October 31, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:15 PM


    -ESSAY: The Managers: What Strat-O-Matic Meant to Its Creator, Its Fans, and Baseball (Pete Croatto, 7/06/16, Vice)
Other board games had simulated baseball, but Strat-O-Matic was indisputably the best. The randomness of three dice shot some of baseball's chaos into it; pitchers determining the outcome reflected how the sport actually works; real stats from all the players brought it down to earth.

Richman's creation brought baseball's essence into your house. The game's leisurely pace invites other pleasures, leaving plenty of time to drift into managerial wonder. Strat-O-Matic "played to that most basic of baseball fans' instincts, which is to say, 'I can do a better job than the people who are running my team," said the editor and writer Daniel Okrent, the inventor of fantasy baseball. "I think that's the kind of subliminal motivation."

Like any baseball game, Strat-O-Matic features two teams. Each player, batters and pitchers alike, is represented by a card with a table listing the raft of possible outcomes commensurate with his abilities, from Home Run to Ground Out Into As Many Outs As Possible. You roll three dice to get players from here to there. The things a player does most often in real life--strikeout, homer, whatever--will happen most often in the game, because those outcomes, based on the previous year's stats, are pegged to the most common dice combinations.

People are still playing Strat-O-Matic 55 years later, for the same reasons they always have--it's a great game. "I've brought a lot of happiness and a lot of enjoyment to a lot of people, and that's very important to me," Richman said.

Talk to some of those people, for whom Strat-O-Matic was both an escape and a transcendent entertainment, and the memories emerge clear and bright after years packed in storage. For a couple of summers, before girls and jobs barged in, the board game was a staple for Norm Schrager; growing up in Yonkers, New York. He would head over to his friend's house to play for hours in the sunroom, with the Yankees providing visual and audio ambience. A teenage Dan Patrick faked an illness so he could stay home from school to celebrate the arrival of the game's updated player cards. "At the age, you know, kids are trying to look through Playboys and we're looking through Strat-O-Matic cards," the former SportsCenter and current radio host said.

It was all about enjoyment, according to Patrick, who engaged in battles with colleague Gary Miller when the pair worked at CNN and, later, at ESPN. They played constantly--at Atlanta Braves games, in bars, wherever. Patrick recalled one expletive-laden contest concluded with the two not speaking for 48 hours.

Every once in awhile, I get furious with my boys for the number of hours they spend on Xbox. But then I recall the time we spent on such archaic games as Stratomatic, Electric Football & Monday Night Talking Football and calm down. I can only imagine the days and weeks we'd have consumed with better gameplay.

In fact, I kept meaning to try out a sports simulator. All of the Brits, including commentators, journalists and players are mad for Football Manager, but that seemed a bridge too far. then I read a series of uniformly rave reviews this Spring for Out of the Park Baseball.

The company was kind enough to provide a test copy and I even had a project in mind : I thought the Arizona Diamondbacks were loaded with talent at the Major League and high minor league level and that any idiot could run the team better than Tony LaRussa and Dave Stewart. I decided I'd try to run the team for a year--162 simulated games--and see if I couldn't improve on their performance.

The first thing to be said about the game is that it is a totally consuming and immersive experience. It was recommended that you just dive in, so I did...into the deep end. At times I got lost and had to back out and I never did figure out how to maximize all the tools that are available. But I was having so much fun it hardly mattered.

Not only do you get to set your roster, make trades, claim waiver players, etc. as the GM, but as the manager you can set line-ups, pull pitchers, pinch hit, etc. Your scouting staff gives you reports for the next series. Other teams make trade offers. Your owner even sends you messages about how you're doing. [I confess to ignoring mine when he said to add another Gold Glove caliber player.]

As the games played out we had some of the same big problems the real Dbacks did--chiefly some under-performance by Paul Goldschidt--.273 23 74 15. On the other hand, a guy who I anticipated good things from in Rotisserie--Phil Gosselin--and then watched never play, got over 600 abs with my squad and went .256 8 72 15. And whereas the real team went 69-93, mine went 74-88. There was even a ten game winning streak that got us to .500 in August!

Even better though were the acquisitions I got to make. To what was already a reasonably good club, I added : Trevor Bauer, Zach Wheeler, Hector Neris and Alex Bregman. And I think we can get James Paxton and more this off season for David Peralta, with Socrates Brito ready to plug right in to the OF. The only major piece I gave up was Shelby Miller, anticipating correctly that he'd disappoint.

I expect the game to get me through the baseball-less Winter and look forward to trying out some classic match-ups. You can basically use players/teams from all of baseball history. Time to see if my beloved 1969 Mets were a complete fluke or not...

But now for the best part...for the duration of the World Series the game is available for just $10. It's well worth the while even at full price and certain to entertain.
    -GAME SITE: Out of the Park Baseball
    -GAME at Amazon
-ESSAY: La Russa's Diamondbacks are a mess (Jeff Gordon, 7/11/16, St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
    -ESSAY: Arizona Diamondbacks ponder replacing La Russa, Stewart after just 2 years (Bob Nightengale, 8/22/16, USA TODAY Sports)
    -ESSAY: ESPN's Keith Law: Diamondbacks' 'front office is a laughingstock' (KEVIN ZIMMERMAN, August 18, 2016, Arizona Sports)
    -ESSAY: Looking back at the 2016 Diamondbacks, everything was terrible, even the uniforms (Dayn Perry, Sep 15, 2016, CBS Sports)
    -ESSAY: Diamondbacks' instability stirs potential candidates' skepticism (Nick Piecoro , 10/04/16, azcentral sports)
    -ESSAY: The Managers: What Strat-O-Matic Meant to Its Creator, Its Fans, and Baseball (Pete Croatto, 7/06/16, Vice)
    -REVIEW ARCHIVE: Out of the Park Baseball 17 (MetaCritic)
    -REVIEW: of OOTP 17 (Bryan Wiedey, Sporting News)
    -REVIEW: of OOTPB 17 (Michael Bauman, Knuckleball)
    -REVIEW: of OOTPB 17 (Jake Bridges, The Fantasy Report)
    -REVIEW: of OOTPB 17 ((Brad Bortone, The Spitter)
    -REVIEW: of OOTPB 17 (Pasta Padre)
    -REVIEW: of OOTPB 17 (Russell Archey, Gaming Nexus)
    -REVIEW: of 00TPB 17 (The Snake Pit)
    -REVIEW: of OOTPB 17 (An 8 bit mind in an 8 Gigabyte world)
    -REVIEW: of OOTPB 17 (Matt Wilhelm, GameGrin)
    -REVIEW: of OOTPB 17 (Matthew Pollesell, Gaming Age)
    -REVIEW: of OOTPB 17 (Patrick Rost, Gaming Trend)
    -REVIEW: of OOTPB 17 (Jon, Dark Station)
    -REVIEW: of OOTPB 17 (Unstoppable Gamer)
    -REVIEW: of OOTPB 17 (Dominick DiFucci, Mets Chronicle)
    -REVIEW: of OOTPB 17 (GameRankings)
    -REVIEW: of OOTPB 17 (Yahoo Sports)
    -REVIEW ARCHIVE: Out of the Park Baseball 15 (Metacritic)
    -REVIEW: of OOTP 16 (Jeffrey L. Wilson, PC Magazine)
    -REVIEW: of OOTP 11 (Brett Todd, GameSpot)
Posted by orrinj at 6:51 PM


Yellen Imitates Greenspan in Reversal of Mid-1990s Rookie Role (Rich Miller, October 31, 2016, Bloomberg)

When Janet Yellen was a rookie policy maker in September 1996, she and fellow Federal Reserve Governor Laurence Meyer visited Alan Greenspan's office to make a pitch for higher interest rates. With unemployment near 5 percent, they were worried about inflation kicking up if joblessness dropped much lower.

Then Fed Chairman Greenspan listened to their concerns, but left rates unchanged until the following year. Unemployment eventually fell to a 30-year low of 3.8 percent in 2000 and inflation never really took off.

Now Yellen finds herself reprising Greenspan's role as some of her fellow officials push for higher interest rates. Again, joblessness is around 5 percent, near the level many economists reckon is equivalent to full employment.

...by his unnecessary bona-fide-proving hike in '87

Posted by orrinj at 6:39 PM


Signs Grow of Another Third-Party Fizzle (NEIL KING JR., Oct 31, 2016, WSJ)

The combined clout of Mr. Johnson and Ms. Stein fell from 17% of registered voters in July to 9% in the most recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.  The running RealClearPolitics polling average of all four candidates is even less generous, showing Mr. Johnson and Ms. Stein dropping from around 12% at various times this summer to just 7% now.

This sag in popularity shouldn't be surprising. Never in modern American presidential politics has a third-party candidate gained in momentum down the stretch.

The best performing of all by far, Ross Perot in 1992, ended up with 18.9% of the national vote and may have helped swing the election to Bill Clinton-a bone of contention to this day. But earlier that summer Mr. Perot was garnering a third of the vote. Former Republican John Anderson in 1980 saw an even steeper fall in support, hovering near a quarter of the vote in the summer but ending up with less than 7% of in November.

Mr. Johnson's failure to make it to the debates may get Donald to 44%.

Posted by orrinj at 6:35 PM


Clinton shapes agenda for first year of potential presidency (JULIE PACE, 10/31/16, AP)

Hillary Clinton's advisers are crafting a domestic policy agenda for the opening months of a potential presidency that is centered on three issues with some level of Republican support: an infrastructure package that emphasizes job creation, criminal justice reform, and immigration legislation -- with the promise of quick executive action if a bill fails in Congress. [...]

Clinton's team has actively looked for ways to avoid the traps that have sunk President Barack Obama's bid for an immigration overhaul in 2013. Sweeping legislation that included a path to citizenship for millions of people illegally in the U.S. passed the Senate that year, but Republican leaders in the House refused to put the measure up for a vote.

Advocacy groups have discussed with Clinton aides the prospect of pushing the House to act on immigration first this time around, testing the will of a chamber that is expected to stay in Republican hands.

However, that approach is largely contingent on Paul Ryan remaining speaker of the House. The Wisconsin lawmaker has spoken favorably of the need to address the nation's fractured immigration laws. [...]

Advisers say Clinton does not view gun control, a more politically risky issue even among some Democratic members of Congress, as part of a criminal justice package.

Clinton's other main priority should she win appears to be moving swiftly on a multibillion-dollar infrastructure package aimed at boosting economic growth and creating jobs. She's proposed spending $275 billion on new road, sewer and other infrastructure projects.

Republicans are broadly supportive of infrastructure investments. But as with the numerous fiscal fights between Obama and congressional Republicans, paying for the spending bill could become a point of contention.

Clinton's plan states that "business tax reform" would finance her agenda, which would include $250 billion in direct funding over five years and $25 billion to seed an infrastructure bank. While the details of the tax reforms are unclear, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer has said the money could come from letting companies pay a lower tax rate on their overseas earnings.

Posted by orrinj at 6:31 PM


When a Masterpiece Is Not (THE EDITORIAL BOARD, OCT. 31, 2016, NY Times)

When a previously unknown painting by a 17th-century Dutch master is authenticated by some of the finest curators and experts, sold for $10 million and then abruptly discovered to be a fake, questions arise. Many of them.

The work is a portrait of an unsmiling man with long hair dressed in black, which first came to attention in Paris in 2008 when a collector, who thought it "might be" linked to the school of Frans Hals, showed it to experts. Although there was no record of Hals having made the work, the experts' consensus was that "Portrait of a Man" was that wondrous find: a previously unknown Old Master. In 2011, Sotheby's sold it to another collector.

But then some other paintings by Old Masters -- most notably one by Lucas Cranach the Elder, all apparently sold by the same man, Giuliano Ruffini -- came under suspicion. Sotheby's sent "Portrait of a Man" for technical analysis, which found traces of contemporary materials. The auction said it was "undoubtedly" a fake and reimbursed the buyer.

The first question concerns expertise. In this case, it took science, not the expertise of students of art, to spot the fake. The suspicion now is that the same painter may be behind those other suspect paintings. And if the forger is so skilled that he or she can create works in the style of diverse artists, all good enough to fool top experts, how many more fakes are out there?

Isn't the question why their artistic value depends on who painted them?

Posted by orrinj at 6:25 PM


Iran-trained militias join U.S-backed campaign on Mosul, flying Shi'ite flags (Babak Dehghanpisheh, 10/31/16, Reuters)

Gun trucks and humvees streamed north on a highway heading to Mosul on Sunday flying the banners of Shi'ite militias along with Iraqi flags while blaring religious songs.

The convoys were the first clear sign of a new player on the battlefield in the U.S.-backed offensive to retake Mosul from Islamic State: Hashid Shaabi or Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), a coalition of Shi'ite militias.

Although it reports officially to Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, the coalition is mostly made up of groups trained by Iran and loyal to its Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

They have close ties with General Qassem Soleimani, the commander of Iran's Quds Brigade, the extra-territorial arm of Iran's Revolutionary Guards. He was seen touring the frontlines around Mosul last week.

Among the banners that could be seen flying from artillery cannons, communication towers and buildings recently retaken from Islamic State were those of Kataib Hezbollah and Asaib Ahl al-Haq, two of the main Iranian-backed groups, alongside the Badr Organization, considered the largest.

Posted by orrinj at 6:20 PM


War pushes Yemen to partition, thwarting peace efforts (Noah Browning, 10/31/16, Reuters)

Yemen has endured thousands of air strikes and the deaths of more than 10,000 people in a 19-month war that has also unleashed hunger on the desperately poor country - but its biggest challenge may be yet to come.

The conflict has led to Yemen's de facto partition, with rival armies and institutions in the north and south, and could mean the map of the Middle East will have to be redrawn. 

Which should have been redrawn after WWI to allow self-determination. It was a wasted and wasteful century.

Posted by orrinj at 6:06 PM


The rise of electric cars could kill thousands of auto manufacturing jobs (Wolf Richter, 10/31/16, Business Insider)

Volkswagen's big kahuna of HR, Karlheinz Blessing - Member of the Board of Management with responsibility for Human Resources and Organization - dropped another brake shoe on global employment in auto manufacturing, which has been under pressure for decades from automation. This time, it's electric vehicles.

Every global manufacturer is working on a lineup of passenger and commercial EVs. Numerous EV brands are already on the road, from tiny cars to delivery vehicles. UPS, FedEx, USPS, and other delivery services are already looking at EVs or are testing them.

The German postal service has formed its own startup to build EVs in Deutsche-Post-yellow for its delivery runs. These "Streetscooters" have been in production for a while. By the end of this year, 2,000 are expected to deliver mail in Germany. By the end of next year, 10,000. 

EVs are much easier and cheaper to build than vehicles with internal combustion engines. Instead of engines, engine control systems, emission control systems, cooling systems, air-intake systems, starters, transmissions with clutches or torque-converters, or transaxles, fuel systems, exhaust systems with catalytic converters, the computers, sensors, and regulators to tie it all together, and the like, EVs have electric motors, a battery, and some wiring and controllers to make it all work.

Posted by orrinj at 5:58 PM


Why Not Taxation and Representation? A Note on the American Revolution (Sebastian Galiani, Gustavo Torrens, 10/16, NBER Working Paper No. 22724)

Why did the most prosperous colonies in the British Empire mount a rebellion? Even more puzzling, why didn't the British agree to have American representation in Parliament and quickly settle the dispute peacefully? At first glance, it would appear that a deal could have been reached to share the costs of the global public goods provided by the Empire in exchange for political power and representation for the colonies. (At least, this was the view of men of the time such as Lord Chapman, Thomas Pownall and Adam Smith.) We argue, however, that the incumbent government in Great Britain, controlled by the landed gentry, feared that allowing Americans to be represented in Parliament would undermine the position of the dominant coalition, strengthen the incipient democratic movement, and intensify social pressures for the reform of a political system based on land ownership. Since American elites could not credibly commit to refuse to form a coalition with the British opposition, the only realistic options were to maintain the original colonial status or fight a full-scale war of independence.

..is why George didn't re-assert royal authority by granting America independence from Parliament with himself at the head of government with an American parliament?

Posted by orrinj at 5:46 PM


GOP Sen. Grassley: Comey's limited release of information unfair to Clinton, Congress and the public (Tom Hamburger, October 31, 2016, Washington Post)

"Unfortunately, your letter failed to give Congress and the American people enough context to evaluate the significance or full meaning of this development," he wrote. "Without additional context, your disclosure is not fair to Congress, the American people, or Secretary Clinton."

Posted by orrinj at 5:41 PM


The NFL is becoming more disturbing than appealing, and TV viewers are tuning out (Sally Jenkins, October 31, 2016, Washington Post)

[N]one of the explanations make as much sense as the simplest one: The NFL has put less appealing and more disturbing action on the screen, and viewers are turning it off.

Historian Michael Oriard has observed that the great attraction of the league is that it's "the true reality TV," in its most vital form. But the NFL is beginning to seem over-managed and over-staged. Constant commercials and interruptions by refs waving their arms do not produce "appointment viewing;" rather, they produce punts, ties and stasis. Look at the standings: A cluster of 18 teams, indistinguishable save for the colors of their shirts, are at .500 or worse and five more at 4-3. In other words, 23 teams are not must-see-TV to anyone but their most fervent fans. The constant advertisements and hail of yellow flags from overly officious officials make a PBS series seem fast-moving, with a clearer story line.

I actually turned off that Raiders game in overtime because there was a flag on seemingly every play.

Posted by orrinj at 5:22 PM



The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL), as it became known, lasted 12 seasons, under three different ownerships. It eventually expanded to as many as 10 teams, all in the Midwest. That's a pretty good run for a women's team sport; many an effort since has gone under much faster. Salaries were not startling--$60-$85 a week at first--but well above that of most munitions workers. The managers were men, including a number of former major leaguers, such as Bill Wambsganss, who turned the only unassisted triple play in World Series history in 1920, and Hall of Famer Jimmy Foxx.

At first the women played softball, but the game evolved; it's best to see the sport the women played as a hybrid between softball and baseball that got closer to the latter over time. By 1948 they were pitching overhand, using a hardball. The women showcased an energetic brand of baseball, running wild on the base-paths and sliding head-first, on account of their uniforms--a one-piece dress, cut four inches above the knees.

At a time when many physical educators of both sexes thought that competition coarsened girls, the league's management placed an emphasis on femininity. Players took mandatory etiquette lessons and had to follow strict rules of conduct. The handbook, created by the league, gave advice on everything from speech ("no slang or slurry words") to beauty routines and hygiene (shower after games and dry thoroughly) to sportsmanship and stretching. "You have certain responsibilities," the guide noted, because you "are in the limelight."

On-field makeup was compulsory; one player recalled that a chaperone held her back from going to the plate in a tense situation until she refreshed her lipstick. The team chaperone had to approve all social engagements. In each town, there was a list of places not to go.

All of this sounds both curious and condescending, but it was a calculated choice to make these athletes less threatening to the social mores they were so enthusiastically flouting. For these jocks, if the price of playing for real was makeup lessons and stupid rules, so be it. And drawing on talent from all over the country, Canada, and even Cuba--but no African Americans, even after Jackie Robinson had debuted--the AAGPBL teams gave a chance to some 545 athletes. Wally Pipp, the man Lou Gehrig displaced at first base, called Dottie Kamenshek of the Rockford Peaches the "fanciest-fielding first baseman I've ever seen, male or female."

Posted by orrinj at 5:14 PM


The Thieves Behind the $11 Million Kim Kardashian Robbery (Guy Martin, 10/31/16, Forbes)

[W]e should quickly add that every entity involved in the events faced many problems, including, not least, the Hotel de Pourtalès itself - with no cameras inside or out, an electronically coded front door in dire need of a code change, and just two (unarmed) security guards on duty. But these physical conditions were not the Pourtales' real problem. The real problem lay in the minds of the owners: they confused their quite well-considered and quite intricate, celebrity-prized commodity of privacy - meaning, their own ultra-exclusive word-of-mouth low-profile - with an actual, workable, layered security architecture. They had no real security procedure inside. In a word, they failed to imagine a defensive need, and within that failure, they failed to imagine a total breach.

The Hotel de Pourtalès owners will be putting their now-infamous establishment through a security review of an equal if not greater magnitude than that of the West family, if they hope to keep even just two or three of their former clientele. They face a marketing disaster of heavy proportions. No more Leo, no more Madonna - nobody wants to be yanked out of bed by a gang of gun-toting assailants. At $17,000 per night, as the de Pourtalès cost, or, really, at any price.

As for the gang that couldn't shoot straight: The evidence for the Paris police has come from the man variously described in the press as the Hotel Pourtalès' "night clerk" or the "security guard," a Frenchman of Algerian descent with the reported first name of Abdulrahman who was, until recently, in hiding. As he tells it, after he was bound, threatened at gunpoint and frog-marched to the West suite with his master key, the robbers entered, yanked Mrs. West from the bed, and asked for the cash.

In other words, they weren't well educated enough in the circumstance of their quarry to understand that they were on a jewelry heist until they got inside and determined that Mrs. West actually didn't have much cash on hand. It's a strategic error of great magnitude and bears an Inspector Clouseau level of comedy - they were in that moment victims of the cliché that all rappers, and their wives, live with Hermès duffels of cash. But it wasn't Gucci Mane's or Fitty's moll or even Mrs. West's sister-in-law, cash-hungry Blac Chyna, that they were in the process of robbing. They failed to understand that it was Mrs. West, who coasts through a largely cash-free life, albeit with enormous sums moving around electronically.

Posted by orrinj at 5:07 PM


Who's Iris Pear? Nuclear physics conference accepts nonsensical 'autocomplete' study : Does the nuclear physics paper hoax suggest lazy peer editing, or predatory behavior on the part of academic organizations? (Joseph Dussault, OCTOBER 23, 2016, CS Monitor)

Next month, Dr. Iris Pear will present her groundbreaking new study at the International Conference on Atomic and Nuclear Physics.

Or at least she would, if she were a real person.

Iris Pear - a play on "Siri Apple" - is the invention of Christophe Bartneck, an associate professor of computer science at New Zealand's University of Canterbury. The study in question is completely nonsensical, procedurally generated by iOS's autocomplete function. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:01 PM


TPP Is Exciting. Let's Make the Case for It. (Tyler Cowen, 10/31/16, Bloomberg View)

So what then is the exciting, big-picture case for TPP? I say it's to keep North America, and especially the U.S., the world's leading economic cluster for the foreseeable future.

Think of the global economy as one where some regions do very well -- for example, Silicon Valley or Shanghai -- and other regions languish. The talent, the capital and the most ambitious immigrants want to go to the flourishing places to do business, innovate and create jobs. Overall, the U.S. is the largest and most successful agglomeration of commerce.

If the United States is to extend its economic influence, it must draw upon Asian connections, talent and markets as much as possible. After all, the Asian economies in TPP -- Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore and Brunei, along with Australia and New Zealand -- are significant in both population and gross domestic product. South Korea, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines have signaled a possible intent to join, and perhaps eventually India and Bangladesh as well.

There are thus two visions of America's economic future. In one, the U.S. is able to mobilize Asian resources to help maintain its role as world economic leader, to the mutual benefit of most other Pacific nations. In the other, the talents and resources of the TPP nations get pulled in other directions, including toward China, and U.S. economic and geopolitical leadership declines.

Posted by orrinj at 4:52 PM


Behind the Lines : Last Chance U: the college that gives young players a final route to the NFL (Jonathan Drennan, 31 October 2016, The Guardian)

The tiny town of Scooba sits in Kemper County in the vast state of Mississippi. Its quiet streets are home to under a thousand permanent residents and there is little excitement to be found. An isolated Subway sandwich shop is the social hub. East Mississippi Community College stands incongruously in Scooba's streets. The college houses some of the country's finest student American football players who dream of making the NFL. They find themselves in sleepy Scooba for two reasons: their grades aren't up to scratch or they need more playing time to prove themselves to larger colleges. For almost all of the players on the Lions' playing roster, this is their last chance at football redemption.

Adam Ridley was working as a film director when he came across a magazine article about a team of incredible college prodigies who were toiling on the hot fields in Scooba in search of stardom. "I read up about this team and the more I thought about it the more fascinated I became. You have these incredible high school athletes, that for whatever reason things haven't worked out for them, whether that's in the classroom or on the field, so they come to this tiny little town of Scooba to try and turn things around. We knew we had to do something."

The series' executive producer, Greg Whiteley, and Ridley spent the 2015 season following the Lions, gaining access to the players, the coaches and the academic advisors. Originally, he and his team came expecting a story that was focused on the roster's incredible athletic ability but the story unfolding was something different. "Throughout the season, we saw the players' incredible abilities on the field, but we also began to understand what they were dealing with off the field. It was a story that went far beyond football. Like all college athletes, they have basic academic requirements and for some this was an incredible struggle. It was difficult to watch these players - a lot of them are from difficult backgrounds where they've received little to no academic support - and the staff here have to work hard to fill that gap, or the dreams of big schools in the NCAA or the NFL are gone."

Ridley and his team produced a groundbreaking series on a season with the Lions on Netflix and called it Last Chance U. There are stars on the football field, but the star that seems to shine brightest in the series is the players' academic advisor Brittany Wagner. Part psychologist, part academic tutor and part surrogate mother for the players, Wagner works to help the players achieve the requisite academic goals that previously were seen as unachievable.

Posted by orrinj at 1:43 PM


Immigrants Are Keeping America Young -- And The Economy Growing (Ben Casselman, 10/31/16, 538)

You wouldn't know it from this year's overheated campaign rhetoric, but immigration is the only thing keeping the U.S. from facing a Japan-style demographic cliff. At a time when aging and other factors mean that fewer Americans are working, immigrants -- who tend to come to the U.S. during their working years and have a higher rate of labor-force participation than native-born Americans -- play an increasingly important role in the U.S. workforce. Foreign-born U.S. residents made up 13.1 percent of the population in 2014 but 16.4 percent of the labor force, up from 10 percent two decades earlier.1 Immigrants help the economy in other ways too: They are more likely than native-born Americans to start businesses, and because they pay into Social Security but only receive benefits if they stay in the country permanently, they help ease the U.S.'s long-run fiscal burden.

Perhaps just as importantly, immigrants are the reason the U.S. has a relatively high birth rate compared to other rich countries. Americans, like their counterparts in Japan and western Europe, are having fewer children. But that decline has been partly offset by the comparatively high fertility rate among foreign-born residents. A report from the Pew Research Center last week showed just how big that effect is: Immigrants account for the entirety of the increase in the number of annual U.S. births since 1970. Without them, the annual number of births would have declined.

Posted by orrinj at 1:38 PM


Global reflation: still weak and patchy (Gavyn Davies, Oct 30, 2016, Financial Times)

The great global disinflation in the advanced economies started in 1982, flattened in the 1990s and 2000s, and then nosedived towards deflation as commodity prices collapsed in 2014-15. For much of that final period, deflation fears dominated global bond markets and, to a lesser extent, equities and other risk assets. But there have been signs during 2016 that markets have edged away from a regime of "deflation dominance", and we have seen partial signs of reflation.

October 30, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 6:07 PM


U.S. looks to Canada for green power (Bill Loveless, 10/30/16, USA TODAY)

[E]ven as the pros and cons of the North American Free Trade Agreement continue to be debated in the U.S. election campaigns, new opportunities for commerce among the three countries are emerging, including opportunities in energy.

Among the biggest openings involves imports of clean electricity from Canada, where hydropower provides the bulk of the nation's power supply, with plenty to spare.

Electricity harnessed from dams and reservoirs in Quebec, Manitoba, Ontario and British Columbia accounted for 63% of Canada's electricity supply in 2015, with nuclear energy following at 13%, and wind energy way behind but growing at 2%.

All told, 83% of Canada's electric generation is emission-free, compared to 32% for power supplies in the U.S. and 25% for those in Mexico, according to Sergio Marchi, the president and CEO of the Canadian Electricity Association.

Posted by orrinj at 6:01 PM


Putin's chaos strategy is coming back to bite him (Mark Galeotti, 10/30/16, Business Insider)

Back in March, when the U.S. elections still seemed far away -- back before anyone had heard the name Fancy Bear and before everyone knew John Podesta's risotto secrets -- I was in Moscow talking to a Russian who had previously worked in the Kremlin.

Over the course of a wide-ranging conversation, it became clear that we agreed on one key characteristic of Vladimir Putin. He called it the "Putin Paradox" and defined it thus: The Russian president's tactical instincts for how to seize an opportunity are so brilliant, and yet the strategic outcomes are almost invariably disastrous. [...]

[J]ust like the Crimean annexation (which led to sanctions and massive costs to the state treasury), the Donbass adventure (which led to more sanctions and has mired Russia in an expensive, undeclared war), and the Syrian intervention (where Putin backed away from an early withdrawal, leaving him stuck in yet another open-ended war), today's Russian achievement is poised to become tomorrow's debilitating disaster. Russians who chortled at the original WikiLeaks revelations and felt sly satisfaction at the havoc created by "their" hackers are now expressing concerns about possible U.S. retaliation and, more importantly, what this will mean for future Russo-American relations. As one bitterly grumbled, "Let's get used to sanctions until we're in the grave."

Posted by orrinj at 5:11 PM


Execution of Saudi prisoners widens gap between Baghdad, Riyadh (Mustafa Saadoun, October 30, 2016, Al Monitor)

On Oct. 7, Iraqi authorities executed Saudi prisoner Badr Ofan al-Shamri, making him the third Saudi prisoner to be executed during 2016 in Iraq, following Abdullah al-Shanqeeti and Abdullah Azzam.

Nine other Saudis on death row are scheduled to be executed in November. They are Fahad al-Anzi, Mohammed al-Obeid, Majid al-Buqami, Faisal al-Faraj, Battal al-Harbi, Ali al-Shahri, Ali al-Qahtani, Hamad Yahya and Abdulrahman al-Qahtani, all in al-Hoot prison in Nasiriyah. [...]

It is said that the guillotine used in the execution of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is the same one being used to execute Saudi prisoners; if true, it is not whether this is a coincidence or a carefully calculated move by the Iraqi authorities.

Posted by orrinj at 1:06 PM


Old enemies set to elect Aoun as Lebanon's president (Tom Perry and Laila Bassam, 10/30/16, Reuters)

Twenty-six years after being forced from Lebanon's presidential palace and into exile by the Syrian army, Michel Aoun is set to be elected head of state on Monday, backed by many of his old enemies.

Barring a surprise, many of Lebanon's sectarian politicians will back the 81-year-old Christian leader in the parliamentary vote.

Aoun can rely for support on Iranian-backed Hezbollah, with which he has been allied for a decade. But he will fulfill his long-held ambition thanks to the unlikely endorsement of Sunni leader Saad al-Hariri, who waged political war for years against the Shi'ite Hezbollah movement and its allies with Saudi backing. [...]

His election will also be viewed as a victory for Hezbollah, Tehran and Damascus over Hariri's Sunni allies in Riyadh at a time when Saudi Arabia has appeared to retreat from Lebanon as it prioritizes fighting Iran in the Gulf. It will also raise questions over Western policy towards Lebanon, whose army depends on U.S. military aid.

Posted by orrinj at 10:17 AM


Nearly All Of Silicon Valley's Political Dollars Are Going To Hillary Clinton (Farai Chideya, Oct 25, 2016, 538)

Aditya Agarwal, the newly promoted chief technology officer of Dropbox, the cloud storage company, will vote in his first U.S. election on Nov. 8. Though he's worked for U.S. tech companies for years, it hasn't been easy to stay abreast of the paperwork he needed to get visas and become a citizen.

"Over the course of being in the United States for the last 16 years, I have had an F-1 [student] visa, an OPT, a CPT," he said. "I've had, like, four H-1Bs [a visa used for high-skilled workers, often in the technology industry]. I've had, like, a green-card process that took like five or six years. I've gone through the citizenship process."

The process is "deeply personal for me," he said, speaking as a newly minted American citizen about to cast a ballot, "so I'm really excited about it."

Posted by orrinj at 9:36 AM


GOP braces for turmoil after Election Day (Matt Viser, OCTOBER 29, 2016, Boston Globe)

Right now party activists are conducting quiet conversations, Miller and others say, about how the party should move forward. Some have hopes that the Republican Party can form something along the lines of the Democratic Leadership Council, which was created after the 1984 election when Walter Mondale lost nearly every state to Ronald Reagan. The council pushed the party to become more centrist, which helped pave the way for Bill Clinton's election as a "New Democrat" in 1992.

Such a review will undoubtedly confront uncertainty over what it means to be a Republican. The party that for so long clearly followed in the dogma of Reagan (lower taxes, balanced budgets) or Bush (hawkish foreign policy) is now deeply splintered.

The DLC was a means to move the Democrats at the national level towards accepting the End of History and Thatcherism, just like Tony Blair's New Labour.    George W. Bush and Compassionate Conservatism did the same thing for the GOP, moving the party past the anti-government silliness of Ross Perot and Newt's House.   An RLC would just get the party to refocus on the politics that has won it elections--the pro-immigration/pro-trade policies of Reagan, GHWB and W; and the Third Way entitlement and tax reforms of W.

Posted by orrinj at 9:31 AM


Could embracing migrants help solve Italian villages' aging problem? (Nick Squires, OCTOBER 30, 2016, CS Monitor)

The past and future of the village of Acquaformosa, which sits on the edge of a national park in the mountains of southern Italy, were on vivid display recently in its sunlit main piazza.

On one side, pallbearers carried a coffin into a church, as a group of old men removed their flat caps in honor of their late friend. On the other, came recitations of Italian numbers and days of the week, being taught to a cosmopolitan group of asylum seekers from across Africa and the Middle East in a community center.

But the refugees are not simply temporary guests of Acquaformosa. They may also be the solution to its most pressing problem: depopulation.

Such places will have to boost their bids--free housing, etc.--to compete for new citizens.

October 29, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 9:46 AM


2017 Chevrolet Bolt: Two Experts Drive, And Like, The New EV (Forbes, 10/27/16)

Eerily silent, surprisingly roomy, downright quick, and without compromise -- that's how I'd sum up my driving impressions about the all-new 2017 Chevrolet Bolt after a brief, but informative, 30-minute jaunt in Southern California. [...]

As soon as you get into the Bolt you see the commitment Chevrolet made to crafting a functional and effective vehicle. The large touchscreen offers an effective and intuitive control interface. The look and feel of the interior materials produce a sense of quality and smart design. The interior space efficiency packed into a compact exterior footprint almost belies physics. These traits are all obvious before you ever start the...well...there is no engine. But between the Bolt's exterior styling and interior space and functionality the car's appeal surfaces long before engaging the motor.

When you do engage the 200-horsepower electric motor, you discover the Bolt's name refers not to its source of power but to what the car does when you punch the accelerator. With 266 pound-feet of torque, this electric car feels as fleet as a classic V8 Camaro -- though with far superior handling dynamics and braking confidence.

Posted by orrinj at 9:28 AM


Will the Economic Recovery Die of Old Age? : Is the current recovery more likely to end because it's lasted so long? Have various imbalances and rigidities accumulated to make the economy frailer and more susceptible to a recessionary shock? Recent history suggests the answer is no. Instead, a long recovery appears no more likely to end than a short one. Like Peter Pan, recoveries appear to never grow old. (Glenn D. Rudebusch, 2/14/16, FRBSF Economic Letter)

Recent economic indicators show that U.S. economic growth has slowed considerably. After adjusting for inflation, aggregate output increased little during the final three months of 2015. Is this the start of a serious stumble by an aging economy with creaky knees? Are we due for a recession? Or is the slowdown just part of the normal ups and downs of a healthy, dynamic economy?

Recessions are notoriously difficult to forecast. However, much conventional wisdom views an aging expansion as increasingly fragile and more likely to end in recession. The associated predictions of recession--proclaiming that "it's about time" for a downturn--have become more prominent lately because the current recovery, which started six and a half years ago, is relatively long already. For example, Rebecca Jarvis from ABC News asked Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen about this issue at the most recent Federal Open Market Committee press conference (Board of Governors 2015):

Rebecca Jarvis: Historically, most economic expansions fade after this long. How confident are you that our economy won't slip back into recession in the near term?
Chair Yellen:...I think it's a myth that expansions die of old age. I do not think that they die of old age. So the fact that this has been quite a long expansion doesn't lead me to believe that...its days are numbered.
The notion that business expansions are more likely to end as they grow older was especially common before World War II. Gottfried Haberler's (1937) classic synthesis of prewar business cycle theories devotes an entire section to the topic: "Why the Economic System Becomes Less and Less Capable of Withstanding Deflationary Shocks After an Expansion Has Progressed Beyond a Certain Point." Nowadays, the underlying rationale for this view follows an analogy to human mortality: As the expansion ages, assorted imbalances and rigidities accumulate that hobble the economy and make it more fragile. Thus, the recovery could be jeopardized by ever smaller shocks, and it becomes more likely over time that the economy will fall into recession.

However, the historical record since World War II does not support the view that the probability of recession increases with the length of the recovery. The earliest statistical investigation of the issue by Diebold and Rudebusch (1990) found that postwar expansions were not more likely to end as they endured. This Economic Letter updates that analysis. The results concur with Yellen's view that, all else equal, longer expansions are no more likely to end than shorter ones.

Posted by orrinj at 8:50 AM


'We Are in for a Pretty Long Civil War' : In back rooms and think tanks, Republicans are already mourning their party--and plotting the fight over who's going to be in it after Trump. (JULIA IOFFE, October 28, 2016, Politico)

This isn't the first time the Republican Party has looked death square in the face. "I remember the Wednesday, Thursday, Friday after the 2012 election, I was in Richmond with Eric Cantor, calling people, asking, 'What did you see? What did you hear?'" Heye told me. "Overwhelmingly, it was, 'We have a real problem with immigration and Hispanics, and we need to fix it.'"

These were among the conversations that led to the famous 2012 autopsy report, in which the GOP examined the reason for its loss in that year's presidential race, and outlined suggested fixes, most of them having to do with outreach to women and minorities. The document's fame, however, lay more in its breach than its content. "Every day we moved past the election, it became less a problem for individual congresspeople and more a national problem for the RNC," Heye explained. "There's nothing I disagree with in the autopsy, but it was unenforceable. The majority leader's secretary couldn't make a particular congressional office reach out to the Hispanic or black or Jewish community in their district. It was all, 'Mind your own business, you don't understand our congressional district.'"

Four years later, "breach" would be a kind word to describe what Trump did to that optimistic autopsy report: His campaign ran precisely against it, and swept the ground clear of its shreds. This time, the party doesn't really need an autopsy, said Russell Moore, evangelical theologian and president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. "We've known the cause of death while the patient was still alive on the table." [...]

[Soltis Anderson], like several other young Republicans I spoke to, cited Avik Roy, a Republican health care wonk who advised the campaigns of Mitt Romney, Rick Perry and Marco Rubio, and who is now increasingly distancing himself from the GOP. "These are people who are much more interested in ideas and policies than the jerseys they're wearing, and, until now, the Republican Party has been best vehicle for their ideas," Soltis Anderson said. "I think Avik Roy is the kind of model of where you'll see people go if they feel the party is not the right vehicle anymore. It has liberated folks who care more about the policy than about just getting Republicans elected."

Eric Teetsel, a prominent young evangelical and the executive director of the 2009 Manhattan Declaration that trumpeted the sanctity of life and heterosexual marriage, expressed similar views to me in an email. "Not so long ago, I stood in the back of an event in South Carolina watching Marco Rubio, Tim Scott and Nikki Haley together and thought, 'This is my Republican Party,'" Teetsel, Rubio's former director of faith outreach, said. "With Paul Ryan as speaker, rising stars in the Senate like Ben Sasse, and the influence of Arthur Brooks and Yuval Levin, the future of the conservative movement is bright. Whether the Republican Party is the vehicle for that movement is to be determined." [...]

Other, older Republicans, don't see a need to panic--in part because they have a less idealized view of the party as an ideological bulwark. Given their long experience doing battle for the GOP, they actually think some optimism might be in order. "Back up and look at the map of 50 states," says Grover Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform, the activist who has badgered hundreds of Republican politicians into signing a pledge never to vote for tax increases. "There are 31 states with Republican governors. Thirty-one where we have both houses of legislature; twenty-three where we have both houses of the legislature and the governorship. The Democrats have all of seven states where they have all three. That is a depth of Republican strength that is enduring. We really ought to have 60 senators on a bad day. The focus on the presidential race alone gives people a strange view of the miracle strength modern Republican Party." [...]

And, like Norquist, these other older Republicans, see Trump as "sui generis," a freak storm after which things return to normal. "Every one of Trump's problems is self-inflicted," Norquist says. "There isn't a single issue on which he agrees with Reagan, [Mitch] McConnell, or Ryan that's been a problem for him in the race." Whit Ayres, a veteran Republican strategist, says Trump won more on celebrity than politics. Elsewhere, his politics, stripped of his star power, have proven a loser against traditional conservatism. "If you look at candidates who tried--the guy who ran against Paul Ryan got 16 percent," says Ayres. "The guy who ran against Rubio got 18 percent. These guys aren't even scratching, even though they ran explicitly as clones of Donald Trump. The idea that Trump has started a movement or is in some way representative of a lot of other politicians is absurd." [...]

People like Soltis Anderson and Heye recognize that there are now three disparate factions that find themselves squabbling under the Republican tent--the Trump fans, the stand-pat establishment, and the conservative Jesuits--and, in order to form the coalition the think tank head described, they need a strong leader, a savior of sorts. "With a good leader, we can incorporate all three of those," says Soltis Anderson. "At some point, parties tire of losing," says Wehner. "It happened to Democrats in the '80s. What happens? Along came Bill Clinton and the New Dems. Same thing with Tony Blair and the Labour Party in England." These leaders reversed their parties' losing streaks, Wehner argues, with "policy changes, stylistic changes, and key moments that signaled to the country that they were a different kind of party and a different kind of candidate." Trump is not that leader; he is a false Messiah. A better leader, hope Wehner and Soltis Anderson, will come along. "The hope is that they can merge and not become an incredibly fractious fight," Wehner says.

Our partisan squabbles, especially the internecine ones, are so bitter precisely because so many of us agree on policies.  There's not much left over except identity politics. 

The fact is that even within the GOP, 60% want amnesty/immigration reform and an astonishing 40% want to replace Obamacare with straight up National Health.

The Clinton/Blair comparison on the left is pluperfect.  The GOP will reclaim the presidential race--as early as 2020--by simply running a Bush or Bush clone (compassionate conservative large state governor).

Posted by orrinj at 8:32 AM


Baseball as a road to God (John Sexton, October 28, 2016, RNS)

If given sensitive attention, baseball can awaken us to a contemplative dimension of life that is often missing in our increasingly peripatetic existence. We can learn, through baseball, to experience life more deeply. When we embrace its ineffable joys, baseball can be a guide to viewing religion and the spiritual life differently, to living differently, to being in the world in a different way and seeing more in it.

One time, outside of the friendly confines of Wrigley Field, I saw a T-shirt for sale that asked: "What did Jesus say to the Cubs just before he ascended into heaven?" The answer: "Don't do anything until I get back." Yet another proclaimed the words of the late, archetypal Chicago broadcaster Jack Brickhouse: "Hey, anyone can have a bad century!"

By now, the second century of World Series drought is upon them, but until it ends, Cubs fans will continue flocking to the corner of Clark and Addison streets on game day - not because they expect to win, or because they want to see how exactly they'll manage to lose, but simply because they want to be there. Just in case.

They sit, waiting to experience the ecstasy of release; the blessing that follows the curse. The only question that remains is how much longer that wait will last.

Posted by orrinj at 8:23 AM


THE EXORCIST TAKES CHRISTIANITY SERIOUSLY (Wesley J. Smith, 10 . 28 . 16, First Things)

Christian love is the life-blood of the new Fox series The Exorcist, in which devout Catholic characters grapple with demonic forces, putting at risk their lives and even their souls.

The Exorcist stays remarkably true to the feel of the best-selling 1971 novel of the same name and the classic 1973 movie based on the book. While the show tells a different story, its primary protagonists are, as in the book and movie, two troubled priests who agree to fight a possessing demon at the request of the victim's mother (played by Geena Davis). Fr. Marcus (Ben Daniels) is an experienced but broken exorcist whose last case resulted in the death of a boy under his care. His partner in demon fighting, Fr. Tomas (Alfonso Herrera), is a rising-star Hispanic priest from a poor parish in Chicago, tempted by his ambition to become "the first Mexican pope." The demon's victim is again female, only this time she is a young adult named Casey (Hannah Kasulka) rather than a child. And yes, internecine church politics threaten to impede the (from the audience's perspective) genuinely needed exorcism.

There are important differences as well, and I think they add materially to the plot. A Vatican official delivers a papal letter of excommunication to Fr. Marcus, but he is secretly supportive, sending him to a cloistered convent to witness how holy nuns overcome demonic possession. There is more than one way to defeat the dark side. Fr. Marcus and Fr.Tomas wield their crucifixes as weapons and fling holy water while shouting, "It is Christ who commands you!" The abbess, Mother Bernadette (Deanna Dunagan), takes a gentler, more feminine approach. Bringing to mind the loving heart of the Mother of God, she successfully frees a possessed man through fervent hugs and ardent prayers, receiving on her person the physical scars of the demon's violent lashing out. Fr. Marcus is deeply moved, and we later see him crooning quietly over an unconscious Casey, holding her gently in his arms.

We also witness the demon "Salesman" insidiously at work. Salesman is depicted as a dirty and increasingly seedy-looking man (Robert Emmett Lunney) whom only Casey can see. This demon is full of anguished hate: "Do you know what it is like to have Paradise within you and never be allowed to touch it?" it demands of Casey as she struggles against its violent domination. Moreover, it makes clear to Casey that possession is an intensely personal action for the demon.

The stakes are also much higher in the television show than in the novel and movie--although the saving of a human soul is always high-stakes. A great evil is afoot in Chicago, and it may be connected with the pope's impending visit, which is advertised with signs reading, "He is coming." That may be a two-sided message: Fr. Marcus warns that Satanists are preparing for something big, committing mass murders and removing the organs of their victims to be used in conjurations.

Like all good serials, each episode of The Exorcist leaves viewers wanting more.

Posted by orrinj at 8:11 AM

WHAT IF IT WERE A CLOWN IN THE BACK SEAT? (self-reference alert):

The Origins of 6 Terrifying Urban Legends and Classic Campfire Stories (Jake Rossen, 10/29/16, Mental Floss)


The Story: A woman is driving alone at night when she glances in her rearview mirror and sees a vehicle bearing down on her. The car continues to follow her on her winding route, rattling the driver. The mystery man even flashes his brights every so often. Finally pulling into a gas station for help, the woman goes running out of her car. When confronted by a policeman or pedestrian, the stalker reveals his true motivation: He noticed that a man was lurking in the woman's back seat and kept flashing his lights every time he reared up to try and strangle her.

The Truth: Versions of this story began appearing as early as the 1960s, with the "victim" alternately a teenager driving home from a school play or a woman coming back from a social engagement. Occasionally, the tail would be a massive commercial truck that seemed ready to run her over. The fake-out savior might be a gas attendant, a husband, or a cop who roughs up the "stalker" before his altruistic intention is finally revealed.

At least half of the tale is grounded in reality. Over the years, there have been several incidences of lurkers who have stowed away in the rear seat of vehicles, emerging to attack drivers or simply to evade capture by police. In 1964, one criminal made the mistake of hiding in a car owned by a police officer: the detective turned and fired on his uninvited passenger. The addition of a good Samaritan who notices the danger and tails the terrified driver appears to be pure embellishment, however.

October 28, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:27 PM


The Pope Commemorates The Reformation That Split Western Christianity (Sylvia Poggioli, 10/28/16, NPR Morning edition)

Last June, Pope Francis went so far as to praise Luther -- once deemed a heretic by the Catholic Church -- as a great reformer.

On his flight back to Rome from Armenia, the pope told reporters: "The church was not a role model, there was corruption, there was worldliness, there was greed, and lust for power. He protested against this. And he was an intelligent man."

There are three remaining areas of division: the question of the Universal Church and papal primacy; the priesthood, which includes women in the Lutheran church; and the nature of the Eucharist or Holy Communion.

Posted by orrinj at 7:12 PM


Step Into the Garage Where Robots Do All the Parking (Jack Stewart, 10/28/16, Wired)

West Hollywood, California says it saved over a million dollars with the West Coast's first municipal robot garage, which ditches the idea of driving into the garage, circling up and down ramps until you find an open spot, squeezing your way in, then wandering your way out again.

Instead, you just need to follow a green arrow into a super-wide space on the ground floor, lock your car, and walk away. Machinery swings into action to lift, stack, and pack your vehicle somewhere inside the structure.

Autonomous shuttles can squeeze cars into tight spaces, because there's no need for room for the doors to open, or for other cars to drive past. Providing the same 200 spaces in a conventional garage would have required more space, and more materials. Those cars would also pump out more noise and pollution as they circle and idle looking for a spot.

Posted by orrinj at 7:05 PM


Molten Salt Reactors Could Soon Help Power Earth--And One Day Mars (Sarah Scoles, 10/28/16, wired)

Shu's nuclear power device is called a "two-fluid molten salt reactor." The full details are in the patent, but the basic idea is this: The first batch of molten salt is full of a thorium compound, which eventually decays into uranium as neutrons bombard the mixture. That uranium goes into the second batch of molten salt and circulates into the reactor's graphite-filled core.

There, it encounters slowed-down neutrons, which kick off a fission chain reaction--that's the energy-producing part. The first batch of salt then absorbs the heat from the reactions, cooling the system. (In typical nuclear reactors, water does the cooling.)

This system is self-regulating: If the reactions happen too fast and the reactor gets too hot, the salt naturally expands out of the core, which cools it off--think transferring hot coffee from a tiny cup to a cookie sheet (don't ask questions). That makes the reactor pretty meltdown-proof.

That's great for Mars, obviously--any energy supply on a newly-formed colony is going to have to be pretty foolproof. Not worth setting up a trillion-dollar settlement if your reactor gives everyone radiation poisoning (at least not before the sun does, anyway). Plus, the planet has plentiful thorium, and nuclear power doesn't care if dust storms dot out the Sun for months at a time (solar panels, on the other hand, care very much). That's why Shu hopes NASA will back the R&D for his reactors.

It's also great for Earth. While Shu's specific design is novel, the idea comes from the 1960s, when Oak Ridge National Laboratory made a molten salt reactor. The World Nuclear Association calls them "a promising technology today," and China and India are sinking effort into their own designs. That hasn't happened yet, though--which is where Shu's plan comes in.

Posted by orrinj at 6:57 PM


It's Not Just Clean Air: Electric Cars Can Save the US Billions (AARIAN MARSHALL, 10.27.16, wired)

IT'S HARD TO get a handle on the ugly, smoggy implications of this nation's dependence on fossil fuel-burning cars. Deaths from pollution and climate change tend to pile up slowly, in asthma attacks, flood fatalities, and respiratory illnesses. But you, me, the kids, the politicians--everyone is suffering the effects of passenger car-related pollution.

According to a new report from the American Lung Association of California, cars are responsible for $37 billion in health and climate costs each year.

That's just for California, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont--the 10 states that have zero emission vehicle sales programs. The price tag includes the economic costs of 220,000 days of missed work, 109,000 asthma-related attacks, and 2,580 premature deaths per annum.

Even if you don't have asthma, you're getting hit: The report estimates that every tank of gasoline you combust adds $18.42 to public health and climate bills--bills your taxes pay off.

Fortunately, the policy/lung specialists can imagine a rosier future, if those states get even more into electricity. The report estimates that if, by 2050, EVs account for 100 percent of new sales and about 65 percent of cars on the road, health- and climate-related costs will drop by $21 billion, to $15.7 billion. If the states get real aggressive and move away from the current coal-tinged grid toward 100 percent renewable energy, those benefits could climb by 40 percent.

"I think people haven't been used to factoring health and climate into the daily choices they're making," says Bonnie Holmes-Gen, the American Lung Association of California's senior director of air quality and climate change. "We've quantified the hidden costs."

Posted by orrinj at 6:43 PM


The Progressive Tax Reform You've Never Heard Of : How ending profit shifting can fix corporate tax cheating and satisfy Republicans  (Michael Stumo, October 27, 2016, American Prospect)

"PROFIT SHIFTING" IS THE biggest lawful tax avoidance strategy in the United States and the world. Tax professor Kimberly Clausing of Reed College estimates that 31 percent of corporate tax revenue was lost due to profit shifting in 2012. In other words, the IRS collected $242 billion in corporate tax revenue that year, but should have collected another $111 billion if profit shifting to foreign jurisdictions did not exist. The problem rapidly accelerated from 2004 to 2012, and continues to increase dramatically. In 2016, it is possible that more than 40 percent of potential corporate tax revenue will be lost.

Some reformers on the Democratic side may be missing the mark when focusing on tax loopholes, tax breaks, and statutory rates while preserving the taxation of U.S. corporations' worldwide income. Most developed countries tax income generated in their country; this is called a "territorial" income tax system. While the worldwide taxation system we have may, at first, seem like a good idea to progressives who want U.S. multinationals to be taxed properly, our system is having the opposite effect, and it can't be corrected through tinkering.

Professor Clausing of Reed College puts it this way:

As a result, the U.S. "worldwide" system of taxation is substantially more generous to foreign income than many alternative systems of taxation.

Unlike most trading partners, the U.S. system purports to tax the worldwide income of multinational companies at the statutory rate of 35 percent, granting a tax credit for taxes paid to other countries. Yet, because U.S. taxation is not triggered unless income is repatriated, multinationals can avoid residual tax by indefinitely holding income abroad. ... As a result, the U.S. "worldwide" system of taxation is substantially more generous to foreign income than many alternative systems of taxation.

Republicans want lower statutory corporate tax rates (and some want to eliminate the corporate tax entirely). They also advocate "territorial taxation," which taxes only that corporate income generated in the United States. They rightly point out that most developed countries have territorial taxation and that we apply a territorial, not worldwide, tax on foreign companies doing business here. This is indeed unfair to U.S. companies. But the Republican goals are unworkable without addressing the problem of profit shifting to tax havens.

Representative Sander Levin of Michigan is the ranking Democratic member of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee. In a 2011 speech, Levin said of the GOP's push for a territorial system:

We need to move beyond the current easy rhetoric about a move to a territorial system because it does have the potential to encourage American corporations to shift more of their income, and possibly jobs, overseas. If we are going to consider a territorial system, we will need to strengthen our transfer pricing rules, address the allocation of expenses, and consider provisions to deal with tax havens.

Put simply, if Congress were to adopt a territorial system to tax only U.S.-originated revenue without addressing profit shifting, corporations would continue to artificially book income in tax havens. Tax revenue would continue to plummet. There is a remedy that fixes profit shifting, adopts a territorial tax, and solidifies tax revenue, by adapting a variation of the corporate tax system already used at the state level.

This approach is called "sales factor apportionment" (SFA). Here's how it works. SFA would apportion U.S. corporate tax on worldwide company income based upon the ratio of U.S. sales to worldwide sales. Despite the complex name, the principle is very simple. SFA disregards all internal corporate transfer pricing between subsidiaries, so a "sale" to a true customer outside the company is all that matters. In other words, the internal profit shifting in our RGC example becomes not only useless but stupid, as it lacks a business rationale. SFA also achieves the Republicans' territoriality goal in a way that is good for the country while achieving the Democrats' goal of eliminating tax avoidance and maintaining tax revenue. In fact, the U.S. states adopted this system long ago, to avoid artificial income shifting from high-tax to low-tax states. So it is hardly an alien concept, because U.S. companies already comply with it.

The U.S. corporate tax rate is indeed high among developed economies, but is so ineffective that it collects less revenue as a percent of GDP than foreign countries with lower tax rates. SFA ends the charade.

First, how about explaining why you want to punish profits.  It's not at all clear why we should tax income in any form.

Posted by orrinj at 6:16 PM


The Conservative Intellectual Crisis (David Brooks OCT. 28, 2016, NY Times)

I feel very lucky to have entered the conservative movement when I did, back in the 1980s and 1990s. I was working at National Review, The Washington Times, The Wall Street Journal's editorial page. The role models in front of us were people like Bill Buckley, Irving Kristol, James Q. Wilson, Russell Kirk and Midge Decter.

These people wrote about politics, but they also wrote about a lot of other things: history, literature, sociology, theology and life in general. There was a sharp distinction then between being conservative, which was admired, and being a Republican, which was considered sort of cheesy.

These writers often lived in cities among liberals while being suspicious of liberal thought and liberal parochialism. People like Buckley had friends of every ideological stripe and were sharper for being in hostile waters. They were sort of inside and outside the establishment and could speak both languages.

Many grew up poor, which cured them of the anti-elitist pose that many of today's conservative figures adopt, especially if they come from Princeton (Ted Cruz), Cornell (Ann Coulter) or Dartmouth (Laura Ingraham and Dinesh D'Souza). The older writers knew that being cultured and urbane wasn't a sign of elitism. Culture was the tool they used for social mobility. T.S. Eliot was cheap and sophisticated argument was free.

The Buckley-era establishment self-confidently enforced intellectual and moral standards. It rebuffed the nativists like the John Birch Society, the apocalyptic polemicists who popped up with the New Right, and they exiled conspiracy-mongers and anti-Semites, like Joe Sobran, an engaging man who was rightly fired from National Review.

Posted by orrinj at 2:22 PM


Houthis fire ballistic missile toward Mecca (Deutsche-Welle, 10/28/16)

The Saudi-led coalition intervening in Yemen's civil war said on Saudi state news agency SPA that a Burkan-1 ballistic missile was luanched into Saudi Arabia, adding that it had targeted King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah, the kingdom's busiest airport.

Posted by orrinj at 2:16 PM


Russia fails to win re-election to U.N. Human Rights Council (REUTERS, 10/28/16)

Russia failed to win re-election to the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council on Friday, beaten by Hungary and Croatia in a vote by the 193-member U.N. General Assembly.

Posted by orrinj at 4:45 AM


GOP Senator's Debate Tactic: Jab Thai-American War Hero Over Ethnicity and Military Heritage (Margaret Hartmann, 10/28/16, New York)

A moment in Thursday's debate between the two candidates running for the U.S. Senate from Illinois might have gone down as one of the low points of the 2016 election, if there weren't already so many to choose from.

Republican Senator Mark Kirk is locked in a tough reelection battle with Democratic Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth. During their second debate on Thursday night, Duckworth was making the case for having a veteran in the Senate when the nation is deciding whether to go to war.

"My family has served this nation in uniform going back to the revolution. I am a daughter of the American Revolution. I've bled for this nation," Duckworth said. "But I still want to be there in the Senate when the drums of war sound because people are quick to sound the drums of war and I want to be there to say this is what it costs and this is what you're asking us to do."

"I'd forgotten that your parents came all the way from Thailand to serve George Washington," Kirk said.

October 27, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 6:27 PM


How America's outdated immigration laws hurt the economy (Brian Schaitkin, OCTOBER 24, 2016, CS Monitor)

The Conference Board's uniquely forward-looking Labor Shortage Index demonstrates that America's businesses are more likely to have future difficulty finding health workers than information technology (IT) ones. This tool assesses future labor shortage risk by occupation based on three factors: (i) the gap between future demand and supply; (ii) the education and skills required; and (iii) how flexible the occupation is to different work arrangements. The last factor best explains why tech sector occupations have lower future shortage risks than health ones. Computer programmers can work offshore or from home; nurses cannot.

The share of immigrants working in an occupation is another important measure of flexibility. As fewer native-born workers enter the labor force, higher levels of immigration will be needed to fill the gaps--particularly in certain occupations where the "home-grown pipeline" is not full.

Posted by orrinj at 6:27 PM


The Ali-Frazier Battle Of Internet Chess Is Happening This Week (Oliver Roeder, 10/26/16, 538)

Thursday, Carlsen will play Hikaru Nakamura, the four-time U.S. chess champion, in Chess.com's online GM Blitz Battle final, which the site is billing as the Ali vs. Frazier of online chess. In the world championship for chess with "classical" time controls, each player gets at least 100 minutes for all his moves. But Thursday's blitz battle will feature a series of games wherein the players get just 5 minutes, 3 minutes and, finally, 1 minute a side.

According to the latest FIDE list, a ranking that uses Elo ratings and in-person results, Carlsen and Nakamura are the second and third best blitz players in the world, respectively. (China's Liren Ding is No. 1.) But according to Chess.com's newly developed Computer Accuracy & Precision Score (or CAPS), Nakamura may have a slight edge in speed games over the world champion. CAPS is based on a comparison between the humans' actual moves and the moves deemed best by a computer.

Posted by orrinj at 6:17 PM


This is how to recharge your brain, according to science (Vybarr Cregan-Reid,  3 August 2016, World Economic Forum)


In recent years, the field of environmental psychology has blazed a trail in our understanding of what exposure to green spaces can give us. There have been hundreds of trials over the years that demonstrate everything from the effectiveness of having indoor plants in your workplace, to how access to green spaces can lower crime rates, as well as the extraordinary discovery that walking in a forest can lower your blood pressure.

A famous trial in 2008, actually tested the speed and depth of restoration among walkers in urban and rural areas. The result comes as little surprise: the subjects who had access to green environments were more mentally restored and were able to tackle more complex cognitive tasks. The effect was so potent that even when the trial subjects only looked at pictures of natural environments, the results were the same.

Walking in a green space, allowing your mind to wander, restores directed attention quickly and effectively. 8/10.

Posted by orrinj at 6:17 PM


Provide energy from fusion (NAE Grand Engineering Challenges)

From a safety standpoint, it poses no risk of a runaway nuclear reaction -- it is so difficult to get the fusion reaction going in the first place that it can be quickly stopped by eliminating the injection of fuel.  And after engineers learn how to control the first generation of fusion plasmas, from deuterium and tritium fuels, advanced second- or third-generation fuels could reduce radioactivity by orders of magnitude.

Ultimately, of course, fusion's success as an energy provider will depend on whether the challenges to building generating plants and operating them safely and reliably can be met in a way that makes the cost of fusion electricity economically competitive. The good news is that the first round of challenges are clearly defined, and motivations for meeting them are strong, as fusion fuels offer the irresistible combination of abundant supply with minimum environmental consequences.

Posted by orrinj at 6:12 PM


The universe is flat as a pancake. Coincidence? : Dark energy is smoothing the expanding cosmic curves - but only exactly the right amount can make that happen (Stuart Clark, 10/27/16, New Scientist)

According to Einstein's general theory of relativity, matter and energy bend space and time, and the amount of stuff the universe contains will determine its ultimate fate. If the universe is dense enough to curve space-time in on itself, all that gravity will eventually collapse it back down to nothing. If the universe's density is low, it curves outwards - and the weakness of the gravitational pull will mean it expands forever.

But our universe seems to fit in neither camp. The most powerful test of its geometry is the variation in the cosmic microwave background, the radiation emitted shortly after the big bang. According to measurements of this radiation, the density of matter and energy is such that the universe does not curve either way: it is perfectly flat. After an eternity, its expansion should grind to a halt with no subsequent collapse.

Posted by orrinj at 6:08 PM


Have a kid with migraines? Sugar pills work as well as drugs (LINDSEY TANNER, 10/27/16, AP)

Sugar pills worked as well at preventing kids' migraines as two commonly used headache medicines, but had fewer side effects, in a study that may lead doctors to rethink how they treat a common ailment in children and teens.

Posted by orrinj at 3:04 PM


Secret tape recordings of Kim Jong Il provide rare insight into the psyche of his North Korean regime (Barbara Demick, 10/27/16, LA Times)

It is one of the strangest stories out of a strange country: In 1978, the South Korean film actress Choi Eun-hee was kidnapped during a business trip to Hong Kong and brought to Pyongyang on the orders of Kim Jong Il. When her former husband, Shin Sang-ok, a leading film director, went to look for her, he was captured as well. Reunited, they were coerced to make movies for Kim Jong Il, gradually earning his trust to the point that he allowed them to travel to Eastern Europe, then still part of the Soviet block, to shoot films and attend film festivals. In 1986, the pair escaped to the U.S. embassy in Vienna.

Shin feared rightfully that nobody would believe this outlandish story, so he and Choi secretly taped Kim Jong Il. With a microrecorder stashed in Choi's purse, they captured Kim, who was then in charge of the film industry, pouring out his insecurities about how his country lagged behind capitalist rival South Korea.

"Why do all of our films have the same ideological plots? There is nothing new about them. ...

We don't have any films that get into film festivals.

In South Korea, they have better technology. They are like college students and we are just in nursery schools."

In the tapes, Kim also confesses that he had ordered the couple to be kidnapped so that they could make movies for him.

"I asked my advisor, who's the best director in the south? He said that his name is Shin."

Later, Kim apologized to Shin for the mistreatment he endured from the agents who kidnapped him, and for the fact that the couple were kept apart for four years.

"I didn't tell them about my plan to use you and collaborate with you. I just said bring them to me."

During a trip to Budapest, Shin turned over some of his tape recordings to a Japanese film critic who was an old friend and instructed him to give them to family. Those tapes eventually made their way to a family friend who lived in New Jersey, who brought them to the State Department.

Posted by orrinj at 2:55 PM


Foreign-Policy Debate Scrambled by 2016 Election (JAY SOLOMON and  LAURA MECKLER, Oct. 27, 2016, WSJ)

Hillary Clinton, if elected president, would take a more aggressive posture than President Barack Obama on the international stage, according to her public statements and top aides. That would set her apart from the liberal wing of Democrats led by Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has called her too quick to back military force, as well as the anti-interventionist approach advocated by Republican nominee Donald Trump and a growing number in his party.

Mrs. Clinton's approach has given her an unusual set of allies, including from the national-security wing of the GOP, whose members would normally back the Republican nominee but this time rejected Mr. Trump and his approach.

Posted by orrinj at 2:50 PM


5 Shocking Plot Twists in the Story of Science and Faith (Brandon Vogt, 10/27/16, Strange Notions)

Twist #5 - Quantum Mechanics and the Defeat of Determinism

Most materialists deny that free will exists, and for centuries this seemed well-grounded in the findings of physics. The laws of physics appeared to be "deterministic," in the sense that what happens at a later time is solely determined through the laws of physics by what happened at earlier times. This was of course a troubling point for Judaism and Christianity, both of which held free will as a central tenant.

However, a truly astonishing reversal came in the 1920s with the discover of quantum theory. Barr describes it as "the greatest and most profound revolution in the history of physics" (27). It transformed the whole structure of theoretical physics, and in the process swept away physical determinism.

In prior centuries, the core of physical science was prediction. That's how theories were tested and proved. But with quantum theory, the present state of a physical system would not, even in principle, be enough to predict everything about its future behavior. No longer could you simply argue from the deterministic character of physics that free will was impossible.
Of course, this doesn't prove that we have free will. Instead, as Barr notes, "quantum theory simply showed that the most powerful argument against free will was obsolete. In the words of the great mathematician and physicist Hermann Weyl, 'the old classical determinism...need not oppress us any longer'" (27).

Opening the door to free will was just one of the effects of quantum theory. In its traditional or "standard" interpretation, it also posits the existence of observers who lie, at least in part, outside of the description provided by physics. That's a controversial claim, and has been challenged by radical reinterpretations of quantum theory (such as the "many-worlds interpretation") or by changing quantum theory in some way.

But as Barr writes, "The argument against materialism based on quantum theory is a strong one, and has certainly not been refuted. The line of argument is rather subtle. It is also not well-known, even among practicing physicists. But, if it is correct, it would be the most important philosophical implication to come from any scientific discovery" (28).

The above represents just a sampling of the major discoveries in the great history of science and faith. Barr spends nearly 300 pages examining them in more depth. If you'd like to learn more, I highly recommend you pick up Modern Physics and Ancient Faith for the rest of the story.

Posted by orrinj at 2:44 PM


Poll: Voters Care More About Drug Costs Than Repealing Obamacare (Kimberly Leonard, Oct. 27, 2016, US News)

Voters care more about Congress and the next president controlling the price of prescription drugs than they do about changes to President Barack Obama's health care law, shows a poll released Thursday by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

October 26, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 4:44 PM


My Former Republican Party (BRET STEPHENS, Oct. 25, 2016, WSJ)

To see how far it's fallen, let's remind ourselves of where it once was.

Immigration: At a 1980 Republican primary debate in Houston, candidates George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan were asked whether the children of illegal immigrants should be allowed to attend public schools for free. Mr. Bush said they should. "We're creating a whole society of really honorable, decent, family-loving people that are in violation of the law," he lamented.

Reagan agreed. Instead of "putting up a fence," he asked, "why don't we . . . make it possible for them to come here legally with a work permit, and then, while they're working and earning here, they pay taxes here." For good measure, Reagan suggested we should "open the border both ways."

Where, in the populist fervor to build a wall with Mexico and deport millions of human beings, is that Republican Party today?

Trade: "It is the maxim of every prudent master of a family, never to attempt to make at home what it will cost him more to make than to buy," wrote Adam Smith in 1776. "If a foreign country can supply us with a commodity cheaper than we ourselves can make it, better to buy it of them." Two centuries later, Milton Friedman noted that trade protectionism "really means exploiting the consumer" by artificially limiting choice and raising prices for the benefit of domestic producers.

Adam Smith and Milton Friedman were once canonical conservative figures. Free trade was once a Republican conviction. In one of his final radio addresses as president, Reagan warned "we should beware of the demagogues who are ready to declare a trade war against our friends--weakening our economy, our national security, and the entire free world--all while cynically waving the American flag."

Posted by orrinj at 4:41 PM


Uber's Otto hauls Budweiser across Colorado in self-driving truck (Alexandria Sage, 10/26/16, Reuters)

In the first real-world commercial use of autonomous trucking, some 45,000 cans of Budweiser beer arrived late last week to a warehouse after traveling over 120 highway miles in a self-driving truck with no driver at the wheel, executives from Uber [UBER.UL] and Anheuser-Busch (ABI.BR) said.

Otto, the self-driving truck subsidiary of Uber, shipped a truckload of Budweiser from Fort Collins, Colorado to Colorado Springs last Thursday with the driver monitoring from the truck's sleeper berth for the entire two-hour journey, Otto's co-founder Lior Ron and Anheuser-Busch's senior director of logistics strategy, James Sembrot, told Reuters on Friday.

Posted by orrinj at 2:16 PM


The Mountain Goats' John Darnielle on His 1995 Song "Cubs in Five" : And what it means to him in 2016. (John Darnielle, 10/26/16, Slate)

It's a good time for baseball--there's a whole lot of characters and great stories, and the arrival of the superstations to the Southern California cable market means I can watch all the Cubs games I want. They're not good yet, but they have character. I'm at my mom's house watching a game while she's at work. Specifically, I'm on the couch strumming my cheap Korean nylon-strung 3/4-size guitar, and at some point, I reflect idly on an on-again, off-again relationship I've been having for the last several years that's given me a great deal of pleasure and at least as much pain. Presently, I'm hoping that I've emerged from the final "pain" phase of the process (spoiler alert: I hadn't), and I'm kidding myself, as one does, thinking: Well, I'm free of all that now; there's a lot of unlikely stuff that'd have to happen before I'd ever dive back into that radiant, glowing, magnificent ocean of high highs and hurt feelings.

That's when I get the conceit for the song, and I ad-lib the first verse and the chorus. Then I mute the TV, do it again, start scribbling down lyrics, and I think, jeez, this one's kind of good, why don't you call Peter, a harmony vocal would be cool, and he's into baseball, too, right?

I didn't keep records of my work then (and I don't now: I like to let things retain their natural anchorless drift), save for the hard evidence: the cassettes, I mean. Peter shows up--he's got the day off from his job as a substitute teacher--and we both sit around my mom's dining room table with my boombox and the tiny guitar I still have on a high shelf in the basement, the one I'd covered in stickers and painted Nick Drake lyrics all over in black and red watercolor, because it looked totally twisted and bizarre. And we sang:

They're gonna find intelligent life up there on the moon,
and The Canterbury Tales will shoot up to the top of the best-seller list,
and stay there for twenty-seven weeks;

And the Chicago Cubs will beat every team in the league,
and the Tampa Bay Bucs will take it all the way through January,
And I will love you again; I will love you like I used to
I will love you again; I will love you, like I used to

"Why don't you love me like you used to do?" ran a song on the outgoing answering machine of the person to whom the song was anonymously directed, at whom I was very angry on that day (for reasons lost to history), but with whom I could never stay angry for long, because that's how it is when you're a fan: You keep cheering, even when the circumstances might tell a less devoted partisan to seek out fairer pastures. You play nine innings. You keep hoping.

No other sport has good songs.
Posted by orrinj at 2:01 PM


Islamic State v. al-Qaida (Owen Bennett-Jones, 11/03/16, London Review of Books)

After some years of mutual respect, tensions between the two organisations came to a head in 2013 when they tussled for control of the Syrian jihadist group Jabhat al-Nusra. The arguments were so sharp that the al-Qaida leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, eventually said he no longer recognised the existence of the Islamic State in Syria. The former IS spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani hit back, saying that al-Qaida was not only pacifist - excessively interested in popularity, mass movements and propaganda - but an 'axe' supporting the destruction of the caliphate.

The disagreements reflect contrasting approaches. Bin Laden - with decreasing success - urged his followers to keep their focus on the 'far enemy', the United States: Islamic State has always been more interested in the 'near enemy' - autocratic regimes in the Middle East.

...was how to turn attention to the Near war instead of the Far war, which toppling Saddam began but which the rise of ISIS was immensely helpful in achieving. The war is now down to everyone against the Salafi, including themselves.  Neither secular dictatorship nor Islamicist regime are alternatives any longer.  

ISIS Failure in Kirkuk Shows Its Loss of Sunni Arab Support (YAROSLAV TROFIMOV, Oct. 26, 2016, WSJ)

Last Friday, just as Iraqi, Kurdish and coalition troops were inching closer to Mosul to retake it, Islamic State launched a similar surprise attack on another major Iraqi city, Kirkuk. As the news of the assault spread, Islamic State authorities in Mosul staged street celebrations to salute the imminent addition of Kirkuk to their caliphate.

That attack, however, quickly ended in failure. The main reason is that Sunni Arabs, many of whom once viewed Islamic State as a liberator from Shiite or Kurdish oppression, have grown increasingly disgusted by the militant group.

After all, it is Iraq's Sunni Arab community that has paid the highest toll in the war unleashed by Islamic State, with their cities such as Ramadi and Fallujah lying in ruins and millions displaced from their homes. This draining support for Islamic State, as demonstrated by its quick defeat in Kirkuk, gives hope that the militant group will struggle to stage a comeback after it loses Mosul and control of other remaining areas in Iraq.

Posted by orrinj at 1:51 PM


ObamaCare is a disaster. Here's how to fix it. (Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, October 26, 2016, The Week)

ObamaCare's combination of mandates, subsidies, and regulations very predictably caused markets to go haywire and become inefficient. But this shouldn't just be a moment for partisan point-scoring. ObamaCare's ostensible goal -- to ensure that every American has a safety net when it comes to health care -- is a laudable one. ObamaCare's failures will hurt millions of families. This is a serious problem that requires a serious solution.

So, how do we fix ObamaCare? By learning from the same principles that made it obvious ObamaCare would fail in the first place.

As I wrote back in 2014, in an article looking at lessons Americans could learn from the rest of the world on health care, there are a few valuable rule of thumbs. Namely, while health care is a unique sector of the economy in some respects, it still shares a defining characteristic with economic sectors like information technology and cars: Consumer choice and competition bring prices down and increases quality.

From these principles, you can sketch out a plan that would ensure all Americans have access to quality, affordable health care. Marco Rubio's plan would give Americans who don't already have coverage a refundable tax credit that would allow them to buy the health care of their choice, preferably through a health savings account. The idea is to create a market accessible to all Americans, but not try to manage that market like a Soviet premier.

Even more simple: Allow insurers much more freedom in the kinds of plans they offer on ObamaCare's exchanges. Or ensure that people who get subsidies to buy insurance on the market get 80 percent of that money in a health savings account and 20 percent to put toward a plan covering catastrophic illness or injury.

The point is to nudge the American market away from what all health care experts agree is the biggest problem with American health care -- a problem that ObamaCare entrenches rather than ameliorates -- which is not "government" or "the market" but third-party payments. Whether it's a "private" insurer or the government, when a third party is involved in deciding what you buy and how, the market will go topsy-turvy, because consumers won't be able to exert their power in the marketplace. The business executive David Goldhill explains this perfectly in the single most important article about health care in America. Of course, poorer Americans should get money to buy critical health care that they otherwise can't afford, but the key point is that it should be their money; under ObamaCare (and employer-based insurance, but that is a topic for another day) it is not, actually, their money. It's the government's, or the insurer's, if you can figure out where one begins and the other ends.

Reducing choice, making the policies cost less and the consumption cost more is the key--that means HSAs and high deductible catastrophic plans.
Posted by orrinj at 1:31 PM


Russian Carrier Is Bound for Syria, Flexing Muscle but Risking Malfunction (NEIL MacFARQUHAR, OCT. 21, 2016, NY Times)

The Admiral Kuznetsov, Russia's lone, rather geriatric aircraft carrier, steamed through the English Channel toward the Mediterranean Sea on Friday in the Kremlin's latest attempt to reassert its lost superpower status.

Belching thick black smoke, the Soviet-era warship, previously known more as a threat to its crew than anything else, led a battle group of eight vessels, including an oceangoing tug that traditionally accompanies the carrier, which has a reputation for breaking down. [...]

Many military analysts see the Admiral Kuznetsov as merely a 200-pound gorilla, and consider it a gamble to play gunboat diplomacy with a lumbering tub fit for the scrap heap. The latest excursion is only the eighth long-distance mission for the aircraft carrier, which has been something of a lemon from the start.

"I would sum up its history as 'tortured,'" Mr. Nordenman said.

The carrier underwent repairs from 1996 to 1998, from 2001 to 2004, and in 2008, and its deck and electronic plant were replaced in the past two years, according to Russian news reports.

It is expected back in dry dock after the Syria deployment because its propulsion system needs to be replaced.

Whenever it went to sea over the years, the Admiral Kuznetsov was prone to accidents.

The United States Navy came to its aid during one Mediterranean training exercise in 1996, when the machinery used to distill fresh water from seawater malfunctioned, leaving its crew of nearly 2,000 sailors with a severe shortage of fresh water. The carrier polluted the Irish Sea at one point with a gigantic oil spill, and a fire on board killed a crew member in 2009.

The technology used to launch airplanes is considered obsolete. Most modern carriers fling their fighter jets skyward with a kind of catapult, allowing them to carry a full contingent of fuel and weapons. Planes launched from the Admiral Kuznetsov wobble aloft from a sort of ski jump, forcing them to take off without a full load.

The warship will hug the Syrian coastline, allowing planes to perform bombing runs and return to the ship's deck before running out of fuel, according to an unidentified source cited by the Tass news agency.

Sometimes you're so weak you're beyond even self-humiliation.

October 25, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 6:10 PM


The Pentagon's 'Terminator Conundrum': Robots That Could Kill on Their Own : The United States has put artificial intelligence at the center of its defense strategy, with weapons that can identify targets and make decisions. (MATTHEW ROSENBERG and JOHN MARKOFF, OCT. 25, 2016, NY Times Magazine)

The small drone, with its six whirring rotors, swept past the replica of a Middle Eastern village and closed in on a mosque-like structure, its camera scanning for targets.

No humans were remotely piloting the drone, which was nothing more than a machine that could be bought on Amazon. But armed with advanced artificial intelligence software, it had been transformed into a robot that could find and identify the half-dozen men carrying replicas of AK-47s around the village and pretending to be insurgents.

As the drone descended slightly, a purple rectangle flickered on a video feed that was being relayed to engineers monitoring the test. The drone had locked onto a man obscured in the shadows, a display of hunting prowess that offered an eerie preview of how the Pentagon plans to transform warfare.

Almost unnoticed outside defense circles, the Pentagon has put artificial intelligence at the center of its strategy to maintain the United States' position as the world's dominant military power. It is spending billions of dollars to develop what it calls autonomous and semiautonomous weapons and to build an arsenal stocked with the kind of weaponry that until now has existed only in Hollywood movies and science fiction, raising alarm among scientists and activists concerned by the implications of a robot arms race.

The Defense Department is designing robotic fighter jets that would fly into combat alongside manned aircraft. It has tested missiles that can decide what to attack, and it has built ships that can hunt for enemy submarines, stalking those it finds over thousands of miles, without any help from humans.

...as the human cost to us trends towards zero.

Posted by orrinj at 6:04 PM


Allah Wants ISIS to Retreat : The Caliphate's propagandists are digging through the Quran to prove that getting beaten back in Mosul doesn't stray from the preordained plan. (COLE BUNZEL, OCTOBER 25, 2016, fOREIGN pOLICY)

"Why has the Islamic State lost some of the territories under its control? And why has it lost some of its leaders?" This was the headline of an article published last week by a pro-Islamic State media outlet.

As its leaders are picked off from the sky, as its economic resources run dry, and as its prized "caliphate" slips from its grasp -- Mosul likely being the next casualty -- the Islamic State's supporters are looking for explanations for why the tide of war has turned against them. The facts on the ground, after all, no longer support the Islamic State's triumphalist slogan: Remaining and Expanding (baqiya wa-tatamaddad). How, one may well ask, does a group that projected such unbounded confidence, whose legitimacy seemed to rest on seizing and controlling large territories, adjust its message to less fortunate circumstances?

Nevermind that when Christ returns it will be to offer them an opportunity to accept Him as their savior, the requirement that they hold specific places and establish a state was always going to be fatal in the face of our opposition.

Posted by orrinj at 5:59 PM


Every day matters with driverless cars (Adam Thierer and Caleb Watney, 10/20/16, tHE hILL)

Let's face it: Humans are really, really bad at driving. Of the 35,000 lives lost every year from car fatalities, 94 percent are attributable to human error. Thousands more are injured each day, and car crashes have many other significant costs for the public.

Even more horrific, we appear to be getting worse at driving during an age of evermore distracting digital devices. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the federal agency that oversees auto safety, recently reported "an alarming uptick in fatalities" with a 10.4 percent increase in the number of vehicle deaths in the first half of 2016 over the previous year.

This is why driverless car technology is so exciting. Autonomous systems will take the wheel and make us much safer in the process. Put simply, robots don't get distracted, drowsy, or drunk. They don't have blind spots, and they won't text. These facts alone will result in a precipitous drop in the number of auto crashes and corresponding injuries or deaths.

Posted by orrinj at 5:53 PM


MY MUSLIM FATHER'S FAITH IN AMERICA (Mohammed Naseehu Ali , 10/24/16, The New Yorker)

It was during one of our late-evening tête-à-têtes before my freshman year that my father finally divulged his reasons for sending me to the United States.

"Allah has blessed that country," he told me. Knowing that such declarations were usually preludes to lengthier reflection, I assumed a ruminative posture and waited for him to continue. "One must wonder why Allah chose to bestow such abundance of wealth and glory on a nation of unbelievers," he said. "Remember, they don't worship Allah; they don't pray five times a day like we do. And yet Allah continues to bestow his blessings on their country." The reason, he said, was very simple: Americans were the ones doing Allah's work, by steadfastly upholding the Islamic tenet of zakat--a form of alms-giving that makes up one of the Five Pillars of Islam. "Their government welcomes people who are seeking a better life," my father said. "They shield and protect the weak, the poor, and the persecuted from all over the world, and, the most important of all, they support orphans and protect the rights of women, as instructed by the Prophet Muhammad in his last sermon."

Father was quick to remind me that, despite the enmity between the Reagan Administration and Ghana's military leadership, "it was America, and not Saudi Arabia," that sent shiploads of food to Ghanaians during the famine that struck our country in 1982. I was only twelve at the time, yet the image of bags of rice and corn and canned Dutch cheese, delivered to our local mosque with "u.s.a.i.d. from the american people" emblazoned in blue and red, remained vivid in my memory. "All of these are good deeds we Muslims are required to practice, but we have allowed the Americans and Europeans to lead in this effort," my father said. "And that's why they are blessed with peace and prosperity while we are afflicted with social distress and civil strife all over the Muslim world. If you think deeper, you'll realize that Americans are the true followers of the Islamic doctrine of peace, charity, and respect for human dignity."

Father also impressed on me that the scholarship funds I had obtained from Bennington College were donated by wealthy Americans specifically to pay for the schooling of African students like me. In his mind, such philanthropy was as Islamic as building a mosque. "By giving education to a Muslim, the wealthy donor had furthered the cause of Islam, and the resultant good karma is enough to keep the United States elevated in the eyes of Allah," he said.

Father had other ideas about American ascendancy. He believed that U.S. leaders were mighty because they were God-fearing (he cited as evidence the country's motto, "In God We Trust"), and that America was bolstered by the prayers of Muslims in Africa and Asia who depended upon the remittances made by their sons and daughters living and working in the United States. "We here pray daily for you and your country, and Allah listens," he once told me, long before I had even considered becoming a U.S. citizen. As risible as his theories sometimes seemed, I have come to make sense of most of them in the past twenty-eight years, as I've comfortably assimilated into American culture.

Posted by orrinj at 5:10 PM


Hillary's list: An old-fashioned campaign plods ahead (BYRON YORK, 10/24/16, Washington Examiner)

[W]hat is less noticed is that the sheer unimaginative, competent conventionality of Hillary Clinton's campaign is killing Trump, too. On the stump, Clinton is following all the rules that Trump ignores. She is doing it the old-fashioned way -- in a style that doesn't thrill even her supporters but makes her seem a safe and solid choice in an election in which most voters don't seem inclined to gamble.

"Maybe it's kind of a woman thing," Clinton said at an appearance here at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte Sunday evening. "We make lists, right? We make our lists, and then we try to figure out what we're going to get done and cross it off." That's exactly what Clinton is doing in her campaign, and it's what she did in Charlotte, the biggest city in perhaps the most critical swing state in the nation. She had a list, and she methodically followed it.

As Bernie was everything the Left had ever hoped for in a candidate, so is Donald the avatar of the Right.  And Hillary is napping her way to trouncing them both.

Posted by orrinj at 5:02 PM


Battle of Agincourt: 10 reasons why the French lost to Henry V's army (Hannah Ellis-Petersen and Isabelle Fraser, 23 Oct 2015, The Telegraph)

Despite significantly outnumbering the English army, the French were easily defeated by King Henry V's forces at the battle in northern France.
How did the English win? . [...]

Use of longbow arrows

In the longbow, the English had perfected an extraordinary weapon that gave them a considerable advantage over the French crossbow. A trained archer could shoot six aimed arrows a minute which could wound at 400 yards, kill at 200 and penetrate armour at 100 yards.

The continuous volleys of English arrow fire also maddened the French horses, which trampled through the close-packed ranks of French foot soldiers.

Posted by orrinj at 2:15 PM


Posted by orrinj at 2:06 PM


October 25, 1983: Grenada and Operation Urgent Fury (Rick Atkinson, 10/24/11, The History Reader)

Perhaps unconsciously, the American military had been waiting ten long years for Operation Urgent Fury. Symbols like Maya Lin's wall in Washington were important to help heal the rift between the Republic and its armed forces. But for professional soldiers, the demons of Vietnam could be fully exorcised only by the passage of time and an opportunity to demonstrate again valorous competence on the battlefield. If few wished for war -- and few did who had experienced the carnage of Southeast Asia -- nevertheless there persisted a yearning among military men to prove themselves. When that chance came on an obscure Caribbean island in October 1983, the Army and its sister services leaped to seize both the island and, they hoped, renewed self-confidence.

Grenada seemed an unlikely target for the fury, urgent or otherwise, of American military power. Barely twenty miles long and twelve miles wide, with the ragged oval shape of a crab's claw, the isle had been discovered by Columbus on his third voyage to the New World, in 1498. Not much had happened since. The somnolent capital of St. George's --population, 35,000 -- was wrapped picturesquely around a small harbor on the west coast. Grenada's principal industries centered on nutmeg, bananas, and tourism.

The politics of this tiny, torpid remnant of the British Empire, however, were complicated. In 1979, a pro-Western prime minister had been toppled in a bloodless coup by Maurice Bishop, a lanky, articulate Marxist who sported a salt-and-pepper beard and headed a home-grown political organization called the New Jewel Movement. Finding the taste of autocratic power to his liking, Bishop quickly aligned himself with Moscow and Havana, and reneged on his promise to establish a modern democracy.

To Ronald Reagan, already obsessed with the new leftist state in Nicaragua, Bishop was one more intolerable neighbor, particularly when he began to build a nine-thousand-foot runway on the sandy promontory of Point Salines. Events came to a head in mid October 1983, when Bishop was placed under house arrest by one of his more radical New Jewel minions, Bernard Coard. Six days later, on Wednesday, October 19, Bishop was freed by several thousand chanting supporters. Three armored personnel carriers manned by Coard's PRA troops fired on the crowd, killing at least fifty people. The soldiers again seized Bishop and several others. At one P.M., as he knelt against a stucco wall beneath a basketball backboard, Bishop was executed by a four-man firing squad.

Preliminary U.S. military planning had begun on October 14, when the National Security Council asked the Joint Chiefs of Staff to begin considering the evacuation from Grenada of several hundred Americans, most of them students at St. George's University School of Medicine. Yet the Pentagon's zeal to prove itself -- to exorcise those demons from Vietnam -- quickly colored the planning and influenced the shape of Urgent Fury. Precisely because Grenada was the first sustained American military action in a decade, each of the four services was hungry for a piece of the action. "It doesn't matter which war you were in," according to a military truism, "as long as it was the last one." No one wanted to be left behind.

Moreover, the psychology of the American military had been deeply affected by the catastrophic rescue attempt in April 1980 of the embassy hostages in Tehran. Led by Charlie Beckwith, the mission had been aborted after a helicopter and a C-130 fuel tanker collided in the Iranian desert, burning eight servicemen to death. Many factors contributed to the flaming debacle at Desert One, but one of the catastrophe's lasting effects was an overkill mentality. "If a mission requires two divisions, send four. If it requires ten aircraft, send twenty," said one Army general in describing the military's state of mind before Grenada. "Don't go at the margin. Double it. We're not going to fail because of a lack of troops."

Paradoxically, the turning point in the Cold War came when Vietnam fell and boat people began fleeing (followed a few years later by the Mariel refugees).  People willing to risk so much to escape Communism put the lie to the notion it was just another alternative form of government.  And then when Jimmy Carter--to his credit--began arming the Afghans and Reagan accelerated it, the USSR began reeling rather quickly.  But it was the actual retaking of territory, however minor, that signaled how the rest of the War was going to play out.  All that remained was determining the speed of their collapse. 
Posted by orrinj at 1:58 PM


Renewables overtake coal as world's largest source of power capacity (Pilita Clark, 10/18/16, Financial Times)

About 500,000 solar panels were installed every day last year as a record-shattering surge in green electricity saw renewables overtake coal as the world's largest source of installed power capacity.

Two wind turbines went up every hour in countries such as China, according to International Energy Agency officials who have sharply upgraded their forecasts of how fast renewable energy sources will keep growing.

"We are witnessing a transformation of global power markets led by renewables," said Fatih Birol, executive director of the global energy advisory agency.

Part of the growth was caused by falls in the cost of solar and onshore wind power that Mr Birol said would have been "unthinkable" only five years ago.

Average global generation costs for new onshore wind farms fell by an estimated 30 per cent between 2010 and 2015 while those for big solar panel plants fell by an even steeper two-thirds, an IEA report published on Tuesday showed.

The Paris-based agency thinks costs are likely to fall even further over the next five years, by 15 per cent on average for wind and by a quarter for solar power.

October 24, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 6:48 PM


US Special Operators Accelerate Killings of ISIS Leaders (KEVIN BARON, OCTOBER 23, 2016, Defense One)

Defense Secretary Ash Carter, in a Sunday visit with American and coalition forces at the Joint Operations Center in Erbil, the Kurdish capital in northern Iraq, said he commended American fighters here who are supporting "elements in Syria" and working to envelop Raqqa. Quickening the pace of targeting ISIS leaders, known in military parlance as "high-value targets" or "high-value individuals," has hurt the terrorist group's ability to launch external "attacks aimed at our own people, our own country, and friends and allies," he said.

Posted by orrinj at 4:43 PM


Socialism Kills More Babies than War (Chelsea Follett, October 19, 2016, FEE)

Recent reports that infants now die at a higher rate in Venezuela than in war-torn Syria were, sadly, unsurprising - the results of socialist economics are predictable. Venezuela's infant mortality rate has actually been above Syria's since 2008. [...]

Chile's infant mortality rate in 1960 was actually above that of both Venezuela and Syria. It managed to outperform Syria by the mid-1960s, but was still woefully behind its richer northern cousin, Venezuela.  In the early 1970s, Chile's progress slowed to a crawl as its elite flirted with socialist policies. Once its government abandoned socialism and began economic reforms in the mid-1970s, the pace of progress sped up again, and soon Chile's infants were safer than Venezuela's. Today, Chile's infant mortality rate is similar to that of the United States.

Posted by orrinj at 4:38 PM


Regulators taking another look at costs of Wall St. safety rule (Patrick Rucker and Jonathan Spicer, 10/24/16, Reuters)

At issue is the requirement that the largest U.S. banks set aside $6 of capital for every $100 of assets on their books - double what they had to hold before.

Because this so-called Supplementary Leverage Ratio (SLR) rule applies to all bank assets including Treasuries, it has made owning that ultra-safe government debt and related trades more expensive.

Wall Street has complained about costs of many measures designed to make the financial system safer, but regulators have been firm. However, when banks argue that the SLR, which came into force early last year, unnecessarily burdens short-term financing, current and former officials say they may have a point.

"It has turned out to be quantitatively more of a problem than some people had anticipated," said Jeremy Stein, who was a Fed governor when the supplementary leverage ratio was adopted. Stein left the central bank for Harvard University in 2014.

Any softening of the regulation could signal that, nearly a decade after Wall Street's meltdown sparked a global recession, a safety-first approach may be giving way to a more nuanced one where costs play a greater role in regulators' considerations.

Privately, some regulators are now asking themselves whether the cost of complying with the rule may diminish its benefits, according to people familiar with internal discussions. The Federal Reserve and other central banks are analyzing the rule and its impacts.

Posted by orrinj at 4:34 PM


WikiLeaks' Gift to American Democracy (Jim Rutenberg, OCT. 23, 2016, NY Times)

[T]he whole thing seems to be backfiring. In this, the year of the leak, the hackers are contributing to a phenomenon -- raw transparency -- that should make democracy stronger.

Taken together, this year's big breaches -- nefarious and otherwise -- are bringing a dose of reality to this reality television campaign, exposing what the candidates or their aides say and do when they think no one is looking.

And they have pulled back the curtain on the political-celebrity mythmaking that the American media too often abets.

Posted by orrinj at 4:27 PM


Clinton oppo files portrayed Sanders as a failed lawmaker : The documents, discovered in the hacked emails released by WikiLeaks, depict the Vermont senator as an extremist who accomplished little over his long career. (GABRIEL DEBENEDETTI, 10/22/16, Politico)

Perhaps the harshest potential knocks against Sanders, however, came in a section branding him a lousy manager who failed to make much of a mark in his 25 years on Capitol Hill.

Titled "Can't Work With People To Get Things Done," the section in the "Sanders Top Hits - Thematics" document has sub-sections including, "No Accomplishments," "Sanders Does Not Work Well With Other Lawmakers," "Not A Good Boss," and "Abrasive Leadership in Vermont."

Over six pages, it dives into his history of going it alone on legislation, noting, "Sanders only sponsored one substantive bill that became law." While Sanders' supporters often pointed to his work passing amendments, the document points out, "None of Sanders' House Amendments had Co-Sponsors."

It recalls that when he was mayor of Burlington, Sanders "and the Board of Aldermen fought so intensely that it attracted crowds from 30 miles away."

It cites a report labeling him one of the 10 "least cooperative" senators with the other party, quotes a 1983 Burlington Free Press editorial comparing him to "the kid who starts a fight and then screams when he gets hit back," and even points to a local Vermont report from August 2015 that quoted former staffers trashing him anonymously.

"Anonymous Sources Who Claimed To Have Previously Worked For Sanders Said That, As An Employer, He Often Mistreated His Employees," reads the header.

...but she didn't achieve anything in the Senate either, even if she did work well with everyone.

Posted by orrinj at 4:18 PM


Leaked Emails Offer Clues to How Clinton Would Govern (Alexis Simendinger, October 24, 2016, RCP)

[T]he communications offer insights about governance questions and ways of operating inside the modern White House.

Here are some examples:

Rationale for a Clinton Presidency: The Podesta emails, covering everything from internal campaign spats to Italian cooking tips to entreaties from climate-change warriors seeking to fund-raise off the candidate, offer insights into one of the essential challenges all presidents face: What are his or her core beliefs? Without the vision thing - which is not the same as a policy agenda - presidents throughout American history have struggled to lead and succeed.

The emails reveal how Clinton's team labored to lock in a rationale for the candidate's second bid for the White House, especially in a political environment in which her 1990s-era bona fides and her determination to stick close to President Obama cut her adrift from Americans who saw her as yesterday's choice. Bernie Sanders, on the left, and Trump, on the right, encouraged frustrated voters eager for change to view Clinton as a disappointing appendage to Bill Clinton's presidency as well as to President Obama's White House tenure.

While writing the address that launched Clinton's campaign in the spring of 2015, her speechwriting team chewed on the problem before the candidate reviewed an initial draft.

"`The Vision Thing,'" wrote lead speechwriter Dan Schwerin in an email that distributed an early text to colleagues. "This remains a challenge. As you read, does it feel like a vision for the future comes through? If not, that's a place we really need to focus." [...]

Preparation to Govern. Clinton has navigated - not always smoothly -- some of the thorniest governance challenges of the modern era, from health care reform and the shrinking middle class to the Iraq War and the rise of the Islamic State. President Obama tells voters that his former Cabinet official is the most experienced presidential candidate ever to face the voters.

The emails underscore what Clinton has argued on the stump: She would enter the White House with reams of policy positions she has internalized, accompanied by budget breakdowns, and gaggles of advocates and experts flapping over each.

Clinton is a politician who has been publicly rebuked for lacking vision while also being commended for a lifelong commitment to the good that government can do. She is a planner who favors control, and she does not relish the high wire of improvisation. Clinton is comforted by a command of the smallest details -- and the hacked emails once again showcase her dependency on a tight circle of loyalists who give her the briefings and materials to appear a mile wide on policy as well as 10-feet deep when it comes to her opponents.

While it's great that she's not an ideologue, she has an even less ambitious agenda than the UR, who barely had any.  It's hard to see her achieving much meaningful and easy to see her being a one-termer, like the very similar GHWB.

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 PM


What has Jesus got to do with ISIS? A lot (TAHIR NASSER, 10/22/16,  Religion News Service)

Research into the motivating beliefs behind ISIS confirms that its theology is apocalyptic. Its members believe that fighting Western powers will precipitate the appearance of an individual called "The Guided One" (Mahdi) -- and the second coming of Jesus. Jesus will then lead ISIS to victory against all the nations of the Earth, apparently. Indeed, its mouthpiece, "Dabiq," is named after the city in Syria that its members believe will precipitate this apocalypse -- the city that, incidentally, they just lost to Kurdish fighters. [...]

The prophecies ISIS draw on do not originate from the Quran, but from various hadith, or traditions, attributed to the Prophet Muhammad but varying in their reliability. They state that when the second coming of Jesus appears, he would fight against the "Dajjal," also known as the Antichrist. The Dajjal would be easy to spot, according to the narrations, since he would be known by the donkey he would ride. Various traditions say the donkey would eat fire and breathe smoke, and ride over land, sea and air so fast that "a month's journey would become a day's." The donkey would also have one foot in the East and the other in the West, and would jump from nation to nation. Other traditions describe the donkey as possessing compartments in its belly, into which passengers could climb, and journey with it.

According to ISIS, all this is literal. Jesus himself will return and slay the Dajjal and his donkey, after which Jesus would establish the caliphate. Confused yet? Hasn't ISIS already established the caliphate? So where is Jesus? Indeed, ISIS grew tired of waiting for its warrior-messiah and the Antichrist's remarkable donkey, and established the caliphate itself, in a bid to hasten Jesus' return.

Posted by orrinj at 3:52 PM


Residents of Kansas city rally in support of Muslims : Christian community stands together with Somali immigrants after a foiled bomb plot in Garden City targeted them. (Ali Younes, 10/23/16, Al Jazeera)

Residents of this small American city rallied to support the local Muslim community after federal investigators uncovered a plot by local militia members to bomb an apartment complex where many of them live.

US law enforcement agencies announced the arrest of three men on October 14, charging them in a domestic "terrorism plot" to bomb an apartment complex in Wichita suburbs where several Somali immigrant families lived.

The Muslim community in Garden City - mostly refugees or asylum seekers from Somalia, Ethiopia and Sudan - numbers about 1,000 out of a population of 28,000. Almost all of them work at Tyson's Fresh Meat packing factory in the area.

Reverend Denise Pass, pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Garden City, organised the rally last week to show support for the Somali community.

"When I heard this tragic news, it came to my mind that we - as members of this community and as Christians - should support and protect the local Muslim community," Pass told Al Jazeera.

Posted by orrinj at 2:34 PM


Cubs fans are swapping 'Hamilton' tickets for World Series tickets (Dean Balsamini, October 23, 2016, NY Post)

Jim O'Hara told Chicago's WBBM-TV he wants to swap four December "Hamilton" tickets for two Series seats. His wife hasn't signed off on the plan yet.

"I have floated the idea," O'Hara said. "She thinks we're still going to 'Hamilton.'"

...we're selling our tickets if they hit Broadway prices.

Posted by orrinj at 2:29 PM


Fed's Bullard says one rate increase is all that's needed for now (Reuters, 10/24/16)

St. Louis Federal Reserve President James Bullard said on Monday that a single U.S. interest rate rise would be all that was necessary for the time being, repeating comments he had made recently.

It would just be to demonstrate their hawk bona fides, which is always a mistake.

Posted by orrinj at 2:23 PM

tiny desk : Drive-By Truckers (Lars Gotrich, 10/24/16, NPR)


"Guns Of Umpqua"
"What It Means"
"Once They Banned Imagine"

Posted by orrinj at 2:18 PM


Liberals Worried as Sheryl Sandberg Eyed for Treasury Secretary (Daniel J. Solomon, October 24, 2016, Forward)

Sheryl Sandberg, the Facebook chief operating officer and women's empowerment advocate, could be leaning in too far for some in the Democratic Party's liberal base, according to a report in Politico.

Rumored to be a top pick for Treasury Secretary in a potential Clinton administration, she is turning heads among many lefties who see her as too corporate and not committed enough to progressive economic ideas.

"She's a proxy for this growing problem that is the hegemony of five to 10 major Silicon Valley platforms," David Segal, the head of the liberal group Demand Progress, told Politico.

In order to have half her cabinet be female, Hillary is going to have to pick executives from major corporations and governors, meaning that they're going to be at least crypto-Republican. No one would let a Progressive run a serious company or state.

Posted by orrinj at 2:10 PM


Julian Assange tests 'total transparency' thesis on Clinton campaign (Raphael Satter, 10/24/16, Associated Press)

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange first outlined the hypothesis nearly a decade ago: Can total transparency defeat an entrenched group of insiders?

"Consider what would happen," Assange wrote in 2006, if one of America's two major parties had their emails, faxes, campaign briefings, internal polls and donor data all exposed to public scrutiny.

...the most insider candidate ever will win in a landslide.  But I'm dubious that's what he meant.

October 23, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 6:57 PM


Missing From Hacked Emails: Hillary Clinton Herself (PETER NICHOLAS,  COLLEEN MCCAIN NELSON and  BYRON TAU, Oct. 16, 2016, WSJ)

One person conspicuously absent so far in the thousands of hacked emails showing the internal workings of Hillary Clinton's presidential bid is Hillary Clinton herself.

Time and again, it is Mrs. Clinton's top aides who in a round robin of emails debate and shape major campaign speeches and strategy. When Mrs. Clinton is heard from, it typically is second hand: through an email sent by a confidante to other aides.

In the few missives that have emerged directly from Mrs. Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee usually makes arrangements for issues to be discussed in meetings and phone calls--and that is when she will make the final call on how to proceed.

It is a process that seems to be working. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:51 PM


Microsoft's tablet deal with the NFL has been a disaster (Daniel Roberts, October 21, 2016, Yahoo!)

The Microsoft Surface tablet is so bad that the best coach in the NFL would rather use paper. At least that's the opinion of New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, who has the best record of any current active coach, and who speaks out so rarely that any time he describes something in detail, it is instant catnip for the media. It may not be a fair review of the Surface, but unfortunately for Microsoft, it has become a major story this week.

On Tuesday, Belichick, notoriously stingy with answering questions, unloaded on the Surface tablets for a full five minutes in a team press conference. "I'm done with the tablets," he said. "They're just too undependable for me.... I'll use the paper pictures from here on, because I have given it my best shot." The tablets, which are used by coaches and players to view high-res photos of plays in-game, frequently fail to load the images. Belichick has run out of patience.

Posted by orrinj at 6:46 PM


Aussie Bank's 7000-Mile Blockchain Experiment Could Change Trade (Emily Cadman, October 23, 2016, Bloomberg)

As port staff scan the bales, an update to an electronic contract will be triggered, transferring ownership of the goods and authorizing the release of payment. The deceptively-simple sounding process is only possible because digital-ledger technology encrypts and stores the parameters of the contract, ensuring all parties are working off the same synchronized version, which cannot be unilaterally altered or tampered with.

This assurance allows the various phases of the transaction to be coded into the smart contract, and triggered automatically when certain conditions are met, without the need for a long-winded paper trail and human authorization. The experiment offers a glimpse into how transactions might one day be managed in the $4 trillion trade-finance industry, a global business that's been in the spotlight in recent years owing to high-profile fraud cases.

"This is a truly innovative step," said Scott Farrell, a Sydney-based partner at law firm King & Wood Mallesons who sits on the Australian government's financial technology advisory body. "This experiment turns up the dial," he said in a telephone interview.

While other banks have researched blockchain solutions for trade finance, Commonwealth Bank and Wells Fargo appear to be the only ones to publicly announce a real-world transaction for one of the most cumbersome processes in global finance. Reams of paper, faxed statements and multiple contracts typically follow the movement of goods around the world through the hands of exporters, shipping companies and importers -- and all of these must be kept synchronized.
As well as the risk of human error, the process is also highly vulnerable to fraud. Qingdao, where the ship will dock, was at the center of a multi-billion dollar scam in 2014. The Chinese government discovered that firms were taking advantage of inefficiencies in the paper-based system to use the same stockpile of metals to secure multiple loans.

"Trade finance is one the most clunky processes in business," Michael Eidel, head of transactions at Commonwealth Bank, said in an interview at the bank's office in Sydney. "It is ripe for disruption."

Posted by orrinj at 6:34 PM


Joe Everson- National Anthem & Action Painting from Joseph Everson on Vimeo.

Posted by orrinj at 6:29 PM


MIT researchers think we're a step closer to practical nuclear fusion (Dom Galeon, 18 October 2016, World Economic Forum)

Stable nuclear fusion involves a plasma's particle density, its confinement time, and its temperature, reaching a particular value (the "triply product") that keeps the reaction going. The plasma must be extremely hot (more than 30 million degrees Celsius) and it needs to be stable under intense pressure while remaining in a fixed volume. Adjusting the plasma pressure is most of the challenge.

Now, thanks to scientists working on the Alcator C-Mod tokamak fusion reactor at MIT, we are a step closer to controlling it.

The team managed to set a world record for plasma pressure inside the reactor, reaching over 2 atmospheres of pressure for the first time with a temperature of over 35 million Celsius. The record was set on the Alcator C-Mod reactor's final run, which is about to retire after 23 years of use.

Former deputy director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, Dale Meade, says the achievement of the Alcator C-Mod program takes us a step closer to a working fusion reactor.

"The record plasma pressure validates the high-magnetic-field approach as an attractive path to practical fusion energy," Meade said, according to MIT News.

Posted by orrinj at 6:20 PM


Even if Democrats win the Senate in 2016, their majority is unlikely to endure (Chris Cillizza October 23, 2016, washington Post) 

What few people talk about -- but should -- is that this could be a very short-lived majority for Senate Democrats, as the 2018 field is remarkably bad for them.

The numbers for that year are stunning: 25 Democratic or Democratic-affiliated independents are up for reelection, compared with just eight Republicans. That's as lopsided an election cycle as you will ever see.

But a look inside the numbers makes the Democrats' challenge in 2018 all the more daunting. Fully 20 percent of the 25 Democratic seats are in states that then-Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney carried in 2012 (and even Trump is likely to carry on Nov. 8): Indiana, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota and West Virginia.

All five Democratic incumbents in those states are expected to run for reelection, a prospect that gives Democrats a chance in each. But with 2018 looking almost certain to be the first midterm election of a Hillary Clinton presidency, it's hard to see how her party avoids major losses in red states. [...]

Some important historical context: In the first midterm election of President Obama's term, in 2010, Democrats lost 63 House seats and six Senate seats. In Bill Clinton's first midterm as president, in 1994, Democrats lost 54 House seats and eight Senate seats.

Posted by orrinj at 6:07 PM


Scotland paving renewable energy path in a big way (Stephen Edelstein, OCTOBER 23, 2016, CS Monitor)

Since August 7, Scotland has reportedly achieved 100-percent renewable power multiple times.

On a regular basis, more than half of Scotland's electricity comes from renewable sources, and the country is targeting a consistent 100 percent as soon as 2020.

Scotland's current position as a renewable-energy leader is the result of roughly a decade of concerted efforts to wean the country off fossil fuels.

Posted by orrinj at 6:02 PM


Tasting Apple Cider Vinegar (LAUREN SAVOIE,  SEPTEMBER 6, 2016, Cook's Illustrated)

Our favorite was a well-rounded, versatile vinegar that worked well in every recipe. Fortunately, it's also the one you're most likely to encounter at the supermarket. Heinz Filtered Apple Cider Vinegar enlivened pan sauce, tempered sweet slaw, and balanced barbecue sauce with its bright, moderate acidity and clear apple notes. At $0.17 an ounce, it's also one of the cheapest cider products we found, proving that you don't have to shell out extra for great apple cider vinegar.

Posted by orrinj at 9:46 AM


Russia's October Surprise : Its Failed Attempt to Hack the Election (Mitchell A. Orenstein, 10/23/16, Foreign Affairs)

Moscow's anger over the WikiLeaks debacle may be why it soon changed tack and escalated its verbal attacks against the United States over Syria. A few days after the leaks, Russia unleashed an exceptionally harsh barrage of threats when the United States pulled out of cease-fire negotiations in Syria. On October 10, for example, chief Russian propagandist Dmitry Kiselyov said that the United States' "impudent behavior" toward Russia could have "nuclear" implications and that there had been a "radical change" in U.S.-Russian relations in recent weeks. Vladimir Zhirinovsky, another of President Vladimir Putin's hatchet men, advised Americans to vote for Donald Trump or risk being dragged into a nuclear war. At the same time, Russia positioned nuclear-capable missiles in Kaliningrad, which borders Poland and Lithuania, and test-fired three ballistic missiles elsewhere, making clear that its war of words was coordinated with the threat of military action.

Perhaps Russia thought that its aggressive behavior would cow the American public into supporting Trump, who advocates more friendly relations with Russia. But in reality, Moscow's effort appears to have backfired.

More than anything, all the leaks this year have shown why everything should just be open-sourced.

Posted by orrinj at 9:33 AM


Continetti: Hacked Emails Confirm Clinton as Calculating, Transactional Politician (David Rutz, October 23, 2016, Free Beacon)

"What's fascinating to me about these emails is it kind of confirms a lot of things we already knew about Hillary Clinton," Continetti said. "She's a very cautious, very calculating politician who is also very transactional. So whether it's giving a speech in return for a $12 million donation or maybe even favor-trading ... This is who Hillary Clinton is, and that type of personality and those traits would follow her into the White House if she wins."

It's why her Republican colleagues have always liked her so much.

Posted by orrinj at 9:24 AM


The Art of the Box Score : It's hard to enjoy baseball if you don't know what you're looking for. And the box score teaches you how to do just that. (Kelsey McKinney, 10/17/16, )

My dad only uses blue pens, the type that come in packs of twelve and have nibs a little too big so that the ink runs together if you don't write in blocky capitals like he does, especially if the pen has overheated in the afternoon sun. He'd have them in the front pocket of his shirt when we'd scramble out of the car with our gloves and our snacks. Tickets in hand, we'd weave through the crowds into the Rangers' Ballpark in Arlington that my dad called the Temple and find a spot in the blistering hot stands to watch batting practice.

The pen would come out when the screen in center field showed the names of that afternoon's lineup. Together, we would build the box. He would draw the lines for the innings, write the names on the left hand side of the yellow legal pad, sing the national anthem. The box score, when finished, looked like a cluster of small squares, one per batter per at bat. At the top, inning numbers labeled the vertical columns. The horizontal columns showed each batter's performance. In the printed versions that come with the five-dollar game program, each box would have a diamond printed to represent the field. But I don't remember using those. We always drew ours. 

Once the box was drawn, we would wait. In the shoeboxes full of keepsakes I've moved from apartment to apartment, from where I grew up in Texas to a big coastal city, there are dozens of these yellow pieces of paper. The ink has faded now, but it was smudged to begin with--the running blue lines falling into each other in my uncertain childhood hand.

..then again, he did the Times Crossword that way too.

Posted by orrinj at 9:21 AM


Adrift in the Present: On Mark Lilla's "The Shipwrecked Mind" (Nikita Lalwani, Sam Winter-Levy, OCTOBER 23, 2016, LA Review of Books)

"Many have attempted to understand the revolutionary mind," writes Lilla, a professor of humanities at Columbia University, "yet few have studied the reactionary one." But the two are not so different. Both feel adrift in the present. Yet while the revolutionary sees the promised land in the future, the reactionary locates it somewhere in the past -- in a Golden Age that man, to his detriment, has chosen to forsake. "The reactionary mind is a shipwrecked mind," Lilla writes. "Where others see the river of time flowing as it always has, the reactionary sees the debris of paradise drifting past his eyes."

The term "reaction," borrowed from science, entered the political vocabulary in the 18th century. "But after the French Revolution," Lilla writes, "the term acquired the negative connotation it holds today; the Jacobins used it to dismiss anyone who refused to acknowledge the forward march of history toward human emancipation." Reactionaries, Lilla notes, are not conservatives: in their desire to radically uproot the current political order, they share more in common with revolutionaries than with those who seek to preserve the status quo. So it should not be surprising that alongside right-wing reactionaries, such as the journalist Éric Zemmour, Lilla also profiles leftists, such as the Maoist-Leninist philosopher Alain Badiou. (Badiou is a reactionary who wants to return to an age of revolutionaries, a member of a class of European leftists who have "never gotten over the collapse of the revolutionary political expectations raised in the 1960s and 1970s.")

Posted by orrinj at 9:19 AM


America is still way better off than China (James Pethokoukis, 10/23/16, American Enterprise Institute )

Of course, India and China -- although they've made huge strides forward in recent decades -- remain poor countries compared to the United States. Starting from such a low base, then, they have the capability to growth very fast as they play catch up to advanced economies like America's. On a per capita income basis, China is about as tenth as rich as America, India one-twentieth. And that may actually overstate things, according to research recently published by Charles Jones and Peter Klenow(and highlighted in Ben Bernanke's blog). Jones and Klenow prefer a broader measure of living standards that "combines data on consumption, leisure, inequality, and mortality using the standard economics of expected utility." On based of that standard, China and India only do about half as well as judging by per capital income.

Another interesting finding -- in addition to the gap between the US and Europe being smaller if judged by economic welfare -- dispels the notion that Americans are worse off than a generation ago. 

Posted by orrinj at 9:11 AM


To Win the House, Democrats Need to Change Their Message : Appealing to more moderate voters, not changing district lines, is the path to controlling the lower chamber. (Josh Kraushaar,  Oct. 23, 2016, National Journal)

One of the Demo­crat­ic Party's biggest pri­or­it­ies after this elec­tion is to re­draw con­gres­sion­al lines in states where Re­pub­lic­ans have cre­ated bound­ar­ies to their polit­ic­al ad­vant­age. The ef­fort shouldn't be a sur­prise, even as the party over­states the num­ber of seats that could change hands by changes in polit­ic­al geo­graphy. But it's a telling peek at how the Demo­crats would rather make sys­tem­ic changes so they can main­tain their lib­er­al ideo­logy than nudge the party to the middle so it can com­pete in dozens of GOP-lean­ing seats.

The Demo­crats' dis­ad­vant­age in the House isn't primar­ily a res­ult of re­dis­trict­ing. It's be­cause non­white and lib­er­al voters tend to cluster in dense urb­an areas, di­lut­ing their polit­ic­al im­pact. Re­pub­lic­ans cur­rently hold 246 seats in the House, the highest level of rep­res­ent­a­tion since the Hoover ad­min­is­tra­tion. Even if Demo­crats sweep in­to power in or­der to re­draw state maps after the 2020 elec­tions, they'll make only a small dent in the GOP's fun­da­ment­al ad­vant­ages. (And that's not even tak­ing in­to ac­count that Demo­crats already have drawn con­gres­sion­al dis­trict lines in a par­tis­an man­ner in Illinois and Mary­land.)

The GOP will certainly do well in the '18 midterm, because the size of this rout will sweep out many seats they hold naturally under normal circumstances.  But the size of the reverse tide will be determined by how far Hillary veers from the center towards the left. Indeed, her own fairly bleak shot at re-election depends on same.

Posted by orrinj at 9:05 AM


South Korea may rent Israeli satellite to spy on North -- report (STUART WINER October 23, 2016, Times of Israel)

South Korea is reportedly considering using an Israeli spy satellite to peek at North Korea's military and nuclear facilities as it ramps up its defense capabilities in response to threats from Pyongyang.

Posted by orrinj at 8:58 AM


71-YEAR ITCH: CUBS' PENNANT OVERDUE (Manny Randhawa, 10/23/16, Sports on Earth)

Let's begin with the length of the season: The ten Cubs teams that had reached the World Series from '06 to '45 played 154-game seasons. The 1918 club, which lost to Babe Ruth and the Red Sox in the Fall Classic, played 131 games in a season shortened due to World War I.

Following the regular season, each of those teams advanced to the World Series against the American League champion. As you know, there were no playoffs in between; the clubs from each league with the best win-loss record at the end of the regular season played each other for the championship.

Of course, today's road to the World Series is much more rigorous: 162 games and three playoff rounds (which includes the Wild Card Games). This year, the Cubs had to play 18 more games than their predecessors did before reaching the best-of-seven World Series.

From the introduction of the Wild Card in 1995 through 2015, the club with the NL's best record won the pennant only five times (just once over the final 12 seasons in that period). In other words, the postseason has been a minefield for teams like the Cubs over the past two decades.

Along with the lengthened season and proliferation of teams to beat in the playoffs, this year's Cubs are playing a different game than any other squad in franchise history that got to the World Series.

One of the most pronounced changes is the quality of pitching and usage of bullpens: The '16 Cubs faced 300 different pitchers during the regular season. The '45 Cubs faced 92, the '38 Cubs faced 77, the '35 Cubs faced 76, the '32 Cubs faced 68, the '29 Cubs faced 77 and the '18 Cubs faced 66.

This season's Cubs had to go up against hurlers that threw much harder, on average, than those their predecessors faced. Today's pitchers also have a larger repertoire in their arsenals. The result? In 2016, Major League hitters struck out 8.1 times per nine innings (a record), and pitchers struck out an opposing hitter 21.1 percent of the time (also an all-time high). A change in how hitters approach their craft has something to do with that (only during the 2000 season were more homers hit across the Majors). But pitching has become tougher, nonetheless.

In 1945, the strikeouts-per-nine-innings ratio was 3.15, and pitchers struck out 8.1 percent of the batters they faced. Every other Cubs team to reach the World Series going back to 1918 did so in a season during which the K/9 ratio was between 2.9 and 4.6; the percentage of batters that struck out was within the range of 7.2 to 8.7.

All of this is not to mention the fact that this year's Cubs had to get through the likes of Madison Bumgarner (arguably the greatest postseason pitcher in baseball history) and Clayton Kershaw (the best pitcher on the planet) twice just to reach the World Series, beating Kershaw in the pennant-clinching Game 6 of the NLCS.

Posted by orrinj at 8:17 AM


Tim Kaine already reaching out to GOP' (KATHLEEN RONAYNE AND ALAN SUDERMAN, October 23, 2016, AP)

The vice presidential candidate told The Associated Press on Saturday that he and Hillary Clinton have already spoken about how to heal the nation if they should win. He said tackling economic anxieties, finding common policy ground with the GOP and perhaps bringing Republicans into the administration would be elements of unity, though he added that he and Clinton did not discuss Cabinet positions.

"We have not run this campaign as a campaign against the GOP with the big broad brush -- we've run it against Donald Trump," Kaine said. He predicted: "We're going to get a lot of Republican votes and that will also be part of, right out of the gate, the way to bring folks back together."

...is whether she has the confidence that W did--to stock the Cabinet/staff with people qualified to be president in their own right (Cheney, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft, Thompson, etc.)--or the insecurity of her husband and the UR--whose Cabinet's lacked a single person you could even imagine ever being president.

And W was both secure enough and serious enough about bipartisanship that he tried mightily to get big-time Democrats to serve. But Gore v. Bush had poisoned the well. Not serving became a test of Democrat loyalty.

Hillary can reach out to the many disaffected ex-governors in the GOP, starting with Jeb and Mitt, who not only owe no loyalty to Donald but actively want to purge the party and politics of his stench.  She could also easily tab someone like Meg Whitman.

Meanwhile, when she, inevitably, names a task force to look at some issue or another--Campaign Finance or reforming Obamacare?--W and Bill are natural co-chairs.

Beyond the staffing opportunities, the fact that she hasn't much run on any issues gives her the opportunity to focus on a few discrete ones that will attract Republican assistance : immigration reform, infrastructure spending and corporate tax reform.


Posted by orrinj at 8:01 AM


The cult of the expert - and how it collapsed : Led by a class of omnipotent central bankers, experts have gained extraordinary political power. Will a populist backlash shatter their technocratic dream? (Sebastian Mallaby, 20 October 2016, tHE gUARDIAN)

Later that same afternoon, Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke, the bearded hero of this tale, showed up on Capitol Hill, at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. At the White House, he had at least been on familiar ground: he had spent eight months working there. But now Bernanke appeared in the Senate majority leader's conference room, where he and his ex-Wall Street comrade, Treasury secretary Hank Paulson, would meet the senior leaders of both chambers of Congress. A quiet, balding, unassuming technocrat confronted the lions of the legislative branch, armed with nothing but his expertise in monetary plumbing.

Bernanke repeated his plan to commit $85bn of public money to the takeover of an insurance company.

"Do you have 85bn?" one sceptical lawmaker demanded.

"I have 800bn," Bernanke replied evenly - a central bank could conjure as much money as it deemed necessary.

But did the Federal Reserve have the legal right to take this sort of action unilaterally, another lawmaker inquired?

Yes, Bernanke answered: as Fed chairman, he wielded the largest chequebook in the world - and the only counter-signatures required would come from other Fed experts, who were no more elected or accountable than he was. Somehow America's famous apparatus of democratic checks and balances did not apply to the monetary priesthood. Their authority derived from technocratic virtuosity.

When the history is written of the revolt against experts, September 2008 will be seen as a milestone. The $85bn rescue of the American International Group (AIG) dramatised the power of monetary gurus in all its anti-democratic majesty. The president and Congress could decide to borrow money, or raise it from taxpayers; the Fed could simply create it. And once the AIG rescue had legitimised the broadest possible use of this privilege, the Fed exploited it unflinchingly. Over the course of 2009, it injected a trillion dollars into the economy - a sum equivalent to nearly 30% of the federal budget - via its newly improvised policy of "quantitative easing". Time magazine anointed Bernanke its person of the year. "The decisions he has made, and those he has yet to make, will shape the path of our prosperity, the direction of our politics and our relationship to the world," the magazine declared admiringly.

And thanks to W's foresight, we had the single man in that position who understood the Great Depression better than anyone ever has and he managed to turn what could have been a generation-long disaster into a brief and relatively shallow (perhaps too shallow) recession--that's if the 4 months of negative GDP growth holds up when all the numbers are in years from now.
Posted by orrinj at 7:45 AM


Greil Marcus on Bob Dylan's Nobel Prize (Jon Wiener interviews Greil Marcus, OCTOBER 22, 2016, LA Review of Books)

In the song "Highway 61 Revisited" from 1965, Dylan sings these lines: "Abe says 'Where you want this killin' done?'/ God says 'Out on Highway 61.'" A friend told me, "he deserves the Nobel prize just for those two lines." You heard him sing this song two weeks ago at the Desert Trip festival in Indio -- what was that like? [...]

"Highway 61 Revisited" is probably the best song Bob Dylan ever wrote. It seemed liked that in 1965, and it seems like that today: the way the language begins to break down in that first voice: "Abe say, 'what?'" So fast.

The first time I ever drove onto Highway 61, which was in the Twin Cities, I really expected to have some sort of mystical vision. The highway had taken on such a charged sense from that song that it just didn't seem like a real place, it didn't seem like it could be ordinary in any way.

I grew up in Minnesota, so Highway 61 had been part of my life. It's the way you got from Duluth to Minneapolis and St. Paul -- Bob Dylan was born in Duluth and went to college for a year in Minneapolis. And then if you followed Highway 61 south, it went down the Mississippi all the way to New Orleans.

James Marsh came to the US to make four hour-long films for the BBC that were biographies of songs, and "Highway 61 Revisited" was one of them. He shows you that, among other things, Elvis Presley lived on Highway 61, Martin Luther King was assassinated on Highway 61, and Bessie Smith had her fatal auto accident on Highway 61. Just to name a few things.

Posted by orrinj at 7:45 AM


Greil Marcus on Bob Dylan's Nobel Prize (Jon Wiener interviews Greil Marcus, OCTOBER 22, 2016, LA Review of Books)

In the song "Highway 61 Revisited" from 1965, Dylan sings these lines: "Abe says 'Where you want this killin' done?'/ God says 'Out on Highway 61.'" A friend told me, "he deserves the Nobel prize just for those two lines." You heard him sing this song two weeks ago at the Desert Trip festival in Indio -- what was that like? [...]

"Highway 61 Revisited" is probably the best song Bob Dylan ever wrote. It seemed liked that in 1965, and it seems like that today: the way the language begins to break down in that first voice: "Abe say, 'what?'" So fast.

The first time I ever drove onto Highway 61, which was in the Twin Cities, I really expected to have some sort of mystical vision. The highway had taken on such a charged sense from that song that it just didn't seem like a real place, it didn't seem like it could be ordinary in any way.

I grew up in Minnesota, so Highway 61 had been part of my life. It's the way you got from Duluth to Minneapolis and St. Paul -- Bob Dylan was born in Duluth and went to college for a year in Minneapolis. And then if you followed Highway 61 south, it went down the Mississippi all the way to New Orleans.

James Marsh came to the US to make four hour-long films for the BBC that were biographies of songs, and "Highway 61 Revisited" was one of them. He shows you that, among other things, Elvis Presley lived on Highway 61, Martin Luther King was assassinated on Highway 61, and Bessie Smith had her fatal auto accident on Highway 61. Just to name a few things.

October 22, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 1:59 PM


Donald Trump says he likes 'to deny things' (The Week, 10/22/16)

He also chafed at his staff's messaging recommendations, and described his affection for denial. "I won't go into things because my people go crazy," Trump said. "They say, 'Don't be particular, just' -- I like to deny things.

Posted by orrinj at 1:50 PM


This Presidential Poll Has Forecast Every Election Since 1960. The Winner For 2016 Is...  (Eric Owens, 10/22/2016, Daily Caller)

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has won the 2016 Scholastic News Student Vote -- by a yuge, bigly margin.

Posted by orrinj at 9:54 AM


Hamilton's America Has Its Eyes on History : The PBS documentary is less a behind-the-scenes glimpse than a social primer on why Broadway's biggest smash matters. (SPENCER KORNHABER,  OCT 20, 2016, The Atlantic)
About seven minutes into the PBS documentary Hamilton's America, George W. Bush shows up to comment on Alexander Hamilton finally getting his due in the American public consciousness.

"That's the way history works," Bush says into the camera. "Sometimes it takes a while for people to give you credit."

He delivers the line with a pause mid-sentence and a glint in the eye, seeming to relish that he'll be interpreted as talking about himself as much as he's talking about the $10 founding father. There are a lot of similar moments in Hamilton's America, which almost concerns itself more with American history and present-day politics than it does with Lin-Manuel Miranda's Broadway smash.

The PBS documentary--directed by Alex Horwitz with Miranda and Hamilton honcho Jeffrey Sellers among the executive producers--has been hyped as a rare opportunity to get a glimpse of a production that's sold out for the foreseeable future. There are indeed passages fans will gobble up, as when Miranda's seen workshopping lyrics in Aaron Burr's actual bedroom. For anyone locked out of the Hamilton stage phenomenon but obsessed with the cast album, the doc's performance snippets will be manna; I, for example, didn't realize till now that the founding fathers actually take a shot of alcohol during "My Shot."

But the film, primarily, is neither a behind-the-scenes reveal nor a sampler of the stage production. Instead, it's a crash course on why Hamilton matters at all. 

Posted by orrinj at 9:45 AM


How Podesta became a cybersecurity poster child (MARTIN MATISHAK, 10/21/16, Politico)

When John Podesta forgot his Apple iCloud password last spring, he asked an aide to remind him -- so she emailed it to him. And that set the stage for trouble for Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman.

First, a WikiLeaks dump last week of Podesta's alleged Gmail messages revealed the password -- "Runner4567" -- to the world. Then someone hijacked Podesta's Twitter account, possibly using the same password, and blasted out the tweet: "I've switched teams. Vote Trump 2015." The next morning, a security researcher found evidence that digital pranksters had used the password to remotely erase all the contents from Podesta's Apple devices.

Posted by orrinj at 9:35 AM


Why Insurance Companies Want to Subsidize Your Smart Home : Linking doorbells and thermostats to the Internet can cut the chance of expensive surprises. (Stacey Higginbotham,  October 12, 2016, MIT Technology Review)

Insurers such USAA and American Family have lately begun offering to strike a high-tech bargain: wire your home with Internet-connected devices such as a new thermostat, and get a discount on your home insurance policy in return.

Offers like that could speed up the adoption of smart gadgets, revamp the insurance business, and transform how we manage our homes. In the future, your insurer might call a plumber before a pipe bursts, for example. But the data needed to help prevent leaks or burglaries will also introduce new risks, such as vulnerabilities to data loss or ransomware.

Insurers across the U.S. are offering incentives to install one of half a dozen connected devices, ranging from moisture sensors to video doorbells. State Farm offers a discount on your home policy for installing a Canary home security monitor, for example. Liberty Mutual will send you a Nest Protect smoke detector, worth $99, free of charge and cut the cost of fire coverage. 

Some insurers want to go further. They think that urging us to wire our homes with Internet-connected devices will open up a flood of lucrative new data that can make their existing business of handling claims more efficient while creating a new relationship with the customer. With a feed of data from your home, an insurer could help you prioritize maintenance tasks and fix problems such as leaky pipes before they caused major damage.

And auto makers will have to insure their products once you aren't driving them--res ipsa loquitor.

Posted by orrinj at 9:03 AM


Remember When Art Was Supposed to Be Beautiful? : Contemporary art is obsessed with the politics of race, gender and sexuality. (SOHRAB AHMARI, Oct. 21, 2016, WSJ)

There was some connection between beauty and freedom--a link I only made years later after immigrating to the U.S. as a teenager. The mullahs resorted to censorship and violence to sever that connection. But in the Free World today it has been severed, not by any repressive regime, but by the art world itself.

In today's art scene, the word "beauty" isn't even part of the lexicon. Sincerity, formal rigor and cohesion, the quest for truth, the sacred and the transcendent--all of these ideals, once thought timeless, have been thrust aside to make room for the art world's one totem, its alpha and omega: identity politics.

Now, identity has always been at the heart of culture. Who are we? What is our nature? How are we--as individuals and as groups--distinct from each other, from the animals, from the gods or God? But identity politics cares little for such open-ended questions. Its adherents think they already have all the answers, a set of all-purpose formulas that tell you who's right and who's wrong at a particular intersection of identity, power and privilege.

Contemporary art is obsessed with articulating those formulas in novel ways. If you ever find yourself wondering why nothing stirs inside you when you encounter contemporary art, chances are you're suffering the effects of the relentless politicization of the arts. Every form and genre--whether high or low, or whether in the visual, literary or performing arts--is now obsessed with the politics of race, gender and sexuality.

As always, one thinks of Stravinsky in America.

Posted by orrinj at 8:55 AM


Trump Hotels Ditching Name For New Hotels (Cailey Rizzo, October 21, 2016, Travel & Leisure)

Amidst reports that occupancy rates at Trump Hotels have slipped this election season, the company has announced that new brand hotels will no longer bear the Trump name.

The newest line of luxury hotels, geared towards millennials, will be called Scion, the company said.

Posted by orrinj at 8:45 AM


A Workable Blueprint For Energy Freedom (NICOLAS LORIS, 8/05/2016, IBD)

The free-market approach outlined in the Heritage Foundation's "Blueprint for Reform: A Comprehensive Policy Agenda for a New Administration in 2017" would require both presidential and congressional leadership to rein in the size and scope of the federal government.

The blueprint calls for eliminating frivolous federal spending on energy projects that should be driven solely by private sector investment.  This means no more handouts for wind or solar or nuclear -- or carbon-based fuels, for that matter.

There's no need to risk spending any more taxpayer dollars on half-billion dollar boondoggles like failed solar manufacturer Solyndra. Truly promising cutting-edge energy technologies will have no problem attracting private investors.  There's no need to sweeten the pot by giving mega-corporations and wealthy financiers government-backed loans or preferential tax treatment.

Subsidies not only line the pockets of the wealthy, they wind up stunting the development of emerging technologies.  When the government plays favorites, both public and private dollars flow toward that project, starving other potentially groundbreaking ideas of the backing they need.

Moreover, when the government starts doling out tax dollars, the receiving companies have less of an incentive to innovative and more of an incentive to secure another handout. Companies quickly become dependent on federal funding and become bound to pursue the favored path, whether it's a mandate to use biofuels or a special tax break to produce wind power.

Government is bad at picking winners.  Markets are good.  Let the market pick the winners after government sets the market by taxing oil and gas at innovation forcing levels.

Posted by orrinj at 8:35 AM


Lincoln's Crackdown : Suspects jailed. No charges filed. Sound familiar? (David Greenberg, 11/30/01, Slate)

First a definition: The Latin phrase habeas corpus means "you have the body." The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus refers to a common-law tradition that establishes a person's right to appear before a judge before being imprisoned. When a judge issues the writ, he commands a government official to bring a prisoner before the court so he can assess the legality of the prisoner's detention. When the privilege of the writ is suspended, the prisoner is denied the right to secure such a writ and therefore can be held without trial indefinitely. Habeas corpus is the only common-law tradition enshrined in the Constitution, which also explicitly defines when it can be overridden. Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution says, "The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it."

Several times during the war, Lincoln or his Cabinet officers issued orders suspending the writ. The first came early in his presidency. Lincoln had been in office for barely a month when Confederate troops attacked the federal garrison at Fort Sumter in April 1861, starting the Civil War. One of his immediate concerns was how to keep an unobstructed route between Washington, D.C., and the North. He worried that if Maryland joined Virginia and seceded from the Union, the nation's capital would be stranded amid hostile states. On April 19, 20,000 Confederate sympathizers in Baltimore tried to stop Union troops from traveling from one train station to another en route to Washington, causing a riot. So on April 27 Lincoln suspended the habeas corpus privilege on points along the Philadelphia-Washington route. That meant Union generals could arrest and detain without trial anyone in the area who threatened "public safety."

Controversy followed. The most explosive incident centered on John Merryman, a Marylander arrested for insurrectionary activities. Summarily jailed, Merryman petitioned for a habeas corpus writ, which Chief Justice Roger Taney granted. But the commanding officer at Fort McHenry, where Merryman was held, refused to release the prisoner, citing Lincoln's edict. With the army loyal to Lincoln, Taney couldn't enforce his order and railed against the president while Merryman stewed in jail for seven more weeks. After being freed, he was never tried.

The Merryman case and others like it ignited a debate over Lincoln's actions. Democrats argued they were unconstitutional. Taney noted that Article 1 of the Constitution, where habeas corpus is discussed, deals exclusively with congressional powers, meaning that Congress alone can authorize the privilege's suspension. Although correct, Taney's argument framed the debate around a legalistic and secondary issue, that of congressional versus presidential power. It skirted the question of whether the situation warranted a suspension of habeas corpus at all. Thus when in March 1863 Congress passed the Habeas Corpus Act, effectively endorsing Lincoln's actions, civil libertarians were stripped of their main argument. (Taney also criticized Merryman's detention, noting that civilians aren't subject to military justice--an issue I'll get to next week.)

Where Democrats marshaled constitutional arguments against Lincoln's order, Republicans replied that in an emergency, only the president could act fast enough to protect the public safety. Lincoln himself took this line in a famous July 4, 1861, speech to Congress. He also, more memorably, used a pragmatic argument. "Are all the laws but one to go unexecuted," he chided his critics, "and the government itself go to pieces, lest that one be violated?" The phrase has been quoted ever since and even provided the title of a recent apologia by Chief Justice William Rehnquist for wartime suppression of freedoms.

The Constitution is the means, not the end.  But precious little--short of war, and seldom that--actually threatens the Republic.
Posted by orrinj at 8:29 AM


The Free-Trade Miracle (Bjørn Lomborg, OCT 21, 2016, Project Syndicate)

The far greater benefits of free trade are much less obvious. Consumers get a wider variety of goods at cheaper prices. Middle-class Americans gain an estimated 29% of their purchasing power from foreign trade. In other words, the average middle-class American can buy 29% more for each dollar than if there was no trade. The effect is even bigger - 62% - for the poorest tenth of American consumers.

Trade makes exporters stronger, more efficient, and more productive. The benefits are shared among workers: Obama's Council of Economic Advisers found that, on average, US export-intensive industries pay workers up to 18% more than non-exporting firms.

Opposition to free trade ignores our interconnected reality. Some 80% of trade happens along supply chains within or organized by transnational firms, according to a 2013 UN report. While some US politicians call for tariffs against Mexico, the National Bureau of Economic Research estimates that about 40% of the value of Mexican imports to the US is actually added within the US itself.
These arguments are all part of the overwhelming economic case for free trade. But the strongest argument is a moral one. Cost-benefit analysis shows that freer trade is the single most powerful way to help the world's poorest citizens.

Reviving the moribund Doha Development Round of global free-trade talks would reduce the number of people in poverty by an astonishing 145 million in 15 years, according to research commissioned by the Copenhagen Consensus Center. The world would be $11 trillion richer each year by 2030, with $7 trillion going to developing countries - equivalent to an extra $1,000 for every person every year in these countries by 2030.

Moreover, trade also carries much broader benefits for society. Economic globalization has been shown to reduce child mortality and extend life expectancy, owing to increased incomes and better information. In the US, trade over the past half-century has increased longevity significantly. In Uganda, freer trade in the past 35 years has been shown to lengthen the average lifespan by 2-3 years.

What's more, "free trade is good for the environment," to quote one academic study.

Posted by orrinj at 8:14 AM


Officials: Taliban brief Pakistan about talks with Kabul (AP, Oct. 22, 2016)

Pakistan arranged the first ever face-to-face talks between Kabul and the Taliban in 2015, but the peace process broke down after the Afghan government announced the death years earlier of the Taliban's one-eyed founder and leader Mullah Mohammed Omar.

In the time since, a leadership struggle within the Taliban's ranks broke into the open and Omar's successor was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan. The latest development came after Taliban and Afghan government officials held new secret talks in Qatar aimed at restarting peace negotiations to end the country's long war. [...]

The former head of the Taliban's Doha office, Muhammad Tayyab Agha, sent a letter sent this month to the Taliban's new leader, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, urging the movement leaders to leave Pakistan and break ties with Islamabad. The Afghan government and the United States have accused Pakistan of harboring the Taliban, including its fiercest faction, the Haqqani Network, blamed for some of the worst attacks, particularly in Kabul.

Agha's Pashtu language letter was given to Radio Free Europe's Pashtu-language Mashaal Radio on Thursday, after Akhundzada asked Agha to return to the Doha office.

In the letter, Aga said the Taliban leaving Pakistan would prevent Pakistan from interfering and would also benefit Pakistan, which is under increasing international pressure to help get the Taliban to the negotiating table and to force them out of Pakistan.

Agha's letter also urged the Taliban to drop reference to the Doha office as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and refer to the Taliban as a movement instead, bowing to one of the key demands of the Afghan government, which has refused to accept the Doha office as a government-in-exile.

Agha also said Akhundzada should drop the title Amir-ul-Momineen, or Leader of the Faithful, which had been adopted by Mullah Omar.

A major demand and one that would affect the Haqqani network was that the Taliban control "foreign fighters." He also wanted permission to devise a policy with consultations from not just religious leaders but also university professors and other elders. Another demand was to remove the Taliban's links to the Pakistani and Iranian intelligence agencies, a step likely to anger both countries. Agha also called for an end to attacks on mosques throughout the country.

Posted by orrinj at 8:03 AM


Does Rouhani want to scrap Iran's 5-year development plans? (Alireza Ramezani,  October 21, 2016, Al Monitor)

[M]any Iranian economists now believe that the era for such plans has ended and that governments instead need long-term strategic approaches toward growth and development.

"It is no longer the time of long-term comprehensive plans, which have concrete quantitative targets," leading economic newspaper Donya-e Eqtesad quoted Mousa Ghaninejad, a prominent economist in Tehran, as saying on Oct. 18. Ghaninejad believes that the current development plans, which he described as "useless," need to be replaced by "strategic road maps" that can depict clear frameworks for long-term financial, monetary and trade policies.

In this vein, Pedram Soltani, the deputy head of the Tehran Chamber of Commerce, also said there is a problem with the manner of planning in Iran, arguing that development plans have usually been the subject of radical change under various governments. "So far, administrations have used the development plans as an opportunity to make quick decisions without them needing to bargain with lawmakers. The parliament, on the other hand, has also seen the plans as an opportunity to keep administration officials committed to the laws they impose," Soltani said, as reported by the ISCA news website. Instead of preparing development plans, he noted, administrations have to follow a set of back-to-back strategies, so that governments will remain on the same track and avoid contradictory decisions. [...]

Despite the ongoing dispute over whether the sixth Five-Year Development Plan should include detailed economic policies, Rouhani has already signaled that he prefers strategies rather than quantitative targets. In his budget directive, the president urged the imposition of a budget-deficit cap, unification of foreign exchange rates, expansion of debt markets and avoidance of borrowing from the Central Bank as a solution to finance government development projects. These are all signs that there will be strategic reasoning behind the budgeting process, Ghaninejad noted. He added, "The time is now ripe for the government to propose a binding legal document that can replace the vain and costly five-year development plans."

October 21, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 3:07 PM


The EU's signature free trade deal is on life support (Charles Riley, October 21, 2016, CNN Money)

Canadian negotiators walked away from last-minute talks Friday without resolving objections raised by a small EU regional government, leading the country's trade minister to openly question whether Europe is capable of reaching a deal.

"Canada has worked very hard. I have worked very hard," Chrystia Freeland told reporters in Wallonia, Belgium. "But it seems to me that the European Union is not capable of having an international agreement, not even with a country that has European values like Canada, not even with a country so nice and patient as Canada."

Posted by orrinj at 1:38 PM


Posted by orrinj at 10:19 AM


WikiLeaks poisons Hillary's relationship with left : After learning how Clinton feels about them, liberals vow to push back against her agenda and appointments. (KENNETH P. VOGEL 10/21/16, Politico)

Some of the left's most influential voices and groups are taking offense at the way they and their causes were discussed behind their backs by Clinton and some of her closest advisers in the emails, which swipe liberal heroes and causes as "puritanical," "pompous", "naive", "radical" and "dumb," calling some "freaks," who need to "get a life." [...]

[A]mong progressive operatives, goodwill for Clinton -- and confidence in key advisers featured in the emails including John Podesta, Neera Tanden and Jake Sullivan -- is eroding as WikiLeaks continues to release a daily stream of thousands of emails hacked from Podesta's Gmail account that is expected to continue until Election Day.

Liberal groups and activists are assembling opposition research-style dossiers of the most dismissive comments in the WikiLeaks emails about icons of their movement like Clinton's Democratic primary rival Bernie Sanders, and their stances on trade, Wall Street reform, energy and climate change. And some liberal activists are vowing to use the email fodder to oppose Clinton policy proposals or appointments deemed insufficiently progressive.

"We were already kind of suspicious of where Hillary's instincts were, but now we see that she is who we thought she was," said one influential liberal Democratic operative. "The honeymoon is going to be tight and small and maybe nonexistent," the operative said.

The emails, which also show Clinton praising Wall Street in a manner that's discordant with her tough campaign rhetoric, have made many progressives less inclined to give Clinton the benefit of the doubt on nominees with more centrist backgrounds or ties to Wall Street, said the operative. "Some of the first fights that she is going to be dealing with are going to be personnel fights like about who she's going to pick for Treasury, (Securities and Exchange Commission), Education and Labor, and for regulatory agencies like the (Commodity Futures Trading Commission) and the (Federal Trade Commission). Progressives are going to be on guard."

She's a New Democrat, not a Progressive.

Posted by orrinj at 10:14 AM


Former RNC Head Michael Steele Won't Vote For Donald Trump (Tessa Berenson, 10/21/16, Time)

He elaborated on why he will not cast a ballot for Trump: he said Trump has "captured that racist underbelly, that frustration, that angry underbelly of American life and gave voice to that."

"I was damn near puking during the debates," Steele added.

Posted by orrinj at 10:09 AM


War on jihadist groups leaves Cairo caught between Sunni allies, Shiite powers (HAMZA HENDAWI October 21, 2016, AP)

Egypt has made fighting Islamic militants its overriding foreign policy objective, a decision that has brought it closer to Syrian President Bashar Assad, Russia and Iran, in turn antagonizing its chief financial backer, Saudi Arabia.

The policy is risky at a time when Egypt is struggling to contain a homegrown Islamic insurgency and tackling its worst economic crisis in decades. Saudi Arabia, which has helped keep Egypt's economy from collapse with billions in aid, has already signaled its displeasure by holding back promised supplies of fuel.

This direction of Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi's foreign policy is rooted in the military's 2013 ouster of his predecessor Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood.

"Cairo's single-minded pursuit of the Brotherhood -- and of any Islamist group that bears the slightest resemblance to the Brotherhood -- has become the guiding principle of Egypt's foreign, as well as domestic, policy," Middle East expert Steven A. Cook wrote in Foreign Affairs magazine.

Nearly all the mistakes in the Middle East since 9-11 flow from the refusal to accept that the Brotherhood is exactly the sort of democratic political movement that America has always sought to encourage.
Posted by orrinj at 10:04 AM


Donald Trump's Ultimate Humiliation : Five years ago, Barack Obama roasted Trump in front of the country's political elites. On Thursday night, Trump roasted himself. (GRAHAM VYSE, October 21, 2016, New Republic)

Also on the Russian theme, Clinton followed up some self-deprecating humor about her health by saying, "Donald really is as healthy as a horse--you know, the one Vladimir Putin rides around on."

Posted by orrinj at 9:59 AM


Cabinet shakeup rattles Iran (Rohollah Faghihi, October 20, 2016, Al Monitor)

Though all three were said to have stepped down voluntarily, various reports indicate that Rouhani wasn't content with them, an idea that was affirmed by a government official. Mohammad-Bagher Nobakhat, the spokesman for Rouhani's administration, appeared on state TV on Oct. 19 to explain the reason behind the Cabinet reshuffle. Nobakht said, "The change is aimed at improvement. ... The president's goal is to fulfill expectations as best as possible."

Elaborating on Jannati's resignation, the spokesman added, "When Mr. Rouhani concluded that by changing the minister, the entire cultural field's performance would be better, he made the call." Nobakht then explained the change of education minister, saying, "Despite Mr. Fani's abilities, it was decided that a more systematized person should take over."

Since Rouhani took office, the three ministers, especially Jannati, have been at the center of controversies.

Jannati's retreat in the face of hard-liner pressure against holding concerts was met with furious criticism from Reformists and moderates, and even annoyance from Rouhani himself.

In his resignation letter to Rouhani, Jannati wrote, "I do not see myself able to continue serving in this field, and I want to see the government pursue its cultural plans in a calm situation devoid of tension." However, Jannati mentioned that his leaving the office would not change the overall situation and "the propaganda will be intensified in the next few months."

The Reformist Shargh newspaper reported Oct. 20 that Jannati's resignation may have stemmed from "supreme-level" officials' "dissatisfaction" with him. 

Posted by orrinj at 9:53 AM


The New White Nationalists? (Kelly J. Baker, October 20, 2016, religion & Politics)

There's a 1920s Klan pamphlet, The Menace of Modern Immigration, that is worth recalling in the lead-up to the current presidential election. Written by H.W. Evans, the second Imperial Wizard of the second incarnation of the Klan, the cover features a dragon with horns, fangs, and sharp claws vomiting people, instead of fire. A steady stream of immigrants, dressed in supposedly ethnic fashion, flows out of its jaws.

Evans wrote that America was founded by white Protestant patriots "with an inherent, kindred reverence for rightly established institutions." Immigrants, he sounded the alarm again and again, would destroy everything that white Protestant men held dear: America, religion, traditional norms of femininity, masculinity, and patriotism. For the Klan, immigrants proved dangerous because they could change not only the demographics, but also the culture of America. If the nation were to remain white and Protestant, immigration could not be allowed. Much of what the Klan feared was the demise of the power and privilege of white Christian men.

"God," Evans wrote, "never imposes insuperable burdens and obstacles upon his children." God, then, would allow the nation to survive the perils of immigration. The nation did survive, but the 1920s Klan did not.

So when Donald Trump announced his presidential campaign in a speech laced with hostile remarks about immigrants, I found the sentiments both surprising and familiar. My 2011 book, Gospel According to the Klan, analyzed the group's appeal to Protestant America. The subset of the Klan that I studied fell apart by 1930, but blaming immigrants for the nation's woes continued long after their demise. While the Klan is only one of many movements to capitalize on this anxiety, it felt like Trump was taking cues from them, dressing up the old intolerance of immigrants for modern audiences. Where the 1920s Klan sought legal obstacles against immigration, Trump peddles a literal wall against immigrants.

It shouldn't surprise us, then, that the Republican nominee finds support for his position from avowed white supremacists. Former Klan Imperial Wizard David Duke hopes that Trump's campaign will open the door for public acceptance of his white nationalism. White supremacist groups, which generally don't endorse presidential candidates, have thrown support behind Trump. But some of the most vocal support, especially in online forums, comes from the nascent "alt-right" movement. Rosie Gray of Buzzfeed reports, "Trump is a hero on the alt right and the subject of many adoring memes and tweets." This movement, she continues, is "white supremacy perfectly tailored for our times."

Posted by orrinj at 9:49 AM


Do deficits matter? Trump says no, Clinton says yes (sort of). (Howard Gleckman, OCTOBER 21, 2016, CS Monitor)

The fiscal policy debate in the 2016 presidential election (yes, Virginia, there is a policy debate, even if you can't hear it through the noise) has come down to a familiar question: Do deficits matter?

Donald Trump and his policy proposals argue strongly that they do not while Hillary Clinton appears to believe that they do--sort of.

Let's start with Clinton. While she has proposed a long list of new tax subsidies and spending programs for everything from child care and education to caring for aging parents, she has carefully offset her new programs with tax increases on high-income households. The result: A modestly ambitious domestic agenda that largely pays for itself.

Posted by orrinj at 9:44 AM


Is Hezbollah less dangerous to the United States? (Daniel L. Byman, October 18, 2016, Brookings)

In the over 30 years since its formation, Hezbollah has become more than a terrorist group. It has long provided education, health care, and other services to its Lebanese Shiite constituents, and over time it has become an important service provider to non-Shiite Lebanese, winning political points throughout the country. In the 1990s, the group entered politics, becoming a major bloc in the Lebanese parliament and part of a coalition government in Lebanon. Finally, its struggle against Israel was broadly popular, and the group's success in forcing Israel to leave Lebanon in 2000 won it admiration at home and abroad. Throughout all this time, Hezbollah remained close to its sponsors, Syria and especially Iran. [...]

Most of the Arab world is Sunni, and many governments are responding to popular concern for their coreligionists and their own hostility to Hezbollah's backer Iran, which presents itself as a champion of the region's Shiite Muslims. Hezbollah is particularly hated by the region's Sunni jihadists, whose forces have clashed repeatedly with Hezbollah in Syria and regularly threaten dire consequences against the group. The enmity is fully reciprocated. Nasrallah recently declared the jihadists a more difficult problem than even Israel. Rather than try to rebuild bridges to Sunni powers, Hezbollah has doubled down on its relationship with Iran, sending some of its fighters to train groups in Iraq and Yemen.

Posted by orrinj at 9:34 AM


At charity roast, Donald Trump delivered what might as well be a campaign eulogy (Jenna Johnson, October 21, 2016, Washington Post)

Over the next 15 minutes, Trump gave a speech that might as well have been a eulogy for his presidential campaign.

He joked about the size of his hands and the size of his rival Hillary Clinton's rally crowds, then compared himself to Jesus. He noted that the debate the night before -- which ended with him angrily ripping his notes -- has been called "the most vicious debate in the history of politics," prompting him to reflect: "Are we supposed to be proud of that?" He joked about prosecuting Clinton if he ever gets elected president, accused the media of working for her and brought up the FBI's investigation into Clinton's use of a private email server while secretary of state.

"Hillary is so corrupt, she got kicked off the Watergate Commission," Trump said, as the crowd turned on him and started to boo, something that simply doesn't happen at lavish charity dinners at the Waldorf Astoria hotel. The face of one the guests sitting on the stage behind him was suddenly struck with horror.

"Hillary believes that it's vital to deceive the people by having one public policy and a totally different policy in private," Trump said, as the booing intensified.

Trump would go on to accuse Clinton of "pretending not to hate Catholics" and mock the Clinton Foundation's work in Haiti. At one point, he wondered aloud if the crowd was booing him or Clinton, to which someone in the crowd answered: "You!"

Campaigning used to be fun for Trump. He used to bound onto rally stages bursting with energy and a bright-eyed sense of excitement that intensified as the crowd chanted his name and cheered his every word. He used to regularly schedule press conferences, call into news shows and chat with reporters, eager to spar with them. He used to say politically incorrect things and then watch his polling numbers increase. He used to be the winner.

October 20, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 8:54 PM


Trump national political director 'steps back' from campaign (ALEX ISENSTADT 10/20/16, Politico)

Jim Murphy, Donald Trump's national political director, is no longer playing an active role on the campaign, according to three sources briefed on the move - a troubling development for the Republican nominee coming just 19 days before the election.

Posted by orrinj at 6:43 PM


Mossad man 'met with Morsi on eve of his becoming Egypt president' (SUE SURKES October 20, 2016, Times of Israel)

According to Army Radio, the Egyptian journalist obtained a copy of the account of the get-together written in Hebrew by the Mossad operative. The spook said that the meeting was facilitated and attended by representatives of the US administration.

Morsi reportedly told the Israeli that he had no intention of severing ties with the Jewish state and that he did not see the country with which Cairo signed a 1979 peace agreement as an enemy. [...]

Morsi, the first democratically elected head of state in Egyptian history, was deposed in July 2013 by then-army chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who became president in June 2014.

Posted by orrinj at 4:14 PM

...AND SAFER...:

Did Nonfatal Violent Crime Come Down Last Year After All? (Jesse Walker, Oct. 20, 2016, Reason)

Today the Bureau of Justice Statistics released a report on crimes committed in 2015. You will be happy to hear that both violent crime and property crimes declined.

Posted by orrinj at 3:55 PM


Hong Kong fails to delay pro-independence lawmakers from taking office (Venus Wu, 10/18/16, Reuters)

The Hong Kong government failed in an unprecedented legal attempt on Tuesday to halt the swearing-in of two newly elected lawmakers seeking to push for independence for the autonomous region.

High Court Judge Thomas Au rejected its last-ditch request for an injunction against a decision allowing the two lawmakers to re-take their oath of office at Hong Kong's Legislative Council on Wednesday.

Posted by orrinj at 3:50 PM


Clinton Email Server Hit in Cyber Attacks From Russians, Other Hackers (Bill Gertz, October 18, 2016, Free Beacon)

Hackers from Russia attempted to break in to Hillary Clinton's private email server although the cyber intrusions did not appear to be successful, according to FBI documents made public Monday.

Posted by orrinj at 3:30 PM


Ex-army head, Hezbollah ally Aoun tipped for Lebanon presidency (AFP October 20, 20160

Lebanon's powerful ex-premier Saad Hariri is expected to endorse Hezbollah ally Michel Aoun for president, a post that has been vacant for almost 30 months, a senior politician said Wednesday. 

Posted by orrinj at 3:25 PM


Education Secretary John King Calls for More Civic Education : The education secretary says students need to understand the laws that govern the country. (Dan Waldman, Oct. 19, 2016, us nEWS)

Speaking at the National Press Club, King said promoting "democracy was one of the original goals of public education," and schools and colleges must educate students about their role in democracy and help America's youth become problem-solvers.

Posted by orrinj at 3:14 PM


Donald Trump Would Set Back The Pro-Life Cause More Than Hillary Would : Don't believe the lie that Donald Trump will fight Roe v. Wade once elected. He could do more to damage the pro-life cause than Hillary ever could. (Matthew Loftus, OCTOBER 20, 2016, The Federalist)

Clinton may want to increase the supply for abortion, but Trump will increase demand. Donald Trump is the apotheosis of the sexual revolution's worst male impulses. He has spent his entire life creating the culture that encourages abortions. He has profited off of the exploitation of women and spoken openly of his own proclivity for sexual assault--both of which undermine any argument pro-life conservatives might ever make for a culture of life. By forcing prominent conservatives to downplay or dismiss these, Trump actively tarnishes their credibility and turns the moral high ground they might otherwise stand on into quicksand.

If Hillary Clinton is taking shots at the culture of life from the outside, Donald Trump is a rot poisoning us from the inside. Any time he has spoken about abortion (which is not often, indicating how unimportant the cause is to him), he has only managed to embarrass the pro-life cause by associating himself with it. Some have suggested that Trump will be held in check or redirected by the "good people" he has surrounded himself with. But he has only managed to corrupt and debase those associated with him. He talks about "the evangelicals" like a pimp who owns them. In turn, far too many pro-lifers have acted like the Biblical character of Oholibah, who prostituted herself to pagan political powers in exchange for protection.

The most pro-life argument for Donald Trump revolves around his promise to appoint conservative Supreme Court justices, who would at some point find some way to overturn Roe v. Wade. But in the words of Leon Wolf, "If you believe that Trump has actual pro-life principles or that he will honor any sort of pledge to only appoint pro-life justices, then you have to be one of the most monumental suckers who has ever lived." Trump's promises to the pro-life movement are as worthless as a Trump University degree or one of his previous marriage contracts. There is simply no pro-life case for Trump.

Posted by orrinj at 3:04 PM


Four Nations Are Winning the Global War for Talent (ADAM CREIGHTON, Oct 18, 2016, WSJ)

The world's highly skilled immigrants are increasingly living in just four nations: the U.S., U.K., Canada and Australia, according to new World Bank research highlighting the challenges of brain drain for non-English-speaking and developing countries.

Posted by orrinj at 3:00 PM


Donald Trump Jr: Becoming POTUS Would Be 'Step Down' For My Father (AMANDA PRESTIGIACOMO, OCTOBER 20, 2016, Daily Wire)

On Wednesday night, Donald Trump Jr. seemingly attempted to convey that his father, the Republican presidential nominee, is running for President of the United States, not for himself, but out of necessity and for the good of the country. Instead, he stating that the presidency would be a "step down" for The Donald. 

Posted by orrinj at 2:57 PM


Polls indicate Clinton 'won' the final presidential debate (Jeva Lange, October 19, 2016, The Week)
While many agree that Donald Trump had his best debate yet Wednesday night, it still wasn't enough to overcome Hillary Clinton in the snap polls. CNN found that 52 percent of debate watchers thought Clinton appeared to be the winner, while only 39 percent said the same of Trump. YouGov also showed Clinton ahead, at 49 percent to 39 percent among 1,503 registered voters.

Posted by orrinj at 2:50 PM


Clinton's Wall Street Speeches Were Actually Brilliant (Froma Harrop, October 20, 2016, National Memo)

One can understand Clinton's hesitation to release the transcripts during the primaries. Bernie Sanders was making a popular and heated case against the billionaire financiers. Any record of Clinton's saying nice things to the Wall Street titans would have been twisted out of proportion.

And Clinton did say nice things. [...]

Let's remember that Clinton was a senator from New York. Financial services rank No. 1 in the state for total payroll. They provide over 160,000 jobs.

Helping hometown employers is why Sanders of Vermont defended the F-35 stealth fighter boondoggle. It's why Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts agitated for ending the tax on medical devices that helps pay for Obamacare. It's why anti-government conservatives in the farm belt back government subsidies to farmers.

Clinton has cashed her checks for the Goldman speeches. Donald Trump, meanwhile, continues to maintain extensive business ties with Vladimir Putin's Russia, according to his son.

Why Clinton insisted on keeping her brilliant Wall Street talks secret will remain an enduring mystery of this campaign. Heck, why didn't she post them on her website? Beats me.

Posted by orrinj at 2:41 PM


Poll: Arpaio trails Penzone, AZ voters oppose border wall and deportations (Andres Guerra Luz, 10/20/16, Cronkite News)

According to the poll, 45.9 percent of registered voters in Maricopa County say they plan to vote for Penzone compared to the 31.1 percent who say they'll vote for Arpaio. [...]

The poll indicates 43.8 percent of Maricopa County registered voters believe a border wall "should definitely not" be built while 12.8 percent of registered voters believe the wall "should maybe not" be built. Statewide, 42 percent of registered voters oppose the border wall, while 13.5 percent "maybe" oppose the wall.

Posted by orrinj at 2:33 PM


Tiny Hand Will Be Your New Comic Sans (Ben King, 10/18/16, Buzz Feed)

Yesterday, we published a wonderful piece of satire by James Hannaham, author of Delicious Foods. The piece itself took the form of one large image, purporting to be Donald Trump's handwritten notes from the debate. Several readers noted the somewhat cryptic credit at the bottom of the image which referenced the font Tiny Hand.

Graphic designers, and those interested in typography, may have done a cursory search through their font libraries, only to discover they don't have Tiny Hand. That's because, until Friday morning, the Tiny Hand font didn't exist. Those same readers investigating the details of the type might be curious: Why are the proportions so strange? Why is the font almost all capital letters? Who made it, and why?

On Wednesday morning, Saeed Jones, BuzzFeed News' executive editor, sent me the first draft of Hannaham's post. Naturally, I googled "Trump notes debate" to research visual cues we might use in order to help provide a visual identity for the story. The search yielded several examples of Trump's...eccentric handwriting style. With only a cursory search -- and more focused keywords -- I was able to find other examples of his handwriting. Trump's notes, written to friends and enemies alike, were almost always written at an angle, scrawled on top of printouts of articles from the internet. (This, apparently, is something he does with some frequency). I was struck both by the peculiar delivery of the notes, but also by the idiosyncratic way Trump writes the alphabet. At that moment it was clear to me -- as it surely must be to you, dear reader -- I had to make a font based on Donald Trump's handwriting.

Posted by orrinj at 2:28 PM


The conservative case for confirming Merrick Garland immediately (Jeb Golinkin, October 19, 2016, The Week)

Remember when it seemed like the Republican Party had a golden opportunity to take back the White House in 2016? Conservatives had so many seemingly great options to choose from: Marco Rubio! Scott Walker! Jeb! Democrats, meanwhile, had a socialist and Hillary Clinton. And the socialist was easily the more likeable of the two. Republican prospects of controlling the White House and both houses of Congress seemed at least vaguely plausible if not downright likely. Back then, Merrick Garland didn't look so hot. We were holding out for a real conservative.

How times have changed.

The Republican Party nominated an intemperate clown with more hair than brains. Consequently, unless Hillary Clinton shoots someone on Fifth Avenue, she will be president. That makes it all the more important that Republicans listen closely to what Clinton has to say about the Supreme Court during tonight's debate. As you listen, ask yourself: Do I trust Hillary Clinton to nominate someone more qualified than Merrick Garland to sit on the Supreme Court of the United States?

Posted by orrinj at 2:18 PM


Congressional race in Virginia shows Trump drag on Republicans (Susan Cornwell, 10/20/16, Reuters)

Barbara Comstock is trying to untether herself from Donald Trump in her re-election bid for the U.S. Congress, but the Virginia Republican's struggles show how difficult that can be.

Comstock represents a wealthy House of Representatives district in northern Virginia where Trump has become a burden, one that her opponent is wrapping around Comstock's neck.

In local campaign ads, Democratic challenger LuAnn Bennett takes every opportunity to tie Comstock to the New York real estate developer and Republican presidential nominee.

The strategy may be working. The Cook Political Report, a non-partisan election tipsheet, moved the Comstock-Bennett race from "lean Republican" to "toss up" on Wednesday, citing Trump's unpopularity in much of the district. [...]

A recent poll by the Wason Center for Public Policy in Newport News, Virginia, showed Clinton leading Trump by 55 percent to 21 percent in northern Virginia.

...but their Donald is going to take a lot of decent Republicans down with him.

Posted by orrinj at 2:13 PM


Trump Targets the Essence of America : To be American means to believe in the Constitution: This narrative, despite its obvious flaws, has kept the country together over the centuries. Now, though, Donald Trump is presenting an altogether different identity for the United States. And the consequences are potentially horrific. (Charles Hawley, October 19, 2016, Der Spiegel)

Every country has a founding myth, a narrative that serves as the foundation of its national identity. Often, such stories don't hold up to historical scrutiny, but that is beside the point. Such stories help nations determine who belongs -- and who does not.

For many countries around the world, particularly in Europe, such narratives are based at some level on race, ethnicity, tribe or some other attribute allegedly inherent in the population in question. In Germany, for example, it is the battle in 9 B.C. in the Teutoberger Forest, where Germanic tribes led by Arminius joined together to defeat the Romans, securing both their independence and territorial ownership. In Romania, it is the notion that they are somehow descendants of the Romans and settled the area before any of the other present-day minorities appeared on the scene. Nineteenth century Irish nationalists sought to trace the country's origins back to the Celts.

The US has always been an outlier. In America, the founding myth does not focus on a particular ethnic attribute, rather it centers on a single document: the Constitution. All it takes to be an American is to believe in the democracy outlined in the Constitution, no matter where you come from. Race, religion, ethnicity: All of that is, according to the narrative, unimportant.

American history, of course, very clearly shows that identitarianism runs deep in the country, particularly when it comes to the racial divide. But American Exceptionalism, flag-waving, overt patriotism, the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance in schools and the peaceful transition of power: All are very clear expressions of the belief that America, the world's oldest democracy, has figured something out that the rest of the world isn't quite enlightened enough to understand. And it's all rooted in what the oft-invoked Founding Fathers wrote in the Constitution.

One of the great shocks of our current election cycle has been the discovery that the American national myth -- that American democracy -- isn't as robust as we thought. Donald Trump is threatening to destroy both.

To be sure, he is merely the extremely grotesque manifestation of the growing disdain for democracy that has developed in recent years on the American right wing, fostered by a Republican Party that never truly recognized Barack Obama as the rightfully elected president of the United States. (Indeed, at a campaign appearance on Saturday, Trump referred to Obama as the "quote 'president.'") He is the product of government shutdowns, of radio talk show hosts who have spent years spouting conspiracy theory after conspiracy theory, of Tea Party Republicans who rejected the notion of democratic consensus and of the opportunistic anti-intellectualism that has become so entrenched in the Republican Party that anyone with any kind of expertise, particularly journalists, is automatically viewed with suspicion and outright hostility.

...was patriotism, not Obama Derangement Syndrome.

Posted by orrinj at 2:04 PM


Has Fed policy slowed the recovery? This former Fed official thinks it might have. (Timothy B. Lee, Oct 18, 2016, Vox)

In 2012, Narayana Kocherlakota did something that's rare for a policymaker of his prominence: He changed his mind. Kocherlakota was the president of the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank, which gave him a rotating seat on the powerful Federal Open Market Committee. That's the committee that decides whether -- and to what extent -- the Fed should use its control over the money supply to boost the economy.

When Kocherlakota took the helm of the Minneapolis Fed in 2009, the Minneapolis Star Tribune described him as "openly suspicious of government's ability to bolster economic growth." That view was evident in 2011, when Kocherlakota cast a rare dissenting vote against a stronger Fed effort to boost the economy. He argued that the Fed's dovish policies could create too much inflation.

But the inflation Kocherlakota feared never came, and a year later Kocherlakota's thinking had changed dramatically. In September 2012, he began calling for the Fed to do more to boost the economy. In 2014, he dissented three times from Fed decisions, each time calling for the Fed to be bolder about growth and less worried about inflation.

Kocherlakota's term at the Minneapolis Fed ended earlier this year. He now teaches economics at the University of Rochester and writes a column for Bloomberg. But he has continued to argue that the Fed is too cautious.

If he's right, it could be a really big deal. The current recovery has been the slowest in decades; the economy has fallen trillions of dollars short of its pre-2007 trajectory. Kocherlakota believes inadequate monetary policy is partly to blame for this shortfall.

And his view is becoming increasingly mainstream. Indeed, in a speech last week, Fed Chair Janet Yellen suggested that stronger Fed action might be needed to boost the economy's growth rate. The comments come at a time when the Fed is widely expected to raise interest rates within months. But Yellen's comments -- which echo Kocherlakota's arguments -- suggest that the Fed might want to keep rates low for much longer than that.

The hard part for folks to wrap their heads around is that rates are artificially high, not low.

Posted by orrinj at 6:12 AM


Trump's Final Debate Was a Slow-Motion Meltdown (Jim Newell, 10/20/16, Slate)

The closing half of the debate was a debacle for Trump, and the way his anger seemed to build as the night wore on suggested he knew it. He knew that this debate was his last good opportunity to shake up a race that shows him losing by an incredible margin, by the standards of the polarized era, against a deeply unpopular but competent representative of the status quo. Instead, in the final minutes of 2016's cycle of presidential debating, he lost ground, lost the debate, and continued losing the election. He's really going to need his boy Julian Assange to come through with that grainy 1990s camcorder footage of Hillary Clinton murdering Vince Foster now.

October 19, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 6:22 PM


Scientists just accidentally figured out how to turn CO2 into fuel in a breakthrough study (Leanna Garfield , 10/19/16, Business Insider)

Scientists in Tennessee claim that, somewhat serendipitously, they converted carbon dioxide into ethanol.

The researchers, who work at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, developed a process that adds "nano-spikes" -- essentially tiny bursts -- of carbon and copper to CO2 to transform it into ethanol, the type of alcohol found in hand sanitizer and alcoholic drinks.

Ethanol can also be turned into fuel -- gasoline in Brazil contains more than 25% ethanol -- which is why the scientists are calling the discovery a "twist to waste-to-fuel technology."

Posted by orrinj at 6:17 PM


The real reason Boeing, Airbus deals with Iran matter (Saheb Sadeghi, October 19, 2016, Al Monitor)

Beyond the issue of securing licenses to sell the aircraft is the challenge of financing the deals. Hinting at this problem, Zarif told the Council on Foreign Relations in New York Sept. 23, "The US Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control ... tells international banks that it's OK to do business with Iran but -- and the buts and ifs are so long -- I mean there is one sentence that it is OK to do business with Iran and five pages of ifs and buts. So at the end of the day, these banks say we will take the safe road. We will forget about Iran. And that has been the outcome. No major European bank has started doing business with Iran now, eight months after the deal. And we believe that's a shortcoming."

According to what has been reported so far, the Boeing and Airbus passenger planes are not going to be bought in cash but rather financed. In practice, this means that Iran will buy the aircraft with loans and will repay the debt through revenue generated from operating the planes. Thus, not only is a bank or other financial institution needed to make the deal happen, but the loans must be long term. The broader implication is that if Iran is able to purchase aircraft through external financing, it could also do so with regard to other projects.

While negotiations to finalize the aircraft deals are still ongoing, Iranian officials say they have made good progress. Indeed, things appear to be particularly moving forward on the crucial issue of financing. On Oct. 14, Tasnim news agency quoted a source in the Iranian government as saying, "Boeing and an American bank are reaching an agreement to finance Iranian purchase of the airliners through a Japanese bank." Prior reports said that issues related to financing of the Airbus deal had also been solved. On Sept. 24, Iranian Deputy Minister of Roads and Urban Development Asghar Fakhrieh Kashan told the Iran newspaper, "A financing agreement between Airbus and a big financial institution has been finalized that has remained a secret in order to avert some enemies' plots."

Some experts are of the view that the OFAC licenses to Boeing and Airbus are a promising sign that serious banking cooperation between Iran and Europe is around the corner. This would be an important development since major European banks have remained wary of remaining US sanctions and thus refrained from resuming banking ties with Iran -- even after the formal implementation of the nuclear deal. As such, Tehran has so far relied on cooperation with smaller European banks while continuing dialogue with the bigger ones. Given the scale of the Boeing and Airbus deals and the need for financing to be long term, it is evident that small banks will not be able to finance the contracts. One can thus expect that major players are involved in the financing, and that the deals may help jump-start business between Iran and major Western banks in the near future. Indeed, beyond authorizing two major deals, OFAC's licensing of aircraft sales to Iran is giving assurance to the world's major businesses that it is now possible to resume dealings with the Islamic Republic.

Posted by orrinj at 6:05 PM


Donald Trump's Sad, Lonely Life (David Brooks OCT. 11, 2016, NY Times)

The point of town hall debates is that regular voters get to ask questions. In every town hall I've seen, the candidate turns to the voter, listens attentively and directs the answer at least partially back to that person.

The candidates do that because it's polite, because it looks good to be seen taking others seriously and because most of us instinctively want to make some connection with the people we are talking to.

Hillary Clinton, not exactly a paragon of intimacy, behaved in the normal manner on Sunday night. But Donald Trump did not. Trump treated his questioners as unrelatable automatons and delivered his answers to the void, even when he had the chance to seem sympathetic to an appealing young Islamic woman.

That underlines the essential loneliness of Donald Trump.

Politics is an effort to make human connection, but Trump seems incapable of that. He is essentially adviser-less, friendless. His campaign team is made up of cold mercenaries at best and Roger Ailes at worst. His party treats him as a stench it can't yet remove.

He was a germophobe through most of his life and cut off contact with others, and now I just picture him alone in the middle of the night, tweeting out hatred.

Posted by orrinj at 5:59 PM


John Kasich speaks out on trade and says he 'won't be a part of' the GOP if it doesn't 'evolve' (Allan Smith , 10/19/16, Business Insider)

John Kasich told Business Insider in a recent interview that if the Republican Party didn't "evolve," he "won't be a part of it."

The Ohio governor and one-time 2016 Republican presidential contender made the comments while discussing trade policy and the stance of Donald Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, who has championed a fiercely protectionist trade platform. In fact, the billionaire once likened the landmark Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement to "the rape of our country."

"I will tell you that if the Republican Party does not evolve, the Republican Party is going to die," Kasich said. "The Republican Party cannot be antitrade, anti-immigrant, not out there practicing the politics of people, you know, the issues surrounding drug addiction and mental illness and the cost of prescription drugs and healthcare and student debt and all of these things are very personal to people now."

Posted by orrinj at 4:34 PM


Trump's campaign manager just flat-out denied the possibility of voter fraud in the election (The Week, 10/19/16)
Donald Trump's campaign manager Kellyanne Conway seemingly contradicted the Republican candidate's persistent claims of voter fraud during an interview Wednesday on MSNBC. When MSNBC's Stephanie Ruhle asked Conway if she thinks there will be "widespread voter fraud" in November -- as Trump has repeatedly suggested -- Conway was quick to say she does "not believe that."

Posted by orrinj at 4:25 PM


No Correlation Between Voting for Brexit and Racism, Study Finds (Kieran Corcoran, October 19, 2016, Heat Street)

Bullying charity Ditch the Label analysed 19 million tweets in a major study of online abuse - which separately found that most misogyny comes from women.

They plotted a correlation between various types of abuse - including racism, misogyny and homophobia - and political positions including voting to Leave:

The authors of the report admit that the result surprised them - and suggest that the real picture is "more nuanced" than much of the media suggests:

Interestingly, "Voting 'Yes' to leaving the EU" at county level was not a reliable predictor of hate speech, including racial intolerance. [...]

The study also found that Tory voters and members of UKIP - often also maligned as bigots - also displayed no special predilection towards hate speech.

Indeed, 'Kippers had a negative correlation with racism, while professed Conservative voters had negative correlations with every type of prejudice listed.

Posted by orrinj at 4:17 PM


As territory shrinks, IS group looks for new money sources (VIVIAN SALAMA, 10/19/16, Associated Press)

The change in tactics is taking place as the Islamic State group sees its territory shrink and its dreams of an established caliphate evaporate. And it comes as the battle to retake the city of Mosul gets underway.

The Treasury Department's assistant secretary for terrorist financing, Daniel Glaser, says IS militants are being denied access to revenue sources such as oil and gas and cash reserves that amounted to more than $1 billion in 2014.

Posted by orrinj at 4:13 PM


Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer Says Top Priority for Next Year Is Giant Corporate Tax Cut (Jon Schwarz, October 19 2016, The Intercept)

Chuck Schumer, likely to be majority leader next year if Democrats take back the Senate, told CNBC Tuesday that one of his top two 2017 priorities would be an enormous corporate tax cut.

Speaking of himself in the third person, Schumer said that "we've got to get things done. ... The two things that come, that pop to mind -- because Schumer, Clinton, and Ryan have all said they support these -- are immigration and some kind of international tax reform tied to a large infrastructure program."

American multinational corporations are now holding a staggering $2.5 trillion in profits overseas, refusing to bring the money back at the current tax rates until they get a special deal.

Revenue-starved Democratic leaders have broadly hinted they are prepared to cave, either for a "holiday" period or permanently.

In an exchange with CNBC's John Harwood, Schumer confirmed that the latter is in fact in the works. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:02 PM


Trump sags in latest Quinnipiac poll (TN News Service, 10/19/16)

Republican Donald Trump's lead among men and white voters all but vanished as Democrat Hillary Clinton takes a 47 - 40 percent likely voter lead, with 7 percent for Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson and 1 percent for Green Party candidate Jill Stein, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll released Wednesday.  [...]

Trump does not have a sense of decency, American likely voters say 59 - 36 percent and he is not fit to be president, voters say 58 - 38 percent. 

Perhaps the most amazing thing that Donald has achieved is to raise Hillary's favorability level almost to break even with her unfavorables.  Who'd have dreamt that was even possible?

Posted by orrinj at 3:55 PM


Conservative Legal Scholars Decide Trump Isn't Worth It : Some believe Trump's big-government ideas outweigh his potential Supreme Court appointments. (PEMA LEVY, OCT. 19, 2016, Mother Jones)

[F]or conservative and libertarian legal scholars who have dedicated their careers to an interpretation of the Constitution that promotes limited government, Trump presents a conundrum. On the one hand, he promises to appoint justices like Scalia, whom they generally admire. On the other hand, if his campaign is any indication, a President Trump would trample this same vision of the Constitution with his authoritarian tendencies, including his policies against the freedom of the press and in favor of banning all Muslims from entering the United States. So is a Trump presidency worth supporting for the sake of Trump Supreme Court appointments?

For 29 "originalist" legal scholars, the answer is no. Originalists, such as Scalia and Justice Clarence Thomas, believe judges should interpret the Constitution as it was intended when written, rather than as a living, changing document. On Monday, the group released a letter titled "Originalists Against Trump," which laid out their reasons for opposing the Republican nominee. "Many Americans still support Trump in the belief that he will protect the Constitution," the letter states. "We understand that belief, but we do not share it."

The letter addresses the issue of the Supreme Court, stating, "We also understand the argument that Trump will nominate qualified judicial candidates." But the scholars add, "We do not trust him to do so. More importantly, we do not trust him to respect constitutional limits in the rest of his conduct in office, of which judicial nominations are only one part."

Many of the most prominent conservative and libertarian legal scholars signed the letter, including Steven Calabresi, who co-founded the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group. "If there is one person who in a certain sense typifies sort of the average Federalist Society member, it's hard to find someone who typifies it better than Steve Calabresi," says Ilya Somin, a libertarian professor at George Mason's Antonin Scalia Law School, who also signed the letter. Another signatory to the letter, law professor Jonathan Adler, is known as the legal mind behind the latest major legal challenge to Obamacare.

"The Supreme Court and the legal system have been one of the main arguments for holding one's nose and voting Trump," says Stephen Sachs, a Duke University law professor and one of the scholars who organized the letter. "I think it's important that people who feel that there are real problems with that argument speak up and say so. And I think that it was important that it come from a group of people who were committed to the original Constitution and to make clear that that is part of the ground of our objection."

Sachs was pleased that he was able to recruit legal heavyweights such as Calabresi to sign the letter. As a registered Republican who supported Marco Rubio in the primary, Sachs says he is willing to cast a strategic vote for Hillary Clinton if the polls in his home state of North Carolina--a swing state--show a close race.

No one genuinely believes he'd appoint qualified, nevermind conservative, judges. Look at his staff.

Posted by orrinj at 3:47 PM


Batteries May Trip 'Death Spiral' in $3.4 Trillion Credit Market (Brian Parkin, October 18, 2016, Bloomberg)

Battery technologies starting to disrupt the electricity and automobile industries may also emerge as a trillion-dollar threat to credit markets, according to Fitch Ratings.

A quarter of outstanding global corporate debt, or as much as $3.4 trillion, is linked to the utility- and auto-industry bonds that rely on fossil fuel activities, the ratings agency wrote in a report published Tuesday.

Batteries have the potential to "tip the oil market from growth to contraction earlier than anticipated," according to Fitch. "The narrative of oil's decline is well rehearsed -- and if it starts to play out there is a risk that capital will act long before" and in the worst case result in an "investor death spiral." [...]

Battery prices fell 35 percent last year and are on a trajectory to make electric vehicles as affordable as their gasoline counterparts over the next six years, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. 

Provided rapid renewable energy improvements continue, along with adoption of electric vehicles and other disruptive technologies, petroleum consumption will peak in 2030 and decline thereafter, the World Energy Council said in a report this month.

Posted by orrinj at 3:40 PM


Latin America's left set to suffer new blow at Chilean local polls (Gram Slattery, 10/19/16, Reuters)

A series of high-profile corruption scandals among politicians, in a country that prides itself on its probity, have angered Chileans, and both the government and opposition have seen approval ratings drop into the teens.

That anger will hurt Bachelet's coalition the most, analysts and politicians say, as voters set out to punish incumbents. In the local elections, right-wing parties are expected by pollsters and politicians consulted by Reuters to make gains, especially in important swing districts.

That would likely portend a strong performance in presidential and congressional elections in November 2017, in which Bachelet is constitutionally barred from running.

According to a September poll, 18 percent of Chileans wanted the right-wing coalition's likely candidate, Sebastian Pinera, to become the next president, versus 5 percent for Ricardo Lagos, the front-runner to represent the Nueva Mayoria.

Both are ex-presidents and have not declared their intention to run, though both have put forth policy proposals and hinted heavily at bids.

"If the [presidential] election were held this weekend, I'd have to say the right would win," Socialist Party lawmaker Osvaldo Andrade, president of Congress' lower chamber, told Reuters.

The shift would be further evidence of a retreat from left-leaning ideologies in Latin America, where leftist governments including in Brazil and Argentina have lost power.

...that this is just about the greatest political environment a GOP candidate could ask for; the presidential race is virtually unlosable.

Posted by orrinj at 3:23 PM


Everyone forgets the most important thing about the Black Monday stock market crash of 1987 (Elena Holodny , 10/19/16, Business Insider)

Twenty-nine years ago, the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged a gut-wrenching 508 points, or 22.6%, down to 1,738.74 on what is now referred to as Black Monday.

It was by far the largest one-day percentage drop in US stock market history.

But as scary as that October day was, US economic growth was ultimately resilient, and gross-domestic-product growth never went negative. This is arguably the most important thing to remember about the whole ordeal.

That's particularly important because at the time, just as in 1991 and post-dotcom, people believed there had been a recession, but later numbers wiped it out.  But even more important was that the '97 crash was precipitated--as were the next three slowdowns--by the Fed mistakenly raising rates into the teeth of deflation. [2008 looks like it may even actually classify as a recession in the long run.]

Posted by orrinj at 3:10 PM


The left vs. a carbon tax : The odd, agonizing political battle playing out in Washington state. (David Roberts, October 18, 2016 , Vox)

Before jumping into the conflict, it helps to understand exactly what I-732 would do. Luckily, it's pretty simple. It would do four things:

Impose a tax on carbon emissions, starting at $15 per ton in 2017, rising to $25 per ton in 2018, and then rising every year thereafter at 3.5 percent plus inflation, topping out at $100 a ton (in 2016 dollars). The tax would reach citizens in the form of a gas tax and a tax collected by electric utilities.

Reduce the state sales tax by 1 percentage point.

Fund the working families tax rebate (WFTR), which would bump up the federal earned income tax credit to provide up to $1,500 a year for 460,000 low-income households.

Eliminate the business and occupation tax on manufacturing.

According to CarbonWA, the group that put it on the ballot, this policy has a number of things going for it.

First is the large, predictable, and steadily rising price on carbon, something climate policy analysts have been advocating for decades as the most cost-effective way to reduce emissions.

Second, it protects low-income families. Reducing the sales tax, in combination with the WFTR, would more than offset the otherwise regressive pocketbook impact of the carbon tax on the lowest-income quintile. It would have a net progressive impact on the state tax code (currently the country's most regressive).

Third, the elimination of the B&O tax would prevent local manufacturers from leaving the state to escape the carbon tax, thus protecting jobs.

And fourth, because the policy is "revenue neutral" -- it returns all the tax revenue as tax cuts, leaving none for the government to spend -- it is attractive to fiscal conservatives. [...]

Rather than attempting to please every left constituency, Bauman believes, climate policy should sidestep perennial battles over, say, the size of government. It should surgically target climate change and attempt nothing else. That way, everyone who cares about climate change, including many conservatives, can get behind the same policy, without getting caught up in partisan gridlock.

The way to do that, Bauman concluded, is with a revenue-neutral tax swap. It cuts carbon without growing the size of government, so there's no way for conservatives to cast it as tax-and-spend liberalism.

That was the theory of change informing CarbonWA, the group Bauman founded: Craft a policy that can unite people who care about climate change, from the left and the right. Bipartisanship is the only route forward.

The model for Bauman was British Columbia, where a revenue-neutral carbon tax passed in 2008. It rose to $30 a ton in 2012, but has been frozen there by the provincial government. Its effectiveness is hotly debated, but -- key for Bauman's purposes -- it remains fairly popular across the political spectrum. [...]

Washington has no personal income tax. It relies on sales taxes, which hit low-income residents hardest. Consequently, it has the most regressive tax system of any state in the nation. The state legislature has a long and ignominious history of underfunding its priorities, to the point that it is currently under a court order from the state Supreme Court to find new education funding. (It still hasn't.)

It is no surprise, then, that the alliance's core objection to I-732 is that it is revenue-neutral -- it surrenders all that precious revenue, which is so hard to come by in Washington. That, more than anything else, explains why alliance groups are not supporting it.

Posted by orrinj at 1:50 PM


Poll: Clinton up 5 points over Trump in Arizona (Dan Nowicki, 10/19/16,The Republic)

Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee and a former U.S. secretary of State, was supported by 39 percent of the likely Arizona voters surveyed, while Trump, the Republican nominee and real-estate developer, is backed by 33.9 percent.

Posted by orrinj at 4:47 AM


Taliban Denies Holding Secret Peace Talks With Kabul (Radio Liberty, 10/19/16)

On October 18, a senior Afghan official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed to RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan that two secret rounds of peace talks had been held in Qatar since early September.

Earlier, Britain's The Guardian newspaper reported that those attending the meetings included Mullah Abdul Manan Akhund, the brother of the late Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, and Afghanistan's intelligence chief Mohammad Massom Stanekzai.

October 18, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:00 PM


Hillary Clinton the hawk : The Democrat would likely take a harder line on Syria if elected president (Rupert Stone / October 18, 2016, The Prospect)

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump will probably lose the election to Hillary Clinton next month. No doubt many people will breathe a sigh of relief, given Trump's extreme positions on immigration, torture and other issues. But, while Clinton may not share those views, her stance on foreign policy is alarmingly hawkish.

Posted by orrinj at 6:54 PM


Why Feminists Shouldn't Trust Hillary Clinton : Pro-Hillary cheerleading will not advance social justice for women. But keeping the pressure on might do the trick. (KATHLEEN GEIER, October 18, 2016, New Republic)

Of course, most feminists--albeit with some notable exceptions--support Clinton in the presidential race. But though you'd never guess it from West's piece and others like it, there's a viable alternative both to outright opposition to Hillary and the happy talk of her feminist fans--one that is at once more intellectually honest and more politically constructive. Political theorist Nancy Fraser has dubbed it "critical support": a vote for Clinton, combined with "vociferous criticism of her policies and explicit campaigning for Sanders-type alternatives." 

Posted by orrinj at 6:44 PM


Bookmakers have already declared a winner in the presidential race (Jonathan D. Salant, 10/18/16,  NJ Advance Media)

Election Day is three weeks away, but one European bookmaker already has chosen the winner.

Dublin-based Paddy Power said customers who bet on Hillary Clinton to become the next U.S. president can collect more than $1 million of winnings. It proclaimed Clinton the winner of the election over Donald Trump.

Posted by orrinj at 6:30 PM


Saudi-Led Coalition Says Warplane 'Wrongly Targeted' Sanaa Funeral (RFE/RL, 10/15/16)

The White House said on October 14 that it is reconsidering its support for a Saudi-led coalition that has been bombing rebels in Yemen after what one official called the "egregious" attack.

A top administration official told media privately that Washington was particularly angered because "important figures who are part of the reconciliation process" in Yemen were among those killed in the Sanaa funeral attack.

Senior U.S. officials who briefed reporters on October 14 said all U.S. assistance to the Saudi-led coalition is under review because of the attack, including intelligence, logistics, and refueling.

Posted by orrinj at 5:20 PM


MY VOTE (Roger Angell , SEPTEMBER 24, 2016, The New Yorker)

But I stick at a different moment--the lighthearted comment he made when, in early August, an admiring veteran presented him with a replica of his Purple Heart and Mr. Trump said, "I always wanted to get the Purple Heart. This was much easier." What? Mr. Trump is saying he wishes that he had joined the armed forces somehow (he had a chance but skimmed out, like so many others of his time) and then had died or been scarred or maimed in combat? This is the dream of a nine-year-old boy, and it impugns the five hundred thousand young Americans who have died in combat in my lifetime, and the many hundreds of thousands more whose lives were altered or shattered by their wounds of war.

I take this personally, representing as I do the last sliver of the sixteen million Americans who served in the military in my war. I had an easy time of it, and was never in combat, but, even so, as I have written, I experienced the loss of more than twenty close friends, classmates, and companions of my youth, who remain young and fresh in memory. I have named them in previous pieces, along with some wounded survivors, like my friend Gardner, an infantry captain who landed at Normandy Beach and fought at Hürtgen Forest and Aachen and the Battle of the Bulge, was twice wounded, had five Campaign stars, and received numerous decorations, including the French Croix de Guerre, but who for the rest of his life would fall into wary silence whenever a thunderstorm announced itself. Also my late brother-in-law Neil, who lay wounded on the field for two days during the battle of Belfort Gap, and who hobbled with a cane all his life, and with two canes near the end. Every American of my generation can supply stories like these, and once learned and tried to forget that, worldwide, seventy million people died in our war.

Mr. Trump was born in 1946, just after this cataclysmic event of our century, and came of age in the nineteen-sixties, when the implications and harshness of war were being debated as never before, but little or none of this seems to have penetrated for him--a candidate who wants to give nuclear arms to Japan and South Korea and wishes to remain unclear about his own inclinations as commander of our nuclear triad. This makes me deeply doubt his avowed concern for our veterans or that he has any sense of their sufferings. [...]

Mr. Trump is endlessly on record as someone who will not back down, who cannot appear to pause or lose. He is a man who must win, stay on the attack, and who thinks, first and last, "How will I look?" This is central, and what comes after it, for me, at times, is concern for what it must be like for anyone who, facing an imperative as dark and unforgiving as this, finds only the narcissist's mirror for reassurance.

Posted by orrinj at 5:16 PM

...AND SAFER...:

Americans Are Wrong About Rising Crime Rates, And That's Bad For The Nation (CHARLIE SORREL 10.18.16, Co.exist)

Crime in the U.S. has nosedived, and yet U.S. citizens think that it is worse than ever. When polled, 69% of U.S. voters said they thought that crime in their country was higher now than two decades ago. The same number also think that crime is worse this year than last year. And yet, when asked about the crime in their own neighborhoods, these poll respondents had a much more positive view of the situation. Only 37% thought that crime in their own part of town was worse than a year prior and just 32% thought that local crime was worse than 20 years ago.

The poll of 2,000 respondents, conducted by Vox Media, also broke down crime by type and found that "a majority of Americans said there was more violent crime, drug crime, theft, and white-collar crime."

Meanwhile, the FBI's statistics show the opposite to be true.

Posted by orrinj at 3:11 PM


UH poll: Donald Trump leads Hillary Clinton by 3 percentage points in Texas (Bobby Cervantes, October 18, 2016, Houston Chronicle)

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has one of his slimmest leads yet over Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in Texas, 41 percent to 38 percent, according to a new poll among registered voters. Trump's support falls within the survey's margin of error, which is plus- or minus 3 percent, meaning the race is a statistical dead heat.

Posted by orrinj at 3:05 PM


David's slingshot (Victoria Coates, December 2014, New Criterion)

David had no armor of his own, and he felt awkward and uncomfortable in what the Israelite leader, Saul, offered him for the battle. He decided to face Goliath armed only with the slingshot he used to defend his sheep from wild beasts, confident that his skill and his pure faith in God would preserve him.

Those of lesser faith despaired. Their best hope was that it would be over quickly, at which point the Israelites would become slaves to the Philistines. But then a miracle happened. As Goliath approached his prey, the young man steadied himself, aimed his slingshot, and stunned the giant with a single stone to the forehead. The enormous warrior tumbled to the ground. David took Goliath's sword and cut off his head. The Israelites were victorious.

David went on to become a great king and to found a royal house that would eventually produce Jesus Christ. But his youthful contest with the giant has long stood as a parable for the remarkable power of combining faith in the divine with human ingenuity. David's sling was more than a primitive weapon; it was the crucial advantage that enabled the shepherd to win the day.

Throughout history, various kinds of metaphorical slings have enabled individuals and societies to rise like David above seemingly insurmountable difficulties and reach impressive heights of achievement. One of the more consequential of these was devised on a rocky outcropping on the Greek Peloponnesus some five hundred years after the famous confrontation between David and Goliath--albeit by a group of men who had little interest in either of them. What the Athenians invented on their citadel was a new political system of free, self-governing people. They called it demokratia.

Posted by orrinj at 2:56 PM


Why Stephen Colbert Isn't Connecting : An interview with Bill O'Reilly Monday night distilled many of the struggles the Late Show host has had in his first year on the job. (DAVID SIMS, 10/18/16, The Atlantic)
Almost 10 years ago, Stephen Colbert appeared on Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor in character as the Colbert Report host--a pugnacious, egotistical super-pundit who tolerates no criticism. Colbert has frequently acknowledged that O'Reilly was the chief inspiration for his on-screen persona, and it was hilarious to see the imitation go up against the real thing. "What I do, Bill, is I catch the world in the headlights of my justice," Colbert bragged to a smirking O'Reilly. "I'm not afraid of anything. Well, I might be afraid of you." The same day, O'Reilly went on Colbert's show; the combative tension between the two remains genuinely thrilling to watch.

On Monday night O'Reilly went on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert to talk about the state of the Republican Party and Fox News. The conversation was civil, at times energetic, but mostly bland. O'Reilly, clearly far more at ease, pontificated on the state of the Trump campaign while dodging any discussion of some of its biggest controversies. Ultimately, it was a notable reminder of just how much things have changed for Colbert since he cast off his late-night character and joined CBS.

People were laughing with his character, not at it.

Posted by orrinj at 1:41 PM


Once jobless and uncounted, eager workers could slow Fed rate hike (Howard Schneider, 10/17/16, Reuters)

The crammed-to-capacity parking lot at a job training center in this St. Louis suburb is exhibit A for why the U.S. Federal Reserve remains at odds over the health of the U.S. labor market and how quickly interest rates should rise.

Among those in the building on a recent fall day, 23-year-old Joshua Goodson described his recent work history as a "dead end." Motivated by the prospect of a firm career foothold, he is now in a program at the Family and Workforce Centers of America that includes both a curriculum in heating and air conditioning installation, and the "soft" social skills needed to keep steady employment.

It will take a few months, but "I will get a job, and nail it," he said.

As the nation's six year run of job creation reaches deeper into neighborhoods like Wellston and nearby Ferguson -- site of a police shooting two years ago that highlighted the depressed economic conditions in some U.S. neighborhoods -- Goodson is among a pool of sidelined workers returning to the labor force in unexpected numbers and more readily landing jobs.

That subtle but surprising shift has stoked fresh debate within the Fed over whether to risk slowing a process that is finally drawing in marginalized residents like Goodson, and showing up in middle and lower end incomes.

So much for pressure on wages...

October 17, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:53 PM


U.S. Digital Infrastructure Needs More Private Investment (Larry Downes, OCTOBER 14, 2016, Harvard Business Review)

[T]he U.S.'s most recent experience with jump-starting infrastructure spending, the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, suggests a third way to get the job done, one that both parties should be paying more attention to: encouraging more private investment in infrastructure. That's especially true for digital infrastructure, which both ties together the country and supports connections -- commercial, social, cultural -- with the rest of the world.

While much of our physical infrastructure has long been either government-owned or regulated as semi-governmental utilities, nearly all of today's digital networks, though still heavily regulated, have been privately built and privately funded. Since 1996, according to trade group USTelecom, investors have poured over $1.4 trillion into building and rebuilding the commercial internet.

Americans today stand on the brink of next-generation wired and wireless networks that will offer speeds as much as 20 times faster than today's best connections, making possible new applications and even new industries. We've only scratched the surface of ideas such as the internet of things; smart cities, homes, and energy grids; autonomous transportation; and much more that entrepreneurs will think up.

Much of that success can be credited to what Congress both did and did not do as part of the Recovery Act, and in particular to the National Broadband Plan (NBP), which the Federal Communications Commission published in early 2010.

The plan, written under the direction of former FCC chief of staff Blair Levin, was and remains a visionary document. It set aggressive goals for broadband evolution, including upgrading digital networks to provide 100 million homes with connection speeds of 100 Mbps (a goal already reached, according to the Department of Commerce). It called on the government to vastly accelerate release of radio spectrum for fast-growing mobile broadband services. And it called for radical reform of programs to close the digital divide, resulting in a complete overhaul of services that once subsidized telephone service for poor and rural Americans but which now support wired and wireless internet.

Perhaps most radical of all, however, is what the NBP didn't propose. With minor exceptions, the authors did not recommend that any of the NBP's goals be met through taxpayer spending. Rather, they called on Congress and the White House to "unleash private investment" by reinforcing a bipartisan decision, dating back to the mid-1990s, to leave the internet alone.

The results speak for themselves. Despite the lingering effects of the 2007 recession, which catalyzed the Recovery Act in the first place, private investment in the broadband ecosystem grew, particularly in mobile infrastructure and fiber connections, tying wired and wireless networks together for a coming 5G revolution. The U.S. has the most home broadband connections and the most high-speed mobile subscriptions in the world, leads in innovation for apps and new services, and is home to the vast majority of internet market leaders, creating trillions of dollars in new value in the last two decades. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:44 PM


Amid talk of 'rigged' election, experts say fraud is rare (CHRISTINA A. CASSIDY, 10/17/16, Associated Press)

While there have been isolated cases of voter fraud in the U.S., there is no evidence of it being a widespread problem as Trump suggests.

The type of fraud that Trump appears to be talking about would involve people casting ballots who know they are not eligible to vote, as well as people impersonating others to cast ballots for their preferred candidate. Experts say this would be an inefficient way to rig an election, given the fraud would have to be conducted one voter at a time, and would only be effective in places where the race is close enough that the outcome could be swayed.

Studies have shown voter impersonation to be quite rare. In one study, a Loyola Law School professor found 31 instances involving allegations of voter impersonation out of 1 billion votes cast in U.S. elections between 2000 and 2014. Another study by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School found many reports of people voting twice or ballots being cast on behalf of dead people were largely the result of clerical errors that suggested wrongdoing when none had occurred.

"Voter fraud is so incredibly rare that it has no impact on the integrity of our elections," said Wendy Weiser, head of the democracy program at the Brennan Center. "You are more likely to be struck by lightning, more likely to see a UFO, than to be a victim of voter fraud."

In Philadelphia on Monday, Republican election commissioner Al Schmidt dismissed the idea that election fraud could take place in the nation's fifth-largest city. "The real threat to the integrity of elections is irresponsible accusations that undermine confidence in the electoral process," he said.

...the belief that voter fraud is a problem betrays a peculiar partisan psychosis and an inability to accept reality.

Posted by orrinj at 6:36 PM


In the battle for Mosul, Islamic State is its own worst enemy : The group's savagery and missteps - toward Muslims - have created discontent and weakened its grasp from within. With an ideology based on hate, IS can only implode. (The Monitor's Editorial Board OCTOBER 17, 2016, CS Monitor)

To be sure, IS has lost many of its battlefield commanders to targeted bombing by the United States inside the group's self-proclaimed caliphate covering parts of Iraq and Syria. Its oil sales, cash finances, and telecommunications have been disrupted.

Meanwhile, Iraqi military forces are far more unified and better trained since losing Mosul in 2014, when a previous government in Baghdad fiercely opposed the country's minority Sunnis, driving many to embrace IS.

Still, IS has proved to be its own worst enemy. Much of its appeal for young Muslims has been its radical display of savage violence and theological hatred, which, it turns out, has been directed at other Muslims, especially fellow Sunnis, who deviated from a strict code of behavior. As it has retreated from smaller cities in the face of advancing forces, IS has left behind evidence of mass killings of its own fighters and local residents.

In addition, reports from Mosul reveal that IS rulers have little organizational talent for managing the city's economy, further disillusioning followers on their ability to run a caliphate. And those who have fled Mosul say that strict social controls imposed by IS have also created resentment and, most of all, boredom in daily life.

Vitally, their theology requires not just that they establish a state and that they control certain areas, but that state must provide good governance.  Our military means they can never have a state.  Their lunacy means they impose regimes so harsh that Muslims won't accept them. And, deliciously, they lack the sort of effective bureaucracy that the West mastered centuries ago.

Posted by orrinj at 6:17 PM


Why are bobcats returning to New Hampshire? : University of New Hampshire wildlife biologists are investigating why the state's bobcat population has rebounded, despite a sharp drop in rabbits and other typical prey. (Gretel Kauffman, OCTOBER 17, 2016, CS Monitor)

According to a study by UNH researchers, bobcats have made a dramatic return to New Hampshire since nearly going extinct in the 1980s. In 1989, fewer than 150 were thought to have survived. 

One theory for the bobcats' comeback is that the animals have adapted their diets to feed on different types of prey, such as turkeys or squirrels, biologists said. Another possible factor could be the state ending its last bobcat hunting season in 1989. 


Posted by orrinj at 4:50 PM


Pence Breaks Sharply With Trump On Russian Hacking And 'Rigged Election'  (Emily Stephenson, 10/17/16, Reuters) 

Republican vice presidential candidate Mike Pence contradicted running mate Donald Trump on Sunday by saying evidence points to Russian involvement in email hacks tied to the U.S. election and that Moscow should face "severe consequences" if it has compromised U.S. email security.

Pence, appearing in television interviews, also said he and Trump would respect the outcome of the Nov. 8 election. But later the same day Trump stuck by his contention that the race is being "rigged" by the media and at voting locations.

Posted by orrinj at 4:44 PM


Homegrown fashion industry bursts onto scene in Cuba (ANDREA RODRIGUEZ, 10/17/16, Associated Press)

Like so much else in Cuba, shopping for clothes isn't easy.

Buying a simple pair of socks or a T-shirt means choosing between the wildly overpriced, shoddy offerings of state-run stores and the bales of low-priced clothing illegally imported by "mules" traveling from the United States, Ecuador or Panama.

This year, a third option is bursting onto the scene after years of growing quietly in backroom workshops and bedroom studios. A small homegrown fashion industry is winning renown and an increasing share of Cubans' limited clothing budget with simple but fun-and-stylish clothing produced on the island with natural fabrics and sold at competitive prices.

Hundreds of private designers are turning out gauzy wedding dresses, brilliantly decorated bathing suits, linen pants and even uniforms for state businesses. Last week, dozens of designers displayed their wares at the five-day Havana Fashion Week at Cuba's most elegant theaters, where hundreds turned out for runway shows, private fittings and cocktail parties.

"The changes that have taken place in this country, the openings, make things easier," said Jesus Frias, a designer who put on a swimwear runway show on Friday. "There's a fashion renaissance in Cuba but it can't be a priority for the state, so it's we private designers who are bringing it back."

Posted by orrinj at 4:39 PM


Sex-Selective Abortions Take A Toll In Azerbaijan (Golnaz Esfandiari, 10/15/16, RFE/RL)

In Azerbaijan, the majority of newborns are male -- 115 boys for every 100 girls -- whereas the global average is 107 boys for every 100 girls.

A 2010 study exploring the "mystery of missing female children in the Caucasus" concluded that the number of girls born in Azerbaijan was lower than expected, a finding that was "consistent" with the country's 8,381 sex-selective abortions that year.

The study, which focused on selected post-Soviet states, found elevated sex ratios in Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia since the late 1980s, and 10 percent fewer girl births in those countries combined. In cases where the firstborn child was a girl, it was shown that for the second child the sex ratio increased or remained elevated in Armenia and Azerbaijan, whereas this ratio showed no change if the first child was male.

Concluding that the phenomenon of sex-selective abortion was "common" in Azerbaijan and Armenia, the study's authors suggested that family planning and legal interventions were required to address the issue.

Posted by orrinj at 4:34 PM


Fuming Behind the Scenes, the Republican Jewish Coalition Effectively Dumps Trump (Nathan Guttman, October 13, 2016, Forward)

Uneasy from the start with Donald Trump as their party's presidential candidate, Republican Jewish activists are fuming and fretting in the wake of revelations about Trump's lewd character and alleged sexual harassment.

The Republican Jewish Coalition, which endorsed Trump immediately after he secured the party's nomination, has not withdrawn its official support. But behind closed doors, individual members are doing exactly that. The members who spoke to the Forward say they still cannot support Hillary Clinton. But they are focusing their efforts on keeping Republican majorities in Congress -- a tacit acknowledgement that she will likely win the presidency.

"My temperature is 105 degrees, this man is a total embarrassment to all of us and to America," said an RJC board member and major Jewish GOP donor on Tuesday. The donor, who like others contacted by the Forward insisted on not being identified by name, listed Trump's recent comments about women and his promise to jail Clinton as being beyond the pale and unacceptable. [...]

"They weren't talking to Jews like us," said one of the donors, explaining that the arguments put forward by the Trump campaign were not convincing and did not address their concerns about Trump's personality and perceived ignorance of world affairs.

The group's activities reflect this lack of enthusiasm. It has not put out any ads or emails supporting Trump and has focused instead on criticizing Clinton and on trying to assist vulnerable Republican senators up for reelection.

Just this week, the group made a $500,000 TV ad purchase in Pennsylvania in attempt to shore up support for incumbent Pat Toomey. The group's ads focus on the Iran nuclear deal; they attack Democratic candidates who expressed support for the 2015 agreement.

Posted by orrinj at 12:57 PM


Could France's Next President Be a Thatcherite? (Dalibor Rohac, October 17, 2016 | The Weekly Standard)

If the U.S. election season looks too depressing, you might consider following the presidential primaries in France instead. A week ago, the French magazine Le Point--which lies on the French center-right but is very far from the intellectual conservatism in the British or American sense--dedicated a whole issue to the legacy of Margaret Thatcher, asking on its cover whether Thatcherism was "the best platform for the 2017 presidential election." [...]

True, the leader of the Kremlin-funded National Front, Marine Le Pen, has a good chance of making it to the second round of the presidential election. Besides her well-known anti-immigration agenda and a promise of leaving the European Union, on the economic front Le Pen promises increased protection against "unfair competition" from countries with low labor costs, employee quotas for native French in specific professions, and industrial policies that she claims would lead to a "re-industrialization" of the country.

Yet it is unlikely that she can command a popular majority against essentially any plausible center-right or center-left candidate. [...]

Hollande's blunders are an opportunity for Emmanuel Macron, whom many on both sides of the political spectrum consider as truly the best hope for the French economy. Until recently a minister of the economy in the cabinet led by the Socialist Prime Minister Manuel Valls, Macron spearheaded distinctly pro-market economic reforms: a liberalization of long-distance bus transport, opening up of protected professions including notaries public and judicial officers, and making it easier--albeit only marginally--for companies to fire their employees.

Don't be fooled by appearances. Although Macron was part of the Socialist cabinet, he is not a card-carrying party member. One of Macron's most vocal supporters in France, the libertarian lawyer and intellectual Mathieu Laine (also a Le Point contributor), recently wrote a preface to a French edition of Margaret Thatcher's speeches, giving a glowing endorsement of the Iron Lady's economic reforms he thinks France desperately needs.

It is quite refreshing to see the growing recognition in France that what the country needs is not economic protectionism, populism, and heavy-handed government interventions, but serious structural and fiscal reforms. It is equally refreshing to see the French political class increasingly cognizant of the role that liberal democracies play in keeping the world safe--and of the fact that the United States have failed as of late to hold its part of the bargain.

Posted by orrinj at 12:51 PM


Posted by orrinj at 12:41 PM


Chance of winning


Hillary Clinton


Donald Trump


Posted by orrinj at 12:35 PM


Do You Suffer from Trump Syndrome? : If you're displaying erratic behavior that seems irrational to others, part of the explanation could be plain old sleep deprivation  (Daniel Barron, October 17, 2016, Scientific American)

 "You know, I'm not a big sleeper," Donald Trump said last November. "I like three hours, four hours, I toss, I turn, I beep-de-beep, I want to find out what's going on."

It's a classic set-up for sleep deprivation, and an article by Timothy Egan in the New York Times last February suggested explicitly that this might explain Trump's erratic, irrational-seeming behavior such as lashing out at allies or potential allies, lack of remorse and grandiose thinking.

So now, during morning Neurology rounds, my colleagues and I often joke about whether patients of a particular temperament are suffering from what we called "Trump Syndrome"--a ravenous late-night craving for stimulation that results in a sometimes sporadic, often slender sleep schedule.

the American people are so generous of spirit that we prefer to think he's simply crazy than means what he says.

Posted by orrinj at 12:30 PM


Israel believes Islamic State has lost 10,000 fighters in past 18 months (AVI ISSACHAROFF October 16, 2016, Times of Israel)

Various Israeli assessments say that the organization that calls itself the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant -- Islamic State for short -- has lost more than one-third of its fighting members over the past 18 months. Israeli and other Western officials estimated the number of its combat fighters at roughly 25,000 in early 2015. The current estimate stands at approximately 15,000.

The decline has several causes. The first is the joint American-Russian military effort against Islamic State in some sectors -- an effort that has claimed many casualties and an enormous number of wounded. Meanwhile, it has exhausted itself battling the Syrian army, Hezbollah, Shiite militias, Turkey, the Kurds, the Arab coalition, and the Syrian opposition.

The flow of volunteers has all but stopped. This, too, seems to be linked to several factors, such as Turkey's military intervention on Syrian territory last month, which has made it difficult for volunteers to get through; the first battlefield defeats in major cities such as Fallujah, Ramadi, Minbaj, and Palmyra, which hurt Islamic State's image as an undefeated power; and more strenuous efforts by European countries against Islamist groups. 

It always seemed that the hardest part of the WoT would be to get the Islamicists to gather in large enough numbers that you could kill them in bunches.  But thanks to ISIS implementing the theology behind the movement, which al Qaeda was smart enough not to do, we got a big ole free-fire zone and a war of all against the Salafi.

Posted by orrinj at 12:22 PM


Donald Trump Is on a Presidential Death March We've Never Seen Before : A political survivor describes what it means when a campaign fails, and how this bizarre election cycle is exposing the worst in Trump (Tim Miller, 10/17/16, The Ringer)

Donald Trump is going to lose this election. His campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, is going to lose this election. Even if they would never admit it, they know Donald Trump will never be president. Trump and Conway are on the political death march. (This, to be clear for the Trump fans, is a political metaphor, not an actual death wish.)

This is the part of a losing campaign that exposes the true character of all those involved. So it should come as no shock that Donald Trump and his staff are failing this test in the most shameful and divisive manner imaginable.

Trump knows he's on a death march, which is why he has reverted to his purest id over the past few days. Belittling women that he allegedly sexually assaulted, concocting racist conspiracy theories about the global elites and minority communities rigging the election, and proffering bombastic lies about his opponent that he knows cable news can't help but cover.

The death march is why Conway has begun to resurrect a time-honored practice: duplicitous political operatives throwing their boss under the bus to try to save face. In an attempt to preserve a lucrative fee on the public speaking circuit after the campaign, Conway has sent a series of tweets over the past week trying to position herself as both in on the joke with Saturday Night Live and the conscience on Trump's shoulder trying to get him to behave. As a fellow anti-Trump conservative pointed out, Conway is officially playing the role of "punch clock villain."

To a casual observer, this behavior might seem counterproductive to the goal Trump and Conway share: winning the election. But the reality is the only goal either has in mind now is self-preservation.

...but on a losing one, just so they get to experience first hand the grace it requires to deal with it generously.  So it's best not to work on Donald's...

Posted by orrinj at 12:17 PM


A group of Democrats came together Sunday to raise money to rebuild a Republican headquarters that was firebombed in North Carolina on Saturday night.

The GOP headquarters in Orange County, N.C., suffered major damage when an explosive device was thrown through a window on Saturday night, according to officials. The words "Nazi Republicans leave town or else" were spray-painted on a nearby building.

Dallas Woodhouse, executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party, denounced the attack, calling it "political terrorism." He said all Americans "should be outraged by this hate-filled and violent attack against our democracy."

Posted by orrinj at 12:09 PM


Syrian rebels deal symbolic blow to Islamic State (Nabih Bulos, 10/17/16, LA Times)

Dabiq figured heavily in the propaganda of Islamic State, which believed its jihadists would fight -- and defeat -- the Christian armies of the west on the land of Dabiq, marking the beginning of Armageddon. 

Islamic State would often end its videos with a clip of one of its jihadists walking with a black banner hoisted above him as the voice of Abu Musab Zarqawi, the Jordanian-born militant considered the group's spiritual father, says that while the "spark" of the caliphate was lighted in Iraq, "its heat will continue to intensify... until it burns the Crusader armies in Dabiq."

The group also named its English-language online magazine after the town. "Jihadi John," a British Islamic State recruit whose real name was Mohammed Emwazi, staged the beheading of American aid worker Abdul-Rahman Kassig there. 

Posted by orrinj at 11:55 AM


Warnings of conspiracy stoke anger among Trump faithful (Matt Viser and Tracy Jan,  OCTOBER 15, 2016, Boston Globe)

Mainstream Republicans are watching these developments at the top of the ticket with a growing sense of alarm, calling Trump's latest conspiracy theories of a rigged election irresponsible and dangerous. They also say the impact of voter fraud or errors on the outcome of elections is vastly overblown.

"How do you proclaim fraud before the incident takes place? It's like my calling you a robber before you rob the bank," said Al Cardenas, who was chairman of the Republican Party of Florida during the 2000 electoral recount. "In America, you call out a crime or malfeasance after it happens."

Cardenas, having been immersed in the Florida recount for 37 days, said an average of 1.5 percent of votes cast in the nation are not recorded, due mostly to technical issues and procedural errors.

"That's a significant number in a close election, but they are not wrongdoings," Cardenas said. "Americans should feel that the ultimate outcome of the election is fair. That's how we defend our democracy."

Cardenas said he would not vote for Trump or Clinton -- even if that means Clinton wins. "Hey, the radicals had their day,'' he said. "This is the result of it." [...]

Trump has recently started encouraging his mostly white supporters to sign up online to be "election observers" to stop "Crooked Hillary from rigging this election." He's urging them to act as posses of poll watchers in "other" communities to ensure that things are "on the up and up."

"Watch your polling booths," he warned.

His supporters are heeding the call. "Trump said to watch your precincts. I'm going to go, for sure," said Steve Webb, a 61-year-old carpenter from Fairfield, Ohio.

"I'll look for . . . well, it's called racial profiling. Mexicans. Syrians. People who can't speak American," he said. 

Posted by orrinj at 11:50 AM


U.S. aircraft hit Islamic State targets with more 30 strikes over the last three days on the Libyan city of Sirte as pro-government forces push into its last militant-held districts, the U.S. military said on Monday.

Libyan forces are close to ending a six-month campaign to liberate Sirte from Islamic State, which took over the city more than a year after taking advantage of factional infighting that emerged after the fall of strongman Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

Posted by orrinj at 11:46 AM


When not hanging out in a field in Kluk, northern Sweden, Rudolf likes to kiss people and show off his high-step moves, while Frost can sometimes be found hopping over fences with horses when he's not busy pulling sleighs. 

Ulrika Andreasson has taught them everything they know. 

Posted by orrinj at 11:37 AM


Birthrate in Germany highest in 33 years (Deutsche-Welle, 10/17/16)

Germany's aging population and a birthrate below the replacement rate of 2.1 children per women has prompted concerns over the declining population's impact on the economy and social security.

To fill the gap, Germany has relied on importing workers and accepting migrants, including more than 800,000 asylum seekers who arrived in the country in 2015.

The statistics released on Monday show German women had 1.43 children on average in 2015, up slightly from 1.42 in 2014.

However, the birthrate non-German origin women increased from 1.86 to 1.95 children per woman from 2014 to 2015, thereby "contributing significantly to the increase in the combined birthrate of all women," the statistics office said.

October 16, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:40 PM


Vladimir Zhirinovsky, a Russian lawmaker who is close to Vladimir Putin, warned that if Hillary Clinton is elected president there will be a war between the U.S. and Russia.

"Americans voting for a president must realize they are voting for peace on planet Earth if they vote for Trump, but if they vote for Hillary, it's war," he said. "There will be Hiroshimas and Nagasakis everywhere."

Now that's a real issue. And Clinton brought it into the open with her declaration in the last debate that she would declare a no-fly zone in the part of Syria where Russian planes are flying sorties against the rebels on a daily basis.

Shooting down Russian planes will mean war. But the media ignored that, even though Jill Stein, the presidential candidate of the Green Party, made a similar observation. (Read her quote here about Hillary being the biggest warmonger in the race.)

Posted by orrinj at 7:31 PM


HOW TRUMP TOOK HATE GROUPS MAINSTREAM : The full story of his connection with far-right extremists. (SARAH POSNER AND DAVID NEIWERT OCT. 14, 2016, Mother Jones)

The first warning sign that something new was brewing came in June 2015, as Donald Trump joined the crowded field vying for the Republican presidential nomination. In the extravagant lobby of Trump Tower in New York City, he announced he would build a wall to keep out Mexican criminals and "rapists."

"I urge all readers of this site to do whatever they can to make Donald Trump President," wrote Andrew Anglin, publisher of the neo-Nazi site Daily Stormer, 12 days later. Anglin, a 32-year-old skinhead who wears an Aryan "Black Sun" tattoo on his chest and riffs about the inferior "biological nature" of black people, hailed Trump as "the only candidate who is even talking about anything at all that matters."

Meet the neo-Nazis, Klansmen, and other extremists who have endorsed Trump. John Bazemore/AP
This neo-Nazi seal of approval initially seemed like an aberration. But two months later, when Trump released his immigration policy, far-right extremists saw a clear signal that Trump understood their core anger and fear about America being taken over by minorities and foreigners. Trump's plan to deport masses of undocumented immigrants and end birthright citizenship was radical and thrilling--"a revolution," in the words of influential white nationalist author Kevin MacDonald, "to restore a White America."

Trump's move was a "game changer," said MacDonald, a 70-year-old silver-haired former academic who edits the Occidental Observer, which the Anti-Defamation League calls "online anti-Semitism's new voice." Trump, he wrote, "is saying what White Americans have been actually thinking for a very long time."

"Stunning," raved Peter Brimelow, editor of the anti-immigrant site VDare.com. "The thing that delighted us the most," he wrote, was Trump's plan to close "the 'Anchor Baby' loophole," denying citizenship to the American-born children of immigrants--a policy that Brimelow said he had been advocating for more than a decade.

Trump "may be the last hope for a president who would be good for white people," remarked Jared Taylor, who runs a white nationalist website called American Renaissance and once founded a think tank dedicated to "scientifically" proving white superiority. Taylor told us that Trump was the first presidential candidate from a major party ever to earn his support because Trump "is talking about policies that would slow the dispossession of whites. That is something that is very important to me and to all racially conscious white people."

Trump fever quickly spread...

Posted by orrinj at 7:27 PM


MIDNIGHT SUN EXCLUSIVE: New Poll Shows Trump-Clinton Tied In Alaska (CASEY REYNOLDS, OCTOBER 16, 2016, Midnight Sun)

The poll was conducted by Washington D.C. based Lake Research Group from October 11-13 and surveyed 500 likely general election voters. According to their website Lake Research Group has done work for former President Bill Clinton, Vice-President Joe Biden, and dozens of congressional and senate Democrats including former Alaska Senator Mark Begich.

The results show Donald Trump with a one point lead. That is well within the 4.4% margin of error. [...]

These two survey results show while Donald Trump's support among likely voters has only dipped by one point, Hillary Clinton has picked up six points. That surge by Clinton appears to have come by peeling off slivers of support from Trump, Libertarian Gary Johnson, and Green Party candidate Jill Stein.

This is just the latest poll to show the presidential race tightening in Alaska. Last week the Alaska Dispatch News released a poll showing Trump ahead by only 5.5 points and Sen. Lisa Murkowski's campaign released their own internal polling showing Trump up an even slimmer 3 points.

Posted by orrinj at 7:20 PM


That Boom You Hear Is Ukraine's Agriculture : With the conflict frozen, money is flowing to modernize farms (AlanBjerga & Volodymyr Verbyany, 10/13/16,  Bloomberg Businessweek)

Ihor Makarevych bumps along the pitted roads to his fields, talking about warfare and his crops. When conflict broke out in eastern Ukraine in 2014, helicopter-launched heat flares scorched his land. Later, 19 of his employees were conscripted into the army. "There were nine road checkpoints installed by Ukrainian soldiers near our farmlands," says the 52-year-old, who was an officer in the Soviet Army in the 1980s.

Makarevych is chief executive officer of Agrofirma Podolivska, which manages farmland in Ukraine's Kharkiv region, to the north bordering Russia and to the east, the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, partly controlled by separatists. Despite that proximity, when he arrives at his fields, the war seems far away. Semi-automated New Holland and John Deere combines are starting to harvest corn and sunflowers, following choreography developed by Kharkiv-based coders. Farmers check moisture levels on monitors inside their cabs, while deep-yellow grain is cut against a blue sky, the colors of the Ukrainian flag.

The corn and sunflowers will make their way to the ports of Odessa and Mykolayiv for export, sold to Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill, and other multinationals as part of the stream of grain and oilseeds that makes Ukraine the world's fifth-biggest seller of wheat and other grains. Companies are betting that global appetites will increasingly rely on Black Sea soil even as obstacles to growth remain. "Ukraine is a big answer to the question of how you feed the world," says Steve Pifer, a former U.S. ambassador there who's now with the Brookings Institution. 

Hillary Clinton, Ukraine and other things (Andrew Fedynsky, 8/05/16, Ukraine Weekly)

In 2000 Hillary was elected senator from New York with its large Ukrainian American constituency. She delivered, recognizing the Holodomor as genocide; supporting Ukraine's membership in the World Trade Organization; laying the legislative groundwork for Ukraine's membership in NATO at some point.

Based on her record, you can argue that no candidate for president has been stronger on Ukraine than Hillary Clinton. And why? Just as Putin allies like Paul Manafort and Carter Page influence Donald J. Trump, Ms. Clinton takes advice from friends of Ukraine, particularly Melanne Verveer. A friend of the Clintons from their college days, Ms. Verveer grew up in Pennsylvania's Anthracite region, attended Ukrainian school, etc., and then, as the first lady's chief of staff, accompanied her and the president on their various trips to Ukraine. (Melanne and I have been friends since the 1980s when she worked for Toledo Rep. Marcy Kaptur and I was with Cleveland Rep. Mary Rose Oakar.)

Back to Hillary. As secretary of state, Ms. Clinton recommitted to Ukraine, both on overall policy and with small, but significant matters. Consider this: in May 2010, soon after Victor Yanukovych became president, an officer from the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) confronted the Rev. Dr. Borys Gudziak - then rector of the Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU) - warning that he would face criminal charges should UCU students participate in demonstrations. The agent presented Father Gudziak with a document, and demanded he read and then sign it to acknowledge its validity and return it for the SBU files.

Father Gudziak, now bishop in Paris, is one tough guy. He refused to read the document and ordered the agent to leave before going to his computer to e-mail the world about Mr. Yanukovych's Soviet-style tactics.

Six weeks later, Secretary Clinton came to Kyiv to meet Ukraine's new president. But first, she staged a very public meeting at the U.S. Embassy with Father Gudziak. Only then, having sent a message, did the secretary meet with President Yanukovych. A few days later, SBU Chief Valerii Khoroshkovskyi flew to Lviv to apologize to Father Gudziak.

Secretaries of state and presidents, of course, also deal with the big picture. Between 1914 and 1945, there were two world wars and the dictatorships of Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Mao and a dozen other tyrants. Tens of millions were killed, including untold numbers of Ukrainians whose territory was a perennial battlefield. Nor did two oceans spare the U.S. Sucked into both world wars, hundreds of thousands of Americans were killed; trillions of dollars were expended.

At the end of World War II and looking back at global catastrophe, wise leaders in the U.S. and Europe created military, political and economic institutions to keep the peace and provide prosperity. And it's worked.

Now, the legacy of European peace is threatened like never before. And Ukraine is at the center. Fed up with corruption, Ukrainians in 2013-2014 massively voted with their feet and hearts at the Maidan to reject Russia and join Europe, sparking Vladimir Putin's annexation of Crimea and "hybrid war" in the Donbas. You can argue whether the anti-Russian sanctions and aid to Ukraine have been enough. Indeed, Hillary, having left the administration before the Maidan, did just that. In 2014, she condemned Mr. Putin's aggression as a 21st century version of Hitler's invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1938 and called for more financing, military training and equipment for Ukraine. Many criticized her for the Hitler analogy, but she's also one tough person and stood her ground. Now, more than two years into the crisis, it's essential that the U.S., the European Union and NATO hold together. I'm confident they will if Hillary becomes president. You can't say the same about a Trump presidency.

Posted by orrinj at 7:15 PM


Donald Trump is displeased with the media. He expressed this displeasure during his speech in West Palm Beach, Florida on Thursday. The problem is that the media has taken his own words about how he lunges at women and starts kissing and groping them, and turned up real-world instances of him allegedly doing so. Trump is used to getting away with this sort of chatter, these sorts of actions. He's not getting away with it now, and it infuriates him.

So disruptive is this rare moment of accountability to everything Donald Trump's ever known in 40-plus years of public life that he can't just blame the media, either. He can't just blame the Clintons. That he's losing the presidential race, and facing public allegations of past sexual assault from more women every day is, in his mind, the sign of a global conspiracy. It's all he's got.

A jury of 300+ million peers has judged him and found him wanting.

Posted by orrinj at 7:11 PM


The Thwarted Domestic Terrorist Attack on Somali Refugees (MATT VASILOGAMBROS,  OCT 14, 2016, The Atlantic)

Federal prosecutors charged three Kansas men Friday with domestic terrorism for planning an attack on Somali immigrants.

The three men from Liberal, Kansas, in the southwest part of the state, were targeting a nearby meatpacking town, planning to detonate bombs in an apartment complex where around 120 Somali immigrants reside.

Posted by orrinj at 7:06 PM


Why we shouldn't forgive the Republicans who sold their souls (Robert Kagan October 11, 2016, Washington Post)

The coming years are going to require some courage -- not tough speeches, at which Republican politicians excel, but tough and politically difficult actions -- on entitlements, on immigration and especially on foreign policy and defense. Republicans used to be able to call national-security policy their strong suit. Can they still? All the tough young senators who railed at the Obama administration for its weakness on the world stage -- how tough were they when it came to their own political skins? Not tough enough to take on Donald Trump, even though his foreign policy, such as it was, betrayed many core Republican principles and was in most respects far worse than President Obama's.

After years of railing against the Obama administration's "reset," the leading Republican spokesmen on this issue said little and did nothing when their own nominee spoke admiringly of Russian President Vladi­mir Putin and when his closest advisers were discovered to be intimately connected to the Kremlin and found to be lobbyists for Putin's puppets in Ukraine or Gazprom's pipeline plans. They were silent when Trump went so far as to urge the Russian intelligence services to hack Hillary Clinton's emails. These are the political leaders who are supposed to stand up to the world's real strongmen in Moscow and Beijing. Yet they did not stand up to this bullying would-be authoritarian when all he could do was steal away a few of their voters. They would not risk five points in their primary campaigns to stop this man from becoming commander in chief. They were willing to damage U.S. national interests, as they define them, to avoid a close race. These are the men and women to whom we should entrust the nation's welfare?

Posted by orrinj at 7:00 PM


In Somalia, U.S. Escalates a Shadow War (MARK MAZZETTI, JEFFREY GETTLEMAN and ERIC SCHMITTOCT. 16, 2016, NY Times)

The Obama administration has intensified a clandestine war in Somalia over the past year, using Special Operations troops, airstrikes, private contractors and African allies in an escalating campaign against Islamist militants in the anarchic Horn of Africa nation. [...]

The Somalia campaign, as it is described by American and African officials and international monitors of the Somali conflict, is partly designed to avoid repeating that debacle, which led to the deaths of 18 American soldiers. But it carries enormous risks -- including more American casualties, botched airstrikes that kill civilians and the potential for the United States to be drawn even more deeply into a troubled country that so far has stymied all efforts to fix it.

The Somalia campaign is a blueprint for warfare that President Obama has embraced and will pass along to his successor. It is a model the United States now employs across the Middle East and North Africa -- from Syria to Libya -- despite the president's stated aversion to American "boots on the ground" in the world's war zones. This year alone, the United States has carried out airstrikes in seven countries and conducted Special Operations missions in many more.

American officials said the White House had quietly broadened the president's authority for the use of force in Somalia by allowing airstrikes to protect American and African troops as they combat fighters from the Shabab, a Somali-based militant group that has proclaimed allegiance to Al Qaeda.

President Clinton will just finish W's war.

Posted by orrinj at 6:55 PM


Syrian rebels said they captured the village of Dabiq from Islamic State on Sunday, forcing the jihadist group from a stronghold where it had promised to fight a final, apocalyptic battle with the West.

Poor buggers never stood a chance.  Their theology made the war unwinnable.

Posted by orrinj at 6:46 PM


Behind Putin's Combativeness, Some See Motives Other Than Syria (NEIL MacFARQUHAR, OCT. 14, 2016, NY Times)

[I]ncreasingly, commentators in Russia have begun to suspect other motives, beginning with a need to distract attention from gaping holes in the federal budget and the painful, politically unpopular steps needed to close them.

"The serious part is not shown on television," Ekaterina Schulmann, a political scientist at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, said. "The serious part is the battle of the budget."

Russians are facing rising utility rates, and a new fee for building maintenance is especially irksome. Government spending on health care might be slashed 33 percent.

Despite all the swagger the military budget will be cut by 6 percent annually for the next three years, after 15 years of increases.

"When we look at this rather grim-looking budget, it is basically spending for police and pensions and not much else," Ms. Schulmann said. [...]

For the first time since Mr. Putin's first tenure as president, which began in 2000, Russians are facing falling incomes. An October report from the Higher School of Economics calculated that real monthly income per capita fell to just under $500 per month, or roughly 87 percent of the income level in August 2014.

The backlog of unpaid wages has reached an astronomical $56 million, while the Center for Political and Economic Reforms says the number of strikes and rallies over labor disputes has doubled in the past three months.

Posted by orrinj at 6:41 PM


With nearly 100 percent of the Sunday parliamentary vote counted, the Centre for Monitoring and Research (CEMI) has reported that the pro-West Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) in Montenegro has won 41.1 percent of the votes (36 of the 81 seats in parliament). [...]

Much to the displeasure of Russia - Montenegro's traditional ally - Djukanovic plans to forge closer ties with the West, in the hope of joining both NATO as well as the EU.

Posted by orrinj at 6:20 PM


"The Paranoid Style," redux : A review of Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right by Jane Mayer (James Piereson, March 2016, New Criterion)

We are reminded once again during this election season that national politics is an arena increasingly dominated by angry and suspicious participants. This is true of both the Left and Right. The different sides are angry and suspicious about different things, to be sure, the left of the rich and the big banks, the right of "the establishment." In framing narratives about these targets, both sides are prone to exaggerate the influence of their respective bogeyman or to understand them in terms of malignant conspiracies that are only loosely correlated with reality. In many cases, these narratives are backed by impressive-seeming compilations of facts and figures and argued with impressive sophistication. Many voters lack the information or the resources required to sort through the charges and counter-charges. Amid the cacophony of national politics, it is a challenge for anyone to maintain a balanced perspective.

These ruminations are occasioned by a recent reading of Jane Mayer's new book, Dark Money, a tedious investigation into the influence of "right wing" money in national politics. Ms. Mayer, a staff writer for The New Yorker, is a respected journalist who, before joining The New Yorker, served as White House correspondent for The Wall Street Journal. She writes well and bolsters her arguments with an assortment of facts, quotations, and citations, the products of years of research. She has written several previous books, including The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals. These two titles--Dark Money and The Dark Side--provide a window into her mindset, that of a crusading journalist bent on exposing dark plots against the public interest. For a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail-- and for a crusading journalist, especially a left-wing crusading journalist, the world must be full of right-wing conspiracies. Such an author may be entirely honest and honorable, as Ms. Mayer undoubtedly is, and still be fundamentally wrong because she lacks the perspective to assess the subjects she is writing about. Dark Money is a fact-filled book, but it contains a much exaggerated and misleading thesis.

Posted by orrinj at 6:17 PM


The Saudi-Iran Rivalry and Sectarian Strife in South Asia : Iran and Saudi Arabia are recruiting and radicalizing local Muslim populations in Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan. (Abha Shankar, October 06, 2016, The Diplomat)

Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) is secretly conscripting hundreds of Afghan Shia to fight alongside Assad's forces in Syria. Draftees are lured by promises of an Iranian residence permit and a monthly salary of about $500.

Shias, who are predominantly of Hazara ethnicity and speak a dialect of Persian, comprise 20 percent of Afghanistan's 30 million people.

The IRGC also has drafted thousands of undocumented migrant and refugee Afghans in Iran, according to a Human Rights Watch report. Afghan refugees and migrants who have fled war and persecution are threatened with deportation back to their home country if they refuse the draft.

Afghans recruited to fight in the Syrian civil war are deployed with the Fatemiyoun Division, launched by the IRGC in 2014 and named after Prophet Muhammad's daughter, Fatima.

Fatemiyoun forces are estimated to consist of 20,000 fighters whose primary mission is to safeguard Shia shrines in Syria, primarily the Sayyida Zeinab mosque in Damascus, one of Shia Islam's holiest sites that has been the target of ISIS attacks. Division fighters sometimes are coerced into carrying out perilous military operations and reportedly received training from the Lebanese Hezbollah. Funerals for fighters killed in battle are held in the holy city of Qom and other Iranian cities and attended by Iranian officials.

The IRGC has similarly established the Zeinabiyoun Brigade for Pakistani Shia deployed to fight in Syria. Known popularly as Hezbollah Pakistan, the Zeinabiyoun has a logo similar to that of the Lebanese Hezbollah and its Facebook postings applaud the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

In June 2014, 30,000 Indian Shia Muslims volunteered to fight Islamic State forces in Iraq to protect Shiite shrines from being targeted by Islamic State terrorists who routinely attack these shrines. Volunteers ranged from students to professionals such as bankers, doctors, and engineers. "We are looking at a million volunteers to form a human chain around the holy shrines of Karbala and Najaf, in case the Isis [sic] attacks. We will do everything to stop the advance of the enemies," Syed Bilal, spokesman of the India-based Shia group, Anjuman-e-Haideri, told Iraqi News.

October 15, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 9:13 PM


Obama's Housing Toolkit: A Mixed Bag (VANESSA BROWN CALDER, 10/07/16, Cato)

Something striking happened last week: the Obama White House released its Housing Development Toolkit and Obama's economic advisor, Jason Furman, wrote a follow-on op-ed about land use regulation's negative consequences. While White House reports tend to be geared toward partisan political objectives, these two publications could have been written by non-partisan economists. Nevertheless, although the honest application of economic theory is welcome, libertarians will still find points of disagreement.

What's good? The report highlights zoning policies' influence on increasing housing prices, immobilizing workers in job deserts, creating costly uncertainty for developers, increasing inequality and racial segregation, and suppressing economic growth. These negative outcomes were attributed to "excessive barriers," "unnecessarily slow permitting processes," and "arbitrary or antiquated" zoning and land use regulations.

The White House even went so far as to say that "even well-intentioned land use policies" can have negative impacts. 

Posted by orrinj at 9:09 PM


Flailing Trump's suggestion that Clinton had taken performance-enhancing drugs came during a speech in which Trump decried the opioid addiction ravaging communities in New Hampshire.

Drug use was only one smear Trump deployed against Clinton as he trails her in the polls by as much as 11% nationally.

The desperate billionaire also alleged that the Clinton campaign orchestrated the growing number of women coming forward to accuse Trump of sexual harassment or abuse.

...she'd be foolish to pass up an opportunity to get a blood sample.

Posted by orrinj at 9:03 PM


Leaked emails show that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton told union members in September that she supports the fracking industry and believes anti-fracking extremists should "get a life."

She should just go all-in at the last debate and pitch her candidacy directly to the GOP.

Posted by orrinj at 8:58 PM


Pedals the bear, known for walking upright in New Jersey, was thought to have been one of 487 bears killed by hunters in New Jersey last week.
Pedals, a beloved American black bear who walked upright and strolled around the suburbs of New Jersey like a Hanna-Barbera cartoon come to life, was believed to have been killed by a hunter last week, animal welfare activists said. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:47 PM


Trump's supporters talk rebellion, assassination at his rallies  (Matt Viser and Tracy Jan GLOBE STAFF  OCTOBER 15, 2016, bOSTON Globe)

Anger and hostility were the most overwhelming sentiments at a Trump rally in Cincinnati last week, a deep sense of frustration, an us-versus-them mentality, and a belief that they are part of an unstoppable and underestimated movement. Unlike many in the country, however, these hard-core Trump followers do not believe the real estate mogul's misfortunes are of his own making.

They believe what Trump has told them over and over, that this election is rigged, and if he loses, it will be because of a massive conspiracy to take him down.

At a time when trust in government is at a low point, Trump is actively stoking fears that a core tenet of American democracy is also in peril: that you can trust what happens at the ballot box.

His supporters here said they plan to go to their local precincts to look for illegal immigrants who may attempt to vote. They are worried that Democrats will load up buses of minorities and take them to vote several times in different areas of the city. They've heard rumors that boxes of Clinton votes are already waiting somewhere.

At rally in N.H., Trump supporters see conspiracy against him

And if Trump doesn't win, some are even openly talking about violent rebellion and assassination, as fantastical and unhinged as that may seem.

Conspiracies hardly get more massive than 65% of the American people.

Posted by orrinj at 8:23 PM


Secret Teacher: pupils are force-fed maths they'll never use again (The Secret Teacher, 15 October 2016, The Guardian)

Here are a few of the topics students sitting a foundation maths paper are expected to understand: working with standard form; laws of indices; highest common factors and lowest common multiples; quadratic equations; quadratic graphs; quadratic sequences; angles in polygons; angles on parallel lines; Pythagoras' theorem; vectors; area and perimeter of circle sectors; tree diagrams; set notation; solving algebraic inequalities and much, much more. What percentage of people in the country need to know even half of that to get by and thrive?

I'm convinced a smaller syllabus, and fewer maths lessons, would help more students enjoy and benefit from maths
I'd love to meet the employer who insists all their employees need to be able write 72 as a product of its prime factors. Who is suggesting that all school leavers need to be able to factorise the expression 7y - 21y2? Why does everyone in the country need to be able see a right angled triangle with a hypotenuse of length 4m and a side of length 3m and immediately work out the angle between these two sides. If you're going on to study maths or sciences at A-level, then this is all necessary knowledge - but it's highly unlikely those sitting a foundation maths syllabus will continue the subject post-16.

Ensuring all school leavers are numerate and confident with everyday maths should be a main priority in education. We should be making sure all pupils can add, subtract, multiply and divide, use a calculator properly and estimate answers to avoid the need of a calculator and/or check its output. Pupils should be able to understand bills, costs, profit and loss. They need to understand enough about probability to evaluate the risk of things happening. Pupils should also understand the basics about common 2D and 3D shapes, and be confident with other numeracy skills that will be useful in life.

I'm convinced a smaller syllabus, and fewer maths lessons, would help more students enjoy and benefit from maths. It would lead to more engaged pupils and free up time to study other subjects.

Posted by orrinj at 6:06 PM


Most Evangelicals Are Not Voting Trump : Measuring Americans by beliefs, not self-identity, makes a big difference in 2016 election polls. (Bob Smietana, 10/14/2016, Christianity Today)

Overall, the split between those with evangelical beliefs who support Donald Trump (45%) and those who support Hillary Clinton (31%) isn't that far apart.

Posted by orrinj at 6:02 PM


For Clinton, a daily dose of faith along with politics (JOCELYN NOVECK, October 15, 2016, AP)

At about 5 a.m. each day -- maybe a little later on weekends -- an email from the Rev. Bill Shillady arrives in Hillary Clinton's inbox.

The contents? A reading from Scripture. A devotional commentary. And a prayer. They're sometimes inspired by the headlines -- focusing recently, for example, on the role of women in the Bible.

"I know she reads them, because she responds to me," says Shillady, executive director of the United Methodist City Society in New York. "We've had some interesting emails back and forth about some of the concepts."

It's no secret that Clinton is a lifelong Methodist. But Shillady -- who officiated at Chelsea Clinton's wedding, led a memorial service for Clinton's mother, Dorothy Rodham, and gave the closing benediction at the Democratic National Convention -- feels that many people don't really know how much her faith "is a daily thing."

Posted by orrinj at 5:53 PM


During an episode of a season that first aired in 2013 (dubbed All-Star Celebrity Apprentice), the "Turn Down for What" singer was tasked, along with the other celebrity contenders, with mounting competing displays around and inside glass trucks in order to promote hair-care products. In the heat of competition, Lil Jon bought and donned an Uncle Sam costume to help advertise the "beautiful" hair product.

During the day's shoot, Trump himself caught wind of this gimmick and began referring to Lil Jon around Apprentice staff as "Uncle Tom" instead of Uncle Sam.

Posted by orrinj at 11:28 AM


[O]n Friday, US Vice President Joe Biden told NBC a "message" would be sent to Russian President Vladimir Putin over the alleged hacking, with the channel saying the CIA was preparing a retaliatory cyber-attack "designed to harass and 'embarrass' the Kremlin leadership."

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov immediately denounced Biden's remarks, saying Moscow would take precautions to safeguard its interests in the face of the increasing "unpredictability and aggressiveness of the United States."

October 14, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:22 PM


The Strange Sympathy of the Far Left for Putin (GERSHOM GORENBERG, OCTOBER 14, 2016, American Prospect)

Jeremy Corbyn, the grim, controversial, and recently re-elected leader of Britain's Labour Party, rejects the idea of protesting outside Russia's embassy in London against that country's brutal bombing of Syria. "The focus on Russian atrocities or Syrian army atrocities," said a Corbyn aide this week, distracts attention from "very large scale civilian casualties as a result of the U.S.-led coalition bombing." [...]

Predictably, lots of people in the riven Labour Party are outraged by Corbyn's stance. It's only the latest instance of Corbyn's fossilized and one-dimensional anti-imperialism being an embarrassment for the left. In the United States, Putin's most prominent fan is the embarrassment of the right.

Posted by orrinj at 7:17 PM

60-40 NATION:

The most damaging number for Trump in the new Fox News poll (Marc A. Thiessen, October 14, 2016, AEIdeas)

Since the last Fox News poll Oct. 3-6, Trump is now:

Down 12 points among women ages 45 and over
Down 10 points among suburban women
Down seven points among white women with a college degree; and
Down six points with GOP women

But the really devastating number buried in the poll is this one:

Fox asked voters whether the two candidates were "very qualified," "somewhat qualified," "not very qualified" or "not at all" qualified to be president.

49% said Trump was "not at all" qualified to be president. In other words, half of all American voters believe Trump has no business being anywhere near the Oval Office. That is a devastating number.

Another 7% say he is "not very" qualified, so overall 56% of Americans believe he is not qualified to be president, compared to just 31% who say that about Clinton.

Posted by orrinj at 7:11 PM


If Donald Trump has accomplished anything, it is to exhaust our vocabulary of outrage. He's a bigoted, abusive, authoritarian, racist figure who lies so far outside the normal range that he has broken the scale, making any new reading impossible. Every terrible thing simply feels like more of the same.

But in the last couple of days, Trump has sunk to new depths. In a speech yesterday, he charged, "Hillary Clinton meets in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty in order to enrich these global financial powers, her special-interest friends and her donors" -- inflammatory anti-Semitic imagery reminiscent of Charles Coughlin. And then Friday, in possibly the most deranged misogynistic moment of the campaign, Trump insulted Hillary Clinton's appearance, telling his audience, "when she walked in front of me, believe me, I wasn't impressed."

Posted by orrinj at 7:01 PM


Even Republicans know the Bill Clinton attacks don't work : Trump is plotting new Bill attacks against Hillary. Years of poll and focus-group testing show he's wasting his time. (ANNIE KARNI 10/13/16, Politico)

In 2014, the right wing America Rising PAC hired Republican strategist Christine Matthews, a partner at Burning Glass Consulting, to conduct focus groups testing the Bill Clinton sex scandals, including Hillary Clinton's role in allegedly "enabling" her husband, or threatening the "other" women. The work was commissioned under the assumption that Clinton would be the Democratic nominee, and the PAC would have a ready-made opposition research file it would hand over to the Republican nominee.

The feedback: Try anything but.

"Anytime you got into the personal aspects of Hillary Clinton, it was very ineffective," said Matthews. "Women voters are of two minds about the Clinton marriage: On one level, they think she stayed with him for political reasons, which feeds the view that she's a politically calculating person. The other is, he did a lot of really bad things and she stuck through it and there's sympathy there."

But more to the point, Matthews said, female voters viewed attacks on Hillary Clinton's spouse as "inherently unfair. Ultimately, it came back down to this: Bill Clinton's not the one who's running."

When it came to criticizing Hillary Clinton as an enabler, Matthews said, the reaction was, "yeah, you're angry. It's a normal reaction. Any line of messaging on this generates sympathy for her, or voters said it was completely irrelevant."

The women in the America Rising focus group also identified areas they would consider off-limits in terms of Clinton attacks: "It was her age, her stamina, her health and her looks," Matthews recalled.

He's her dream opponent.

Posted by orrinj at 4:29 PM

...AND LOWER...:

As Donald Trump stood at a podium in North Carolina Friday afternoon and denied the allegations of multiple women who have accused him of making inappropriate and physically aggressive sexual advances on them, a former contestant on his hit reality television show, The Apprentice, went in front of cameras in California to describe in lurid detail another such alleged episode.

The latest accuser, Summer Zervos, appeared briefly on the television program in 2006, but made contact with Trump afterward in hopes of getting a job. On Friday, sitting next to attorney Gloria Allred, she tearfully described him as aggressively sexual and lewd during a meeting at a California hotel. [...]

"Some are doing it for probably a little fame. They get some free fame."

He also stepped up his odd choice of defense: implying that he doesn't find some of his accusers attractive and would therefore have been ... not interested in assaulting them?

He referred to one woman who says Trump groped her on a plane many years ago as "that horrible woman," and went on to demean her looks. "Believe me, she would not be my first choice."

He again seemed to suggest that People magazine writer Natasha Stoynoff, who wrote a first-person piece alleging that Trump assaulted her, is unattractive. "She is a liar," he said, denying that he had assaulted her. "Check out her Facebook page, you'll understand." On Thursday, Trump made similar comments, urging his followers to "look at her" and saying, "I don't think so."

Posted by orrinj at 4:09 PM


Kelly Ayotte Doesn't Seem Affected By Donald Trump, Polls Suggest (Kyle Plantz, Oct 14, 2016, NH Politics Journal)

Despite a rough week dealing with the top of her ticket, it looks like Sen. Kelly Ayotte is still in the race.

The latest New Hampshire polls show her statistically tied with Democratic challenge Gov. Maggie Hassan.

In a Friday morning poll from WBUR/MassInc, Ayotte and Hassan were tied at 47 percent each with 6 percent undecided. Another poll from UMass Lowell/7 News had Ayotte up by one point -- 45 to 44 percent, respectively, with 6 percent undecided.

NH is entirely winnable with a decent presidential candidate, unwinnable with Donald.
Posted by orrinj at 4:08 PM


Donald Trump Prepares New Attack on Media, Clinton (MONICA LANGLEY, Oct. 13, 2016, WSJ)

Donald Trump will broaden his attack against the media to hit globalism and the Clinton Foundation by charging that Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim is part of a biased coalition working in collusion with the Clinton campaign and its supporters to generate news reports of decades-old allegations from several women.

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 PM


Woman says Trump reached under her skirt and groped her in early 1990s (Karen Tumulty, October 1, 2016, Washington Post)

Kristin Anderson was deep in conversation with acquaintances at a crowded Manhattan nightspot and did not notice the figure to her right on a red velvet couch -- until, she recalls, his fingers slid under her miniskirt, moved up her inner thigh, and touched her vagina through her underwear.

Anderson shoved the hand away, fled the couch and turned to take her first good look at the man who had touched her, she said.

She recognized him as Donald Trump: "He was so distinctive looking -- with the hair and the eyebrows. I mean, nobody else has those eyebrows."

At the time of the incident, which Anderson said took place in the early 1990s, she was in her early twenties, trying to make it as a model. She was paying the bills by working as a makeup artist and restaurant hostess. Trump was a big celebrity whose face was all over the tabloids and a regular presence on the New York club scene.

Posted by orrinj at 3:57 PM


It turns out The Field Museum's T. rex Sue didn't use those tiny arms very much.

At least that's the initial conclusion from a detailed look at the fossil's right forelimb at the Argonne National Laboratory outside Chicago. Researchers there used a scan to generate a 3-D image of the arm bones down to the cellular level. [...]

Precisely why T. rex had forelimbs is one of the enduring mysteries of dinosaur paleontology.

Posted by orrinj at 3:48 PM


Clinton says US could 'ring China with missile defense' (NOMAAN MERCHANT, Oct. 14, 2016, AP)

"We're going to ring China with missile defense. We're going to put more of our fleet in the area," Clinton said in a 2013 speech. "So China, come on. You either control them or we're going to have to defend against them." [...]

Clinton also privately criticized China's position on another sensitive issue, the South China Sea. China claims almost the entirety of the strategically vital waterbody has lashed out at an international tribunal's rejection of its claims in a July ruling.

By China's logic, Clinton told a different audience in 2013, the U.S. after World War II could have labeled the Pacific Ocean the "American Sea."

"My counterpart sat up very straight and goes, 'Well, you can't do that,'" she said. "And I said, 'Well, we have as much right to claim that as you do. I mean, you claim (the South China Sea) based on pottery shards from, you know, some fishing vessel that ran aground in an atoll somewhere."

In another remark revealed in the Wikileaks hack, Clinton called Xi "a more sophisticated, more effective public leader" than his predecessor, Hu Jintao. She noted Xi's plans for economic and social reforms, but blamed what she called "a resurgence of nationalism" on the Chinese government.

...the inside information that reveals her to be a conservative disguised as a Democrat or the pretense that the leaks are a Russian ploy to help their pet, Donald.

Posted by orrinj at 3:43 PM


San Marzano tomatoes are often celebrated as the best canned tomatoes money can buy, but they can be a little pricey. According to Epicurious however, the best tasting canned tomato isn't a San Marzano, and it's a bit cheaper.

In a blind taste test of five different canned tomatoes, the US-grown Red Pack Whole Peeled Plum Tomatoes beat out San Marzanos in terms of flavor (and price!)

Posted by orrinj at 3:37 PM

...AND LOWER...:

Donald Trump Called Deaf Apprentice Marlee Matlin 'Retarded,' Three Staffers Say (GIDEON RESNICK & ASAWIN SUEBSAENG, 10.13.16, Daily Beast)

Just in case you thought Donald Trump was insufficiently awful: He repeatedly called a deaf actress "retarded," three sources tell The Daily Beast.

Trump, who was accused on Wednesday of making sexual comments to Marlee Matlin, an Oscar-winning actress who once competed on Trump's Celebrity Apprentice, also apparently had a habit of insulting, mimicking, and demeaning as mentally handicapped his star female contestant--all because she was deaf.

Posted by orrinj at 1:20 PM

...AND LOWER...:

Republican nominee Donald Trump claims he gave generously to help his city in the dark days after the deadly terrorist attacks. But new records show a pledged promise to donate $10,000 to a major 9/11 charity must have somehow slipped his mind.

City Controller Scott Stringer conducted a review of hundreds of pages of previously sealed records of the two main 9/11 charities at the request of the Daily News, and found that Trump and his charity hadn't donated a dime in the months after 9/11.

"For the periods covered by the audits, we did not find any record of a donation from Trump himself or a Trump entity to either the Twin Towers Fund or the New York City Public/Private Initiatives Inc.," Stringer's office said in a statement to the Daily News in response to a Freedom of Information Law request.

Posted by orrinj at 1:15 PM


Trump delivered a speech Thursday in West Palm Beach, Florida, that sounded some familiar themes - familiar to his campaign, but also to folks versed in anti-Semitism and in classic conspiracy theories of global control that is its lifeblood.

The Republican presidential candidate never mentioned Jews in his prepared text, which he read from teleprompters with some extemporization. But in declaring that his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, is somehow an instrument of a vast conspiracy involving scads of money and "international banks," he entered what many saw as a territory, real and ideological, where hostility to Jews perpetuates and thrives even in their absence.

"Hillary Clinton meets in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty in order to enrich these global financial powers, her special interest friends and her donors," Trump said.

That quote evidently was key: Trump's campaign team, @TeamTrump, tweeted it out.

Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, noticed.

"@TeamTrump should avoid rhetoric and tropes that historically have been used against Jews and still spur #antisemitism," Greenblatt said. "Let's keep hate out of campaign."

Trump did not seem amenable to that kind of advice. If not hate, precisely, he was ready to indulge a willingness to blame a mysterious cabal.

Posted by orrinj at 1:07 PM


Cut Ties to Donald Trump, Big Donors Urge R.N.C. (JONATHAN MARTIN, ALEXANDER BURNS and MAGGIE HABERMAN, OCT. 13, 2016, NY Times)

"At some point, you have to look in the mirror and recognize that you cannot possibly justify support for Trump to your children -- especially your daughters," said David Humphreys, a Missouri business executive who contributed more than $2.5 million to Republicans from the 2012 campaign cycle through this spring.

Bruce Kovner, a New York investor and philanthropist who with his wife has given $2.7 million to Republicans over the same period, was just as blunt. "He is a dangerous demagogue completely unsuited to the responsibilities of a United States president," Mr. Kovner wrote in an email, referring to Mr. Trump.

"Even for loyalists, there is a line beyond which the obvious moral failings of a candidate are impossible to disregard," he wrote. "That line has been clearly breached."

Mr. Kovner argued that the Republican National Committee should shift its attention to candidates who reflected its core values, like free markets and limited government. "I hope the R.N.C. sticks to candidates who articulate these principles!" he said.

Posted by orrinj at 5:20 AM

Nationalism Into the Abyss (JOSH MARSHALL, OCTOBER 13, 2016, TPM)

Is it desperation? The themes and instincts of the anti-Semitic radicals and extremists his campaign stews in? A "global conspiracy" of the political elites, international finance and the media who have "robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth and put the money in the pockets of a handful of large corporations and political entities."

Whatever Trump is thinking or means, the white nationalists and neo-Nazis he's activated will hear his speech with glee because he's channeling text book anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, with all the code words and emotional tenor. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:52 AM

90-10 NATION:

Where Americans find common ground on climate issues : Americans' views on climate change diverge sharply depending on their political affiliations, says a new Pew Research poll. But two areas of consensus are emerging. (Ellen Powell, OCTOBER 4, 2016, CS Monitor)

A future-looking value judgment may be informing the emerging consensus around support for renewable energy sources. Some 89 percent of Pew respondents were in favor of more solar farms, while wind turbine farms were viewed favorably by 83 percent. Among traditional energy sources, the highest support went to "More offshore drilling," at 45 percent.

The poll found that support for renewable energy sources was attributable to three broad sets of motivations: financial, health-related, and environmental. This broad base of motivations, rather than a narrow appeal to personal guilt, may help to increase engagement across the political spectrum. A 2015 study across 24 countries found that these so-called "co-benefits" to environmental action motivated people regardless of whether they believed in man-made climate change.

"It's much easier to address the things that many people already care about and link these things to environmental action, like creating jobs and the state of their local community, rather than trying to change their stance on particular environmental issues," explained co-author Gró Einarsdóttir, a PhD student from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, to Science Nordic.

Increasing private money in clean energy technologies may be a particular spur to this consensus. The investments of individuals such as Elon Musk and Bill Gates suggest that the industry is not only economically viable, but may have huge potential for growth. 

October 13, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 8:26 PM

Posted by orrinj at 8:16 PM


Fed Official: Immigrants 'Missing Ingredient' to Growth : A senior official at the Fed indicated Thursday that immigrants could help jump-start the U.S. economy. (Andrew Soergel, Oct. 13, 2016, US News)

Though the Census Bureau estimates America holds more than 324 million citizens and is among the most populous countries in the world, one of the biggest problems with the U.S. economy is simply a lack of workers.

That's according to Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank President Patrick Harker, who in a speech Thursday bemoaned the country's lackluster labor force participation - which measures the percentage of working-age Americans who are either employed or actively looking for work.

Americans' participation in the workforce has fallen demonstrably since the late 1990s. And with more people sitting on the sidelines, productivity metrics - and, ultimately, economic growth - suffer. Harker said in his speech before the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia that skilled workers, in particular, could serve as the "missing ingredient" that would turn sluggish economic growth around.

But how does the country go about drumming up more capable employees? One of the most promising options, according to Harker, would be an uptick in high-skill immigration.

"The bottom line is that a larger and more highly skilled labor force fuels economic growth, something we will need to meet the demands of demography," Harker said, suggesting that immigration "is a source of immense potential for economic growth."

The one problem that's coming is we have a serious shortage of housing stock for the newly legalized to buy.  We'll need a lot more immigrants to build it.

Posted by orrinj at 7:25 PM


Late owner Joey Vento said at the time he posted it because of concerns over immigration reform and the increasing number of people who couldn't order in English.

He died in 2011. His son, Geno Vento, took over the business.

The cheesesteak stand on Thursday said Geno Vento has "decided to move on from the sign."

The shop says in a statement, "It's not about a sign. It's about what you do and what your mark in life is, and Geno wants to change that mark in life."

Joey Vento, colorful purveyor of Philly cheesesteaks, dies at 71 (Emily Langer, August 24, 2011 , Washington Post)

Mr. Vento briefly served in the Army in the 1950s. He got a hardship discharge when his father was convicted of hiring a hit man to kill someone who, in turn, had failed to carry out another murder. Mr. Vento's brother also had a criminal record.

Posted by orrinj at 7:13 PM


Between US and Saudi Arabia, a growing clash of values : US claims that Saudi Arabia is not doing enough to combat terror have left the kingdom exasperated - and seeking new allies. (Taylor Luck, Correspondent OCTOBER 13, 2016, CS Monitor)

When the United States Congress voted to override a presidential veto and clear the way for US citizens to sue foreign states for supporting terrorism, it highlighted a major weakness in US-Saudi relations: two allies shifting in opposite directions.

The passage of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), as well as mounting concerns over Saudi Arabia's increased targeting of civilians in Yemen, portray Washington and Riyadh as allies of convenience whose fundamental values clash.

Many members of Congress and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton are increasingly accusing Saudi Arabia of being an incubator for terror and a human-rights violator. Indeed, Saudi Arabia faces an image problem. Though it has been attacked by the Islamic State six times in the past year and a half, Saudi Arabia's links to hard-line Wahhabi Islam and prominent citizens' support for groups such as Al Qaeda make it a target.

They should be even more worried than Putin obviously is about a Clinton presidency.
Posted by orrinj at 5:29 PM


How Hillary Clinton Could End Washington's Gridlock (Josh Kraushaar, 10/11/16, National Journal)

Giv­en her prag­mat­ic in­stincts and pro­duct­ive work­ing re­la­tion­ships with many top Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans, Clin­ton would have a rare op­por­tun­ity to gov­ern from the cen­ter fol­low­ing a gen­er­al-elec­tion cam­paign in which she's been reach­ing out to mod­er­ate Re­pub­lic­ans. Un­like Pres­id­ent Obama, who in­her­ited a Sen­ate su­per­ma­jor­ity in 2009 and faced a once-in-a-life­time win­dow to pass through a wave of lib­er­al le­gis­la­tion, Clin­ton would need to build up her polit­ic­al cap­it­al and work with an op­pos­i­tion party that would be try­ing to pick up the pieces in the af­ter­math of Don­ald Trump.

Just con­sider: For the first time since 2008, an in­sur­gent wave of primar­ies against mod­er­ate mem­bers of Con­gress nev­er tran­spired. Clin­ton has warm re­la­tion­ships with many Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans, and has pledged to im­prove re­la­tion­ships with Con­gress on the cam­paign trail. To main­tain power, Clin­ton would need to cater to the in­terests of her party's most con­ser­vat­ive mem­bers in Con­gress. Re­pub­lic­ans and Demo­crats even demon­strated a rare bit of bi­par­tis­an­ship to pass a short-term spend­ing bill cov­er­ing fund­ing for the Zika vir­us and the Flint wa­ter crisis, avert­ing a gov­ern­ment shut­down.

Just as the entire point of the Obama Presidency was winning the office in and of itself, Hillary doesn't really have much of an agenda.  What she does have the GOP is perfectly amenable to : finishing the lingering free trade agreements, passing some kind of infrastructure bill and moving on to the anti-Sa'ud phase of the WoT.  Heck, they may even have confirmed the UR's Supreme Court pick before she gets there out of fear she'd choose him instead.

Posted by orrinj at 5:24 PM


[I]n trying to justify or wave away the reports, many of Trump's defenders only seem to be making it worse.

Trump's top supporters, many of them middle-aged or older men, have tried to explain away Trump's behavior in terms that range from puzzling to offensive -- angering people in both parties and complicating the Republican nominee's attempts to move past the controversies.

Trump and his surrogates have brushed off his crude remarks about sexual assault on the 2005 videotape as "locker room" banter, infuriating many who say it is not how most men actually speak to one another. Some, including former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, have described Trump's comments on the video as typical male behavior in general.

Others are also attempting to discredit the women accusing Trump of assault.

At some point don't you just have to accept that they don't think the behavior is wrong?
Posted by orrinj at 5:15 PM


Capitalism Behaving Badly : It's time to rethink the role that government plays in shaping and supporting policies to solve big problems like climate change and income inequality. (David Rotman  October 12, 2016, MIT Technology Review)

In particular, Mazzucato, who also co-edited the book and co-wrote an introduction with Michael Jacobs, wants to counter the view that free markets inevitably lead to desirable outcomes and that freer markets are always better: the faith that "the 'invisible hand' of the market knows best." In fact, she argues, we should admit that markets are created and shaped by government policies, including government support of innovation.

There is nothing too contentious in that statement, but she extends the argument in a way that is controversial. Not only is it the responsibility of governments to facilitate innovation, which she calls "the driving force behind economic growth and development," but the state should also set its direction; the trajectory of innovation needs to be guided by policies to solve specific problems, whether the aim is increasing productivity or creating a green-energy transition. Mazzucato writes that innovation needs both "well-funded public research and development institutions and strong industrial policies."

Industrial policies--or what ­Mazzucato sometimes calls mission-­oriented public policies--have a long and divisive history. Economists define industrial policy in a very specific way: it's when governments set out to play a deliberate role in directing innovation and growth to achieve a desired objective. Her call for the revival of such policies counters the idea that has held sway for decades among many politicians, particularly in the United States and the U.K., that government is better off not trying to assert a role in steering innovation. She writes that governments should not only try to "level the playing field, as orthodox view would allow." Rather, "they can help tilt the playing field towards the achievement of publicly chosen goals."
For them to do so, ­Mazzucato said in a recent interview, "the whole framework needs to change." The belief that the government should only intervene to "fix" the market in extreme circumstances, rather than acting as a partner in creating and shaping markets, means we're constantly putting "bandages" on problems and "nothing changes." The intractability of today's slow growth and widening inequality can be traced, she says, to the fact that governments in the U.S. and Europe have increasingly shied away from their responsibilities. "We have to admit that policy steers innovation and growth, and so the question is where do we want to steer them?" [...]

The debate over industrial policies played out in the United States and the U.K. in the early 1980s as President Reagan and Prime Minister Thatcher preached the power of free markets and the dangers of government meddling. And for at least the next few decades, the free-market rhetoric clearly won out, as popular wisdom held that such interventions are tantamount to governments picking winners and losers. 

Even advocates of industrial policies acknowledge that they have had a checkered history. In "Green Industrial Policy," Dani Rodrik, an economist at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, argues that such a strategy is needed to make the sweeping changes required to slow climate change. But he notes that executing industrial policies fairly has been a challenge. While such policies have "undoubtedly worked" in Japan, South Korea, China, and other countries, Rodrik writes, they have a reputation for being gamed in many countries by both businesses and political leaders. And industrial policies to support desirable sectors have given birth to such white elephants as the Concorde, a plane meant to bolster the aerospace industry in the U.K. and France.

Because of this history, he writes, "economists traditionally exhibit scepticism--if not outright hostility--towards industrial policies." But despite the challenge of making them work, he argues, industrial policies "have an indispensable role in putting the global economy on a green growth path," because markets have failed to properly account for the social cost of carbon dioxide emissions and the true technological benefits of risky energy R&D.

Rodrik said in an interview that while "unfortunately" we're stuck with the label "industrial policy," today's versions are very different from ones conceived decades ago. Rather than singling out a specific sector--say, aerospace or steel manufacturing--for support with large investments and tax incentives, new thinking suggests working across sectors to achieve a desired goal such as addressing climate change, using tools such as carbon pricing. "It's really just pushing markets in a direction they wouldn't otherwise go," he says. "The idea is to get government working closely with businesses to achieve more rapid and appropriate growth." 

The entire point of innovation and markets is that we don't really know which way to steer until we generate and try a lot of options.  What government policy can do effectively is determine what we want to steer away from, thereby forcing the innovation to occur more quickly and making it more lucrative immediately.  Rather than picking solar, hydrogen, fusion, wind, etc.; government can encourage entrepeneurs to try them all out by making oil prohibitively expensive.

Posted by orrinj at 4:47 PM


Trump Supporters Have No One to Blame Now but Themselves (DAVID FRENCH October 13, 2016, National Review)

Trump supporters are now reduced to stamping their feet about the timing. "Why are we hearing about this only now? The media's out to get Trump!" Well, so what. Is anyone shocked that a man who bragged so openly about his sexual sins, who lies habitually, and who so obviously enjoys asserting dominance over people with less power would have such skeletons in his closet?

No, if you're a Trump fan, this one's on you. Your eyes were open: You were warned, and you took the plunge anyway. Now you've become, as Erick Erickson noted yesterday, the very thing that you were claiming just days ago to hate, the kind of person who excuses multiple accusations of sexual abuse, some of them decades old, in the pursuit of political power. 

You should be furious at two people today: Donald Trump and yourself. Trump had the audacity, in the days after the tapes leaked, not only to publicly ally himself with Bill Clinton's accusers but also to unequivocally deny doing the things he boasted about doing. Is it any wonder that a woman would come forward now? He threw down the gauntlet. 

It's time for some soul-searching. It's not like you supported a pastor who claimed to be holy and fooled everyone. It's not like you supported a "family values" politician who lived a double life. You supported a man who has loudly and proudly defied Christian morality his entire life. If you're surprised, you have only yourself to blame.

Posted by orrinj at 3:18 PM


TRUMP: The establishment has trillions of dollars at stake in this election. As an example, just one single trade deal they'd like to pass involves trillions of dollars controlled by many countries, corporations, and lobbyists.

For those who control the levers of power in Washington and for the global special interests, they partner with these people that don't have your good in mind. Our campaign represents a true existential threat, like they haven't seen before. This is not simply another four-year election. This is a crossroads in the history of our civilization that will determine whether or not we, the people, reclaim control over our government. The political establishment that is trying to stop us is the same group responsible for our disastrous trade deals, massive illegal immigration, and economic and foreign policies that have bled our country -- has brought about the destruction of our factories, China and other countries all around the world.

Our just-announced job numbers are anemic. Our gross domestic product, or GDP, is barely above 1 percent and going down. Workers in the United States are making less than they were almost 20 years ago, and yet they are working harder, but so am I, working harder. That I can tell you. It's a global power structure that is responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth, and put that money into the pockets of a handful of large corporations and political entities.

Just look at what this corrupt establishment has done to cities like Detroit, Flint, Michigan, and rural towns in Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Carolina, and all across our country. Take a look at what's going on. They've stripped away these towns bare and raided the wealth for themselves and taken our jobs away, out of our country, never to return unless I'm elected president. The Clinton machine is at the center of this power structure.

We've seen this firsthand in the WikiLeaks documents in which Hillary Clinton meets in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of US sovereignty in order to enrich these global financial powers, her special interest friends, and her donors."

It was only a matter of time before he went full on Protocols of the Elders of Zion. 

But...he's not Hillary...so far too many of our friends will be unbothered even by openly anti-Semitic tropes.

Posted by orrinj at 3:07 PM


Let's not exalt the folly of 1812 (JEFFREY SIMPSON, 10/11/11, The Globe and Mail)

In the annals of war, the 1812-1814 conflict was among the dumbest ever fought. It featured largely bad military leadership, vague objectives, scattered and messy battles and, critically, sizable elements on both sides of the Canadian-U.S. border that wanted the other side to win.

In the cardboard version of history taught in Canada (and the U.S.), the war was good guys against bad guys: the noble (or ignoble) British against the freedom-loving (or aggressor) Americans. We have Isaac Brock (the only competent general on either side during the entire war) and Laura Secord; the Americans have Commodore Oliver Perry and General Andrew Jackson.

In the U.S., Republicans were eager for war against Britain, whose government had authorized the boarding of American ships seeking British nationals to be returned to the British navy. Such an affront against the sovereignty of the new U.S. republic required a response: the taking of the British colonies in Canada. U.S. Federalists disagreed mightily. Britain was fighting the greater enemy, Napoleonic France. A war with Britain was against the wrong enemy, in the wrong place, for the wrong reasons.

Thousands of Americans had emigrated to what's now Canada to take advantage of the offer of free land. Although they were forced to swear allegiance to the British Crown, many of them sympathized with the republican ideals of their native country. They would have been happy if the Americans had won the war.

It was, therefore, a messy war with sharp divisions within each country that dragged native peoples into the conflict, so that they, too, were fighting among themselves. As usual, they got nothing from war, except death and broken promises.

You only have to look at how long it took for us to accept we were allies to understand why folks resist the Iran/US alliance.

Posted by orrinj at 2:51 PM


Speak Truth to Trump : Evangelicals, of all people, should not be silent about Donald Trump's blatant immorality. (Andy Crouch, OCTOBER 10, 2016, Christianity Today)

This year's presidential election in the United States presents Christian voters with an especially difficult choice.

The Democratic nominee has pursued unaccountable power through secrecy--most evidently in the form of an email server designed to shield her communications while in public service, but also in lavishly compensated speeches, whose transcripts she refuses to release, to some of the most powerful representatives of the world system. She exemplifies the path to power preferred by the global technocratic elite--rooted in a rigorous control of one's image and calculated disregard for norms that restrain less powerful actors. Such concentration of power, which is meant to shield the powerful from the vulnerability of accountability, actually creates far greater vulnerabilities, putting both the leader and the community in greater danger.

But because several of the Democratic candidate's policy positions are so manifestly incompatible with Christian reverence for the lives of the most vulnerable, and because her party is so demonstrably hostile to expressions of traditional Christian faith, there is plenty of critique and criticism of the Democratic candidate from Christians, including evangelical Christians.

But not all evangelical Christians--in fact, alas, most evangelical Christians, judging by the polls--have shown the same critical judgment when it comes to the Republican nominee. True, when given a choice, primary voters who claimed evangelical faith largely chose other candidates. But since his nomination, Donald Trump has been able to count on "the evangelicals" (in his words) for a great deal of support.

The revelations of the past week of his vile and crude boasting about sexual conquest--indeed, sexual assault--might have been shocking, but they should have surprised no one.
This past week, the latest (though surely not last) revelations from Trump's past have caused many evangelical leaders to reconsider. This is heartening, but it comes awfully late. What Trump is, everyone has known and has been able to see for decades, let alone the last few months. The revelations of the past week of his vile and crude boasting about sexual conquest--indeed, sexual assault--might have been shocking, but they should have surprised no one.

Indeed, there is hardly any public person in America today who has more exemplified the "earthly nature" ("flesh" in the King James and the literal Greek) that Paul urges the Colossians to shed: "sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed, which is idolatry" (3:5). This is an incredibly apt summary of Trump's life to date. Idolatry, greed, and sexual immorality are intertwined in individual lives and whole societies. Sexuality is designed to be properly ordered within marriage, a relationship marked by covenant faithfulness and profound self-giving and sacrifice. To indulge in sexual immorality is to make oneself and one's desires an idol. That Trump has been, his whole adult life, an idolater of this sort, and a singularly unrepentant one, should have been clear to everyone.

And therefore it is completely consistent that Trump is an idolater in many other ways. He has given no evidence of humility or dependence on others, let alone on God his Maker and Judge. He wantonly celebrates strongmen and takes every opportunity to humiliate and demean the vulnerable. He shows no curiosity or capacity to learn. He is, in short, the very embodiment of what the Bible calls a fool. [...]

Enthusiasm for a candidate like Trump gives our neighbors ample reason to doubt that we believe Jesus is Lord. They see that some of us are so self-interested, and so self-protective, that we will ally ourselves with someone who violates all that is sacred to us--in hope, almost certainly a vain hope given his mendacity and record of betrayal, that his rule will save us.

Posted by orrinj at 2:36 PM


[T]he vast majority of Christian-right leaders who have (like their flocks, according to the polls), with varying degrees of enthusiasm, made their peace with Trump are in something of a defensive crouch. And the most prominent among them, Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr., is facing a revolt from a sizable number of people at his own school.

A group calling itself Liberty United Against Trump has released a statement (signed by 250 Liberty students, faculty, and alumni) excoriating its president for associating the school with "one of the worst presidential candidates in American history." Deploying the biblical parable of the beam and the mote, the group suggested that conservative Evangelicals like Falwell who justified support for Trump by pointing to Hillary Clinton's flaws or ideological positions were betraying their primary responsibility to steer clear of a politician "who is actively promoting the very things that we as Christians ought to oppose."

Posted by orrinj at 2:33 PM


The French are more gloomy about the future of their country than anyone else in the world, a new study has found.

A new study from Ipsos has revealed that the French are the most likely to think their country is heading down the wrong path.

Posted by orrinj at 2:28 PM


 In the midst of a nine-point overview of U.S. strategy in the Middle East, Clinton wrote:

"... we need to use our diplomatic and more traditional intelligence assets to bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups in the region."

Posted by orrinj at 2:21 PM


U.S. jobless claims at 43-year low (Lucia Mutikani, 10/13/16, Reuters)

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits were unchanged at a seasonally adjusted 246,000 for the week ended Oct. 8, the lowest reading since November 1973, the Labor Department said.

Claims for the prior week were revised to show 3,000 fewer applications received than previously reported.

It was the 84th consecutive week that claims remained below the 300,000 threshold, which is associated with robust labor market conditions.

That is the longest stretch since 1970, when the labor market was much smaller.

October 12, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:46 PM


5 women level sexual assault allegations against Trump (TIMES OF ISRAEL, October 13, 2016)

Accounts by four women were reported by The New York Times, The Palm Beach Post and Yahoo News. They came to light as Trump has been trying to set his campaign back on track after a "hot mic" recording from 2005 surfaced last Friday, in which he is heard making lewd boasts about how his celebrity meant he could grope women with impunity. [...]

Former businesswoman Jessica Leeds, 74, who worked for a paper company at the time, told The New York Times that Trump groped her on a flight in the early 1980s as they sat next to each other in first class.

About 45 minutes after takeoff, Trump lifted the armrest, began grabbing her breasts and tried to put his hand up her skirt, Leeds said.

"He was like an octopus," she told the daily. "His hands were everywhere."

"It was an assault," she added.

[A]round the time Trump had his now infamous conversation with Billy Bush, I traveled to Mar-a-Lago to interview the couple for a first-wedding-anniversary feature story.

Our photo team shot the Trumps on the lush grounds of their Florida estate, and I interviewed them about how happy their first year of marriage had been. When we took a break for the then-very-pregnant Melania to go upstairs and change wardrobe for more photos, Donald wanted to show me around the mansion. There was one "tremendous" room in particular, he said, that I just had to see.

"I just start kissing them," he said to Bush. "It's like a magnet. Just kiss. I don't even wait. And when you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything."

We walked into that room alone, and Trump shut the door behind us. I turned around, and within seconds he was pushing me against the wall and forcing his tongue down my throat.

Now, I'm a tall, strapping girl who grew up wrestling two giant brothers. I even once sparred with Mike Tyson. It takes a lot to push me. But Trump is much bigger -- a looming figure -- and he was fast, taking me by surprise and throwing me off balance. I was stunned. And I was grateful when Trump's longtime butler burst into the room a minute later, as I tried to unpin myself.

The butler informed us that Melania would be down momentarily, and it was time to resume the interview.

I was still in shock and remained speechless as we both followed him to an outdoor patio overlooking the grounds. In those few minutes alone with Trump, my self-esteem crashed to zero. How could the actions of one man make me feel so utterly violated? I'd been interviewing A-list celebrities for over 20 years, but what he'd done was a first. Did he think I'd be flattered?

I tried to act normal. I had a job to do, and I was determined to do it. I sat in a chair that faced Trump, who waited for his wife on a loveseat. The butler left us, and I fumbled with my tape recorder. Trump smiled and leaned forward.

"You know we're going to have an affair, don't you?" he declared, in the same confident tone he uses when he says he's going to make America great again. "Have you ever been to Peter Luger's for steaks? I'll take you. We're going to have an affair, I'm telling you." 

Posted by orrinj at 7:36 PM


Five reasons Rouhani will be president for another term (Ali Omidi, October 11, 2016, Al Monitor)

[T]he incumbent is likely to secure a second term in office for five main reasons.

First, the Principlists lack a charismatic face. The reality is that if Ahmadinejad had competed in the May 2017 election, the poll would have become rather exciting while at the same time extremely polarizing. His candidacy would have overshadowed that of any other Principlist candidate. As such, the Principlist movement has effectively lost its ace. At present, there is simply no figure in the Principlist camp that can be compared to Ahmadinejad in terms of charisma. That is one reason why prominent Tehran University professor Sadegh Zibakalam has stated that under the current conditions, "Even with his hands and feet tied, Rouhani will win votes in the May 2017 elections."

Second, while the Rouhani administration's economic performance has not been eye-catching, it has managed to save the country from economic collapse. Indeed, Rouhani has played the role of a physician who is unable to heal a patient but able to prevent the patient's condition from getting worse. The Islamic Parliament Research Center has estimated economic growth of 6.6% in the current Iranian calendar year (ending March 20, 2017), driven by the rebounding oil sector. This is while the economy retracted by 6.8% in the Iranian year 1391 (which began on March 20, 2012) and has gradually returned to growth in the three years since. Though Iran's economic growth is mainly influenced by exogenous factors, to the Iranian public, this rebound is seen as a positive score in the Rouhani administration's report card.

Third, the supreme leader is not opposed to Rouhani's re-election. [...]

The last and most important factor is the consensus among Reformists on Rouhani. The Reformist camp neither can nor wants to sideline the incumbent president. In their view, Rouhani's performance has been acceptable, while the political and economic shortcomings of his administration are due to factors outside the government's control. As such, the Reformists believe that they should stand behind the Rouhani administration with all their might in order to advance their own agenda under his cover. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:27 PM


Nathan Law, 23, is the Legco's youngest lawmaker and a former pro-democracy protest leader. He invoked Mahatma Gandhi, India's pro-democracy icon, during an impassioned speech before taking the oath.

"You can chain me, you can torture me, you can even destroy this body - but you can never imprison my mind," Law said, quoting Gandhi.

Every time he referred to China in the oath, he changed his tone to turn it into a question.

Law, who is demanding for self-determination for Hong Kong, was one of the main leaders of the 2014 protests calling for democratic reform.

Other pro-independence lawmakers, Baggio Leung and Yau Wai-ching, added their own words before the oath, pledging to serve the "Hong Kong nation."

Both displayed flags emblazoned with the words: "Hong Kong is not China." Leung took the full oath in English but deliberately mispronounced "China," calling it "Cheena."

Posted by orrinj at 7:11 PM


"I notice, anytime anything wrong happens, they like to say the Russians are -- she doesn't know if it's the Russians doing the hacking. Maybe there is no hacking," Trump said. "But they always blame Russia. And the reason they blame Russia is because they think they're trying to tarnish me with Russia. I know nothing about Russia. I know -- I know about Russia, but I know nothing about the inner workings of Russia."

It's unclear if Trump was suggesting that the emails were fake, or that the hack was an inside job. (U.S. intelligence officials say Russia is behind the hack, and Trump has been briefed on that point.) Regardless, just a day after questioning the legitimacy of the Democratic emails released by WikiLeaks, Trump was reading one of them at a rally in Pennsylvania.

To be fair, few right-wingers could resist this particular email, in which longtime Clinton confidante Sidney Blumenthal told John Podesta, her campaign chair, that the attack in Benghazi was "almost certainly preventable."

But Trump should have gone with his gut instinct, because it turns out the email was a complete fabrication put forth by Sputnik.

Posted by orrinj at 6:44 PM


Two Chinas: The Nomenklatura and the Rest : China's elites are unable to reckon with the concerns of ordinary Chinese, much like the Soviet nomenklatura. (Francis P. Sempa, October 10, 2016, The Diplomat)

The current issue of The New Criterion contains a "Letter from Beijing" by Arthur Waldron, the Lauder Professor of International Relations at the University of Pennsylvania and one of America's foremost experts on China. Last winter, Waldron attended the funeral of a renowned Chinese soloist, and afterward talked to someone he identifies only as "a brain-truster for the [Chinese] central government," a man who "worked at the center" of China's power structure, who "was on a first-name basis with scores of the highest officials," who "read the secrets every day." This Chinese insider bluntly stated to Waldron that China's political system does not work. "If we place our foot incorrectly," the insider warned,  "we could begin a disaster, violence and civil war."

This is not the rosy picture of a rising China that normally fills the airwaves and popular media throughout much of Asia and the world. "China viewed from the inside is very different than China viewed from the outside," the man told Waldron.

Waldron relates that he soon observed the phenomenon noted by the insider. He and his Chinese friends stood in line behind about a dozen people he describes as "motionless . . . drab, glum, calm, resigned," who were waiting "for their morning meal of scalding hot cabbage and mystery meat" from a small kitchen located on a "rundown square." When one of Waldron's colleagues left the line for a moment then returned, a woman standing in line began yelling obscenities which triggered others in the line to do likewise, then the "whole previously passive line exploded," shouting, cursing, and striking each other. After about a minute it was over.

Waldron's Chinese friends immediately assured him that he had finally seen "what China is really all about." This, they told him, was "the real China." 

Posted by orrinj at 6:33 PM


In City Built by Immigrants, Immigration Is the Defining Political Issue (BINYAMIN APPELBAUM, OCT. 12, 2016, The New York Times

HAZLETON, Pa. -- Thousands of Dominicans have poured into this little city in eastern Pennsylvania since 2001 to work in the food plants and warehouses on the edge of town, where the highway to New York meets the highway to Philadelphia.

Hazleton's population is growing for the first time in more than half a century. Landlords, doctors and shopkeepers are learning to love their new customers.

But the city's economic evolution has left behind its previous, non-Hispanic working class, and the presidential election has crystallized its frustrations. Many of those losing ground economically, including lifelong Democrats, say they plan to vote for Donald J. Trump, the Republican nominee. Many of those who are prospering, including lifelong Republicans, say they will vote for the Democrat, Hillary Clinton.

For both sides, how to deal with immigration has become a defining political issue, one that is likely to transcend the contretemps over Mr. Trump's treatment of women that has cost him so much support among elected Republicans. This city was built by European immigrants who flocked here a century ago to work in the coal mines. Their children found better jobs in the factories. Now their grandchildren are struggling against economic decline and cultural displacement.

"I don't care for this town no more because of the Hispanics," said Lewis Beishline, 70, as he sat drinking at 11 a.m. on a Friday at Cusat's Cafe, a bar owned by the mayor of Hazleton, who lives upstairs. Mr. Beishline, a retired welder, said he moved from Hazleton to a nearby town last year because he no longer felt safe.

He plans to vote for Mr. Trump, he said, "because of the immigration."

This election offers the perfect test of the Right's demand that the GOP engage in anti-immigrant politics.
Posted by orrinj at 6:26 PM


Enshrined in the Bill of Rights, free expression is a bedrock American principle, and Americans tend to express stronger support for free expression than many others around the world. A 38-nation Pew Research Center survey conducted in 2015 found that Americans were among the most supportive of free speech, freedom of the press and the right to use the internet without government censorship.

Moreover, Americans are much more tolerant of offensive speech than people in other nations. For instance, 77% in the U.S. support the right of others to make statements that are offensive to their own religious beliefs, the highest percentage among the nations in the study. Fully 67% think people should be allowed to make public statements that are offensive to minority groups, again the highest percentage in the poll. And the U.S. was one of only three nations where at least half endorse the right to sexually explicit speech. Americans don't necessarily like offensive speech more than others, but they are much less inclined to outlaw it.

...not the government.
Posted by orrinj at 6:21 PM


Hillary Clinton, who has been dealing with regular interruptions at her rallies by Donald Trump supporters, approached one heckler Wednesday with mock sympathy.

"You do have to feel a little sorry for them. They've had a really bad couple of weeks," she said before a crowd of more than 2,000 in Pueblo, Colo.

Posted by orrinj at 6:16 PM


Love it or hate it, Obamacare has expanded coverage for millions (Jim Marton & Charles Courtemanche, 10/11/16, The Conversation)

One aim of the law was to expand coverage to the very poor. That was to be done by expanding Medicaid, a joint federal-state insurance program for the poor and disabled. Medicaid is generally funded by the federal government with matching grants to the states, which administer the plan.

Under the ACA, the federal government offered money to states to expand Medicaid to those at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty line. The expansion became politicized, however, and many states chose to forgo the federal money and not expand. As of today, 19 states have not expanded Medicaid. As a result, about three million poor people  across the country did not gain the coverage that the law originally intended.

Even so, several studies have since documented large gains in insurance coverage between 2013 and 2014 for other groups of uninsured people. One natural question is: How much of these gains in coverage came from the ACA? Could the higher number of insured people have come from other factors, notably a better economy?

In a recently released National Bureau of Economic Research working paper, we use data from the American Community Survey (ACS) to answer this question. We find that the ACA led to a 5.9 percentage point gain in insurance coverage in Medicaid expansion states and a 3.0 percentage point gain in coverage in nonexpansion states.

Posted by orrinj at 6:12 PM


The Daily Vertical: Putin's Khrushchev Fears (Brian Whitmore, 10/12/16, Radio Liberty)

Putin is determined not to become Khrushchev.

And to prevent this, he needs to keep the elite off balance with constant purges, reshuffles, and carefully targeted prosecutions.

And as a result, he's quickly becoming a caricature of the lonely and isolated autocrat.

Posted by orrinj at 6:05 PM


Even More Evidence That Mammograms Have Been Oversold (Christie Aschwanden, 10/12/16, 538)

The results were sobering, as H. Gilbert Welch, a physician at Dartmouth and the study's lead author, explains in this short video. The idea behind cancer screening is that it saves lives by identifying cancers when they are more treatable -- i.e., earlier, when they are smaller. If it works, then we should see a rise in the number of small tumors being detected and a commensurate drop in the number of large cancers, as treating the small cancers would eliminate them before they become big ones, in the same way that picking small zucchini from your garden prevents you from developing humongous ones. But the new study found that although the incidence of cancers smaller than 2 centimeters rose quite dramatically after widespread mammography was introduced, by 162 cases per 100,000 women, the incidence of larger tumors fell by a much smaller amount -- only 30 cases of cancer per 100,000 women. [...]

Most importantly, the incidence of metastatic cancer, which is the type that causes most deaths, was flat. Welch said that means that screening finds a lot of small cancers that would never have killed anyone.

Screening did result in more cancers being detected, he said, but the data suggests that only about 30 of the 162 additional small tumors per 100,000 women that screening mammograms found would ever have progressed to a dangerous stage. That means that 132, or 81 percent, of the 162 extra tumors detected represented "overdiagnosis" -- the discovery and treatment of tumors that were never destined to harm.

Posted by orrinj at 4:35 PM


Trump has often claimed that only a "rigged system" could deny him victory. How? Not through sabotaged debate microphones or a biased media but through unqualified voters.

At a recent rally in Pennsylvania - a must-win state - Trump digressed from his text to remind his mostly white audience of this danger, urging them to go to "certain areas" on Election Day and "watch" who was voting. The implication, of course, was that they should challenge anyone who appeared to be unqualified. Nor was this a random remark. The Trump campaign features a website where supporters can sign up to become a "Trump Election Observer" and "Stop Crooked Hillary From Rigging This Election!"

How can "Trump Election Observers" distinguish between qualified and unqualified voters? Trump doesn't say. But his reference to "certain areas" - and the entire tenor of his campaign - suggests that their color will give them away.

Posted by orrinj at 4:30 PM


[I]magine that Clinton prevails in November. If so, the most likely outcome is a continuation of the recent pattern of resounding GOP victories in midterm years. In 2018, Democrats will defend Senate seats they won in 2012 in several red states, including Indiana, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota and West Virginia. West Virginia's Joe Manchin famously shot a copy of the cap and trade bill in a 2010 campaign advertisement -- but even excellent marksmanship might not be enough in a third consecutive midterm wave for the GOP.

In addition, some of the most important aftershocks of the 2016 election are likely to be felt not in Washington but in state capitals across the country. In 2018, 36 states will choose governors. As I've pointed out before, our elections for governor increasingly track national trends. Governors are typically powerful officials in their own right, with substantial control over state budgets and policy. But even for those who care about power only at the federal level, there is good reason to care about the 2018 governors' races: In many states with multiple House districts, those governors will have veto power over their states' redistricting processes after the 2020 census. Over the course of the Obama presidency, anti-Obama voting in non-presidential years is a major reason why the Democrats have lost a net of 11 governors' seats.

Likewise, 2016 has critical implications for state legislative elections. Political scientist Steven Rogers has shown that presidential approval is a powerful predictor of voting in state legislative races. Since Obama became president, the same dynamics have cost the Democrats approximately 818 seats in state legislatures, and they have lost control of 29 net chambers in state legislatures. Sure, holding the presidency allows a party to pursue its agenda at the federal level. But in recent decades, that pursuit has come at a remarkable down-ballot cost for Democrats and Republicans alike.

To explain why the electorate has alternated between leaning Democratic in recent presidential years and Republican during midterms, Obama argued that Democratic-leaning constituents are less likely to vote in midterm years. There's some truth to that. But it's not the main force behind the recent swings, as FiveThirtyEight's Harry Enten has shown. Think about the math: Each voter who sits out a midterm costs his party one vote, while each voter who switches parties adds a vote to the new party while taking one away from the old party. The more powerful engine for change is that voters are changing their minds -- and for decades, they've leaned against the party holding the White House.

Posted by orrinj at 4:24 PM


How Donald Trump turned Ted Cruz into a laughingstock (Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, October 12, 2016, The Week)

According to Ben Domenech, Cruz did this out of sheer political cowardice: His donors were angry with him and threatening to support a primary challenger against him. Cruz even went phone-banking for Trump, looking like the saddest man in the world. As always, the only way Trump can take your dignity is if you give it to him.

The fact that Cruz caved in so quickly and so easily and for such motives might have been a tragedy. The fact that he did it just two weeks -- two weeks! -- before Trump's campaign collapsed in on itself and was deserted by one prominent Republican after the next, that's not tragic. That's hilarious.

And the funniest part of all? There wasn't a single aspect of this that wasn't utterly predictable, utterly obvious -- apparently to everyone except someone of Cruz's universally recognized intelligence. I mean, who could have thought that Donald Trump would self-destruct? Who could have thought that some horrible new thing would come out that would finally break the camel's back? Who could have foreseen this, except anyone who had paid attention at any of the last six months?

If Cruz could have held his nerve for just two more weeks, he'd be looking smart, courageous, and principled. A prescient man, one who could be TrusTed. Two weeks!

There are many, many causes for sadness these days in American politics. Ted Cruz, however, has become a source of mirth. 

In fairness to Mr. Cruz, it must have been painful to watch Donald run an even more racist campaign and win.  He had to have gone into the primaries thinking no one could get to his Right.

Posted by orrinj at 4:15 PM


The attorney for a woman accusing Donald Trump of raping her in 1994 when she was 13 years old has told BuzzFeed News the case against the Republican presidential candidate will be tried in court -- and Trump himself will have to answer the accusations under oath.

"This case, based on the sworn declarations of the victim and two corroborating witnesses, will be tried in court, where the defendants will be required to answer questions under oath and pursuant to the rules of evidence," said attorney Cheney Mason in a statement to BuzzFeed News. [...]

On Wednesday, BuzzFeed News reported that four women who competed in the 1997 Miss Teen USA beauty pageant said Donald Trump walked into the dressing room while contestants -- some as young as 15 -- were changing.
An initial hearing has been scheduled in the "Jane Doe" case for Dec. 16, 2016.

Posted by orrinj at 4:07 PM


A Saudi Arabian lobbyist in the US has called for "a collaborative alliance" between Riyadh and Jerusalem based on regional and economic interests, citing "a historic opportunity" for a new era of peace and prosperity.

They share an opposition to Arab democracy.

Posted by orrinj at 4:02 PM


Posted by orrinj at 3:58 PM


Major GOP Donors Are Asking Trump for Their Money Back (LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, 10/12/16, NBC News)

Two big-money donors who have given or raised tens of thousands of dollars for Donald Trump are livid at the Republican presidential nominee and are asking for their money back, according to a bundler who raised money for Trump.

"I cannot express my disappointment enough regarding the recent events surrounding Mr. Trump," one donor wrote to a Trump fundraiser in an email with the subject line "Trump support withdrawal."

"I regret coming to the Trump support event, and in particular allowing my son to be a part of it," the donor, who had given to and raised money for Trump, said. "I respectfully request that my money be refunded."

Posted by orrinj at 3:54 PM


The Hama region, which has a religiously mixed population, is an intersection between central and northern Syria and the Mediterranean coast. The rebels hoped their blitz would reduce pressure on the northern city of Aleppo, which has been under blistering Syrian and Russian air attack.

The key for the opposition was to cut government supply lines between Aleppo and Assad's strongholds in Damascus and the coastal region.

That did not happen.

On Oct. 7, heavy fighting broke out in the nearby Idlib province between Jund al-Aqsa and the powerful, ultraconservative group Ahrar al-Sham. That group blamed the other for assassinating several of its local commanders.

Both groups then withdrew from battling government troops, allowing the army to launch a counteroffensive and regain control of 14 villages and towns since the weekend.

The infighting "turned the situation upside down," said Turkey-based opposition activist Ahmad al-Ahmad, adding that government forces within three days regained 30 percent of the ground they lost in a month.

The fighting eased after the al-Qaida-linked Fateh al-Sham Front said Jund al-Aqsa will be folded under its command -- a move that will make the front much more powerful. Sporadic skirmishes continue, but the fighting has effectively wrecked both the rebel offensive and any possible rescue of Aleppo.

Such disunity and rivalry has plagued opposition and armed rebel groups in Syria from the beginning. Turf wars and internal power struggles have often impeded rebel advances, allowing government forces to take advantage and gain territory.

Posted by orrinj at 1:40 PM


The End of the Utilitarian Argument for Trump (Gregory Brown, October 12th, 2016, Public Discourse)

Many conservatives, then, have been making what we can call the utilitarian argument for Trump. They argue that those who appreciate how bad a liberal majority on the Supreme Court would be should recognize that Trump, for all his faults, would be less bad than Clinton, so they ought to vote for Trump.

Stated in these terms, this argument has always been too simple and too fast. A vote has lots of effects, only one of which is increasing the probability of a particular candidate's victory. In particular, all else being equal, the more votes Trump receives, the more people will think that his platform is one that deserves a place in American politics and that his style of politics is worth emulating; it encourages the Republican Party to adopt his views and manner. A Republican vote for Trump will, generally, be taken as a Republican condoning of Trump.

For some people, this is a good thing. Trump is focusing on what really matters, they reason, and his abrasive and controversial style is what's needed to challenge the stranglehold of the media and political elite.

Others acknowledge that there have always been costs associated with supporting Trump--even if they think that doing so is, all things considered, the best thing to do. He has debased political discourse and crafted a right-wing identity politics. Support for Trump may be taxing, in future years; social conservatives, for instance, will have to explain how they could support a man with a history of infidelity, and Christians will have to explain how they could support a man whose first reaction to criticism is often unhinged mockery.

Trump neither cares for nor understands issues such as abortion, marriage, or religious liberty. When he defends them, it is always clear that it is because he feels, or has been told, that he has to. His defenses of issues that social conservatives care about merely consist in a kind of Christian identity politics, as he insisted at the Value Voters Summit last month:

A Trump administration, our Christian heritage will be cherished, protected, defended, like you've never seen before. Believe me. I believe it. And you believe it. And you know it. You know it. And that includes religious liberty--remember, remember.

Social conservatives who support Trump contribute to the impression that their votes are cheap. They will accept a candidate who does not speak their language as long as he throws them a few bones; a candidate whose concern for their interests is halfhearted can still earn their votes.

Posted by orrinj at 1:34 PM


Rep. Ted Lieu, a California Democrat, wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday, saying the coalition had conducted more than 70 "unlawful airstrikes" in Yemen.

"It appears that either the Saudi coalition is intentionally targeting civilians or they are not distinguishing between civilians and military targets. Both would be war crimes," wrote Lieu, who had taught classes on the law of war when he was a lawyer in the U.S. Air Force.

The Houthi are our allies, not the Sa'uds.
Posted by orrinj at 1:27 PM


Trump Getting Thumped in Post-Tape-Gate Polls (Eric Levitz, 10/12/16, New York)

New polls show Trump trailing by 9 points nationally, by that same margin in Ohio, and tied with Hillary Clinton in Utah. What's more, the L.A. Times/USC tracking poll, whose aberrant voter model has put Trump ahead for most of the campaign and all of the past month, now has him tied with the Democratic nominee.

The Ohio poll, conducted by the Baldwin Wallace Community Research Institute, finds Clinton leading Trump 43 to 34 percent in a four-way race, and 48 to 38 in a head-to-head. The survey finds a gender gap in the state, albeit a relatively modest one compared to most national polls, with men favoring Clinton by 2 points, while women back her by 10.

The only real interest left in the Presidential is whether he can top Alf Landon.

October 11, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:25 PM


How Hillary Became 'Hillary' : A 1980 defeat set in motion a process of endless revision, by herself and her opponents, that has defined her career. (ROBERT DRAPER, OCT. 11, 2016, NY Times Magazine)

Two weeks after Hillary Clinton accepted the Democratic nomination for president, I flew to Little Rock, Ark., to visit a woman named Gay White. White is the widow of Frank White, a conservative Little Rock banker who in the spring, summer and fall of 1980 toured all 75 counties in Arkansas in a quixotic attempt to unseat the incumbent governor, Bill Clinton. Frank had no previous experience campaigning, but he proved to be an enthusiastic retail politician. Gay, then 32, accompanied him on his statewide tour of cattle auctions, courthouse squares, Walmart parking lots and chicken-processing plants. "Hi, I'm Gay White," she would tell the people they met. "My husband's running for governor, and I'd sure appreciate your vote."

Though that entire year was a momentous one for the Whites, one detail had stuck with White 36 years later. "I cannot tell you the number of times they would say to me, 'If your husband wins, are you going to keep his last name?' " she told me. "I heard it over and over and over."

It had not occurred to the Whites or their campaign advisers that attitudes toward the governor's wife, Hillary Rodham, might be what Gay White would later term an "undercurrent" in the 1980 election. They knew, of course, that Arkansas had seen no first lady like Rodham, a Wellesley graduate who wore bookworm spectacles and a hairdo that was not blown out in the Southern manner. At 32, she was a full partner at one of the nation's oldest law firms. She had never changed her name, and Rodham was how her clients knew her.

While Gay White dutifully barnstormed alongside her husband, Clinton's wife had her own pursuits, as well as an infant daughter whom she was determined not to use as a political prop. "Frank and I went to every festival in Arkansas," White told me. "I had lots of people say, 'Hillary's never been here -- and she's the first lady.' I think the fact that she did not go to these little county fairs and that she was seen as not embracing that role caused people to resent her, right or wrong."

The White campaign focused on Bill Clinton's tax hikes, his willingness to accept Cuban refugees and -- as White's former campaign chairman, Curtis Finch Jr., told me -- "the perception among people older than he was that he was just young and arrogant and brought in all these people who had beards and long hair." If Hillary Rodham's feminism was part of this picture, Frank White didn't feel the need to campaign on it overtly. Still, the Republican candidate knew that voters would get the joke when, after criticizing Clinton for allowing married couples to hold state-government positions, he could not resist adding: "How many husband-and-wife teams has he hired? It's hard to find out, because they don't have the same last names."

Six weeks before the election, Clinton enjoyed a 41-point lead over the challenger, who entered the race with only 2 percent of the public knowing who he was. But on Nov. 4, Frank White beat Bill Clinton, 52 percent to 48 percent. At an election post-mortem a few weeks later in Little Rock, Rodham spoke on behalf of her husband, who was still devastated by the stunning upset and did not attend. Explaining the election results, the governor's wife observed somberly, "It's more easy to enthuse people if they think there's going to be a change, instead of more of the same."

Rodham may not have been on the ballot, but Gay White remains convinced that "how they perceived her was very much a factor." Two years later, when Clinton ran again against White, he ran a television ad apologizing for his mistakes. And, Gay remembers, Rodham "changed everything: her whole appearance, her wardrobe. She started wearing makeup. She took Bill's last name. They did the things they needed to do."

Bill Clinton won the rematch in a landslide. The Clintons returned to the Governor's Mansion in 1983. Neither of them has lost a general election since.

"I get that some people just don't know what to make of me," Hillary Clinton said in her speech accepting the nomination at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in July. It was a rare acknowledgment by the candidate herself of what has been the defining paradox of her career: She has been a presence in American public life for more than a third of a century, and yet for all her ubiquity she remains a curiously unknown quantity to many voters.

It's possible to glimpse the origins of this paradox in the time between Bill Clinton's 1980 loss and his 1982 victory. Upon facing the electoral judgment of her persona for the first time, Hillary Rodham Clinton began what has gradually evolved into a precarious shadow game with the American public -- a ritualized series of reveals, retreats and resets, each iteration seemingly more freighted with recrimination and self-doubt than the one preceding it. It was the moment when Hillary became "Hillary" -- a collaborative creation by herself and her political enemies, both a reflection and a source of the uncertainty and mistrust with which the public has so often regarded her.

Posted by orrinj at 7:13 PM


IF THE REPUBLICAN PARTY CAN BE SAVED FROM ITS TRUMPOCALYPSE, THIS SENATOR COULD BE THE KEY : Long before his colleagues saw the light, Ben Sasse repudiated Trump and demanded a new kind of politics. But is the GOP ready for his reformation? (TIM MURPHY SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016, Mother Jones)

One evening in early May, Sen. Ben Sasse sat at his home on the banks of the Platte River just outside Fremont, Nebraska, and began writing a message "to majority America." Donald Trump had just become the de facto Republican presidential nominee. As Sasse explained in a Facebook post that would soon go viral, two things had happened that day that he couldn't shake. His phone had been flooded with voicemails from party leaders asking the first-term Republican to get on board with the GOP's candidate. And he had gone shopping at Walmart.

Sasse had been critical of Trump throughout the primaries--mocking his insecurity about the size of his hands, crashing a private meeting between Glenn Beck and Fox News' Sean Hannity to assail the latter's Trump coverage as "bull," and even traveling to Iowa to warn voters that Trump talked like a man who was running to be king. Trump, for his part, retorted that the 44-year-old Sasse looked like a "gym rat." But as Sasse navigated the aisles of Walmart, his shopping trip became a rolling public forum. Shopper after shopper approached him, he wrote, with the same refrain. They were fed up with both parties; they were sick of Trump as well as Hillary Clinton; and mostly, they were tired of Washington punting on its responsibilities.

And so Sasse, putting off his kids' bedtime bath to keep writing, proposed an alternative. What if there were someone else--a candidate running on a minimalist platform that promised to focus on three or four things, like entitlement reform and fighting terrorism: "I think there is room--an appetite--for such a candidate."

To the chagrin of the party's Never Trump rump, Sasse made clear that he himself would not be that candidate. Nevertheless, as his colleagues one by one climbed aboard the Trump train, Sasse steadfastly withheld his support from the GOP nominee. On Saturday, after a tape of Trump boasting of sexual assault was leaked to the Washington Post, Sasse became one of the first Republican senators to call on the GOP nominee to leave the presidential race. Dozens of Republicans, tired of defending their erratic figurehead's bigotry and reality TV antics, rescinded their endorsements of Trump. But what set Sasse apart from his peers is that he had never wavered in his opposition, even as pressure mounted to fall in line. Most of the few Republican lawmakers who have renounced their candidate are retiring or fighting to hold on to blue-leaning seats--that is, they had nothing to lose or potentially something to gain. Sasse isn't up for reelection for four years, and his state is as reliably crimson as his ubiquitous Cornhuskers polo shirt.

A Trump loss would bring a moment of reckoning for Republicans, one that could put Sasse in a position of unusual influence for a first-term senator--poised, perhaps, to refocus the identity of the GOP in the way that Paul Ryan and Newt Gingrich did before him. As a longtime scholar of the Protestant Reformation and a self-described "crisis turnaround guy," he has spent his life studying what happens when major organizations become unmoored from their mission. The Republican Party may be his biggest project yet.

Posted by orrinj at 7:01 PM


In Coastal Libya, Islamic State Prepared to Build a Nation : Documents in Sirte show how militants trained recruits for war and curried favor with locals; 'I was afraid for my children' (MARIA ABI-HABIB, Oct. 10, 2016, WSJ)

The papers offer rare insights into how the group governed and sought to win over the population and erect a satellite state in Libya.

Detailed lists of prisoners with their offenses and corresponding punishments show how the militants enforced their austere vision of Islamic rule. Tax documents show how they tried to curry favor with some residents by confiscating money and jewelry from the wealthy to distribute to the needy, while also filling their own coffers.

The paper trail also reveals the pedestrian bureaucracy behind the group's brutal rule in Sirte, the largest city Islamic State has ever held outside Iraq and Syria.

The last names of the militants or of civilians featured in the documents found, such as prisoner lists or tax forms, have been redacted. Attempts to reach Abu Bakr and others whose names appear in the documents were mostly unsuccessful, as phone lines across Sirte largely have been cut off.

At the headquarters of the group's Hisbah, or morality police, a spreadsheet listed crimes and punishments. One prisoner got 10 days in jail and 10 lashes for "transporting a woman" who wasn't accompanied by a male relative or guardian.

A meticulous tax code found at another office showed how Islamic State funded itself at locals' expense. Farmers were to turn over a calf if their herd reached 39 cows, for instance, and a four-year-old camel if they owned up to 79 camels.

Those who didn't pay were hunted down through warrants issued to checkpoints around the city. One warrant, on Islamic State letterhead, sought a cattle-herder named Salem from the al-Jiza neighborhood who drove a Toyota, detailing his license-plate number.

In Libya, Islamic State was able to establish and run a state with tax-collection offices, police, courts and even an immigration office to support foreign recruits, a highly organized venture otherwise seen only in Iraq and Syria, where its leaders are based, U.S. officials say.

With the Libyan government's battle for Sirte all but won and militants holed up in a last redoubt by the shoreline, the extremists' hopes to extend the caliphate to within some 350 miles of Europe have dimmed.

Their theology depends not just on their capacity to establish a state but to control certain regions and to govern well.  They can't achieve any of the three, firstly because of who we are and, secondly, because of who they are.

Posted by orrinj at 6:57 PM


Igor Sechin, Russia's most influential oil executive and the head of state-controlled energy giant Rosneft, said his company will not cap oil production as part of a possible agreement with OPEC.

His comments underline how difficult it is for Russia to get its oil companies to freeze or cut output as part of a potential deal with the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries designed to support oil prices.

President Vladimir Putin told an energy congress on Monday that Russia was ready to join a proposed OPEC cap but did not provide the details.

"Why should we do it?" Sechin, known for his anti-OPEC position, told Reuters in Istanbul on Monday evening, when asked if Rosneft, which accounts for 40 percent of Russia's crude oil output, might cap its production.

Posted by orrinj at 6:52 PM


A Chinese academic, jailed for life two years ago for campaigning for the rights of the Muslim Uighur people, has won a prestigious annual human rights award, organizers said on Tuesday.

Ilham Tohti, who is an ethnic Uighur, was selected from three finalists for the Martin Ennals Award, whose jury is composed of 10 activist groups, including Amnesty International, where Ennals was an early secretary-general.

Posted by orrinj at 6:43 PM


Clinton For President : For the first time, The Jewish Week endorses a presidential candidate. (The Jewish Week, 10/11/2016)

When Donald Trump was one of more than a dozen would-be Republican candidates for the White House, his initial forays into savaging his opponents, calling for a ban on Muslims in the U.S., announcing his intention to build a wall on the Mexican border to keep out the killers and rapists, were met with astonishment. But as the outrageous statements continued--mocking a military hero like John McCain should have been enough to disqualify him among Republicans -- Americans became somewhat inured to his behavior. Some wrote him off as a buffoon, more a form of entertainment than a political force. Watching him in debate was like watching a gross reality TV show -- who knows what he'll say next? How can we turn away? The longer he was tolerated, the more difficult it became for Republican leaders to stand up to him. And now, after all the exposed falsehoods, refusal to apologize for outrageous racist and biased statements against minorities and women, after witnessing his lack of discipline, substance and self-control, after seeing him lash out at critics and former allies alike -- even his loyal vice presidential candidate -- we are faced with a pivotal moment in American history.

Never before has a candidate so ill-equipped for the demands of the Oval Office -- in temperament, experience, character, compassion and humility -- been so close to its doors. [...]

This newspaper has not endorsed political candidates in the past. But this election is an exception. It's not just about politics. It's about character, competence and compassion. It's about values that are American, and rooted in the Bible: Seeing all men and women as created in the image of God, having empathy for "the other" among us, recognizing the power of community, building bridges rather than walls.

We endorse Hillary Clinton not only because Donald Trump presents a danger to this country but because we believe she shares that biblical vision and strives for those goals. For the past year we have seen a Trump who believes his own lies, whose campaign is based on instilling fear in Americans, doubling down on divisions among us, describing virtually every aspect of society as broken, corrupt, defeated. He is too self-centered to listen to others, see beyond his own interests, or appreciate the need for self-reflection.

In his long career Trump has embodied only the first half of our sage Hillel's famous adage: "If I am not for myself, who will be for me? IfI am only for myself, what am I?"

We deserve more -- for ourselves, and for others. We who have allowed our hearts to be hardened to the anguish of a Syrian refugee child, multiplied by the tens of thousands, need to open ourselves up to what we can accomplish as a caring society. Donald Trump is incapable of fulfilling such a vision; Hillary Clinton has the ability and promise to do so. That's what can continue to make America great.

You Lost The Debate? Blame the Jews (Daniel J. Solomon, October 11, 2016, The Forward [PROFANITY ALERT]

If Donald Trump lost his second smackdown with Hillary Clinton, it's because the Jews sabotaged him or spun his performance to their own advantage, say his most ardent backers in the "alt-right" blogosphere.

Posted by orrinj at 6:36 PM


Welcome To Steve Bannon's Trumpocalypse (BEN SHAPIRO, OCTOBER 11, 2016, Daily Wire)

Trump and Bannon are attempting to carve out an audience post-election loss, and they're deliberately sinking the Republican Party and any ability to resist Hillary in order to do it. That's best case scenario for them: the GOP goes down in flames, Hillary dominates, Trump and Bannon blame all of the backstabbers on the home front for losing the election, then pose as the secret rebellion. And you can be part of the secret rebellion too, all for the low, low price of $9.99 per month!

This campaign is no longer about defeating Hillary; for Bannon and Trump, it never was. It is all about burning down anyone who opposes Bannon and Trump, even if it means handing total power to Hillary. Especially if it means handing total power to Hillary: Trump has to avoid blame for that, so he'll need a fall guy.

It's one way to get amnesty passed finally.
Posted by orrinj at 3:12 PM


Maine Gov. Paul LePage stood by Donald Trump in a radio interview on Tuesday, saying that the United States might need someone like the GOP nominee to show "authoritarian power," and dismissing concerns over an audiotape leaked last week that showed Trump describing how he forces himself upon women.

Posted by orrinj at 3:03 PM


Trump Economic Advisor: I Might Be Done With Trump (HANK BERRIEN, OCTOBER 11, 2016, Daily Wire)

On Monday, economist Larry Kudlow, who was instrumental in crafting Donald Trump's economic plan, made remarks on CNBC that seemed to indicate he might choose Hillary Clinton over Trump, pointing out of Trump, "He's so negative." Kudlow also chastised Trump for the "vile remarks" from the infamous "p***y" tape.

Kudlow stated: "If he continues to drop into these rabbit holes, I will write in Mike Pence ... I hope Mr. Trump gets his act together." He dismissed Trump's excuse that his lewd comments were typical locker-room banter, stating bluntly, "I've been in a bunch of locker rooms. You might see a pretty woman and say something nice about it. But this other stuff is beyond the pale."

Beck, the former extremely popular Fox News host who left the conservative network in 2011 to establish The Blaze, a right-wing multi-media platform, took to Facebook Monday to say that Trump is "an immoral man who is absent decency or dignity" and that "if the consequence of standing against Trump and for principles is indeed the election of Hillary Clinton, so be it."

Increasingly, moderate and conservative Christian women are speaking out about Trump's brand of misogyny and divisiveness, and condemning support for the nominee or silence about him from male evangelicals.

"When Christian women like Beth Moore choose to publicly speak about their own experience with sexual assault, it signals to me that they do not feel heard or understood by fellow Christian leaders who continue to support Trump," Katelyn Beaty told me. Beaty, until recently the print managing editor of Christianity Today, the country's largest evangelical Christian publication, is the author of A Woman's Place: A Christian Vision for Your Calling in the Office, the Home, and the World. "Moore and others are saying to their fellow leaders, the one-in-six statistic"--of women who have experienced sexual assault--"includes me. When will you believe me and stand up for me?"

Beth Moore wasn't alone in her condemnation of Trump. Her comments sent ripples around the evangelical world and were seconded by Christian mega-speaker and author Christine Caine. Sara Groves, the Dove Award-nominated Christian artist, told me, "Someone like Beth can go a long way in helping Evangelicals recognize these major blind spots."

Groves herself was impacted by Trump's remarks. "When I first heard the tape, I was shocked, and a bit surprised at how deeply it hit me," she said. "I immediately thought of my own experiences, and of friends who have experienced much worse."

Dr. Russell Moore--head of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and a leading conservative Christian voice against Trump--says he is hearing privately from women like Groves and Moore all the time.

"I have heard from many, many evangelical women who are horrified by Christian leaders ignoring this as an issue," Moore told me. He says these women leaders have "spent their entire life teaching girls to find their identity in Christ and not in an American culture that sexualizes and objectifies them"--and they are now disgusted that evangelical men are not standing up and speaking out. Nish Weiseth, popular Christian blogger and author said that when it comes to Christian men still supporting Trump, "Disappointed seems like too soft a word. It's devastating."

These women see Trump's comments not just as a gender issue but also a theological one; as Rev. Lisa Sharon Harper, Chief Church Engagement Officer for Sojourners, shared with me, "Trump's offense is not only against a gender. His assaults on women are direct assaults against the image of God on earth." Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner, the pro-life African American Christian leader, brought it back to scripture as well, noting that evangelical leaders are failing to "stand up, as Jesus did, against every form of racism and bigotry on open display almost daily by Donald Trump."

Posted by orrinj at 2:56 PM


The woman who was supposed to take Donald Trump's coat wasn't hot enough.

It was March 8, 2011, and Comedy Central's "Roast of Donald Trump" was set to film the next day.

The plan called for Trump to be driven onto the stage in a gilded golf cart flanked by beautiful women. There, he'd hand his coat to another woman before taking his seat on the roastee's throne. But during the dress rehearsal, Trump grabbed Robert Ferkle, who served as the production's stage manager.

The proposed woman, Trump said, was "not somebody he wanted to be associated with at that moment," Ferkle recalled. "In other words, she was not pretty enough."

To appease Trump, Comedy Central moved the actress elsewhere on the stage, Ferkle said. The show went on.

And what a show it would be.

The Huffington Post interviewed most key figures in planning the roast, and obtained copies of draft jokes marked up by Trump's trademark black Sharpie.

Just months before Trump would decide not to run in the 2012 presidential race, he was doing battle with roast producers over whether they could make fun of his hair. One of the most remarkable things about Trump is his seeming inability to laugh ― not just at himself, but period. Think about it. Have you ever seen Trump laugh?

Comedy is conservative; Donald isn't.

Posted by orrinj at 2:49 PM


New Records Suggest Donald Trump Misled the Public About His Income : He says he made $694 million last year, but UK documents undercut that claim. (RUSS CHOMA, OCT. 11, 2016, Mother Jones)

Totaling up Trump's reported income on that form at the highest end of the ranges does yield a figure near $694 million. (At the lower end, it's closer to $600 million.) But the income listed on the form appears to be largely revenue--that is, the money a particular enterprise generated, not the profit--and not Trump's personal takeaway. The $694 million isn't what Trump pocketed at the end of the day; it's how much cash his various companies brought in before they had to cover expenses. The Office of Government Ethics guide for filling out the form even explicitly states "definition of investment income for purposes of financial disclosure is not tied to the Internal Revenue Service's definition of income for tax purposes."

There is no telling from this form what Trump truly made as income. But documents he filed overseas indicate there could be a great discrepancy between what he claimed at the debate and what he banked. These filings in the United Kingdom cover the operations of two Scottish golf resorts, one at Turnberry and one at Aberdeen. These courses are major enterprises in Trump's wide-ranging international golf empire.

According to his FEC financial disclosure form, which was submitted in May, Trump collected $296 million in "golf related revenue"--a full 42 percent of the income he cited in the debate. But this figure did not take into account the costs of running all his courses and resorts. Most of Trump's businesses, including his golf courses, do not have to publicly disclose how much revenue or profit they yield annually. But there are three exceptions: his two Scottish golf courses and one Irish course. Corporations in the United Kingdom and Ireland must submit public reports that list revenue, expenses, and profit.

Trump's FEC financial form noted that his two Scottish golf courses earned him a combined $23 million in "golf related revenue" last year, with Turnberry pulling in $18.1 million and Aberdeen making $4.8 million. But the public filings the courses submitted in the United Kingdom tell a much different story. Trump's prized course at Turnberry--where he made a much ballyhooed appearance right before the Brexit vote--reported $16.8 million in revenue in 2015 and $18.6 million in expenses. When interest, depreciation, and currency exchange losses are factored in, Trump's Turnberry course lost over $2 million in 2015. And the corporate filings in the United Kingdom show that Trump's Aberdeen course lost about $1.6 million.

That means that Trump's reported income on the FEC financial disclosure forms regarding just these two projects is $26 million more than what they actually made. If these courses are representative of Trump's overall finances--$23 million in "golf related revenue" is really a $3 million loss--his declared $296 million in total "golf related revenue" may well be highly overstated.

Posted by orrinj at 2:44 PM


Vladimir Putin cancels Paris visit amid Syria row (Kim Willsher in Paris and Alec Luhn in Moscow,  11 October 2016, The Guardian)

Vladimir Putin has cancelled a visit to Paris after the Kremlin accused France of seeking to humiliate the Russian leader.

Escalation in Syria means EU less likely to soften stance on Russia (Gabriela Baczynska and John Irish, 10/11/16, Reuters)

Outraged by Russia's intensified air strikes on rebels in Syria, the European Union is now less likely to ease sanctions on Moscow over Ukraine, diplomats say, and some in the bloc are raising the prospect of more punitive steps against the Kremlin.

Greatest war ever.  Now if we can just suck the Sa'uds in....

Posted by orrinj at 2:25 PM


How the Trump Campaign Imploded (Nancy LeTourneau, October 11, 2016, Washington Monthly)

A big turning point in Trump's campaign was the change of leadership that happened when Paul Manafort was fired and Kellyanne Conway, Stephen Bannon and David Bossie were brought on board. Each of the three new people had their own particular focus.

Initially a lot of the news was about how Conway was working to better position Trump with suburban white women. That was when Trump started reading prepared speeches off of a teleprompter and initiated his so-called "outreach" to African Americans - which was all directed at white people. At that point, the press was consumed with the both-sider-ism of raising "questions" about the Clinton Foundation.

That approach seemed to be having a bit of an impact when someone (we don't know who) decided to Rick-roll the press with Trump's announcement about his birtherism. Not only did that showcase Trump's racism and constant need to lie, it inspired the media to take a look at how he was manipulating them. That led to the launch of multiple investigations into Trump's foundation, business dealings and taxes. And it put Trump on the defensive for the first debate.

When Clinton name-dropped Alicia Machado during that first debate, we witnessed the specter of Trump attacking a Latina for her weight, sexuality and heritage - including a middle-of-the-night tweet rage. We'll never know if there was any connection, but the next event was the release of a video/audio tape of Donald Trump bragging about sexual assault.

That brought the likes of David Bossie to the fore. He is one of the original members of the "vast right wing conspiracy" that has been going after the Clintons since their days in Arkansas. Here is how Conway described Bossie's role in the campaign.

Bossie will also work on crafting attacks against Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, mining past controversies involving her and former president Bill Clinton, and cultivating Trump's bond with conservative activists.

Thus, we saw the spectacle of Trump appearing with Bill and Hillary Clinton's accusers prior to the second debate and his attacks on them during the proceedings. When you read that part about "cultivating Trump's bond with conservative activists," think about Laura Ingraham's response to the focus on the Clinton's past during the debate.

To summarize: "We've been waiting for a Republican to beat up the Clintons for 30 years." In other words, it's time to rev up the Clinton haters. The candidate himself weighed in on that one last night.

Trump warned against the release of more damaging tapes of his past comments, threatening to continue attacking the Clintons over former President Bill Clinton's alleged infidelities and Hillary Clinton's response to those women's accusations if more such tapes emerge.

The third person of this trinity - Stephen Bannon - is stepping up to the plate now. As Martin just wrote, the battle is now turning against establishment Republicans. As the former chair of Breitbart News, that is his specialty area.

October 10, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:30 PM


During an October 13, 2014, speech to the Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers, Clinton told the audience that "A number of business leaders have been talking to my husband and me about an idea that would allow the repatriation of the couple trillion dollars that are out there. And you would get a lower rate -- a really low rate -- if you were willing to invest a percentage in an infrastructure bank."

Clinton has repeatedly called for increased spending on U.S. infrastructure, but has never specified where the needed revenue would come from.

In a speech the previous month to the Cardiovascular Research Foundation, Clinton also said that a lower rate for all corporate profits regardless of where they are earned "certainly could be on the table" as long as that was "part of a broader package." However, she specified that "if all you do is lower the rates" that "there's a price to pay" in terms of lower tax revenue.

American multinational corporations are currently stashing a staggering $2.4 trillion in profits -- about 14 percent of the size of the entire U.S. economy -- overseas. Multinationals are required by U.S. law to pay the statutory 35 percent tax on profits they earn anywhere on earth, but the tax is not assessed until the profits are brought back to the U.S.

This has allowed Corporate America to essentially hold U.S. tax revenue hostage, refusing to pay its taxes until Americans become so desperate that they will cut a deal giving multinationals a special new tax rate.

This strategy has already paid off once, in 2004, when multinationals got Congress to let them bring back $312 billion in profits at a one-time rate of about 5 percent. The legislation required that the cash be used to hire Americans or conduct research and development. Corporations ignored these provisions and instead used the money to enrich their executives and stockholders, while cutting U.S. jobs.

Posted by orrinj at 6:45 PM


Trump lashes out at Ryan : The highest-elected Republican official abandons Trump as he plunges in the polls. (KYLE CHENEY, 10/10/16, Politico)

Donald Trump shed any pretense of trying to hold his party together Monday, pouring gasoline on an already scorching confrontation with Republican leaders in Washington as they reckon with their nominee's spiraling campaign.

Trump swung hard at House Speaker Paul Ryan, who announced he was abandoning efforts to help elect Trump earlier in the day. His team highlighted the number of voters who pledged to vote only for Trump and no other Republicans. His campaign manager suggested that some Republican Congressman who oppose Trump are guilty of sexual harrassment. And Trump's Virginia state director convened a protest outside the headquarters of the Republican National Committee, accusing the party of bailing too quickly on their only chance to stop Hillary Clinton.

This all gives him the pretext he needs to quit. He can claim the whole thing is fixed, as witness the party refusing to support its own nominee.  He doesn't need to mention the terrifying prospect of losing by double digits to a girl.

Posted by orrinj at 6:38 PM


Donald Trump mentioned "inner cities" 10 times in last night's second presidential debate, using words like "disaster" and "devastating" to describe them. When neighborhoods decay, home prices decrease.  However, a look at home prices in the "inner cities" of most major U.S. metro areas shows that the opposite is happening. Instead of falling, the median price per square foot of homes sold in the inner cities of 31 major metro areas has jumped 52 percent over the last six years, outpacing price growth in the surrounding metro areas by 18 percentage points. The only inner cities where price growth has fallen behind that of the surrounding metro area are Chicago, Houston and Miami.

Posted by orrinj at 6:31 PM


Clinton Adviser Asked if David Brock Was a 'Republican Plant' (Jack Heretik, October 10, 2016, Daily Beacon)

A top adviser to Hillary Clinton, Neera Tanden, speculated in a newly leaked email that David Brock, the founder of Media Matters for America, might actually be a "Republican plant" because his efforts to help Clinton were so "counterproductive."

Posted by orrinj at 6:25 PM


Trump, companies accused of mistreating women in at least 20 lawsuits (John Kelly , Nick Penzenstadler and Steve Reilly, 10/09/16, USA TODAY)\

One woman sued Donald Trump's Miami resort saying she lost her job because she got pregnant.

Two others claimed they were fired after complaining that co-workers sexually harassed them.

And a number of women testified in a lawsuit that Trump himself repeatedly instructed managers to hire younger, prettier workers at his Los Angeles golf club.

The release of a video Friday showing Trump's sexist remarks in 2005 has created a firestorm of controversy that threatens to derail his campaign. But an ongoing USA TODAY investigation of Trump's 4,000-plus lawsuits shows that he and his companies have been accused for years of mistreating women. Allegations outlined in at least 20 separate lawsuits accuse Trump and managers at his companies of discriminating against women, ignoring sexual harassment complaints and even participating in the harassment themselves.

Posted by orrinj at 6:16 PM


Review: 'Better Life Foundation' : A mockumentary about a struggling NGO makes smart observations about class and the patronizing attitude well-meaning privileged folks have towards the underprivileged (Dustin Silgardo, 10/10/16, Live Mint)

Ten minutes into the show, though, your focus shifts from the similarities Better Life Foundation may have to other hit shows to how it is different from the majority of Indian comedies. Indian comedians and shows tend to deal with the obvious. Jokes about how superficial big Indian weddings are or how bad the traffic in Mumbai is may gain a few laughs, but don't make us think enough to be memorable. The Better Life Foundation, which follows Neil and his NGO's struggles, is far more insightful, making observations about class, language barriers and attitudes towards the disabled, among other things, while also allowing its characters to grow and show vulnerability, so they are not mere stereotypes--all too common in Indian comedy.

Better Life Foundation is an NGO that Neil (played by Naveen Richard) starts with money he inherited from his uncle. The show pokes fun at how when the privileged, in their attempt to be progressive, try to help the underprivileged, they are often patronizing. In one scene, Neil, a Bangalorean, tries explaining in hilarious broken Hindi the concept of a health faucet to the head of the Dharavi Foundation, but the man, of course, knows the English term for it already. In another, Neil talks about how his NGO asks "normal" people to run a blindfolded marathon to raise funds for the visually impaired. [...]

Good comedy throws up observations about problems that, until mentioned by the comedian, you thought only you faced. In Better Life Foundation, one running theme is Neil's inability to replicate his own signature. It's nice to know one's not alone in feeling nervous every time a cheque or documents need to be signed. It is those kinds of observations that make Better Life Foundation one of the most interesting comedy shows to come out of India in the past few years.

Besides the conservatism what does stand out is that you see the same show in every nation in the Anglosphere/Scandinavia.

Posted by orrinj at 2:30 PM

BUFFET 53%, TRUMP 47%:

Warren Buffett schooled Donald Trump on Monday about the taxes of a billionaire. [...]

"Many of her friends took bigger deductions. Warren Buffett took a massive deduction," Trump said.

On Monday, Buffett said that in 2015, he reported an adjusted gross income of $11.6 million and took close to $5.5 million in total deductions. The majority of those (nearly $3.5 million) reflected allowable charitable contributions.

He went on to say that he paid nearly $1.9 million in federal income taxes last year. That gives him an effective federal income tax rate of about 16%.

Indeed, Buffett added, "I have paid federal income tax every year since 1944, when I was 13. (Though, being a slow starter, I owed only $7 in tax that year.) I have copies of all 72 of my returns and none uses a carryforward."

Posted by orrinj at 2:24 PM


Clinton supporters were fretting in March 2016 that Hillary Clinton suffered from "huge endemic political weaknesses" and might be "totally dependent" on Republicans nominating Donald Trump if she hoped to win the election.

NBC/WSJ Poll: Trump In Full-Scale Collapse (HANK BERRIEN OCTOBER 10, 2016, Daily Wire)

A new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll shows a frighteningly large lead for Hillary Clinton, one so large that the loss of the House of Representatives to the Democrats becomes a real possibility.

The poll, taken between October 8-9, after the revelation of the 2005 videotape in which Trump made lewd comments about women, found Clinton leading in a two-way race by a whopping fourteen points among likely voters, 52% -38%, and thirteen points among registered voters, 51%-38%. 

Posted by orrinj at 11:23 AM


October surprise? Americans support a US engaged with world, survey finds. : Despite the isolationist notes in the presidential election, Americans prefer to remain engaged with the world, a new survey says. (Howard LaFranchi, OCTOBER 10, 2016, CS Monitor)

"The numbers are quite surprising," says Ivo Daalder, president of the Chicago Council and a former US ambassador to NATO. In this survey, "You find an American public that remains deliberate about a foreign policy and an open engagement with the world that have been pursued by this country for the last 70 years."

Among all Americans, nearly two-thirds of those polled say the US is best served by an active role in the world, while equal or even larger majorities support maintaining traditional alliances like NATO and keeping US military bases overseas in countries such as Germany and South Korea.

On globalization and international trade, two-thirds say increased economic integration is generally good for the country, while 57 percent say international trade is good for the US economy, and 65 percent say it is good for their own standard of living.

On the other hand, only 40 percent see trade as a positive factor in creating jobs in the US - but that number is up slightly from a decade ago. And in another surprising shift, Democrats are now considerably more supportive of globalization than Republicans, with a 15 percent gap opening up between them.

Indeed the Chicago Council survey confirms findings from the Pew Research Center this year that Republicans, traditionally most supportive of international trade and the free-market system, are turning against those ideas even as Democrats increasingly open up to them.

But then there is the support for TPP. The trade deal President Obama would like to see ratified by Congress before he leaves office comes out a surprising winner in the survey, with 60 percent of those polled supporting it.

Even half of those who identify themselves as Trump supporters say they consider the 12-country agreement a positive. 

Another surprise: Even a plurality of Bernie Sanders supporters back TPP. Moreover, the survey finds that Millennials are broadly more supportive of free trade and globalization than the general population.

Posted by orrinj at 10:25 AM


The second presidential debate on Sunday night was a strange one, with Donald Trump appearing to be on the brink of a meltdown in the first 20 to 30 minutes and then steadying himself the rest of the way. But here's the bottom line: Based on post-debate polls, Hillary Clinton probably ended the night in a better place than she started it. And almost without question, she ended the weekend -- counting the debate, the revelation on Friday of a 2005 tape in which Trump was recorded appearing to condone unwanted sexual contact against women, and the Republican reaction to the tape -- in an improved position.

At times during the past two weeks, but particularly on Saturday afternoon as prominent Republicans were denouncing or unendorsing Trump one after another, it has seemed like Trump's campaign is experiencing the political equivalent of a stock market crash. By that I mean: There's some bad news that triggers the crash, and there's also an element of panic and herd behavior, and it becomes hard to tell exactly which is which. At some point, the market usually finds its footing, as the stock has some fundamental value higher than zero. But it can be a long way down before it does.

At roughly the 20-minute mark of Sunday's debate -- about the point at which Trump said that he'd appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Clinton and that she'd "be in jail" if someone like him had been president -- it seemed prudent to wonder whether Trump's campaign was over. I don't mean over in a literal sense (it would be almost impossible to replace Trump on the ballot). But over in the sense that we knew the outcome of the election for all intents and purposes, to a higher degree of confidence than FiveThirtyEight's statistical models -- which gave Clinton "only" about an 80 percent chance of winning heading into the debate -- alone implied. (The polls -- and therefore the models -- have not yet had time to capture any effect from the Trump tape revelations.) [...]

 A CNN poll of debate watchers found that even though most voters thought Trump exceeded expectations, 57 percent of them nevertheless declared Clinton the winner, compared with 34 percent for Trump. A YouGov poll of debate watchers showed a much closer outcome, but with Clinton also winning, 47 percent to 42 percent.

These instant-reaction polls actually do have a correlation with post-debate horse-race polls: The candidate who wins the former usually gains in the latter. Perhaps Clinton's win was modest enough that this will be an exception, especially given that the sentiments of pundits and television commentators (which sometimes matter as much as the debate itself) were all over the map.

Posted by orrinj at 10:17 AM


Donald Trump's remark during Sunday's presidential debate that Hillary Clinton would "be in jail" if he were president was just a "quip," Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said Monday on MSNBC's Morning Joe.

Posted by orrinj at 10:08 AM


Lt. Gov. Guadagno breaks with Christie, won't vote for Trump (Claude Brodesser-Akner, 10/09/16, NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

 Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno is breaking with Gov. Chris Christie and says she will not vote for GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, and hasn't decided if she'll vote for a third party candidate or forgo casting a vote for president and only vote in the down-ballot races.

So, too, is the only declared 2017 GOP governor candidate, Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli (R-Somerset), who says he likely won't vote for president in November, and is calling on Trump to voluntarily step aside.

Posted by orrinj at 10:01 AM


Trump dismisses Pence's hawk talk on Russian-backed Syria (THOMAS BEAUMONT, 10/10/16, Associated Press

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump Sunday cast aside his running mate's suggestion that the U.S. should be ready to strike Syrian targets to protect civilians caught in the country's escalating humanitarian crisis.

The comment was yet another illustration of Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence's challenge as he attempts to validate the GOP nominee's unusually vague positions on international diplomatic and military affairs.

"He and I haven't spoken, and I disagree. I disagree," Trump said during his debate with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton Sunday.

Posted by orrinj at 9:52 AM


Reshuffle Proves Corbyn's In A Stand-Off With Labour (John McTernan, October 10, 2016, Heat Street)

Corbyn has taken his re-election as a mandate to be the same as he was before the leadership election - except worse. When the Tory conference was being held Corbyn was on a rambling holiday. He failed to respond to major announcements by Tory ministers - announcements that were so controversial, anti-business and unworkable that they have now been abandoned - because he was missing in action.

The first major political event that Corbyn attended after Labour conference was a "Stand Up To Racism" conference organised by a front for the Trotskyist Socialist Workers' Party (SWP). The SWP are widely condemned on the left for the way that they handled an internal scandal about alleged rape and sexual assault. Corbyn's words at their meeting were revealing: "I consider it an honour to be amongst people I have known for many years".

His appearance at this rally met wide protest, but the most interesting objections were from his supporters on the left. Writers who support Corbyn such as the thoughtful Owen Jones and the new media pioneer Aaron Bastani both condemned him.

Off the back of his leadership election, Corbyn is still master of all he surveys within the Labour Party. But this is a toxic combination - a failure to fight the Tory government, a trench warfare with the PLP and vocal criticism from the left. Not the end of the beginning, let alone the beginning of the end, but the start of something.

The point, for ideologues, is not to oppose the other party but to purify your own. Indeed, to pick a leader who could appeal to the broad electorate is to betray your ideology.

Posted by orrinj at 9:47 AM


President François Hollande sent a message to Putin that those who are behind the "war crimes" being committed in Aleppo, Syria, will pay for their acts before the international court of justice. The leaders are due to meet in Paris next week.

"The population [of Aleppo] is the victim of war crimes. Those who commit these acts will pay for this responsibility before the international court of justice," Hollande told the French TV show Quotidien in an interview to be aired on Monday night.

Posted by orrinj at 9:42 AM


When Donald Trump announced in late 2005 that he was launching a Trump-branded vodka, many who knew him were flabbergasted. Trump has been a teetotaler his entire life, and he blames alcohol for the early death of his big brother, Freddy Trump.

"I sort of hated doing it," Trump said at the time of his vodka-licensing deal. "My brother, Fred, who was the best, ended up being an alcoholic. And I learned a lot about alcohol and alcoholism from Fred."

Perhaps to soothe his conscience, Trump said then that he would donate all the money he made from the deal to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the impaired-driving prevention group.

"I'm going to give 100 percent of that money to them in honor of my late brother, Fred Trump," Trump wrote in December 2005. "I guarantee you that Fred is looking down now and saying, 'That's really the best thing to do.'"

But MADD never received any money from Trump or his vodka.

Posted by orrinj at 9:37 AM


He calls it locker room banter," Pierson said, referring to Trump's defense of recently released audio from 2005 in which Trump spoke graphically about seducing women.

But Kelly wasn't so convinced, so she got personal. "Do your brothers talk about grabbing women by the genitals?" Kelly asked. Pierson said she didn't know what her brothers talk about "specifically" because they stop talking about it when she walks into the room. "You know your brothers," Kelly said, "do you think that they talk about grabbing women by the genitals and laughing about it and doing whatever they want to them?"

Posted by orrinj at 9:32 AM


Mike Pence cancels N.J. Trump fundraiser scheduled for Monday in Ocean County (Claude Brodesser-Akner, 10/09/16, NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

Donald Trump's running mate, Mike Pence, has canceled his planned visit to New Jersey scheduled for Monday, several GOP sources tell NJ Advance Media.

Pence, the governor of Indiana, was scheduled to appear at a fundraiser in Toms River hosted by the Ocean County Republican Organization. The sources who said Pence won't be showing requested anonymity because they are not directly connected to the Trump campaign. 

Posted by orrinj at 9:15 AM


Yemen Airstrike Spurs U.S. Review of Support for Saudi Military Campaign (MOHAMMED AL KIBSI in Hajjah, Yemen,  AHMED AL OMRAN in Riyadh and KAREN LEIGH in Dubai,  Oct. 10, 2016, WSJ)

Saturday's bombing marks the latest case where the Saudi-led coalition of mostly Sunni Arab allies has come under scrutiny for a suspected airstrike that resulted in a high civilian death toll. Such attacks have strained American support for the Saudi campaign in Yemen, spurring U.S. lawmakers to explore ways to curb $1.15 billion in arm sales to the kingdom.

Now President Barack Obama's administration said it is also considering how it might adjust support to the coalition, which has included intelligence sharing and the vetting of military targets.

"U.S. security cooperation with Saudi Arabia is not a blank check," said National Security Council spokesman Ned Price on Saturday. "Even as we assist Saudi Arabia regarding the defense of their territorial integrity, we have and will continue to express our serious concerns about the conflict in Yemen and how it has been waged."

Secretary of State John Kerry spoke on Sunday with Saudi Arabia's deputy crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, and Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir to communicate Washington's "deep concern" with Saturday's attack, the State Department said.

The Sa'uds have already lost this war but it would be useful to get them pinned down in Syria.
Posted by orrinj at 8:48 AM


The changes are coming on two main fronts: Many consumers increasingly want healthier choices for breakfast and they want foods they can carry out the door instead of taking the time to pour cereal into a bowl at the breakfast table, analysts said.

On the health side, there's nothing new about cereal being attacked as less than nutritious and too high in calories. Critics for years have complained about some cereals being laced with too much sugar, with the likes of Kellogg's Honey Smacks and Post's Golden Crisp being favorite targets.

But consumers' push for healthier cereals now goes much further.

Shoppers are looking for "high protein and fiber content and natural ingredients," the research firm Mintel Group Ltd. said in a report. "Consumers today believe cereal is overly processed and doesn't contain enough nutrients."

That means cereal faces steeper competition from fresh fruit, yogurt, breakfast bars, protein-rich bars and drinks, sandwiches and even all-day breakfast options at McDonald's Corp. and other fast-food chains.

"Consumers are increasingly seeking products that match their personal definition of real food, and that can mean foods that are less processed and have simple labels with recognizable ingredients," Powell told the investors.

"These consumers are looking for transparency from manufacturers, so they can know how their food was sourced, produced and delivered to them," he said.

The cereal makers have responded by reformulating many of their brands, boosting the protein and whole-grain content while lowering or eliminating sugar, gluten, sodium, carbohydrates and artificial flavors.

Jim Murphy, president of General Mills' cereal division, said those steps are starting to pay off. One example: Sales of gluten-free Cheerios were up 2% in the company's fiscal first quarter ended Aug. 28, he said.

Kellogg recently rolled out two new versions of its mainstay Raisin Bran that include clusters of granola. General Mills introduced Tiny Toast that's flavored with real strawberries and blueberries and contains no artificial colors or sweeteners.

Tiny Toast, in fact, was General Mills' first new cereal in 15 years, and Murphy acknowledged that one factor behind the industry's sales downturn was "not enough innovation from the branded manufacturers."

But Murphy contended that new products and stronger marketing have led to "improvement in the cereal category" this year and General Mills expects "this will continue."

This one is pretty good Nature's Path Heritage Flakes.

Posted by orrinj at 8:20 AM


Politically Polarized, Ideologically ... Complicated : Mapping America's Ideological Terrain, Part 1 (Joshua Mendelsohn, Michael Pollard, 10/09/16, Rand)

We applied MDS to a wide array of items in the PEPS in order to create a two-dimensional social space that approximates the ideological terrain of the American electorate. For example, in the first two waves of the PEPS, we asked the following question to garner respondents' attitudes about various topics:

We'd like to get your opinion on some issues that have been in the news recently. Do you favor or oppose each of the following?

the government paying necessary medical costs for every American citizen

sending American ground troops overseas to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)

increasing taxes on individuals who make more than $200,000 a year

raising the federal minimum wage

building a fence along the Mexican border

providing a legal way for illegal immigrants already in the United States to become U.S. citizens

stricter laws and regulations to protect the environment from climate change

a nationwide ban on semi-automatic handguns

allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally

allowing the National Security Administration to collect information on phone calls of Americans in order to locate suspected terrorists

building the Keystone XL Pipeline to transport oil from Canada to the United States

providing free college for every American citizen

Figure 1 divides the resulting social space into an 8x8 grid and estimates how many of America's 240 million adults fell into each square. In technical language, the x-axis and y-axis are the first and second eigenvectors, respectively, of a 31-dimensional social space derived from PEPS questions about political beliefs. In simplified language, the x-axis depicts an average of many personal characteristics and beliefs, and in that average, the most prominent factor is whether the respondent is liberal (left) or conservative (right). In the average of many personal characteristics and beliefs on the y-axis, the most prominent factor is the socioeconomic class of the respondent (top means richer and more educated).

Despite the increasingly polarized tone of American politics, we find that most Americans actually answer similarly on most questions of political belief. In fact, we estimate that 19.6 million American adults (8.2 percent) fall into a single grid square (the bright red square), and another 94.9 million (40 percent) fall into the eight squares around it. That is nearly half of America situated in just 14 percent of the social space grid. Americans are therefore more ideologically similar than different.

It's why the past there's been so little difference between recent presidents and congressses and why you really have to be an extremist to make an open presidential uncompetitive, as Trump has managed.

After Trump vs. Clinton (DANIEL MCCARTHY, October 10, 2016, American Conservative)

The 2016 election presents the starkest choice American voters have faced in at least 40 years. On one side is a nominee unlike any the country has seen before: a billionaire businessman and celebrity without a day's experience in political office. On the other side is the first woman ever to be a major-party's nominee: a woman with experience as a U.S. senator and secretary of state and who has already lived in the White House as first lady.

Hillary Clinton represents everything the country's political elite believes in: the perpetuation and exercise of U.S. global power; trade deals and immigration for the sake of the economy; a privileged position for the big banks; and a culture of steady liberal progress that transcends the limits of the nation state and the historic West.

Donald Trump, on the other hand, is satan: an old, rich, white man of "isolationist" and nationalistic tendencies who transgresses against every stricture of political correctness (and a good many precepts of common decency). For at least the last 24 years, every election has pitted a Republican globalist against Democratic one, both candidates unblinking in their support for NATO and NAFTA: Bush (I), Clinton (I), Dole, Gore, Bush (II), Kerry, McCain, Obama, Romney. And now Clinton (II). But Trump breaks the mold.

Posted by orrinj at 8:13 AM


"He was very unorthodox and could throw punches from all kinds of angles with great hand speed," said former Associated Press boxing writer Ed Schuyler Jr. "He was a great fighter, it's too bad he didn't have more fights."

Pryor's widow, Frankie Pryor, said her husband -- who would later speak out about the evils of drugs -- also had a side most fans didn't know about.

"Aaron was known around the world as 'The Hawk' and delighted millions of fans with his aggressive and crowd-pleasing boxing style," she said in a statement announcing his death. "But to our family he was a beloved husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle and friend."

Pryor was unbeaten in 31 fights when he and Arguello met in a 140-pound title clash in the Orange Bowl in Miami on Nov. 12, 1982. Arguello was a classic boxer-puncher considered one of the top pound-for-pound fighters, but Pryor would not back off as the two men traded punches for the better part of 14 rounds.

Pryor finally wore Arguello down, stopping him in the 14th round with a flurry of punches. Ring Magazine later picked the bout as the Fight of the Decade.

"It was one of the best fights I've ever seen," Schuyler said. "I'd put it in the top five."

Pryor's win was marred, though, by questions about a bottle wrapped in black tape that his corner man raised to his lips on several occasions between rounds in the fight. Many in boxing thought it contained stimulants, but the corner man, Artie Curley, said it was peppermint schnapps.

Pryor would beat Arguello again the next September in Las Vegas, this time stopping him in the 10th round of their scheduled 15-round bout. Arguello went down in the round from a series of punches and declined to get back up.

"Arguello was a great fighter but he couldn't handle Pryor," Schuyler said. "He could have gotten up, but what was the point?"

The second Arguello fight was the pinnacle of Pryor's career. He became a heavy cocaine user, and fought only six more times in the next seven years, finishing his career with a record of 39-1 with 35 knockouts.

Posted by orrinj at 8:07 AM


U.S. stock futures rise after Clinton seen winner of debate (Yashaswini Swamynathan, 10/10/16, Reuters)

U.S. stock index futures rose on Monday after Democrat Hillary Clinton was widely seen as the winner of the second presidential debate.

* A Clinton presidency would be more positive for the markets because her positions are more well known than those of her Republican rival Donald Trump, according to a Reuters poll.

* A CNN/ORC snap poll of debate watchers found that 57 percent thought Clinton won the encounter, versus 34 percent for Trump.

Posted by orrinj at 5:48 AM


Much of the most damning material in Clinton Cash, however, turned out to be either factually inaccurate, melodramatically exaggerated, or both. Within weeks after publication, major media outlets reported significant errors discovered in its pages.

Time magazine debunked Schweizer's chapter on the Uranium One deal, noting that his book had mustered "little evidence" of outside in- fluence on government decision-making, and offered "no indication of Hillary Clinton's personal involvement in, or even knowledge of, the [CFIUS] deliberations."

According to ABC News' investigative team, its "independent review of source material . . . uncovered errors in the book, including an instance where paid and unpaid speaking appearances were conflated," although "those same records supported the premise that former President Clinton accepted speaking fees from numerous companies and individuals with interests pending before the State Department." Yet ABC also found that the book "offers no proof that Hillary Clinton took any direct action to benefit the groups and interests that were paying her husband [for speeches]."

NBC News correspondent Andrea Mitchell poked gaping holes in a section that implied Hillary had promoted Boeing's multibillion-dollar sale of aircraft to Russia, in exchange for the company's $900,000 donation to the Clinton Foundation two months later.

As Mitchell pointed out, the aviation giant had donated to the foundation's Haiti projects for years, and the State Department had been promoting Boeing interests abroad long before Hillary took over. On camera, the Sunlight Foundation's Bill Allison said, "There's no--there's no evidence that she changed the policy based on, you know, the donations to the foundation."

BuzzFeed found five major errors in a chapter on Haiti, which purported to show that Digicel entrepreneur Denis O'Brien had received a large State Department contract after arranging hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking fees for Bill Clinton. But the dates were wrong, the State Department project had been funded mostly by the Gates Foundation, and it turned out that Clinton had delivered most of the listed speeches for free--except one that earned a donation to the foundation.

Yahoo News derided as "circumstantial" a chapter claiming that the mobile phone manufacturer Ericsson had been exempted from Iran sanctions by the State Department, after paying Bill Clinton $750,000 to deliver a speech at a Hong Kong telecom conference. The Obama White House, not State, had made the sanctions decision.

Perhaps the ugliest distortion involved Schweizer's misuse of two truncated quotes from Clinton's own colleagues to minimize the role he had played in combating the AIDS pandemic. To suggest slyly that Clinton "may take a little more credit than he is due," the author plucked that phrase out of a much longer quote from former State Department official Princeton Lyman, who had praised Clinton effusively and felt outraged by the misrepresentation of his words.

Schweizer played a similar trick with a quote he lifted from a long statement by World Bank president Jim Yong Kim, a founder of Partners in Health. His aim was to portray Clinton as a mere "middle- man"--when in fact Kim declared the former president "absolutely one of the most important people in the global response to HIV/AIDS."

Beyond the most hostile political circles, the verdict on Clinton Cash was that Schweizer had failed to prove the corrupting influence of speaking fees or foundation contributions on Hillary's decisions as secretary of state. "We cannot ultimately know what goes on in their minds and ultimately prove the links between the money they took in and the benefits that subsequently accrued to themselves, their friends, and their associates," his book conceded in the end. Instead, he urged authorities with more investigative power than a mere journalist could muster to bring the Clintons to justice. But no prosecutor, and not even a Republican-led congressional committee, showed any inclination to accept that challenge.

If Schweizer was not the world's most competent journalist, however, he was prolific and ideologically reliable, as indicated by the tendentious titles of his previous books listed on Amazon: Do As I Say (Not As I Do): Profiles in Liberal Hypocrisy (Doubleday, 2005); Architects of Ruin: How Big Government Liberals Wrecked the Global Economy-- And How They Will Do It Again if No One Stops Them (Harper, 2009); and Makers and Takers: Why Conservatives Work Harder, Feel Happier, Have Closer Families, Take Fewer Drugs, Give More Generously, Value Honesty More, Are Less Materialistic and Envious, Whine Less . . . and Even Hug Their Children More than Liberals (Doubleday, 2008). For several years he had written agitprop for the extreme right-wing Breitbart News websites.

For conservative funders seeking to take down the most formidable Democratic presidential contender, Schweizer offered not just audacity and experience but his own nonprofit. As president of the Government Accountability Institute in Tallahassee, Florida, he could accept millions of dollars in tax-exempt funds for research, promotion, and expenses (including his $200,000 annual salary) from foundations and individuals.

And unlike the Clintons, who had disclosed decades of tax returns and more than 300,000 foundation donors, Schweizer didn't have to reveal any of his funders.

When the Government Accountability Institute first appeared on the scene during the 2012 election cycle, the new "nonpartisan" entity almost immediately launched a series of harsh attacks on President Obama that were later determined to be inaccurate by the Washington Post fact-checkers. Eventually, researchers uncovered at least one important source of the money behind the "institute"--an eccentric right-wing hedge-fund executive named Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah, based in New York, whose family foundation had given millions of dollars to Schweizer in 2013 and 2014.

It's not so much that the entire Clinton Foundation controversy is made up, but that people on the right buy into it so blindly.

October 9, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 6:40 PM


U.S. stock index futures opened higher on Sunday ahead of a key U.S. presidential debate, which will be the first time the candidates face off after a video surfaced of Republican candidate Donald Trump making lewd comments about women.

Posted by orrinj at 6:34 PM


The Hillary Papers : Archive of 'closest friend' paints portrait of ruthless First Lady (Alana Goodman, February 9, 2014, Free Beacon)

When Clinton finally admitted to the relationship after repeated denials, Hillary  Clinton defended her husband in a phone call with Blair. She said her husband had made a mistake by fooling around with the "narcissistic loony toon" Lewinsky, but was driven to it in part by his political adversaries, the loneliness of the presidency, and her own failures as a wife.

She told Blair that the affair did not include sex "within any real meaning" of the term and noted President Clinton "tried to manage" Monica after they broke up but things spiraled "beyond control."

Blair described the contents of the Sept. 9, 1998, phone call in a journal entry.

"[Hillary] is not trying to excuse [Bill Clinton]; it was a huge personal lapse. And she is not taking responsibility for it," Blair wrote.

"But, she does say this to put his actions in context. Ever since he took office they've been going thru personal tragedy ([the death of] Vince [Foster], her dad, his mom) and immediately all the ugly forces started making up hateful things about them, pounding on them."

"They adopted strategy, public strategy, of acting as tho it didn't bother them; had to. [Hillary] didn't realize toll it was taking on him," Blair continued. "She thinks she was not smart enough, not sensitive enough, not free enough of her own concerns and struggles to realize the price he was paying."

Hillary Clinton told Blair she had received "a letter from a psychologist who does family therapy and sexual infidelity problems," who told the Yale Law School graduate, "most men with fidelity problems [were] raised by two women and felt conflicted between them."

The psychologist suggested that Bill's infidelity had its roots in his childhood.

"He'd read about Bill's bio; grandmother despised [Bill's mother] Virginia, tried to get custody of Bill; Bill adored by his mother, but she left him, etc. etc."

In her conversations with Blair, the first lady gave her husband credit for trying to end the affair with Lewinsky, and said he did not take advantage of his White House intern.

"It was a lapse, but she says to his credit he tried to break it off, tried to pull away, tried to manage someone who was clearly a 'narcissistic loony toon'; but it was beyond control," wrote Blair.

"HRC insists, no matter what people say, it was gross inappropriate behavior but it was consensual (was not a power relationship) and was not sex within any real meaning (standup, liedown, oral, etc.) of the term."

...when the inside stuff comes out it makes you realize how credulous she is, instead of how cynical.

Posted by orrinj at 6:17 PM


Miami-Dade's Republican mayor: I am voting for Clinton (DOUGLAS HANKS, 10/09/16, Miami Herald)

Miami-Dade's Republican mayor, Carlos Gimenez, said Sunday that he would vote for Hillary Clinton and that GOP nominee Donald Trump should step down as his party's nominee.

"I'm not going to endorse anybody," Gimenez told Jim DeFede on WFOR CBS4 during a mayoral debate with challenger Raquel Regalado, a Republican who said she is remaining neutral in the presidential race but won't vote for Trump. "But between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, I'm not voting for Donald Trump. Obviously, I must be voting for Hillary Clinton."

Posted by orrinj at 6:09 PM


Trump's disdain for preparation adds to debate pressures (Matt Viser, OCTOBER 08, 2016, Boston Globe)

Donald Trump's top executives pleaded with him to prepare for his grilling by opposing lawyers, a high-stakes moment in a mid-1990s legal dispute over redevelopment of the legendary Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.

"He said, 'No, I don't need any preparation,'" recalled one of the executives, Barbara Res. "'No, no, no. No [expletive] way.'"

Eventually, Trump relented, agreeing to give his lawyers two hours to get him ready for the hostile deposition. But even during the allotted time, he kept answering phones and allowing people to enter the office and interrupt.

"He didn't get prepared," Res said. "And the next day at the deposition, it was obvious he was not prepared."

Trump's disdain for preparation, in this case as part of a losing legal fight over the hotel site, is part of his persona, rooted in his surpassing self-confidence. And thus far, based on his weak performance in the first presidential debate and his sometimes shaky command of policy or facts, it appears to be costing him now in his White House quest. [...]

"There's two things going on: One is his inability to focus," said Res, who had been an executive vice president of the Trump Organization, spending 12 years with Trump. "The other is him being convinced that he knows everything."

...but no one whose three core talking points--nativism, Islamophobia, and anti-Mexican/anti-Chinese opposition to trade--are at odds with 60%+ of the American people can even be competitive in an American general election. It was over when he was nominated instead of Jeb, Kasich or Rubio.

Posted by orrinj at 6:03 PM


Mexico's peso surged more than 1.8 percent against the dollar on Sunday ahead of the U.S. presidential debate, after comments Donald Trump made about women in a video created a storm around his campaign.

Posted by orrinj at 5:56 PM


The Incomparable Career of Sandy Koufax : Fifty years ago, the legendary Dodgers pitcher played his final game, marking the end of one of the greatest turnarounds in sports history. (GREGORY ORFALEA  OCT 6, 2016, The Atlantic)

Five things happened in 1961 that caused one of the great turnarounds in sports history.

Just before spring training, Koufax had a tonsillectomy. He stopped eating. He lost 20 pounds and arrived at Vero Beach for the first time significantly underweight (184 pounds). It forced him to work out harder to gain muscle mass; soon he was in the "best shape of my life." Secondly, his pitching coach, Joe Becker, showed him that his fastball had a slight tail into left-handed batters making it easier for them to smack the ball into right field for a hit. So he was apparently taught a kind of cutter or "slurve"--"a curve that broke a little away from the lefty, as well as down," like a slider, a little-known secret in his arsenal.

Thirdly, Koufax engaged the services of the team's statistician Allan Roth, a sort of early sabermetrics guy. Roth noted that Koufax's big bugaboo was still walks. He walked five batters a game; the league average was three. So Roth made the obvious suggestion: better control. But for the big boys like Hank Aaron (who had a lifetime batting overage of .358 versus Koufax), Vada Pinson, and Roberto Clemente--all with lightning wrists--the solution was more specific: a first pitch strike. This was a risky proposition. Batters who hit Koufax's first pitch batted a whopping .349. But then Roth showed Koufax a completely new statistic: "the count on which a decisive pitch is made." That meant when the batter either walks, strikes out, or hits the ball. Koufax was surprised by what Roth had found; if he was ahead of the count for the decisive pitch, batters only hit .146 against him. His advantage was overwhelming. Solution: Get ahead on the first pitch.

A fourth key lesson was tossed out by the Dodgers outfielder Wally Moon. When he was on the Cardinals, Moon said it was common knowledge that Koufax tipped his pitches with a man on base. His hands would lift higher in the stretch position for a fast ball than for a curve. Koufax fashioned a smaller rise to hide that. In the fifth and final lesson, Koufax's roommate at the time, a reserve catcher named Norm Sherry, told him to "take the grunt" out of his fastball. This was the hardest lesson for Koufax, because when in doubt, the only thing he felt separated him from everyone else was his blinding speed, and here Sherry was telling him to lose his advantage. But it worked. Easing up just enough, Koufax was able to locate his fastball much better, making the difference, as Vin Scully would often say, between a thrower and a pitcher. Reining himself in saved his career.

Thus began the five-year anni mirabili. 

Posted by orrinj at 3:58 PM


Turmoil reigns inside Trump Tower (ALEX ISENSTADT and GLENN THRUSH 10/08/16. Politico)

"It is a complete sh-t show," one GOP operative who still backs Trump said on Saturday, a day of mass defections by Republican women and down-ballot Senate and House candidates. "There's one chance, one opportunity left -- and that's to get on bended knee and project the image of contrition. ... That's not going to happen."

A senior Trump aide described the mood of the campaign on Saturday evening as "very demoralized."

The staggering events of the 72 hours leading up to Sunday's showdown here with Hillary Clinton -- capped by an unprecedented exodus of at least two dozen high-profile GOP supporters -- would have posed an overwhelming challenge to any debate-prep team. But Trump doesn't really have such a team in the conventional sense. Members of his rotating circle of advisers are confused about what to do, and the candidate is unwilling or incapable of preparing a game plan, Republican officials and people close to the campaign told POLITICO.

Even if Trump's Friday fiasco had never happened, he'd still be in deep trouble, and his campaign remains in a state of disarray. In interviews conducted over the past week, campaign aides complained about improvised decision-making, and a lack of communication that often leads to mixed signals and confusion. With so few people on staff -- Trump's skeleton campaign is a fraction the size of Clinton's massive Brooklyn operation-- senior advisers are often scattered around the country on various assignments, making it hard to implement consistent messaging, a coherent communications strategy and a debate-prep system that will protect the vulnerable candidate.

Let us accept, for the sake of argument, that every offense of Donald's is equaled or surpassed by Hillary.  At that point, just the adroitness she's always shown in dealing with self-induced (or Bill-induced) crises and to get on with the job of governing makes her the one better-suited to the office.

Posted by orrinj at 3:42 PM


Foreign trade also has been a contentious issue throughout the 2016 campaign. Currently, 45% of voters say free trade agreements have been a good thing for the United States, while about as many (47%) say they have been a bad thing.

Clinton supporters, by a wide margin (59% to 32%), view free trade agreements positively. An even larger majority of Trump supporters (68%) view them negatively. The pattern is similar in opinions about the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement (TPP), though larger shares of voters do not offer an opinion about the TPP.

More than half of Clinton supporters (55%) view the TPP as a good thing for the United States, while most Trump supporters (58%) view the proposed trade deal as a bad thing.

Republican opposition to free trade agreements has increased dramatically in the past year. As recently as May 2015, more Republican voters said that free trade agreements had been a good thing for the U.S. (51%) than said they had been a bad thing (39%). Today, 61% say it is bad thing, while just 32% have a positive view. Democrats' views are little changed over this period.

Because Obama.
Posted by orrinj at 3:36 PM


Donald Trump trashed his wife and suggested his father was involved in John F. Kennedy's assassination, but Texas Sen. Ted Cruz still endorsed him. Trump mocked his cotton mouth and slight stature, but Florida Sen. Marco Rubio still got in line. Trump turned his mentor and former running mate Mitt Romney into a personal whipping post, but House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis.) still hopped aboard the Trump train.

These were not the only Republican luminaries to link arms with Trump. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker testified to his leadership strength. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and party chairman Reince Priebus, who once committed themselves to diversifying the GOP coalition, flew around on Trump's luxury jet and defended his racially charged, nationalistic rhetoric. And the special guest celebrated by Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst at her "Hogs and Harleys" political festival? Yes, it was Trump.

Trump's turbulent campaign, on display here at Sunday night's second presidential debate with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, has damaged far more than his own White House prospects. It threatens to diminish an entire generation of Republican leaders who stood by him and excused his behavior after attacks against women, the disabled, Latino immigrants, Muslim Americans, Syrian refugees, prisoners of war, Gold Star parents and others.

"There is nobody who holds any position of responsibility who in private conversations views Donald Trump as equipped mentally, morally and intellectually to be the president of the United States," said Steve Schmidt, a veteran GOP strategist. "But scores of Republican leaders have failed a fundamental test of moral courage and political leadership in not speaking truth to the American people about what is so obvious."

...are the Bushes, who cut him loose over his racism.
Posted by orrinj at 1:02 PM


A former Miss New Hampshire told BuzzFeed News last spring that Donald Trump strolled through the dressing rooms backstage at the 2000 Miss USA pageant and stared at the naked contestants.

In May, his campaign issued a blanket denial, calling Bridget Sullivan's story and those of several other beauty queens "totally false."

But Sullivan's story has now received support from an unexpected source: Trump himself. The presidential candidate, who owned the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants until last year, told Howard Stern in 2005 that he made a habit of busting into the dressing rooms even when the contestants were not dressed.

"I'll tell you the funniest is that I'll go backstage before a show and everyone's getting dressed," Trump told Stern in recordings released Saturday by CNN. "No men are anywhere, and I'm allowed to go in, because I'm the owner of the pageant and therefore I'm inspecting it.... 'Is everyone OK'? You know, they're standing there with no clothes. 'Is everybody OK?' And you see these incredible looking women, and so I sort of get away with things like that."

Posted by orrinj at 12:45 PM


[H]e remained inside his enormous penthouse apartment on the 66th floor, and his corporate suite 40 stories below, for almost all of Friday and Saturday.

At times he was joined by his small circle of loyalists, who arrived to prepare him for Sunday night's debate against Hillary Clinton but instead spent much of the time trying to figure out how to undo the damage wrought by the surfacing of an 11-year-old video recording on which he can be heard gleefully describing pushing himself on women and sexually assaulting them.

At other times, Mr. Trump retreated to Twitter, where he retweeted posts from an account that says it belongs to a woman who had long ago accused Bill Clinton of rape.

Mr. Trump called a few reporters but lacked his usual gusto.

And he kept returning to watching coverage on CNN, the cable outlet he derides as biased against him but still tunes in to most often, and becoming more upset as he saw Republican officials condemn him one by one.

Mr. Trump has been rattled by the release of the 2005 video recording, according to two people with direct knowledge of his mood who were granted anonymity to candidly describe the situation.

He was urged to be humble, and he felt that he had been, in an apology video that his campaign released early Saturday. But he was criticized for ending his statement with a dig at the Clintons and for not apologizing to his wife, Melania, in his remarks. To him, the criticism was an affirmation that "nothing he can say or do" would reduce the hostility directed his way, according to one of the people with knowledge of how he feels.

Posted by orrinj at 12:32 PM


Puzzled About Republicans and Trump? Game Theory Helps (Tyler Cowen, 10/09/16, Bloomberg View).

The first question many people have been asking is why it took so many Republicans so long to condemn Donald Trump. After all, a pattern of racism and sexism from the candidate had been in place for a long time, and on the public record.

Game theory suggests some simple pointers as to why Trump's previous record wasn't enough of a danger sign to induce a rebellion. As Trump won more primaries and approached the nomination, there were strong pressures on Republicans to endorse him or at least not oppose him. Supporting the party choice was seen as the path to donations, approval from Trump voters and appointments and access in a possible Trump administration. A lot of Republicans yielded to this pressure. Some of those who did not perhaps had no political future in any case.

Once most of the party is on board, it is hard to stand alone in opposition. John Kasich and Jeb Bush, who did not endorse Trump, seemed to become irrelevant on the national scene, and Ted Cruz, who only endorsed Trump recently, was seeing falling approval ratings.

So the disgruntled Republicans were sitting around waiting for signs of rebellion from the other Republicans. The 2006 videotape that emerged on Saturday, in which Trump bragged crudely about groping women, wasn't so much news about Trump as it quickly became news about the willingness of other Republicans to jump ship. Republican women in Congress and politicians with large Mormon constituencies were some of the first to rescind their endorsements, and then it became evident that the public and party responses to the rebels were pretty positive. More and more Republicans joined the chorus of criticism and a bandwagon effect intensified quite rapidly.

That's much like the way creditors desert a potentially insolvent business and in doing so ensure its insolvency. Think of Ernest Hemingway's description of going broke: "Gradually and then suddenly."

Posted by orrinj at 9:38 AM

UNLIKE 1984 AND 1996...:

Why the Trump Sex Tapes Matter (Charles Lipson, October 09, 2016, Real Clear Politics)

There may not be many undecided voters, but there are plenty of weakly committed ones. After learning what Trump said about women, some of his least-committed supporters will simply stay home. That is particularly true of Christian conservatives, who were never comfortable with Trump to begin with. The nomination of Gov. Mike Pence reassured them; these tapes rattle them, as they did Pence himself.

Conversely, the tapes will galvanize some of Hillary's previously weak supporters to come out and vote, less for her and more against Trump. Either way, she benefits, as she does from the slow meltdown of Libertarian Gary Johnson's campaign. Johnson was taking votes from Hillary, and virtually all his dramatic drop has gone to her. (There will be some Republicans now who might vote for neither party's nominee, as John McCain has announced he would, but that won't help Trump, either.)

Even a small increase in Hillary's margins matters. That's because our electoral system is designed to convert small differences in raw votes into large differences in electoral votes. Additionally, the larger Hillary's margin of victory, the more likely Democrats are to carry the Senate. Before Friday's revelations, online bookies had installed Democrats as a 58 percent  favorite to win Senate control. Those odds quickly rose to 69 percent on a site called PredictIt.  If the Democrats win the presidency --now even more likely than before--they only need 50 seats (not 51) to control the Senate: Vice President Tim Kaine would control the tie vote. The markets are now saying that is more than a two-thirds probability.

Republican hopes of keeping the Senate would now seem to depend on ticket-splitting, a once frequent phenomenon that is now as rare as a Donald Trump apology.  Republican candidates are in even worse shape if they openly backed Trump or said nice things about him. New Hampshire Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who is in a tough race against a popular Democratic governor, must be slamming her head into a wall when she remembers calling Trump a good role model for her own daughter. Although she has now dumped Trump, her headache remains. For Republican candidates like her, there is only one silver lining: National donors and the party apparatus will now turn away from the presidential election to concentrate on helping these embattled down-ballot candidates. That is small comfort.

...there is no incumbent voters have grown comfortable enough with to allow for much ticket-splitting.

Posted by orrinj at 9:25 AM


What Happens If Donald Trump Withdraws? : The Electoral College would be the Republicans' Hail Mary. (Richard L. Hasen, 10/08/16, Slate)

What happens if Trump withdraws? Back in August, I wrote about how Republicans could name a substitute for Trump if his spot on the ticket was vacant and that courts should bend over backward to allow Republicans to list a replacement on the ballot so voters would have a meaningful choice. But now that option comes too late. Not only are absentee ballots out, but many people have already voted. Election Day has passed for hundreds of thousands of people already. (That's no reason to oppose early voting; most early voters are committed partisans, and few who voted for Trump would likely have second thoughts now.)

But if Trump withdraws, and in fact even if he doesn't, there is one other possible way out: the Electoral College. When we cast our votes for president, they are actually cast for electors from each state (based roughly on population size) who then cast ballots for president. If Trump is chosen in some states, those electors could vote for Mike Pence, or Mitt Romney, or John Kasich, or whoever. There are some laws that bar "faithless" electors from casting votes for anyone who did not win the popular vote in a state, but I have a hard time believing either the Republican-controlled House or a court (because it raises a political question) would stop the actions of a faithless elector. Ned Foley games out how conflicts would work under the 12th Amendment; the bottom line is that if Trump got more votes than Clinton and Republicans retained control, we could well end up with a President Pence. (When no one gets a majority in the Electoral College, the House votes on a one-state-delegation-one-vote rule.)

The reason this is such a Hail Mary is because it depends on a huge number of unlikely contingencies: Trump withdraws, or the Republican leadership abandons him yet still get voters to choose Trump on the ballot; the "Trump" campaign gets more Electoral College votes than the Clinton campaign (requiring a lot of thinking and effort on the part of battered voters); electors chosen by the Trump campaign to serve the Republican ticket (some of whom love Donald Trump) would act faithlessly and vote for Pence or someone else; and Republicans control the Senate. All of this is possible but not bloody likely.

That's why the more plausible scenario is the following: After Sunday's debate, when Trump does not do well, more members of the Republican leadership start withdrawing their endorsements. Watch Paul Ryan move before Mitch McConnell, because Ryan has presidential aspirations of his own. Trump is essentially left twisting in the wind. The big message from Republicans is to vote for Republicans in the U.S. Senate to block Hillary Clinton from getting her agenda passed. More money from the Koch brothers, Sheldon Adelson, and other plutocrats floods into the Senate races, which right now are very close on the question of control. And the more that Republican Senate candidates can distance themselves from Trump, the more likely it is that swing voters split their tickets and vote for the Republican Senate candidate.

Posted by orrinj at 9:22 AM


The New Mormon Mission : Mormons led the Republican insurrection against Trump. Next they could help rebuild the GOP. (Max Perry Mueller, 10/09/16, Slate)

The latest Dump Trump movement may have gone national, but ground zero was Utah. Rep. Jason Chaffetz and the state's current governor, Gary Herbert, were among the first to pull their tepid endorsements of Trump in the wake of the "grab them by the pussy" videotape leak. Sen. Mike Lee, who had refused to back Trump, along with former Utah governor and onetime presidential candidate Jon Huntsman Jr., who had endorsed Trump, both called on their party's presidential nominee to drop out. Rep. Mia Love, who never backed Trump, also urged him to "step aside," while for now Sen. Orrin Hatch and Rep. Rob Bishop still support Trump. Elsewhere in the Latter-day Saints diaspora, Idaho's Mike Crapo, a Mormon, was the first Republican senator to withdraw his endorsement.

As I've written before, Trump's much-discussed "Mormon problem" is largely rooted in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' past as a persecuted religious community and its present as a church with a growing international--especially Mexican--membership. Mormon politicians, and to a certain extent the Mormon people writ large, have been turned off by Trump's political platform built on scapegoating Muslims and Mexicans. Earlier this year one poll indicated that Utah--home to the GOP's most consistent voting bloc--might actually be a swing state. But since the summer, polls showed Utah's electorate reverting to the mean and rejoining evangelical Christian "cultural war" voters to back Trump, if only reluctantly. As Mormon historian Benjamin Park explained to me, "Mormonism's attachment to the Republican Party has largely been centered on the conservative values of the religious right." As long as Trump (and his running mate, Mike Pence) paid lip service to protecting religious liberty and opposing abortion, "They could mostly escape censure on more questionable opinions" on immigrants and minorities.

Yet on Friday, the swift and definitive Mormon defection from Trump reflected an even more intimate (and particularly male) Mormon impulse than to care for the religious and racial "other"--it was the urge to honor and protect Mormon wives, mothers, and daughters.

Posted by orrinj at 9:20 AM


US further eases Iran sanctions after nuclear deal (MATTHEW LEE October 8, 2016, Times of Israel)

The Obama administration is further easing sanctions on Iran, making it easier for foreign firms to do business with the country following last year's nuclear deal.

Posted by orrinj at 9:13 AM


Sanders supporters seethe over Clinton's leaked remarks to Wall St. (Luciana Lopez and Jeff Mason, 10/09/16, Reuters)

Supporters of former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Saturday expressed anger and vindication over leaked comments made by Hillary Clinton to banks and big business that appeared to confirm their fears about her support for global trade and tendency to cozy up to Wall Street. [...]

"This is a very clear illustration of why there is a fundamental lack of trust from progressives for Hillary Clinton," said Tobita Chow, chair of the People's Lobby in Chicago, which endorsed Sanders in the primary election.

All of the death of the GOP stories ignore the reality of Anglosphere politics.  We elect conservative and liberal leaders who want to use First Way means (market mechanisms) to achieve Second Way ends (the social welfare net).  That's where the electorates are.  But the First Way true believers react against the conservatives (thus, Trump) and the Second Way ideologues against the liberals (thus, Corbyn).  The next Democratic nominee is not unlikely to be just as big a whacko as Bernie, while the next GOP nominee will be indistinguishable from W.

Posted by orrinj at 9:09 AM


Yemen's powerful ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh, a key ally of the country's dominant Houthi movement, called for an escalation of attacks against their common enemy Saudi Arabia on Sunday.

Posted by orrinj at 9:05 AM


"As a producer on seasons 1&2 of #theapprentice I assure you: when it comes to #trump tapes there are far worse," Bill Pruitt tweeted in the wake of the release of Trump's 2005 vulgar and sexually charged comments caught on tape.

In recent weeks, more than 20 "Apprentice" crew members, editors and contestants recalled Trump making lewd or sexually suggestive remarks about women on the hit show that made him a media star. [...]

Last week, AP reported that during his years hosting "The Apprentice," Trump repeatedly demeaned women with sexually tinged comments, rated female contestants by their breast size and commented about which ones he would like to have sex with. He made one such comment less than a year after marrying his third wife, Melania, in January 2005.

It's not the comments that hurt him, nor even how his mind works, but the admission of serial sexual assault.

Posted by orrinj at 9:02 AM


Former GOP Chairman: It's Over for Trump and the Party (DAVID CORN, OCT. 8, 2016, Mother Jones)

Trump's declaration aside, the question of the day is: Is it over for the reality TV celebrity? Has he unintentionally fired himself?

Michael Steele, the former chairman of the Republican Party, believes it is. On Saturday afternoon, I asked him for his reaction to the Trumpocalypse under way. He cut to the chase:

This is a devastating blow to the Trump campaign and to the party, and there is not much either can do to salvage it. It almost doesn't matter what Trump does in the next debate.

A former GOP chief says the elephant is cooked. As another former GOP official tells me, "This is no longer about what happens on Election Day. It's about what happens in 20 years--and whether there is still a Republican Party then."

Posted by orrinj at 8:56 AM


Apocalypse Or Bust -- The Battle For Dabiq (David Patrikarakos, 10/09/16, Radio Liberty)

The town of Dabiq, in northern Syria, around 25 miles from Aleppo, with its population of just under 3,500, is an unimpressive site for a battle that is supposed to herald the Apocalypse.

Yet, according to the Hadith (a collection of reports about the sayings and doings of the Prophet Muhammad), that is exactly what will happen: According to Abu Hurayrah, a companion of Muhammad, the prophet said, "the Last Hour would not come until the Romans land at al-A'maq or in Dabiq. An army consisting of the best of the people of the earth at that time will come from Medina [to defeat them]."

Dabiq is central to the highly sophisticated propaganda operation of the extremist group Islamic State (IS). The group's official magazine even carries its name. At Dabiq, IS claims, the ultimate battle between Christians and Muslims will be fought. That last claim is less than half-right. A coalition of U.S. Special Forces and air support (nominally Christian), supporting Turkish forces, and Syrian rebels (both Muslim) is now advancing on the town. "If matters proceed as planned, within 48 hours we will be in Dabiq," Ahmed Osman, commander of the Sultan Murad Free Syrian Army (FSA) group, told Reuters on October 4.

Unlike the nearby city of Aleppo, the town is not militarily significant for IS, being merely one among many that must be cleared on the way to Al-Bab and (ultimately) the city where Islamic State is headquartered, Raqqa. But if IS were to lose Dabiq, it would still be a blow. As Kyle Orton, a Research Fellow at the Henry Jackson Society, points out, IS uses the Hadith on Dabiq to "call on Muslims to come and buttress the ranks of Islam in this fight. In combination with the formation of an actual statelet, this propaganda has worked: the apocalypticism and the caliphate have given IS an appeal its jihadi rivals don't have and this is reflected in the number of foreign volunteers who have flocked to their banner as compared with, say, Al-Qaeda."

You can't understand just how impossible it was for ISIS to succeed without understanding their theology.  And if you think that theology is Islam you've completely missed the point.

Posted by orrinj at 8:49 AM


Mike Pence to the rescue? ( Tom LoBianco, October 8, 2016, CNN)

One of the scenarios being played out by GOP party elders is convincing Pence to leave the ticket. Vin Weber, a former Jeb Bush supporter, says he would "absolutely" call for Pence to leave the ticket as a way to put "immeasurable pressure" on Trump to leave the race.

"Pence is the anchor that keeps Trump in the race," so without him it would be over for the candidate, Weber said.

Posted by orrinj at 8:36 AM


"It's not just a rhetorical Russophobia, but aggressive steps that really hurt our national interests and pose a threat to our security," Lavrov added.

Whereas they pose no threat to ours.  And they are the main threat to their own--trying to punch above their weight is destroying what little remains of Russia.

Posted by orrinj at 8:24 AM


So Much for That Classless Incompetent Trump (PETER AUGUSTINE LAWLER, October 9, 2016, National Review)

Now I too would never vote for Trump. But I've never been a psyched up "Never Trumper" either. He's why: An incompetent, classless buffoon with an incorrigible unwillingness to learn never had more that the faintest ghost of a chance to win the general election. I haven't lost a moment sleep over what a President Trump would do, because not even in my most anxious dreams have I been able to imagine him winning. [...]

[B]ecause he's incompetent, there always was little to no danger he'd be an authoritarian president or president at all. Now I do think the Constitution and our country could survive Trump's random cluelessness, but they're just not going to be put to that test. Among the seven habits of highly effective authoritarians is disciplined competence, and that includes a definite plan for action. Trump's authoritarianism, including his big promises as a leader, is a joke, because none of it was ever going to happen. [...]

[O]ne more thought: Most thoughtful Trump supporters (and there are some) think that the situation of our country is so bad that rolling the dice is the only choice on what would otherwise be the eve of our destruction. Their hyping of crisis, we have to notice, owes altogether too much to the extreme rhetoric of other Republicans, such as Ted Cruz. On this issue: I'm with the reform conservatives such as Yuval Levin. Things aren't that bad. American liberty doesn't end with another President Clinton. 

I still say never bet against America, but in the moderate spirit of acknowledging that things continue to get better and worse. On the worse side: We increasingly lack the words that correspond to our relational longings, and most of all we need to recapture the language of parents, children, citizens, creatures, friends, and lovers. We have to reconnect our singular privileges with our relational responsibilities. There are some ways in which America is greater than ever, but not in others. The nostalgia that guides our innovations has to be rigorously selective, not to mention generously inclusive.

...so there's never been any reason to take him seriously in and of himself.  The problem has been the damage he's done to the GOP brand, on the one hand, and the damage our friends who have supported him have done to themselves, an ugly extension of the way they've embarrassed themselves during the Obama years.  

October 8, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 8:30 PM


Republican Vice Presidential contender Mike Pence won't be making appearances on behalf of the Republican ticket and he's so far declined to defend publicly Donald Trump's lewd comments from a 2005 audio tape.

After canceling an event in Wisconsin this morning -- a joint event with House Speaker Paul Ryan, where he was replacing a disinvited Donald -- all of Pence's scheduled appearances were scrubbed from Trump's campaign website.

Watching Donald try to kick him off the ticket for not defending serial sexual assault might be the greatest reality tv ever.

Donald Trump to Howard Stern: It's okay to call my daughter a 'piece of [***]' (Andrew Kaczynski, Chris Massie, and Nate McDermott, 10/08/16, CNN)

(CNN)Warning: This story contains graphic language.

Donald Trump engaged in crude and demeaning conversations about women over a 17-year-period with radio shock-jock Howard Stern, according to a review by CNN's KFile of hours of newly uncovered audio.

Among the topics Trump discussed: his daughter Ivanka's physique, having sex with women on their menstrual cycles, threesomes, and checking out of a relationship with women after they turn 35.

The Bottom Could Fall Out For Trump (Nate Silver, 10/08/16, 538)

The story has broken through the news cycle in a big way. Since Friday afternoon, Google searches for Trump are somewhere around four times as high as their already-insanely-high levels -- in line with the sort of spike that usually occurs around a debate.

But if we knew on Friday night that this would be a big story, it's become an even bigger story throughout the day today (Saturday) as dozens of GOP elected officials have either repudiated Trump, or unendorsed him, or called for him to resign his position at the top of the ticket. Trump had unusually low levels of support from these "party elites" to begin with, but we'd usually seen only a few prominent Republicans repudiate him at a time after past controversies. Now, the floodgates have opened, and the whole party is fleeing him. We've never seen anything like this in a modern American election campaign. Republicans in 1996 may have given up on Bob Dole to concentrate on saving the Congress, but they weren't calling for Dole to drop out 30 days before the election. [...]

Perhaps the most relevant piece of context, however, is that Trump was extremely unpopular to begin with. In our national polling average, he's varied between having 36 percent of the vote and 41 percent and was at about 40 percent heading into the weekend. That's awfully low for our modern, highly partisan era, in which all major-party nominees since 2000 have received at least 46 percent of the vote. Clinton isn't doing great either, but at about 45 percent in national polls, she's closer to the normal range.

True, both candidates also figure to pick up some undecided or third-party support and finish higher than their current raw numbers -- but put a pin in that thought for a moment.

On the one hand, the fact that Trump's support was so low to begin with could presumably mitigate the damage to him. If you're only getting 40 percent of the vote, the voters you do have are probably pretty committed to you -- and Trump has some passionate supporters.

On the other hand, the fact that Trump has only 40 percent of the vote means that the downside for him is awfully far down. What if he doesn't win over any undecideds, and 40 percent turns out to be more of a ceiling than a floor? Trump's unfavorable rating was approaching 60 percent even before the "hot mic" tape surfaced, which means he was already running into a headwind in terms of picking up additional support. Furthermore, he's targeted a narrow slice of the electorate instead of a majority coalition. He doesn't have much of a ground game to turn out his marginal voters, and, especially if he's losing in the polls, they could decide that it just isn't worth the time to vote.

If Trump gets stuck at 40 percent of the vote, you could wind up with an outcome like Clinton 51 percent, Trump 40 percent, Gary Johnson 7 percent, Jill Stein and others 2 percent, or something of that nature. That is, a double-digit win for Clinton, which could potentially yield somewhere around 400 votes for her in the Electoral College, and make states as exotic as Texas and Alaska competitive.

GOP Scrambles to Salvage Election After Donald Trump's Latest Imbroglio (JANET HOOK,  BETH REINHARD and  REID J. EPSTEIN, Oct. 8, 2016, WSJ)

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus on Saturday told party officials to redirect funds away from nominee Donald Trump to down-ballot candidates, according to an official informed of the decision. In practical terms, the party will be working to mobilize voters who support GOP House and Senate candidates regardless of their position on the presidential race.

That means the RNC will push Floridians who support both Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio to vote. Before today, the RNC wouldn't have sought to turn out Clinton voters, leaving split-ticket voters for Senate campaigns to target.

Posted by orrinj at 3:19 PM


If the pushback against Donald Trump becomes a Republican Party revolt, it could be said that it got its start in Utah.

Gov. Gary Herbert was the first elected official to pull his endorsement from Donald Trump as conservatives recoiled from a recording of Trump boasting of how his fame allowed him to impose himself on women. Other prominent Utah Republicans soon joined him. Sen. Mike Lee, Reps. Jason Chaffetz, Chris Stewart and Mia Love, and former Gov. Jon Huntsman all called for Trump to abandon his campaign.

Utah is a deeply conservative state, with politics influenced by the Mormon Church based in Salt Lake City. But only 14 percent of the state's Republicans voted for Trump during its caucuses in March, and Utah's favorite political son, 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney, is a leading critic of this year's nominee.

Posted by orrinj at 2:54 PM


Character Is Destiny (JONAH GOLDBERG, October 7, 2016, National Review)

Donald Trump is a fundamentally dishonorable and dishonest person - and has been his whole adult life. The evidence has been in front of those willing to see it all along. And there's more to find. And there's more in the Clinton stockpile. 

Character is destiny. The man in the video is Donald Trump. Sure, it's bawdy Trump. It's "locker room Trump."  And I'm no prude about dirty talk in private. But that isn't all that's going on. This isn't just bad language or objectifying women with your buddies. It's a married man who is bragging about trying to bed a married woman. It's an insecure, morally ugly, man-child who thinks boasting about how he can get away with groping women "because you're a star" impresses people. He's a grotesque -- as a businessman and a man full stop.  

If you can see that, but still think Hillary Clinton would be worse. Fine. Just be prepared for an endless stream of more embarrassments in your name. And, for my friends in the media and in politics,  if you minimize, dismiss or celebrate his grotesqueness out of partisan zeal, just keep in mind that some people, including your children, might think you mean it. 

Posted by orrinj at 2:38 PM


A number of senior party figures rescinded their support and called on him to withdraw from the race.


New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte: "I wanted to be able to support my party's nominee. However I'm a mom and an American first, and I cannot and will not support a candidate for president who brags about degrading and assaulting women." [...]

Congressmen :

Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz: "I'm out." [...]

Governors: [...]

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval: "This video exposed not just words, but now an established pattern which I find to be repulsive and unacceptable for a candidate for president of the U.S. I cannot support him as my party's nominee." [...]

Talk show host Hugh Hewitt: 

For the benefit of the country, the party and his family, and for his own good, @realDonaldTrump should withdraw. More and worse oppo coming

Pence says he's offended by Trump remarks, 'cannot defend' them (AP AND TIMES OF ISRAEL, October 8, 2016)

Pence said in a statement: "As a husband and a father, I was offended by the words and actions described by Donald Trump in the 11-year-old video released yesterday. I do not condone his remarks and cannot defend them.

The chair of the College Republican National Committee, Alex Smith, formally disavowed her party's nominee in a tweet on Saturday, citing the sexually graphic comments Donald Trump made in 2005 that were released in a recording Friday. "The Party of Lincoln is not a locker room, and there is no place for people who think it is," Smith wrote...

Posted by orrinj at 10:33 AM


Posted by orrinj at 10:22 AM


Before the post-World War II economic boom brought affordable consumer goods to the American masses, people did a lot less shopping. There weren't easily disposable plastic goods or $15 dresses from H&M--in the 1920s, a simple dress might have cost as much as $130 in today's money--and so when people did shop, they were looking for products that would last them for years. Now, it's hard to find something that isn't made to fall apart after just a few months.

A website called Buy Me Once aims to help consumers avoid cheaply made, flimsy goods in favor of quality products that are built to last. It features only products that can demonstrate longevity--meaning lifetime guarantees and high-quality materials that ideally can be repaired when they do break.

Posted by orrinj at 9:56 AM


Why the jobs report is good for stocks (Nicole Sinclair, October 7, 2016, Yahoo)

"This is a good number for the equity market," [Renaissance head of economics Neil Dutta.] said. "Steady growth in aggregate hours and gains in earnings imply solid consumer spending. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate ticked up ...This allows the Fed to move slowly as it implies rising potential growth," Dutta said.

Incomes up, labor force growing, housing market strong

Incomes in September grew the most since January, according to Renaissance Macro Research. Aggregate hours worked in September rose 9.4% month-over-month while average hourly earnings rose 0.2%. Total private income rose 0.6%, up 4.3% over the last year. Compared to headline inflation growth of 1.1%, this implies health gains in real income, according to Dutta. Average hourly earnings grew 2.6% over the last year and 2.8% so far this year.

Also importantly, the closely watched participation rate rose to 0.1 percentage points to 62.9%, the highest level since March. The prime-age participation rate (those aged 25 to 54) rose 0.2 percentage points to 81.5%, the highest level in almost three years.

In fact, as Deutsche Bank's Torsten Slok pointed out, the jobs report marked a decline in the number of people outside the labor market for the first time in almost 20 years.

Like Bill, she's about to luck into an economy that's already growing and reap a Peace Dividend, when the GOP could have elected a Bush and gotten credit.

Posted by orrinj at 9:52 AM


TRUMP AND THE TRUTH: THE "RIGGED" ELECTION (Jonathan Blitzer, 10/08/16, The New Yorker)

As my colleague Amy Davidson has discussed, Republicans have spent years, beginning well before Trump's campaign, warning voters that devious people were trying to cast illegitimate ballots to swing elections. They gave the problem a tidy, intuitive-sounding name: voter fraud. But, in an especially toxic political gambit, Trump has taken this concept to the extreme: trying to delegitimize a national election even while campaigning for the Presidency.

By now, it seems almost quaint to point out that voter fraud in the United States is vanishingly rare. Yet the facts are clear. When Justin Levitt, a professor at Loyola Law School, tracked cases of alleged voter impersonation--that is, someone pretending to be someone else at the polls--between 2000 and August of 2014, he found just thirty-one incidents, out of more than a billion ballots cast in general, primary, special, and municipal elections during that period. Another investigation, by a national reporting project based at Arizona State University called News21, found two thousand and sixty-eight alleged election-fraud cases between 2000 and the summer of 2012. Ten of them were voter-impersonation cases; the others were related to absentee ballots and voter registration. (The over-all numbers amounted to roughly one malign impersonator out of every fifteen million potential voters.) In-person voter fraud is virtually nonexistent in part because it's a laughably inefficient way to affect the outcome of an election. The penalties are steep--hefty fines, even jail time--while the actual gains, in terms of extra votes, are minimal.

Not that these findings will sway Trump--in fact, his arguments about election fraud also long predate his current campaign. On Election Night in 2012, he tweeted, "This election is a total sham and travesty. We are not a democracy." Two years later, he was at it again, this time with a nativist twist. "Crazy - Election officials saying that there is nothing stopping illegal immigrants from voting," he tweeted the Friday before the midterms. "This is very bad (unfair) for Republicans!"

...well-balanced people change the latter.

Posted by orrinj at 9:46 AM


I Regret Working for Trump and Will Not Support Him for President (Pratik Chougule, Managing Editor, The National Interest, 10/08/16, Linked In)

Under no circumstances will I support Donald Trump for president. 

I regret my decision last April to join the campaign as policy coordinator. Although I left the campaign in August for a variety of reasons, I wish that I had done so sooner and spoken out more forcefully against a candidate who embodies the worst excesses of our culture.

Posted by orrinj at 9:38 AM


THIS ROCKET FAILED TO PUT SOVIETS ON THE MOON (Amy Shira Teitel,  October 2, 2016, Pop Sci)

Korolev's mega booster program moved steadily forward until 1964 when a strange Soviet decision suddenly derailed years of work. To this point in the space race, the Soviets had been in the lead -- it had launched the first satellite, the first animal, the first man into orbit, the first woman, and done the first spacewalk. But the United States was starting to pull ahead with promises from the Gemini program, and Apollo was (metaphorically) already on its way to the Moon. NASA was, effectively, racing against itself to the Moon. But then on August 3, the Soviet Union decided to take on the American challenge of landing a man on the Moon by the end of the decade. Three years after the America officially started its lunar landing program, Soviet leadership endorsed its own.

To spare the N-1 being cancelled in light of this new goal, OKB-1 presented a proposal to go to the Moon with this rocket rather than build a new one. The plan was ultimately accepted and in 1965 the burden of getting a cosmonaut to the Moon before the Americans fell to Korolev and his N-1.

But there was a problem. The N-1 was powerful enough the launch a Mars or Venus flyby mission, but it couldn't send a landing mission to the Moon. A landing mission is heavier than a flyby mission, especially a free-return trajectory mission. With a flyby, you don't need to carry fuel for an orbit insertion burn, for a transearth injection burn, and you certainly don't need a landing vehicle with its own complicated life support and propulsion systems. But these are all things you absolutely need on a landing mission.

So by design the N-1 was a poor Moon rocket. Consider as a comparison the Saturn V, which was honed for Apollo's lunar orbit rendezvous mission architecture. The Saturn V could put 130 tons into low Earth orbit, enough for even the long-duration Apollo missions that took rovers to the Moon. The N-1 was limited to 75 tons.

This left Korolev's bureau with a choice: either assemble the lunar spacecraft in orbit with multiple launches or make the N-1 more powerful. They chose the latter to avoid losing a mission from a launch failure. The solution was to decrease the temperature of the Kerosene and overcool the liquid oxygen to store more in the existing tanks, upgrade all the rocket engines, and add six more to the first stage. To get to the Moon the N-1 would have 30 engine powering its first stage, but it could still only take 95 tons into orbit.

The final arrangement of the N-1 emerged after this decision. At the bottom of the stack was Block A, the first stage powered by 30 engines, all of which were managed by a system called KORD. This was a realtime diagnostics system that monitored the crucial parameters for all the engines that was also capable of making the decision to shut down individual engine should it show signs of pending catastrophic failure. This took advantage of the redundancy of a rocket with 30 engines; losing one engine or even two wouldn't completely ruin a launch. The others could compensate.
But power isn't all you need for a launch. That rocket also has to be directed in flight. Pitch and yaw control in the N-1 were achieved through differential thrust. Rather than use a complicated and heavy system to swivel the engines, the N-1 was used differential thrust; less power from one side of the rocket would tilt it in the desired direction of flight. Roll control came from six small nozzles outside the main engine cluster could swivel to move the stack around it's vertical axis. Like the Saturn V, the N-1 was a multistage rocket. There were two stages above Block A. The second stage was Block B, powered by eight engines. Block V was the third stage and ti was powered by four engines.

On top of Block V was the payload, and for the lunar mission this was the L-3 complex consisting of four parts. Block G sat directly above Block V, and this was the translunar injection stage that would send the crew to the Moon. Above that was Block D, the stage that would perform any midcourse correction burns, the lunar orbit insertion burn, and the burn to start the crew's descent to the lunar surface. And then there were the two spacecraft, the Block I LOK lunar orbiter and Block E LK lunar lander.

...ask folks to name the first cosmonaut to walk on the moon...

Posted by orrinj at 9:27 AM


My way is the correct way, yet I have observed others acting in error. But don't worry, we'll make it normal soon enough.

Here's what I do: I start with a very small pour of cereal. Then I add a large quantity of milk. Certainly too much milk for said amount of cereal. The cereal floats up, I eat it, and then I refill the bowl with equally small portions of cereal, about four to seven times, depending on how hungry I am. And then I drink the milk.

If I am adding strawberries or blueberries to my cereal (definite yes, if they're available), those go in first, at the bottom, because I try to add the proper amount for the entire cereal-eating experience, not just the initial bowl. Strawberries and blueberries don't get soggy. They can hang out in the milk for the duration.

...that the cereal has time to get soggy, and I eat it by the dog bowl full.  

BTW: the fruit obviously goes on the top because some will sink to the bottom as you eat.

Posted by orrinj at 9:14 AM


Islamist PJD Party Wins New Mandate in Moroccan Elections (SAMIA ERRAZZOUKI, 10/08/16, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

"Today democracy won," Prime Minister Benkirane said as the results were coming in. "After leading the government for 5 years, after implementing reforms, after its achievements, after carefully managing the budget and reforms with the retirement fund ... after widening health care coverage, after all of this -- thanks be to God -- today, the Moroccan people have given the PJD a victory."

Worries about youth joblessness, high debt and Islamic extremism were on many voters' minds. The results are being closely watched by Morocco's neighbors, who see it as a model of relative stability and prosperity in the region, and are important for Morocco's allies in the West, who have investment deals with the North African nation and share intelligence in fighting the Islamic State group.

Posted by orrinj at 9:10 AM


[W]hat Trump describes in the recording is, quite literally, criminal sexual assault.

[C]onsider the law in New York, where Trump lives. There, an individual is guilty of a sex offense if he "forcibly touches the sexual or other intimate parts of another person for the purpose of degrading or abusing such person, or for the purpose of gratifying the actor's sexual desire." A person found guilty of this sex offense risks imprisonment of up to one year. In Connecticut, where Trump long maintained a vacation home, the law is similar: An individual is guilty of sexual assault when he "subjects another person to sexual contact without such other person's consent." ("Sexual contact" need not even involve the touching of "bare skin.") Again, an individual convicted of this form of sexual assault faces up to a year's imprisonment.

Trump boasted of kissing women and touching their genitals without their consent. In much of the country, including those states in which Trump lives and works, that is sexual assault. And if he was telling the truth on tape, he could have been prosecuted and imprisoned for a considerable amount of time.

Posted by orrinj at 9:02 AM


Posted by orrinj at 8:57 AM


Republicans May Be About To Flee Trump (David Thornton, October 8, 2016, The Resurgent)

After two weeks of bad news and a disastrous debate performance, many Republicans are getting nervous about Donald Trump. Even before the revelation of the 2005 audio recording in which Trump describes how "when you're a star" you "can do anything" to women, Trump was slipping in polls and Hillary seemed to be surging in most swing states.

Now there are reports are that if Donald Trump does not perform well in the second debate on Sunday, that Republicans may "flee openly from their nominee." The report comes from the New York Times which cites two "two senior Republicans involved at high levels of the campaign." According to the Times, internal polling by both parties shows that the Trump's deficit is wider than generally recognized, especially among independent voters, moderate Republicans, and women. The audio release will hurt Trump with women voters, in particular.

Neil Newhouse a Republican pollster is worried that Trump's decline will impact close Republican Senate races. "Two weeks ago I would have said Republicans would hold control of the Senate, but there's just so many seats up and nobody is getting separation," Newhouse told the Times. "It worries me that we're this close to Election Day and you're not seeing that separation, because it makes you wonder what kind of impact the top of the ticket has."

Posted by orrinj at 8:49 AM


On Tuesday night, when Diane James resigned, I called a Ukip source - someone who trod the long, hard road through the years of lost deposits and Kilroy-style flashes in the pan. People, he said, were openly wondering what the point of the party was, beyond ensuring Brexit was delivered.

After the referendum, he didn't feel particularly hungry for the continued battle on the doorstep: "I don't bloody care whether we win some more councillors in May." Ordinarily his party would look forward to the next Euro elections, but by 2019 Britain will have left the EU. No more MEPs means a drastic reduction in Ukip  funding, and job losses for many of the researchers who provide the backbone for its activist core.

At the same time, Farage's army is feeling the squeeze from Theresa May. On the first day of her Party's conference she delivered a speech to swell the heart of even the flintiest Leaver - almost banishing the awkward memory of her support for Remain.

Posted by orrinj at 8:19 AM


GOP insiders: It's not a knockout punch : 'Our politics is tribal and polarized. So it's not like this swings the thing 10 points,' said a Virginia Republican. (STEVEN SHEPARD 10/08/16, Politico)

"How can a woman vote for him, let alone a college-educated suburban one which is where he is deficient right now?" asked a Pennsylvania Democrat. "How can a Christian conservative who has held their nose up to today continue to support him? But the knockout blow will be delivered by the downballot candidates who will use this tape as their cut-and-run moment."

"It's done," a Florida Democrat said. "But moreover, the right spent eight years absolutely maligning the character of Barack Obama, and look what it got them: one of the most disgusting humans as their nominee. Hopefully this will be an inflection moment for the country."

Posted by orrinj at 8:12 AM


Donald Trump, Groper in Chief (Nicholas Kristof, OCT. 7, 2016, NY Times)

JILL HARTH'S first concern with Donald Trump's hands wasn't that they were small. It's that they were everywhere.

Harth and her longtime boyfriend were in meetings with Trump to forge a business partnership. "He was relentless," Harth recalled in an interview, describing how on Dec. 12, 1992, he took the couple to dinner and a club -- and then situated himself beside Harth and ran his hands up her skirt, to her crotch. "I didn't know how to handle it. I would go away from him and say I have to go to the restroom. It was the escape route."

We've all heard of Trump's unethical or loutish behavior, most recently in a 2005 recording unearthed by The Washington Post on Friday in which he boasts of kissing and groping women. The story that Harth and the boyfriend, George Houraney, tell of their interactions with Trump over six years -- including business cheating and attempted rape -- shows how that predation worked in practice. "He name-dropped continuously," Harth said under oath in a deposition in a subsequent lawsuit, "when he wasn't groping me."

Harth and Houraney were simply an ordinary Florida couple thrilled that Trump wanted to partner with them. And that's when the nightmare began. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:07 AM


Leaked Speech Excerpts Show a Hillary Clinton at Ease With Wall Street (AMY CHOZICK, NICHOLAS CONFESSORE and MICHAEL BARBARO, OCT. 7, 2016, NY Times)

In lucrative paid speeches that Hillary Clinton delivered to elite financial firms but refused to disclose to the public, she displayed an easy comfort with titans of business, embraced unfettered international trade and praised a budget-balancing plan that would have required cuts to Social Security, according to documents posted online Friday by WikiLeaks.

The tone and language of the excerpts clash with the fiery liberal approach she used later in her bitter primary battle with Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and could have undermined her candidacy had it become public.

Mrs. Clinton comes across less as a firebrand than as a technocrat at home with her powerful audience, willing to be critical of large financial institutions but more inclined to view them as partners in restoring the country's economic health.

Posted by orrinj at 8:01 AM


The Magic of That Wiffle Ball Sound (Will Leitch OCT. 7, 2016, NY Times)

Wiffle ball, as described by David J. and Stephen A. Mullany at the Wiffle Ball website, was invented by their grandfather in Connecticut in the summer of 1953. He watched his son (David and Stephen's father) and a friend play a game in the backyard with a plastic golf ball and a broomstick handle. "They had given up on baseball and softball -- not enough players for two teams, not enough space for a field, and too many broken windows," the website says.

Today it's the same ball as in 1953: a plastic ball with eight oblong holes cut out of it, designed to make it twist and curve in the air, unlike an actual baseball. When thrown correctly, it seems to defy the laws of modern physics: It is like a knuckleball in a hurricane.

My sons took to it immediately, and not just because they had no electronics, or choice, really. What struck them most was that, to master a Wiffle ball, you have to conquer nature. Even the person throwing the Wiffle ball has no idea what it's going to do, basically turning it into a plastic drone you operate while blindfolded.

They think it's magic, and they may be right. (Even the Mullanys confess, "We don't know exactly why it works.") This makes the game incredibly difficult, and my children, like most children, deep down want a challenge. Because they want to defeat it.

Posted by orrinj at 7:57 AM


A top general in forces loyal to Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi's government has been killed in fighting with Iran-aligned Houthi troops east of the capital Sanaa, sources on both sides of the conflict said.

Major-General Abdel-Rab al-Shadadi, commander of Yemen's Third Military Region -- which has its headquarters in the city of Marib east of Sanaa -- was the most senior member of the pro-Hadi forces to be killed in nearly 19 months of civil war in Yemen.

Posted by orrinj at 7:49 AM


In a talk to a Brazilian bank in 2013, she said her "dream" is "a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders" and asked her audience to think of what doubling American trade with Latin America "would mean for everybody in this room."

Posted by orrinj at 7:35 AM


Dias inquires about Clinton's favorite "black girl book" (Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings) and the three things she'd bring to a deserted island (chocolate, a book, and a phone with which to FaceTime her grandchildren), then asks if she had any insecurities in middle school before developing the confidence of a poised politician. "Oh, Marley, I have a terrible story to tell you," Clinton writes. She continues with an embarrassing tidbit straight out of YM:

It was my first week of high school, and I was excited and nervous. At that time, I wore my hair in a ponytail or held back with a headband. When I saw the older girls with their hair in little bobs, I thought that looked so much more grown-up, so I begged my mother to take me to a real beauty parlor to get my hair cut. Our neighbor recommended a man who had a small shop behind a grocery store, and he got distracted talking to my mother and hacked off a huge chunk of my hair! I was mortified. So I tried to fix it by wearing a fake ponytail to school. And then a friend of mine accidentally pulled it off in front of everyone. Which of course was a nightmare. At the time, I felt like it might have been the worst moment of my life.

Here, Clinton sounds like a warm-hearted guidance counselor comforting a tearful preteen after a conspicuous fart in gym class--a perfect tenor for an interview in a kids' zine with a candidate who's battled the "likability" police. She wraps up the hair story on a doubly tender note and a reminder for older readers of the misogyny she's absorbed throughout her decades in public life: "Now that I'm older, I have a little more perspective. But I certainly remember what it was like to be your age and be so worried about what people thought of me. And I'm glad I didn't know back then that I had a whole life ahead of me of people commenting on my hair!"

...will help her govern.

October 7, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 11:22 PM


"I am sickened by what I heard today. Women are to be championed and revered, not objectified. I hope Mr. Trump treats this situation with the seriousness it deserves and works to demonstrate to the country that he has greater respect for women than this clip suggests. In the meantime, he is no longer attending tomorrow's event in Wisconsin," said Ryan, who has had a rocky relationship with Trump.

In a statement after the tape was revealed, Trump called his comments "locker room banter" and a "private conversation that took place many years ago."

"Bill Clinton has said far worse to me on the golf course -- not even close," he said. "I apologize if anyone was offended."

Trump's running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, was "beside himself" and his wife was furious, according to a person familiar with their thinking.

Posted by orrinj at 10:35 PM


U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, under fire for vulgar comments caught on tape in 2005 and published on Friday, said that running mate Mike Pence would represent him at a Wisconsin campaign event on Saturday.

Posted by orrinj at 9:09 PM


Quit Now, Trump (ROD DREHER, October 7, 2016, American Conservative)

There is no way a pig like this will be elected president. None. It is time for the Republican Party bigs to step in and tell Trump to stand down and let Mike Pence move up. That's the only way the Republicans will have the remotest chance. If not, Trump might well cause the GOP to lose the Senate too.

Posted by orrinj at 8:59 PM


Every EU migrant can stay after Brexit (Peter Dominiczak, 7 OCTOBER 2016, The Telegraph)

All EU nationals currently living in Britain will be allowed to stay following Brexit, after the Home Office discovered that five in six could not legally be deported.

There are around 3.6 million EU citizens living in the UK, more than 80 per cent of whom will have permanent residency rights by the time Britain leaves the union in early 2019, official research has concluded.

The remainder - more than 600,000 people - will be offered an amnesty, with several Cabinet ministers telling The Telegraph that those citizens will be offered the right to stay permanently, in a policy that may prove controversial.

Posted by orrinj at 6:43 PM


Will Ryan still appear on stage with Trump? : The Republican nominee is set to appear on the campaign trail with Ryan for the first time on Saturday. (JAKE SHERMAN, 10/07/16, Politico)

Well, now Paul Ryan is in a real pickle.

The speaker of the House -- who has prided himself on his homespun, wholesome, family man persona -- is scheduled to host Donald Trump in his Wisconsin district less than 24 hours after The Washington Post revealed that the New York City billionaire once suggested that he can kiss and grab women's genitals with impunity because he's famous.

How does that play in Elkhorn, Wisconsin?

We might find out tomorrow. Trump is scheduled to appear alongside Ryan, who endorsed the GOP nominee, at the Walworth County Fairgrounds in Elkhorn, the heart of Ryan's southern Wisconsin district.

Posted by orrinj at 6:38 PM


Excerpts from Hillary Clinton's closed-door paid speeches, including to financial firms, appeared to be made public for the first time on Friday when WikiLeaks published thousands of hacked emails from her campaign chairman.

The speech transcripts, a major subject of contention during the Democratic primary, include quotes from Clinton about her distance from middle-class life ("I'm kind of far removed"); her vision of strategic governing ("you need both a public and a private position"); and her views on trade, health care, and Wall Street ("even if it may not be 100 percent true, if the perception is that somehow the game is rigged.") [...]

"We all rely on the market's transparency and integrity. So even if it may not be 100 percent true, if the perception is that somehow the game is rigged, that should be a problem for all of us, and we have to be willing to make that absolutely clear," Clinton said in one apparent excerpt, softening an assertion she has made frequently on the trail, that "the economy is rigged in favor of those at the top."

In the same remarks, attributed to a 2014 speech to Deutsche Bank, Clinton also said that much of financial reform "really has to come from the industry itself."

Posted by orrinj at 6:21 PM


'Birth of a Nation' is one of the year's best films (Kyle Smith, October 6, 2016, NY Post)

In violent retribution there can be a kind of ecstasy, a beautiful and even biblical conflagration of cleansing destruction, a feeling that will no doubt be shared by many of the film's admirers. Yet Turner murdered innocents, including women and children, to make a political point and was therefore a terrorist, a religiously motivated one to boot. Nevertheless, the film is told from Turner's point of view, and Parker's sense of the intolerability of injustice, the often-doomed logic of bloodshed to answer bloodshed, is chilling, urgent, even magnificent. (Parker's own personal history involving a criminal charge is beyond the scope of this review.)

"The Birth of a Nation" is, like its eponymous predecessor, unabashed propaganda, and I fear it will be misused as a call to hatred. Think about that title again, though, and about the prominence of the American flag in the film's final scene and in its advertising. Think about Turner's reference to claiming his natural rights, the bedrock of our Constitution and the protection of which is the purpose of our government. Slavery was America's original sin, but it was ended by American determination, by American might, by American ideals. Murdering slavery marked the birth of a truly free nation.

Posted by orrinj at 5:54 PM

UNFIT TO SERVE (profanity alert):

Trump recorded having extremely lewd conversation about women in 2005 (David A. Fahrenthold, October 7, 2016, Washington Post)

Donald Trump bragged in vulgar terms about kissing, groping and trying to have sex with women during a 2005 conversation caught on a hot microphone -- saying that "when you're a star, they let you do it" -- according to a video obtained by The Washington Post.

Posted by orrinj at 5:44 PM


In the third quarter of 2016, 10.9% of U.S. adults were without health insurance, representing a new low in Gallup's and Healthways' nearly nine years of trending the rate of uninsured. This is down from 11.9% in the fourth quarter of 2015, before the 2016 open enrollment period that allowed U.S. adults to obtain insurance through the government health insurance exchanges.

Posted by orrinj at 5:40 PM


Lobbyist advised Trump campaign while promoting Russian pipeline : Richard Burt helped shape the candidate's first foreign-policy speech while lobbying on behalf of a Moscow-controlled gas company. (BEN SCHRECKINGER and JULIA IOFFE, 10/07/16, Politico)

In the first two quarters of 2016, the firm of former Reagan administration official Richard Burt received $365,000 for work he and a colleague did to lobby for a proposed natural-gas pipeline owned by a firm controlled by the Russian government, according to congressional lobbying disclosures reviewed by POLITICO. The pipeline, opposed by the Polish government and the Obama administration, would complement the original Nord Stream, allowing more Russian gas to reach central and western European markets while bypassing Ukraine and Belarus, extending Putin's leverage over Europe.

Burt's lobbying work for New European Pipeline AG, the company behind the pipeline known as Nord Stream II, began in February. At the time, the Russian state-owned oil giant Gazprom owned a 50 percent stake in New European Pipeline AG. In August, five European partners pulled out and Gazprom now owns 100 percent.

This spring, Burt helped shape Trump's first major foreign policy address, according to Burt and other sources. Burt recommended that Trump take a more "realist," less interventionist approach to world affairs, as first reported by Reuters. Trump's April 27 speech sounded those themes and called for greater cooperation with Russia.

"I believe an easing of tensions and improved relations with Russia -- from a position of strength -- is possible," Trump said in the speech.

Posted by orrinj at 5:03 PM


Friday's jobs number was close to an ideal "Goldilocks" reading that showed the economy motoring ahead but not too fast to pose risks, Federal Reserve vice chair Stanley Fischer said on Friday.

"It's pretty close," Fischer said. The rate of job growth "is fully consistent with keeping unemployment declining" with a fixed labor force participation rate.

Posted by orrinj at 4:56 PM


Obama announces lifting of U.S. sanctions on Myanmar (David Brunnstrom, 10/07/16, Reuters)

"I have determined that the situation that gave rise to the national emergency ... has been significantly altered by Burma's (Myanmar's) substantial advances to promote democracy, including historic elections in November 2015," Obama said in a letter to the U.S. House and Senate speakers.

A U.S. Treasury statement said that as a result of the termination of the emergency order the economic and financial sanctions administered by the Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control were no longer in effect.

Posted by orrinj at 4:51 PM


When You've Lost the Bushes... : The price of alienating the first family of GOP politics (FRED BARNES, 10/17/16, Weekly Standard)

 In 2007, he told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that Bush was "probably the worst president in the history of the United States." In 2008, he claimed Bush had prior knowledge of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, and lied about weapons of mass destruction to justify America's invasion of Iraq in 2003. Trump advocated Bush's impeachment.

In an interview in 2013, Trump said: "George Tenet, the CIA director, knew in advance there was going to be an attack, and he said so to the president, and he said so to everyone else who would listen. That came out." In truth, that never happened and nothing like it ever "came out."

In other comments, Trump has blamed Bush for the 9/11 attacks. In a GOP debate in South Carolina in February, he said: "The World Trade Center came down because Bill Clinton [didn't] kill Osama bin Laden when he had a chance to kill him. And George Bush--by the way, George Bush had the chance also but he didn't listen to the advice of his CIA."

In 2008, Trump told CNN he was "surprised" that Nancy Pelosi "didn't do more in terms of .  .  . going after Bush" when she was House speaker. "It just seemed like she was really going to look to impeach Bush and get him out of office. Which personally I think would have been a wonderful thing."

In that same 2008 CNN interview, Trump said Bush "lied" about Saddam Hussein's possession of weapons of mass destruction. "Bush got us into this horrible war with lies, by lying. By saying they had WMDs, by saying all sorts of things that happened not to be true."

Posted by orrinj at 4:46 PM


Posted by orrinj at 2:29 PM


Health savings accounts are quickly becoming the norm at corporations throughout the U.S., and top HSA administrator HealthEquity (HQY) expects these accounts to one day serve the same role as other retirement savings vehicles.

To be sure, high-deductible medical insurance plans are on the rise. For one there is a "tax savings bonanza from contributing to an HSA as your first place to build savings," according to HealthEquity Senior Vice President of Products Brad Bennion.

Speaking on the company's recent conference call, Bennion was echoing sentiments from personal finance guru Suze Orman during the company's partner summit in July. Bennion also points out a number of key benefits, such as lower insurance premiums and lower net deductibles.

"While only about 14% of working Americans have HSAs today, eventually, HSAs will become ubiquitous, as common as other retirement accounts like 401(k)s and IRAs," Bennion said. He added: "They will be used not only for current health care spending but for long-term health care saving and retirement planning, resulting in higher asset balances."

Posted by orrinj at 10:11 AM


It seems like Colin Van Ostern is struggling with an identity crisis. He knows who he is and the New Hampshire Democratic Party base knows who he is, but it seems independent voters around the state don't know too much about the New Hampshire Democratic gubernatorial nominee.

That was apparent in the latest Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll released Thursday. While Van Ostern only trailed Republican nominee Chris Sununu by four points -- 36 to 40 percent, respectively, with 20 percent still undecided -- his favorability ratings tell a different story.

Sununu has a 35 percent favorable rating with 32 percent of voters finding him unfavorable. Only 10 percent have never heard of him and 23 percent are undecided on him. Of course, some voters may claim familiarity with Sununu based on his family's involvement in New Hampshire politics.

Van Ostern has a 28 percent favorable and 18 percent unfavorable rating, but 26 percent are still undecided about him and 28 percent have never heard of him.

Kelly Ayotte and Chris Sununu are the sorts of thoroughly decent downticket Republicans who will lose because of the top of the ticket.  But at least Ms Ayotte will lose to a popular sitting governor, not to "other."

Posted by orrinj at 9:59 AM


Record High Number of Foreign-Born Workers Employed in U.S. : Unemployment rate higher for native-born workers than foreign-born (Ali Meyer, October 7, 2016, Free Beacon)

The number of foreign-born workers employed in the United States hit a record high in September, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The number of foreign-born workers exceeded 26 million for the first time in August. There were 26,134,000 foreign-born workers who had a job in August, and in September that number increased to 26,146,000, an increase of 12,000. [...]

The unemployment rate was 4.4 percent for foreign-born workers and 4.9 percent for native-born workers in September.

Posted by orrinj at 9:53 AM


Obama Guidelines Aim to Get More Self-Driving Cars on the Road : The U.S. tries to pave the way for autonomous vehicle technology, without relegating safety to the backseat (Larry Greenemeier, September 21, 2016, Scientific American)

The DoT's new Federal Automated Vehicles Policy includes a 15-point safety assessment to help autonomous vehicle makers evaluate their technology in areas including data recording and sharing, vehicle cybersecurity, and how the vehicles interact with human drivers and passengers. The guidelines state that reporting these safety assessments to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is voluntary, but could become mandatory as the DoT develops formal autonomous vehicle regulations.

The safety assessment is significant because it gives tech companies and automakers some much-needed guidance as they hurtle into a murky future. "The public is asking themselves if, once these regulations are followed, are autonomous vehicles going to be safe?" says Nidhi Kalra, a senior information scientist at research institute RAND Corp. and co-director of its Center for Decision Making under Uncertainty. Right now the answer is "maybe," Kalra says. Whether autonomous vehicle makers will ever be able to answer "yes" to that question is complicated--there is no test to determine whether an autonomous vehicle is safe nor is there even a consensus as to how safety is defined. "Some people will not accept mistakes from machines, even if those mistakes occur at a lower rate than they do with humans," Kalra says. "Others will say that if the vehicles are safer than the average human driver, then we should allow them on the roads."

The DoT's guidelines clarify the roles that federal and state governments will have in regulating self-driving cars. The federal government will continue to be responsible for the safety of the vehicles themselves--including the software that allows them to operate autonomously--while the states remain in charge of regulating human drivers when they are at the wheel, according to Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx. At a press conference announcing the policy, Foxx also noted that the DoT will put in place an exemption process that companies can take advantage of if they want to depart radically from current vehicle designs--such as eliminating steering wheels and brake pedals--if they can prove that the new design improves vehicle safety.

In March the DoT acknowledged that current federal motor vehicle safety standards did not directly address automated vehicle technologies. The newly proposed regulations are an effort to remedy this problem, as carmakers and tech companies hurry to develop and sell new self-driving technologies. The main focus is on highly automated vehicles that can take full control of the driving task in at least some circumstances. Portions of the guidelines also apply to lower levels of automation, including some of the driver-assistance systems already being deployed by automakers today.

Posted by orrinj at 9:21 AM


Obama Calls Carbon Price Better Than Regulations (Evan Lehmann,  December 2, 2015, Scientific American)

[O]bama suggested yesterday that he still believes that an economywide carbon price is a better option than the Clean Power Plan, the regulatory approach he's using to advance a global agreement on climate change over the next two weeks in Paris.

"I have long believed that the most elegant way to drive innovation and to reduce carbon emissions is to put a price on it," Obama said yesterday in a press conference in Paris.

He echoed economists who describe greenhouse gas emissions as "externalities"--things of value that aren't correctly priced by the market. The economic impact of carbon emissions on sea-level rise, for example, isn't counted in the price of gasoline.

Posted by orrinj at 9:12 AM


Obamacare is no disaster. California is proving why (Noam N. Levey, 10/07/16, LA Times)

The state has recorded some of the nation's most dramatic gains in health coverage since 2013 while building a competitive insurance marketplace that offers consumers enhanced protections from high medical bills.

Californians, unlike people in many states, have many insurance choices. That means that even with rising premiums, the vast majority of consumers should be able to find a plan that costs them, at most, 5% more than they are paying this year. 

And all health plans being sold in the state will cap how much patients must pay for prescriptions every month and for many doctor visits.

That reflects deliberate choices by California state officials who, unlike many states, used the health law to expand the Medicaid safety net and build a marketplace that put stringent requirements on insurance companies.

"California followed the blueprint. They did it right," said Dr. J. Mario Molina, chief executive of Long Beach-based Molina Healthcare Inc., a leading national insurer that is selling marketplace plans in nine states in 2017.

"What has been lost in all the rhetoric and the politics is that the system can work," Molina said. Open enrollment begins next month. 

There's an exquisite irony in Governor Brown making the market model work while Republicans subverted it.

Posted by orrinj at 9:09 AM


Finland and the United States have signed a bilateral defense cooperation pact pledging closer military collaboration at the time when the Nordic country is increasingly concerned over Russia's activities in the Baltic Sea region.

Posted by orrinj at 8:59 AM


Clinton preps final-stage blitz against Trump : The Democrat has as much cash ready for the final stretch as any candidate ever. And she's sending it to Battleground America. (GABRIEL DEBENEDETTI, 10/07/16, Politico)

Hillary Clinton is walking into the final stretch of this 2016 presidential contest with as much cash at her direct disposal as any White House contender in history. And her operatives expect her to use it to blanket the battleground states with both organizers and a heavy dose of anti-Donald Trump ads.

In-state Democratic operatives are planning for a significant tranche of the money -- coming from the $150 million Clinton's campaign and associated accounts had in the bank to start October -- to be added to the previously announced $80 million television investment her team previewed at the start of this final phase, on top of other paid media and a heavily-funded get-out-the-vote push.

Ms Clinton is hardly the kind of self-assured and visionary politician that W was, so one can hardly expect her to begin planning for how she'll govern.  She ought to realize the presidential is over and, rather than try to run up the score, this money should be spent securing a Democratic Senate and potentially even the House. Of course, such short-sightedness may not matter given the size of the wave Republicans down-ticket are fighting.

Posted by orrinj at 8:53 AM


Despite vice presidential candidate Mike Pence's mission to assuage evangelical voters'​ doubts about the views of Donald Trump, a plurality of evangelical senior pastors (44%) remained undecided last month about which candidate to vote for, according to a new survey from LifeWay Research.

Meanwhile, almost 4 in 10 plan to vote for Trump (38%), while about 1 in 10 plans to vote for Hillary Clinton (9%). Four percent support Gary Johnson. Two percent do not plan to vote.

More than half of the most committed evangelical Christians didn't support Donald Trump for president in the Republican primary. And although a majority of them have resigned themselves to backing him rather than supporting the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, evangelicalism is changing in ways that may not be apparent to the casual observer.

Trump's candidacy, in fact, is helping to accelerate the trend pushing some evangelicals away from an automatic affiliation with the Republican Party. Evangelicals oppose Trump for a few reasons: They view his character as repugnant and his temperament as dangerous. And while many of them do not like Clinton, they are not as alarmed by their policy disagreements with her as they are by the idea that the church would align itself with someone like Trump.

The "despite Pence" is a revealing touch.  If Donald withdrew today and the GOP replaced him with a Christian governor--Jeb, Pence, Kasich, etc.--that nominee would beat Hillary.

Posted by orrinj at 8:48 AM


Job growth has averaged 178,000 a month so far this year, down from last year's pace of 229,000. Still, hiring at that level is enough to lower the unemployment rate over time. Economists have expected the pace to slow as the supply of unemployed workers declines. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:37 AM


How Democrats should fix ObamaCare (Ryan Cooper, October 7, 2016, The Week)

Democrats should aim for programs that can run indefinitely on autopilot -- because chances are good that they'll only get a brief window every decade or two to fix any problems.

Medicare and Medicaid fit that bill. They aren't perfect, and do need adjustment from time to time, but they are far more stable than the jerry-rigged ObamaCare exchanges. Democratic reformers should work to put a public option on the exchanges that is as close to those single-payer programs as possible -- perhaps using Medicare rates or a formal buy-in to Medicare itself. Democratic lawmakers won't be able to do this anytime soon -- they'll need the House, the Senate, and the White House to make it happen -- but they must be ready to pounce when given the chance.

Remember, the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid expansion has been by far the greatest success of ObamaCare. Something like 16 million more people are on Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program than were projected to be before ObamaCare was passed. The Department of Health and Human Services estimates that about 20 million people have gotten coverage directly due to the reform law, and about 11 million of them through the exchanges. The additional unexpected people on Medicaid are probably explained by the enrollment push rolling up people who were eligible for old-style Medicaid, but didn't realize it.

Still, it could have been far better. Because the Supreme Court made the Medicaid expansion optional, 19 conservative states are still refusing to take the money, leaving 2.9 million people directly without coverage. (Ninety percent of such people are in the South, and 55 percent are nonwhite.)

There is no reason for this to happen. Even though states are only required to pay 10 percent of the expansion cost starting in 2020, the feds might as well have carried the entire thing. Indeed, there's no reason at all for Medicaid to be the goofy state-federal partnership in the first place. Future reform ought to federalize Medicaid altogether, removing individual state governments from the decision about whom to insure. Hey presto, another 3 million more people have coverage.

If the GOP chooses not to negotiate a more free market (Third Way) system that provides universal coverage then we'll get a more Second Way one (National Health).  
Posted by orrinj at 8:27 AM


How Donald Trump Became the Issue (BEN SHAPIRO, OCTOBER 6, 2016, Daily Wire)

Going into the 2012 election, Republicans were looking for a candidate who could do one thing, and one thing well: place a glaring spotlight on Clinton, and leave it there. Clinton is one of the least popular major party candidates in American history. She had trouble escaping a brutal primary season with a near-octogenarian nutcase Vermont senator with no history of accomplishment other than being from the same state that produced Ben and Jerry's ice cream. And she has been facing down a federal investigation for setting up a private server in order to destroy or hide classified information.

So naturally, Republicans nominated the one man capable of drawing headlines to himself: Trump.

And he hasn't failed.

In the primaries, when no one is paying much attention, it was sufficient that he had so much free media coverage he could drown everyone else out.  That the coverage was overwhelmingly positive was just a bonus.

But now folks are interested in the race and he's drowning in the coverage.  His buffoonery no longer seems like a comic alternative to humdrum politics and his policies were never going to withstand sunlight.

Posted by orrinj at 8:10 AM


Obama's approval rating keeps on rising (Becca Stanek, 10/07/16, The Week)

A new CNN/ORC poll out Thursday pegged Obama's approval rating at 55 percent -- a level of popularity he hasn't hit since his first year in office. [...]

This marks the second poll in a month to show Obama at his highest approval rating of his second term. A Washington Post/ABC News poll released in mid-September found his rating to be even higher, at 58 percent. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:06 AM


Amazon only needs a minute of human labor to ship your next package (Matt McFarland, October 6, 2016, CNN MOney)

With 22 years of experience in e-commerce and an obsession with efficiency, Amazon has brought remarkable optimization to the warehouses where it stores, packages and ships goods.

On a typical Amazon (AMZN, Tech30) order, employees will spend about a minute total -- taking an item off the shelf, then boxing and shipping it.

The rest of the work is done by robots and automated systems.

Posted by orrinj at 8:00 AM


In what is either another remarkable blunder or a masterful bit of lowering expectations, on Thursday night in New Hampshire Donald Trump held a public practice session for his town-hall-style debate with Hillary Clinton this Sunday. [...]

• Trump said he would take 20 questions, but he only took about a dozen. The event lasted 30 minutes, while the debate will be 90 minutes with no break.

• As CNN notes, "Rather than working the room, Trump remained standing in the same spot, just a few feet from Carr who read off the questions Trump's supporters had submitted."

• Carr offered Trump words of encouragement while questioning him, and some people prefaced their questions by shouting things like, "Make America Great Again!" "I like this audience," Trump said. "I like this audience."

• Trump was asked softball questions, such as "What would you say to convince Hispanics who are deceived by Obama, Clinton, and the biased media to vote for you?" and "What is your favorite childhood memory? Go Donald."

• He frequently went off on tangents and didn't really answer the few specific policy questions he received.

• He complained that Clinton got easier questions in the first debate. "She gets easy ones," he said. "By the way, have you noticed the difference? I'm getting boom, boom, boom. With her, 'What would you do to fix the economy?' Of course, that's actually a much tougher question than you would understand, and she doesn't have a clue, but you see the questions I was getting."

• He attacked journalists John King and John Harwood, as well as Senator Mark Kirk, a Republican who does not support him.

• He attacked Clinton, claiming that she is "resting" rather than doing debate prep. "She wants to build up her energy for Sunday night," he said.

• He kicked things off by attacking the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates, saying, "Give me a break. Did you see where they came from, one of them comes from the Hillary camp, the head person."

Posted by orrinj at 7:54 AM


[S]etting aside the high-profile cases that both sides use to rally their base, on a day-to-day basis, partisan disagreements don't affect the court all that much. Tuttle notes that between January 2012 and June 2014, the Supreme Court ruled against the Obama administration unanimously 13 times -- on everything from recess appointments to abortion clinic "buffer zones." Nor was this an anomaly. Since 1995, more than 40 percent of cases were settled unanimously by the court.

Despite their ideological disagreements, justices are far more united than divided on the law. And presidents, by and large, have respected the independence of the judiciary and left the court alone to settle cases as it sees fit -- with some notorious exceptions like FDR. He famously threatened to force justices who struck down the New Deal into retirement and "pack the court" with more pliant ones.

Trump would be FDR on steroids. He savaged Judge Gonzalo Curiel's "Mexican" heritage because the judge didn't dismiss the case against Trump University. If something as low stakes as this can set Trump off, imagine what he'll do if the Supreme Court takes up a challenge to a signature issue of his presidency? A Trump presidency is likely to be a rolling wave of one manufactured constitutional crisis after another.

That, however, isn't likely to be President Trump's worst damage.

To the extent that Trump has a vision for the GOP, it is along the lines of Europe-style workers' parties (his term) such as France's National Front. This is an authoritarian, nationalistic, right-wing party whose main goal is to aggressively realign the economy around the interest of domestic workers by fanning the fires of xenophobia and protectionism. George Mason University's Ilya Somin points out that such a party will have no use for federalism, separation of powers, and individual rights. To the contrary, such commitments are likely to be an impediment to its goals.

Posted by orrinj at 7:47 AM


In views of diversity, many Europeans are less positive than Americans (BRUCE DRAKE AND JACOB POUSHTER, 7/20/16, Pew)

The most common view among the 10 European countries surveyed is that cultural diversity is neither a plus nor a minus in terms of quality of life. In no nation does a majority say increasing diversity is a positive for their country. At most, roughly a third in Sweden (36%), the UK (33%) and Spain (31%) describe growing racial, ethnic and national diversity in favorable terms.

By contrast, more than half in Greece (63%) and Italy (53%) say that growing diversity makes their country a worse place to live. Roughly four-in-ten Hungarians (41%) and Poles (40%) agree. 

Americans have a sharply different view on the same question posed in the Europe survey: "Do you think having an increasing number of people of many different races, ethnic groups and nationalities in our country makes this country a better place to live, a worse place to live or doesn't make much difference either way?"

About six-in-ten Americans say increasing diversity makes the country a better place to live (58%), compared with just 7% who say it makes the U.S. a worse place to live and 33% saying it doesn't make a difference either way.

The future demographics are one of the reasons people will keep lending us money for free.
Posted by orrinj at 7:34 AM

MIRANDA'S RIGHT (profanity alert)

The Conservative Case Against Donald Trump : Six reasons Republicans should not vote for Trump in November (Tim Miller, 10/07/16, The Ringer)

2. Trump Will Not Govern As a Conservative

Conservative Hillary haters: Donald Trump is not your friend. He is a lifelong New York liberal whose few policy proposals have had more in common with European nationalist parties than anything Ronald Reagan would support. He has flip-flopped on every major conservative policy priority. The only thing he's reliably more conservative than Hillary on is deporting immigrants. If that is the most important issue to you, vote Trump. Otherwise, a Trump presidency will do lasting damage to the conservative cause. Hamilton is hot right now, so listen to the original: "If we must have an enemy at the head of Government, let it be one whom we can oppose, and for whom we are not responsible, who will not involve our party in the disgrace of his foolish and bad measures."

Nativism isn't conservative either.

Two-thirds of Americans oppose immigration plans advocated by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump -- building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and deporting immigrants living in the U.S. illegally. In contrast, 84% favor a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants living in the U.S., a plan backed by Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Notably, significantly more Republicans favor a path to citizenship than support building a border wall or deporting illegal immigrants.

Posted by orrinj at 4:37 AM


Does the Media Cause Mass Shootings? : A growing body of research suggests that increasingly intense media coverage of mass shootings is partly responsible for their acceleration in the United States. (Jared Keller, 10/03/16, Pacific Standard)

A growing body of research suggests that increasingly intense media coverage of mass shootings is partly to blame. Call it the "media contagion effect," as a recent paper by researchers Jennifer Johnston and Andrew Joy (presented at the American Psychological Association's annual convention) put it: The majority of mass shooters -- mostly alienated, socially isolated straight white men, according to the authors -- fixate on mass shootings as a way to "regain social capital" through the fame they know the media will bestow upon them with non-stop coverage of their crimes. "If these events do provide a way to regain any lost status, reestablishing dominance in the most extreme fashion, then ending the rampage in suicide allows them to avoid the retribution and perspective correction from the society they hate," the authors write. "In essence, these killers believe that they are buying stock low, and selling high."

In essence, the media becomes a vehicle through which mass murderers deal with "a deep sense of victimization and belief that the killer's life has been ruined by someone else," as researcher Adam Lankford, author of The Myth of Martyrdom: What Really Drives Suicide Bombers, Rampage Shooters, and Other Self-Destructive Killers, wrote in the New York Times days after Adam Lanza slaughtered 20 six-year-olds at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut:

Not surprisingly, the presence of mental illness can inflame these beliefs, leading perpetrators to have irrational and exaggerated perceptions of their own victimization. It makes little difference whether the perceived victimizer is an enemy government (in the case of suicide terrorists) or their boss, co-workers, fellow students or family members (in the case of rampage shooters).

Data reinforces this hypothesis. Several studies by Columbia University's Madelyn Gould have already established that media reports on murders and suicide tend to trigger a subsequent rise is similar incidents in different communities. A 1999 analysis of several mass murders in Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom between 1987 and 1996 found that the disparate massacres "appeared to be influenced by each other in a number of ways, often spanning many years and across continents," as the Washington Post put it. More recently, a 2015 analysis of 232 U.S. mass murders between 2006 and 2013 (176 of which involved guns) and data on school shootings from 1998 to 2013 revealed an increase in the likelihood of a massacres for a period of two weeks after similar instances of mass violence.

Posted by orrinj at 4:10 AM


Then Bush wasted what seemed to be his last chance. He was arrested in Florida after driving drunk and running over 72-year old motorcyclist Anthony Tufano with his vehicle, almost killing the man. Bush fled the scene, but cops caught up to him. He resisted -- it took five officers to finally subdue him -- and pleaded with them to just kill him. Bush was charged with multiple felonies and sentenced to 51 months in prison as part of a plea agreement.

While in prison, Bush came to terms with his alcoholism and began to actively seek treatment. In an interview with Fox Sports while he was still incarcerated, he said, "I still have the dream of playing again. I still feel like I can play. But I clearly understand that I might have had all of my chances and opportunities already."  

At least one other man was hoping someone would give Bush a chance: Tufano, the man Bush nearly killed. "I just wish that [Bush] wouldn't think negatively about what happened to me, realize that I don't hold anything against him, and move on," Tufano told Fox Sports for the same story.

Move on Bush did, and another chance he did get.

Bush had a "tryout" for the Rangers -- in the parking lot of a Golden Corral, where Matt was employed as part of a work release program. Using a parking bumper as a mound, he threw in the mid-90s.

The Rangers signed him on Dec. 18, 2015, just 110 days after he was released from prison.

On May 13, 2016, about four years since his last drink and exactly 11 years, 11 months and six days since becoming the Padres' shortstop of the future, 30-year old Matt Bush made his major league debut. Pitching the ninth inning against the Blue Jays in Arlington, he faced Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. He retired them in order and struck out reigning American League MVP Donaldson with 97.7 mph heat.

October 6, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 9:33 PM


Only once in the last four decades have there been fewer filings; in April of this year, jobless claims hit 248,000, the lowest mark since 1973. Thursday's report marked the 83rd consecutive week that first-time jobless claims have remained below 300,000, which, Reuters reported, "is seen as indicative of a strong labor market."

In more good news, Thursday's report also revealed that continued jobless claims are dropping off. In the week that ended Sept. 24, continued claims fell 6,000 from the previous week to 2.06 million, the lowest level since 2000.

Posted by orrinj at 9:29 PM


A group of 30 former GOP lawmakers signed a blistering open letter to Republicans on Thursday, warning that Donald Trump lacks the "intelligence" and temperament to be president and urging the party to reject the Republican presidential nominee at the polls on Nov. 8.

The group includes several former lawmakers who have openly opposed Trump from the start, including former Sen. Gordon Humphrey (N.H.) and former Rep. Vin Weber (Minn.).
But more than half of the former lawmakers on the list are announcing their opposition to Trump for the first time.

Posted by orrinj at 9:24 PM


Posted by orrinj at 9:17 PM


Iranian reformists send clear support for Rouhani (Misha Zand, October 6, 2016, Al Monitor)

The pro-reform Arman Daily's interview with Moein, published Oct. 6 with the headline "Reformists within Rouhani's think tank," announced the unofficial think tank and said "the president is much too busy to set up an official think tank."

Moein is well-known within reformist circles as he served as culture minister during Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani's presidency (1989-1997) and as culture minister and then science minister during the presidency of reformist Mohammad Khatami (1997-2005). Moein, who is today one of Rouhani's advisers, said, "Rouhani's chief rival is his own performance, and we hope that in the final months the 11th government [Rouhani's administration] can benefit more from opportunities."

The Arman article says the conservative hard-line faction in Iran, better known as the Worried group, is trying to pull Rouhani toward its views to damage his popularity. "[Even] without an official decree, the reformists regard it as their duty to give advice to Rouhani and to offer their views, [while] the Worried [group] is well aware of this."

"The Worried group" is an expression that stuck to the critics of the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action agreement, which Iran signed with the world powers in July 2015 in an attempt to get economic sanctions relaxed.

Posted by orrinj at 9:12 PM


Donald Trump's Slip in Polls Has G.O.P. Worried About Congress (JONATHAN MARTIN and ALEXANDER BURNS, OCT. 5, 2016, NY Times)

For his party, Mr. Trump's reversal in fortune comes at the worst possible moment: Having muted their criticism of Mr. Trump in hopes that he could at least run competitively through Election Day, Republicans must decide in the next few days, rather than weeks, whether to seek distance from his wobbly campaign.

Should Mr. Trump falter badly in his second debate with Hillary Clinton on Sunday in St. Louis, Republican congressional candidates may take it as a cue to flee openly from their nominee, said two senior Republicans involved at high levels of the campaign who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss private party strategy.

Mr. Trump has already slipped perceptibly in public polls, trailing widely this week in Pennsylvania and by smaller margins in Florida and North Carolina -- three states he cannot afford to lose. But private polling by both parties shows an even more precipitous drop, especially among independent voters, moderate Republicans and women, according to a dozen strategists from both parties who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the data was confidential.

Liesl Hickey, a Republican strategist involved in several House races in swing states, said she was dismayed by a sudden exodus of independent voters in more diverse parts of the country.

"They are really starting to pull away from Trump," said Ms. Hickey, describing his soaring unpopularity with independents as entering "uncharted territory."

Mr. Trump's erratic behavior last week after his poor performance in the first debate with Mrs. Clinton -- attacking a former beauty pageant winner over her weight, and making an issue of the Clintons' marriage -- has alarmed a number of Republican senators, including Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader. Mr. McConnell expressed concern that Mr. Trump might not have bottomed out yet and could lose even more support among women, according to a Republican official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to recount a private conversation.

Posted by orrinj at 9:08 PM


U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said as many as 70 percent of federal agency regulations could be eliminated if he is elected in November, just hours after an adviser said the candidate would seek to cut 10 percent.

Posted by orrinj at 8:59 PM


Trump Used Foundation Funds for 2016 Run, Filings Suggest (Rebecca Berg, October 04, 2016, RCP)

That check is one of at least several donations to suggest Trump used his private foundation, funded by outside donors, to launch and fuel his political ambitions. Such contributions, if they were made solely for Trump's benefit, could violate federal self-dealing laws for private foundations. 

From 2011 through 2014, Trump harnessed his eponymous foundation to send at least $286,000 to influential conservative or policy groups, a RealClearPolitics review of the foundation's tax filings found. In many cases, this flow of money corresponded to prime speaking slots or endorsements that aided Trump as he sought to recast himself as a plausible Republican candidate for president.

Posted by orrinj at 8:54 PM


How Howard Stern Owned Donald Trump : The Donald fancied himself a player in the '90s, but the shock jock knew just how to play him. Now that's back to haunt the candidate. (VIRGINIA HEFFERNAN, October 06, 2016, Politico)

This much-craved publicity, of course, came at price: Stern has long had a devilish talent for lulling guests into a false sense of security--and then luring them into rhetorical traps. He casts his guests in a burlesque he scripts for them, and cattle-prods them into playing their parts, first fawning over them until they feel like celebrities, then bringing down the hammer of humiliation. He's a diabolically domineering scene partner. No interviewer has ever been as adroit with treacherous leading questions in the vein of "When did you stop beating your wife?" Stern, in other words, gets people to publicly embrace their worst selves--and say things they live to regret.

That's exactly what happened with Trump. Today, as the Republican nominee, he may fashion himself as a boss and a master of the universe. But what comes across in old tapes of the show, resurfaced recently by BuzzFeed and other outlets, is that Trump, like many of Stern's guests, was often the one being played. By nailing him as a buffoon and then--unkindest cut--forcing him to kiss the Howard Stern ring, Stern and his co-anchor, Robin Quivers, created a series of broadcasts that today showcase not just Trump's misogyny but his ready submission to sharper minds.

Posted by orrinj at 8:43 PM


Technological innovation in everything from drill bits and mud pumps to seismic analysis and digitally controlled drilling rigs has unlocked galaxies of energy that have helped transform America into an energy superpower. The U.S. now has an energy-price advantage on commodities like natural gas, propane, ethane and even electricity over nearly every other country. That advantage is a direct result of 
the dynamism of the domestic oil and gas business, the epicenter of which remains in Texas.

Today's oil-price plunge is largely due to the shale revolution, which started in Texas and has made the U.S. the world's biggest oil and natural-gas producer, leading to record levels of oil in storage. Between 2009 and 2015, U.S. oil production grew by about 3.9 million barrels per day. And nearly 60 percent of that increase -- some 2.3 million barrels per day -- came from Texas.

Texas now accounts for about 37 percent of daily U.S. oil production and about 27 percent of all domestic natural gas output.

The Lone Star State is once again exerting outsize influence on global prices, an echo of its storied past. But this time aroundthe pace of development of new technologies suggests that we may be headed into a new era of higher oil production and lower prices, with Texas leading the way.

October 5, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 6:54 PM


Even with the additional couple million more viewers who caught the debate on C-Span, PBS, and some smaller networks, as well as streaming, the Pence-Kaine debate will end up with a lower rating (and overall audience) than all but the 2000 Dick Cheney-Joe Lieberman and 1996 Al Gore-Jack Kemp wonkfests. It's also down about 25 percent vs. 2012's Joe Biden-Paul Ryan debate (31.9 rating and 51.4 million viewers over 12 networks) and not even in the same universe as 2008's Sarah Palin-Joe Biden spectacular (41.7 rating and 69.9 million viewers over 11 channels). Trump can now (not) sleep soundly tonight knowing that, without his presence, ratings plummet.

...that only Trump matters, which helped in the primaries but is destroying him in the general.

Posted by orrinj at 6:43 PM


Second thoughts from conservative talk radio star: Did we create Trump? : A SHIFT IN THOUGHT An influential right-wing talk-show host in Milwaukee rejects Trump and worries that the echo-chamber of conservative media he helped create is responsible for the Trump movement. On Tuesday, he announced his retirement.   (Simon Montlake, Staff writer OCTOBER 5, 2016, CS Monitor)

For Sykes, the conservative media's disdain for "liberal" truths - the "monster" - allowed Trump to crash the GOP party and claim its mantle. He says his own listeners, like "Steve from the north side," refuse to read conservative columnists in The New York Times because they prefer online sources that traffic in lurid allegations about the other side, just as Trump imbibes conspiracies and rumors and fashions them into a 24/7 media spectacle that can seem immune to fact-checking.

"This is the shock of 2016. You look around and you see how much of the conservative media infrastructure buys into the post-factual, post-truth culture.... I understand that we are advocates and defenders, but when do you veer off into pure raw propaganda?" he asks.

One of Sykes's biggest beefs with Trump is that his views on race and gender have confirmed all the stereotypes applied by liberals to conservative politicians and made it even harder for future GOP leaders to broaden the party's appeal among minorities. His other complaints about Trump are familiar ones: unqualified and intemperate, inconsistent on issues like abortion and gun control, shaky on constitutional principles.

Sykes refuses to consider Trump as the lesser of two evils for the job as president, as so many fellow Republicans have done in recent months. "It's painful for me to listen to conservative media folks who think it's their job to rationalize and justify everything that he says," he gripes.

Posted by orrinj at 6:34 PM


Clinton's Former Prosecutor Endorses Her for President (Eli Lake, 10/03/16, Bloomberg View)

Twenty years ago, Michael Chertoff was near the top of the Clintons' enemy list. He was the lead Republican counsel on the Senate Whitewater Committee, one of the first of many congressional investigations into Hillary Clinton.

Clinton later cast the only vote in the Senate against him when he was nominated in 2001 to head the Justice Department's criminal division. She was also the lone no vote against Chertoff in 2003, when he was nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the third circuit.   

All of this, though, was before the Republican Party nominated Donald Trump as its presidential candidate. This has shaken the party of Reagan. Chertoff, a lifelong Republican, will now be voting for the Democrat in November.

Posted by orrinj at 5:17 PM


So Rudy Giuliani Really Wants to Go Out Like This? : Once upon a time, righteous Rudy went after Trump's friends and insisted that paying taxes is an obligation. How and why did he enter Alex Jones territory? (Harry Siegel, 10.05.16, Daily Beast)

There was the time the lawman charged boxing huckster and longtime Donald Trump partner Don King with hiding his personal income behind his eponymous promotional business to dodge taxes, and tried to send him to jail for 46 years.

The time he went at Roy Cohn for the millions that the Joe McCarthy henchman turned Trump mentor had hidden by pretending that he had no personal income, but only what was memorably described in the Daily News as a "giant untaxable expense account to carry on with the business of being Roy Cohn, celebrity person."

The time he charged the Manhattan real-estate mogul who'd bragged that "only the little people pay taxes," and sent the Queen of Mean to prison.

"If you reflect on it, there are very few things that our government asks of its citizens in exchange for all the blessings of living here," the lawman said: pays taxes and obey the law.

"Unfortunately," he went on, "there are some wealthy people who do not understand this."

And the time he ran a TV ad ripping a politician who'd failed to file his taxes in some years and then tried to hide that fact. "Haven't we had enough with city officials who wait until they get caught to obey the law?" a voice intoned, over a shot of IRS forms. "Think about it. Would you be a candidate for mayor if you didn't pay your taxes?"

Now, Rudy Giuliani, lawman gone deplorable, is calling Donald Trump "an economic genius" for finding a way to book a clean billion dollars in losses in a single year--incredibly, that's 2 percent of all the losses reported in all the tax returns in America in 1995, when the economy was humming under a President Clinton.

Posted by orrinj at 5:09 PM


Gianni Infantino, the Fifa president whose election promises included expanding the World Cup finals to 40 countries, on Monday proposed an even larger tournament involving 48 teams. Because if you've got a terrible idea, why not make it a really terrible one by adding a bit more on top?

Actually, ever since the NCAA made leagues meaningless, I've thought they should just open the Tournament to every team in Division 1.  It only adds a weekend essentially and you just replace league tournaments.

Even better would be a World Cup where every nation makes it and you play single elimination all the way through.  

Posted by orrinj at 4:29 PM


Yes, this is the slowest U.S. recovery since WWII (Heather Long and Tami Luhby, 10/05/16, CNNMoney)

This recovery may be slow, but it's also lasted a long time -- far longer than usual -- and job growth has been good.

"We are in the fourth longest expansion in U.S. history," notes Achuthan.

Since World War II, the American economy has typically grown for about five years and then had a contraction. This expansion is already over seven years old.

Furthermore, the average pace of job growth in this recovery has already topped what happened during the 2001 to 2007 expansion under President George W. Bush (the Bush recovery was the slowest in terms of jobs growth, Achuthan says).

Over 14 million jobs have been added since the low point from the financial crisis. Job growth is as important -- if not more important -- than overall growth, many economists argue.

"We are experiencing the longest string of consecutive monthly jobs gains in economic history," says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics.

And we've barely started reaping the Peace Dividend.
Posted by orrinj at 4:13 PM


Mike Pence's bizarro world (Michael Brendan Dougherty, October 5, 2016, The Week)

Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence flashed real skills as a debater on Tuesday night. Unlike his running mate, he was armed with specific facts and practiced attack lines about the Democratic Party in general, and Hillary Clinton in particular. Pence was measured, calm, and unflappable. He often looked and sounded much better than Democrat Tim Kaine.

But there was a problem. Mike Pence, perhaps for his own sanity, is pretending that his running mate is a generic Republican rather than Donald Trump.

Over and over again, Kaine quoted Trump's more outlandish statements about Mexicans, Russian President Vladimir Putin, or nuclear proliferation. Sometimes they weren't even outlandish, but just cut against Republican Party orthodoxy. And Pence just shook his head derisively, as if Kaine had made it all up.

Pence seemed to know that it would be a losing strategy to explain or defend the scores of zany, offensive, or discomfiting things Trump has said. So he just pretended to be Lindsey Graham's veep candidate instead.

This is the proper strategy going forward : Trump was a mistake and a one-off; help Hillary pass Amnesty, the trade bills and an Obamacare fix; run a governor in 2020.
Posted by orrinj at 1:37 PM


VP candidate Bill Weld told the Boston Globe that he plans to focus exclusively on attacking Donald Trump for the remainder of the campaign -- essentially admitting that running mate Gary Johnson can not become president.

Trump has Weld's "full attention," he explained, because his agenda is so terrible it's "in a class by itself." "I think Mr. Trump's proposals in the foreign policy area, including nuclear proliferation, tariffs, and free trade, would be so hurtful, domestically and in the world, that he has my full attention," Weld said.

Posted by orrinj at 1:28 PM


Russia's Ephemeral Middle East Alliances  (Shlomo Ben-Ami,OCT 5, 2016, Project Syndicate)

[R]ussia's position in the region remains fragile. It is not currently capable of helping to establish - much less oversee - a new regional order, for a simple reason: the Kremlin lacks true allies there.

To be sure, Russia does wield substantial influence in Syria (a Cold War legacy), and shared interests have enabled Putin to bond with some regional powers. But no Middle Eastern country today is a captive client of the Kremlin in the way that, say, Egypt was during the Cold War.

Russia's recent cooperation with Iran, for example, is no sign of a budding friendship, as some experts believe. Though both governments support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and Iran allowed Russia to use its airbases in the fight against ISIS, Iran is keen to retain its role as Assad's main patron. Moreover, Iran would not want to jeopardize its efforts to rebuild its economic relations with the West - an objective that underpinned the international agreement on its nuclear program concluded in 2015. As for Russia, cooperating with Iran in a broader Middle East policy would destroy its standing among the region's Sunni powers.

October 4, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:29 PM


With Labour struggling to unite after the re-election of leftist leader Jeremy Corbyn, May will say it is time to become "the party of the workers".

"I want to set our party and our country on the path towards the new center ground of British politics - built on the values of fairness and opportunity," she will say in her speech, according to pre-released excerpts.

"So let's have no more of Labour's absurd belief that they have a monopoly on compassion ... Let's make clear that they have given up the right to call themselves the party of the NHS (National Health Service), the party of the workers, the party of public servants."

May has a long record of trying to push the Conservatives to adopt a more caring image - in 2002, she famously told them that some voters called them the "nasty party",

Since she was appointed prime minister almost three months ago following the resignation of her predecessor David Cameron over the EU referendum, the Conservatives have maintained an opinion poll lead of around 8 percentage points over Labour.

May's approval ratings as a leader dwarf Corbyn's. A poll late last month said only 16 percent of voters thought Labour was likely to win the next election under Corbyn, compared to 65 percent for the Conservatives under May.

...than when the other party reacts towards the First or Second Way leaving your party to claim the Third alone.

Posted by orrinj at 6:45 PM

BETTER OFF DEAD (profanity alert):

On Monday, Michael Reagan, one of late President Ronald Reagan's five children, unloaded a flurry of attacks against Donald Trump, arguing that the Republican Party has sold out to a con-artist. [...]

While Michael Reagan has long been a principled opponent against Trump's faux-conservatism, the latest critique against the real estate mogul felt more personal. When Trump went after Hillary's fidelity, he crossed a line of decency, according to Reagan.

In his sustained Twitter attack against Trump, Reagan made one thing clear: Donald Trump is no Ronald Reagan, so don't even dare to make that comparison.

Posted by orrinj at 4:07 PM


It seems running for president is hurting Donald Trump's finances big time. The Republican nominee's fortune fell $800 million last year sending him tumbling 35 spots on a list of richest Americans, Forbes said Tuesday.

Posted by orrinj at 2:00 PM


Prior to the 23 June referendum, the IMF had claimed a potential Brexit would plunge the UK into recession and lead to a crash in the equities market. While chances of a recession appear to be receding, the FTSE 100 capped an all-time high of 7,010 points on Tuesday (4 October).

In its latest update to the market, the IMF said it expects the UK economy to grow by 1.8% in 2016, marginally higher than its forecast of 1.7% in July.

The revision puts the country on track to be the fastest-growing G7 economy this year. Explaining its decision, the fund said measures taken by the Bank of England following the Brexit vote, including cutting interest rates by 25 basis points to 0.25% and freeing up more cash for banks to lend, had helped "maintain confidence" in the economy.

However, the IMF insisted that the UK's decision to leave the EU would in all likelihood exert a permanent drag on long-term growth, as it predicted that the Government would not balance the books until at least 2022.

Posted by orrinj at 1:55 PM


The head of Iran's space agency said Tuesday his country is interested in cooperating with its US counterpart NASA.

Speaking to reporters at the start of World Space Week, Mohsen Bahrami said that "many in the world look at NASA's programs. We are interested in having cooperation, naturally. When you are in orbit, there is no country and race."

Posted by orrinj at 1:50 PM


A major terrorist attack by ISIS was foiled by a faulty explosive device before it had even began.

16 of their fighters, including senior figures, have reportedly been killed when the malfunctioning suicide vest went off in one of their meetings.

The terror group had been meeting in the village of al-Mahaws, 35km southwest of Kirkuk, to plan an attack on security forces in Iraq, according to Al Masdar News.

And it is not the first time this year that they have managed to accidentally take out their own troops, with around a dozen extremists being killed in eastern Afghanistan in March when they accidentally set off a bomb that they were trying to plant.

Posted by orrinj at 1:36 PM


Donald Trump's Business Decisions in '80s Nearly Led Him to Ruin (RUSS BUETTNER and CHARLES V. BAGLI, OCT. 3, 2016, NY Times)

For a single businessman to declare losses approaching $1 billion is so extraordinary that it caused several accountants and lawyers consulted by The Times to blanch. The precise breakdown of that figure -- specifically which Trump enterprises were responsible for how much -- remains murky, hidden in a schedule attached to Mr. Trump's returns that has not become public. But a review of public records and interviews with those who were present makes clear that it was decisions Mr. Trump made at the helm of his business empire during the 1980s that led to its nearly imploding.

Mr. Trump, the Republican nominee for president, portrays himself now as a self-made man who began life with what he has characterized as a meager $1 million advance from his father. That figure itself represents a significant understatement about the support his father provided him over the years. But in his darkest moment, Mr. Trump again leaned on his family's wealth, this time to ride out a financial tsunami. [...]

He promised to make up for a cash shortfall with the sale of condominium units in Trump Tower in Manhattan. When that did not generate enough money, he filled the hole in his balance sheet with the "unforecasted receipt of funds from certain family-owned properties in New York City" -- apparently referring to fees from properties his father, Fred C. Trump, had built outside Manhattan.

At the end of 1990, when Mr. Trump was facing an $18.4 million interest payment, his father sent a lawyer to the Castle ca[**]no to buy $3.3 million in chips and leave without cashing them, providing his son with an infusion of cash.

By 1993, Mr. Trump was still in dire straits. He dispatched a company executive to ask his siblings if he could borrow $10 million from their respective shares of the family trust. Mr. Trump received the loan, according to people who were involved and spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid angering him, and went back for another $20 million the following year. Mr. Trump has denied borrowing from his siblings.

Mr. Trump had negotiated reduced interest rates on some of his loans, partially by agreeing to give up money-losing enterprises, including his airline, his yacht and a stake in the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan. His lenders forced him to live for a time on $450,000 a month.

WARNING : Do not try this at home.
Posted by orrinj at 1:20 PM


Will Any Major Newspapers In Texas Endorse Donald Trump? (LEIF REIGSTAD, 10/04/16, Texas Monthly)
Between the three newspapers with the largest circulations in Texas--the Houston Chronicle, the Dallas Morning News, and the San Antonio Express-News--there have been exactly two endorsements of a Democratic presidential nominee in the last forty years (the Chronicle and Express-News backed Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, respectively). This year, however, all three papers have endorsed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, the first time the trio has gone completely blue in at least 75 years. This weekend, two smaller Texas papers, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times and the El Paso Times, also raised their flags for Clinton. 

October 3, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:29 PM


As Mike Pence prepares for the first vice presidential debate on Tuesday, the refugee policy for this Republican governor's home state of Indiana drew a strong rebuke from a conservative federal appeals court. In an opinion issued on Monday, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals slammed Pence's treatment of Syrian refugees, saying his effort to block their resettlement was based on "no evidence" and constituted "nightmare speculation." The final decision for the three-member panel was written by Judge Richard Posner, who was appointed by Ronald Reagan. Also on the bench was Judge Diane Sykes, who was appointed by George W. Bush and was recently named by Trump's campaign as a potential Supreme Court nominee.

After the Paris terror attacks last November, Pence was one of 31 governors who opposed the resettlement of Syrian refugees in their respective states. In Indiana, Pence declared that state agencies would no longer cover the cost of some key social services for any refugees whose country of origin was listed as Syria on their refugee documents.

"Indiana has a long tradition of opening our arms and homes to refugees from around the world but, as governor, my first responsibility is to ensure the safety and security of all [Indiana residents]," Pence said at the time.

A resettlement agency called Exodus Refugee Immigration sued the state, saying its refusal to help resettle Syrian refugees constituted discrimination based on national origin. According to the court document, 174 Syrian refugees were settled in Indiana in the last fiscal year.

In March, a federal judge blocked Pence's order, saying his withholding of state resources "clearly discriminates against Syrian refugees based on their national origin." The case was appealed and brought before a panel of three Republican-appointed judges who upheld the injunction.

In his decision, Judge Posner pointed out there have been no known cases of Syrian refugees being arrested or prosecuted for terrorist acts in the United States. In response to Pence's argument that his policy is not based on national origin discrimination but rather on national security concerns, Posner wrote, "That's the equivalent of his saying (not that he does say) that he wants to forbid black people to settle in Indiana not because they're black but because he's afraid of them, and since race is therefore not his motive he isn't discriminating. But that, of course, would be racial discrimination, just as his targeting Syrian refugees is discrimination on the basis of nationality."

Posted by orrinj at 6:56 PM


More than 40 percent of Americans don't know the names of the men who could soon be second-in-command. An ABC News/SSRS Poll released Monday, just a day ahead of the first and only vice presidential debate, revealed that when Americans were asked to name Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump's running mates, they came up shockingly empty: Forty-one percent of respondents couldn't name Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence, while 46 percent couldn't name Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine.

This is, of course, exactly what happened in the primaries.  Donald sucks all the air out of the room.  It's just about him.

Meanwhile, they'd both be better than the top of either ticket.

Posted by orrinj at 6:51 PM


At an event with veterans in Herndon, Virginia, Trump called for better mental health services for those returning from combat, saying that while many are "strong," others "can't handle" what they have seen on the battlefield. [...]

Joe Donnelly, a Democratic U.S. senator from Indiana, was one of the first to criticize Trump's remarks.

"We need to dismiss the idea that mental health issues signify weakness, and reinforce that there is strength in seeking help," Donnelly said in a written statement.

PTSD was among the most talked about topics on Twitter on Monday, as many social media users responded to Trump's comments.

...is ceding patriotism to the Democrats.

Posted by orrinj at 6:08 PM


By late evening, the militants had been driven out of the city center, NATO and the Afghan government said.

"Government controls Kunduz City and Afghan security forces are in control of the main square with additional troops coming," the NATO forces stationed in Afghanistan said on Twitter.

The Afghan Ministry of Defense said on Twitter that the Taliban fighters were fleeing and that "dead bodies are left on the battlefield."

Posted by orrinj at 5:04 PM


[T]rump's proposals have pushed the value of the Mexican peso down relative to the dollar, Bloomberg reports, meaning the money that workers in the U.S. make and send home to family in Mexico is worth more than it was even a year ago, just after Trump announced he'd run for president.

While the market has remained relatively calm in the face of Trump's campaign claims (no, stocks won't crash if Trump is elected) the dollar has gone from being worth 16.35 times the Mexican peso to nearly 20 times the Mexican currency. That increase of more than 20% means money sent back to families in Mexico goes much further than it would have otherwise.

What's more, the money flowing back into Mexico from the U.S. is a boon not only to Mexican families, but to the Mexican economy, as consumption (a major factor in determining a country's gross domestic product) has grown over the same time period.

Posted by orrinj at 5:01 PM


Ron Paul: Green Party's Jill Stein 'the Best on Foreign Policy' (Madeleine Weast, October 3, 2016, Free Beacon)

Former Texas Congressman Ron Paul told MSNBC on Monday that the Green Party's presidential nominee, Jill Stein, is the "best on foreign policy."

Paul, a former Republican who has since declared himself a Libertarian, talked with host Thomas Roberts about the upcoming election and what qualifies a nominee to serve as president.

Before the interview began, Roberts asked the question, "Who is the former Texas congressman supporting this election cycle?"

The answer appears to be Jill Stein.

Posted by orrinj at 4:53 PM


The Associated Press interviewed more than 20 people -- former crew members, editors and contestants -- who described crass behavior by Trump behind the scenes of the long-running hit show, in which aspiring capitalists were given tasks to perform as they competed for jobs working for him.

The staffers and contestants agreed to recount their experiences as Trump's behavior toward women has become a core issue in the presidential campaign. Interviewed separately, they gave concurring accounts of inappropriate conduct on the set.

Eight former crew members recalled that he repeatedly made lewd comments about a camerawoman he said had a nice rear, comparing her beauty to that of his daughter, Ivanka.

Posted by orrinj at 2:22 PM


The haredi Orthodox parties are back in power, and Israelis aren't thrilled with their work.

After being left out in 2013, Shas and United Torah Judaism entered the governing coalition in 2015. In the first Knesset session since the election, they thwarted laws that challenged their state-sponsored way of life, forced a political and transportation crisis over work on Shabbat and blocked the creation of a pluralistic prayer section at the Western Wall.

The Israel Religion and State Index, published Sunday, shows just how far these and other government actions are from the views of most Israeli Jews. 

Posted by orrinj at 2:12 PM


"The failure immediately to discontinue solicitation and to file information and reports ... with the Charities Bureau shall be deemed to be a continuing fraud upon the people of the state of New York," according to a letter dated Sept. 30 that the attorney general's office posted online.

Posted by orrinj at 2:06 PM


Trump Defends His Bestest Friend Vladimir Putin AGAIN on MH17, Hacking (JOSHUA YASMEH SEPTEMBER 30, 2016, Daily Wire)

This week Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump once again played interference for Russia, saying there is not enough evidence to implicate them in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 and the Democratic National Committee hacking.  [...]

Giving credence to the Kremlin's claims, the Republican presidential nominee has at times assumed the role of defense attorney for Moscow. In an interview with CNN last October, Trump flirted with the notion that Russia really wasn't involved in the MH17 tragedy.

"It's disgusting and disgraceful but Putin and Russia say they didn't do it, the other side said they did, no one really knows who did it, probably Putin knows who did it. Possibly it was Russia but they are totally denying it," Trump said, adding, "They say it wasn't them. It may have been their weapon, but they didn't use it, they didn't fire it, they even said the other side fired it to blame them."

Posted by orrinj at 2:01 PM


Syrian Rebels Advance on Islamic State Held Town of Dabiq (NOAM RAYDAN in Beirut and  KAREN LEIGH, Oct. 3, 2016, WSJ)

Syrian rebels backed by Turkey have launched an offensive against the Islamic State held town of Dabiq, which holds religious and symbolic meaning for the terror group.

Fighting on the outskirts of the town in northern Syria intensified Sunday night, when some 15 rebels were killed and 35 wounded during heavy clashes, the Turkish military said. The rebel advance was aided by heavy air and artillery support from the U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State, the Turkish military said. Airstrikes killed 13 Islamic State militants, it said.

"We are very close to Dabiq.... We have planned for this," said Ahmad Othman, commander of the Sultan Murad group, one of the Turkish-backed rebel factions advancing on the town.

Dabiq, about 6 miles from the Turkish border, has played a unique role in Islamic State's propaganda since it was seized by the group in 2014.

Sayings attributed to the Prophet Muhammad identify the town as the site of an apocalyptic future battle where a Muslim army will defeat its enemies, including a foreign army.

Islamic State's belief in the ancient prophecy has helped fuel the establishment of its self-declared caliphate stretching across large sections of Syria and Iraq. The group named its official English-language magazine, Dabiq, after the town. 

At least two suicide bombers detonated explosive belts in Syria's central Hama city on Monday, leaving two people dead and others wounded, state media reported. [...]

In the first months of Syria's uprising, which broke out in March 2011, Hama saw some of the largest demonstrations against the rule of President Bashar Assad.

But later that year security forces stormed the city, killing scores of people. They have held a tight grip on the city ever since.

Posted by orrinj at 1:57 PM


Since the U.S.-led coalition launched operations in Syria primarily against Islamic State militants, air strikes have also targeted Nusra Front figures, killing scores.

Only last month, Abu Hajer al Homsi, the top commander of Jabhat Fateh al Sham, as the Nusra Front is now known, was killed in an air strike in rural Aleppo province. Homsi's nom de guerre was Abu Omar Saraqeb.

Masri, a 60-year-old cleric whose real name was Sheikh Ahmad Salamah Mabrouk, was one of the leading companions of al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri during his presence in Afghanistan in the late 1980s, according to a jihadist rebel source.

Posted by orrinj at 1:51 PM


Fake NYC Monument Honors Octopus Attack, Fools Tourists (Jordi Lippe-McGraw, October 03, 2016, Conde Nast Traveler)

It was a tragic day on November 22, 1963 at 4 a.m. when 400 passengers were killed aboard the Cornelius G. Kolff ferry off the coast of New York City's Staten Island, so artist Joseph Reginella decided to commemorate the event by creating a cast-iron statue in Battery Park in lower Manhattan, just across from Staten Island and close to the ferry terminal. 

Posted by orrinj at 1:43 PM


What will happen to 'The Wealth of Humans'? A Q&A with Ryan Avent (James Pethokoukis, September 30, 2016, AEIdeas)

Ryan Avent: [...] [I]n my view, what's going on is that we are in fact experiencing this really dramatic technological change - that the digital revolution is really powerful. And one of the main things that it's doing actually is adding hugely to the amount of effective labor that's available to firms. And part of that is in the way that it's opened up global supply chains and allowed billions of low-wage workers to join the global labor market. Part of it is in automation - that there are a lot of routine tasks in factories and in offices that can now be automated. And part of it is that people in a lot of high-skilled jobs in finance, in media, in technology, are able to use these new technologies to do work that used to require a lot more people to do and in the process are displacing workers.

Ironically, the more powerful the digital revolution becomes, the more people we have out there looking for low-wage work and the less of an interest firms have in using machines to replace them.

And so the net effect is that we just have this enormous, abundant labor. And as the economy struggles to find places to put all these workers who want jobs, what happens is we see downward pressure on wages. That's kind of the adjustment mechanism.

But if you're an employer and you suddenly find yourself with a huge reservoir of willing workers at very low wages, you suddenly say, well, you know what? I don't need to invest in this labor-saving technology. I don't need to replace my cashiers with automated checkout. I don't need to replace the people moving boxes in the warehouse with robots.

And so you get this sort of self-limiting technological change. Ironically, the more powerful the digital revolution becomes, the more people we have out there looking for low-wage work and the less of an interest firms have in using machines to replace them.

There's also the very human factor of management : no one wants to be the boss of fewer people.

Posted by orrinj at 1:33 PM


How Donald Trump Turned the Tax Code Into a Giant Tax Shelter (JAMES B. STEWART, OCT. 2, 2016, NY Times)

The latest revelations, in an article published by The New York Times, make a "compelling" case for more disclosure, said Michael Knoll, professor of law and real estate at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. "If his loss was so massive that he didn't pay federal income tax for 15 to 20 years, that's surprising. It's even more surprising that someone in that situation would run for president."

Even if Mr. Trump was correct when he asserted that he only took advantage of what the law allows, such a huge loss undermines one of his central campaign themes, which is that he is an astute and successful businessman.

Given the size of the loss that Mr. Trump reported, "it's clear he was a spectacularly disastrous businessman," Mr. Rosenthal said.

Douglas Holtz-Eakin, an economist who served as director of the Congressional Budget Office and is now president of the American Action Forum, a conservative pro-growth advocacy group, agreed: "It's either a unique combination of bad luck or he's a terrible businessman or both. I don't understand how you can lose a billion dollars and stay in business."

Posted by orrinj at 1:17 PM


Trump's Nafta Mistakes Are Huge (MARY ANASTASIA O'GRADY, Oct. 2, 2016, WSJ)

His attempt to slam Nafta by pointing to a 16% value-added tax that Mexican importers pay, for example, is misleading. This tax applies to transactions on both foreign and domestic-made goods, like the New York sales tax. It doesn't discriminate against imports, and the importer recovers it by charging it to the customer. That's Econ 101.

Nafta disrupted the economic status quo in the U.S.--as it did in Mexico. There have been winners and losers. But the U.S. dislocations are minor compared with those that occur from technological advances or when companies move production from high-tax, union-dominated U.S. states to low-tax, right-to-work states, and especially so when compared with the economic efficiencies gained.

Mr. Trump gave a quick nod to one genuine U.S. disadvantage during the debate when he talked about cutting U.S. corporate tax rates to spur investment at home. But his main message was that under Nafta Mexico is "stealing" U.S. jobs.

In fact, an interconnected North American economy has made U.S. manufacturing globally competitive. U.S. companies source components from Mexico and Canada and add value in innovation, design and marketing. The final outputs are among the most high-quality, low-price products in the world.

U.S. automotive competitiveness is highly dependent on global free trade. According to the Mexico City-based consulting firm De la Calle, Madrazo, Mancera, 37% of the U.S.'s imported auto components came from Mexico and Canada in 2015. This sourcing from abroad is important to good-paying U.S. auto-assembly jobs. But parts also flow the other way. U.S. parts manufacturers sent 61% of their exports to Mexico and Canada in 2015.

This synergy has made the U.S. auto industry attractive for investment.

October 2, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 3:40 PM


Europe's great rethinking (John Yemma, OCTOBER 2, 2016, CS Monitor)

The EU, in one shape or form, probably will survive. Europeans are not likely at this point to forget why they wanted to transcend their fractious past. But the flow of history seems away from an ever-larger, more centralized, more homogenized union and toward a looser, more cautious confederation. Europe is rethinking itself. That it can do so in a peaceful, democratic manner is itself a historic achievement.

Posted by orrinj at 3:31 PM


Racists Anonymous meets in Concord (Tanya Mendis and Xavier Walton, 8/24/16, WCNC)

Like any good anonymous meeting, it starts with bad coffee, a semi-circle of seats, and an invitation to share. But this Wednesday night's meeting isn't AA or NA or any of the other As you know, this is Racists Anonymous.

For the past month, Trinity United Church of Christ in Concord has been holding weekly support group meetings in its fellowship hall, and it's gaining traction. 

"What Jesus said is, 'come see,'"says Reverend Nathan King.

Sick of the shootings and racial unrest, King says he wanted to do more than pray.

"It seemed like every week we were coming into worship and we were doing another prayer because someone had been killed in the street," King says.

Racists Anonymous was born.

"It's to deal with the racism within ourselves and to eliminate the racism within ourselves," King says.

The church mantra is to be on the frontline of social change. A sister church in California decided to start holding "Racists Anonymous" meetings and asked 20 other congregations to join them.

King's church answered the call.

Each week about a dozen people from all backgrounds attend the meetings. Most are church members, but recently, they've begun seeing attendees from the neighboring community.

'Finally. Someone who thinks like me.' (Stephanie McCrummen,  October 1, 2016, The Washington Post)

In a living room in western Pennsylvania, the Republican National Convention was on TV, and Melanie Austin was getting impatient.

"Who's that guy?" she said, watching some billionaire talk about prosperity and tolerance. "Prosperity and tolerance? Forget that sh--."

She lit a cigarette. Her boyfriend, Kevin Lisovich, was next to her on the couch, drifting to sleep, a pillow over his head. On the ottoman was her cellphone, her notes on the speakers so far -- "LOCK HER UP!!" she had written -- and the anti-anxiety pills she kept in a silver vial on her keychain.

She was a 52-year-old woman who had worked 20 years for the railroad, had once been a Democrat and was now a Republican, and counted herself among the growing swath of people who occupied the fringes of American politics but were increasingly becoming part of the mainstream. Like millions of others, she believed that President Obama was a Muslim. And like so many she had gotten to know online through social media, she also believed that he was likely gay, that Michelle Obama could be a man, and that the Obama children were possibly kidnapped from a family now searching for them.

"So beautiful," Melanie said as Ivanka Trump walked onto the convention stage to introduce her father, and soon the soaring score of the movie "Air Force One" was blasting through the TV. Melanie sat up straighter. This is what she had been waiting for.

"Here comes Big Daddy," she said, clapping. "The Donald. Big Daddy."

Kevin was snoring.

"Here he is, babe," she said. "Donald's here, babe."

Trump walked onto the stage, chanting "U-S-A! U-S-A!"

"That's right, Donald -- USA, baby," Melanie said to the Republican nominee for president, who began his speech by marveling at all the Americans who had gotten him here.

"Who would have believed that when we started this journey on June 16th of last year we -- and I say we, because we are a team -- would have received almost 14 million votes?" Trump said, looking out on the cheering crowd.

"I would," Melanie said to the TV. "I would, Donald."

Posted by orrinj at 3:24 PM


Is a pizza chain run by robots the future of the industry? (Gretel Kauffman, OCTOBER 2, 2016, CS Monitor)

Zume Pizza, based out of Mountain View, Calif., has replaced human chefs with robotic ones, creating what its owners call a "co-bot situation."

The restaurant, which opened its doors in April, reflects to a more extreme extent the gradual shift that many fast food and fast casual restaurants are making toward more in-restaurant automation, as technology advances and demands for higher minimum wage spread across the country. [...]

[B]y replacing most of its chef positions with intelligent machines, the company has been able to cut its labor costs in half, allowing for a bigger budget for higher-quality ingredients. 

"What we are doing is leveraging the power of this evolution of automation, these intelligent robots, to put better food on people's tables," Ms. Collins told CNBC. "...There are humans and robots collaborating to make better food, to make more fulfilling jobs and to make a more stable working environment for the folks that are working with us." 

Earlier this week, Zume unveiled a new pizza delivery truck equipped with 56 ovens and manned by just one employee, whose only tasks are driving the truck, slicing the pizza, and delivering it to the doorstep. 

Posted by orrinj at 3:15 PM


Donald Trump and the art of losing money (Jill Disis and Matt Egan, 10/02/16, CNNMoneyInvest)

The New York Times on Saturday published three pages of what it claimed were three of Trump's 1995 state tax returns, which showed he reported a $916 million loss that year.

Separately, 1995 was also when Trump sold stock to public investors for the first time, opening up a detailed public paper trail of Trump's business dealings.

CNNMoney in August published an analysis of 10 years of Trump corporate documents. The investigation showed that Trump's company, Trump Hotels & Cas**o Resorts, lost money every year from 1995 until it went bankrupt in 2004 -- more than $600 million in total losses.

The company traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol DJT. An investor who put $100 in DJT in 1995 would have lost 90% of that money by 2000, and been left with just $8.72.

Along the way, DJT paid Trump $39 million in salary, bonuses, options and other compensation.

If only he'd put that inheritance in an index fund, he might not have such a huge inferiority complex today, nor deserve it.

Posted by orrinj at 9:51 AM


Trump Is Going Down Hard As Educated White Women Reject Him (Philip Rucker, 10/02/16, The Washington Post)

"It's very clear that Trump is doing extremely well among white non-college-educated men . . . but white women with a college degree is a huge impediment to getting where he needs to be," said Whit Ayres, a veteran Republican pollster. "I'm not sure what he can do about it given all the comments he's made about women over the last 15 months."

Trump's troubles were evident here in Nashua, a commuter exurb of Boston, where six women in a knitting circle were lounging on the couches and armchairs of a yarn shop the other day talking about -- what else? -- Trump. They were Republicans, Democrats and independents, all of them moms -- and all of them ready to give him a permanent timeout.

 "You just want to smack him," said Pam Harrison, 56, who voted for Republican Mitt Romney four years ago.

Watching Trump debate reminded Kristen Schwartz, 40, of dinner-table conversations with her in-laws: "It's not polite to interrupt people, but if you stop to breathe or think about your point, they just talk over you and the conversation just gets louder and louder and louder."

In an unnerving campaign season, what keeps their anxieties in check is the belief of Sandy Zielie, 46, the shop's owner: "Women are going to save this country this election."

Female voters may not save the country in the way the knitters of Nashua would like, but they almost certainly will swing the election.

Posted by orrinj at 9:30 AM

Oven-roasted Black Cod (Coastal Living)

2 tablespoons butter, softened
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon minced fresh chives
2 teaspoons capers
1 pound fingerling potatoes, halved
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
4 bacon slices
1 (12-ounce) black cod fillet (about 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick)
Garnish: fresh chives


1. Preheat oven to 400°.Combine first 4 ingredients in a small bowl; set aside.

2. Microwave potatoes in a large glass bowl covered with plastic wrap on HIGH 4 minutes. Drain potatoes, if necessary, and stir in garlic, salt, pepper, and 1 teaspoon olive oil. Set aside.

3. Cook bacon in a large cast iron or ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat until crisp; remove bacon, and drain on paper towels, reserving 1 teaspoon drippings in skillet. Add remaining 1 teaspoon olive oil to skillet over medium-high heat; add cod fillet, and cook 1 minute on each side.

4. Spoon reserved potatoes around cod; bake 3 minutes.

5. Remove from oven, and spread reserved butter mixture over fish. Return to oven; bake 5 more minutes or just until fish flakes with a fork and is opaque in the center. Sprinkle with cooked bacon; garnish, if desired. Serve immediately.

The Sacred Cod (Celebrate Boston)

In the House of Representatives Hall of the Massachusetts State House, hangs The Sacred Cod. The cod is five feet long and carved in pine. The fish is suspended above the entrance to the hall in the visitors gallery, and the Speaker of the House faces the cod during the meetings. The Sacred Cod is a symbol of the bygone importance of the fishing industry in Massachusetts. The carved fish is more than 200 years old, and remains an ancient symbol of prosperity for the people in the state. [...]

On March 17th 1784, Mr. John Rowe of Boston arose from his seat in the Hall of Representatives at the Old State House, and offered the following motion: "That leave might be given to hang up the representation of a cod fish in the room where the House sit[s], as a memorial of the importance of the Cod-Fishery to the welfare of the Commonwealth...."

A symbolic cod was placed in the hall, and was later moved to the new State House building in 1798. There it has remained ever since.

Posted by orrinj at 9:24 AM


Skittles aren't just candies. Skype isn't just a VoIP service. Google, Bing, and Yahoo aren't just search engines. In fact, these are all codewords that are used by racists online in order for them to skirt censorship.

You can see the full (and deeply unpleasant) list below.

All you really need to know about our readership is that we've only had to delete two comments that use racist euphemisms this election cycle.

Posted by orrinj at 9:20 AM


Saudi Arabia switches to 'western' calendar (Deutsche Welle, 10/02/16)

Saudi Arabia has shifted to the Gregorian or "western" calendar as a basis for paying civil servants as part of an austerity package. The kingdom had adopted the lunar Islamic calendar when it was founded in 1932.

The birthplace of Islam containing Mecca - Islam's holiest site - shifted to the western Gregorian calendar on Sunday, bringing the oil-rich kingdom in line with many of its energy customers. 

Posted by orrinj at 9:08 AM


Turmoil in New Hampshire (David Shribman, October 02, 2016, RCP)

[T]he turmoil here, in a state Republicans carried in every election between 1948 and 1988, with the exception of the Lyndon Johnson landslide, is especially critical. New Hampshire is one of a handful of battleground states where Mr. Trump, Hillary Clinton and Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, all of whom visited here last week, are battling in an increasingly close contest.

All of that turmoil, moreover, is being conducted in an environment where the state's Republicans, who occupied the governor's chair for all but 15 of the 138 years between from 1859 to 1997, are fighting to retain a critical Senate seat and to regain a governor's office that once seemed almost to be their birthright.

The result is a very awkward moment for New Hampshire Republicans. The two leading statewide Republican candidates -- Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who is seeking a second term, and gubernatorial candidate Chris Sununu, the son of a former governor, the brother of a former senator and a member of the state's Executive Council -- represent a return to a Granite State Republicanism personified by former Sens. Judd Gregg and the late Warren B. Rudman: ideological, to be sure, but not doctrinaire.

Mr. Trump won the vital primary here in February by a decisive margin but now lags in the polls. Ms. Clinton and her husband have won two New Hampshire primaries (but not this year's), with Bill Clinton breaking the GOP's traditional hold on the state in general elections by winning it both times he ran. Barack Obama also won the state in both of his general-election campaigns, but had third-party candidate Ralph Nader not run in 2000, Vice President Albert Gore Jr. would have taken the state and the election -- and the Florida recount spectacle would have been avoided. [...]

Party insiders say Ms. Ayotte's support in the state exceeds that of Mr. Trump and likely will stay that way; she provides a safe harbor for Republicans who want to show their party loyalty by voting for her even as they vote for Ms. Clinton, the Libertarians' Mr. Johnson or no one at all for president. "The idea of voting against her because of the Trump factor doesn't hold," said former state attorney general Thomas D. Rath, "People here realize they can split their vote."

Ms. Ayotte and her rival are playing a game of political guilt-by-association. Ms. Hassan has tried to tie Ms. Ayotte to Mr. Trump. Ms. Ayotte has returned the volley by questioning why the governor continues to support a presidential nominee who was soundly defeated by Sen. Bernie Sanders of neighboring Vermont in the state's primary. Meanwhile, the Union Leader, the statewide newspaper and a generations-long sentinel of Granite State conservatism, has endorsed Mr. Johnson, the former GOP governor of New Mexico.

"Now I can sleep at night," Joseph W. McQuaid, publisher of the newspaper, said in an interview.

Last winter, Mr. McQuaid wrote that Mr. Trump's campaign was "an insult to the intelligence of Republican voters." The other day he said he didn't know whom his endorsement helps. "Those two," he said, "are the worst candidates the parties have put up in a long time."

Unfortunately, recent election history has seen the party that wins at the top of the ticket sweep every electoral body race in the state : Governor, Congress, legislature, Executive Council.  If Ms Ayotte can buck the trend, and against a popular governor, she probably becomes the GOP's leading female voice, which would be good news for the party.

Posted by orrinj at 8:25 AM


Donald Trump's campaign announced Saturday evening that the candidate would soon deliver a nine-sentence critique of comments Hillary Clinton made months ago about many of the millennials supporting her primary rival, Bernie Sanders. It was an attempt to latch onto a new headline in hopes of finally escaping the controversies that had consumed his week.

It didn't work.

It took Trump nearly 25 minutes to read the brief statement because he kept going off on one angry tangent after another -- ignoring his teleprompters and accusing Clinton of not being "loyal" to her husband, imitating her buckling at a memorial service last month, suggesting that she is "crazy" and saying she should be in prison. He urged his mostly white crowd of supporters to go to polling places in "certain areas" on Election Day to "watch" the voters there. He also repeatedly complained about having a "bum mic" at the first presidential debate and wondered if he should have done another season of "The Apprentice."

Posted by orrinj at 8:18 AM


In the roughly 49-minute tape, Clinton suggests the 2016 presidential race has been divided into two camps: the far-right "populist, nationalist, xenophobic, discriminatory kind of approach" espoused by many Republican candidates and Sanders' democratic-socialist vision that includes "free college, free healthcare" and "go as far as Scandinavia, whatever that is."

"I am occupying from the center-left to the center-right," continued Clinton, who warned about over-promising potential voters.

...but taking down the Left and the Right in the same cycle looks good on the resume. Of course, she's likely to lose to the GOP's Third Way nominee in four years.

Posted by orrinj at 7:50 AM

LAST CHANCE BILL (profanity alert):

The Patriots Overpower the NFL With Blount Force : The punishing style of 29-year-old running back LeGarrette Blount is the ideal fit for New England's late game strategy (TOM PERROTTA, Sept. 30, 2016, WSJ)

In an NFL of quick passes and speedy drives, Blount is the master of patient, deliberate progress. He doesn't buckle opponents' knees with spins or cuts. He needs time to get up to speed, and even then he won't outrun defenders for long. Blount's flashiest move is hurdling tacklers, like he did against Miami Dolphins cornerback Byron Maxwell during a 26-yard run in week two. But that's not a habit.

"It's just a reaction," Blount said. "You can get hurt that way."

Rather than leaping, lunging or spinning, Blount prefers to keep his balance, charge through holes and tire out defenders. He says his strategy isn't that difficult with a line like the Patriots have this year.

"The offensive line wears [defenses] down a lot, way more so than I do," he said. "They hit them every play, I don't. After three quarters or a half of that, I mean, nobody really wants to play after you get beat up on. You have to take advantage of it, every opportunity."

The Patriots are the ideal team for Blount because they get ahead in almost every game and then ask him to run the clock and pile on a few more points. In 36 games with New England, he has 1,000 yards on 214 carries and 11 touchdowns when the Patriots are ahead by six points or more, according to Stats LLC.

"He's not somebody that you're going to be able to bring down with an arm tackle, somebody's definitely got to put a body on him," said Patriots defensive end Geneo Grissom. "LeGarrette's a big guy, and to watch all that weight move that fast is exciting."

Pats defensive end Chris Long has played against Blount before.

"Seeing somebody walk by me that's the same size as me and saying, 'Hey, he made it as a running back,'--it's like, 'How'd you do it?'" Long said. "I've been on other teams when I played LeGarrette and it certainly catches your attention. Sometimes you just say a prayer."

It's no surprise that Blount has received little praise for his contributions. He spent two years at East Mississippi Community College before transferring to Oregon as a junior. After a stellar season, Blount lost his cool in the opening game of his senior year, when he punched a Boise State player. He was suspended and eventually reinstated, but had few carries the rest of the year. Blount was not drafted.

'Last Chance U' is compelling and brutal : Netflix documentary follows a junior college football team as it aims for a national championship (Jerry Bembry, July 29, 2016, Undefeated)

When Greg Whiteley was first approached about doing a documentary on junior college football, the Los Angeles-based film director scouted California schools with no success. Then someone sent him a GQ magazine article about East Mississippi Community College, located in a town so rural that the closest Walmart is a 45-minute drive away.

He just might be the first person to ever rush to Scooba, Mississippi.

"We go there for the first time, it's in the middle of nowhere, and it's perfect," Whiteley said. "It was a place where something great was happening."

The story of that place is Last Chance U, a six-part documentary series that drops Friday on Netflix. It's a binge-worthy, behind-the-scenes look at the 2015 season of the East Mississippi football team and its quest to win its third straight National Junior College Athletic Association championship.

Last Chance U (DREW JUBERA, October 21, 2014, GQ)

The landscape is drunk Faulkner: small and spooky and piss-poor. Piney woods run deep enough to hide whatever you don't want found. What passes for the old downtown is one side of one block. Five brick buildings still stand; another four are gone, just disappeared, as if by cremation--nothing left but rubble and little piles of red dust. Drive by most days and the only open business is a working Coke machine on the sidewalk. All of which makes the little Mississippi town of Scooba--population 732, per capita income $11,355--an improbable center of anything. Yet less than a mile west of that blown-away vista, a spick-and-span football complex rises taller and shinier than anything you'll find between here and the nearest Walmart, forty miles away. The 6,000-seat stadium features artificial turf, a double-decker press box, and a giant video scoreboard. Wrapped across the team's equipment truck, parked nearby for anyone rolling past on Highway 16 to see: your story starts here.

It's the home of the East Mississippi Community College Lions, junior-college national champions two of the past three years and current center of the juco football universe. This lonesome outpost of 1,200 students near the Alabama line has also become an unlikely pipeline to the teams that millions of fans watch on Saturdays and Sundays.

Twenty-two of the Lions' twenty-four graduating sophomores last season signed with Division I schools. This year's starting quarterback at Ole Miss, nickelback at Nebraska, defensive linemen at Alabama and Florida--as well as early commits to Florida State and Oklahoma--all bubbled up from Scooba. So did five players who were in NFL camps this summer.

Meanwhile, East Mississippi's rivals are furiously stockpiling their own talent, their own rosters full of would-be stars whose stories have to start somewhere--even if "somewhere" is the middle of nowhere.

To local existentialists, it makes perfect sense. "There's a lot to offer in Scooba, Mississippi. Want to know what it is?" Nick Clark, a white-haired former Lion who works in the school's development office, asks me from across his desk.

I allow that I am totally stumped.

"There are no distractions!"

A few minutes later, defensive coordinator Jordan Lesley picks me up outside in a golf cart. As we motor across the low-slung campus to meet with head coach Buddy Stephens, breezing past oaks and crape myrtles and half-assed architecture, Lesley espouses his own take on Scooba's allure.

"If you don't cut pines or hunt, there's no reason to be here," he says, a summer sun blazing above us. "Unless you play football. And need the grades."

Posted by orrinj at 7:44 AM


The lack of certificate, which was confirmed by the New York AG's office, isn't some inconsequential paperwork mistake either. A charity that solicits more than $25K a year is required by New York law to have the certificate and, as a result, may undergo annual audits from independent accountants. Without the certificate (and audit), Trump's foundation was able to operate with far less oversight. If the Trump Foundation is found to have violated the law, the New York attorney general could order it to stop raising money and, with a court's permission, even force it to return any money it raised illegally.

According to the charity-tax experts who spoke to the Post, if the Trump Foundation would have filed the paperwork it was supposed to, outside accountants would have had a chance to check its books, as well as to ask explicitly whether the foundation had spent any money that benefited Trump or his businesses. In short, they would have been far more likely to spot any number of the red flags that Fahrenthold has uncovered over the past year through his dogged and near-heroic reporting on the foundation, including: the illegal political donation the Trump Foundation made to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, the foundation cash that appears to have been used to settle Trump's personal and business disputes, and the $10,000 the foundation paid for a portrait of Trump that now hangs in one of his golf clubs.

Posted by orrinj at 7:31 AM


Trump's surprise rise to become the GOP presidential nominee, built largely on a willingness to openly criticize minority groups and tap into long-simmering racial divisions, has reenergized white supremacist groups and drawn them into mainstream American politics like nothing seen in decades.

White nationalist leaders who once shunned presidential races have endorsed Trump, marking the first time some have openly supported a candidate from one of the two main parties.

Members are showing up at his rallies, knocking on doors to get out the vote and organizing debate-watching parties.

White supremacists are active on social media and their websites report a sharp rise in traffic and visitors, particularly when posting stories and chat forums about the New York businessman. 

Stormfront, already one of the oldest and largest white nationalist websites, reported a 600% increase in readership since President Obama's election, and now has more than one in five threads devoted to Trump. It reportedly had to upgrade its servers recently due to the increased traffic.

"Before Trump, our identity ideas, national ideas, they had no place to go," said Richard Spencer, president of the National Policy Institute, a white nationalist think tank based in Arlington, Va.

October 1, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 10:09 PM


Trump Tax Records Obtained by The Times Reveal He Could Have Avoided Paying Taxes for Nearly Two Decades (DAVID BARSTOW, SUSANNE CRAIG, RUSS BUETTNER and MEGAN TWOHEY, October 1, 2016. NY Times)

The 1995 tax records, never before disclosed, reveal the extraordinary tax benefits that Mr. Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, derived from the financial wreckage he left behind in the early 1990s through mismanagement of three Atlantic City cas**os, his ill-fated foray into the airline business and his ill-timed purchase of the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan.

Tax experts hired by The Times to analyze Mr. Trump's 1995 records said tax rules that are especially advantageous to wealthy filers would have allowed Mr. Trump to use his $916 million loss to cancel out an equivalent amount of taxable income over an 18-year period.

Posted by orrinj at 6:10 PM


WE TRACED THE DEMAGOGUERY, IT'S COMING FROM INSIDE THE HOUSE (Gabriel Rossman, 10/01/2016, American Scene)

One of my favorite novels is Neal Stephenson's Anathem. It's a hard sci-fi novel based on the premise that scientists live in monasteries cloistered off from the rest of society. People outside the monasteries have attitudes and beliefs about them that the science-monks resent and consider ridiculous. Over the course of the novel our protagonist, one of the science-monks gradually comes to learn that the hazy and confused notions people outside the monasteries had about them were grounded in a kernel of truth about the science-monks doing some pretty scary things to reality and memory.

This is a bit like being a conservative in 2016. For years we've been subject to libsplaining about right-wing authoritarian personalities and dog whistles to racism and our entirely sincere reaction was "that's ridiculous." For instance, when the Tea Party was in full swing, it was a really common thing to call it racist. (A Google search for "tea party racist" just gave me 1,070,000 hits). And the conservative response is what are you talking about, this is a small government movement and sure they have an unfortunate penchant for revolutionary war cosplay, PAC scams, and primarying anybody who doesn't threaten a government shutdown over a bill to repeal the New Deal, but their hearts are in the right place, and have you heard how they clean up trash after their rallies?

And then Trump happens. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:03 PM


[I]n what could be a significant realignment of political allegiance, Asian-Americans are identifying as Democrats at a quicker pace than any other racial group. And many Republicans worry this election will only accelerate that trend, damaging their party for years to come with what is now the fastest-growing minority in the country.

The Republican presidential nominee, Donald J. Trump, is not helping. His attacks on the Chinese -- which he has sometimes delivered in a crude, mocking accent -- are a feature of his populist campaign. He has suggested cutting off immigration from the Philippines, citing fears that the longtime American ally poses the same national security threat as countries like Syria and Afghanistan.

Mr. Trump's talk of deporting millions of undocumented immigrants has also stirred up painful memories among a group that has been singled out under American law before, whether by the Chinese Exclusion Act, which barred the immigration of Chinese laborers until 1943, or by the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.

"It's like we're going back in time," said Marc Matsuo of Las Vegas, who grew up in Hawaii with parents of Japanese ancestry and recalled how his family used to feel uncomfortable expressing their heritage, to the point they would not speak Japanese. He now helps register Asian-Americans to vote. "I was always brought up that you don't talk about religion, you don't talk about politics. Not anymore."

Posted by orrinj at 9:07 AM


[I]n the year since the monetary fund first said it would bestow that status on the renminbi, the Chinese currency has become less attractive. Despite Mr. Trump's contention -- which, like his assertions about Japan, harks back to another era -- many economists say they believe the renminbi is overvalued, not undervalued.

Tony Gao, a senior at the University of Southern California, helped found a start-up called Easy Transfer three years ago. The company helps Chinese parents with children going to American schools exchange their renminbi for dollars. But business growth is down this year, he said, because many affluent Chinese have already changed their renminbi for dollars.

"A lot of them already have acknowledged this depreciation," Mr. Gao said, adding that he was thinking of switching his renminbi to dollars, too. "Now I'm actually on the edge." [...]

There are other forces at work. China has taken steps over the past few years to relax its hold on the renminbi. That makes it easier for banks and merchants abroad to save the renminbi or to use it in transactions. Manufacturing has also declined as a major growth driver in the country's economy, as the government pushes to build its growing consumer and high-tech sectors.

Since August of last year, when Beijing surprised global markets with a one-time devaluation of its currency, investors have been broadly seeking to unload their renminbi in favor of dollars.

In Hong Kong, the biggest offshore center for renminbi banking, deposits of the Chinese currency peaked in December 2014 and have since fallen by a third.

For five years since 2010, the renminbi had made small but progressive gains as a global payment currency, as measured by transactions processed on the Swift global payment system. But that usage crested in August 2015 at 2.8 percent of transactions, and it has declined steadily since then, to 1.9 percent in August.

China has spent hundreds of billions of dollars from its foreign reserves over the past year to support the value of the renminbi and to prevent it from weakening more drastically. A sharp fall could lead even more people to find ways to convert their renminbi into other currencies, resulting in an exodus of money from the country. More broadly, it could undermine Beijing's case that the renminbi is worth holding.

Currencies are just national futures--the PRC has none.

Posted by orrinj at 8:52 AM


Theresa May could more than quadruple her majority if she calls an early election, analysis by Britain's leading pollster suggests today as influential Tories go public with calls for a snap vote. 

The Prime Minister's majority in the House of Commons would soar from 12 to 62 on current polling, according to analysis by Prof John Curtice, president of the British Polling Council. 

All Anglospheric politics is identical.  The Tories want to run a campaign against a Corbynite party for the same reason Democrats are eager to face a Trumpite party. And the next leader of Labour will be a Blairite just as the next Republican nominee will be a compassionate conservative. Unless the parties choose principled oblivion instead--adhering to the Second Way and the First respectively..

Posted by orrinj at 8:42 AM


Fat-Shamer in Chief (Timothy Egan, SEPT. 30, 2016, NY Times)

With little more than a month to go until the election, the fact that Donald Trump now finds himself in a very public fight with a beauty queen tells you everything you need to know about the sick soul of this man.

So, in the spirit of the discourse that Trump has brought us to, let's objectify the Republican nominee on his terms. This guy is fat. Bigly. He's got an extra chin, a gut you wouldn't want to see riding above a bathing suit, and a rear that serves no purpose but ballast.

At 6-foot-2, the height that he has long given profile writers, Trump weighs 236 pounds, he told Dr. Oz. Not quite Taftian -- he ballooned to 354 pounds by his inauguration in 1909 -- but not healthy, either. By government guidelines, Trump is obese. In a weasel move to avoid that classification, Trump now says he is 6-foot-3, which makes him merely overweight. How he grew an inch, at the age of 70, is a story that has escaped his hagiographers at Fox.

Trump's ducktail hairdo, colored in a hue unknown to nature, is a complicated comb-over inspired by Dr. Seuss. He wears a silly cap at outdoor rallies to keep the nest in place. It makes him look like "the warm-up guy," Garrison Keillor wrote, "the guy who announces the license number of the car left in the parking lot, doors locked, lights on, motor running."

His fingers, as Spy magazine first noted decades ago, are unusually short. At 7.25 inches from the tip of his middle finger to the wrist (according to sleuthing by investigative reporters), Trump's hands are smaller than 85 percent of American men. No surprise he lies about that as well. "Look at these hands," he said during a debate earlier this year, holding the dwarf-size digits up for all to see. "Are they small hands?"

I bring all this up because Trump brings it up -- constantly. For someone who is fat, short-fingered and strange-looking, he is obsessed with looks.

Posted by orrinj at 8:38 AM


Is the US Trying to Sabotage the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor? : Intentional or not, U.S. counterterror operations are pushing militants into Balochistan, the heart of CPEC. (Ian Price, September 29, 2016, The Diplomat)
When the United States added Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (TTP-JA), a faction of the Pakistani Taliban (TTP), to the terror list in July 2016 following their claim of responsibility for a failed car bombing in Manhattan, it helped to push the group out of the tribal region of Pakistan and into areas that China was eying for their multibillion economic corridor project. This was part of a larger strategy that eventually created immeasurable headaches for both the security establishment in Islamabad and officials in Beijing, potentially causing billions of dollars in losses for both. Given Washington's growing acrimonious ties with Pakistan and desire to constrain China's expansion, this seems a fortuitous coincidence. [...]

When the TTP-JA was added to the U.S. State Department's global terrorist list, it significantly expanded Washington's options for dealing with the organization. The United States has already used drone strikes against designated Taliban groups in a number of instances, including a May 21 strike in Pakistan's Balochistan that killed TTP leader Akhtar Mohammad Mansour and a November 2015 strike that killed another commander, Khan Saeed, in the Khost province of Afghanistan. As illustrated by precedents involving Afghanistan, Pakistan, and various Islamic State (ISIS) holdings, when the United States puts a group on the list, they intend to target it aggressively.

At the same time, security forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan aren't sitting idly by, waving to drones as they buzz overhead and leaving all of the work for the Americans. In the last week of July alone, joint U.S.-Afghan operations killed an estimated 300 ISIS militants in eastern Afghanistan. In Pakistan, security forces have launched no less than three large-scale operations against TTP elements in the Federally Administered Tribal Region (FATA) that borders Balochistan, also reportedly killing hundreds militants since they began in 2014. Operation Khyber 3, launched on August 17, claimed 14 militant lives in its opening salvo.

Now, where can the militants run?

Posted by orrinj at 8:26 AM


14 Signs You're in a Healthy Relationship (Real Simple, Feb. 6, 2015, Time)

You Make Decisions Jointly

You don't call all the shots. Neither does your partner. From what movie to see to how many children to have, you make decisions together and listen to each other's concerns and desires. Sure, this may mean you see Transformers on Saturday night. But on Sunday night, it's your turn.

...(a) that she had bought me a car; and, (b) that she had ordered a new dog.

Posted by orrinj at 8:22 AM


Ominous signs for Donald Trump in new post-debate poll (BYRON, YORK, 9/30/16, Washington Examiner)

A new Fox News national poll suggests Donald Trump suffered real damage in his first debate with Hillary Clinton -- not just losing the debate but sliding in some key measures of voter confidence in his ability to serve as president.

Compared to the same poll's results before the debate, Clinton's standing improved relative to Trump's in three important areas: which candidate would best handle the economy, which candidate has the temperament to serve as president, and which candidate is honest and trustworthy.

Posted by orrinj at 8:07 AM


Trump's bad week is a 'nightmare' for the GOP (Philip Rucker, Robert Costa and Sean Sullivan September 30, 2016, Washington Post)

Republican leaders and strategists are unnerved by Donald Trump's erratic attacks on a Latina beauty queen and other outbursts this week, increasingly fearful that the GOP nominee is damaging his White House hopes and doing lasting harm to the party in the campaign's final stretch.

Party officials said they are newly embarrassed by Trump's impulsive behavior and exasperated by his inability to concentrate on his change message and frame the race as a referendum on Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, according to interviews with more than two dozen of them.

Senate and House candidates are ducking questions about Trump and distancing themselves, while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has refused to talk about him. And few elected leaders are counseling him.

W tried his best to save us from this.