November 12, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 6:50 PM


At private Orthodox event, Trump says he could become Israel's prime minister (JTA, 11/12/19) 

Posted by orrinj at 6:34 PM


Posted by orrinj at 6:18 PM


Posted by orrinj at 6:01 PM

60-40 NATION:

Trump's EPA Agenda Is Wildly Unpopular. Dems Should Make It a 2020 Issue. (Eric Levitz, 11/12/19, New York)

[T]rump's EPA has prepared a draft proposal that would bar it from considering the conclusions of any academic study that relies on confidential medical records. The official rationale for this policy is that such studies cannot be independently verified. Without access to the private medical records undergirding a given finding, EPA agents can't double check the validity of the researchers' raw data. But this is a standard that virtually no peer review committee or scientific journal insists upon, for the simple reason that private medical records are indispensable tools for documenting public-health outcomes -- and assurances of confidentiality are often indispensable for securing private medical records.

Regardless, the administration's true motivation has nothing to do with abstract questions of scientific ethics. The new rule's most important component is that it can be applied retroactively. Which is to say, it can be invoked to block the renewal of existing environmental regulations that were enacted on the basis of studies involving private medical records. And that would encompass a lot of regulations. As the Times' Lisa Friedman explains:

[A] groundbreaking 1993 Harvard University project that definitively linked polluted air to premature deaths, currently the foundation of the nation's air-quality laws, could become inadmissible. When gathering data for their research, known as the Six Cities study, scientists signed confidentiality agreements to track the private medical and occupational histories of more than 22,000 people in six cities. They combined that personal data with home air-quality data to study the link between chronic exposure to air pollution and mortality ... The Six Cities study and a 1995 American Cancer Society analysis of 1.2 million people that confirmed the Harvard findings appear to be the inspiration of the regulation.

"The original goal was to stop E.P.A. from relying on these two studies unless the data is made public," said Steven J. Milloy, a member of Mr. Trump's E.P.A. transition team who runs, a website that questions established climate change science and contends particulate matter in smog does not harm human health.

The right's assault on this line of public-health research is driven by an inconvenient truth: Air pollution turns out to be much worse for human health than just about anyone expected when the Clean Air Act was first established. The longer scientists have studied the issue, the more harms they've identified; human bodies simply did not evolve to process the kinds of particulate matter that coal and chemical companies spew. Earlier this year, a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences estimated that more than 100,000 Americans die from illnesses caused by exposure to air pollution each year. This reality has given evidence-based environmental policy a strong environmentalist bias. So the GOP's corporate patrons are eager to destroy the evidence.

But this is one of the many instances in which the GOP donor class's financial interests and the GOP's political interests are in severe tension. There is a reason why President Trump has always claimed to care about clean air and water even as he ridicules climate change as a "Chinese hoax" -- a large majority of American voters want the government to make sure they can breathe clean air and drink safe water.

Last year, Gallup found 62 percent of Americans saying that the government was "doing too little" to protect the environment -- the highest that figure has been in more than a decade. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:51 PM


Why Are Pundits Fawning Over Elizabeth Warren's Medicare-for-All Financing Proposal? (MATT BRUENIG, 11/12/19, Jacobin)

The M4A Financing Problem, in simple terms, is that even if you bring in existing federal spending on health care, existing state spending on health care, and a bunch of new rich-people taxes, you still fall short of financing the program. Thus, to actually complete the financing, you have to use some middle-class taxes.

The proper response to this "problem" has always been to point out that it is no problem at all. Yes, you will have to impose some middle-class taxes to round out the total amount of money you need, but those taxes will charge the middle class far less than they are currently paying for health care. What people don't like about taxes is that it means they have less money. But swapping these taxes for the elimination of premiums and out-of-pocket expenses would actually mean that the middle class has a lot more money.

However, for some pundits, this explanation has never been satisfactory. They say that any tax imposed on the middle class is a problem and has to be avoided. And, insofar as you cannot do M4A without some middle-class taxes, it is a nonstarter.

When Warren released her Medicare-for-All financing proposal this week, nearly every left-liberal journalist declared she had made a huge breakthrough: an M4A financing plan with no middle-class taxes.

David Dayen of the American Prospect announced that "Warren's Medicare for All Plan Includes No New Taxes on the Middle Class." Sahil Kapur says that, contrary to Bernie Sanders, Warren's plan has "no middle class taxes." Danielle Kurtzleben of NPR says Warren's plan has "no new taxes on the middle class." Ady Barkan of the Intercept writes that "her plan doesn't raise taxes on working families." Even Eric Levitz of New York magazine, who seems to know better in parts of his piece, says that the plan "does not raise the American middle class's taxes by a dime."

Every single one of these people is incorrect, under the typical definition of "middle-class taxes" that has always been used in this discussion. Just like every person that came before her, Warren realized that after bringing in existing government spending and some targeted rich-people taxes, there was still more money that needed to be collected. And, just like those people, she came up with a middle-class tax to do it. Her middle-class tax is an employer-side head tax. It is an $8.8 trillion tax hike on the middle class.

Posted by orrinj at 5:47 PM


'Government Cannot Solve Our Problems' (JIBRAN KHAN, May 10, 2018, National Review)

Until the Carter years, much of the economy, including air travel, brewing, oil, telecommunications, rail shipping, and commercial trucking, had been subject to severe government control.

Perhaps the most striking aspect of the political landscape Eizenstat depicts is its robust respect for separation of powers. "For all its majesty, the presidency has few constitutional powers beyond that of commander in chief of the armed forces," he writes. "The power of the office comes from his ability to influence others to follow his lead - Congress, friends, and foes foreign and domestic, and above all the American public." Where a modern president would use "a pen and phone" to effect policy, however unconstitutionally, the Carter administration worked with Congress to achieve its legislative goals. Some of its failed initiatives, such as welfare reform, would come to fruition in Congress during later administrations. Persuasion can take time.

There is a tendency in our political culture to assume that Carter must have been "far-left" because he was followed by Ronald Reagan, who inspiringly spoke of the liberating power of the market and against the evils of Communism. But this isn't quite right. Indeed, Reagan didn't disagree with his predecessor on everything. Not only was Carter a fiscal conservative and deficit hawk (much to the ire of Democratic party leaders), but he was perhaps the greatest deregulator of his political era.

Until the Carter years, much of the economy, including air travel, brewing, oil, telecommunications, rail shipping, and commercial trucking, had been subject to severe government control -- to the point that government officials made virtually all of the major decisions. This setup made services prohibitively expensive but guaranteed profits for big businesses by keeping out new competitors. The Carter administration, by focusing on free-market reforms and appointing deregulators to head up regulatory agencies, made a big dent in the problem.

The deregulation of the 1970s brought together an interesting and shifting coalition of supporters. Democrats Ted Kennedy and Ralph Nader joined Carter in his effort to open up the airline industry, though both would turn against him when he embarked on deregulation of the oil industry. His opponents, too, were not quite the people one might expect. The Teamsters union was so angered by Carter's deregulation of the trucking industry that its members endorsed Ronald Reagan to signal their opposition.

In his first State of the Union address, President Carter said:

Government cannot solve our problems, it can't set our goals, it cannot define our vision. Government cannot eliminate poverty or provide a bountiful economy or reduce inflation or save our cities or cure illiteracy or provide energy. And government cannot mandate goodness.

There is a deep contrast between this perspective and that conveyed by Donald Trump's "I alone can fix it" or Barack Obama's "Life of Julia" ad campaign, which attempted to show the government as the primary force in people's lives. Carter's words were dispositionally conservative, in that they recognized a fundamentally limited role for government, let alone for the president himself. Today, presidents are expected to opine on every issue -- despite the relatively limited mandate of the presidency -- and to relish doing so. Carter rightfully thought that was not the president's place.

Posted by orrinj at 5:39 PM


Iran's Rouhani shows spark of old self against hard-liners (Rohollah Faghihi, November 12, 2019, Al Monitor)

Fereydoun seemed to be Rouhani's Achilles' heel. But now the president sees himself freed of the limitations and anxiety he'd been carrying on his shoulders. On the same day his brother was sent to prison, Rouhani gave a controversial speech that made both hard-liners and conservatives furious.

"Some say that negotiating with foreigners is a waste of time and we have to confront them, and then one day they will soften their stance, while some believe that war and confrontation won't get us anywhere," said Rouhani.

"We have been debating this for 40 years. We should choose our path," he said, calling for a voter referendum.

In response, Hossein Shariatmadari, chief editor of the state-run hard-liner mouthpiece Kayhan daily, lashed out at Rouhani, saying Oct. 16, "Are we crazy [enough] to negotiate with the US? We are not." Moreover, Kazem Sedighi, a hard-line Friday prayer leader in Tehran, took a swipe at Rouhani, saying Oct. 27 that the president has "forgotten" God.

"Those who insisted on negotiating kept promising that [nuclear] sanctions would be lifted ... and the economy would grow. Which one of your promises has been fulfilled that you rely on negotiation again?" he said, referring to Rouhani's remarks about the need to hold a referendum.

A few days later, Rouhani struck back at hard-liners, speaking about the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a global monitor of money-laundering and terrorism financing.

"Why do some people obstruct the four [FATF-related] bills passed by the government and the parliament? This is not in the interests of the country," the president said.

Rouhani's opponents on the conservative-dominated Guardian Council have held up the bills, even though the FATF removed Tehran from the FATF blacklist and suspended countermeasures, while at the same time urging Iran to meet FATF demands by February or face consequences. The opponents have called the FATF bills "a colonial prescription" for Iran.

In the same speech, targeting conservatives who are hopeful about taking over parliament in 2020, Rouhani described the recent trials of giant companies' executives and CEOs for alleged corruption as campaign maneuvers. But, he said, "I will tell people who has shut down the country."

In reaction, hard-liners dubbed his speech a "new wave of psychological war."  

Posted by orrinj at 3:54 PM


Posted by orrinj at 3:41 PM


Ex-Trump campaign aide testifies in Roger Stone trial, describes 'brainstorming' sessions about WikiLeaks (ALI DUKAKIS and LUCIEN BRUGGEMAN, Nov 12, 2019, ABC News)

Former deputy Trump campaign manager Rick Gates testified during Roget Stone's trial on Tuesday that the campaign had a keen interest in the anticipated release of stolen emails from Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party prior to the 2016 election, and held a series of what he called "brainstorming" sessions among top campaign aides about WikiLeaks. [...]

In his testimony as a government witness in the criminal case against Stone, Gates described discussions he said he had with several senior campaign officials leading up to WikiLeaks' release of hacked materials as part of an effort to hurt the campaign of then-candidate Donald Trump's 2016 political opponent, He also said Stone shepherded those discussions.

In June, when WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange claimed to have information about Clinton, Gates said campaign's response "was one of happiness ... it was, in a way, a gift."

Posted by orrinj at 1:37 PM


Stone previewed WikiLeaks bounty to Trump campaign in April 2016 (DARREN SAMUELSOHN and MATTHEW CHOI, 11/12/2019, Politico)

Roger Stone first told one of Donald Trump's top aides in April 2016 that WikiLeaks had plans to dump information in the heat of the presidential race, kickstarting a scramble inside the campaign to take advantage of the expected releases.

And that plotting included at least one summertime call involving Trump himself, according to Rick Gates, the former Trump deputy campaign chairman, who was testifying Tuesday morning at Stone's trial over lying to Congress about his efforts to contact WikiLeaks.

The revelation means the Trump campaign was aware of WikiLeaks' election-year plans much earlier than previously understood. And it also shows that the president was involved in conversations about the issue, something he has previously denied.

Thanks, Mr. Mueller.

Posted by orrinj at 1:27 PM


Supreme Court lets Sandy Hook shooting lawsuit go forward (MARK SHERMAN, 11/12/19, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

The Supreme Court said Tuesday a survivor and relatives of victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting can pursue their lawsuit against the maker of the rifle used to kill 26 people.

The justices rejected an appeal from Remington Arms that argued it should be shielded by a 2005 federal law preventing most lawsuits against firearms manufacturers when their products are used in crimes.

Posted by orrinj at 1:22 PM


Did Trump's Trade War Impact the 2018 Election? (Emily J. Blanchard, Chad P. Bown, Davin Chor, November 2019, NBER Working Paper No. 26434)

We find that Republican candidates lost support in the 2018 congressional election in counties more exposed to trade retaliation, but saw no commensurate electoral gains from US tariff protection. The electoral losses were driven by retaliatory tariffs on agricultural products, and were only partially mitigated by the US agricultural subsidies announced in summer 2018. Republicans also fared worse in counties that had seen recent gains in health insurance coverage, affirming the importance of health care as an election issue. A counterfactual calculation suggests that the trade war (respectively, health care) can account for five (eight) of Republicans' lost House seats.

Posted by orrinj at 1:13 PM


Leaked Emails Show Stephen Miller's Unfiltered Anti-Immigrant Views . (Noah Lanard, 11/12/19, MoJo)

In private emails in 2015 and 2016, President Donald Trump's top immigration adviser touted a vilely racist novel that warns of a migrant invasion, promoted the ideas of white nationalist publications, and raged at retailers who stopped selling Confederate flags in the wake of the massacre of black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina.

On Tuesday, the Southern Poverty Law Center published excerpts of emails Stephen Miller, the architect of Trump's assaults on immigrants, sent to the right-wing outlet Breitbart. Miller's embrace of ideas and language used by the "white replacement" conspiracy theorists who populate alt-right forums has long been known. But the unusual thing about the emails, which were provided to the SPLC by a disaffected former Breitbart editor, Katie McHugh, is that they come from a time when Miller was willing to put his ideas in writing. These days, well aware that he's a target for Trump's critics, he's careful to avoid a paper trail by sticking to phone calls.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Schiff Says Whistleblower Testimony Would Be "Redundant and Unnecessary" (DANIEL POLITI, NOV 10, 2019, Slate)

House Republicans submitted a list of witness requests on Saturday and it didn't take long for Schiff to make clear that the Ukraine whistleblower wouldn't even be considered.

"The impeachment inquiry, moreover, has gathered an ever-growing body of evidence--from witnesses and documents, including the President's own words in his July 25 call record--that not only confirms, but far exceeds, the initial information in the whistleblower's complaint," Schiff said in the letter. "The whistleblower's testimony is therefore redundant and unnecessary." Schiff also said that having the whistleblower appear publicly "would only place their personal safety at grave risk" because of the president's threats against him.

The attorney for the whistleblower also rejected the idea of an in-person testimony by his client but said the offer to answer written questions still stands. "My client's complaint has been largely corroborated. Nonetheless, I have offered to have my client respond in writing, under oath, and under penalty of perjury to Republican questions," Andrew Bakaj said in a statement. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Not the economy, stupid': A majority of Americans say 2020 election will be about other issues (Eric Rosenbaum, 11/11/19, CNBC)

No, "it's not the economy, stupid." At least, not as far as the way a majority of Americans are currently planning to cast their votes in the 2020 presidential election.

Near two-thirds of Americans (61%) say the 2020 election will be about issues other than the economy, according to a CNBC and Acorns Invest in You survey conducted by SurveyMonkey and released Monday.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


'Alarm bells': What Cooper, Croft and Anderson told impeachment investigators: The investigators released transcripts of Laura Cooper, Catherine Croft and Christopher Anderson. ( ANDREW DESIDERIO and KYLE CHENEY, 11/11/2019, Politico)

Trump abruptly withheld nearly $400 million in military aid sometime in early July, and word spread through the administration in subsequent weeks. Though several witnesses told lawmakers that Ukrainians likely didn't discover the hold until late August -- after a POLITICO report revealed it -- Cooper said she began to register concerns days or weeks earlier.

Some, she said, arose from the defense industry that was awaiting the distribution of funds -- including at least one call Cooper received from the Chamber of Commerce.

"So before the kind of press broke on it, we were hearing that there were signs of concern," Cooper said.

But it was a conversation Cooper had with Volker that led her to believe Ukrainians also knew about the hold on aid before it was reported.

"I knew from my Kurt Volker conversation and also from sort of the alarm bells that were coming from Ambassador [William] Taylor and his team that there were Ukrainians who knew about this," Cooper said.

Cooper said Volker relayed to her a discussion with a top aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky about the Ukrainian leader making a statement alluding to "election interference" that Ukraine had committed in the past -- a nod to Trump's demand for such an investigation.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Sherman's March to the Sea (Original entry by Anne J. Bailey, 09/05/2002, Georgis Encyclopedia)

The March to the Sea, the most destructive campaign against a civilian population during the Civil War (1861-65), began in Atlanta on November 15, 1864, and concluded in Savannah on December 21, 1864. Union general William T. Sherman abandoned his supply line and marched across Georgia to the Atlantic Ocean to prove to the Confederate population that its government could not protect the people from invaders. He practiced psychological warfare; he believed that by marching an army across the state he would demonstrate to the world that the Union had a power the Confederacy could not resist. "This may not be war," he said, "but rather statesmanship." [...]

Sherman's march frightened and appalled Southerners. It hurt morale, for civilians had believed the Confederacy could protect the home front. 

Sherman had terrorized the countryside; his men had destroyed all sources of food and forage and had left behind a hungry and demoralized people. Although he did not level any towns, he did destroy buildings in places where there was resistance. His men had shown little sympathy for Millen, the site of Camp Lawton, where Union prisoners of war were held. Physical attacks on white civilians were few, although it is not known how slave women fared at the hands of the invaders. Often male slaves posted guards outside the cabins of their female friends and relatives.

Confederate president Jefferson Davis had urged Georgians to undertake a scorched-earth policy of poisoning wells and burning fields, but civilians in the army's path had not done so. Sherman, however, burned or captured all the food stores that Georgians had saved for the winter months. As a result of the hardships on women and children, desertions increased in Robert E. Lee's army in Virginia. Sherman believed his campaign against civilians would shorten the war by breaking the Confederate will to fight, and he eventually received permission to carry this psychological warfare into South Carolina in early 1865. By marching through Georgia and South Carolina he became an archvillain in the South and a hero in the North.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Medicaid will Shape the 2020 Election. Are Republicans Ready? (DANIEL MCGRAW,  NOVEMBER 12, 2019, The Bulwark)

Last week, former Obama healthcare administrator Andy Slavitt called healthcare the "kryptonite to beat President Donald Trump" in a Washington Post op-ed column. Newly elected Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear, a Democrat in a blood-red state, used the Republican attacks on some Medicaid provisions of healthcare as the bellwether topic in his upset win. Beshear called Medicaid a "basic human right and our administration will treat it as such" and beat the Republican incumbent.

The issue moves beyond Kentucky. In an extensive poll released last week by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Cook Political Report on voter opinion in four key Midwest swing states (Minnesota, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin), the report found that voters in those states rated healthcare as one of the only issues in which President Trump's approval rating (-21) is lower than his overall job approval (-18).

"These are tough numbers [for Trump] if the Democrats can capitalize on them," political analyst Charlie Cook said of the poll in a TV interview. What was perhaps most telling in Cook's poll was that the number of voters in those four states who had healthcare as their top priority (20-22%), lined up almost identically with the percentage of those who identified themselves as undecided independents (21-25%).

And, despite the partisan polarization surrounding the topic, 60% of the public says providing health care is a government responsibility.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


WHY EDEN SANK TO GRIEF (Cole S. Aronson, 11 . 7 . 19, First Things)

Eve's sin is to ignore God in favor of a lesser source of meaning. Subtler than an outright rebel, Eve considers herself neutral with respect to God's injunction. She wants to replace God not with herself, but with wisdom. I suggest that Eve was the first philosopher, but not just any sort of philosopher. She does not wonder after the stars. She wants to know what truly matters. 

I do not think the Bible is suggesting an opposition between wisdom and obedience, or, if you like, between Athens and Jerusalem. There is almost nothing the Bible praises more highly and frequently than knowledge of the sort Eve is after. And indeed, God justifies expelling Adam and Eve on the view that they are now "like us, knowing good and bad," earthly only because mortal. But the true servant of God consecrates to his creator not only the things human beings find most instinctively pleasurable--food, sex--but also the elevated things. Knowledge of the good ranks among the highest of these things, because God is defined by perfect wisdom and perfect goodness. If God wanted to know the extent of his finest creature's devotion, he devised the perfect test: to see whether man would forego the highest activity of the Divine image in favor of concord with the Divine will.

Christ's Fall is identical.