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.