November 17, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 6:05 PM


Trump labels top Pence aide a 'Never Trumper' (RISHIKA DUGYALA, 11/17/2019, Politico)

President Donald Trump on Sunday labeled one of his vice president's top national security aides a "Never Trumper," a day after it was disclosed that she had said the president's July call with Ukraine was "unusual and inappropriate" in a deposition to Congress.

Posted by orrinj at 12:20 PM


Here's just how big a risk Elizabeth Warren and The New York Times want America to take (James Pethokoukis, November 8, 2019, AEIdeas)

The World Economic Forum's new global competitiveness report ranks the US economy as the most competitive big economy in the world, calling it an "innovation powerhouse." Likewise, no other big economy generates as many super-entrepreneurs or high-impact startups. Jeff Bezos, the Google Guys, Mark Zuckerberg, and Elon Musk aren't superrich because their parents were billionaires or they were cronies of top politicians. They built companies that consumers and customers greatly value, with their wealth -- as massive as it is -- reflecting only a tiny portion of that value creation.

Now here comes the Warren plan. First, tax the wealthy in a way and at levels that most other advanced economies have abandoned. (Only four of the 15 European countries that tried even a tiny wealth tax in recent years have stuck with it. And, by the way, the much-praised egalitarian nations of Scandinavia have as many billionaires, relatively, as the US does) 

Second, tax corporations at levels all other advanced economies reject. (Rich countries have top corporate rates only slightly higher than the US rate, with Scandinavia about the same.) 

An economy literally exists to generate wealth.  The idea that we should tax wealth to the maximum extent possible is best thought of as anti-economics.  Instead we ought to tax behavior that dissipates wealth: consumption.

Posted by orrinj at 11:54 AM


Parnas and Fruman met with Trump during White House Hanukkah party, CNN reports (JTA, 11/17/19) 

Soviet-born businessmen Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman met with President Donald Trump during The White House's annual Hanukkah party last year, CNN is reporting.

Posted by orrinj at 10:08 AM


Rep. Steve Scalise calls White House officials "Schiff's witnesses" (Zachary Basu, 11/17/19, Axios)

The exchange:

CHRIS WALLACE: First of all, a dozen people listened on the phone call and a number of them were immediately upset because what the president said about Burisma --

SCALISE: Those were Schiff's witnesses. 

WALLACE: No, sir, they are career foreign service officers and these are people who worked in the Trump administration. 

SCALISE: They are Schiff's witnesses. 

WALLACE: : Wait a minute, sir, you had a woman yesterday who was on Vice president Pence's staff. She said it was inappropriate. Tim Morrison, who was on the NSC staff, who said that he -- alarm bells immediately went off for him. Alexander Vindman immediately went to see -- these are all people -- you say they are Schiff's witnesses, they all were working in the trump administration.

SCALISE: They were not all Trump administration folks. 

WALLACE: Are you saying that the person working -- Alexander Vindman wasn't part of the National Security Council?

It is precisely true that those defending the Republic are with Mr. Schiff and against Donald.

Posted by orrinj at 9:28 AM


Fuel for Rockets and Zeppelins Points Toward Green Heat Solution: Hydrogen emerges as the most practical way to generate the 1,000-degree temperatures heavy industry needs. (William Wilkes, Vanessa Dezem, and Anna Shiryaevskaya, November 17, 2019, Bloomberg)

Under mounting pressure from protesters and climate-conscious investors, major industrial companies and governments are scrambling for a solution. They're finding the most likely alternative may be hydrogen.

"Hydrogen has a big advantage," said Markus Krebber, the finance director of RWE AG, Germany's largest electricity generator. "You can use it in everything that's difficult to electrify, from long distance trucks, barges, trains, maybe planes one day. It will be needed to decarbonize the power sector 100%."

The gas is the world's most abundant element and powered rockets and airships in the last century. It flames at 2,000 degrees Celsius (3,632 Fahrenheit) while giving off no more than water vapor as exhaust.

The biggest problem with hydrogen is that it's currently expensive to make -- and most often is derived by splitting up molecules of natural gas, producing carbon dioxide in the process.

But that's changing. Some of Europe's most important names in energy and industry are racing to develop emissions-free ways of producing hydrogen. They're focused on using electrolysis, where an electric current passes through water, splitting off hydrogen atoms from oxygen. That technology is well known and growing cheaper by the year. When it's driven by renewable energy, it makes what the industry calls green hydrogen.

"It's not witchcraft," said Thomas Kolf, a professor at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:11 AM


Israeli Startup Seeks to Cool Your Home Using Sunlight (Sagi Cohen, Nov 17, 2019 1Ha'aretz)

SolCold is working on developing a special paint based on nanotechnology that uses sunlight to create a cooling effect. The material absorbs sunlight and then reflects it at higher wavelengths, which contain more energy. By being converted into higher wavelengths, the temperature is lowered. As a result, the hotter the environment, the more the cooling effect.

Yaron Shenhav, a founding partner and CEO of SolCold, says that when it's 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) outside, the material can reflect temperatures of 22 degrees Celsius. "This is an optimal point for us," he notes.

The full cooling effect of the coating does not necessarily penetrate to whatever is inside it, be it a car or building. However, Shenhav notes that the coating could cool the interior by some 5-10 degrees Celsius.

Posted by orrinj at 8:08 AM


Posted by orrinj at 7:59 AM


Why Democrats are winning on health care (BRAD WOODHOUSE, 11/16/19, The Hill)

The elections last week confirmed what we know to be true -- health care is the number one issue for voters. Just as health care propelled House Democrats to win the majority in 2018, it once again delivered for Democrats in 2019 and is poised to be the issue that helps Democrats win elections in 2020.

Democratic candidates won in Kentucky and Virginia because they made health care a centerpiece of their campaigns. Voters trusted the Democrats who vowed to expand and fully fund Medicaid, strengthen protections for pre-existing conditions and hold drug companies accountable for skyrocketing prices.

They rejected the Republicans who want to slash Medicaid, strip protections for pre-existing conditions and let drug and insurance companies continue to profit while raising costs on Americans.

Polling reinforces these results. A recent national survey conducted by Hart Research for Protect Our Care found the differences in voter attitudes towards Republicans and Democrats on health care to be extremely definitive and confirm what last week's (and last year's) elections made clear: when it comes to health care, voters overwhelmingly trust Democrats more than Republicans.

Additionally, the specific measures Democrats are focusing on when it comes to health care, especially health care costs, are extremely popular with Americans across the political spectrum.

Posted by orrinj at 7:13 AM


The Cost of Cultural Free-Riders: Why Culture Matters Most by David C. Rose. (Reviewed by J. Daniel Hammond, 10/20/19, University Bookman)

In short, the thesis is that "free market democracy" requires a culture of trust. Rose argues that free markets and democracy are complementary. Trust is a necessary condition for both. Free markets require trust because the webs of people with whom we trade are mostly strangers. Democracy requires trust because we know few of our fellow citizens, and few of the people responsible for political institutions. The question from which Rose's thesis arises is why some societies are more successful than others, where success means enjoying abundance on two fronts--materials goods and freedom.

The key requirement for abundance of material goods is, as we learn from Adam Smith, extensive cooperation through markets to exploit the gains from division of labor, specialization, and trade. In and across prosperous societies people engage in trade with one another, but for the most part remain strangers. No society could attain prosperity with trade restricted to family and friends. The scope of markets would be too small. Rose considers democracy the key requirement for abundance of freedom, with democracy serving as a check on the power of government. He combines these two economic and political dimensions of societal success in the term "free market democracy." He argues that it is free market democracy, not the intelligence of a people, the level of technology, or access to natural resources, that allows societies to flourish.

Rose identifies the necessary condition for both free markets and democracy as the virtue of trust. Without widespread trust a society can neither sustain the extensive cooperation required for specialization in production and exchange, nor can they sustain institutions that support democratic politics. "Since many of the institutions that support free market economies and democratic government are trust dependent, the key to having a thriving free market democracy is having a high-trust society" (p. 2). Of course, high trust throughout a society requires that members of the society are trustworthy. They must be dependable to abstain from taking advantage of others, even when chances of detection are slim. The virtue of trustworthiness must be embedded in the culture, which Rose refers to as a society's "collective brain." Trustworthiness then can be transmitted from one generation to another through imitation and teaching, i.e., through culture. Societies that flourish are those that have trust-producing and trust-conserving cultures.

The key, of course, is that a shared commitment to moral standards allows one to have a reasonable expectation that the others behavior will be predictable and decent.  That is why protestantism (with a small "p") is the third leg, along with capitalism and democracy, of the Anglospheric model: the End of History.  As Ike put it: "Our government has no sense unless it is founded in a deeply felt religious faith, and I don't care what it is." And it is why there is both a near one to one relationship between trust and the Protestant world and why the decline of churchgoing has had so little effect within that world, where shared morality has been so deeply absorbed into the society that a country can appear secular on the surface but be deeply faithful in fact.

It is also exactly this aspect of our societies that Left and Right recognize must be destroyed if they are to succeed.  Thus, the Left attacks the very notion of morality by suggesting that each individuals choices must be respected--even celebrated--while the Right tries to replace the Christian idea of universal morality with a particularist construct of racial group solidarity. The former is on display in things like the insistence that every sexual proclivity is natural and must be accepted no matter how destructive, while the latter features in risible claims like it not being possible to assimilate immigrants or for Christians/Jews/Muslims to be equal citizens of a state.

Once we realize the value of living in societies that are trust-producing we can see how important it is to keep them trust-conserving and to oppose the Left/Right.

Posted by orrinj at 7:10 AM


Chile's Success Story Is Difficult to Deny (Ian Vásquez, 11/17/19, reason)

 Since its free-market reforms began in 1975, Chile has quadrupled its income per capita, making it the most prosperous country in Latin America. Chile's improvement on the whole range of indicators of well-being--e.g., maternal mortality, access to proper sanitation, etc.--is impressive, and the country consistently outperforms the region. It has the highest rating among Latin American countries on the UN's Human Development Index (and ranks 44th in the world); it has the best educational system in the region as measured by student performance; and it does not just have one of the freest economies in the world, it has the highest levels of overall freedom, including civil and personal liberties, in Latin America.

Chile's growth has allowed it to reduce its poverty rate from more than 45% in the 1980s to 8.6%, and to create a large middle class. The country's income inequality, which has been high for hundreds of years, has been falling considerably since the 1990s, according to the World Bank, and is lower than the Latin American average according to the UN's Economic Commission on Latin America. Costa Rica has greater inequality than Chile. (See graph). A Harvard study by Rodrigo Valdés, a finance minister of former socialist President Michelle Bachelete, found that from 1990 to 2015, the income of the poorest 10% of Chileans increased by 439%, while that of the top 10% went up by only 208%.

The hope for Brazil is that it can achieve the same Third Way reforms without the usual salutary fascist interlude.

Posted by orrinj at 7:05 AM


Louisiana delivers Trump a black eye (ALEX ISENSTADT, 11/17/2019, Politico)

President Donald Trump campaigned hard in three conservative Southern states this fall, aiming for a string of gubernatorial wins that would demonstrate his political strength heading into impeachment and his own reelection effort.

The plan backfired in dramatic fashion.

If Trumpism can't even carry Jim Crow states then what have you won by embracing evil? 

Posted by orrinj at 7:02 AM


Trump said 'frustrated' with Netanyahu as deadlock delays peace plan (Times of Israel, 11/17/19)

The Americans "are frustrated and in despair due to Israeli politics and the political crisis, which has been preventing them for many months from presenting the diplomatic part of the 'deal of the century,'" an Israeli official who has been in contact with senior members of the Trump administration told the Ynet news website.

He can't both build a governing coalition and recognize Arabs as equals.

Posted by orrinj at 7:00 AM