis of traditional Christianity and individual liberty--is dead. In its place is arising something more muscular, more direct, unafraid to harness the power of government to achieve good ends. At the furthest reaches of this new school are those like Sohrab Ahmari, who recommend a bracing dose of Catholic morality delivered unabashedly by the state. The goal is no longer to defend the boundaries of the public square but, as Ahmari puts it, to "fight the culture war with the aim of defeating the enemy and enjoying the spoils in the form of a public square reordered to the common good and ultimately the Highest Good."

He couldn't even win a debate. Last week, at the Catholic University of America, Ahmari sat down with National Review scribe David French, a fusionist conservative, and was thoroughly trounced. He was unable to defend his most basic positions; matters of constitutional law stumped him. Asked by French what he would actually do to make America more moral, he recommended hauling the "head of the Modern Library Association," which doesn't exist, before a committee of Senators Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz, and Tom Cotton, which also doesn't exist. The row between these two began when Ahmari accused French of being insufficiently outraged over drag queen reading hours at local libraries. Yet by the end of Ahmari's performance, even the most ardent social conservative had to be hoping a gay pride float would crash through the debate room wall. [...]

The contention at the heart of Ahmarism is that the government ought to impose a putatively Catholic conception of the common good unchecked by notions of individual liberty and so-called "proceduralism" (which the rest of the planet calls "the rule of law").

The enemies of Ahmarism, then, are libertarianism with its emphasis on personal freedom, classical liberalism with its rules of governance, and progressivism with its debauched social ethic. These things the Ahmarists roll up into a ball and term "liberalism," which they then inveigh against in columns that at first were interesting but now sound heavily mad-libbed. As with all ideologues, they refuse to recognize distinctions--between ordered political liberty and unlimited license, for example. As with all fanatics, they blame the enemy for all that's gone wrong and credit him for nothing that's gone right. (This is not, I should point out here, a critique of Patrick Deneen, whose Why Liberalism Failed is more a warning of what's to come than a theocratic alternative. A conversation between Deneen and French would have been genuinely interesting.)

Ahmari's politics is the sort held primarily by adolescents. It divides the world into easy categories, one strong (Ahmarists), another compromising (liberals), and a third evil (leftists)--and is there really such a difference between those last two at the end of the day? It's the speech at the end of Team America rinsed in holy water. But let's take it seriously for a moment.


Posted by orrinj at 5:33 PM

54-40, FIGHT:

CNN Poll: 6 in 10 say Trump does not deserve a second term (Jennifer Agiesta, 9/10/19, CNN)

The 60% who say the President does not deserve to be reelected is similar to the 63% who felt that way in November 2017. [...]

The President's approval rating remains about where it was in mid-August, with 39% approving of the job he's doing and 55% disapproving. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:30 PM


Facebook is free, but should it count toward GDP anyway?: How much are free online goods worth to people, anyway? Researcher attempt to find an answer. (PETER DIZIKES, 08 September, 2019, Big Think)

For several decades, gross domestic product (GDP), a sum of the value of purchased goods, has been a ubiquitous yardstick of economic activity.

More recently, some observers have suggested that GDP falls short because it doesn't include the value of free online goods such as social media, search engines, maps, videos, and more.

A new study by MIT researchers puts a dollar value on all those free digital goods people use, and builds the case that online activity can and should become part of GDP some day.

For instance, Facebook is worth about $40 to $50 per month for U.S. consumers, according to a series of surveys the researchers conducted. In Europe, digital maps on phones are valued at 59 euros (currently about $67) per month. And the free messaging tool WhatsApp, used most widely outside the U.S., is worth a whopping 536 euros ($611) per month, the survey indicates.

"The magnitude of the numbers was really striking," says Avinash Collis, a doctoral candidate in information technologies at the MIT Sloan School of Management, who helped develop the new study.

Or, as the scholars write in a new paper summarizing the results, "digital goods have created large gains in well-being that are not reflected in conventional measures of GDP and productivity."

Posted by orrinj at 5:25 PM


Netanyahu petrified by possible Trump-Rouhani meeting (Ben Caspit September 10, 2019, Al Monitor)

Netanyahu is in the midst of a perfect storm. All his nightmares are converging: His toughest, most fateful election campaign has entered its final leg. The confrontation between Israel and Iran over the Iranian entrenchment in Syria is escalating even as the US administration's commitment to Netanyahu's anti-Iranian campaign appears to be weakening. Netanyahu is fighting on these fronts at the same time, against great odds.

The timing of Netanyahu's news conference was hardly coincidental. Two hours earlier, his drive to place hidden cameras at Israeli polling stations collapsed when a Knesset committee sank his proposed legislation on the issue. Then a news conference was convened in Vienna by IAEA Acting Director General Cornel Feruta, who had just returned from Tehran. Netanyahu set himself two goals: To create an Iran-centric, security-focused agenda ahead of the Sept. 17 vote and fight what he regards as the IAEA's conciliatory attitude toward Iran. However, Netanyahu received a crushing blow two hours after his news conference from the least likely direction: his closest ally President Donald Trump, the gift that never stops giving.

"It could happen," the president told reporters in response to a question about whether he would be willing to meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. "No problem with me."

Previous suggestions that Trump would lose interest in pressuring Iran, as was the case with North Korea, are quickly materializing...

Posted by orrinj at 5:16 PM


On Fox, Michelle Malkin Pushes Anti-Semitic Conspiracy Theory (Courtney Hagle, September 9, 2019, MediaMatters

On September 9, a Fox & Friends guest pushed the same anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that motivated the Tree of Life shooter to kill 11 people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh.

On Monday morning, the Fox & Friends co-hosts welcomed right-wing writer Michelle Malkin, who argued that "global financiers" are "colluding to undermine American sovereignty" by "sabotaging our will when it comes to enforcing strictly immigration law." Malkin posited that tax-exempt, nonprofit charities funded by the likes of Democratic donor George Soros, along with institutions like the United Nations, are funneling "hard-earned, tax-paying American citizens' money to fund these illegal alien groups." 

Posted by orrinj at 5:13 PM


Bolton's departure shows failure of U.S. 'maximum pressure' against Iran: Rouhani adviser (Reuters, 9/10/19) 

An adviser to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday that U.S. President Donald Trump's firing of his national security adviser John Bolton pointed to the failure of Washington's "maximum pressure strategy" against Iran.

"The marginalization and subsequent elimination of Bolton is not an accident but a decisive sign of the failure of the U.S. maximum pressure strategy in the face of the constructive resistance of Iran," Hesameddin Ashena tweeted.

Posted by orrinj at 5:08 PM


U.S. President Trump could meet with Iran's Rouhani at U.N. with no preconditions: Pompeo (Reuters) 

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday that President Donald Trump could meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the upcoming United Nations meeting, with "no preconditions."

...why wouldn't Iran impose conditions?

Posted by orrinj at 4:53 PM


Posted by orrinj at 4:40 PM


Univision News poll: Democrats surge in Texas, no longer a safe state for Trump in 2020 (SERGIO GARCÍA-RÍOS, ANA ELENA AZPURUA, JOSÉ FERNANDO LÓPEZ, AMAYA VERDE y JAVIER FIGUEROA 10 SEP 2019, Univision)

Days away from the third Democratic debate in Houston and over a year from the 2020 presidential election, an exclusive poll by Univision News found that 40% of registered voters in the state say they will vote for the Democrat who prevails in the party's primary, while 33% say they will support president Trump. If undecided voters leaning one way or the other are included, the advantage would be 47% to 42% in favor of the Democrats.

The Latino vote could be decisive. A large majority of Hispanics (69%) surveyed in the state said they intend to vote for the Democratic candidate, compared with 19% who plan to support Trump (also including undecided voters who are leaning one way or another).

Posted by orrinj at 4:26 PM


Trump approval drops by 6 points, majority say recession likely: POLL (GARY LANGER, Sep 10, 2019, ABC News)

Trump fell from a career-high 44% approval in July to 38% now, a point off his career average, with 56% disapproving. His average rating since taking office remains the lowest on record for any modern president at a comparable point in his term, and he is the first never to have achieved majority approval.

Posted by orrinj at 4:22 PM


Trump fires Iran hawk John Bolton as national security adviser (Times of Israel/AP, 9/10/19)

US President Donald Trump on Tuesday announced that he had fired National Security Adviser John Bolton, seen as the architect of the White House's hard-line policy toward Iran, citing strong disagreements on a number of policy issues.

Bolton's exit comes as Trump moves closer to direct talks with Iran after pulling out of the nuclear deal, and likely signals a shift in the administration's strategy toward a softer line with Tehran.

Beards trump mustache.

Posted by orrinj at 4:11 PM


Most Americans support mental health screenings, background checks to combat gun violence: poll (JUSTINE COLEMAN, 09/10/19, The Hill)

A majority of respondents in a new poll said they would support several initiatives to reduce gun violence following a month of mass shootings.

The NPR/Marist poll released Tuesday found the most popular proposal among members of both political parties is an increase in funding for mental health screenings and treatment, which was supported by 89 percent of respondents. 

Majorities also supported background checks, a red flag law allowing people to petition against others from gun ownership and gun licenses. 

Gun owners aligned with the majority of respondents, with the majority supporting all of these proposed plans.

Most respondents -- 57 percent -- also agreed that Congress should not pass legislation to allow teachers to carry guns, according to the poll. 

All of the crazy leftwing things the Right wants to run against are extremely popular.
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Commerce Chief Threatened Firings at NOAA After Trump's Dorian Tweets, Sources Say (Christopher Flavelle, Lisa Friedman and Peter Baker, Sept. 9, 2019, NY Times)

Craig N. McLean, NOAA's acting chief scientist, sent an email to staff members Monday notifying the agency that he was looking into "potential violations" in the agency's decision to ultimately back Mr. Trump's statements rather than those of its own scientists. He called the agency's action "a danger to public health and safety."

Also on Monday, the National Weather Service director, Louis W. Uccellini, prompted a standing ovation at a weather industry conference in Huntsville, Ala., when he praised the work of the Birmingham office, asked them to stand and said staff members had acted "with one thing in mind, public safety" when they contradicted Mr. Trump's claim that Alabama was at risk.

Only in Donald's America can being a weatherman require speaking truth to power....
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Virginia couples challenge laws requiring them to declare their race (Dhruti Shah, 9/09/19, BBC News)

In the US state of Virginia, couples must declare their racial background from a long list of options including "Aryan", "Moor" and "Zoroastrian" before getting married. A lawsuit is aiming to put a stop to this.

The suit, filed by lawyer Victor M Glasberg on behalf of three couples, describes the statute as "unconstitutional" and "reflective of a racist past".

Mr Glasberg has also written to Democratic Governor Ralph Northam, urging him to "do what must be done to get on the right side of history".

One of the couples involved - Brandyn Churchill, 27, and Sophie Rogers, 23, of Lexington, Virginia - is hoping to have won the case by the time they get married next month.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Why Is Tulsi Gabbard Paying This Obscure Consultant Big Bucks? : Kris Robinson grew up in the same controversial religious sect as Gabbard. Now, he's one of the top-paid vendors on her 2020 presidential campaign. (Nick Grube, 9/09/19, Honolulu Civil Beat)

While turnover and dysfunction have been hallmarks of Gabbard's congressional career and, now, her presidential campaign, Robinson has been a near constant in her political orbit.

Like her, he has ties to an obscure religious sect called the Science of Identity Foundation that's based in Kailua and run by a reclusive guru whose devotees have displayed political ambitions. [...]

The Robinsons and the Stewarts all have ties to the Kailua-based Science of Identity Foundation, a controversial religious sect that was founded by Chris Butler, someone Gabbard has described as her "guru dev," or spiritual master.

Their names have appeared on a number of online forums tracking the organization. Former members interviewed by Civil Beat also confirmed the Robinsons' and Stewarts' affiliations with Butler and his religion.

The Science of Identity Foundation is an offshoot of Hare Krishna that was started in Hawaii by the surf-obsessed Butler in the 1970s, and has since spread to other parts of the U.S. as well as countries such as New Zealand, Australia and the Philippines.

Butler and his followers had clear political aspirations in Hawaii, launching their own party called the Independents for Godly Government that in 1976 fielded a slate of more than a dozen candidates for federal, state and local office.

Much has been written about Gabbard's upbringing in the religious sect and speculation continues about how much Butler and the organization are influencing or involved in her presidential campaign.

Gabbard's parents, Mike Gabbard, a Hawaii state senator, and his wife, Carol, a former school board member, were both Butler devotees. The congresswoman even spent a couple childhood years at a school in the Philippines that was run by Butler's followers.

Kris Robinson also attended one of these schools, according to Ian Koviak, a Portland, Oregon, resident whose mother was a devotee of Butler and his religion.

Koviak says he was a classmate of Robinson's at the Science of Identity Foundation's all-boys school in the Philippines, where his mother sent him while she went on a mission to Poland.

Like others who have distanced themselves from Butler and his religion -- which they call "a cult" -- Koviak has been outspoken about his experiences within the Science of Identity Foundation and at the school, participating in online forums at the Cult Education Institute website and posting to social media.

Tulsi Gabbard's Inner Circle
Robinson isn't the only person with ties to the Science of Identity Foundation who has been affiliated with Gabbard in recent years, since she's been in Congress or even during her run for president.

The congresswoman surrounds herself with people who are linked to Butler and his followers, from her chief of staff, Kainoa Penaroza, to some of her closest campaign advisors.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


A Rocket-Fuel Additive Could Be the Next Great Power Breakthrough (PATRICK TUCKER, SEPTEMBER 9, 2019, Defense One)

Enter aluminum hydride -- also AIH3 or Alane -- a combination of three hydrogen atoms and one aluminum atom originally developed in the 1970s as a potential additive to rocket fuel. Looking a lot like baby powder, it's much easier to transport and use than compressed gaseous or liquid hydrogen. The energy density is also far greater. Kristopher Lichter, CEO of San Francisco-based Ardica Technologies, which makes fuel cells that run on Alane, describes it as "four times as energy dense as gaseous hydrogen...but [with] none of the problems handling." It doesn't require special tanker trucks or pipelines. Instead, the powder goes into a cartridge, which when heated in a fuel cell, releases gaseous hydrogen for use in generating electricity.

If you have a handful of Alane, you're effectively holding much more energy than you would have in a compressed gas tank (see chart below).  But, says Lichter, "The difference is much bigger than that. It's much more stark because Alane is so lightweight that when I put it into a cartridge, you can't tell whether that cartridge is empty or full of Alane because the Alane itself is so ridiculously light, that all you're feeling is the aluminum cartridge itself that it contains it."

Ardica is teaming up with the U.S. Army to develop portable power for soldiers. They have a 20-watt wearable soldier power system that's been field-tested in Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiments. "Assuming things go according to plan, that effort is going into production soon," said Lichter.

They are also working on a 300-watt generator, with prototypes expected in six months.

The Army is also looking to use in future vehicles, and is offering funding via phase-II Small Business Innovation Research grants.

"We're looking to scale up what they are doing with that soldier-portable stuff up to a ground vehicle requirement. So its increasing the scale of their cartridge by over 15 times," said Kevin Centeck, head of fuel cell technologies for the Army's Ground Vehicles Systems Center, or GVSC. "That will enable us to put enough energy onboard a vehicle without using bulky distribution tanks...There's excitement in that in that we can transport it much easier. We can fit more energy onboard a vehicle."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


When Islam Is Not a Religion in America: Muslim lawyer who helped Hobby Lobby and Hosanna-Tabor win at the Supreme Court details the difficulties Muslims face in securing the freedoms that US Christians demand. (INTERVIEW BY JAYSON CASPER| SEPTEMBER 9, 2019, Christianity Today)

At stake is the protection of religious liberty, writes lawyer Asma T. Uddin in When Islam Is Not a Religion: Inside America's Fight for Religious Freedom. Her new book details recent legal cases involving Muslims, arguing that restrictions on one faith community affect the freedom of all. [....]

CT: American evangelicals are often concerned that Christians have their religious liberty threatened around the world, often in Muslim-majority nations. The focus of your book is Muslim religious liberty, threatened in the United States. What sorts of challenges do Muslims face in America?

Uddin: I think it's important to point out that the book doesn't just look at attacks on Muslims. The book looks broadly at the attack on religious freedom, seen through the prism of attacks on Muslims. I discuss violence against churches, synagogues, and Sikh temples.

But in terms of threats to Muslim religious freedom specifically, I look at the nationwide anti-mosque controversy, which started in earnest after the so-called "Ground Zero mosque" fiasco. From there, it spread to Murfreesboro, Tennessee, which was the first community to be affected while attempting to build a mosque. That's where the claim was made that Islam is not a religion.

To this day, there are ongoing struggles to build mosques. It's not just litigation, but also arson and fire bombing. There is even a question about Muslim cemeteries, to the point where American Muslims are unable to bury their dead. That's the challenge we're facing to our human dignity.

I also look at the so-called anti-Sharia laws that now have been proposed in 43 states: 217 bills as of 2017. The movement continues in full force accompanied by "marches against Sharia" (religious laws based on Islam), where we see people taking to the streets. And not that long ago, there was a murderous attack in public transportation of two men who came to the defense of two women in headscarves.

Popular agitation against Muslims is on the rise in America. But what is the legal threat these anti-Sharia laws pose to religious liberty for Muslim citizens?

Anti-Sharia laws are described as ways of stopping this really dangerous thing called "Sharia" from taking over the US. But in fact, where they really come into play is in restricting the right to religious arbitration--the same type of arbitration that conservative Christians and Orthodox Jews make use of. It's very limited; only permitted in certain areas of the law. It's not applied to criminal law, and it is very carefully constrained by the US legal framework. Arbitration decisions are not enforceable without review by a secular civil court.

Can you give a practical example of what such arbitration implies?

It involves the terms of divorce, alimony, and the enforceability of a prenuptial agreement. It deals with business transactions involving nations whose laws might or might not refer to Sharia.

The interesting thing about Sharia law is the way it reminds me of the 19th century when American society was ripe with anti-Catholic sentiment. Numerous provisions were instituted into state constitutions that limited public funding for parochial schools, driven by a presumed threat of Catholics controlling or influencing public education. Many of those amendments are still on the books--and impact all religious schools, not just Catholic schools.

Similarly, anti-Sharia laws are described in reference to Muslims, but if they're allowed to stand, [the laws] will impact people across the religious spectrum.

How have you seen evangelical Christians contribute to either the popular clamoring against Muslims or the legal issues that would threaten Muslim religious freedom?

The Institute of Social Policy and Understanding came out with a poll that shows the varying degrees of Islamophobia among different religious groups. Evangelicals scored at the highest level. Another poll found that evangelicals are the least interested in overcoming the divide with Muslims.

The most eye-opening and disappointing revelation of the Donald disaster is that Evangelicals turned out not to be very Christian.

September 9, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 6:53 PM


'Someone's Gotta Tell the Freakin' Truth': Jerry Falwell's Aides Break Their Silence: More than two dozen current and former Liberty University officials describe a culture of fear and self-dealing at the largest Christian college in the world. (BRANDON AMBROSINO, September 09, 2019, Politico)

In January, the Wall Street Journal reported that in 2014 and 2015, Michael Cohen hired Gauger's side business, RedFinch LLC, to rig online polls in Donald Trump's favor while he considered a run for the presidency. Gauger's work consisted of writing a computer script to repeatedly vote for Trump in two online polls; his company would get paid $50,000 in return. Instead, Gauger told the Journal that after a meeting at Trump Tower in Manhattan, Cohen paid Gauger roughly one-fourth of that amount--between $12,000 and $13,000 in cash--and gave him a boxing glove worn by a mixed martial arts fighter.

Through his lawyer, Cohen, who is serving a three-year prison sentence for tax fraud, making false statements to Congress and violating campaign finance laws, declined a request to comment for this article.

Previously unreported about this incident is that Trey joined Gauger on the January 2015 trip to New York, and posted a photo to Instagram showing a large amount of cash spread atop a bed in a hotel room. Liberty officials who saw the since-deleted post and described its contents said it raised questions about Trey's involvement in the pro-Trump poll-rigging effort.

"The idiot posted [a picture of] money on a bed?!" one current senior Liberty official said. "Why do that if you're not involved with it?"

Liberty officials also pointed to a tweet sent out by the university's Twitter account on January 23, 2014, linking to one of the polls that the Wall Street Journal reported Gauger had rigged. The poll was conducted by CNBC and asked readers to vote for the top American business leaders.

As a nonprofit, Liberty University is legally prohibited from engaging in "political campaign activity," to use the IRS' phrase, at the risk of losing its nonprofit status.

When asked about the tweet, Falwell told me he authorized the university's marketing department to send it as way of thanking Trump for speaking at Liberty. "A representative of the Trump business organization asked for Liberty University to use Twitter to encourage followers to vote for Donald Trump in the annual CNBC poll. We often get requests from Convocation speakers to promote their books, movies, music and other projects. And we do it all the time," Falwell said. "After speaking for free at [a 2012 Liberty] Convocation and being so complimentary to our University in his remarks, I considered Donald Trump to be a friend of Liberty University and was happy to publicize the poll in hopes that Liberty followers would be willing to vote for him on the heels of his very positive recent campus appearance."

Falwell noted that at the time the tweet was sent, "Donald Trump was not a candidate for president and no one at Liberty even knew he would run for President." However, as the Wall Street Journal reported--and as several sources independently confirmed in the course of my reporting for this article--Cohen had hired Gauger, a Liberty employee, to rig the poll in Trump's favor for the purposes of garnering support ahead of his presidential bid.

"A 501(c)(3) organization trying to influence a poll so that a candidate's fortunes are promoted or demoted is not permitted," said Eve Borenstein, an attorney and tax expert known as the "Queen of the 990," a moniker used to introduce her ahead of congressional testimony she gave about the IRS Form 990 in 2012.

While 501(c)(3) organizations are permitted to "do objective analysis of [an] electoral horse race," said Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, a professor at Stetson University College of Law, "tweeting out a rigged poll if Liberty knew it was rigged probably does not fall into that safe harbor."

Liberty officials said that the arrangement is characteristic of how Falwell wields power. "This paints a picture of how Jerry operates," one former high-ranking university official said. "Gauger gets promoted, [Liberty] contracts for RedFinch for online recruitment ... and [Gauger] gets hooked up with people like Cohen to make more money via RedFinch." And in the end, Falwell gets what he really wants: "A guy that will do whatever he is told."

Michael Cohen's connection to Jerry Falwell Jr., veers into deeply personal territory.

In May 2019, Reuters reported that Cohen helped Falwell contain the fallout from some racy "personal" photos. Later that month, Falwell took to Todd Starnes' radio talk show to rebut the claims.

"This report is not accurate," Falwell said. "There are no compromising or embarrassing photos of me."

Members of Falwell's inner circle took note of the phrasing.

"If you read how Jerry is framing his response, you can see he is being very selective," one of Falwell's confidants said. Racy photos do exist, but at least some of the photos are of his wife, Becki, as the Miami Herald confirmed in June.

Longtime Liberty officials close to Falwell told me the university president has shown or texted his male confidants--including at least one employee who worked for him at Liberty--photos of his wife in provocative and sexual poses.

At Liberty, Falwell is "very, very vocal" about his "sex life," in the words of one Liberty official--a characterization multiple current and former university officials and employees interviewed for this story support.

Posted by orrinj at 6:44 PM


The U.S. can slash health-care costs 75% with 2 fundamental changes -- and without 'Medicare for All' (SEAN MASAKI FLYNN, 9/02/19, MarketWatch)

[D]eductible security--pairs an insurance policy that has an annual deductible with a health savings account (HSA) that the policy's sponsor funds each year with an amount equal to the annual deductible.

The policy's sponsor can be either a private employer like Whole Foods (now part of Amazon. AMZN, +0.09% ), which has been doing this since 2002, or a government entity like the state of Indiana, which has been offering deductible security to its employees since 2007.

While Indiana offers its workers a variety of health-care plans, the vast majority opt for the deductible security plan, under which the state covers the premium and then gifts $2,850 into each employee's HSA every year.

Since that amount is equal to the annual deductible, participants have money to pay for out-of-pocket expenses. But the annual gifts do more than ensure that participants are financially secure; they give people skin in the game. Participants spend prudently because they know that any unspent HSA balances are theirs to keep. The result? Massively lower health-care spending without any decrement to health outcomes.

We know this because Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels ordered a study that tracked health-care spending and outcomes for state employees during the 2007-to-2009 period when deductible security was first offered. Employees choosing this plan were, for example, 67% less likely to go to high-cost emergency rooms (rather than low-cost urgent care centers.) They also spent $18 less per prescription because they were vastly more likely to opt for generic equivalents rather than brand-name medicines.

Those behavioral changes resulted in 35% lower health-care spending than when the same employees were enrolled in traditional health insurance. Even better, the study found that employees enrolled in the deductible security plan were going in for mammograms, annual check ups, and other forms or preventive medicine at the same rate as when they were enrolled in traditional insurance. Thus, these cost savings are real and not due to people delaying necessary care in order to hoard their HSA balances.

The universality and wealth transfer would make this National Health variant acceptable to Democrats too.

Posted by orrinj at 6:30 PM


The Ahmari-French Debate Was About Theology, Not Politics: Sohrab Ahmari sees a Catholic conception of the state as conservative. But what about those of us who are Protestant? (EMMA AYERS, September 9, 2019, American Conservative)

The problem is that, in dividing conservatives into teams, Ahmari has failed to account for differences in theology.

I'm from the Appalachian and exceedingly Protestant South. Most of the people who formed me fundamentally as a person would be hard-pressed to remember Pope Francis's name, let alone be up to date on Catholic dogma. In fact, there's a real reticence on the part of many Southern Protestants to even describe Catholics as Christians--Catholics, they say, pray to Mary and believe the pope is perfect. Catholics, they'll often say too, don't even believe in Scripture. 

Of course, these beliefs are based in a reactionary religious isolationism that fears Catholicism lest it mess with the area's deeply rooted Protestant culture. Still, there's a basic idea embedded in there and it's one that's fundamental to the Protestant faith. We have an inherent distrust of man and his capability of being righteous--whether or not he calls himself Christian. It's why we don't have bishops, why we keep our churches relatively atomized, and why we don't rely on the Church Fathers to interpret our Scripture for us. 

We like the idea of the decentralized and the small. That can mean anything from a tiny steepled church on a country road to a Sunday morning worship service held in a one-bedroom flat. It also usually means keeping the federal government small enough that it can't encroach on our lives. Our faiths are colored by a ceaseless emphasis on a "personal relationship with Jesus Christ." It might deceive you at Sabbath worship, but our faith practice isn't very corporate, and there's a reason that's the case. Sure, there are the appalling monstrosities called megachurches, where the staff is grotesquely large and politics stretch far and wide. But that's still somewhat of a phenomenon, and plenty of us fail to see the Saddleback Churches of our time to be anything good. Why? Because, again, we like our structures small.

That goes for our social order, too. And to keep that order contained and manageable, our ideas have to be dispersed. That means letting our ideological enemies advocate for their ideas without fear of federal retribution for so doing.

Scripture, the only religious book to which we'll pledge our allegiance, certainly doesn't tell us to conquer our enemies. As French himself kept insisting last night, we're called by Christ to show them. We're to turn the other cheek, to advocate with love our morality and faith in a transcendent power. There isn't supposed to be a holy war, even if a government allows for too much selfish individualism or too much debauchery on the streets of New York City.

In the Protestant's eyes, there's no real fix to be found in implementing a religious state, because that would give untrustworthy man far too much power. Whether it's a pope, a bishop, or a certain New York Post editor with an ever-present look of scorn, all that power would do is corrupt them, because no man is truly incorruptible. 

So it's the Right themselves who wat to had over power to a vast pedophile ring?

Posted by orrinj at 5:25 PM


Posted by orrinj at 3:35 PM


ICE: Nearly 500 undocumented immigrants released from NC jails despite detainer (Nick Ochsner, September 9, 2019, WBTV) 

Nearly 500 undocumented immigrants have been released from jails across the state in the past ten months despite administrative detainers filed against them by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

WBTV obtained new data compiled by ICE outlining the figures. The data covers Fiscal Year 2019, which began in October 2018 and runs through next month.

According to the data, 489 detainers were declined by law enforcement.

Posted by orrinj at 1:17 PM


Likud MK to Arab lawmaker: The Jews are a 'special race' (Times of Israel, 9/09/19)

A Likud party lawmaker on Monday told an Arab MK that the Jewish people are a "special race" and that the latter could not "preach morals" to him because he was opposed to Jewish statehood.

The exchange between Likud MK Miki Zohar and Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi came during a Knesset Regulatory Committee meeting to debate bringing before Knesset a controversial bill that would allow representatives from political parties to film activities inside polling stations on election day.

Anti-Semitism is merely agreement with Zohar.

Posted by orrinj at 1:12 PM

FREDO JR. (profanity alert):

The Heir: Ivanka was always Trump's favorite. But Don Jr. is emerging as his natural successor. (MCKAY COPPINS,  OCTOBER 2019, The Atlantic)

With his slicked-back hair and pin-striped suits, Don had carried a certain fratty energy into adulthood that periodically got him into trouble. (In 2002, Page Six reported that he got a beer stein to the head at a New York comedy club after some patrons thought he was "reacting too enthusiastically to [Chris Rock's] ethnic humor.") He spent weekdays working at the Trump Organization, where he developed a millionaire's belief in low taxes, and weekends in the wilderness with his hunting buddies, where he gained an appreciation for gun rights. As a result, Don came to conservatism years before the rest of his family.

Yet when Don offered to help his father's campaign, many of the tasks he received had a whiff of condescension. Trump had always been embarrassed by his son's hunting, especially after photos emerged in 2012 of Don posing with the severed tail of an elephant he'd slain in Zimbabwe. But now that the candidate was wooing rural Republicans, he was happy to let Don put on that goofy orange vest and shoot at stuff for the cameras. "You can finally do something for me," Trump told Don, according to a former aide.

Don had long ago come to understand that Ivanka was his father's favorite. "Daddy's little girl!" he liked to joke. But making peace with her husband's status in the family was harder. Ever since Ivanka had married Jared, Don had been made to watch as this effete, soft-spoken interloper cozied up to his dad. "The brothers thought Jared was a yes-man," said a former Trump adviser. "Don, especially, looked at him as very suspect."

But Ivanka and Jared's real power was rooted in Trump's aspirations for the family. The couple stood as avatars for the elite respectability he'd spent his life futilely chasing. They belonged to a world that had long excluded him, dined in penthouses where he'd been derided as a nouveau riche rube. Cultivated and urbane, they embodied the high-class, patrician ideal he so desperately wanted the Trump name to evoke.

Don--the screwup, the blowhard, the hunter--didn't stand a chance.

Tensions between don and jared sharpened in the spring of 2016, as it became clear that Trump was going to fire his campaign manager. With Corey Lewandowski on the way out, Don and Jared each began vying for larger roles in the campaign, according to two Republican operatives who worked for Trump.

People close to the candidate knew he would never entrust his campaign to his son--Don's chances of taking the reins were "less than zero," a former adviser told me. But Don seemed like the last one to realize it. He hustled to prove that he was up to the task, swapping texts and emails with anyone who said they could help his dad's candidacy. It was during this period that Don set up a meeting with a Russian lawyer who claimed to have dirt on Hillary Clinton. "The Trump Tower meeting was Don's move to take over the campaign," a former aide told me. "He was trying to show his father he was competent."

Posted by orrinj at 1:00 PM


Exclusive: US extracted top spy from inside Russia in 2017 (Jim Sciutto, September 9, 2019, CNN)

In a previously undisclosed secret mission in 2017, the United States successfully extracted from Russia one of its highest-level covert sources inside the Russian government, multiple Trump administration officials with direct knowledge told CNN.

A person directly involved in the discussions said that the removal of the Russian was driven, in part, by concerns that President Donald Trump and his administration repeatedly mishandled classified intelligence and could contribute to exposing the covert source as a spy.

The decision to carry out the extraction occurred soon after a May 2017 meeting in the Oval Office in which Trump discussed highly classified intelligence with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and then-Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak. 

...not exchanged for sanctions relief.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Nationalists Don't See What Is Special About Our Biblical Nation (Samuel Goldman, Sept. 9, 2019, NY Times)

Contrary to interpretations of the American Revolution that stress the influence of enlightenment philosophy or Roman republicanism, patriots were more likely to cite the Bible than any other source in making the case for independence. Even Benjamin Franklin, among the most heterodox leaders, proposed Moses crossing the Red Sea as the new nation's emblem and "rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God" as its motto.

But focusing on nationalist elements of the Hebrew Bible can obscure its broader teaching. The ancient Israelites are not only a model of political autonomy. They are chosen by God to model righteousness as a "light unto the nations." If Americans can be compared to the biblical Hebrews, it is as a people with a special responsibility to uphold universal principles. In a moment of nationalist fervor, conservatives should not neglect this distinctive, if paradoxical, aspect of America's heritage.

To understand the complicated relationship between the Hebrew Bible and American national identity, we have to go back to the Puritans. Fleeing what they considered tyranny, Puritan settlers adapted the Exodus narrative to justify their so-called errand into the wilderness. Some ministers went beyond analogy and proposed that New England derive a constitution directly from the Bible. The Yale sociologist Philip Gorski describes this turn to the Hebrew Bible for political inspiration as the "Mosaic moment."

New England Puritans did not consider themselves separate from the mother country. Many of their descendants, however, concluded that Americans had become one people entitled to independence. [...]

The fundamental problem is that the Bible balances a depiction of an autonomous Hebrew commonwealth with a transcendent standard of justice. "If there is a central political message for Israel throughout the Bible, it is this," writes Rabbi Meir Soloveichik. "For Israel to deserve independence, it must remember that it exists for a calling more important than independence itself." Indeed, much of the biblical narrative is devoted to Hebrews' failure to uphold their covenant.

The Declaration of Independence echoes the idea that sovereignty must serve a higher purpose. Rather than merely presenting a case against British rule of the colonies, it affirms universal truths. In an 1859 letter, Abraham Lincoln put it this way: "All honor to Jefferson -- to the man who, in the concrete pressure of a struggle for national independence by a single people, had the coolness, forecast, and capacity to introduce into a merely revolutionary document, an abstract truth, applicable to all men and all times, and so to embalm it there, that to-day, and in all coming days, it shall be a rebuke and a stumbling-block to the very harbingers of re-appearing tyranny and oppression."

Lincoln further developed that argument following his election to the presidency. During his journey to Washington to take the oath of office, he speculated that "there must have been something more than common that those men struggled for; that something even more than National Independence; that something that held out a great promise to all the people of the world to all time to come." Americans, Lincoln concluded, are an "almost chosen people" dedicated to principles of freedom and civic equality.

It is understandable that conservatives -- and others -- have become wary of this rhetoric. Too often it has served as an excuse for costly and unnecessary wars. Americans' responsibility to oppose tyranny at home is not a calling to overthrow it abroad.

At the same time, we should resist an impulse that also afflicted the biblical Hebrews. In 1 Samuel 8, the Hebrews demand to become "like all the other nations" by abandoning their special obligation to God and choosing a king who fights for only them. Like Israel in its faithless moments, America is untrue to itself when we neglect individual rights and equality among citizens of various origins, faiths and creeds in favor of cohesion and power. Nationalism that opposes what is unique in the nation is not conservative. It is a contradiction in terms.

..."Love one another, as I have loved you".

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Where a mine supplied a nascent nation, cleanup nears end (WILSON RING, September 7, 2019, AP)

STRAFFORD, Vt. (AP) -- More than two centuries after people began exploiting the resources buried in the hills of Vermont, a river of pollution that flowed from what was once one of the most important copper mines in the United States has been tamed, and life has returned to downstream waterways.

Two decades after the planning began for the cleanup of the Elizabeth Mine and 16 years after the beginning of on-the-ground work, the work -- paid for with about $90 million from the federal Superfund program -- is winding down, and the Environmental Protection Agency is getting ready to turn the site over to the state for long-term monitoring.

The work rerouted the Copperas Brook, and buried and sealed millions of tons of waste rock so rain and groundwater wouldn't travel through the concentrated waste and leach iron, copper, cadmium, cobalt and zinc into the West Branch of the Ompompanoosuc River.

"For the longest time, going upstream, (water quality) was good to excellent, hit Copperas Brook, and I think 'nuked' was the best term," said Ed Hathaway, the EPA manager who has been working on the Elizabeth Mine project for years.

"It's clearer now," said Stuart Rogers, chairman of the town board in downstream Thetford, who lives along the river and unofficially monitored the cleanup by the changing color of the water. "So a couple years ago it was noticeable because we got kingfishers -- you don't get kingfishers along the river unless it's clean water -- and herons."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Do plastic bag taxes or bans curb waste? 400 cities and states tried it out. (Matthew Zeitlin, Aug 27, 2019, Vox)

A study of the law by Homonoff and researchers at the University of Chicago and consulting firm ideas42 found that after the new policy went into effect, "Customers were much less likely to use a disposable bag, and switched to reusable bags or no bags at all." Before the tax, about 80 percent of Chicago consumers used disposable bags and fewer than 10 percent used no bags at all. In the year after it went into effect, "the tax led to a large decrease in the proportion of consumers using a disposable bag, with roughly half of consumers switching to reusable bags while the rest opted for no bags at all."

According to Homonoff's research in both Chicago and Montgomery County, Maryland, "very small financial incentives can lead to big behavioral change," she said. The fact that small fees, 5 or 7 cents, can lead to a big reduction in disposable bag use suggests that a sizable portion of the population is perfectly happy to use a reusable bag or not use a bag at all, and need just the smallest push to get there. Homonoff said that in her surveys, people would tell her, "I have a reusable bag in my car. Now I bring it into the store and actually use it."

"As long as there is a fee component in place, that really drives people to not want to get that bag," Romer said. "You see people walking out with something pressed under the arm."

In Montgomery County, which implemented a 5-cent bag fee, the portion of customers observed by researchers at eight stores in the county who used disposable bags went from 82 percent to 40 percent, while the number of bags per trip also fell, according to Homonoff's research. Beyond any environmental effects, these policies also seem to be changing the culture around single-use plastic, which many people know is environmentally damaging but still need a slight nudge to change their behavior. Alongside the bans, there's been a surge of public awareness of the persistence of plastic waste and the folly of recycling it.

And these policies have real effects downstream -- literally. San Jose, California, implemented its Bring Your Own Bag Ordinance in 2012, which included a ban on single-use plastic and a 10-cent fee for paper, and found dramatic decreases in "bag litter" in the city's creeks and waterways. "The litter surveys demonstrated a reduction in bag litter of approximately 89 percent in the storm drain system," a city environment and transportation committee report read, "60 percent in the creeks and rivers, and 59 percent in city streets and neighborhoods, when compared to data collected from 2010 and/or 2011 (pre-ordinance) to data from 2012 (post-ordinance)."

What drove the decrease in litter wasn't just more people using more reusable bags -- although that happened -- but also a rise in using no bags. Reusable bag use jumped from about 4 percent of bags, the city said, to 62 percent, while the portion of people who used no bag doubled, and the average number of bags used per customer fell from three to fewer than one.

The Ferguson Foundation, a Washington, DC-area nonprofit group that organizes cleanup efforts in and around the Potomac River, found that after DC implemented a 5-cent fee in 2010 on single-use bags, the number of plastic bags removed by volunteers dropped by almost three-quarters.

Nothing suits a Puritan Nation better than sin taxes.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Inside Democrats' 2020 Trump war room  (Alexi McCammond, 9/09/19, Axios)

The research includes roughly 7,000 lawsuits, as well an extensive document detailing every time then-candidate Trump told supporters at his 2016 campaign rallies that Mexico would pay for the wall.

A source familiar said this document will likely find its way to local reporters, groups and Democrats in battleground states as Trump diverts funds from the military to pay for his border wall.

The DNC has examples of what farmers and truckers say they feel about Trump's tariffs, the way he's "trashed American wheat," and how the GOP tax law hurt truckers.

They've combed through local news articles and monitored local cable interviews with residents in states like Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan, Arizona, Colorado, Florida and Texas to find these folks who are being hurt by Trump's policies.

And they've already filed "thousands" of Freedom of Information Act requests to get even more info on the president.

The big picture: Using Trump's specific actions and broken promises is how DNC chairman Tom Perez is advising party officials and surrogates to define him in states he won in 2016 that they think are crucial to their 2020 election efforts.

At a meeting last week with about 20 Democratic operatives and strategists, Perez said the plan is to "make it about [Trump's] performance as president, not his bigotry or awfulness," according to one source in the room. "Prosecute the case that he is bad at his job and it is hurting people in real ways."

Message to Donald's base: he's not even good at implementing racism.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Iran's latest move confirms failure of Trump's 'maximum pressure' strategy (Connor Dilleen, 9/09/19, The Strategist)

Sanctions have clearly failed to stir up unrest in Iran. Protest activity has actually decreased from an average of 800 protest events per month in 2018 to fewer than 300 per month in the first half of 2019. Ironically, the drop has been attributed in part to the increasing likelihood of a military confrontation between Iran and the US, which has contributed to 'internal cohesion among a public that frequently shows a readiness to rally behind the regime against threats of military attack or challenges to Iran's territorial integrity'.

The sanctions have also failed to curb Tehran's support for regional terrorist groups and have had little impact on the ability of Tehran's proxies to operate in Syria and elsewhere. Likewise, there are indications that Hezbollah is not as reliant on Iranian funding as previously believed. And despite the clear economic impact of the sanctions, Tehran has recently increased its funding of Hamas from an estimated US$70 million per year to US$30 million per month.

In a further blow to the already questionable utility of US sanctions as a lever for change, China and Iran have recently formalised the details of Belt and Road Initiative projects that will see China invest up to US$280 billion in developing Iran's oil, gas and petrochemicals sectors, with further investment in transportation and manufacturing infrastructure. This investment will effectively provide Iran with an economic lifeline. Intriguingly, the partnership also includes provisions for up to 5,000 Chinese security personnel to be based in Iran to 'protect Chinese projects', dramatically raising the stakes of any future military strikes against Iranian facilities.

And herein lies the destructive irony of Washington's failing Iran strategy--it has effectively killed off the JCPOA (which remains the most effective available mechanism for ensuring that Tehran's nuclear activities are transparent and accountable), while simultaneously failing to force Iran to either go back to the negotiating table or cease its support for its proxies across the Middle East.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Russia's ruling party loses a third of seats in Moscow election after protests: RIA (Andrew Osborn and Andrey Kuzmin, 9/09/19, Reuters) 

Russia's ruling United Russia party, which supports President Vladimir Putin, has lost a slew of seats in the Moscow parliament, RIA news agency said on Monday, suggesting a tactical voting strategy pushed by opponents may have worked.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Analysis: Transparency can be downright hazardous to Texas lawmakers (ROSS RAMSEY, SEPT. 9, 2019, Texas Tribune)

Texas Sen. Royce West, as it turns out, does a lot of government business. Not that you'd know that from reading the disclosures he's required to make as a state lawmaker.

The Texas Tribune's Jay Root ferreted that information out of West's federal filings -- required because the Dallas Democrat wants to be a U.S. senator, and federal disclosure laws are more serious than the window-dressing ethics requirements here at home.

Those federal disclosures tell you a lot about West -- that he has made millions of dollars in legal fees representing governmental entities and that he jointly manages a tax consulting firm with a company owned by a top Republican donor, for instance.

But it also points out the timorous condition of the state's disclosure laws. That condition isn't new; in fact, a recent tweak to those weak requirements revealed some detail about West's government contracts.

And the holes haven't really been hidden, either. Former Gov. Rick Perry showed us some of the holes in state reporting laws when he was running for president in 2011 and had to meet more stringent standards of disclosure. Here's one you might remember: He had been double-dipping by collecting his state pension and his state salary at the same time. It was legal, but it was also a political embarrassment.

David Dewhurst showed us when he ran for U.S. Senate against Ted Cruz around the same time. State filings indicated he was worth more -- possibly a lot more -- than $30 million or $40 million. But the detailed federal filings put his net worth in the $200 million range, rich as a Romney. Had he won that election, he'd have been one of the richest members of a Congress that already has some very rich people.

State officials or candidates can hide conflicts of interest and secret assets and income much easier than people seeking or holding federal office can. West is just the newest member of that club.

September 8, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 7:36 PM


Lindsey Graham and a Dutch white nationalist were photographed smiling and laughing together (VINNIE LONGOBARDO , SEPTEMBER 8, 2019, washington Press)

The comfort level that Trump-supporting members of the Republican party now have with right-wing extremists would have been unimaginable just a few short years ago.

Since Donald Trump took office, not only have domestic neo-fascist and racist organizations like the Proud Boys and the KKK been welcomed to become part of the Republican mainstream, but previously-shunned nationalists, extremists, and far-right-wing figures haunting the European political scene have become de facto allies of Trump and his supporters as they try to overturn the liberal policies of their EU homelands.

The close ties between the Trump administration and its congressional proxies were made quite clear by a recently deleted tweet posted by Dutch politician Geert Wilders, the leader of the Netherlands' Party of Freedom, a nationalist right-wing populist party with a platform of Islamophobia that called for banning the Koran and shuttering all of Holland's mosques.

Posted by orrinj at 7:27 PM


House panel to take formal steps on impeachment probe next week (Manu Raju and Jeremy Herb, September 7, 2019, CNN)

The House Judiciary Committee is prepared to vote next week on a resolution laying out the procedures for its investigation now that it is actively considering moving to impeach President Donald Trump, a major step toward formalizing its sweeping probe, according to multiple sources familiar with the effort.

The vote, which is expected to occur on Wednesday, will lay out the ground rules for conducting hearings now that the committee has publicly announced it is considering recommending articles of impeachment against Trump. It is expected to follow the precedent set in 1974 over the committee's procedures during then-President Richard Nixon's impeachment proceedings.
Sources told CNN on Friday that the resolution is expected to spell out that Chairman Jerry Nadler, a New York Democrat, has the authority to call hearings at either the full committee or subcommittee level in connection with its impeachment deliberations.

The resolution, sources say, is expected to make clear that future House Judiciary hearings can be conducted in ways different from most congressional hearings since the panel is considering impeachment. For instance, the resolution is expected to authorize committee staff counsels to question witnesses, something that is typically not done at congressional hearings.

Posted by orrinj at 8:20 AM


A blow to Washington... China to invest $280 billion in Iranian sectors targeted by sanctions (MEM, September 7, 2019)

China is planning to invest $280 billion in Iran's oil, gas, and petrochemical sectors that are being affected by US sanctions, according to Petroleum Economist magazine.

The energy affairs magazine quoted a senior source who was linked to the Iranian Oil Ministry, as stating that this enormous investment represents a key point in a new agreement between the two countries. This was confirmed during Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif's visit to China in late August, to present a roadmap for the strategic comprehensive partnership agreement, which concluded in 2016.

According to the magazine, Beijing also pledged to invest $120 billion in Iran's oil sector and industrial infrastructure.

Posted by orrinj at 8:09 AM


GOP STRATEGISTS FEAR TRUMP'S "POCAHONTAS" THING ISN'T WORKING: Elizabeth Warren turns out to be more resilient than expected. (TINA NGUYEN, SEPTEMBER 5, 2019, Vanity Fair)
The "Pocahontas" slur, Republican insiders fear, isn't cutting it.

Several strategists tell the Daily Beast that Trump was caught off guard by the resonance of Warren's populist rhetoric--a skill set that in some ways mirrors his own, minus the mental effluvia and human rights violations--and said she might be "tougher" to compete against than he realized, repeatedly asking advisers whether they consider Warren to be a "fighter." Others confessed that, despite their best efforts to comb her record for dirt and to workshop attacks, the GOP oppo machine has been struggling to land any blows. Sure, some of Warren's proposals are pie-in-the-sky, and maybe the math is hazy, but have you listened to Donald Trump? One strategist suggested that conservative think tanks have been struggling to keep up with the sheer volume of white papers Warren has been generating. that they think the 2016 campaign worked.

Posted by orrinj at 7:30 AM


The Republicans Are Dropping Like Flies: What do retiring members of Congress know that President Trump doesn't? (Frank Bruni, Sept. 7, 2019, NY Times)

To recap: Before the 2018 midterms, 46 Republicans but only 20 Democrats decided not to seek re-election to their offices in Congress, and among those, 32 Republicans and 11 Democrats weren't doing that in order to run for some higher, different post. They were just bolting. The discrepancy between the Republican and Democratic numbers amounted to a weather forecast -- and an accurate one at that. Although Democrats didn't improve their standing in the Senate, they picked up a whopping 40 seats in the House.

Heading into the 2020 election, 19 Republicans in Congress have already announced that they won't seek another term in their current office, a number higher than at the same point two years ago. Of the 19, 17 aren't retiring from Congress to pursue some kind of political promotion. Meanwhile, only four Democrats in all are retiring from Congress. To analyze these numbers in the context of what happened in the midterms is to conclude that Republicans are limping toward a disastrous Election Day.

Maybe Trump's fortunes are untethered from his party's. Maybe, as has happened so often over the course of his charmed life, he will soar while all around him plummet, and they instead of he will suffer for his sins. His campaign associates go to jail; he goes to the Group of 7. The most principled Republicans are driven from the fold; he reigns without principle over a party that has largely bent to his wishes rather than stand up for what it purported to believe.

"Most often I'm asked why so many Republicans aren't running for re-election," Dave Wasserman, who analyzes House races for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, told me. "But I ask why so many are. This isn't the cruise they signed up for." He noted that up until a few months before Trump effectively secured the Republican nomination in 2016, not a single Republican in Congress had endorsed him. The first two House members who took that icy plunge -- Chris Collins of New York and Duncan Hunter of California -- are now under criminal indictment (though not for anything having to do with Trump).

Except, of course, that Republicans down-ticket outpolled Donald in 2016 by enough to drag him over the finish line.  Their recognition that the weight is too heavy to bear removes his only support. It's a virtuous cycle.

Posted by orrinj at 7:22 AM


Why is billionaire George Soros a bogeyman for the hard right? (BBC, 7 September 2019)

He's a Jewish multi-billionaire philanthropist who has given away $32bn. Why does the hard right from America to Australia and from Hungary to Honduras believe George Soros is at the heart of a global conspiracy, asks the BBC's Mike Rudin.

One quiet Monday afternoon last October in leafy upstate New York, a large manila envelope was placed in the mailbox of an exclusive country mansion belonging to multi-billionaire philanthropist George Soros.

The package looked suspicious. The return address was misspelt as "FLORIDS" and the mail had already been delivered earlier that day. The police were called and soon the FBI was on the scene.

Inside the bubble-wrapped envelope was a photograph of Soros, marked with a red "X". Alongside it, a six-inch plastic pipe, a small clock, a battery, wiring and a black powder.

More than a dozen similar packages were sent to the homes of former President Barack Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other prominent Democrats.

None of the devices exploded. The FBI traced the bombs to a white van covered in pro-Trump and anti-Democrat stickers, parked in a supermarket car park in Florida.

Immediately the right-wing media claimed it was a "false-flag" operation intended to derail President Donald Trump and the Republican campaign, just two weeks before the crucial US mid-term elections.

Fox Business host Lou Dobbs tweeted: "Fake News - Fake Bombs. Who could possibly benefit by so much fakery?" Conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh added: "Republicans just don't do this kind of thing."

Soon the internet was awash with allegations that the bomb plot was a hoax organised by Soros himself.

President Trump condemned the "despicable acts", but when a member of the audience at a White House reception shouted "Soros! Lock him up!" the president seemed amused. [...]

But it was Donald Trump's election victory that took the attacks on Soros to a new and dangerous level.

Eight months into Trump's presidency, in August 2017, neo-Nazis held a torchlit procession in Charlottesville, Virginia. Clashes with counter-protesters ended in tragedy, when a white supremacist drove a car into a crowd and killed 32-year-old Heather Heyer.

Among US right-wingers it was soon claimed that the violence was orchestrated and financed by Soros, in order to tarnish the reputation of President Trump. And they said the key to the secret plot was a man called Brennan Gilmore, who filmed the car being driven into the counter-protesters. Right-wing radio host Alex Jones claimed Gilmore was paid $320,000 a year by Soros and was part of a deep-state coup to oust the president. [...]

Last autumn thousands of migrants left Honduras bound for the USA, just a month before the mid-term elections that threatened to weaken Republican control of Congress.

Immediately the so-called migrant caravan was blamed on Soros. Fox News repeatedly broadcast claims that Soros wanted open borders and unrestricted immigration.

Jack Kingston, a former Republican Congressman, told me: "It is a very organised effort and somebody is behind this, somebody is paying for some of this and it would be typical of George Soros to get involved in that."

For his part, President Trump retweeted a video that claimed to show cash being handed out to people in Honduras to "storm the US border", with a suggestion that the cash might have come from Soros.

When asked outside the White House whether Soros was funding the migrant caravan, he replied: "I wouldn't be surprised. A lot of people say yes."

Posted by orrinj at 7:16 AM


Syria says joint U.S.-Turkish patrols violate country's sovereignty (Reuters, 9/08/19) 

Syria condemned on Sunday joint U.S.-Turkish patrols in a border strip in the northeast of the country, saying it was a "flagrant violation" of its sovereignty, an official statement said.

Someone hasn't bee paying attention to the war.  It's a free-fire zone.

Posted by orrinj at 7:08 AM


Immigration agents arrest Houston father and community activist lauded by the city after he invited ICE to a town hall (Lomi Kriel, Sep. 6, 2019, Houston Chronicle)

Roland Gramajo organized a community town hall in Sharpstown last month to allay residents' fears after a tense few weeks this summer when President Donald Trump's promises of widespread raids alarmed immigrants and their families across the nation.

The 40-year-old father of five American children has long been a devoted community activist, advocating particularly on behalf of his Guatemalan countrymen. In 2018, Mayor Sylvester Turner declared Gramajo's birthday of May 17 as the advocate's official day in the city for being a "true leader with an exceptional drive to improve the quality of life" in Houston.

Gramajo invited representatives with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to attend the Aug. 18 community event, which also featured U.S. Rep. Sylvia Garcia, a Houston Democrat.

The agency declined.

At the event, Garcia and others noticed three white men who acted suspiciously, taking videos and photographs of the mostly Hispanic crowd.

Three weeks later, on Sept. 5, Gramajo was driving to work when immigration agents stopped him and took him into custody. The agency said in a statement that Gramajo had been deported to Guatemala in 2004 and had returned, which is a felony. It reinstated his old deportation order.

Activists and community leaders who know Gramajo said they find it odd how he suddenly landed on the agency's radar after 15 years of living here illegally following that deportation. They said his arrest is the latest instance of the Trump administration deporting longtime immigrants with deep American roots, rather than focusing on serious criminals and violent offenders.

Posted by orrinj at 6:36 AM


Televised debates a new step in Tunisia's young democracy (Tarek Amara, Angus McDowall, 9/08/19, Reuters) 

Eight presidential candidates stood behind their podiums aiming to impress Tunisian voters on Saturday evening in the young democracy's first ever televised election debate.

Although Tunisia has held elections twice since throwing off autocratic rule in the 2011 revolution which triggered the "Arab Spring" uprisings, democracy is still taking root and such direct questioning of all the candidates is a novelty.

September 7, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 11:45 AM


Posted by orrinj at 11:39 AM


Thom Tillis' terrible, no good and totally predictable bad day (THE EDITORIAL BOARD, SEPTEMBER 05, 2019, charlotte Observer)

[Trump]  falsely gave credit to a Republican who didn't deserve it instead of a Democrat who did. Tillis could have been the big man here with a follow up tweet, something as simple as: "Thanks, Mr. President, for granting the governor's request for an emergency declaration. I'm glad the conversation you and I had will bring comfort to the people of North Carolina in the wake of Hurricane Dorian." That would have allowed to Tillis to be the good guy for directing credit to the proper person while getting some cred for nudging the president to help North Carolina.

Instead, Tillis said nothing. By Wednesday morning, people had noticed. Twitter sizzled with disdain at the president's and senator's political cravenness. The Washington Post and others picked up the story. Instead of getting an easy political win, Tillis was left appearing both opportunistic and afraid to even gently correct Trump.

Then his day got worse. Late in the afternoon, news broke that $80 million worth of construction projects at North Carolina military bases were being cut to shift funds to building the president's wall on the Mexican border. The total includes $40 million for a new battalion complex and ambulatory care center at Camp Lejeune, as well as a planned elementary school to serve families at Fort Bragg. The $80 million in N.C. cuts were more than in any other state with a GOP senator facing reelection in 2020.

Trump's wall already was the source of one of the senator's weakest moments. As N.C. voters surely remember, Tillis announced in February that he would vote against the president's effort to circumvent Congress and pay for the wall by declaring a national emergency at the southern border. Three weeks later, he backed down and gave his blessing and vote to the president's overreach.

Now that decision will doubly haunt him.

Posted by orrinj at 7:21 AM


Nineteenth-Century Nihilists Foretold Our Era: Why the Age of Alternative Facts Might Have Unnerved Even Nietzsche (Robert Zaretsky September 6, 2019, Foreign Affairs)

To be sure, Dostoyevsky neither coined the term nor gave it currency. The word was loosely applied to semiclandestine student groups in mid-nineteenth-century Russia, at one another's throats over strategy but united in their determination to overthrow the repressive tsarist state. The publication of Ivan Turgenev's Fathers and Children in 1862 firmly entrenched the term in the popular imagination. The novel's charismatic protagonist, Evgeny Vasilich Bazarov, embodies a heroic conception of nihilism. When asked just who or what is a nihilist, Bazarov proudly replies: "We act on the basis of what we recognize as useful. . . . Nowadays the most useful thing of all is rejection--we reject." When his shocked interlocutor insists that the construction of a better world is also important, Bazarov cuts him short: "That's not for us to do. . . . First, the ground must be cleared."

Appalled by the terrorist activities of the young nihilists on whom Turgenev based Bazarov, Dostoyevsky transformed their political doctrine into something much larger and more dreadful. In his later novels, ranging from Crime and Punishment through The Devils to The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoyevsky suggested that the true specter haunting Europe was not communism but nihilism. It was an ism unlike any other insofar as it held that the carcass of the past was not worth preserving, the misery of the present demanded that one act, and the promise of the future permitted one to do whatever was necessary to bring it about. Whereas Turgenev's Bazarov made pronouncements, Dostoyevsky's Raskolnikov made plans and acted upon them.

Dostoyevsky drew nihilism from the realms of politics and ethics into that of metaphysics. If everything we have thought is a tale told by an idiot, if everything we have done amounts to a hill of beans, we find ourselves unmoored not just from morality but from the possibility of meaning itself. Everything is permitted, as Ivan Karamazov declares, when you believe in nothing and hold nothing to be important. Whereas the political nihilism that hovers over the characters in Fathers and Children disavows political and social institutions, the metaphysical nihilism that hounds the actors in The Brothers Karamazov disavows existence itself. 

Dostoyevsky and Nietzsche offered prescriptions along with their descriptions of our common predicament.
In order to grasp the relevance of this claim for our own era, we need to glance at the work of the man whose reading of Dostoyevsky led to the definition of nihilism with which we still grapple. In 1887, Friedrich Nietzsche excitedly wrote to a friend about a discovery he had just made: "I knew nothing about Dostoyevsky until a few weeks ago. . . . The instinct of affinity (or what shall I call it?) spoke to me instantaneously--my joy was beyond bounds." As Nietzsche perceived, the Russian novelist had not just blasted political nihilism but also detonated the enlightened foundations, built with the mortar of reason and means of technology, into smithereens.

That same year, while still reading Dostoyevsky, Nietzsche posed the $64,000 question: "What does nihilism mean?" Nietzsche being Nietzsche, he already had the answer, one he emblazoned in italics: "That the highest values devaluate themselves." By "values," Nietzsche means nothing less than truth and reason. The acid of reason, by dissolving every belief we ever held, ultimately dissolves itself. It seems to abandon us in a cosmic dead end, leaving us with a dismal consolation prize--the paradoxical affirmation that "there is simply no true world." 

The Anglosphere is characterized by nothing so much as the ease with which we escaped the impasse.

Posted by orrinj at 7:17 AM


You will be eating replacement meats within 20 years. Here's why (Carsten Gerhardt, 7/20/19, WEF)

The conversion of grain (when used as livestock feed) in dry weight to meat with similar amounts of calories is around 15% across all meat types, as most of this energy is lost in keeping animals' body temperature constant, creating by-products and excreting waste. If by-products are considered as edible meat, the conversion rate rises to 23%. Meanwhile, novel vegan and cultured meat need significantly less material input and water to create the same amount of meat. Their conversion rates are 75% and 70% respectively.

The curve is nowhere near inverted enough.
Posted by orrinj at 7:08 AM


Air Force crew made an odd stop on a routine trip: Trump's Scottish resort: Now the layover is part of a broader House inquiry into military spending at and around the Trump property. (NATASHA BERTRAND and BRYAN BENDER, 09/06/2019, Politico)

In early Spring of this year, an Air National Guard crew made a routine trip from the U.S. to Kuwait to deliver supplies.

What wasn't routine was where the crew stopped along the way: President Donald Trump's Turnberry resort, about 50 miles outside Glasgow, Scotland.

Since April, the House Oversight Committee has been investigating why the crew on the C-17 military transport plane made the unusual stay -- both en route to the Middle East and on the way back -- at the luxury waterside resort, according to several people familiar with the incident. But they have yet to receive any answers from the Pentagon.

The inquiry is part of a broader, previously unreported probe into U.S. military expenditures at and around the Trump property in Scotland. According to a letter the panel sent to the Pentagon in June, the military has spent $11 million on fuel at the Prestwick Airport -- the closest airport to Trump Turnberry -- since October 2017, fuel that would be cheaper if purchased at a U.S. military base. The letter also cites a Guardian report that the airport provided cut-rate rooms and free rounds of golf at Turnberry for U.S. military members.

Taken together, the incidents raise the possibility that the military has helped keep Trump's Turnberry resort afloat -- the property lost $4.5 million in 2017, but revenue went up $3 million in 2018.

Posted by orrinj at 7:02 AM


September 6, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 9:59 PM


Police investigating local man's racist threats (Brian Chasnoff, Sep. 3, 2019, San Antonio Express-News)

For the past year and a half, a gun-toting San Antonio man has forwarded more than 100 pages of complaints to the Texas attorney general's office detailing supposed violations of the state's sanctuary cities law and threatening to shoot undocumented immigrants.

Ralph Pulliam's 14 emails account for nearly half of all "sanctuary complaints" sent to the AG since the law took effect in September 2017 and established penalties for local police who fail to cooperate with immigration authorities.

Typed mostly in all caps, Pulliam's complaints warn of an "invasion of illegal aliens" and repeatedly threaten gun violence against the interlopers.

"We will open fire on these thugs," Pulliam, who is white, vowed in one email. "It will be a bloodbath." [...]

Police were not aware of Pulliam's complaints to the AG until a reporter pointed them out this week. The attorney general's office never forwarded any of the messages to the San Antonio Police Department, Ramos said.

Posted by orrinj at 7:05 PM


Robert Mugabe, Strongman Who Cried, 'Zimbabwe Is Mine,' Dies at 95 (Alan Cowell, Sept. 6, 2019, NY Times)

Robert Mugabe, the first prime minister and later president of independent Zimbabwe, who traded the mantle of liberator for the armor of a tyrant and presided over the decline of one of Africa's most prosperous lands, died on Friday in Singapore, where he had been receiving medical care. [...]

[A]t a time when the election of President Trump had stirred consternation among America's European and NATO allies, the usually anti-Western Mr. Mugabe surprised them when, speaking of Mr. Trump, he urged global leaders to "give him time."

He also endorsed one of Mr. Trump's core electoral promises.

"Well, America for America, America for Americans -- on that we agree," Mr. Mugabe said, reprising one of his oldest slogans: "Zimbabwe for Zimbabweans." [...]

Starting around 2000, Mr. Mugabe's lieutenants sent squads of young men to invade hundreds of white-owned farms and chase away their owners. The campaign took a huge toll.

Over two years, nearly all of the country's white-owned land had been redistributed to about 300,000 black families, among them 50,000 aspiring black commercial farmers and many of Mr. Mugabe's loyalists. By late 2002, only about 600 of the country's 4,500 white farmers had kept parts of their land.

The violent agricultural revolution had come with a heavy price: The economy was collapsing as farmland fell into disuse and peasant farmers struggled to grow crops without fertilizer, irrigation, farm equipment, money or seeds. Food shortages, at first ascribed to drought, only worsened as farmers were forced to stop farming. When food aid arrived, people who had opposed Mr. Mugabe said government officials had denied them handouts to punish them.

As his nation's misery came to infect the rest of southern Africa, Mr. Mugabe offered other African leaders a quandary: How could they oppose his policies or pressure him toward change without being seen by their own followers as traitors to the anticolonial cause?

Posted by orrinj at 5:40 PM


Why 'Wichita Lineman' Contains the Greatest Musical Couplet Ever Written (Dylan Jones, September 6, 2019, LitHub)

There is little ambiguity about the greatest couplet ever written. The punchline--the sucker punch--of "Wichita Lineman," the line in the song that resonates so much, the line that contains one of the most exquisite romantic couplets in the history of song--"And I need you more than want you / and I want you for all time"--could be many people's perfect summation of love, although some, including writer Michael Hann, think it's something sadder and perhaps more profound. "It is need, more than want, that defines the narrator's relationship; if they need their lover more than wanting them, then naturally they will want them for all time. The couplet encompasses the fear that those who have been in relationships do sometimes struggle with: good God, what happens to me if I am left alone?" Hann is certainly right when he says that it's a heart-stopping line, and no matter how many hundreds of times you hear it, no matter what it means to you, it never loses its ability to shock and confound.

There is also another more prosaic interpretation of the line, however, one that mirrors Brian Wilson's "God Only Knows," in which Wilson says that while he may not always love the object of his desire, as long as there are stars above her she never needs to doubt it. Meaning: my love could not be greater, and no matter how much I need you, my love for you is so immense that it matters not one jot. Bob Stanley, the musician and author, says that the line is the most beautiful in the pop canon, "one that makes me stop whatever I'm doing every single time I hear it."

"It came out without any effort whatsoever," Webb told me:

I don't remember putting any particular concentration behind it, which may be why it flows. When I started seriously performing in my later years, about twenty years ago, I moved east and I played all the big nightclubs in New York, and I think I was exposed to an audience that really appreciated the finer points of songwriting a little bit more than maybe the surfer guys that I grew up with. People would come up to me and say, "How did you write that line?" And I would say, "Excuse me?" And they would say, "How did you write that line, 'I need you more than want you / and I want you for all time'?" I'd say, "I don't know. It felt right, it seemed like a good idea at the time." Then--and I'm being very candid with you--I began to notice it more and more, and then I had guys coming up to me after the show and saying it was the greatest line ever written. I'd laugh. Then it got to a point where a guy would come running up to me and say, "The greatest line ever written!" And I'd say, "Let me guess." It became so pervasive it became like a meme. I have a black T-shirt I sell at my gigs that's kind of a silhouette, kind of an artsy, nice picture of a lineman, and on the back it says, "I need you more than want you and I want you for all time." And these T-shirts sell like hot cakes, they fly off the table.

I was trying to express the inexpressible, the yearning that goes beyond yearning, that goes into another dimension, when I wrote that line. It was a moment where the language failed me really; there was no way for me to pour this out, except to go into an abstract realm, and that was the line that popped out. I think the fascination comes from the fact that it just pushes the language a little bit beyond what it was really meant to express, because it could be deemed perfectly nonsensical--"I need you more than want you / and I want you for all time." I mean, those are all abstract concepts, all jammed up together there. But that's because it's trying to express the inexpressible.

Posted by orrinj at 5:29 PM

Posted by orrinj at 5:25 PM

AS IF HE HAD IT TO LOSE (profanity alert):

'He's losing his s---': Trump's advisers are increasingly worried about his mental state following days of erratic behavior (Sonam Sheth, 9/06/19, Business Insider)

President Donald Trump's aides and confidants are growing more and more concerned about his mental state after days of erratic behavior, wild outbursts, and bizarre fixations.

"No one knows what to expect from him anymore," one former White House official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal conversations about the president, told Insider. "His mood changes from one minute to the next based on some headline or tweet, and the next thing you know his entire schedule gets tossed out the window because he's losing his s---." [...]

"He's deteriorating in plain sight," one Republican strategist who's in frequent contact with the White House told Insider on Friday.

Asked why the president was obsessed with Alabama instead of the states that would actually be affected by the storm, the strategist said, "you should ask a psychiatrist about that; I'm not sure I'm qualified to comment."

The Sharpie fumes are addling what's left.

Posted by orrinj at 4:57 PM


Jimmy Johnson, Muscle Shoals Guitarist Who Backed Soul & Rock Giants, Dead at 76: Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section member could be heard on hundreds of records and worked with Aretha Franklin, Paul Simon, Wilson Pickett and Lynyrd Skynyrd (JONATHAN BERNSTEIN , 9/06/19, Rolling Stone)

Growing up in the South in the 1950s, Johnson was drawn to the blooming sounds of rock, R&B and the electric blues. "I guess you'd say my inspiration was Chuck Berry," he said in an interview earlier this year. "My parents always tried to get me to play country music and I just didn't like it that much."

Johnson began to study the guitar-playing of artists like Berry, Jimmy Reed and Bo Diddley. After gigging in the Northwest Alabama area as a teenager, Johnson began working at Rick Hall's FAME studios in Muscle Shoals in the early Sixties, where he eventually began playing on sessions by R&B greats like Aretha Franklin, Etta James, and Clarence Carter. Asked about the secret to his backing band's ability to back such a wide cross section of American pop music earlier this year, Johnson had a simple answer. "We would try to never play the same lick twice," he said.

In 1969, Johnson, alongside FAME backup musicians Roger Hawkins, Barry Beckett, and David Hood, left Hall to found the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio. Over the next decade, everyone from Paul Simon and Bob Dylan to Cher and Jimmy Cliff would record at the studio, using the Swampers as their backup band. At Muscle Shoals Sound, Johnson also became an influential recording engineer, serving as the engineer for the Rolling Stones' famous Sticky Fingers" sessions in 1969, which produced "Wild Horses," "Brown Sugar" and "You Gotta Move."

Despite being a member of one of the most foundational session groups in American musical history, Johnson was a humble musician who was never eager for attention. "The best way to put it is we consider ourselves backup players," he said recently, "not stars."

Posted by orrinj at 4:54 PM


Why Can't California Solve Its Housing Crisis?: It's the epicenter of the tech industry and the wealthiest, most progressive state in the union, but homelessness is surging -- and no one can agree on how to fix it (TESSA STUART, 9/06/19, Rolling Stone)

California has been experiencing a "housing crisis" since at least the 1970s, but the situation has rapidly deteriorated in just the past few years. According to research by the San Jose Mercury News, in 2012, a family with an income of $100,000 could afford the median rent in 72 percent of Bay Area neighborhoods; as of 2018, the same family could afford the median rent in just 28 percent of those neighborhoods. Worse, there was not a single enclave in the Bay Area last year where a family with two parents working full-time making $15 an hour could afford the median rent.

At its heart, California's housing problem is one of scarcity: According to one analysis, the state has 3.5 million fewer homes than it needs to house all the people who live there. That gap was created over decades -- largely as a result of the zoning policies of individual communities, under pressure from local residents. Randy Shaw, a longtime Bay Area housing advocate and author of the book Generation Priced Out, says the best way to describe the dynamics at play is to look at the city of Atherton. Thirty minutes from San Jose, Atherton is the most expensive city in the country: The median price of a home there is $8.1 million.

Build more housing.

Posted by orrinj at 4:48 PM


Sohrab Ahmari Is a Joke: The emptiness of conservative nationalism. (PETER SUDERMAN | 9.6.2019, reason)

As debates go, it was profoundly lopsided.

French, a lawyer and former president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, repeatedly challenged Ahmari to explain what concrete actions he proposed to defend religious liberty and culture. In doing so, French demonstrated over and over again that Ahmari's arguments are hollow, that his thinking is shallow, that he is an utter lightweight on virtually all the matters of policy substance he claimed to care about. To put it in the kind of blunt and less-than-civil terms that the Post editor might use, the evening proved that Sohrab Ahmari is a joke. 

Much of the debate centered on "drag queen story hour," an event held at a California public library that was, by Ahmari's telling, the inciting incident for his attack against French. Ahmari was offended by this event's existence, and for whatever reason he decided that French, and French's style of political argument, were to blame.

Ahmari brought up the California event early in the evening, calling it and others like it a "cultural crisis and a moral emergency." Drag queen story hour, he warned, was a "global movement," since the group that hosts it has 35 chapters. "It is," he said, "a threat." 

This eventually prompted French to ask the obvious question: What would Ahmari do to combat this supposed crisis? "What public power would you use?" he asked. "And how would it be constitutional?"

Ahmari's answer--and I promise I am not making this up--was that he would hold a congressional hearing "on what's happening in our libraries," in which sympathetic conservative senators such as Josh Hawley and Tom Cotton would "make the head of the Modern Library Association or whatever sweat." 

America finds these Nationalist clowns even when they refuse to be open about what they want to do.  To speak it aloud would be catastrophic.

Posted by orrinj at 1:55 PM


WHAT HAPPENED TO THE GUYS WHO INVESTED THEIR LIFE SAVINGS IN CRYPTOCURRENCY?: The short answer is, they became a valuable lesson for the rest of us to never, ever do this (Andrew Fiouzi, MEL)

It was the "summer of crypto love" -- private Telegram groups were ablaze with altcoin (every cryptocurrency alternative to Bitcoin) chatter, Bitcoin whales were breaching the digital horizon and the crypto-community writ large was wondering when they were going interstellar. "At the time, we all thought we were going to the moon and there would be Lambos lined up on the other side," says Kyle, a crypto community moderator. "But turns out most of us ended up with Camrys." 

Kyle is referring to the second half of 2017, when the price of Bitcoin -- a decentralized digital currency commonly referred to as cryptocurrency -- went from being worth $3,000 a coin in May of that year to its peak of $20,000 per Bitcoin just seven months later. "FOMO was a major talking point inside these crypto communities," explains Kyle. "Everyone was investing on the basis of FOMO, but very few actually knew or cared about what the companies were building. It was all hearsay and hope."

But hearsay and hope is often enough to convince someone to gamble their life on fairy dust. "I was working for a bank in Europe when a colleague told me about Ethereum [another cryptocurrency] end of 2016," writes soundsoviel, a self proclaimed "crypto millionaire." "That's when I invested blindly what I had left from my savings. Boy I had no idea. It went well as you might know. I also had the right timing when I switched from Ethereum to eos [yet another cryptocurrency] one year later. My initial investment was suddenly worth about almost 100x in a liquid market. Worth about a million [dollars]. I didn't tell anyone about that apart from my parents, my best friend and the colleague who told me about crypto." [sic throughout]

Although he would go on to lose everything once the crypto market began to hemorrhage -- he notes in the same reddit post that he's sitting in a bar in the slums of East Africa, enjoying his "$0.60 beer in the shadow" -- his story is still among the luckier ones with regard to people who attempted to ride the crypto wave only to find themselves washed up on the shore without a penny in their pocket. That's because soundsoviel, at least, was playing with house money -- others went deep into the red in the hope of striking gold and found themselves reeling in nothing but a nightmare of debt. 

Case in point: redditor Crypthomie, who identifies himself as a 32-year-old living in Abu Dhabi, and who just last year posted an image of his repayment schedule for the nearly $400,000 loan he took out to invest in crypto. His schedule, which began in January 2018, will see him pay a little over $8,000 a month toward his loan until the end of 2021. "Still 3 and half years to go until I'm freed," he wrote in 2018. "Until then, I'm working for nothing and I'm at 85 percent loss. I hope it gives you a lesson." 

Last year, he told exactly how his investment in the crypto bubble backfired. Per the report, he bought several altcoins like Neo, Stellar, Litecoin, Ethereum and "some other shit coins," in hopes that one of them would be the next Bitcoin, "most of which, lost 95 percent of their value." "I'm 32, and it was my first speculative investment," he told "I think it's an age where we're still unconscious and take lot of risk if we don't have big responsibilities like a kid or bills to pay." 

While he's one of the lucky few who could even afford to pay a bill that big that fast, he's not alone in his recklessness.

Posted by orrinj at 11:13 AM


Trump's Doonbegdoggle (TIM MILLER  SEPTEMBER 4, 2019, The Bulwark)

In the lead-up to then Secretary Clinton's anticipated presidential bid, I worked with national reporters on the first stories highlighting the conflicts of interest between her work at the State Department and the individuals and companies who were supportive of their various charities.

Most of the Clinton stories I worked on were about appearances of impropriety or a changing of policy priorities to match the Foundation's interests. [...]

[T]he money the Clinton Foundation took in came from donors and paid for lavish conferences--but it also paid for anti-malarial drugs, green building initiatives, and disaster relief. There was graft. But it was, as George W. Plunkitt would have put it, honest graft. (Note: This term is not exactly a compliment.)

Meanwhile the money being pumped into the Trump Organization sometimes comes from private individuals seeking to curry favor at the Trump Hotel, but more often comes from the taxpayers, who pick up the tab every time someone from the administration stays at a Trump property on the public's dime.

And no part of it is being used charitably. It's pure wealth transfer--all the way to the end-user. Remember, the Trump Family's "charity" (to the extent that it existed) was mostly a vehicle for tax breaks and the commissioning of massive acrylic paintings of its self-proclaimed God-emperor.

Posted by orrinj at 11:09 AM


Florida man arrested in Walmart shooting threat called himself white nationalist in Facebook post, cops say (Jeff Weiner, 9/06/19, ORLANDO SENTINEL)

[D]etails were included in a 77-page report recently filed in Orange County Circuit Court by the Winter Park Police Department. It is seeking to have Clayton banned from owning firearms or ammunition for one year under Florida's "red flag" law, which allows the government to seize firearms of people deemed dangerous to themselves or others.

Clayton was arrested after agents with the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force and Florida Department of Law Enforcement flagged Facebook posts they said the young man made under a false name, including one that said, "3 more days of probation left then I get my AR-15 back. Don't go to walmart next week." [...]

Screen shots of many of the Jared Janota posts, some of which had previously been described in an affidavit for Clayton's arrest, were included in the documents filed last month.

Many used racist language and stereotypes, while others laid out the user's white supremacist ideology.

"Everyone [in real life] calls me a 'Nazi' despite my countless attempts to correct their assumptions about my political beliefs by claiming that I am simply a white nationalist and registered Republican," said one post on Oct. 24. 

Posted by orrinj at 10:45 AM


If only Georges Simenon had been a bit more like Maigret (Ian Thomson, 31 August 2019, The Spectator)

On the 30th anniversary of his death on 4 September, Simenon continues to be read and enjoyed. Although he dismissed his 75 romans Maigret as 'semi-potboilers', they are unquestionably literature. 'In 100 years from now,' Ian Fleming told him in 1963, 'you'll be one of the great classical French authors.' Like the 007 extravaganzas, the books were written fast, without outline and hardly corrected at all. Simenon demanded silence as he set out to write one Maigret adventure a week. When Alfred Hitchcock telephoned one day, he was told: 'Sorry, he's just started a novel.' 'That's all right, I'll wait,' came the reply.

Posted by orrinj at 8:07 AM


Border Patrol checkpoint on Interstate 89 in Lebanon snarls traffic, causes stir (JORDAN CUDDEMI and TIM CAMERATO, 9/05/19, Valley News)

 A U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint on Interstate 89 southbound in Lebanon snarled traffic throughout the city for much of Thursday, delaying commuters and angering some Upper Valley residents who characterized the effort as a waste of time and an affront to civil liberties.

About 20 Border Patrol and Homeland Security agents ran the checkpoint between exits 19 and 18, stopping vehicles in both lanes of the interstate, including buses from Greyhound and Advance Transit, to ask occupants if they were U.S. citizens.

Posted by orrinj at 8:00 AM


Trump, irked at Shep Smith, has now roped Fox News into his increasingly odd crusade to prove he was right about Dorian and Alabama (Peter weber, 9/06/19, The Week)
President Trump just can't let it go, and it's getting weird. In four days of trying to prove that his wrong information about Hurricane Dorian threatening Alabama was actually technically right, Trump has dragged in Homeland Security officials, several outdated maps, a Coast Guard admiral, and even Fox News reporter John Roberts, according to an email Roberts wrote to colleagues and obtained by CNN.

And yes, the president used a Sharpie to alter a government forecast map so it included Alabama, a White House official tells The Washington Post. "No one else writes like that on a map with a black Sharpie," the official said.

In his email, Roberts said Trump called him into the Oval Office on Thursday afternoon and "stressed to me that forecasts for Dorian last week had Alabama in the warning cone," the president presumably "looking for acknowledgment that he was not wrong for saying that at some point, Alabama was at risk -- even if the situation had changed by the time he issued the tweet" on Sunday. A White House aide told CNN that Trump also summoned Roberts "to hit back at Shepard Smith," the Fox News anchor who had just thoroughly deflated Trump's bizarre "fake news" about Dorian and Alabama. "Some things in Trumplandia are inexplicable," Smith shrugged.

Posted by orrinj at 7:56 AM


The Sisters Of A-WA 'Want To Bring Something New' To Yemen's Musical Traditions (Ari Shapiro, 9/03/19, ATC)

A-WA is made up of three Israeli sisters, Tair, Liron and Tagel Haim. This melodic trio of Jewish women of Yemeni descent women emphasize mixing their culture's traditions with forward-thinking modifications to sound, visuals and ethos. The sisters are known for eye-popping music videos that challenge gender stereotypes. Picture women in traditional robes that are neon pink while off-roading across a barren desert. The trio's sound is just as distinctive. The sisters' latest album, Bayti Fi Rasi (My Home Is In My Head), reworks traditional music from their ancestors' home country of Yemen with hip-hop and electronic elements.

While A-WA was at NPR's headquarters in Washington D.C. to perform a Tiny Desk concert, the members spoke with NPR's Ari Shapiro about the messaging of the band's music.

"The songs on this album are inspired by our great grandma," Tahir, the eldest sister, says. "She was traveling from Yemen to Israel as a single mom and ["Hana Mash Hu Al Yaman"] talks about her arrival in Israel. They put all the Yemenite Jews back then in transition camps or a tent camp. ... We talk about all the mixed emotions she felt."

Posted by orrinj at 7:53 AM


As Trump mulls Iran diplomacy, Mnuchin plays more visible role (Laura Rozen, September 5, 2019, Al Monitor)

The White House on Thursday said that it had nothing to announce in response to a Kyodo news report that the United States had requested a meeting between President Donald Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly later this month.

The report comes as Trump has mulled French proposals to try to reduce tensions with Iran that include offering Iran a European line of credit in exchange for Iran's return to full compliance with the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and avoiding provocations in the Persian Gulf. Trump, surrounded mostly by hard-line advisers averse to diplomacy with Iran, including national security adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, has increasingly turned to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin when contemplating diplomatic options involving Iran, sources said.

every step of the WoT aids our Shi'a allies.

Posted by orrinj at 7:47 AM


It's Not the "Deep State." It's the State. (Hedgehog Review, 3/17/17)

The idea that a "shadow government" or "deep state" has been actively resisting Trump since the president's inauguration has been widely circulated on right and alt-right media channels. Last week, Rush Limbaugh published an article indiscreetly titled, "Barack Obama and His Deep State Operatives are Attempting to Sabotage the Duly Elected President of the United States." Meanwhile, Sean Hannity took to the airwaves to argue that the Russian hacking of the DNC was actually the work of American intelligence agencies seeking to undermine Trump. And I'd best not mention Breitbart News on the matter.

Thankfully, the notion that that the "deep state" is responsible for the Trump administration's bumbling, stumbling first couple months in office has been panned by pundits on the left and the right. The New Yorker's David Remnick wrote last week, "The problem in Washington is not a Deep State; the problem is a shallow man--an untruthful, vain, vindictive, alarmingly erratic President." Similarly, Kevin Williamson writes in the National Review that "it isn't the "Deep State" that is making President Donald Trump look like an amateur. It is amateurism."

But if reports are true that Trump, Bannon, and other members of the White House inner ring are feeling frustrated and blaming it on the "deep state," maybe we should ask why. Clearly, they feel like they are bumping up against something big. Just because they may be mistaking it for the "deep state" (let alone an Obama-run deep state), does not mean that they are not in fact facing some real big resistance: the state itself, that vast network of bureaucracies, rules, regulations, institutions, and cultures that comprise the United States government.

Despite Bannon's boasting that he and Trump are engaged in the "deconstruction of the administrative state," they are finding that state much more difficult to navigate (let alone deconstruct) than they probably ever imagined, and not just because it's big, unwieldy, and complex. Rather, it's because Team Trump itself is a makeshift alliance that is now trying to become the state.

Which the Constitution, courts and people prevent.

Posted by orrinj at 7:43 AM


Navalny's Gamble (Anahata Lovegood [a pseudonym], 9/06/19, Hedgehog Review)
Recently, Russia's uncommonly chilly early summer and volatile political atmosphere gave rise to a joke. Putin goes to a fortune teller and asks: "How long do I have left?" The fortune teller responds, "You have one summer." "All right," Putin says, "No more summers!"

The delayed summer weather finally arrived, but Putin's government is still pretending that the protests that have been occurring since late March are isolated eruptions fomented by provocateurs, in particular by the opposition blogger Alexei Navalny. To maintain this pretense the authorities have deployed overt repression, covert intimidation, and ideological indoctrination to stifle public displays of dissent. Yet the recent wave of protests on June 12, Russia's Independence Day, demonstrated that these tactics have only inflamed the spirit of disobedience.

Many young Russians are eager to proclaim their independence from the corrupt and unjust regime, and the March 26 protests, dubbed "the children's crusade," announced that a new generation has joined politics. High schoolers and college students who have grown up under Putin have paradoxically turned out to be more free and idealistic than their parents who had a taste of Gorbachev's glasnost and Yeltsin's reforms. Their youthful enthusiasm in denouncing corruption and naive assertion of their constitutional right to free assembly caught everyone, including the government and its obedient media, by surprise.

While the government-controlled media kept silent, the police and security forces arrested thousands in order to break up the demonstrations. Afterwards, participants were threatened with expulsion by school principals and college administrators. Prompted from above, many teachers lectured students on "patriotism" and "extremism" and told them to stay away from the internet and politics. Many of these "lectures," recorded by students and uploaded to social media, show just how reactionary and subservient to the government these educators are. Small wonder their students have long stopped listening to their teachers and embraced peer education on social media.

In addition to punishment and threats, Kremlin ideologues tried to discredit Navalny and appeal to young citizens by using twenty-first  century communication tools, the tools that have allowed Navalny's anti-corruption videos to spread so rapidly. Thus several weeks after the March protests there came a YouTube video that depicted Navalny as a new Hitler. Navalny's nationalist sympathies--for which he has been criticized by Russian liberals--are not a secret, but the video was so comically inept in achieving its goals that Navalny posted it on his website as yet another sign of the government being out of touch with its intended audience.

Posted by orrinj at 7:40 AM


Posted by orrinj at 7:28 AM


Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: 40 years on, the labyrinthine thriller is still TV caviar: The BBC adaptation of John Le Carré's novel mystified a nation - but also featured one of the greatest performances ever seen on the small screen (Paul MacInnes, 5 Sep 2019, The Guardian)

Watching Tinker Tailor today, you feel teleported: you get the thrill of watching something that is complex, that you can't quite make sense of but desperately wish to. (In 1979, the debate over Tinker Tailor's complexity continued into the Guardian's letters pages, with the counterpoint to the Larry Grayson position being articulated by a Dr Graham Nicholls, who made the case that "People love being mystified".)

You also get to watch something that is slow and often silent, and all the more powerful for that. "Arthur [Hopcraft] in his dialogue left a lot of space for silence," says Irvin of the celebrated Guardian journalist who went on to a brief but glittering career as a screenwriter. "It wasn't like working with Pinter, where it was deliberate, but it gave a chance to see what's going on behind the mask. A spy story is a succession of masks. It's poker - the silence is when you are trying to read the other's mind. If people talk a lot, they're not going to be very good spies. The trick was in timing the silence so that you don't overdo it and it becomes tedious, but leaving it long enough that it became tantalising."

Those moments worked as Irvin hoped, and form the centre of Tinker, Tailor. They are like the extended interrogations in Line of Duty, except the tension is more drawn out and there are more gaps the viewer is encouraged to fill. Those interrogations would not have been remotely as effective, however, had they not featured one of the greatest acting performances ever delivered on the small screen.

Sir Alec Guinness, it was suggested at the time, was able to play Smiley because he was rolling in Star Wars money. His reluctance to take the part of Obi-Wan Kenobi had led him to ask for 2% of the film's box office takings. That turned out to be a smart move and allowed Guinness some lassitude in selecting his next roles. According to Irvin, however, that did not mean he leapt at the prospect of Tinker, Tailor. "He needed three lunches with me and certainly a lunch with David [Cornwall, AKA John Le Carré] and the head of MI6 to be convinced that he would commit."

Eventually he did commit, and Guinness set about fully engaging with a character he described to the Guardian at the time as being "a vulnerable man who ... is capable of taking unexpectedly swift and rather harsh action".

It's not complex, it was just made at a point where the intellectual class still thought the Soviet Union were our peers. And, unlike the recent movie, it retains the ferocious anti-American/anti-Western flavor that made Le Carre a Soviet operative.

Posted by orrinj at 7:22 AM


The History of Tailgating: From Ancient Greece to the Ivy League: Long before football, people were pregaming everything from the fall harvest to executions. (Matt Blitz September 18, 2017, Food & Wine)

On Saturdays and Sundays over the next several months, as the leaves turn bright colors and a chill develops in the air, millions of Americans will be sitting in football stadium parking lots, eating burgers and drinking beer. The practice of tailgating is so popular and so anticipated that, at times, it overshadows the game itself--in fact, one study found that 10 percent of people who tailgate never end up going inside the stadium at all. But how did it become such an engrained part of the football experience?

For two years, Notre Dame professors and anthropologists John Sherry and Tonya Bradford traveled around the country studying, observing and documenting how Americans tailgated. In their 2015 report, they compared the modern-day tradition to ancient Greek and Roman practices of fall harvest celebrations known as "vestavals." Named after Vesta, the goddess of the hearth, these parties were held to enjoy the abundance of the fall harvest season. They were intended to bring the community together for an excessive feast of food and drink, perhaps for the last time before season turned bitter cold and food became scarcer. Comparing tailgating to ancient vestavals, Sherry told the New York Times that the "football season starts at the end of summer, goes through fall and ends on winter's doorstep. Tailgating is an autumnal rite that celebrates abundance in the face of austerity."

Posted by orrinj at 7:10 AM


Mike Pence will get nothing for his humiliation (Windsor Mann, September 6, 2019, The Week)

If you enter the Trump administration with dignity, you're unlikely to leave with it. Pence is no exception. At a December 2017 Cabinet meeting, Pence praised Trump once every 12 seconds for three minutes straight. At a Cabinet meeting four months earlier, he said, "The greatest privilege of my life is to serve as vice president to the president who's keeping his word to the American people." Being his wife's husband and his children's father are a close second and third, presumably.

What is the point of Mike Pence? As vice president, he serves no purpose other than to inflate Trump's ego and bank account.

Trump toadyism gets you temporary power, and perhaps a Fox News gig, but at the cost of everlasting ignominy. Trump's lackeys know this and fear its repercussions. Rudy Giuliani is worried that his tombstone will say, "He lied for Trump." This would make a suitable epitaph for everyone in Trump's orbit.

Pence's political future is bleak. Unless Trump resigns, dies, or is impeached in the next year, he is never going to be president. Trump selected him in 2016 to shore up support among religious conservatives. Mission accomplished. Three years into his presidency, evangelicals are smitten with the twice-divorced serial adulterer who occupies the Oval Office.

No one is smitten with Pence. Liberals deplore his anti-gay agenda. Anti-Trump conservatives abhor his obsequiousness and hypocrisy. Trump supporters view him as a holdover from the pre-Trump era, a token of the GOP establishment, and also a very boring guy. Pence has described himself as "Rush Limbaugh on decaf." Nothing could be more accurate or less inspiring.

Lackey in chief (Neil J. Young, September 6, 2019, The Week)

With Pence, Trump may have never imagined how good a lackey he would get from his second in command. Trump selected Pence as his running mate in 2016 to help shore up his support among white evangelicals in the election, a move that looked particularly prudent when the "Access Hollywood" tapes revealing Trump bragging about sexual assault broke in the final weeks of the campaign. Pence reportedly considered dropping from the ticket, but it seems likely that those rumors were little more than an effort to burnish his pious reputation. When the Stormy Daniels news came to light in early 2018, Pence dutifully furrowed his brows and reprimanded the press for entertaining the "baseless allegations." The journalists asking such questions were the real perverts, Pence suggested, not the president who had conducted an affair with a porn star who he later paid off.

Aside from providing moral -- or at least, political -- cover to Trump's ongoing unsavory conduct, Pence's habit of excessively praising the president and his creepy tendency to look at Trump adoringly has become legendary. His continual stroking of the world's most fragile ego demonstrates Pence knows exactly what he must do to keep Trump on his side, something vital for the vice president's own political ambitions.

That may not be enough, though. Given how petty and disloyal Trump is, Pence can never be too sure about where he sits with the president. Earlier this summer, Trump refused to say whether he would endorse Pence's own presidential run in 2024, part of the routine cat-and-mouse game Trump revels in playing with those close to him but an especially bruising insult to someone who has proved so obsequious. Pence also has to be aware of the frequent speculation that he won't be chosen again for Trump's re-election campaign in 2020.

That's where Pence's lavish spending on Trump's properties comes in. Far more than providing political cover or offering constant flattery, Pence stands to gain the most with Trump by continuing to put money in the president's wallet. This is a presidency for sale, after all, and those around Trump understand both what it can buy them and the price of not playing Trump's game.

Posted by orrinj at 7:03 AM


Lest We Forget: 2008 financial crisis, Ben Bernanke, Hank Paulson, Tim Geithner (ALEX J. POLLOCK, 9/06/19, Law & Liberty)

Here is the authors' confession: "Even in the months leading up to it, we didn't foresee how the scenario would unfold"--how it would "unravel" would be a better term. This was not for lack of effort. "All three of us established new risk committees and task forces within our institutions before the crisis to try to focus attention on systemic threats. . . calling for more robust risk management and humility about tail risks." But "none of us recognized how they were about to spiral out of control. For all our crisis experience, we failed to anticipate the worst crisis of our lifetimes."

This experience leads the authors to a reasonable conclusion: such a lack of foresight is likely to repeat itself in the future. "For us," they muse, "the crisis still feels like yesterday," but "markets have short memories, and as history has demonstrated, long periods of confidence and stability can"--I would say almost certainly do--"produce overconfidence and instability." So "we remain worried about the next fire." This is perfectly sensible, although the book's overuse of the "fire" metaphor becomes tiresome.

Failed foresight and future financial crises and panics are possible or probable. With that expectation and their searing experiences, the authors believe that it is essential to maintain the government's crisis authorities and bailout powers. This includes the ability to invest equity into the financial system when it would otherwise go broke, and they deplore the Dodd-Frank Act's having curtailed these powers.

To correct this, "Washington needs to muster the courage to restock the emergency arsenal with the tools which helped end the crisis of 2008--the authority for crisis managers to inject capital into banks, buy their assets, and especially to guarantee their liabilities." This would hardly be politically popular with either party now, because it would be seen as favoring bailouts of big banks. It would increase moral hazard, but would also reflect the reality that government officials will intervene in future financial crises, just as in past ones. 

No one could have forseen the degree to which quants and the institutions they worked for were fraudulently disguising higher risk debt in supposedly lower risk instruments.  But when it came time to put equity back into the banks, they should have done so by using the cash to retire debt of the citizenry.

Posted by orrinj at 6:53 AM


Dousing the Sovereignty Wildfire (JEAN PISANI-FERRY, 9/02/19, Project Syndicate)

The Macron-Bolsonaro dispute highlights the tension between two big recent trends: the increasing need for global collective action and the growing demand for national sovereignty. Further clashes between these two forces are inevitable, and whether or not they can be reconciled will determine the fate of our world.

Global commons are nothing new. International cooperation to fight contagious diseases and protect public health dates back to the early nineteenth century. But global collective action did not gain worldwide prominence until the turn of the millennium. The concept of "global public goods," popularized by World Bank economists, was then applied to a broad range of issues, from climate preservation and biodiversity to financial stability and Internet security.

In the post-Cold War context, internationalists believed that global solutions could be agreed upon and implemented to tackle global challenges. Binding global agreements, or international law, would be implemented and enforced with the help of strong international institutions. The future, it seemed, belonged to global governance.

This proved to be an illusion. The institutional architecture of globalization failed to develop as advocates of global governance had hoped. Although the World Trade Organization was established in 1995, no other significant global body has seen the light since then (and the WTO itself does not have much power beyond arbitrating disputes). Plans for global institutions to oversee investment, competition, or the environment were shelved. And even before US President Donald Trump started questioning multilateralism, regional arrangements began restructuring international trade and global financial safety nets.

Instead of the advent of global governance, the world is witnessing the rise of economic nationalism. As Monica de Bolle and Jeromin Zettelmeyer of the Peterson Institute found in a systematic analysis of the platforms of 55 major political parties from G20 countries, emphasis on national sovereignty and rejection of multilateralism are widespread.

Transnationalism was never a threat to the End of History, by definition. Peoples demand self-government.  Where global action is desired, as in trade schemes, participation must be voluntary.

Posted by orrinj at 6:44 AM


The 3395 Project: American National Identity Includes Both the Ideals of 1776 and the Legacy of 1619 (S. ADAM SEAGRAVE, 9/02/19, Public Discourse)

The 1619 Project really points us to the need for the 3395 Project--the project of constructing a new and stronger American identity that incorporates both the experiences, perspectives, and distinctive contributions of the descendants of enslaved Africans (1619) and also the aspirations and ideals enunciated by European Americans in the Declaration of Independence (1776). Both of these, together, constitute the core of what makes America exceptional.

I am supported in this opinion by many luminaries whose wisdom is recognized by conservative commentators. These include, for example, Alexis de Tocqueville and Frederick Douglass. In his often overlooked chapter on "the three races" in Democracy in America, Tocqueville provides the following remarkable statement:

The Americans are, of all modern peoples, those who have pushed equality and inequality furthest among men. They have combined universal suffrage and servitude. They seem to have wanted to prove in this way the advantages of equality by opposite arguments. It is claimed that the Americans, by establishing universal suffrage and the dogma of sovereignty of the people, have made clear to the world the advantages of equality. As for me, I think that they have above all proved this by establishing servitude, and I find that they establish the advantages of equality much less by democracy than by slavery.

Tocqueville's argument here--and in this chapter generally--is not far from that of the 1619 Project: the abstract principles of liberty and equality define American exceptionalism not merely by themselves, but even more so in the sharpness of their contrast with the practical reality of slavery. The political principles of 1776 are uniquely American. So too is the rigid, extensive, and pervasive system of race-based, black vs. white chattel slavery that accompanied them.

Frederick Douglass, in his speech on the Dred Scott decision, makes a similar point. He claims that "The American people have been called upon, in a most striking manner, to abolish and put away forever the system of slavery."

Why would Douglass think the American people had been called upon by Divine Providence to abolish slavery? The principles of 1776. Why would Douglass think the American people have been called upon not only to abolish American slavery here and now, but "to abolish and put away forever the system of slavery?" Because American slavery was in fact paradigmatic in many important ways. The defeat of this exceptionally embedded, extensive, race-based slave system at the hands of the exceptionally true and important principles of natural rights and natural law-based liberty and equality would be so powerful that no one could ever defend slavery as Chief Justice Taney had again.

Posted by orrinj at 6:21 AM


Republicans fear drubbing in next round of redistricting: It's shaping up as a 180-degree reversal from the political landscape heading into 2010. (ALEX ISENSTADT, 09/05/2019, Politico)

Democrats were caught napping in the 2010 election ahead of the last round of redistricting -- and it cost them control of Congress for nearly a decade.

Now Republicans are warning the same thing could happen to them.

Senior Republicans concede they're at risk of losing dozens of state-level elections that will determine who wields power over the post-2020 congressional map -- and potentially which party controls the chamber for the following 10 years. 

Our party is in for exactly the sort of drubbing that Donald and our acquiesence have earned us.

September 5, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 7:15 PM


Conservatives Should Watch More Television (KEVIN D. WILLIAMSON, September 4, 2019, National Review)

Margaret Thatcher famously insisted that the facts of life are conservative. Great art -- even merely adequate popular art -- begins with those facts of life and the timeless truths embedded in them. Hence a piece of highbrow television such as The Wire, which was created by a by-the-numbers progressive but could have been written by Charles Murray and Thomas Sowell and produced by the Manhattan Institute, exploring the serial failure of institutions (city government, labor unions, public schools, the media) in a largely black city with a Democratic monopoly on political power. The show's creators did not intend to create a conservative critique of the failures of urban progressivism, but they could not help themselves.

The same phenomenon is observable all over our popular culture: Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy reimagining Batman as a kind of esoteric Straussian who (in a series beginning just a few years after 9/11) countenances torture and illegal extradition methods to protect a public that must be kept in the dark about how hard things get done, who faces off against an Eastern terrorist cult targeting New York City, an amped-up version of Occupy Wall Street, and, most famously and perhaps most immediately relevant, an unhappy loser who shows that he can shut down a city with "a couple of bullets." Or consider Skyfall, with its Royal Doulton bulldog draped in the Union Jack, its conservative organizing principles ("Sometimes the old ways are the best") and dramatic retreat to the family homestead, its unabashed invocation of "patriotism" and "love of country." The Walking Dead ends up being an extended exploration of Mancur Olson's "stationary bandit" and the tensions between democracy, the rule of law, and the practical necessities of physical security -- with an ode to property rights and free trade thrown into the bargain. Breaking Bad was a reimagining of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, a meditation on the seduction of evil, and it ends with the most forthright of confessions: "I did it for me. I did it because I liked it." If a conservative social critic had tried to write a series about how to be an unhappy young woman, the result would have been something quite like Girls, or maybe Fleabag. The theme of Stranger Things is not so much "Winter is coming" but "Winter is already here, and always has been, if you know how to look."

There's a funny bit on this week's Remnant podcast where Jonah Goldberg and Charlie Cooke seem puzzled at how much they like 30 Rock and Parks and Rec.

Posted by orrinj at 6:58 PM


Trade uncertainty to trim $850 billion global output: Fed paper (Ann Saphir, 9/05/19, Reuters) 

Trade policy uncertainty driven by the Trump administration's escalating dispute with China means hundreds of billions of dollars in lost U.S. output and as much as $850 billion lost globally through early next year, research published this week by the Federal Reserve suggests.

It was fun when he was just losing Fred's money...

Posted by orrinj at 6:49 PM


US 'in talks with Houthis' in bid to end Yemen war: Official (Al Jazeera, 9/05/19)

The United States is in talks with Yemen's Houthi rebels, a top US official has said, in what appears to be a bid to end the five-year war in the Arab world's most impoverished country.

"We are narrowly focused on trying to end the war in Yemen," US assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs, David Schenker, told reporters on Thursday during a visit to Saudi Arabia.

Posted by orrinj at 1:54 PM


What Recession? Low Interest Rates Could Mean Tech-Fueled Growth (Zachary Karabell, September 2019, Wired)

[W]hat if rates are falling because technology is systematically depressing prices? If a wide swath of goods and services is getting cheaper and cheaper, then people and businesses and government don't have to spend as much for the same things. Yes, fighter jets and prescription drugs are more expensive than ever, but that's more because of government and market distortions than because the products are more expensive to make. In many sectors of our economy, things are becoming less expensive, not more. The result: less inflation, and slower nominal economic growth (some of which is attributable to inflation), but not actual contraction of economic activity. If you buy 100 of X at $100 a pop one year, and then you buy 100 of the new version of X two years later at $90, you've gotten what you need for less. That's good for you, but the country's GDP will decrease because you spent less.

The role of deflation and technology has not been ignored, but it has hardly been front and center. A recent analysis by Ark Investments suggested that in times of profound technological innovation, such as the late 19th and early 20th century, deflation can be common. This can confuse investors and lead to wild gyrations of long- and short-term interest rates.

The Industrial Revolution unleashed mechanization, leading to a proliferation of goods at cheap prices. Today, waves of software and communications technology are having a similar effect. Add to that the early stages of artificial intelligence and robotics, which allow more output at less cost (including the challenging issue of less labor). The AI revolution is significant, but our productivity statistics, grounded in 20th-century notions of manufacturing workers making things, have a hard time capturing these changes. Then consider that increasing portions of economic activity are digital and often free to users (think Google or Facebook), further confounding our ability to gauge what's happening and what's likely to happen in the future.

These technologies are unleashing more affordable goods and services around the globe, but deflation poses threats to financial markets; almost all investment is predicated on the assumption that a dollar invested today will yield more tomorrow. The venture capitalists of Sand Hill Road look for 10, 20, and even 100 times the return on their initial investment. Indeed, this is where the conventional wisdom around inverted yield curves seems most potent: If investors underperform and savers can't get anything for their savings, that can create turmoil in the global financial system.

The larger point, however, should not be lost: An inverted curve auguring a deflationary world is not necessarily predicting a recession, as in the 20th century, nor does it augur the kind of pain experienced in 2008-09. There may yet be a substantial economic crisis, but the flattening of interest rates globally need not be a harbinger. Quite the opposite; a world where capital is cheaper, connectivity greater, and goods inherently digital could be one of widespread affluence, defined not by levels of GDP growth or income but by more access to goods and services by more people. That could mean statistically low to nonexistent GDP growth, very low interest rates, and close to zero inflation. It will not look like economies of the past or behave like them.

Posted by orrinj at 1:48 PM


The Population Bust: Demographic Decline and the End of Capitalism as We Know It (Zachary Karabell September/October 2019, Foreign Affairs)

The burgeoning of global population in the past two centuries followed almost precisely the patterns of industrialization, modernization, and, crucially, urbanization. It started in the United Kingdom at the end of the nineteenth century (hence the concerns of Malthus), before spreading to the United States and then France and Germany. The trend next hit Japan, India, and China and made its way to Latin America. It finally arrived in sub-Saharan Africa, which has seen its population surge thanks to improvements in medicine and sanitation but has not yet enjoyed the full fruits of industrialization and a rapidly growing middle class. 

With the population explosion came a new wave of Malthusian fears, epitomized by the 1968 book The Population Bomb, by Paul Ehrlich, a biologist at Stanford University. Ehrlich argued that plummeting death rates had created an untenable situation of too many people who could not be fed or housed. "The battle to feed all of humanity is over," he wrote. "In the 1970's the world will undergo famines--hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked on now." 

Ehrlich's prophecy, of course, proved wrong, for reasons that Bricker and Ibbitson elegantly chart in Empty Planet. The green revolution, a series of innovations in agriculture that began in the early twentieth century, accelerated such that crop yields expanded to meet humankind's needs. Moreover, governments around the world managed to remediate the worst effects of pollution and environmental degradation, at least in terms of daily living standards in multiple megacities, such as Beijing, Cairo, Mexico City, and New Delhi. These cities face acute challenges related to depleted water tables and industrial pollution, but there has been no crisis akin to what was anticipated. 

Yet visions of dystopic population bombs remain deeply entrenched, including at the center of global population calculations: in the forecasts routinely issued by the United Nations. Today, the UN predicts that global population will reach nearly ten billion by 2050. Judging from the evidence presented in Morland's and Bricker and Ibbitson's books, it seems likely that this estimate is too high, perhaps substantially. It's not that anyone is purposely inflating the numbers. Governmental and international statistical agencies do not turn on a dime; they use formulas and assumptions that took years to formalize and will take years to alter. Until very recently, the population assumptions built into most models accurately reflected what was happening. But the sudden ebb of both birthrates and absolute population growth has happened too quickly for the models to adjust in real time. As Bricker and Ibbitson explain, "The UN is employing a faulty model based on assumptions that worked in the past but that may not apply in the future."

...can not stop the Left from wanting to kill colored babies.

Posted by orrinj at 1:33 PM


The Story of Country Music's Great Songwriting Duo: Before they released "Wichita Lineman," the greatest unfinished song of all time, Glen Campbell and Jimmy Webb lived surprisingly parallel lives. (Dylan Jones | Wichita Lineman)

Born in 1936, at a time of high poverty and low optimism, even from a young age Glen Travis Campbell had a sunny, upbeat disposition. The seventh son in a family of eight boys and four girls, he grew up on an electricity-free 120-acre sharecropper farm ninety miles southwest of Little Rock, Arkansas. His family didn't just endure poverty, they wore it. "It was the land of opportunity," said Campbell, "if you had a car. We were just one step above the animals." While the world would eventually see his name glowing in electric letters taller than some of the houses he was raised in, life in Arkansas in the forties was tough. The Campbell family slept four to a bed, and Glen used to say that he never knew what it was like to sleep alone until he was married. Being a tenant farmer, his father worked every hour of daylight, in his bib overalls, felt hat, and long-sleeved shirt buttoned firmly at the neck.

For the young Glen Campbell, country music was a blessed release, listening to it first on a battery-operated console and then a proper electric radio, on which he would devour Hank Williams, Roy Acuff, Ernest Tubb and the other stars beaming out from Nashville's Grand Ole Opry. He didn't much like getting his hands dirty, and listening to music was much more fun than being out in the fields all day long, "looking a mule in the butt," as Campbell put it in a 1968 New York Times interview. While the music played, anything seemed possible.

"All I ever did since I can remember was eat, live and breathe singing and playing guitar. I worked at a service station for a week, almost took my hand off, changing a flat tire. Well, I quit that, because I wanted to play my guitar, and I couldn't do that with smashed fingers."

When he was four, his uncle Boo sent Campbell a $5 three-quarter-size Sears, Roebuck and Co. guitar, and his hands immediately took to the strings. He was also blessed with a sweet tenor voice, which he used to sing gospel hymns at church every Sunday, but it was his guitar dexterity that was really impressive. By age six, Campbell was performing on local radio, and by his teens he was playing in dive bars, showing off his guitar skills, as well as the small tough-guy cartoon dagger on his upper left arm (proudly scratched with a needle and filled with ink at the age of nine). In 1954, aged seventeen, he suddenly quit school and moved to Albuquerque, where he started playing guitar in his uncle's band, Dick Bills and the Sandia Mountain Boys, regularly being kicked off the stage of cowpoke bars by the local police, who could see that he was underage. Finally, in 1958, desperate to branch out on his own, he formed his own band, the Western Wranglers, sometimes playing fourteen sets a week.

"When I started playing, I listened to Django Reinhardt," said Campbell in 2011. "Django Reinhardt was the best guitar player that ever lived on this earth. He would play stuff that was just alien, man. I sat there and just laughed as I listened to his record. And they did all those songs from way back, like 'Sheik of Araby.' He'd do the lick and then he'd play his own lick over it. I wish he had lived long enough to have recorded some more of those songs, because they would have been wall burners, you know what I mean?"

'I'd have to pick cotton for a year to make what I'd make in a week in LA,' he said.
It was the move to LA that would really prove to be fortuitous, though. "I'd have to pick cotton for a year to make what I'd make in a week in LA," he said. He charmed his way into recording sessions, auditioned for record company executives outside their offices and gradually hustled his way into a living. He played on demos and records, and even started making them himself, singing, playing guitar -- anything that they wanted him to. On and on he did this, day in and day out, week in, month out. Happy to play with other people, his ambition had always been to make it on his own as a professional singer.

"I probably had it in the back of my head to be an artist, but I was making so much money doing studio work, I didn't want to go through that routine of going out doing gigs for $100 a night. You could make more than that doing a session. I was hanging around the greatest musicians in the world and that's how you learn how to play. I got to work with so many great people -- Nat King Cole, for me that was a thrill, and I'd much rather be doing that than going out and playing some joint."

Crest Records eventually signed him as a solo artist, and tried to promote him as an instrumentalist, scoring a minor hit in 1961 with an old-fashioned ballad called "Turn Around, Look at Me" that Campbell had actually written himself. He did a lot of jingle work, too, musically espousing the benefits of various household products, including hairsprays and room deodorizers, while earning enough to buy a nicely appointed four-bedroom home on Satsuma Street in North Hollywood and lease a brand-new gold Cadillac. The covers of his early records featured Campbell in various engaging poses, all of which were semaphoring the duality of his down-home appeal and his "Look out, world, here I come" ambitions.

Campbell would start to call his talent a trade, a skill he had learned through hard work, practice and an aptitude that he never took for granted. One of the reasons he became so popular at recording sessions was as much to do with his open personality as it was his virtuosity. "I think I practiced my trade enough, which is singing and playing, being a musician and a singer, to have people recognize that and call me," he told the journalist Gary James once. "You know, it's like if they call you to build a house and you don't know how to build a house, you're not going to get the job. I was ready when I was called to do something; I could do it musically. I didn't limit my talent by pursuing one particular kind of music. I didn't limit it by pursuing jazz or pursuing country or pursuing pop. Music was my world before they started putting a label on it. If somebody heard music that was different from another section of the country, they'd label it. That Detroit Sound, you record it in LA, it sounds the same way to me."

The small success of "Turn Around, Look at Me" helped Campbell get a record deal with Capitol Records in 1962. His first release for Capitol provided Campbell with another minor pop entry, but when subsequent singles failed to chart, Capitol strongly considered dropping him from the label. He threw himself into the Hollywood music scene, making home life even more challenging.

* * *

Like Campbell, Webb had been drawn to LA because it looked like the future, wanting a taste of what had been filtered through to the rest of the country via surfboards, hot rods, and the Beach Boys. There was a commonality here, one that Campbell and Webb would eventually share.

Webb was hungry and ambitious beyond his years. The songs he was writing at the time were more intricate than what his contemporaries were attempting. He was inspired by what he heard on the radio, but his own songs owed as much to Broadway as they did to the hit parade. There was an old-school quality to them, almost as though he were writing for Frank Sinatra or Dean Martin. They weren't your classic pop songs, but they were classic.

He'd follow any lead, return every call. One day in 1965, an ex-Motown acquaintance called him and asked if he wanted an all-expenses-paid trip to Vegas. Apparently, the one-time Motown artist Tony Martin was looking for new material and wanted to hear what "the kid" had. He was appearing at the Riviera Hotel and wanted Webb to come and pitch to him directly.

'I was homesick at the time, and was going back to Phoenix a lot, tracing back my steps to home, so it really resonated.'
So Webb flew to Vegas and was escorted to Martin's green room. He sat in this little, badly lit anteroom in his tatty chinos and thick, black-framed glasses, quietly, nervously waiting for Martin to appear. Sometimes Webb took on a gangling aspect, like a bashful young boy not yet comfortable in public, and today he wasn't comfortable. After a while he noticed a figure sitting even more quietly in a semi-dark corner of the room. The man was Louis Armstrong, sitting playing with the valves on his trumpet. He looked at the young songwriter, noticed the pile of sheet music in his lap and said, "What you got there? Let me have a look at those."

Armstrong read the lyrics to Webb's original "Didn't We," nodded and said -- he had a reputation for being encouraging -- "You keep at it, boy. You're gonna be something."

It was a very quick encounter, which to Webb still feels like a dream, but it was a huge moment for him. "I stood there with a warm golden glow suffusing my whole body," Webb would later say.

Posted by orrinj at 1:28 PM


Tensions mount between Trump, Pence camps heading into 2020 election (Tom LoBianco, 9/05/19,Yahoo News)

[T[ensions have been mounting among Trump, Pence and their top advisers ever since the GOP's resounding losses in the 2018 midterms. In the weeks afterward, Trump asked aides about replacing Pence on the ticket, and he asked again for their thoughts on Pence during his August vacation at his golf course in Bedminster, N.J., according to Trump advisers who spoke on condition of anonymity to talk about private discussions with the president.

Current and former Trump and Pence advisers interviewed for this story, as well as my forthcoming biography of Pence, "Piety & Power: Mike Pence and the Taking of the White House," consistently described a personal relationship between Trump and Pence that is warm but somewhat aloof. Pence has a lane that he sticks to in the White House -- conservative social policy -- but he is not considered to be as influential as people like Jared Kushner or Stephen Miller.

But the relationship between their political teams has soured greatly in the past year, according to a dozen Trump and Pence aides and Republican advisers familiar with the dynamic. In particular, rumors that Kushner and Ivanka Trump wanted to consider replacements for Pence -- specifically trying to find a woman running mate to help win back the suburbs in 2020 -- have worried the vice president's camp, according to Trump and Pence campaign advisers who spoke on background for this story.

Posted by orrinj at 11:30 AM


The most important economic chart in Western civilization (JOE CARTER , September 5, 2019, Acton)


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Trump's Mercantilist Mess (ROBERT J. BARRO, 9/05/19, Project Syndicate)

The reason that countries participate in international trade is to get imports - consumer goods, intermediate goods used in production, and capital equipment - in exchange for exports. Framed this way, exports are simply the goods that Americans are willing to part with to acquire something they want or need.

But international trade also boosts, on net, the size of the overall economic pie, because it means that countries can focus on doing whatever they do best, producing goods in areas where they are relatively more productive. According to David Ricardo's theory of comparative advantage, countries' relative strengths derive from differences in factor endowments. And, as economists Paul Krugman and Elhanan Helpman showed in the 1980s, countries' relative strengths are also related to their investments in various areas of specialization.

By embracing a primitive mercantilist model in which exports are "good" and imports are "bad," Trump has reversed this impeccable economic logic. In a mercantilist model, an excess of exports over imports contributes to national wealth through the accumulation of paper claims (previously gold). This seems to be what Trump has in mind when he complains that China is draining $500 billion per year from the US economy, mostly by exchanging Chinese goods for US Treasury bonds. Needless to say, it is hard to see how receiving a lot of high-quality goods at low cost amounts to "losing."

Posted by orrinj at 8:54 AM


Is The Matrix the Conservative's Star Wars? (ARMOND WHITE, August 30, 2019, National Review)

It's rare for a pop-culture work to benefit conservatives, who too often succumb to the temptations and conformity of the commanding heights -- that is, Hollywood hegemony itself. But the red pill of The Matrix is a distinctive symbol for independent thinking such as the #WalkAway and #Blexit movements; it advances necessary skepticism about how the biased media present the world.

Morpheus spells it out:

The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us. . . . It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth. . . . All I'm offering you is the truth, nothing more. People who are part of the system, most of them not ready to be unplugged. Many of them are so hopelessly dependent on the system that they will fight to protect it.

Now that the term "woke" has corrupted the idea of enlightenment and invalidated the notion of raised consciousness, The Matrix's red pill reminds us of an alternative course for information. 

Actually, the entire pop-culture, inevitably, centers on this theme,

Posted by orrinj at 8:49 AM


America's worker deserts (Courtenay Brown, Aug 30, 2019, Axios)

The U.S. unemployment rate is so low that some cities and states have turned into "worker deserts" -- places where companies can't find people to hire.

Why it matters: The "good news" story of the strong labor market has a big downside that is playing out in places like Iowa, New Hampshire and Florida, where companies say they can't keep up with business demand -- hampering growth -- unless they find more workers.

 Across the country, there are more than 1 million more jobs available than there are people to fill them.

Posted by orrinj at 8:45 AM


Hundred Years' War: Battle of Crécy (Kennedy Hickman, September 03, 2019,

Advancing with Antonio Doria and Carlo Grimaldi's Genoese crossbowmen in the lead, the French knights followed with lines led by the Duke D'Alencon, Duke of Lorraine, and Count of Blois, while Philip commanded the rearguard. Moving to the attack, the crossbowmen fired a series of volleys at the English. These proved ineffective as a brief thunderstorm before the battle had wet and slackened the crossbowstrings. The English archers on the other hand had simply untied their bowstrings during the storm.

This coupled with the longbow's ability to fire every five seconds gave the English archers a dramatic advantage over the crossbowmen who could only get off one to two shots per minute. The Genoese position was worsened by the fact that in the rush to battle their pervises (shields to hide behind while reloading) had not been brought forward. Coming under devastating fire from Edward's archers, the Genoese began withdrawing. Angered by the crossbowmen's retreat, the French knights fired insults at them and even cut several down.

Charging forward, the French front lines fell into confusion as they collided with the retreating Genoese. As the two bodies of men tried to move past each other they came under fire from the English archers and five early cannon (some sources debate their presence). Continuing the attack, the French knights were forced to negotiate the slope of the ridge and the man-made obstacles. Cut down in large numbers by the archers, the felled knights and their horses blocked the advance of those to the rear. [...]

The Battle of Crécy was one of the greatest English victories of the Hundred Years' War and established the superiority of the longbow against mounted knights. In the fighting, Edward lost between 100-300 killed, while Philip suffered around 13,000-14,000 (some sources indicate it may have been as high as 30,000). Among the French losses were the heart of the nation's nobility including the Duke of Lorraine, Count of Blois, and the Count of Flanders, as well as John, King of Bohemia and the King of Majorca. In addition eight other counts and three archbishops were slain.

Posted by orrinj at 8:43 AM


What experts are saying about the 2019 fall foliage season in New England (Dialynn Dwyer  September 3, 2019,

With schools back in session and all things pumpkin-spiced making a reappearance, it's beginning to feel a lot like autumn.

And while the fall foliage made a "very" late appearance last year, meteorologist David Epstein thinks New England is on track to see a more standard season for leaf-peeping in 2019.

"If everything were to continue more typical, we'd see a longer season than last year, we'd see a more vibrant season than last year, and it would come on a little earlier than last year, which was so late," he said.

Posted by orrinj at 8:40 AM


Posted by orrinj at 8:31 AM

80-20 NATION:

New research encourages CEOs to act on guns (Mike Allen, 9/05/19, Axios)

The majority of U.S. adults in a new poll by Edelman Intelligence would feel more favorably toward a company whose CEO backs tougher background checks for gun purchases.

Why it matters: CEOs traditionally were reluctant to wade into polarizing issues, but they face pressure from shareholders, employees and customers to show their values.

Posted by orrinj at 8:24 AM


That Assault Weapon Ban? It Really Did Work: Since the ban was lifted in 2004, gun massacres involving military-style weapons are way up. (John Donohue and Theodora Boulouta, Sept. 4, 2019, NY Times)

Compared with the decade before its adoption, the federal assault weapon ban in effect from September 1994 through 2004 was associated with a 25 percent drop in gun massacres (from eight to six) and a 40 percent drop in fatalities (from 81 to 49).

This decline is plausible because assault weapons are semiautomatic firearms designed for rapid fire and combat use, and large-capacity magazines increase the number of rounds that can be fired without reloading. While the gun lobby prevented the ban from being as effective as it could have been and saddled the law with a 10-year sunset provision, the ban did impede the easy access to the type of lethal weaponry that those intent on mass killing have readily available in most of the country today. (Assault weapons are legal in 43 states; large-capacity magazines, commonly understood as ammunition-feeding devices holding more than 10 rounds, are legal in 41.)

[D]ata from the 15 years following the ban's expiration now provide stronger evidence that permitting the gun industry to flood the market with increasingly powerful weapons that allow for faster killing has facilitated exactly that outcome. In the decade after the ban, there was a 347 percent increase in fatalities in gun massacres, even as overall violent crime continued downward.

Indeed, the number of gun-massacre fatalities in the past five years alone has already topped the previous high for the decade after the ban was lifted. If we continue at the post-2014 pace, by 2024 we will have had more than 10 times as many gun massacre deaths in that 10-year period as we had during the decade of the federal assault weapons ban.

Similarly, fatalities per shooting incident fell during the assault weapon ban and have risen sharply since. With increasingly potent and readily available weaponry, the average number of people who die in a gun massacre has increased by 81 percent in just five years. Assault weapons were used in at least 11 of the 15 gun massacres since 2014; at least 234 of the 271 people who died in gun massacres since 2014 were killed by weapons prohibited under the federal assault weapons ban.

Posted by orrinj at 8:21 AM


GOP Senators Who Backed Trump's Emergency Declaration Lose Military Funding (Igor Bobic, 9/05/19, HuffPo)

Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), one of those who voted in support of the declaration, announced early Wednesday that the Trump administration was diverting $30 million in funds from an Army base in her state to construction of the wall ― even though she previously received assurances from an acting secretary of defense that her state would be spared.

The Arizona Republican, who is looking at a tough reelection fight next year, downplayed the move in her statement, saying the ground transportation project at Fort Huachuca was already facing delay due to "unforeseen environmental issues" at the construction site. Those issues are expected to continue until next year, her office said.

Top Arizona Democrats, however, criticized McSally in the wake of the announcement.

Former astronaut Mark Kelly, who is running to be the Democrats' Senate nominee next year, accused McSally of failing "her most basic responsibility to put Arizona first." He added that the senator "told Arizonans she had protected funding for Arizona military bases, and the fact is that she didn't keep her word."

Other Republican senators whose states are impacted by Trump's diversion of military construction funds to build the wall include Thom Tillis of North Carolina ($80 million), Mitch McConnell of Kentucky ($62 million), John Cornyn of Texas ($48 million), Lindsey Graham of South Carolina ($11 million) and Cory Gardner of Colorado ($8 million).

All of the above senators are also up for reelection in 2020, and they all similarly voted in support of Trump's emergency declaration in March.

Posted by orrinj at 7:29 AM


The number of permanent visas granted to migrants has dropped to its lowest level in a decade. (ROSEMARY BOLGER, 9/05/19, SBS)

The number of migrants granted permanent residency has dropped to its lowest level in a decade as the government pursues its "congestion-busting" approach. 

Just over 160,300 individuals were given a permanent visa in 2018-19, slightly down on last year when 162,417 were granted permanent residency. 

That's nearly 30,000 fewer than the annual migration cap of 190,000 with migration agents and applicants blaming long processing times, rather than a lack of demand for the unallocated visas. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:19 AM



It may no longer be politically acceptable, but stealing technology is actually great for economic development.

I'm from Belgium, a country that has dedicated statues to industrial spies. In Ghent, right next to a medieval cathedral, you find the likeness of Lieven Bauwens, who, in the 18th century, helped make Belgium one of the first countries to industrialize after the United Kingdom. How? By stealing British technology.

Bauwens stole British machine designs and even lured away skilled British workers -- highly illegal at the time -- to set up his own textile factories in Ghent. Eventually some bad political and economic dealings bankrupted him, and he died alone in Paris. But his shady moves kick-started the industrial revolution on the continent.

Today, of course, Belgium is a well-behaved follower of patent law, and it no longer builds statues to economic spies. But that doesn't change the fact that the historical prosperity of most Western countries was built atop this sort of stealing. Which makes it all the more ironic that the West is currently having a collective temper tantrum about Asian, and particularly Chinese, industrial espionage.

Having your technology stolen, of course, isn't fun. But it's a way in which weaker countries can quickly develop themselves economically and technologically. It's a type of forced technology transfer that allows the weak to steal from the rich and push themselves out of poverty sooner.

For all its taboo, industrial espionage might actually be a good thing when we zoom out. "If you look at the perspective of mankind, so what is best for all of us, very often industrial and economic espionage is a beneficial force," says Klaus Solberg Søilen, professor at Sweden's Halmstad University and Copenhagen Business School, where he researches these sorts of espionage.

Posted by orrinj at 7:13 AM


Assad Hasn't Won Anything (Charles Lister, Jul. 11th, 2019, Foreign Policy)

When Syria is discussed these days, it is increasingly common to hear the phrase "Assad won," or "the war is coming to an end." Understandably so. Nearly two-thirds of Syria now lies under regime control. Since Russia's military intervention in Syria in September 2015, the opposition has not won a single major victory and lost the vast majority of its territorial holdings. In eastern Syria, meanwhile, the Islamic State's territorial caliphate was dealt its final defeat in the village of Baghouz in late March. To a large degree, the subject of Syria today has become one defined predominantly by debates over issues such as refugee return, reconstruction, whether to provide sanctions relief, and the question of whether to reengage with the regime.

For the regime's longtime defenders, this has been a moment to celebrate, to breathe a sigh of relief, and to intensify calls for the world to accept this new reality, end sanctions, and help Syria rebuild and restore sovereignty in all corners of the country. These calls are not new, but they are quietly garnering some traction among some influential observers and policymakers. For example, the Carter Center--founded by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter--co-hosted a meeting in April in London that discussed issues like "restoring territorial sovereignty" and "how to secure the removal of armed forces operating in Syria without the Syrian government's consent." That event's co-host was the British Syrian Society, a pro-regime group founded by Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad's father-in-law, Fawaz Akhras, a man who in 2012 was advising Assad on how to counter evidence of civilians being tortured. The society's current executive director also happens to be the brother of Syria's alleged chemical weapons chief.

There's just one problem: The Assad regime has not "won" anything. It has merely survived at the cost of Syrians' blood and fear; stability remains far out of reach. The last holdouts of opposition in the country's northwest seem intractable. Elsewhere in the country, there are plentiful signs of future instability. Syria is no longer in open civil war, but the country's political crisis is intensifying. The root causes that gave way to the uprising in 2011 remain in place--most are now even worse. Even in territories always held by the regime and populated by its most ardent defenders, life today presents more challenges than it did during the conflict's most intense days.

Meanwhile, we used him and Vlad to crush ISIS at no cost in American lives.  
Posted by orrinj at 7:08 AM


Why conservatives suddenly hate Walmart (Joel Mathis, September 5, 2019, The Week)

Conservatives are discovering that Big Business might have too much power in American life.

The conservative rebuke of corporate power has been ongoing throughout the Trump administration, of course, but the latest flashpoint is the announcement by Walmart that it will no longer sell certain types of ammunition -- and that the retail giant will furthermore discourage customers from openly carrying firearms into its stores.

Walmart's decision was understandable after 22 people were killed at its El Paso, Texas, store in August. But some notable conservatives -- and the NRA, naturally -- were enraged.

"Do you think the left would applaud if Walmart made it harder for people to vote?" Tucker Carlson grumbled this week. "Or to be tried by a jury?"

Because their ideas are so unpopular and unworkable, the Right and Left require a command economy.  Their problem is that they are too weak to implement them. These are just the death wails of the Right.

Posted by orrinj at 7:05 AM


Why Bernie is stalled (David Faris, September 5, 2019, The Week)

While he was averaging around 24 percent at the time, Sanders has dropped to just over 16. He did fine in the first two debates, but didn't get a bounce of out them. And it's getting increasingly tough to dispute that he's at least been caught, if not passed, by Warren.

It's impossible to pinpoint the origin of these troubles, but some of his personnel decisions might help explain them. In March, his campaign announced that it had hired as his speechwriter the firebrand progressive journalist David Sirota, who days before the 2012 election wrote that it didn't matter whether Mitt Romney or Barack Obama appointed the next Supreme Court justice. Sirota's public record of Obama-hating actually stretches back more than a decade and bringing him on board indicated that Sanders privately shares his distaste for the former president, who remains wildly popular with Democratic voters.

While most people are blissfully unaware of these kinds of campaign machinations and couldn't care less who writes anyone's oratories, Sanders was still placing one of the most important posts of campaign into the hands of someone who loathes the Democratic Party. And whatever you may or may not think of Sirota, this was an enormous strategic misstep. Whereas Warren has run an above-the-fray campaign in which she rarely criticizes the other candidates directly and doesn't waste time warring with the press or feuding with the Center For American Progress, Sirota has repeatedly plunged his candidate into internecine battles with other camps and continued Sanders' self-destructive fixation on media unfairness.

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Posted by orrinj at 6:42 AM


Likud said to tell fringe party: We'll close Western Wall pluralistic area (STUART WINER, 9/05/19, Times of Israel)

Likud Mk Miki Zohar reportedly suggested to a far-right religious nationalist party that it drop out of the running in upcoming elections in exchange for a future Likud-led government backing moves to abolish the mixed-gender prayer area at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

Zohar met recently with leaders of the Noam party at their headquarters in the capital, where he also offered that, in return for them ending their campaign, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Likud party would block proposed reforms in the state-controlled system for conversion to Judaism, the Yedioth Ahronoth daily reported Thursday.

Posted by orrinj at 6:39 AM



A well-known former supporter of President Donald Trump joined in on the "Moscow Mitch" criticism of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell with an open letter telling the Republican, "if you don't like this nickname, do your job."

David Weissman, who also previously backed McConnell had harsh words for the senator in an open letter published Wednesday by The Times of Israel. Critics started calling McConnell "Moscow Mitch" since the leader blocked election security bills in July, despite evidence Russian interfered in the 2016 elections. Weissman's letter came a day after various Moscow Mitch hashtags trended on Twitter after McConnell complained about the nickname.

"Sir, we are living in troubled times," Weissman started, and brought up racism, hate crimes, mass shootings and easy access to guns and military-style assault rifles. The Army veteran wrote that Democrats and Republicans have come up with several pieces of legislation "for common sense gun reform that majority of Americans are begging for" but that "these bills sit on you desk, ignored."

"You are failing the people that elected you to act as Senator, but instead you act as [a] Russian puppet," Weissman wrote. "You have also blocked bipartisan bills that would protect elections in our country. This gives Russia more opportunities to interfere in our elections."

September 4, 2019

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New Marquette Poll: Trump Trails Biden by Nine Points in Wisconsin, But Ties Warren and Harris (JOHN MCCORMACK, September 4, 2019, National Review)

According to the latest Marquette Law School poll of registered voters in Wisconsin, Joe Biden leads Donald Trump 51 percent to 42 percent, while Elizabeth Warren and Trump are tied at 45 percent. Trump is also tied with Kamala Harris at 44 percent, while Bernie Sanders narrowly leads Trump 48 percent to 44 percent.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Putin's Nightmare: The Ballot Box: On the eve of regional elections, the Kremlin has turned to tricks, threats and shows of force to get past the shadows of protests and falling approval ratings for Russia's president. (Michael Khodarkovsky, Sept. 3, 2019, NY Times)

By any measure, the decline of Putinism is indisputable. It was best captured by a poll conducted in May by the government-run Public Opinion Center, which showed that public trust in President Vladimir Putin had fallen to 25 percent. The Kremlin, which uses the center to gauge public opinion and rarely makes the results public, was furious and called for another poll. Several days later, a new poll showed that 72 percent of Russians had trust in the president. The Kremlin was happy, and the center promised "to improve its methodology."

Then in June, after Mr. Putin's annual Direct Line TV appearance -- a question-and-answer marathon staged to present an all-knowing leader in direct communication with citizens -- the channel's YouTube site registered 12,000 likes and 170,000 dislikes. Some experts calculated Mr. Putin's support among this audience at about 7 percent.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Does chiropractic work?: Despite acceptance by many insurance companies, a number of studies don't confirm its effectiveness. (DEREK BERES, 03 September, 2019, Big Think)

With over 70,000 certified chiropractors in America, the modality has gained wide acceptance.

Yet many studies do not show chiropractic to be more effective than placebo or pharmaceuticals.

Some chiropractors treat newborns as young as two weeks to help alleviate "birth trauma."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Cruz: 'Deep State' government employees keeping Iran deal "on life support" until 2021 (JJacob Kornbluh, Sep. 3rd, 2019, Jewish Insider)

In a conversation with Mike Doran at the Hudson Institute in Washington D.C., Cruz charged that federal employees who oppose President Donald Trump's policies intend to keep the deal "on life support" in the hope that a possible Democratic administration re-enters the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which the Trump administration withdrew from in May 2018. "Their objective is just wait out Donald Trump," he said. "They're convinced he's leaving in January 2021, and so it's a waiting game." 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Kroger to Customers: No More Open Carry of Firearms in Our Stores (Allison Quinn, 09.03.19, Daily Beast)

The retailer said it recognizes "the growing chorus of Americans who are no longer comfortable with the status quo" after a string of mass shootings in recent months. The announcement came after the National Rifle Association reacted swiftly to Walmart's decision to limit ammunition sales on Tuesday, accusing the retail giant of "victimizing law-abiding Americans" and suggesting gun owners will boycott by going to "other retailers who are more supportive of America's fundamental freedoms." 

Gun grabbing is just another issue where the Democrats "extremism" puts them on the side of the American people.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Everything You Need to Play Baseball Is Made in China -- and Getting Hit by Trump's Tariffs (Lydia DePillis Sept. 3, 2019, Pro Publica)

Although duties set to kick in soon will affect all manner of sports equipment that hasn't been made in America for decades, baseball enthusiasts are perhaps affected most because so many items are needed to play the game.

Baseball caps were hit first by the third round of China tariffs that went into effect at 10% last September and rose to 25% in January, on top of the 7.5% base tariff. Those added about a dollar to the cost of a hat, Karsh said. Trump's tariff will rise to 30% in October, bringing the total to 37.5%, and possibly causing another price increase.

Retail prices for metal bats have already risen $5 to $10 each, Karsh said, even though a 10% hike on bats and other sporting goods was put off until Dec. 15 as the Trump administration made a concession to the Christmas shopping season. On Aug. 23, President Donald Trump said he would jack up the levy to 15%.

Baseballs themselves faced tariffs starting Sept. 1, and although Karsh said prices haven't increased yet, he's expecting to add between $3 and $5 per dozen. "If you can buy now that would be a plus," Karsh told customers in August, figuring the only direction the tariffs will go is up.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Judge rules White House must give Playboy columnist Brian Karem his press pass back (Oliver Darcy and Katelyn Polantz, 9/04/19, CNN)

A federal judge ruled against the White House on Tuesday and ordered President Trump and press secretary Stephanie Grisham to immediately restore the press credentials of Brian Karem, a Playboy columnist and CNN political analyst.  

September 3, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 6:19 PM


The Taliban Scoff at Trump's Afghan Peace Talks Bluff (Sami Yousafzai, Erin Banco, Christopher Dickey,  09.03.19, Daily Beast)

[T]he longer the talks go on, the clearer it is that the Taliban have the final say. They know Trump is desperate to leave, and they are determined not only to remain a power in their country, but to re-establish what they call the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

"The Taliban have been rather rude with the U.S. throughout the peace process because they have the impression that a withdrawal deal is a desperate desire of the USA, not the Taliban," says a senior European diplomat in Kabul. "Imagine how rudely and offensively the Taliban will treat the already upset and isolated President [Ashraf] Ghani."

Posted by orrinj at 6:00 PM


Trump's Wacky, Angry, and Extreme August (Susan B. Glasser, 9/03/19, The New Yorker)

To revisit a month in the life of this President was exhausting, a dark journey to a nasty and contentious place. And, while Trump's performance raised many questions that we can't answer about just what is going on in his head, it was also revelatory: the thirty-one days of August, 2019, turn out to be an extraordinary catalogue of Trump's in-our-faces meltdown.

At first I wasn't sure that anything about Trump's frenetic August was really different. There had been many previous months of dysfunction. He has always courted controversy and trafficked in insults. But then I looked at August, 2017, during the first summer of his Presidency, which was one of the more shocking months of his early tenure. Back then, Trump warned of "fire and fury" against North Korea and spoke of good people on both sides of the white-supremacist march in Charlottesville that culminated in the killing of a peaceful counter-protester. And yet the Trump of two years ago was different--to a degree. He was provocative and insulting and fact-challenged, of course, but to a much lesser extent than he is today. Then and now, he was boastful and braggadocious. He picked fights. But there was much less of that behavior over all--the Trump Twitter archive records two hundred and eighty-seven Trump tweets and retweets in August, 2017, compared to six hundred and eighty in August, 2019--and the volume seems to have been turned up along with the frequency. Today's Trump is not just more prone to misspeaking and stumbling, he is also more overtly confrontational more of the time, more immersed in a daily cycle of Presidential punditry, and more casually incendiary with his words and sentiments.

Is he finding it harder to break through? Does he simply have fewer meetings on his schedule and more free time? Maybe it is all of the above. Trump has such little confidence in his third and current chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, that he's still not removed Mulvaney's title of "acting" White House boss, more than eight months into his tenure. It's also true that the outrage cycle that his Presidency has become requires more fuel than it did two years ago, when the wacky pronouncements and shrill insults emanating directly from the Oval Office were still seen as a shocking novelty. Sure enough, the anger and abuse have dramatically and notably increased. Two years ago, Trump used his feed to criticize, belittle, or humiliate specific targets fourteen times in the month of August. (Interestingly, many were Republican senators who were still offering him resistance, including "publicity-seeking Lindsey Graham," who is now one of his most faithful public promoters; and the Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, whom Trump disparaged as a "loser.") In August of this year, the number shot up: the President made or shared fifty-two direct insults on his Twitter feed, by my count. Many were aimed at individual members of the media--from "Crazy Lawrence O'Donnell," of MSNBC, to "Lunatic" Chris Cuomo, of CNN, to "Psycho" Mika Brzezinski, of MSNBC, and "pathetic" Juan Williams, of Fox. Other targets who were singled out included "the Three Stooges running against me in the G.O.P. primary"; Denmark; nato; the euro; "car company executives"; "Sleepy Joe Biden" (August 10th: "Does anybody really believe he is mentally fit to be President?"); Beto O'Rourke; liberal Hollywood, "the true racists"; the "anti-Semite" Representative Rashida Tlaib; the "nut job" Anthony Scaramucci, the former Trump White House communications director who finally broke with his former boss last month; and, in a retweet to start off the month, "the nipple-height mayor of Londonistan."

Another frequent target was the Federal Reserve and its Trump-appointed chairman, Jerome Powell. For months, Trump has been crusading against Powell in what appears to be an unprecedented public-pressure campaign to turn the Fed into an arm of the President's reëlection campaign. In August, Trump's focus on the Fed dramatically escalated, as fears mounted about a slowing economy and the intensifying trade war with China. I counted thirty separate tweets by Trump in August criticizing Powell or the Fed, in which the President variously referred to "clueless Jay Powell," complained about Powell's "horrendous lack of vision," and, most strikingly, on August 23rd, blamed the Fed for China's alleged currency manipulation. On that day, Trump tweeted, "My only question is who is our bigger enemy, Jay Powell or Chairman Xi?" [...]

Like his insults, Trump's praise has become more flamboyant, and the list of those whom he Twitter-flattered this August included populist nationalists, such as India's Narendra Modi and Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro; the "great leader" and "good man" Xi Jinping, of China; and the shambolic and duplicitous new pro-Brexit British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. The naïveté of his praise is sometimes as alarming as the vitriol of his hatred. On August 15th, with fears rising of a Chinese crackdown on protesters in Hong Kong, Trump tweeted, "If President Xi would meet directly and personally with the protesters, there would be a happy and enlightened ending to the Hong Kong problem. I have no doubt!" On August 10th, he revealed a letter from Kim Jong Un in which the North Korean dictator "very nicely" asked for a meeting while offering a "small apology" for his latest missile tests and claimed that the tests would end when U.S.-South Korean military exercises did (they did not).

Posted by orrinj at 5:51 PM


Cherokee Nation Names First Delegate To Congress (GRAHAM LEE BREWER, 9/03/19, All Things Considered)

The article outlining the right to a delegate is in the Treaty of New Echota. The 1835 treaty is also the document that led to the Trail of Tears, something that has been top of mind for Teehee. She points out the treaty gave up the Cherokee's homelands and cost the tribe thousands of lives. [...]

Newly elected Chief of the Cherokee Nation Chuck Hoskin Jr. made Teehee's appointment one of his administration's first priorities. He said her ability to reach across the aisle on a number of important areas for Indian Country is what led him to choose Teehee for the position.

"One thing that I have learned is that you never know what the next issue will be, and so we need somebody that is nimble, has studied up on the issues and is a quick study when those things come up," Hoskin said.

For her part, Teehee says she understands her appointment will help bring visibility to a nearly invisible part of American society. And that could have a lasting impact on areas like Indian Health Services funding, education expansion on tribal lands and treaty rights, like the one that led to her appointment.

"The education piece of it also means, what do treaty rights actually mean? Why do these old documents still live today?"

In this case, the Treaty of New Echota, a document that led to the horrors of genocide nearly 200 years ago, could today lead to a new chapter in relations between the U.S. and the Cherokee Nation.

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Walmart ends all handgun ammunition sales and asks customers not to carry guns into stores (Nathaniel Meyersohn, September 3, 2019,  CNN Business)

Walmart on Tuesday announced it will reduce its gun and ammunition sales, one month after more than 20 people were killed in a mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas. Walmart also pressured Congress to enact gun safety measures.

The company, America's largest retailer, said it will stop selling handgun ammunition and ammunition commonly used in assault-style weapons after selling all of its current inventory. Walmart (WMT) will also stop selling handguns in Alaska, the only state where it still sells handguns. And Walmart will request that customers no longer openly carry guns into its 4,700 US stores, or its Sam's Club stores, in states that allow open carry.
"It's clear to us that the status quo is unacceptable," Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said in a memo to employees on Tuesday.

Posted by orrinj at 12:50 PM


Augustine of Hippo, Christian Democrat (Paul D. Miller, September 3, 2019, Providence)

What can Augustine teach twenty-first-century Americans about how to renew a culture of self-government?

Augustine starts from a very different understanding of human nature. Rather than defining us by our ability to reason, he defines us by our ability to love--because that is what it means to be made in God's image. "As a body is impelled by its gravity to move in a particular direction, so the psyche or soul is moved by love. 'By it I am carried wherever I am carried.'"[1] We are defined by the object of our love and devotion. Those who love God are marked by caritas or charity; when we love sinfully, we have cupidity, the libido dominandi--not merely the will to power, but the lust for it.

Put another way, Augustine starts with the biblical view that "God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them," (Gen. 1:27). As part of God's good creation--indeed, as the pinnacle thereof--humanity is unique and good, the "greatest adornment of things earthly."[2] For all the naïve optimism of the Enlightenment, Augustine affirms something even more astonishingly positive about humanity: we are, in some sense, like God. And this likeness to God accounts for humanity's seemingly innate feeling for goodness, justice, beauty, and truth. "If the image of God and the law of God were completely obliterated from man's soul by would have no conception of justice, righteousness, or peace," according to Augustinian scholar Herbert Deane.[3]

Additionally, we are naturally social creatures. Augustine melds the biblical idea that "it is not good for man to be alone" with Aristotle's concept that "man is a political animal" and stressed the natural sociability of humankind. "The philosophers also consider that the life of the wise man is a social one; and this is a view of which we much more readily approve. could that City [of God] have first arisen and progressed along its way, and how could it achieve its proper end, if the life of the saints were not social?"[4] This is a key difference with the Enlightenment, which downplayed humanity's social nature in favor of an emphasis on our individuality.

Augustine departs even more sharply from the Enlightenment and complements his view of humanity's original goodness with a stark, even brutal appraisal of humanity's sinfulness. When we love anything more than we love God, we sin--and we become enslaved to that love. "A man is necessarily a slave to the things by means of which he seeks to be happy...those who think to escape servitude by not worshipping anything are in fact the slaves of all kinds of worldly things."[5] Naturally, we all do this. "All men are a mass of sin," he argues. The human race is "sick and sore...from Adam to the end of the world."[6] He sees "man as essentially selfish, avaricious, ambitious for power and glory, and lustful."[7] This naturally leads to selfishness, materialism, and conflict when people struggle to get the basic necessities of life and satisfy their needs--but, contrary to Marx, it does not stop there. "Even if all material desires were satisfied, the lust for power and glory would still remain and would continue to drive men into personal and societal struggles and wars."[8]

Augustine is drawing on the older, pre-Enlightenment understanding of human nature. The book of Genesis says that "God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually" (Gen. 6:5). The prophet Jeremiah laments that "the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it?" (Jer. 17:9). The biblical view of man is that he is ignorant and foolish at best, downright bestial and wicked at worst. This view differs decisively from the view of human nature found in unconstrained visions, including progressivism and nationalism, as well as socialism, communism, fascism, and more--all of which are premised on the improvability, even perfectibility, of mankind.

Augustinian Liberalism

Humanity's god-like dignity, sociability, sin, wickedness, and brokenness have social and political implications. Because of our sin, "it is therefore absolutely impossible to establish on earth a society or state made up of saints or true Christians. Thus, if we wish to understand how social, economic, and political life operate, and how, indeed, they must operate, we have to start with the assumption that we are dealing, for the most part, with fallen, sinful men," according to Deane.[9] As a result, "every human society from the family to the empire is never free from slights, suspicions, quarrels, and war, and 'peace' is not true peace but a doubtful interlude between conflicts."[10]

True peace and true justice are, in fact, not possible in the earthly City of Man. "True justice, however, does not exist other than in the commonwealth whose Founder and Ruler is Christ."[11] Such a city has never been found among the cities of men. Augustine goes so far as to reject Scipio's definition of a "people" as a group united in their understanding of justice under the reductio ad absurdum that Rome, marred by civil wars and injustice, was not a people under Scipio's definition. True justice cannot be essential to the definition of a commonwealth because if so, there have never been any commonwealths. Instead, Augustine adopts a humbler definition of a people: "an assembled multitude of rational creatures bound together by a common agreement as to the objects of their love."[12] This is descriptively more accurate and prescriptively more realistic.

This is why Augustinian liberalism is, at heart, a constrained vision of political and society life par excellence. Augustinian liberalism does not pretend we are able to definitively solve social and political problems, eradicate evil, eliminate all poverty, or enable flourishing for every person. It does not try to do most of the things that progressivism or nationalism try to do. It does not burden the state with the responsibility of policing identity, of manifesting the unfolding historical idea of American national promise, or of embodying the heritage and culture of the American nation. Augustinian liberalism expects less of politics.

Augustinian politics is the comparatively humbler task of adjudicating disputes peacefully, allocating power in a roughly fair way, enforcing agreed-upon rules, and upholding the best approximation of justice we can expect in this sinful world. We will never through political action build the Kingdom of Heaven, achieve the perfected American ideal, or revive the fabled organic polity of antiquity. As Deane says, "rebirth and salvation come through Christ and the Church that He established, and not through the activities or instrumentalities of the state."[13] Augustinian liberalism is not merely anti-utopian. It is anti-utopianism: the ideology of principled opposition to utopian politics. All illiberal movements are utopian because of the boundless faith they invest in some leader or group of leaders.

Posted by orrinj at 12:33 PM


Nuts and Bolts of the IG Report on Comey: Correcting Misconceptions (Kel McClanahan, September 3, 2019, JustSecurity)

The Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General's report is as close to a definitive history as one could hope for in the saga of former FBI Director James Comey's handling of memos he prepared documenting his private conversations with President Donald Trump. The IG report describes the meetings he had with President Trump, the memos he wrote, what he did with them, and everything that came after.

The purpose of this article is to explain the practical ramifications of the actions Comey took and offer an educated guess as to the likely reason for DOJ's decision not to attempt a prosecution. As for the rest of the report, at 61 pages (plus 18 pages of exhibits), it is an admittedly long read, but I highly advise anyone interested in this field to read it. It is written in plain English and reads faster than expected.

And yet, the report appears almost designed to be misunderstood and mischaracterized.

For our purposes, the primary point of the report is basically this: Comey violated his non-disclosure agreement (NDA) when he gave copies of four memos to his attorneys, but when one personal attorney, Daniel Richman, provided portions of one memo -- called "Memo 4" -- to New York Times reporter Michael Schmidt, none of the information provided was classified. The secondary and related point is that six words in another memo Comey gave his attorneys -- called "Memo 2" -- were classified at the Confidential level, but Comey did not label them as such and the classification happened at the FBI only after the fact. [...]

[C]omey was not an ordinary intelligence employee. He was the FBI Director. He had the authority to bestow appropriate clearances and "need to know" on his attorneys if he so chose -- until, that is, he was no longer FBI director. Unfortunately, Comey hired all three attorneys after he was fired, so he no longer had that authority. Had he hired them while he was still director, this story would have a much different end.

So, in the final analysis, Comey transmitted four memos he wrote as FBI Director to three attorneys who were not authorized to receive them. That was a violation of his NDA, and it does not even matter whether they actually included classified information or not. That was not his call to make. [...]

[W]hen Comey wrote Memo 2 and did not classify it, it was not classified. When he gave it to his attorneys, it was not classified. When it was later classified by other FBI officials, that designation did not apply retroactively because it went against the official decision of an original classification authority who was also their senior in the hierarchy. Therefore, Comey could not be charged with mishandling classified information because at the time he allegedly "mishandled" it, it was not classified information. He could not be charged with mishandling unclassified information, because that is not a crime.

Posted by orrinj at 12:27 PM


The Benefits of a Progressive Consumption Tax (KENNETH ROGOFF, 9/03/19, Project Syndicate)

One of the main objections is that switching systems would require a potentially complex transition to avoid penalizing existing wealth holders, who would be taxed when they try to spend accumulated savings on which they had already paid income taxes. Yet, in an environment where wealth inequality is rising inexorably, that drawback may be a virtue. Moreover, a great strength of a consumption tax system is that it does not tax saving, and also gives firms more incentive to invest. [...]

Back in the mid-1980s, Stanford University's Robert Hall and Alvin Rabushka advocated what was essentially a twist on a value-added tax (VAT) that segregated wage income and allowed for greater progressivity (even more so in a refinement proposed by Princeton University's David Bradford in his "X-tax"). A consumption tax (which is not a sales tax, but rather uses similar information to that required by the existing tax system) is simple and elegant, and could save a couple hundred billion dollars a year in deadweight accounting costs. Importantly, these plans contain a large exclusion so that lower-income families pay no tax at all.

But instead of using an exclusion for low-income households, the system can achieve progressivity by providing a large lump-sum transfer (as in a universal basic income), as suggested by leading Portuguese macroeconomist Isabel Correia, who estimates that her plan would result in both higher growth and greater income equality than under the current tax system. Correia's analysis focuses on the long run, but with a transition suitably designed to protect small family businesses, it should be possible to ensure short-run gains as well.

Of course, in terms of fairness, much depends on how large the transfers and exemptions are, and how low the tax rate is set. Until now, it has mostly been a smattering of Republicans who have favored switching to progressive consumption taxes (though a variant was championed by the liberal icon Bill Bradley, a former US senator from New Jersey). Ironically, one reason the idea has not received broader Republican support is conservatives' recognition that a consumption tax would be so efficient that the government could too easily raise funds to expand social programs.

Tax what you don't want.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


'Virtue Signalling' May Annoy Us. But Civilization Would Be Impossible Without It (Geoffrey Miller, 9/03/19, Quillette)

We all virtue signal. I virtue signal; you virtue signal; we virtue signal.

And those guys over there, in that political tribe we don't like--they especially virtue signal. (Just as they believe that we do.)

Let's not pretend otherwise. We are humans, and humans love to show off our moral virtues, ethical principles, religious convictions, political attitudes and lifestyle choices to other humans. We have virtue signaled ever since prehistoric big-game hunters shared meat with the hungry folks in their clan, or cared for kids who weren't their own. Our descendants will continue to virtue signal to each other in Mars colonies, and on spaceships heading for other star systems. As humans colonize the galaxy, virtue signaling will colonize the galaxy.

The phrase "virtue signaling" only became popular with the 2016 American election. Yet virtue signaling goes back millions of years, to the origins of human morality. And I've had a love/hate relationship with virtue signaling ever since high school.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Despite promises, Trump's trade deficits are only growing (Neal Rothschild, 9/03/19, Axios)

Among the U.S.'s 15 biggest trading partners, the trade balance has moved in the wrong direction for Trump in 10 of those countries between 2016 and 2018, while the aggregate trade deficit has jumped from $503 billion to $628B.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Amateurs Identify U.S. Spy Satellite Behind President Trump's Tweet (Geoff Brumfiel, 9/02/19, NPR)

The image almost certainly came from a satellite known as USA 224, according to Marco Langbroek, a satellite-tracker based in the Netherlands. The satellite was launched by the National Reconnaissance Office in 2011. Almost everything about it remains highly classified, but Langbroek says that based on its size and orbit, most observers believe USA 224 is one of America's multibillion-dollar KH-11 reconnaissance satellites.

"It's basically a very large telescope, not unlike the Hubble Space Telescope," Langbroek says. "But instead of looking up to the stars, it looks down to the earth's surface and makes very detailed images."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Will 2020 Be Another 'Change' Election? Polls Say Yes (Mark Shields, September 2, 2019, National Memo)

To appreciate Trump's political peril, let us turn to the Wall Street Journal-NBC News Poll, which, guided by respected pollster Peter Hart, has asked voters over the years to assess presidents -- not just separately on the job the president is doing or on the president's personal likability but on both qualities straightforwardly in one question:

Which of the following statements comes closest to your opinion of (the president)?

A) I like (the president) personally, and I approve of most of his policies.

B) I like him personally, but I disapprove of many of his policies.

C) I don't like him personally, but I approve of most of his policies.

D) I don't like him personally, and I disapprove of many of his policies.

The most recent president to win reelection, Democrat Barack Obama, was consistently liked personally by about 7 out of 10 voters (the great majority of whom also approved of most of his policies). Barely 3 out of 10 both disliked Obama personally and disapproved of his policies. For another reelected Democrat, Bill Clinton, 55 percent liked him personally (36 percent both liked him and approved most of his policies), while fewer than 3 out of 10 both disliked Clinton and disapproved of his policies.

Both men, proving the maxim that "before they vote for you, they first have to like you," handily won second terms.

But not so for President Trump. Fewer than 3 out of 10 voters personally like Trump and just over 1 out of 4 both like him personally and approve of his policies. Contrast that with the average of 47 percent of voters who both personally dislike Trump and also disapprove of his policies. This tells us that 2020 should be about change rather than continuity.

we're just negotiating the size of the landslide.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Things Are Big in America (JONAH GOLDBERG, August 22, 2019, National Review)

America is also large of spirit. Foreigners know this and will often tell you this. Abroad, Americans stand out so much, they almost glow. What Texans and Californians are to other Americans, Americans are to much of the world. Our flintiest New Englanders are like cruise directors compared with many Eastern Europeans. We're a deeply charitable people -- far more charitable than any European country, no matter how you measure it.

We've got the biggest businesses, or at least the biggest number of them. We also have the biggest amount of the biggest stuff -- whether it's the world's largest ball of string or the solar system's biggest piñata.

And just like a giant piñata, we contain multitudes. Bigness doesn't necessarily mean sameness. We're generous but quick-tempered, moralistic yet forgiving. (We declared war against the British and then became BFFs. We duked it -- and in one case nuked it -- out with the Axis powers and now we're all buds, too.) Just as you can hit a piñata from any angle and get some reward, America is big enough to be vulnerable to almost any criticism. But those criticisms require focusing on the negatives to the exclusion of the lion's share of positives.

America may be more than just an idea, but man, what an idea. 

September 2, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 2:33 PM


Neo-Roman and Christian conceptions of liberty (JOE CARTER, September 2, 2019, Acton)

Understanding how "liberty" has been used in the past can therefore help us understand how and why we have different views of it today.

A prime example is political historian Quentin Skinner's explanation of "neo-Roman liberty."

3:AM: You are known as a leading historian of political history and in particular the formation of ideas around human liberty. One of the key ideas you've written about is what you label 'neo-Roman' liberty.' This began back in Ancient Rome didn't it, where freedom was contrasted with slavery, wasn't it? Can you tell us what its distinctive traits are?

Quentin Skinner: The vision of personal freedom that interests me is articulated most clearly in the Digest of Roman Law, which is why I have wanted to describe its later manifestations as examples of 'neo-Roman' liberty. The fundamental distinction drawn at the outset of the Digest is between the liber homo, the free person, and the servus or slave. The law needed to begin with this contrast because law applies only to free persons, not to slaves. So one crucial question was: what makes a slave? The answer given in the legal texts is that a slave is someone who is in potestate, in the power of a master. The contrast is with someone who is sui iuris, able to act in their own right. Long before these argument were summarised in the legal texts, they had been elaborated by a number of Roman moralists and historians, above all Sallust, Livy and Tacitus. These writers were interested in the broader question of what it means to say of individuals - or even of whole bodies of people - that they have been made to live in the manner of slaves. The answer they give is that, if you are subject to the arbitrary will of anyone else, such that you are dependent on their mere goodwill, then you may be said to be living in servitude, however elevated may be your position in society. 

The thing to remember is that while we rely on republican liberty, it is a means, not the end.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


'The Great Scattering': How Identity Panic Took Root in the Void Once Occupied by Family Life (Mary Eberstadt, 8/27/19, Quillette)

When sociologists first began mapping the post-revolutionary empirical world beginning a little over half a century ago, they looked first, naturally enough, to the terrain that was easiest to see and measure: fatherlessness and its correlates. In his 1965 report, The Negro Family: The Case for National Action, future U.S. senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan argued that black poverty was tied fundamentally to the implosion of the black family, and worried over the rate of out-of-wedlock births--which was then around 25 percent, much higher than that of whites. That rate would continue to rise for both whites and blacks during the decades to come, and academics began connecting dots to show what was happening to children and adolescents in the new social order.

In 1997, one of the most eminent social scientists of the twentieth century, James Q. Wilson, summarized many of these findings succinctly in a speech that was later published as an essay. He identified the root of America's fracturing in the dissolution of the family, and described what he called "the two nations" of America. The dividing line between these cleft territories was no longer one of income or social class, he argued. Instead, it had become all about the hearth.

"It is not money," Wilson documented, "but the family that is the foundation of public life. As it has become weaker, every structure built upon that foundation has become weaker." He pointed to the library that social science had been building for decades, filled with books and studies about the correlations between crumbling family structure and various adverse results. Kinship composition, as Wilson's work among others demonstrated, had become more important to positive outcomes than race, income, or one's station at birth.

Absent fathers have been only the most visible and measurable of the new family lacunae. In a landmark 2000 book called Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce, Elizabeth Marquardt, working with sociologist Norval Glenn, reported on a study into the long-term effects of parental breakup into adulthood. She administered a lengthy questionnaire to 1,500 young adults, half of whose parents had split up by the time the children turned fourteen, and documented differences between children of divorce, and those who came from intact families.

At times, the two groups exhibited starkly opposed concepts of identity. For example, children of divorce were almost three times as likely to "strongly agree" with the statement, "I felt like a different person with each of my parents." They were also twice as likely to "strongly agree" with the statement, "I always felt like an adult, even when I was a little kid"--a particularly poignant expression of confusion about the question "Who am I?" Almost two-thirds of the respondents of divorced homes also "agreed" with the following statement, which similarly expresses the division of oneself: "I felt like I had two families."

This is evocative evidence, again, of the unsteady sense of self that many people, adult and child alike, now experience as the givens of life. It expresses the division of one into more than one--of selves torn, as in the book's title, between worlds. And though these researchers limited their study to children of divorce only, their findings would also appear to apply to any home where two parents play a role in a child's life from different locations.

Pop culture weighs in, too. In a 2004 Policy Review essay called Eminem Is Right, I documented how family rupture, family anarchy and family breakup had become the signature themes of Generation-X and Generation-Y pop. If yesterday's rock was the music of abandon, today's is that of abandonment. The odd truth about contemporary teenage music--the characteristic that most separates it from what has gone before--is its compulsive insistence on the damage wrought by broken homes, family dysfunction, checked-out parents, and (especially) absent fathers. Papa Roach, Everclear, Blink-182, Good Charlotte, Snoop Doggy Dogg--these and others have their own generational answer to what ails the modern teenager. That answer is: dysfunctional childhood. During the same years in which progressive-minded and politically correct adults have been excoriating Ozzie and Harriet as artifacts of 1950s-style oppression, millions of American teenagers have enshrined a new generation of music idols whose shared signature in song after song is to rage about what not having had a nuclear family had done to them.

In 2004, identity politics was not the omnipresent headline subject it is today. Even so, the effect of family decline on the sense of self already was appearing writ large across popular music. Tupac Shakur rapped about life with a single mother and no male parent, including in his 1993 Papa'z Song, about a boy who has to play catch by himself. Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam and Kurt Cobain of Nirvana, both towering figures in 1990s rock, were children of divorce, and both referred back to that event repeatedly in their songs and interviews.

Above all, there is the fiery emotional connection that generations of teenagers have found in rap superstar Eminem. It exists not only on account of his extraordinary facility with language, but also, surely, for his signature themes: absent father, inattentive mother, protectiveness toward a sibling, and rage. Eminem is the Greek chorus of family dysfunction. And long before today's brand of identity panics, a lot of young America already was stumbling over how to answer the question "Who am I?" Just listening to what they were driving up the charts proved the point.

All the lonely people, why do they embrace identity politics? (Madeline Fry, September 01, 2019, Washington Examiner)

"Eleanor Rigby" was strangely prescient of an epidemic of loneliness that afflicts our society today. Senior citizens are increasingly isolated, more than one-fifth of millennials say they have no friends, and scientists are even developing a pill for lonely people.

It's significant that The Beatles released Eleanor Rigby in the '60s. Author Mary Eberstadt might call it a case of foreshadowing, for she argues in Primal Screams: How the Sexual Revolution Created Identity Politics that the sexual revolution led to a national sense of loneliness and lack of identity .

Her book, released this month, makes the case that the sexual revolution led, surprisingly, to the rise of identity politics.

"Wherever any one of us stands in matters of the 'culture wars' is immaterial here," she writes. "The plain fact is that the relative stability of yesterday's familial identity could not help but answer the question at the heart of identity politics -- Who am I? -- in ways that many men, women, and children can't answer it any more."

In some ways, Primal Screams is a follow-up to Eberstadt's 2012 book, Adam and Eve After the Pill: Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolution. If the sexual revolution led to unexpected problems between men and women, how else has it affected us as a society? Primal Screams answers that question.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Lionel Shriver returns to Australia and doubles down on 'fascistic' identity politics (Debbie Zhou, 1 Sep 2019, The Guardian)

Three years after vowing never to return to Australia, author Lionel Shriver says she stands by her controversial keynote speech at the Brisbane writers' festival in 2016, calling identity politics "fascistic".

Sunday night marked the American novelist's first appearance in Australia since that controversial tour, despite her having released two books in the intervening years.

Shriver's 2016 address on fiction and identity politics, in which she said she hoped "the concept of 'cultural appropriation' is a passing fad", received widespread backlash. Sudanese-Australian writer Yassmin Abdel-Magied walked out of the event midway, later writing in the Guardian that Shriver's argument - that fiction writers shouldn't need to seek permission to write on minority cultures - "became a celebration of the unfettered exploitation of the experiences of others, under the guise of fiction".

But on Sunday night, Shriver, speaking to an intimate crowd of 150 at Sydney's Bookoccino event, said her only regret in the controversy was the way it was reported. Abdel-Magied's opinion piece sparked an international uproar and debate, with stories in the New York Times and the New Yorker. The Orange prize-winning novelist on Sunday reiterated her arguments from the keynote, warning of the dangers of "a larger cultural cowardice".

"So ultimately [for] this movement - I'm sorry to throw around what sounds like hyperbole - but the end point is fascistic. Because it's about control. It's about silence. It's about obedience. It's about conformism. It's about imposing a way of thinking," she said. [...]

She resisted the idea that people should be defined as part of the "groups we're a member of, and what order we are in the social hierarchy", saying she doesn't believe "race, gender or sexual proclivity" are forms of identity. This line of thought led her to penning a controversial essay in the Spectator in 2018, in which she expressed her disagreement with Penguin Random House's diversity quotas.

"To tell me that identity comes down to these little boxes that we were born into ... [is] depressing and also politically regressive," she said. "I find that a really grim, ugly, flat way of looking at the world."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Texas loosens firearm laws hours after the state's latest mass shooting left five dead (Faith Karimi and Allen Kim, September 1, 2019, CNN)

A series of new firearm laws will go into effect in Texas on Sunday just hours after a shooting left five people dead in the western part of the state.

The laws will further loosen gun restrictions in a state that's had four of the 10 deadliest mass shootings in modern US history. They will make it easier to have guns just a month after a shooter stormed a Walmart in El Paso and killed 22 people.

On the other hand, elected officials will pray for the dead.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Why Americans Love Their Apple Pie: How did a humble dessert become a recipe for democracy? (Gabriella Petrick, September 2019, SMITHSONIAN MAGAZINE)

In the early 1900s, the United States was at war--over pie. On one side were the traditionalists, who saw pie as "an article of necessity in every household as much as the bed and cook stove," according to a Chicago Daily Tribune report in 1899. On the other side were the food reformers, who wanted to break this unhealthy and corrupting habit. "Pie really is an American evil," Kate Masterson wrote in the New York Times in 1902. It is an "unmoral food," she warned, offering advice for spotting pie eaters: They have "sallow complexions" and "lusterless or unnaturally bright eyes" and, of course, they "are all dyspeptic." "No great man," she wrote, "was ever fond of pie."

Those were fighting words. Pie eaters traced their love of the dish back to the founding fathers--a particular pumpkin pie recipe credited to the Adams family was said by the Kansas City Star to have "raised a well-fed race of jurists, scholars, orators and Presidents"--and still further back to the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The pie tradition of the New England colonies had come from old England with the settlers, who transformed the savory kidney and mincemeat pies of the British Isles into sweet pies filled with fruits that grew well along the Atlantic Coast. The crusts changed, too. They were lighter and flakier because lard from pigs was more abundant in the Colonies than tallow from cows. (Sugar and spices were imported to the Colonies from Britain, which controlled most trade.) In 1892, Rudyard Kipling described the Northeast as "the great American pie belt," a title that traditionalists claimed proudly. As the population moved west, the pie recipes did, too.

By the turn of the century, Americans were eating more apple pie than any other variety. Apples, first brought to the continent by the colonists, grew well across large swaths of the country and could be stored through the winter, unlike most other fresh fruits. The phrase "as American as apple pie" would not be coined until a 1924 advertisement in the Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Times for men's suits that bucked English fashion trends. But the idea was already so deeply ingrained that pie eating became a way for the country's newest arrivals--now mainly from Central, Southern and Eastern Europe--to assimilate. "Every American is born with an appetite for pie," a New York newspaper opined in 1895. As for the immigrant, the paper wrote, "his Americanism, in fact, may be tested in his taste for pie."

To the growing food reform movement, though, pie was a remnant of our rustic past, before the United States had taken its place on the international stage. Advocates such as Harvey Wiley--now best known for his support of the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906--called for a simpler and lighter diet, focused on Northern European cuisines. Pie eaters (code for immigrants and the lower classes, in the language of the food reformers) were a drag on society. Elizabeth Fulton, a home economist at Kansas State Normal School, believed pie eating, like alcoholism, was a cause of divorce. She implored homemakers to "return to fresh fruit."

The reformers might have won the battle, too, if not for the outbreak of World War I. Now pie eating was patriotic.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Sanctions choke Iran's crude sales, but oil product exports booming (Ahmad Ghaddar, Bozorgmehr Sharafedin, 9/02/19, Reuters) 

While U.S. sanctions on Iran's oil industry have slashed the OPEC member's crude exports by more than 80%, oil product sales from the Islamic Republic remain strong at nearly $500 million a month, shipping data and Reuters calculations show.

Sanctions have barely affected Iran's exports of oil products, primarily fuel oil used for power generation and shipping as well as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) used as cooking gas and petrochemical feed. [...]

Samantha Hartke, head of natural gas liquids and LPG at consultancy Energy Aspects, said her firm did not expect Chinese imports of Iranian LPG to abate given China's new petrochemical capacity is creating significant demand for the feedstock.

"The irony is: if not for the U.S.-China trade war, the U.S. would have greatly benefited from this uptick in Chinese demand as a means of mopping up its overabundance of LPG supplies, thanks to shale," she added.

September 1, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 10:38 AM


Darwin's finches continue to inform and confuse: Extinct populations had higher genetic diversity than many survivors. (Stephen Fleischfresser, 9/01/19, Cosmos)

Heather Farrington, Lucinda Lawson and Kenneth Petren of the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Cincinnati in the US have used the finches to test the robustness of predictive extinction models and the assumptions that underpin them.

One of the common ways to test whether a population or species is likely to go extinct is to measure its genetic diversity: such testing is quick, easy and cheap. Each gene comes in a number of different forms, called alleles.

Genetic diversity refers to the number of different alleles in a population or species; greater diversity is thought to mean that the population or species will have the capacity to adapt should environmental conditions change.

With more diversity comes a higher likelihood that alleles exist in the population that will provide certain individuals with an advantage in changed conditions. These individuals will then outbreed the rest of the population and over time these alleles will become typical of the population or species. This is basically how evolution works.

"Typically, we would expect populations with high genetic diversity to have a greater potential for long-term survival," says Lawson. "Meanwhile, the low-diversity populations would be more likely to go extinct because that's a common pattern as populations decline to few individuals."

She and her colleagues set out to explore this indicator using Darwin's finches, which provide a rare opportunity to test whether genetic diversity really is a predictor of extinction.

By looking at the genetic diversity of 212 tissue samples taken from both museum specimens and living birds, they could compare these to the reality that has played out in the islands' finches, where "many populations went extinct, but far more persisted" over the last 100 years or so. The trio's hypothesis was "that genetic variation was lower in populations that ultimately went extinct, relative to those that are still extant".

What they found was the opposite.

Only one of the extinct finch populations, a species called the vegetarian finch, had lower genetic diversity compared to modern survivors. To make matters more confusing, most of the now extinct populations had indications of higher genetic diversity compared to surviving populations that migrated to other islands. one still thinks they're species.

Posted by orrinj at 10:09 AM


The Unstoppable Surge in Negative (John Ainger, August 30, 2019, Bloomberg)

Thirty percent of all investment-grade securities now bear sub-zero yields, meaning that investors who acquire the debt and hold it to maturity are guaranteed to make a loss. Yet buyers are still piling in, seeking to benefit from further increases in bond prices and favorable cross-currency hedging rates--or at least to avoid greater losses elsewhere.

Those yields are more likely too high than too low.

Posted by orrinj at 9:50 AM


The US Recovery Turns Ten (JEFFREY FRANKEL, 7/14/19, Project Syndicate)

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

The credit crunch was essentially the only interruption in US economic growth since the early 80s recession.

Posted by orrinj at 8:51 AM


Trump is raising your taxes today (Rick Newman, September 1, 2019, Yahoo Finance)

With far less fanfare than the tax cuts President Donald Trump signed into law in 2017, a series of tax hikes goes into effect today on thousands of everyday items imported from China.

A new tariff of 15% will be added to the cost of more than 40% of all consumer products imported from China on Sept. 1. That amounts to about $109 billion worth of annual imports, according to research firm Panjiva. On Dec.15, the 15% tariff will be assessed on another $155 billion worth of consumer goods from China. At that point, there will be new Trump tariffs on virtually everything imported from China.

Posted by orrinj at 8:23 AM


Twitter won't autoban neo-Nazis because the filters may ban GOP politicians (Nina Corcoran, April 26, 2019, Consequence of Sound)

During an all-hands staff meeting on March 22nd, an employee asked why the company refrains from using its AI to kick white nationalists off the site. After all, Twitter had previously ushered a sweep of bans on accounts pushing Islamic State propaganda. The answer was unsurprising for anyone who's ever perused Twitter: Content filters created to identify hate speech could potentially result in Republican politicians being banned, an executive explained.

Posted by orrinj at 8:17 AM


FROM EL PASO TO SARAJEVO: How White Nationalists Have Been Inspired by the Genocide of Muslims in Bosnia (Murtaza Hussain, September 1 2019, the Intercept)

Nearly two decades after the war ended, Bosnia is still struggling to emerge from the vortex of hatred that destroyed the country during the 1990s. Yet what may be even more alarming is that outside of Bosnia, the memory of the genocide committed against its Muslims has become a source of inspiration for the global far right. The shooter who killed 51 people at two mosques in New Zealand this March wrote the names of Serbian nationalist leaders on the rifle he used to carry out the massacres. During his livestream of the attacks, he played a jaunty song performed by Bosnian Serb soldiers during the war, nicknamed "Remove Kebab," that has become popular among the online "alt-right." The Norwegian extremist Anders Breivik, who murdered 77 people during a 2011 shooting rampage, reportedly also showed a "strange obsession" with the genocide in Bosnia, heaping praise on wartime Serb leaders in a manifesto he wrote before his attacks. A domestic terrorist in Pennsylvania who killed a state trooper in 2014 was similarly infatuated with the wartime Bosnian Serb military, posing images of himself on social media in a uniform from the notorious Drina Wolves unit. On websites like 4chan that are helping to breed a new culture of racial hatred and glorification of violence, it's not hard to find the Bosnian genocide favorably discussed. These new online connections are also helping to foster real-world links between the Western far right and its Balkan counterparts. [...]

In order to understand the ideology of the emerging far right -- obsessed with demographics and starry-eyed over the Bosnian genocide -- it's important to look at what actually happened in Bosnia. The grim success of the genocide in cleansing much of Bosnia should give a hint as to why it has become an inspiration. Around 100,000 people are believed to have been killed during the Bosnian war. The majority of them were Muslims. The cleansing of places like Višegrad, Foča, Srebrenica, Prijedor, and Zvornik was not a war between two equal and opposing forces. It was a campaign of murder and cruelty against a defenseless people, waged in the name of demographics and ethnic purity. It mixed equal parts racism and misogyny. The level of sexual violence against Bosnian Muslim women was so targeted and systematic -- educated women were singled out for the worst treatment -- that it led to rape being recognized for the first time as a weapon of war under international law.

In the years before the war broke out, ultranationalist politicians obsessively raised public fears about the demographic balance of Yugoslavia. As historian Michael Sells wrote in his history of the war, "Birthrates became so heated an issue that Serb nationalists charged Muslims with a premeditated plot to use their higher birthrates to overwhelm and ultimately destroy the Christian Serbs." That same fever dream of birth rates and racism is now taking hold in the minds of many people outside Serbia and Bosnia, including in the United States. The young man who murdered 22 people in a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, left a manifesto online despairing over the demographic growth of Hispanics in his state. His goal for the massacre was to kill as many of them as possible. It doesn't take much to connect the rhetoric about a Hispanic "invasion" to violence as a response to the supposed threat.

Posted by orrinj at 8:12 AM


In Praise of Mölkky, the Greatest Lawn Game You've Never Heard Of (DANNY AGNEW, SEPTEMBER 1, 2019, Inside hook)

[I] stopped to watch a ragtag crew of French millennials drinking wine straight from the bottle and chucking a wooden cylinder at a cluster of small numbered pins.

The delightfully-inebriated enfants terrible took pity on a lonely old American and roped me into the game, which I soon learned was called Mölkky, a quirky combo of bocce and bowling hailing from Finland (also the birthplace of saunas and Angry Birds; the Finns have casual time-wasting down to a science).

Granted the wine probably had something to do with it, but my inaugural Mölkky session wound up being the best afternoon of my whole trip. Without too a deep dive into the game's rules, the basic gist is that one tosses the wooden cylinder (the titular "mölkky") at the numbered pins (1-12, dubbed "skittles") in an attempt to score exactly 50 points. Knock down a single pin, you get the number of points on it. Knock down multiple pins, you get one point for each pin. 

Pins are set back up wherever they land, thus spreading out over the course of a game and adding an interesting wrinkle of strategy absent from typical tossin' contests like cornhole or ladder ball.

Posted by orrinj at 8:10 AM

Posted by orrinj at 7:56 AM


Muslim Americans seeking political office undeterred by Trump's racist attacks (Sheren Khalel,  24 July 2019, Middle East Eye)

Muslim activists from across the country attended, many of whom planned campaigns or had already tried to run for office.

While many of the attendees were eyeing local positions, including city council and school board seats, Ameen Ahmad, a 16-year-old student from Maryland, is dreaming big. He wants to be president one day.  

Ahmad is well aware of the political climate in the US, and said the hate and race-baiting he has seen only serve to galvanise his political aspirations. 

"When I watched the video and saw President Trump standing there for 16 seconds as people chanted 'Send her back, Send her back', I felt upset and hurt, but I didn't feel scared," Ahmad said.

He was referring to a Trump rally in North Carolina last week, where the president's supporters targeted Omar with racist slogans.

"It actually makes me want to run even more because I want to show people that Muslims are part of their community and normal citizens just like them," Ahmad added.

Posted by orrinj at 7:53 AM


Bernie Sanders talks tough in well-received address to US Muslims (Azad Essa,  1 September 2019, Middle East Eye)

He was particularly scathing about Saudi Arabia and Iran, describing the war in Yemen as "one of their theatres of conflict". 

"As you know, the United States has been backing the brutal government of Saudi Arabia, whose intervention in that civil war has led to this humanitarian crisis where millions are at risk of starvation in what could be the worst famine in modern history," Sanders said.

The senator has repeatedly raised concerns about the US involvement in the war in Yemen, where Washington materially backs a Saudi-led coalition that is fighting the Iran-aligned Houthi movement.

In April 2019, Trump vetoed a Sanders-sponsored resolution that looked to end US support for the Saudi-led war effort.

"I particularly liked that he raised the issue of Yemen. It is something that cuts me deeply," Isa said.

Sanders also said that, as US president, he would hold China to account for its persecution of the Uighurs in Xinjiang province. He also described India's unilateral decision in August to revoke the semi-autonomous status of Kashmir and impose a communication blockade and military siege on the valley as "unacceptable".

He then chastised "political elites in both the Republican and Democratic parties" for pursuing "endless wars and interventions".

Sanders said that, unlike Trump, who has "an affection for authoritarian regimes around the world," he "would make democracy and human rights a priority for the United States of America".
Rhoeda Adewmi, 18, from Houston, indicated doubt over Sanders' ability to deliver on his promises. "I hope he is true to his word," she told MEE.

But honesty is precisely what Huda Khalid, from Houston, is banking on from the Vermont senator.

Khalid told MEE that, though she may not agree with everything Sanders says, she feels he is "consistent and honest".

The 31-year-old was alluding to Sanders' comments during a Q&A session with the audience, in which he reiterated that he was not a supporter of the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which seeks to pressure Israel into ending its occupation and abuses of Palestinians. 

"He didn't say what I wanted him to say about BDS. But at least he is not against criminalisation of the boycott campaign. Most of all, he was honest in front of a crowd of Muslims who obviously support Palestine. I appreciate that," Khalid said.

Posted by orrinj at 7:11 AM


Listening to "East Coker" (Dwight Longenecker, August 31st, 2019, Imaginative Conservative)

In "East Coker" Eliot's biography, his prayer life, and poetic technique interact in an especially powerful way. The background for the poem's composition is crucial for a wider perception of "East Coker" and the whole of the Quartets. Eliot had salvaged scraps of poetry from his work on Murder in the Cathedral and incorporated them into "Burnt Norton." He would do the same as he began work on "East Coker."

In 1939, with Britain about to plunge into war, Eliot was wondering if he would write poetry again. He had visited the village of East Coker in 1937, and using fragments of phraseology and ideas from "Burnt Norton" he began another poem in the same style and pattern. Only after the success of "East Coker" did he conceive the whole plan of four poems. "East Coker" therefore builds on the success of "Burnt Norton" and consolidates the genius and style of the first poem.

Eliot's poetic technique is the first of the three aspects to consider therefore. In the first two essays I explained Eliot's debt to the French symbolist poets and their use of images that are disturbing, bewildering, and emotionally evocative. Eliot uses this technique again in "East Coker." What on earth does "comets weep and Leonids fly" mean? What is "a grimpen where there is no secure foothold"? "Grimpen" is not in the dictionary. Yes, you may track down a hint from a Sherlock Holmes story, but it doesn't matter. You may not know the definition, but with the following line, "menaced by monsters," you feel the emotion.

That was the idea. The emotion lies beneath the meaning. It is chthonic--sub-linguistic. The emotions rumble in the depths--where the wild things are. They are the underground--the tumultuous deep.

Eliot once commented, "Good writers borrow. Great writers steal." Another favorite technique is allusion and quotation. The voices of great minds echo throughout Eliot's poetry. It is not only the great poets, but also historical figures, Eliot's ancestors, political writers, saints, and spiritual authorities as well as scraps of overheard conversation, snatches of popular songs, evocative catchphrases, slang, and slogans.

A quotation opens the door to a whole separate scene. It evokes the conversation and the cultural setting. An allusion connects the readers with the whole life, thought, and writings of a particular thinker. It enriches the experience of the poem by giving it depth and rooting it in the context of a greater culture, and lodging it within a broader sweep of history, theology, and philosophy. "East Coker" is rich in these allusions. The poem opens with one. "In my beginning is my end" is an inversion of the motto of Mary, Queen of Scots, "In my end is my beginning."

Eliot goes on through the poem to quote from the writings of a distant ancestor Sir Thomas Elyot, alludes to Dante, the book of Ecclesiastes, St John of the Cross, echoes Thomas Gray's Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard, Thomas Browne, and William Blake.

The poem is grounded in Eliot's biography not only in the fact that he visited the Somerset village of East Coker, but why he visited.

Posted by orrinj at 6:53 AM

BUT MAYBE NOT FOUR HOUR GAMES (self-reference alert):

For Love of Watching the Game: Reflections on sports spectatorship (Jonathan Clarke, August 30, 2019, City Journal)

All sports fans have mini-crises of the soul. We periodically lament the endless hours devoted to spectatorship, time that might have been spent mastering a foreign language or the oboe. But, in general, my conviction has only grown that my time as a fan has been well spent; indeed, an hour spent watching baseball is among the surest investments of time that I can make, second perhaps to spending time with my children. On my death bed, I might regret the years I had spent in my twenties writing two unpublishable novels; I know I'll regret the dolorous hours I have spent commuting. But I doubt I'd ever regret much of the baseball, the football, or the basketball. So long as I can be propped up in front of the television, the shape of the Yankees roster come April will remain a matter of interest to me. 

There is a paradox at the heart of watching sports, which is that sports are serious even as the outcome of the games--even the highest-stakes ones--clearly is not. Though I would like my storied alma mater to win its football games, I can't pretend that it's important that they do. The strivings of individual athletes are often fascinating as parables of self-mastery, but those strivings are not my own. The meanings we search for between the lines are sometimes elusive. What brings us back is that sense of hope and renewal that a new season, like the birth of a baby, can provide.

Spent some time watching an EPL game in a pub recently and struck up a conversation with a former MN Twins employee, who started with the team in '87, so he had all kinds of great stories from the two World Series.  But, eventually, we got to the point where we were commiserating about games being too long for us now and the beauty of a soccer game being done and dusted after two hours. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:40 AM


U.S. - China Trade War: Are There Any Winners in War? (Jon Maier, Michelle Cluver, Aug 15, 2019, Global X)

Unlike China, the U.S. is at the start of a new election cycle. This gives the U.S. a far more short-term perspective to negotiate from. Additionally, a strong stance against China talks well to most of President Trump's base. Therefore, over the next year we expect to see a ramp up in rhetoric. However, we believe that the U.S. is going to need to change negotiating strategies or risk running out of option on how to drive the dialog of the trade negotiation.

While it is true that China imports a lot more into the U.S. than the U.S. does into China, trade negotiations go well beyond the value of goods that can have tariffs imposed on them. Throughout this negotiation, President Trump has threatened to add further tariffs when negotiations are not making enough progress. Should these tariffs come into effect in September, all goods from China will face tariffs. This makes negotiation by threat a more challenging tactic for the U.S. to utilize going forward.

It is also good to remember that tariffs are just a nicer word for a tax on the end purchaser. The U.S. is a consumer driven economy and therefore anything that impacts the end consumer is highly important for overall growth. Up until now, most of the goods targeted for tariffs have been less consumer focused. This means potentially a longer lead times before these tariffs reflect in the inflation numbers. Conversely, this final $300 billion targeted for tariffs are likely to have a more direct impact on consumer prices.

While the Federal Reserve (Fed) has been waiting more than a decade for inflation to return, they want demand driven inflation rather than cost push inflation. Higher prices driven by cost factors such as tariffs, increases the risks of stagflation. This also has the potential to make it more challenging for the Fed to be more accommodative should the economy show further signs of deceleration.

Beyond tariffs, what credible negotiating tactics does the U.S. have left within its arsenal? While the U.S. entered this trade dispute appearing to be the stronger party, what have they gained in almost 18 months?

"Trade wars are good and easy to win" is likely to go down in history as one of the largest miscalculations of the current administration. While it is easy to declare a trade war, finding a solution that leaves both sides believing that they got a good deal is far more challenging.

Of course, if Donald simply ended his wars on trade/immigration and entered the TPP he could then take credit for the economic acceleration that would occur.  

Posted by orrinj at 6:33 AM