September 30, 2017

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Israel's trade with Russia leaps by 25% (JTA, September 30, 2017)

Trade between Israel and Russia has grown this year by 25 percent, officials from both countries revealed, amid complications with other Russian trading partners.

The first six months of 2017 saw increased trade between the nations of about $380 million over the corresponding period last year.

Posted by orrinj at 4:19 PM


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Hezbollah says Kurdish vote a step toward wider Mideast partition (Reuters, 9/30/17)

"It will open the door to partition, partition, partition," Nasrallah said. He added that "partition means taking the region to internal wars whose end and time frame is known only to God".

We've only begun to destabilize the Middle East.  Hezbollahstan is a nation.  The Lebanon is not.

Posted by orrinj at 1:43 PM


Lost weekend: How Trump's time at his golf club hurt the response to Maria (Abby Phillip, Ed O'Keefe, Nick Miroff and Damian Paletta September 29, 2017, Washington Post)

[A]s storm-ravaged Puerto Rico struggled for food and water amid the darkness of power outages -- Trump and his top aides effectively went dark themselves.

Trump jetted to New Jersey that Thursday night to spend a long weekend at his private golf club there, save for a quick trip to Alabama for a political rally. Neither Trump nor any of his senior White House aides said a word publicly about the unfolding crisis.

Trump did hold a meeting at his golf club that Friday with half a dozen Cabinet officials -- including acting Homeland Security secretary Elaine Duke, who oversees disaster response -- but the gathering was to discuss his new travel ban, not the hurricane.

Posted by orrinj at 9:31 AM


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San Juan Mayor: This Is A 'People Are Dying' Story (Richard Gonzales, 9/29/17, NPR)

Tensions over the Trump administration's handling of the recovery effort on hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico boiled over Friday as San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz said, "People are dying here," and called on President Trump to put someone in charge of the relief effort who "is up to the task of saving lives."

Cruz's comments came after Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke told reporters at the White House Thursday that the administration's response so far "is a good-news story in terms of our ability to reach people." She also said the death toll had been low for a storm the size of Hurricane Maria.

"She said that?" asked an incredulous Cruz during an interview with CNN.

"Maybe from where she's standing it's a good news story. When you're drinking from a creek, it's not a good news story. When you don't have food for a baby, it's not a good news story. ... I'm sorry but that really upsets me and frustrates me," said Cruz.

"Dammit, this is not a good-news story. This is a 'people are dying' story. This is a life or death story," she added.

September 29, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 7:56 PM


All That Could Go Wrong When Jihadists Return Home -- to China : Once separatists, now jihadists, some Uighurs returning from the ISIS battlefield could threaten -- and test -- Beijing. (COLIN P. CLARKE & PAUL REXTON KAN, SEPTEMBER 28, 2017, Defense One)

Most of the foreign fighters that flooded into in Syria during the past few years came from the West, but some jihadists also arrived from the Far East, including as many as 300 of Western China's Uighurs, the Sunni Muslim indigenous ethnic minority. Now that the Islamic State's caliphate is collapsing, it seems inevitable that some will return to China, bringing with them more of the jihadist ideology and influence that has leaders in Beijing worried.

The Uighurs come from China's western province of Xinjiang that borders Afghanistan and Pakistan. China cannot afford further instability in Xinjiang. With its abundant natural resources, and rampant arms smuggling, Beijing has begun shoring up its border patrol there.

Since Uighur fighters joined jihadists in Iraq and Syria, militant propaganda directed at China's leadership, which already has figured prominently in jihadi propaganda strategy for the past decade, has increased. In March, a video featured Uighur militants threatening China, with an image of Chinese President Xi Jinping imposed on a burning Chinese flag. Some videos appear to have been produced in China, with Uighur foreign fighters expressing their intention to return to China to wage jihad. ISIS and al-Qaida leaders have commented on the situation through various media platforms, criticizing China for policies discriminating against Muslims.

Where they have the advantage ISIS lacked.

Posted by orrinj at 6:36 PM


'Stupidly politically correct society is the death of comedy', warns veteran comedian Mel Brooks (Rozina Sabur, 21 SEPTEMBER 2017, The Telegraph)

Society's "stupidly politically correct" sensibilities will lead to the "death of comedy", the veteran Hollywood comedian Mel Brooks has warned.

Brooks, known for his plethora of acclaimed comedy movies, said political correctness was becoming a stranglehold on comedians.

"It's not good for comedy. Comedy has to walk a thin line, take risks," he said.

"Comedy is the lecherous little elf whispering in the king's ear, always telling the truth about human behaviour."

Posted by orrinj at 6:24 PM


The Activist Judge Conservatives Love (BERNARD GOLDBERG, SEPT. 29, 2017, NY Times)

For some time now conservative Republicans have been screaming about activist judges who put their own political opinions above the law. And they've been right to complain. But now, thanks to socially conservative voters in Alabama, we learn that they didn't really mean it. What bothered them weren't activist judges in general -- but liberal activist judges in particular. Conservative activism by a judge who gets his marching orders from the Bible is apparently fine. [...]

 In 2016 he directed county officials in Alabama to ignore a ruling -- this time by the Supreme Court of the United States -- on same-sex marriage. The high court had ruled that banning gay marriage was unconstitutional. Justice Moore disagreed, so he told county officials not to issue any same-sex marriage licenses. This time the Court of the Judiciary suspended him for the remainder of his term, which ends in 2019.

It's understandable that many social conservatives think that government property is the perfect place to install a monument to the Ten Commandments and that same-sex marriage is immoral and therefore should also be illegal. But we don't live in a theocracy. We live by the rule of law, which is what those same social conservatives have been preaching for many years.

But Roy Moore is their folk hero, so he's the kind of activist judge they cannot only live with, but also want to be their next United States senator.

That's the exact opposite of activism, given that he ordered courts to adhere to two centuries of constitutional law and several millennia of divine.

Posted by orrinj at 6:17 PM


A school in Louisiana bans protests during the national anthem (The Economist, Sep 29th 2017)

ON SEPTEMBER 29th, at 7pm, when the Parkway Panthers face the Airline Vikings in a high-school football clash in Bossier City, Louisiana, the drama will begin before the first snap. The previous day, the principal of Parkway High School sent a letter to student athletes warning them not to mimic the widespread protests that took place over the weekend at National Football League (NFL) games. Parkway players attending "any sporting event in which their team is participating", wrote Waylon Bates, the principal, must "stand in a respectful way throughout the National Anthem". Anyone who kneels, sits or makes any sign of disrespect will risk being benched, or, with "continued failure to comply", subjected to "removal from the team".

There are plenty of constitutional rights--including 1st Amendment rights--that schoolchildren don't enjoy; but, at the same time, Mr. Bates certainly can't compel them to stand for the Anthem.  

Posted by orrinj at 6:15 PM


Trump slow to implement Russia, Iran, North Korea sanctions law: senators (Patricia Zengerle, 9/29/17, Reuters) 

Two months after signing it, President Donald Trump has not begun enforcing a law imposing new sanctions on Russia, Iran and North Korea, Senators John McCain and Ben Cardin said in a letter seen by Reuters on Friday.

Also, with just two days to go, his administration has not provided information related to Russia's defense and intelligence sectors required under the measure by Sunday, they said.

September 28, 2017

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McCain introduces bill to kill Puerto Rico shipping restrictions (Timothy Gardner, 9/28/17, Reuters) 

Republican senators John McCain and Mike Lee introduced a bill on Thursday to permanently waive shipping restrictions on Puerto Rico, saying a temporary waiver from the Trump administration is "insufficient" to help the island rebuild from Hurricane Maria.

Although it's not clear why Hawaiians and others should suffer...

Posted by orrinj at 3:18 PM


The Culture War President : Trump has all but given up on governing. He's a full-time cultural warrior now. (BILL SCHER, September 27, 2017, Politico)

Being elected to wage culture war via bully pulpit means less is expected from Trump inside Washington. He doesn't expend energy navigating the congressional thicket to produce legislation. His main achievement to date, a sudden bipartisan deal to keep the government open for a few months, came after he "appeared to tire of the back and forth" of a tedious meeting. Trump does little on the economy but take credit for what was handed to him.

With the exception of a few cruise missiles lobbed at Syria, his foreign policy is marked by talk, not action. Trump's actual North Korea policy is not apocalyptic "fire and fury" but the more traditional tool of economic sanctions. He threatens to unilaterally rip up the Iran nuclear deal, then puts out feelers for a fresh round of negotiations. He claimed to have pulled out of the Paris climate deal, but now is exploring a face-saving way to stay in it.

We won.

Posted by orrinj at 3:08 PM


As 2018 Obamacare deadline nears, U.S. states believe every county covered (Caroline Humer, 9/28/17, Reuters)

[I]nsurance commissioners in Republican-leaning states such as Tennessee, Missouri, and Virginia spent months negotiating with insurers to see who might pull out of their markets and either convince them to stay, or find a replacement.

By Tuesday, it appeared they had succeeded in keeping every county covered in all states.

Posted by orrinj at 2:02 PM


Iran scolds Trump for an 'alternative fact' tweet about a missile launch (Bradley Klapper and Edith M. Lederer, SEPTEMBER 28, 2017, AP)

"We need to check our facts before we make statements," Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in an interview with The Associated Press. "It worries me that people play with facts and produce alternative facts."

Posted by orrinj at 10:48 AM


White House Waives Jones Act to Help Storm-Ravaged Puerto Rico (ADAM EDELMAN, 9/28/17, NBC)

President Donald Trump had come under increasing pressure in recent days from officials in Puerto Rico and the mainland concerned about the island, which is running dangerously low on fuel, clean drinking water and other critical supplies after being devastated by Hurricane Maria.

The Jones Act, otherwise known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, requires goods shipped between American ports to be carried exclusively by ships built primarily in the United States, and to have U.S. citizens as its owners and crews.

Signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson two years after World War I ended, it was passed as a protective measure against foreign competition, particularly Germany.

That's a good start; now repeal it.

Posted by orrinj at 7:11 AM


How Israel Got Universal Health Care 20 Years Ago, and Why It's Working : Government-regulated competition, legislation that largely excludes the courts, and a 'social lobby' that backed even neo-liberal economic policy into covering 100 percent of the Jewish state's citizens. Is there a lesson for the United States? (David Chinitz, September 27, 2017, The Tablet)

Israel's health system constitutes the most extensive and successful implementation of regulated (or as it known in the United States, "managed") competition in the world. One-hundred percent of the population is entitled to comprehensive coverage provided by four competing health plans. Bernie Sanders, who talks about a single-payer system for the United States, would do well to point to the Israeli system as a model more closely adaptable to the American context.

If Israel is famous for having chronic problems when it comes to governance, the Israeli health care system is the exception that proves the rule. Under Israel's 1995 National Health Insurance Law (NHI), entitlements to health services are defined and detailed in legislation, and have largely removed the courts--which have a long history of being the forum of last resort for everything from kosher food to women's prayer at the Western Wall--from insinuating themselves into medical decision-making.

Uncharacteristically for both Israel and the Jewish people ("He who saves one soul, it is as if he has saved a whole world"), no health service, no matter how ostensibly urgent or life-saving, can be covered by NHI if there is not a defined source of finance to back it up. This means that only treatments included (with detailed medical indications) in the NHI "standard basket of services" are guaranteed to be covered. While the U.S. Affordable Care Act lists 10 major categories of "essential health benefits" (and de facto leaves detailed coverage determinations to states and the market), the Israeli law includes an appendix that is hundreds of pages long, detailing the drugs, tests, and treatments that are covered and the conditions under which a patient can sue if denied access.

Cost-wise, the Israeli system is considered parsimonious to the point of being underfunded. The country spends less than 8 percent of its GDP, and about US$2,600 per capita on health, beneath the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average. The equivalent numbers for the United States in 2016 under Obamacare rules were 17.8 percent of GDP and US$10,345 per capita.

  And that $2 trillion can be put to good use instead of wasted on health care.

Posted by orrinj at 7:03 AM



Many people in Silicon Valley believe in the Singularity--the day in our near future when computers will surpass humans in intelligence and kick off a feedback loop of unfathomable change.

When that day comes, Anthony Levandowski will be firmly on the side of the machines. In September 2015, the multi-millionaire engineer at the heart of the patent and trade secrets lawsuit between Uber and Waymo, Google's self-driving car company, founded a religious organization called Way of the Future. Its purpose, according to previously unreported state filings, is nothing less than to "develop and promote the realization of a Godhead based on Artificial Intelligence."

Way of the Future has not yet responded to requests for the forms it must submit annually to the Internal Revenue Service (and make publically available), as a non-profit religious corporation. However, documents filed with California show that Levandowski is Way of the Future's CEO and President, and that it aims "through understanding and worship of the Godhead, [to] contribute to the betterment of society."

September 27, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 8:04 PM



At a rally in Indiana, Trump touted Kip Tom, a Leesburg resident, as a potential victim of this estate tax. "With us today is Kip Tom, a family farmer," the president said. [...]

Chuck Collins of the Institute of Policy Studies, using a database of agribusiness farm subsidies, notes that Tom Farms, which claims to have 17,000 acres in production around the world, is Indiana's ninth largest recipient of farm subsidies. Between 2004 and 2014, Tom and his various companies received around $3.3 million in farm subsidies.

Posted by orrinj at 7:55 PM



Why did the IRS begin auditing Donald Trump in 2002? Why that year in particular?

Donald Trump's finances were always complicated and fertile ground for the IRS, yet, it only began auditing him in 2002.

This is particularly striking because that places the agency's apparent sudden interest in Trump right after the time Felix Sater, an FBI informant, began working inside Trump Tower.

And an audit in 2002 would be looking at tax returns from 2001.

Again, that seems significant because it is in 2001 that we see Sater go active in Trump Tower. 

Possibly even more significant, it is also in this period that Michael Cohen -- an attorney married into a Ukrainian family -- began to acquire an unusual number of units in Trump buildings, as did his relatives. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:51 PM


How the anal cancer epidemic in gay and bi HIV-positive men can be prevented (Ashish A. Deshmukh, Elizabeth Chiao, Jagpreet Chhatwal, Scott B. Cantor, 9/27/17, The Conversation)

Almost 620,000 gay and bisexual men in the United States were living with HIV in 2014, and 100,000 of these men were not even aware of their infection. These men are 100 times more likely to have anal cancer than HIV-negative men who exclusively have sex with women. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:49 PM


Interpol handcuffs PM's hope of ending automatic anti-Israel majority : More than anything else, global police organization's vote to accept Palestine as a member state signals to Israel that the two-state solution is still on the table (Raphael Ahren, September 27, 2017, times of Israel)

Interpol overwhelmingly supported a resolution immediately making the "State of Palestine" a full member of the organization. (75 countries voted "yes" and 24 countries voted "no," with 34 abstentions.)

To join the world's second-largest organization after the UN, the Palestinians needed two-thirds of all votes cast; they received three-quarters.

Jerusalem had vehemently lobbied against admitting Palestine to the organization, arguing that this could result in sensitive information being leaked to Palestinian terror groups. Israel also fears Palestinian efforts via Interpol to mount legal challenges, including travel bans and extradition requests, against Israeli army officers and others for alleged war crimes.

And yet, ignoring Israel's widely recognized expertise in combatting terrorism, 75.7% of voting countries supported the resolution, which grants the Palestinians access to Interpol's secure global police communications network, and all the other perks of full-fledged members.

For Israel, this was another bitter diplomatic defeat, reminiscent of 2011, when UNESCO admitted the State of Palestine; or 2012, when Palestine became a non-member state at the UN General Assembly; or 2015, when the Palestinians joined the International Criminal Court.

Posted by orrinj at 7:45 PM


These are the world's 10 most competitive economies (Alex Gray, 26 Sep 2017, World Economic Forum)

Posted by orrinj at 7:43 PM


Americans back DACA by a huge margin (ALLISON DE JONG Sep 25, 2017, ABC News)

A vast 86 percent of Americans support a right to residency for undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children, with support crossing the political spectrum. Two-thirds back a deal to enact such legislation in tandem with higher funding for border control.

Posted by orrinj at 7:40 PM


Don't Make Disasters Worse (Thomas Grennes, Sept. 25, 2017, US News)

By prohibiting the use of foreign-flag ships on coastal routes, the nearly 100-year-old Jones Act is an impediment to disaster responders, and for that reason, can only add to the damage done. To transport merchandise from one domestic port to another by water, the act requires the use of a ship that is American-built, American-owned, American-crewed and flies the American flag. This American-flag fleet is small and shrinking, and some of the ships have long-term contracts that prevent them from quickly responding to a disaster.

Conversely, the foreign-flag fleet is much larger and much less expensive. The cost difference is so large that when American businesses export from or import to the United States, they use foreign-flag ships about 99 percent of the time. Thus, prohibiting these foreign-flag vessels - the ones we overwhelmingly rely on for international trade - from assisting Americans during disasters is a needless self-inflicted wound to the nation.

The Jones Act does acknowledge this problem by allowing the president to waive portions of the act in times of emergency. Waivers were issued in 2005 by President George W. Bush and in 2012 by President Barack Obama. [...]

A longer-term solution would repeal or substantially reform the Jones Act. It imposes large costs on consumers, it makes negligible contributions to U.S. troops operating abroad and it is an impediment to responding to domestic disasters.

Posted by orrinj at 5:37 PM


Experts Are Stunned By The "Sheer Stupidity" Of Including Chad In The Travel Ban (Vera Bergengruen, Monica Mark, 9/25/17, BuzzFeed)

"It makes no sense whatsoever. In fact I wonder if there wasn't some sort of mistake made," John Campbell, a former US ambassador to Nigeria, told BuzzFeed News. "It's an insult. What really gets to me is the apparent sheer stupidity of it."

On Monday Chad's government said it was "astonished" and "baffled" to find its citizens blacklisted by Trump. Local press reported that the US ambassador was summoned to meet with the prime minister on Monday.

In a statement to local media, Chad's government said it "invites president Donald Trump to reconsider this decision, which severely tarnishes the image of Chad, and the strong relationship between the two countries, particularly in the fight against terrorism."

The surprising move raised concerns that the ban could impact the country's close working relationship with the Pentagon. Chad has been a key US ally in an often-volatile neighborhood that's bordered by Nigeria, Libya, Niger, Central African Republic, and Sudan -- the last of which was on Trump's previous travel ban list but was removed from this one.

Chad, which is home to a US military facility, just hosted an annual 20-nation military exercise with US Africa Command to strengthen local forces to fight extremist insurgents.

It also hosts the multinational task force that is fighting the terrorist group Boko Haram and has been praised for being willing and able to provide its own troops to fight in the region. The US Army, Navy, and Marines have all trained Chadian forces, which have fought extremists in Mali and Nigeria.

Posted by orrinj at 5:33 PM

60-40 NATION:

Majority of US voters think Trump not fit to be president: poll (AFP, September 27, 2017)

Overall, 56% of those polled said Trump is not fit to serve as president while 42% said he is fit.

Posted by orrinj at 5:20 PM


Paul Horner, Fake News Purveyor Who Claimed Credit For Trump's Win, Found Dead At 38 (LAUREL WAMSLEY, 9/27/17, NPR)

Though President Trump often derides the mainstream media as "fake news," we know now that there were people who consciously crafted false news stories during the 2016 election and passed them off as real.

One of those people was Paul Horner, who made his living creating news hoaxes that often went viral. Authorities say Horner was found dead last week near Phoenix; he was 38. [...]

He created fake stories for his website National Report that were likely to find a believing audience. In one fake story, The Washington Post reports, he claimed that President Barack Obama used his own money to keep open a "federally funded" Muslim culture museum during a government shutdown. Horner was delighted that Fox News reported that story as fact before they backtracked.

"Is National Report the fake news site, or Fox News?" he asked the newspaper. "You decide."

In an interview with the Post after the 2016 election Horner said, "I think Trump is in the White House because of me."

"His followers don't fact-check anything -- they'll post everything, believe anything," he said. "His campaign manager posted my story about a protester getting paid $3,500 as fact. Like, I made that up. I posted a fake ad on Craigslist."

Posted by orrinj at 12:01 PM



SINCE MOVING INTO the White House months ago, Jared Kushner--senior advisor and son-in-law to the President, savior of the Middle East, and possible person of interest in a federal investigation--has amassed a rather extensive project portfolio. The issues under Kushner's purview include negotiating peace between Israel and Palestine, fixing the opioid crisis, updating technology across the entire federal government, and spearheading criminal justice reform, to name just a few. It seems like a nearly impossible set of challenges for anyone to tackle, and even more so for Kushner. Because in addition to not having any previous government experience, the former real estate exec has demonstrated repeated difficulty filling out simple, routine forms correctly. This includes his own voter registration form.

According to the records held by the New York State Board of Elections, Jared Corey Kushner is a woman.

Posted by orrinj at 11:57 AM


U.S. denies request for Puerto Rico shipping waiver (Timothy Gardner, 9/27, 17, Reuters)

The Department of Homeland Security, which waived the act after hurricanes Harvey and Irma, did not agree an exemption would help this time.

Hmmmm...what's different this time?

Posted by orrinj at 9:14 AM


Tehran mourns soldier symbolic of fight against IS (Middle East Online, 9/27/17)

A huge crowd flooded central Tehran in a sea of red and black on Wednesday to mourn a soldier who has become a symbol of the fight against the Islamic State group.

Last month's capture and beheading of Mohsen Hojaji, a 25-year-old volunteer with the Revolutionary Guards, has triggered a rare outpouring of public support for Iran's military campaigns in Syria and Iraq.

The stoic image of Hojaji standing with a brutal-looking IS militant holding a knife to his back went viral last month, and his memorial service filled Imam Hossein Square in Tehran and jammed the streets all around.

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei met Hojaji's relatives ahead of the service, saying: "There are many martyrs and all are dear before God Almighty, but there is something special about this young man."

Posted by orrinj at 7:08 AM


Interior Secretary Criticized for Saying 30% of Department Is Disloyal (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, September 26, 2017)

 Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke faced a storm of criticism Tuesday after he said nearly one-third of employees at his department are not loyal to him and President Donald Trump. [...]

Joel Clement, a climate scientist who filed a whistleblower complaint after he and 50 other senior employees at Interior were reassigned, said civil servants are loyal to the U.S. flag.

They "also know a demagogue when they see one," he said, referring to Zinke. The number of Interior employees who disagree with Zinke and Trump "is much higher than 30 percent," Clement said.

The government's former ethics chief, Walter Shaub, also slammed Zinke, writing on Twitter that "Zinke's remark is the opposite of patriotism. Feds are loyal to America, not junior cabinet secretaries and politicians."

Posted by orrinj at 6:48 AM


Trump scrambles to convince Americans he can handle Puerto Rico crisis (Steve Holland, Roberta Rampton, 9/27/17, Reuters) 

Caught off guard by the severity of Hurricane Maria's damage to the U.S. island territory, Trump did not focus on the storm for days, instead launching a barrage of tweets over his view that National Football League players should be required to stand during the U.S. national anthem.

Trump insisted to reporters on Tuesday that he was not preoccupied with the NFL controversy and that he could multi-task. He said he would visit Puerto Rico on Tuesday.

"I have plenty of time on my hands. All I do is work," he said.

But with the territory's 3.4 million people struggling to get food, water, power and shelter, Democratic leaders in Congress and some Puerto Rico residents, who are U.S. citizens, accused the Trump administration of being more sluggish in its response than to disasters on the U.S. mainland.

September 26, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 7:12 PM


Global Trade Volume Is Up, No Thanks to Protectionism (Patrick Tyrrell & Anthony B. Kim, September 25, 2017, Daily Signal)

In a sign of improving economic health around the world, the World Trade Organization has strongly upgraded its forecast for the 2017 growth in world trade volume.

The World Trade Organization previously estimated trade expansion in 2017 to be 2.4 percent, but now looks to hit 3.6 percent growth for the year.

This is welcome news. A rise in trade volumes are a sign that more people around the world are entering mutually beneficial transactions with economically free counterparties in other countries.

In such transactions, both trade partners win because free trade is based on mutual advantage.

Ms Yellen's notion that the deflation outlook is uncertain is odd.

Posted by orrinj at 7:02 PM


What's wrong with the outdated, anti-competitive, protectionist Jones Act? Just about everything ..... (Mark J. Perry, 9/26/17, AEI)

.... is the conclusion of a new article by North Carolina State economics professor Thomas Grennes titled "Does the Jones Act Endanger American Seamen?" in the Fall 2017 issue of Cato's Regulation Magazine:

Requiring Americans to use American-built ships on domestic routes increases shipping costs in the short-run and reduces innovation and slows growth in the long-run. In addition, the Jones Act makes the American-flagged fleet older and less safe than it would otherwise be. Instead of producing a stronger merchant marine, the Jones Act has contributed to a smaller and older domestic shipping industry with more dangerous conditions for American seamen.

Posted by orrinj at 1:20 PM


Fed's Yellen says gradual hikes should continue, despite weak inflation (Reuters, 9/26/17) 

The Federal Reserve needs to continue gradual rate hikes despite broad uncertainty about the path of inflation, Fed Chair Janet Yellen said on Tuesday in remarks that acknowledged the central bank's struggles to forecast one of its key policy objectives.

Uncertainty?  What can be more certain than that technology and trade pressures are going to continue their nearly four decades of pressure on prices?

Posted by orrinj at 1:04 PM


Venezuela's paradox: People are hungry, but farmers can't feed them (Mariana Zuñiga and Nick Miroff, 5/21/17, Washington Post)

With cash running low and debts piling up, Venezuela's socialist government has cut back sharply on food imports. And for farmers in most countries, that would present an opportunity.

But this is Venezuela, whose economy operates on its own special plane of dysfunction. At a time of empty supermarkets and spreading hunger, the country's farms are producing less and less, not more, making the caloric deficit even worse.

Drive around the countryside outside the capital, Caracas, and there's everything a farmer needs: fertile land, water, sunshine and gasoline at 4 cents a gallon, cheapest in the world. Yet somehow families here are just as scrawny-looking as the city-dwelling Venezuelans waiting in bread lines or picking through garbage for scraps. 

Having attempted for years to defy conventional economics, the country now faces a painful reckoning with basic arithmetic.

As democracy and protestantism, so too capitalism: there is no viable alternative.

Posted by orrinj at 12:54 PM


Iranians critical, confused over new Trump travel ban (Times of Israel, September 25, 2017)

University student Erfan Maddah wrote online that he was "totally confused" by the decision.

"I have student visa appointment on October 4, I do not know if I have to continue or not," Maddah wrote.

Iran's foreign minister, too, criticized Trump for the newly announced travel restrictions.

Mohammed Javad Zarif wrote on Twitter early Monday: "Trump's fake empathy for Iranians rings ever more hollow, with his new and even more offensive travel ban against such outstanding citizens."

Posted by orrinj at 7:12 AM



Humans have been cultivating plants for some 10,000 years and, for much of that time, we've used beasts of burden to help tend the fields. Just last century, humans turned from animal strength to machine power, leading to huge leaps in agricultural efficiency and scale. Over the past few years, farms have deployed emerging technologies like drones and autonomous driving systems to make the farmers' job even less strenuous -- but human hands were still needed throughout the process.

Now, researchers at Harper Adams University and agricultural company Precision Decisions have removed humans from the farm entirely in a project called Hands Free Hectare. From planting to tending and harvesting, no human stepped foot on the acre and a half barley farm in rural England. It was all done by robot farmers.

The great "crisis" of modernity is that we create ever more wealth with ever less labor.,
Posted by orrinj at 7:02 AM


The Greatest Curse of the Middle East Region (Sami Moubayed, 9/26/17, Middle East Online)

At the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, the Zionists aggressively lobbied for their share of the cake -- a Jewish state in Palestine -- and so did other minorities, notably the Kurds, whose representative, Serif Pasha, pointed to the Fourteen Points of US President Woodrow Wilson, which, among other things, promised "self-determination" for "non-Turkish races" of the Middle East.

When the final borders were drawn and accepted internationally, neither the Arabs nor the Kurds got their independent state. The Kurds were divided among Syria, Iraq, Iran and Turkey while the Arabs were scattered throughout the kingdom of the Hejaz, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Palestine and throughout North Africa. The Jews had to wait until 1948 to get their country while the Kurds carved one out of Iraq in 1991.

Obviously, nobody was satisfied with these settlements, wanting to believe that they were temporary. Some within the Alawite community petitioned the French in 1936, demanding that they get to keep an independent mini-state in the Syrian coast instead of being reunited with Mother Syria. Abdullah I of Jordan dreamt of a throne in Damascus and constantly positioned himself as a king-in-waiting, pleading with the British to install him whenever a vacancy emerged in Syria. In the 1940s, he tried to talk Syria's Druze into seceding and merging with his kingdom.

His brother Faisal, who was briefly king of Syria before becoming sovereign of Iraq, often suggested a Syrian-Iraqi Union under his crown, with a rotating summer/winter capital between Baghdad and Damascus.

When parliament tabled a bill demanding the restoration of Baalbek, Rashaya, Hasbaya and the Bekaa Valley to Syria, arguing that they had been forcefully annexed to Lebanon, Syrian President Shukri al-Quwatli, an Arab nationalist, turned it down saying: "What difference does it make if they are in Syria or Lebanon? These borders are temporary and we will one day erase them to create an Arab Nation."

More recently when President Hafez Assad -- Bashar's father -- mentioned Palestine in private talks with Arab nationalists, he referred to it as "southern Syria."

Some residents of the Middle East wanted to expand their borders to include larger more ambitious Arab projects; others worked for mini-states based on ethnicity or religion. More than ever, this is materialising in Syria and Iraq today.

Before its ambitious "caliphate" began to crumble, the Islamic State (ISIS) carved out what effectively became "Sunni-Stan" in major cities such as Raqqa, Deir ez-Zor and Mosul. The Kurds did the same in north-eastern Syria, creating militias to fight just about anybody who hovered close -- be it the Free Syrian Army, ISIS, al-Nusra or government troops.

Two referendums that will bring them closer than ever towards statehood were set.

Eventually, they'll get their rump Alawistan and have to decide for themselves whether they want Assad to govern them.

Posted by orrinj at 6:38 AM


Wary Of Unrest Among Uighur Minority, China Locks Down Xinjiang Province (Rob Schmitz, 9/26/17, NPR Morning Edition)

Last year President Xi Jinping appointed a party secretary of Xinjiang, who is transforming this region -- bordered to the west by Pakistan, Afghanistan and other Central Asian countries -- into one of the world's most tightly controlled police states. Earlier this year Chen Quanguo -- whose name literally means "entire country" -- addressed police in an impressive show of force: Ten thousand officers, all dressed in black riot gear, lined up in neat columns.

"The sword is drawn, and we're about to hear the thunder," said Chen to his officers. "Comrades: are you ready?"

"We are ready!" they roared in response.

Chen arrived in Xinjiang in 2016 fresh from Tibet, where his five-year crackdown on dissent had disturbed human rights organizations but earned him accolades from China's president. He went on a police-hiring spree there, and promised to do the same in Xinjiang.

"Obviously, in order to replicate the same density of policing and surveillance, you need to hire tens of thousands of police forces. And that's exactly what Chen Quanguo did," says Adrian Zenz, a researcher at the European School of Culture and Theology.

Zenz says Xinjiang has posted ads for nearly 100,000 security personnel positions in the past 12 months -- 30 times more officers than were hired annually a decade ago.

"This is Xinjiang's new industry No. 1. It is becoming the most important source of employment," says Zenz.

Drawing on central government subsidies, Xinjiang spent around $6 billion -- nearly four times the region's own income -- on security in the first half of 2017, he says.

September 25, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 9:33 PM


Trump Duped by Old Footage of Iranian Missile Test (Benjamin Hart, 9/25/17, New York)

[F]ox News reported on Monday that, according to two officials, the Iranian footage was actually seven months old, and showed a launch that failed when the missile exploded after liftoff. A missile was indeed rolled out at a parade on Friday, but not put into the air. Trump, not shockingly, had been duped.

Of course, the real question is: what are we willing to give Iran to abandon its missile program (besides free satellite launches)?

Posted by orrinj at 9:28 PM


Some Trump advisers used private email for government business: NY Times (Reuters, 9/25/17)

At least six close advisers to President Donald Trump, including former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and former chief strategist Steve Bannon, occasionally used private email addresses for government business, the New York Times reported on Monday, citing current and former officials.

To be fair, only the deranged ever took the Hillary email stuff seriously.

Posted by orrinj at 7:29 PM

Posted by orrinj at 8:08 AM


Frain v. Baron, 307 F. Supp. 27 (E.D.N.Y 1969)
District Court, E.D. New York
Filed: December 10th, 1969
Precedential Status: Precedential
Citations: 307 F. Supp. 27
Docket Number: 69-C-1250, 1347
Author: Orrin Grimmell Judd

307 F. Supp. 27 (1969)
Mary FRAIN, a minor under the age of 21 years, by her mother, Maryalice Frain, and Susan Keller, a minor under the age of 21 years, by her mother, Caroline D. Keller, Plaintiffs,
Harold BARON, individually and as Principal of Junior High School 217Q, and Hugh McDougall, individually and as District Superintendent of District 28, New York Board of Education, Defendants.
Raymond MILLER, a minor under the age of 21, by his mother, Earline Miller, Plaintiff,
Louis SCHUKER, individually and as Principal of Jamaica High School, Max Rubinstein, individually and as District Superintendent of District 29, New York Board of Education, and Nathan Brown, individually and as acting Superintendent of Schools for New York City, Defendants.

Nos. 69-C-1250, 1347.
United States District Court E. D. New York.

December 10, 1969.
*28 Paul G. Chevigny, N. Y. Civil Liberties Union, New York City, for Susan Keller, Caroline D. Keller and Earline Miller.

Hendler & Siegel, New York City, for Mary Frain and Maryalice Frain; by Samuel I. Hendler, New York City, of counsel.

J. Lee Rankin, Corp. Counsel, New York City, for defendants; by Robert E. Hugh, Asst. Corp. Counsel, of counsel.

JUDD, District Judge.


These civil rights actions are significant because they pit popular ideas of patriotism and the authority of school administrators against students' rights of free expression. The particular controversy is minor, involving the refusal of three students to leave their "homerooms" during the daily Pledge of Allegiance, as a condition for exercising their undoubted constitutional right not to participate in the Pledge. The resulting collision is serious, because it involves suspension from school as one alternative, and a court injunction against the school authorities as the other.

The facts and legal authorities must be reviewed in the light of the principle that:

"It is now beyond dispute that the constitution goes to school with the *29 student and that the state may not interfere with the student's enjoyment of its presence." Denno, Mary Beth Tinker Takes the Constitution to School, 38 Fordham L.Rev. (1969) 35, 56.

The Pledge of Allegiance was written by Frances Bellamy, a Baptist minister, to be used at the Chicago World's Fair Grounds in October, 1892, on the four hundredth anniversary of the discovery of America. Its present form, as set forth in Regulations of the New York Commissioner of Education (Art. XVI, § 150, ¶ 5) and in the United States Code (36 U.S.C. § 172) is:

"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
The words "under God" were added in 1954 (Pub.L. 83-297). The Corporation Counsel has recognized in an earlier case that anyone may be excused from repeating these two words. See Matter of Superintendent of Schools v. Seymour Jacobs, a Regular Teacher of French, Report of Bethuel L. Webster as Trial Examiner, p. 5 (1968).

The Commissioner of Education is required by statute to prepare a program for a daily salute and pledge of allegiance to the flag. Education Law § 802, McKinney's Consol.Laws, c. 16, subd. 1. The By-Laws of the New York City Board of Education require a salute to the flag only once a week (Sec. 90, subd. 31), but a Circular from the Superintendent of Schools in 1963 directed that:

"at the commencement of each school day, the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag be followed by the singing in unison of a patriotic song."

The purpose of the ceremony is to encourage patriotism and loyalty to democratic institutions.

Plaintiffs Mary Frain and Susan Keller are twelve-year old white girls attending Junior High School 217Q, in an accelerated class which does three years' work in two years.

Plaintiff Raymond Miller is a black boy, a senior at Jamaica High School.

All three plaintiffs refused to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, because of a belief that the words "with liberty and justice for all" are not true in America today. One is an atheist, who also objected to the words "under God."

They refused to stand during the Pledge, because that would constitute participation in what they considered a lie. They also refused to leave the room, and stand in the hall outside their homerooms until the conclusion of the ceremony, because they considered exclusion from the room to be a punishment for their exercise of constitutional rights.

It does not appear whether any plaintiff joined in the required patriotic song, or whether they were required to stay in the hall during the singing as well as the Pledge.

Plaintiff Miller was required to submit to the Assistant Principal for Guidance a written statement of his reasons for not saluting. His typewritten statement, in one page, expresses the belief that "America is perhaps the greatest country in the world," but that it must undergo certain basic changes, and provide true equality, freedom and justice for all, end oppression of minorities, and give black people a greater opportunity to advance. He concluded that:

"As for the pledge: I believe it is untrue (`Liberty and justice for all') and I refuse to swear to a lie."

Mary Frain and Susan Keller are the remnant of a larger group who previously sat in silence during the Pledge of Allegiance. The others, after being summoned to the Principal's office to discuss their conduct, accepted one of the alternatives, of standing silently or going outside their classrooms during the Pledge. The papers do not show what supervision, if any, is provided in *30 the halls while the non-participating students are excluded from class.

The policy of requiring a non-participating student to leave the area in which the flag salute is taking place was adopted by the Superintendent of Schools in March, 1969, in granting a petition from a student at Jamaica High School to be excused from taking part. The Superintendent stated:

"This decision is based on rulings by the United States Supreme Court and more recently by a Trial Examiner designated by the Board of Education, that both pupils and teachers have a right, as a matter of conscience, to refuse to salute the flag and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. I believe that no pupil should be permitted to sit during such a ceremony, since to do so might create disorder."

Raymond Miller asserts that he was nevertheless permitted to remain seated from March to October, when the publicity about the Frain suit called attention to the matter. Defendants assert that he stood silently during this time, and was not observed to remain seated until October 17, 1969, when his conduct resulted in suspension. This minor dispute of fact does not require decision at this time.

Between October 10, when the Frain and Miller girls were returned to school under this court's temporary restraining order, and November 10, when the City's reply papers were submitted, fifty other students in Junior High School 217Q have also sat silently during the Pledge of Allegiance, on one or more occasions. There is no showing that this has caused any disorder.

For two months in 1967 a teacher in Far Rockaway High School remained seated during the Pledge of Allegiance and did not recite the Pledge. A special Trial Examiner for the Board of Education, in ruling on charges against the teacher, found that his conduct did not cause disorder in the classroom. Matter of Superintendent of Schools v. Jacobs, supra, at p. 8.

The principal of Jamaica High School asserts in an affidavit filed in this case that permitting a student to remain seated during the Pledge could be "a real and present threat to the maintenance of discipline" and would be "pedagogically foolhardy." Other school administrators echo these words. For the purpose of the pending motions, these conclusory assertions are insufficient to support a finding of serious harm to defendants from the granting of an injunction.

Both suits are brought as class actions. The court finds that the questions of law presented are common to a substantial number of students in public junior and senior high schools who wish to remain in their seats in silence during the Pledge of Allegiance; that the plaintiffs will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class; and that defendants have acted on grounds generally applicable to the entire class. F.R. Civ.P. Rule 23(b) (2).

Legal Authorities

The thrust of recent decisions of the Supreme Court and lower federal courts has been toward increasing judicial concern with the clash between student expression and school authorities. This increasing concern has been accompanied by a shift in focus, well illustrated by comparing the Supreme Court's decision in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624,  63 S. Ct. 1178, 87 L. Ed. 1628 (1943), overruling Minersville School District v. Gobitis, 310 U.S. 586,  60 S. Ct. 1010, 84 L. Ed. 1375 (1940), with the recent decision in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, 393 U.S. 503, 89 S. Ct. 733, 21 L. Ed. 2d 731 (1969). The original concern with limitation of the state's power to compel a student to act contrary to his beliefs has shifted to a concern for affirmative protection of the student's right to express his beliefs. The present case is novel in that the context, school patriotic exercises, is one in which courts have previously intervened to limit coerced participation, *31 while these plaintiffs are urging not only a right of non-participation but a right of silent protest by remaining seated.

Barnette established the right of students to refrain from participation in a legislatively mandated flag ceremony. Rejecting compulsory participation as a proper vehicle for instilling patriotism, Mr. Justice Jackson stated (319 U.S. at 642, 63 S.Ct. at 1187):

"If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein."
Of pertinence to the present case, the opinion recognized that "The freedom asserted by these appellees does not bring them into collision with rights asserted by any other individual." 319 U.S. at 630, 63 S.Ct. at 1181. Justice Jackson also foreshadowed the present case by commenting that "liberty and justice for all," unless accepted merely as an ideal, "might to some seem an overstatement." 319 U.S. at 634, n. 14, 63 S.Ct. at 1183, n. 14.

Under the authority of Barnette, a federal district court held that a refusal to stand during the singing of the National Anthem did not justify exclusion from school. Sheldon v. Fannin, 221 F. Supp. 766 (D.Ariz.1963). However, Barnette, standing alone, might not be decisive of the present case. While Mr. Justice Jackson's opinion expressly disclaimed reliance on the religious beliefs of the plaintiffs, who were Jehovah's Witnesses, two of the six majority justices concurred on that basis. The plaintiffs in Sheldon were also Jehovah's Witnesses. In addition, neither Barnette nor Sheldon involved the alternative to participation of waiting outside the room; the choice was participation or exclusion from school.

The Supreme Court's decision in Tinker makes it unnecessary to explore further the differences between Barnette and the present case. Tinker held that public school students could not be suspended for wearing black arm-bands to protest American involvement in Vietnam, a form of silent expression in the classroom. While Tinker did not involve a refusal to participate in patriotic exercises in school, the Supreme Court did not tie its opinion to a particular set of facts, but enunciated a rule of general applicability. Mr. Justice Fortas stated (393 U.S. 509, 89 S.Ct. at 738):

"In order for the State in the person of school officials to justify prohibition of a particular expression of opinion, it must be able to show that its action was caused by something more than a mere desire to avoid the discomfort and unpleasantness that always accompany an unpopular viewpoint. Certainly where there is no finding and no showing that the exercise of the forbidden right would `materially and substantially interfere with the requirements of appropriate discipline in the operation of the school,' the prohibition cannot be sustained. Burnside v. Byars, supra, 363 F.2d at 749." (Emphasis supplied.)
Emphasizing that no disorders had in fact occurred, Mr. Justice Fortas concluded (393 U.S. 514, 89 S.Ct. at 740-741):

"These petitioners merely went about their ordained rounds in school. Their deviation consisted only in wearing on their sleeve a band of black cloth, not more than two inches wide. They wore it to exhibit their disapproval of the Vietnam hostilities and their advocacy of a truce, to make their views known, and by their example, to influence others to adopt them. They neither interrupted school activities nor sought to intrude in the school affairs or the lives of others. They caused discussion outside of the classrooms, but no interference with work and no disorder. In the circumstances, our Constitution does not permit officials of the State to deny their form of expression."

Tinker thus places on the school authorities the burden of justifying a particular *32 restriction on student expression. The student is free to select his form of expression, so long as he does not materially infringe the rights of other students or disrupt school activities.

The first quotation from the Tinker opinion is based upon Burnside v. Byars, 363 F.2d 744 (5th Cir. 1966). That case sustained the right of students to wear "freedom buttons" where no disruption or commotion resulted. Also consistent with Tinker is the decision in Matter of Superintendent of Schools v. Jacobs, supra, which upheld the right of a public school teacher to remain seated and not participate in the Pledge of Allegiance. The teacher who raised the issue expressed sentiments like the plaintiffs' in this case, that liberty and justice do not yet exist for all Americans. The learned Trial Examiner, Bethuel M. Webster, former President of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, stated that:

"the Board is required under Shelton [Shelton v. Tucker, 364 U.S. 479 [81 S. Ct. 247,  5 L. Ed. 2d 231] (1960)] and other cases to adopt means for promoting student patriotism that do not impair the personal liberties of teachers." Report, at p. 11.

Respondent advances no persuasive reason why the approach of Tinker should not be used here. Accordingly, it is not incumbent upon plaintiffs to convince the court that the offered alternative of leaving the room during the Pledge of Allegiance constituted punishment. Rather, respondent must convince the court that the particular expression of protest chosen by plaintiffs, remaining seated, materially infringed the rights of other students or caused disruption.

Supreme Court decisions involving the exercise of First Amendment rights in non-school contexts support plaintiffs' position here. In Brown v. Louisiana, 383 U.S. 131, 86 S. Ct. 719, 15 L. Ed. 2d 637 (1966), involving a sit-in in a segregated public library, the court stated that the right of free speech is not confined to verbal expression but includes

"the right in a peaceable and orderly manner to protest by silent and reproachful presence, in a place where the protestant has every right to be." (Emphasis added.)

In Street v. New York, 394 U.S. 576, 89 S. Ct. 1354, 1366, 22 L. Ed. 2d 572 (1969), Mr. Justice Harlan, one of the dissenters in Tinker, stated that the First Amendment provides "freedom to express publicly one's opinions about our flag, including those opinions which are defiant or contemptuous."

The draft-card burning case on which the City relies (United States v. Miller, 367 F.2d 72 [2d Cir. 1966]) is not comparable. Destruction of even trivial property is more than free speech. Of some similarity to the present case is a recent decision in another Circuit sustaining a mild penalty for a spectator's refusal to stand at the beginning of a court session. United States ex rel. Robson v. Malone, 412 F.2d 848 (7th Cir. 1969). The decision is not binding here and, in any event, is distinguished by the fact that a spectator's attendance in the courtroom is voluntary, while attendance in a public high school is compulsory.

Fear of disorder, which the City cites to justify its policy, has been ruled out as a ground for limiting peaceful exercise of First Amendment rights. Edwards v. South Carolina, 372 U.S. 229, 83 S. Ct. 680, 9 L. Ed. 2d 697 (1963). The Supreme Court dealt with this argument again in Tinker, saying (393 U.S. at 508, 89 S.Ct. at 737):

"The District Court concluded that the action of the school authorities was reasonable because it was based upon their fear of a disturbance from the wearing of the armbands. But, in our system, undifferentiated fear or apprehension of disturbance is not enough to overcome the right to freedom of expression. Any departure from absolute regimentation may cause trouble. Any variation from the majority's opinion may inspire fear. Any *33 word spoken, in class, in the lunchroom, or on the campus, that deviates from the views of another person, may start an argument or cause a disturbance. But our Constitution says we must take this risk * * *."

See also Tuttle, J., dissenting, in Ferrell v. Dallas Independent School District, 392 F.2d 697, 705-706 (5th Cir. 1968); In re Peck, 38 L.W. 2285 (N.Y.App.Div. 4th Dept., Oct. 30, 1969) (holding that judge cannot forbid female attorney to wear miniskirt because of fear of distraction or disruption).

Pedagogical opinions, or appeals to courtesy, are also inadequate grounds for coercive responses to First Amendment expressions.

Certainly, the fact that others have joined the plaintiffs in sitting out the Pledge is no justification for impeding plaintiffs' protests. The First Amendment protects successful dissent as well as ineffective protests.

This does not mean that the court has created an open season for students to defy authority. The same panel of the same court which upheld the wearing of "freedom buttons" in Burnside, supra, 363 F.2d 744, also held that the right to wear the buttons was forfeited where the button-wearers harassed other students and created a disturbance. Blackwell v. Issaquena County Board of Education, 363 F.2d 749 (5th Cir. 1966).

Madera v. Board of Education, 386 F.2d 778 (2d Cir. 1967), which defendants cite, dealt with the right to counsel at a guidance conference, and has no bearing on the present case.

President Harold C. Martin of Union College recently called attention to the emotions which are aroused by a case like this:

"The refusal of some religious sects today to swear an oath of allegiance to the flag infuriates many citizens who find themselves unable to consent to a set of principles different from the one they hold." The Meaning of "Law and Order," 74 Case & Comment, Nov.-Dec., 1969, p. 45 at p. 46.

The policy of the New York City Board of Education is a sincere attempt to prevent disorders which may develop as the reaction of infuriated members of the majority to the silent dissent expressed by plaintiffs. The flaw in the policy is that the constitution does not recognize fears of a disorderly reaction as ground for restricting peaceful expression of views. As the court said in Tinker:

"Freedom of expression would not truly exist if the right could be exercised only in an area that a benevolent government has provided as a safe haven for crackpots." (393 U.S. at 513, 89 S.Ct. at 740).

Preliminary Injunction

On the basis of the facts and legal authorities, the court is satisfied that plaintiffs have a strong possibility of ultimate success on the merits, that the grant of a preliminary injunction will cause no appreciable harm to defendants, and that denial of an injunction would be prejudicial to plaintiffs.

New rules adopted by the Board of Education since the argument of these motions would limit the Board's power of suspension, but do not affect the court's jurisdiction of this action.

It is therefore ordered

(1) That the two cases be consolidated under the caption of 69 Civil 1250;
(2) That the consolidated case may be maintained as a class action under F.R.Civ.P. 23(b) (2);
(3) That defendants' motions to dismiss be denied, with leave to answer pursuant to F.R.Civ.P. 12(a); and
(4) That defendants be enjoined during the pendency of this action from excluding plaintiffs from their classrooms during the Pledge of Allegiance, or from treating any student who refuses for reasons of conscience *34 to participate in the Pledge in any different way from those who participate.

After defendants' answer is filed, any party may apply to the court for a prompt hearing on the merits.

Any party may apply for a more detailed injunction order, on notice, if deemed desirable.

Posted by orrinj at 6:53 AM


Inside the alt-right: 'Genocidal behind closed doors' : An anti-fascist activist who infiltrated the alt-right describes its growing influence and international connections. (Patrick Strickland, 9/25/17, Al Jazeera)

Patrik Hermansson, a gay anti-fascist activist, would seem like an obvious target for the white supremacists, far-right populists and neo-Nazis who make up the alt-right movement.

Yet the 25-year-old was able to successfully infiltrate the alt-right's ranks as part of a year-long undercover investigation for Hope Not Hate, a UK-based organisation that monitors hate groups.

Posing as a graduate student researching censorship of right-wing political speech, Hermansson documented the alt-right's growing influence in the US and Europe.

The report that followed - The International Alt-Right: From Charlottesville to the White House - exposes the movement's connections to the administration of US President Donald Trump and the impact of alt-right ideas on far-right European political currents.

Hermansson's findings detail a movement rife with racism, anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial, neo-Nazism and conspiracy theories. [...]

Al Jazeera spoke to Hermansson about his experiences and observations while embedded in the alt-right.

Al Jazeera: How did the alt-right evolve over the year that you were undercover?

Patrik Hermansson: The broader far right developed in several ways. Brexit, Trump's election and terrorist attacks in Europe have all been significant drivers of recruitment for the broader far-right movement.

Trump's election has been the strongest driver for the alt-right. They really perceive themselves as having brought Trump into the White House and have been emboldened. Many of them feel that their ideas have been normalised.

They feel like their ideas are gaining influence in the mainstream. There is a range of different opinions towards Trump, and it is quite interesting. There are online forums that will call him Emperor Trump, but there have been periods in which he's fallen out of favour with many of them over the "deep state" or various conspiracies.

But after Charlottesville, he gained much more support again after he compared the "alt-left" (a widely disputed term the president used to characterise anti-fascists) to the alt-right. Generally, although they disagree with his policies at times, they usually blame the disagreements on outside influences.

You can listen to YouTube or read their articles and they say very racist things, but I can promise you what they say behind closed doors is much worse.

Al Jazeera: How did your own perception of the alt-right change from the time you started your investigation?

Hermansson: I learned a lot about them. I wasn't aware of how internationally connected they are. I'm more afraid of them now than when I started. Their opinions behind closed doors are genocidal in many cases. You can listen to YouTube or read their articles and they say very racist things, but I can promise you what they say behind closed doors is much worse. [...]

Al Jazeera: What was it like to be undercover and witness the violence during the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville?

Hermansson: I was standing there at a crossroad on a corner ... I saw shoes flying in the air, people falling. You don't really understand what you're seeing in a situation like that. My immediate reaction was to wonder why the car came there, why shoes were flying in the air. It was terrifying, and the whole crowd panicked.

Yet, people came together and helped. They used protest banners to give shade to injured people. They were bringing water. Everybody did practical small things to support each other, and that was powerful to see.

Posted by orrinj at 6:49 AM

THERE'S ONLY ONE STORY (profanity alert):

There and Back Again : What J.R.R. Tolkien's classic The Hobbit still has to offer, 80 years after its publication (VANN R. NEWKIRK II  SEP 22, 2017, The Atlantic)

Although the short and whimsical book is considered lightweight compared to The Lord of the Rings trilogy, it's still in many ways the best that literature has to offer. Tolkien is first a linguist, and it's not only his creation of elvish, dwarvish, and orcish languages out of whole cloth that impresses, but also the way he toys with English and illustrates the power of language itself to create. Ever a good author surrogate, Bilbo's true arms and armor aren't his trusty half-sword Sting or his mithril shirt, but--as Gollum would find out--his words and riddles. As Bilbo tells Smaug, the dragon:

I come from under the hill, and under the hills and over the hills my paths led. And through the air. I am he that walks unseen. ... I am the clue-finder, the web-cutter, the stinging fly. I was chosen for the lucky number. ... I am he that buries his friends alive and drowns them and draws them alive again from the water.

Bilbo's warrior-poetry is big and boastful enough to go toe-to-toe with Muhammad Ali.

The hobbit's journey from the comforts of the Shire through the mysterious dwarven ruins in the bowels of mountains and to the lair of a treasure-hoarding dragon double as a Bildungsroman, not only for the protagonist but for Tolkien as well. In the climax of the book, when the hero despairs at the greed and collapse of diplomacy that leads to the pointless Battle of Five Armies, so is revealed Tolkien's hatred of war. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:21 AM


"Lock him up?" Jared Kushner used private email for White House business (Co.Exist, 9/25/17)

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump continually called for the imprisonment of rival Hillary Clinton for using a personal email account while she was secretary of state. A frequent rally cry at Trump events was and remains "Lock her up!" over her use of private emails.

September 24, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 7:44 PM


Russian general killed in IS shelling in Syria (Deutsche-Welle, 9/24/17)

Lt. Gen. Valery Asapov was killed when a shell, fired by the so-called "Islamic State" (IS) armed group, exploded at a command post for Syrian forces close to Deir el-Zour city in the east, the ministry was cited by local media as saying.

Posted by orrinj at 5:49 PM


How Trump Bungled the Politics of Football (Jonathan Chait, 9/24/17, New York)

These comments had two swift effects, each disastrous for the president. First, it turned the question away from the style of the protest to the right to conduct it. The National Anthem is a potent symbol of patriotism, but so is the First Amendment to the Constitution. "No, I don't agree with [Trump], said University of Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh Saturday, "That's ridiculous. Check the Constitution."

Even pro-Trump coaches and owners began to issue statements attacking the president. "I'm pissed off," said Rex Ryan. "I supported Donald Trump. [These comments] are appalling to me... I never signed up for that."

Second, it turned the pregame drama into an anti-Trump protest. The pregame kneel has now become a spectacle of resistance, with dramatic gestures of white players joining black ones to oppose the crude attacks from the great orange bigot. Fans who might have complained before about politics being inserted into football -- as if the bloated displays of military might attached to the NFL were not a form of politics -- could no longer miss that Trump was now more likely than anybody else to politicize the game.

Posted by orrinj at 1:22 PM


Several Patriots players kneel during national anthem; Tom Brady, others show unity by locking arms (RYAN HANNABLE, SEPTEMBER 24, 2017, WEEI)

For the first time, members of the Patriots protested the national anthem.

Prior to Sunday's game against the Texans, several players knelt during the anthem including Devin McCourty, Stephon Gilmore, Malcolm Butler, Jonathan Jones, Elandon Roberts, Duron Harmon, Brandin Cooks and others. The number was close to 20.

In addition, several others including the entire offensive line, Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo stood next to the group and locked arms.

...don't draw a line that leaves you on the wrong side.

Posted by orrinj at 11:30 AM


Rex Ryan and all of ESPN's NFL analysts blast Trump (Michael David Smith, September 24, 2017, Pro Football Talk)

Former Bills coach Rex Ryan, who campaigned for Trump last year, led the way on ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown. Ryan said he thought Trump's criticism of the NFL and of players kneeling during the national anthem was way off-base.

"I'm pissed off," Ryan said. "I supported Donald Trump. When he asked me to introduce him in a rally in Buffalo, I did that. But I'm reading his comments, and it's appalling to me, and I'm sure it's appalling to almost any citizen in our country. It should be. Calling our players SOBs and that stuff? That's not the men I know. The men I know, I'm proud of. I'm proud to be associated with those people."

Ryan said it upsets him that his support of Trump during the campaign now has people lumping him in with Trump.

"I never signed up for that. I never wanted that."

Posted by orrinj at 11:16 AM

Posted by orrinj at 10:59 AM


When there is no tomorrow : In watching the Indians on their historic streak, it became clear the most remarkable thing about the team wasn't the wins. (Wright Thompson, 09/19/17, ESPN The Magazine)

The Cleveland Indians return home in the middle of the night, winners of 15 straight and counting, and the feeling on the plane is something like an army or a rock band marching across a continent, exhausted but connected on a soul level: brothers in arms. The next day, the players head back into work. A light breeze blows across the stadium's empty concourses, which smell like popcorn and butter. They haven't lost in two weeks, pounding down the season's backstretch, playoff-bound. Their manager, Terry Francona, makes the two-block trip from home on his scooter, waving at cops and other working men. In the clubhouse, he swims to help the circulation in his injury-ravaged legs. He had heart surgery two months ago and missed only six games, the son of a pro ballplayer and the father of a combat-hardened Marine.

An old security guard named Bill, who brought his lunch in a plastic sandwich bag, sits outside the clubhouse. A sign on the doors says PRIVATE. It specifies no wives, no agents, no attorneys, just "immediate male family members" -- listing as appropriate fathers and grandfathers, brothers and sons. Nothing in pro sports is quite like a baseball clubhouse. Not merely a place for dressing and undressing, it's a shadow opponent -- more akin to a golf course than a football locker room. Individual games might be won or lost on the field, but seasons are won or lost in the endless hours between, 162 games in 183 days, the grind itself as difficult as any other physical aspect of the sport. Ballplayers are famous for superstitions and hardwired routines, for talking to bats and pissing on their hands, for destroying coolers and screaming at reporters and at each other. All those things are outward reflections of the inner anxiety that grows day by day, series by series. They often publicly mock their fragile attempts to impose order on chaos, whistling past the graveyard of broken baseball dreams.

This brings us to the shrine in the back left corner of the Indians' clubhouse.

The centerpiece is a large statue of Jobu, the Voodoo god from the movie Major League, which is of course about a winning streak. It's evolved over the past two seasons to include the main Jobu plus three smaller satellite Jobus. Two cigars rest beneath the large idol, and another stands upright in a shot glass. Someone has left an offering of Yves Saint Laurent cologne. A fan has sent in a potato; they've dutifully put it on the altar, which is actually just a plastic office cabinet. Now the potato is sprouting. It's a little gross. There's an incense holder that says "Party at Napoli's House" and a package of incense. There are three airplane bottles of Bacardi and, standing sentry on either side of the centerpiece statue, two fifths of Jobu brand rum, which is actually a thing.

"Very bad to touch Jobu's rum," says two-time All-Star Jason Kipnis. [...]

DOWN THE HALL, Francona sits in his office behind a huge framed picture of himself as a child, in the Indians dugout with his dad. He is, perhaps more than anyone else in the game, a creation of this weird, subterranean clubhouse world. "I'm probably more comfortable here than I am anywhere," he says, gesturing around at the concrete walls. "I think I have an advantage because I grew up here."

Some of his earliest memories are from clubhouses.

His father, the original Tito Francona, played for nine teams, including six seasons with Cleveland. Young Terry once walked across a field before a game to shake Ted Williams' hand. "Mr. Williams," he said, "I'm Mr. Francona's son, and he wanted me to come over and say hello."

Williams grinned at the boy.

"Well, you are a great-looking kid!" he replied. "Now I want to know one thing, young man. Can you hit?"

Francona saw how his father's friends treated each other and the game, and every lesson he got about how a man behaved was taught by ballplayers. His humor, his ethics, his personal code -- all shaped inside a stadium.

Posted by orrinj at 10:48 AM


Reminder: The "Travel Ban" Expires This Morning (Probably Ending the Case, At Least for Now) (Marty Lederman, September 24, 2017, Just Security)

What happens to the cases then?  I assume they will be moot, at least as to Section 2(c), because the challenged government action will simply no longer be operative and thus there will be no ongoing dispute about whether it should be enjoined.  Likewise, Section 6(b)'s cap of 50,000 refugees in Fiscal Year 2017 will be moot as of this coming Saturday, when that fiscal year ends.  (Sometime this week, the President will set a new quota for the Fiscal Year 2018 that begins October 1.  Reports are that it might be substantially lower than 50,000-that DHS has recommended 40,000 and that Stephen Miller has pushed for 15,000.)  The third challenged provision-the Section 6(a) moratorium on entry of refugees-expires on October 24, two weeks after the scheduled October 10 oral argument, and so that will soon be moot, too.

To be sure, the forthcoming new restrictions and conditions on entry might themselves be subject to legal challenge, including on the statutory question that has (properly) become the lead argument in the current cases, namely, whether 8 U.S.C. 1182(f) authorizes the President's actions.  Perhaps it will be appropriate to raise those challenges in the existing suits, or perhaps it will be necessary to file new cases, involving new plaintiffs-that all depends on what the terms of the new rules are, who they affect, and how.  One thing is fairly certain, however:  As I wrote back in June, the new challenges will be based on a different factual record, different national security assessments, and, presumably, different restrictions affecting different (if perhaps overlapping) sets of immigrants, families and institutions.

Only Clarence Thomas explained the ruling correctly.
Posted by orrinj at 10:44 AM


Corbyn's Labour Party; so far left it is Far Right ? (Peter Mullen, 9/24/17, Salisbury Review)

They were called The German Workers National Socialist Party. And the name was appropriate.

It is often argued that the Nazis were not socialists because they left industry and commerce - the means of production and distribution - in the hands of private companies. But this facade concealed the truth that the bosses of these companies were merely functionaries, managers who obeyed the orders of the actual owner which was the Nazi government.

The socialist policy of the Nazis was enforced three years into their rule when, in 1936 the government introduced controls over prices and wages. These controls inevitably lead to shortages, because they abolished the flexible system of supply and demand.

The response of a socialist government to shortages is rationing. This is made easier when the socialist government is also totalitarian and brooks no opposition.

Hitler's totalitarian socialist regime didn't stop at the regulation of wages and prices: it decided what goods should be produced, in what quantities and how these goods should be allocated and distributed. The thorough bureaucracy required to do this produces stagnation and economic chaos.

Posted by orrinj at 8:06 AM


Deciphering the mindset of ISIS jihadists : Lebanese writer Hazem al- Amin, who has been profiling jihadists, says suicide bombers were predisposed to kill them­selves long be­fore ISIS existed. (Samar Kadi, 9/22/17, Middle East Online)

Lebanese writer Hazem al- Amin, who has been profiling jihadists, said suicide bombers were predisposed to kill them­selves for a variety of reasons be­fore ISIS existed.

"ISIS offered them the narra­tive framework with which they could achieve their aspirations. In fact, it was the receptor of the outcome of many crises because all its members came from areas in crisis or have personal prob­lems and issues," Amin said at a discussion hosted by Carnegie Middle East Centre titled "Inside the Jihadi Mind."

"All the problems and failures of the world and the region re­sulted in the rise of ISIS. The fail­ure of the French, for example, in integrating their migrants. The failure of Turkey in controlling its borders and the failure to mend Sunni-Shia divisions, etc."

The flow of suicide bombers to ISIS is not so much related to the group's ideology as it is to a range of deeper underlying and com­plex causes, Amin said, noting that, during the battle of Mosul, the jihadi group sent 20-30 bomb­ers daily -- some 900 suicide bombers in seven months.

Amin documented cases of ji­hadists from Lebanon, almost ex­clusively from Tripoli, a city that is historically, geographically and socially close to Syria.

"Tripoli sent 100 to 200 jihad­ists. Their reasons for joining ISIS were different from jihadists who came from other countries and environments," Amin said. "Al­though each is a different case, they have common features such as broken families, poverty and poor education. On top of that, sectarian tensions (Sunni-Shia) made it easy for ISIS to recruit them."

Joseph Khoury, assistant pro­fessor of clinical psychiatry at the American University of Beirut, agreed that there was no stand­ard terrorist profile but there are recurring characteristics.

"Each member in ISIS has his own story and reasons for ending up in the group," Khoury said in the debate. "Of course, there is a psychological aspect to that but psychology cannot give all the answers. Explaining ISIS involves a combination of social and po­litical factors and surrounding circumstances."

"Many joined because they wanted to live in an Islamic ca­liphate, others because their friends have joined, some were more interested in the harm that ISIS could cause to the West, and many (rebels without a cause) had nothing better to do because their life was meaningless. Each wanted something from Daesh," Khoury added, using an Arab ac­ronym for ISIS.

Or, as Hoffer put it : "A man is likely to mind his own business when it is worth minding. When it is not, he takes his mind off his own meaningless affairs by minding other people's business."

Posted by orrinj at 8:00 AM


A's Bruce Maxwell first MLB player to kneel for anthem (Susan SlusserSeptember 23, 2017, SF Chronicle)

The product of a U.S. military family, Maxwell placed his hand on his heart and faced the flag during the anthem while taking a knee before the game against Texas.

"The point of my kneeling was not to disrespect our military or our constitution or our country," Maxwell said. "My hand was over my heart because I love this country and I have family members, including my father, who bled for this country, and who continue to serve. At the end of the day, this is the best country on the planet. I am and forever will be an American citizen and grateful to be here, but my kneeling is what's getting the attention, and I'm kneeling for the people who don't have a voice.

"This goes beyond the black and Hispanic communities because right now we have a racial divide that's being practiced from the highest power we have in this country saying it's basically OK to treat people differently. I'm kneeling for a cause but I'm in no way disrespecting my country or my flag."

Mark Canha, who is from San Jose and went to Cal, placed his hand on Maxwell's shoulder. After the anthem, the teammates hugged.

"Every fiber in my being was telling me he needed a brother today," Canha said. "I thought about kneeling myself when (Colin) Kaepernick was doing it but decided not to, but when Bruce said he was going to do it, I thought, 'Someone has to be out there, and I have to be one of those people.'"

Maxwell held a meeting before the game to let his teammates know about his decision, along with manager Bob Melvin and general manager David Forst.

"He was as articulate as I've seen him," Melvin said. "This wasn't an emotional thing just today for him. Something had been leading up to it and he felt today would be the right platform to do it."

The A's issued a statement on Twitter that read: "The Oakland A's pride ourselves on being inclusive. We respect and support all our players' constitutional rights and freedom of expression."

Because of the various ways it can be perceived, every NFL player today need not kneel, but they should make a uniform gesture of solidarity with their teammates who Donald is attacking.
Posted by orrinj at 7:43 AM


First refugees taken from offshore detention under U.S. refugee swap deal (Benjamin Cooper, 9/24/17, Reuters) 

Refugees have left one of Australia's offshore detention centers on Sunday for the United States, an asylum seeker and a refugee advocate said, as part of a swap brokered by former U.S. president Barack Obama last year.

Refugee Action Coalition's Ian Rintoul told Reuters he had spoken with some of the group by phone and that 22 men were in Port Moresby on Sunday night. Rintoul said the group had been told they would be flown to the United States via the Philippines on Wednesday.

"They're happy they're going, and they never want to hear about Australia again," he said, speaking from Sydney.

Posted by orrinj at 7:33 AM


Russia to Bail Out Second Major Bank in Month as Troubles Spread (Jake Rudnitsky, Olga Tanas, and Anna Baraulina, 9/24/17, Bloomberg)

Russia's central bank agreed to bail out B&N Bank, one of the top five closely held lenders, as the second major rescue in less than a month stokes concerns of a wider crisis.

The Bank of Russia will provide B&N with funds to bolster its liquidity after the lender asked for the help, the regulator said in a statement Wednesday. Last month it took over Bank Otkritie FC following a run on deposits.

The move highlights the complications accompanying the Bank of Russia's efforts to clean up the financial sector after the dual economic shocks of a collapse in oil prices and international sanctions in 2014. 

Folks who question why Vlad was so frantic to help Donald--who was promising to lift the sanctions--are unserious.

September 23, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 7:25 PM


The Myth of Robert E. Lee And The "Good" Slave Owner : According to the Lost Cause mythology ginned up after the Civil War, Robert E. Lee was a benevolent slave owner who really fought for states' rights. His slaves said otherwise. (GLENN DAVID BRASHER, 09.23.17, Daily Beast)

[H]istorians have lately noted the experiences of African Americans who were the legal property of Lee's father in law, George Parke Custis (George Washington's step-grandson), who died in 1857. As executor of Custis's last will, Robert E. Lee was charged with freeing the bondsmen within five years. Yet some of the enslaved insisted they were to be freed upon their master's death, causing a conflict with Lee that resulted in a failed escape attempt from Arlington plantation by three of the enslaved. Under Lee's order to "lay it on well," each of the rebels endured up to 50 lashes and suffered excruciating pain as the wounds were bathed in brine. Lee also broke with Custis and Washington family tradition, separating most of the enslaved families under his control.

So much for the image of Lee as a "good master."

Telling an even more dishonorable story are the wartime diaries and letters written by United States soldiers and newspaper reporters who interacted with African Americans enslaved by Lee and his family. Besides Arlington, Custis' will also dealt with two other plantations, one of which was in New Kent County, Virginia, known as White House (George and Martha Washington were married there). Robert E. Lee's son, William H.F. "Rooney" Lee was to inherit the plantation upon his mother's death, but he went ahead and moved there in 1859, taking control of its operations. This included managing close to 100 of the approximately 200 enslaved peoples that his father now legally possessed. By the start of the Civil War, Robert E. Lee had yet to free them as the Custis will dictated.

During the war's 1862 Peninsula Campaign, United States troops temporarily occupied White House plantation, with General George McClellan establishing his headquarters at the site because it lay astride a railroad running directly to the Confederate capital of Richmond. Thus, Northerners came in close contact there with the plantation's enslaved community.

A remarkably clear picture emerges of the life and sentiments of the peoples enslaved by Robert E. Lee and his family, based on their experiences as immediately recorded by soldiers and newspaper reporters. Such primary sources further challenge the depiction of Lee as a paternalistic slaveholder, completely dispelling the postwar creation of the "faithful slave" element of the Lost Cause.

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21 US states targeted by Russian hackers, no votes changed (Deutsche-Welle, 9/23/17)

The Department of Homeland Security told officials in 21 other states on Friday that Russian hackers had tried to breach their election systemsbefore the November 2016 presidential election, but failed to change any votes.

Has any project ever been more likely to fail than a collusion between Donald and the Russians?

Posted by orrinj at 10:22 AM


National Party leads with 46 percent of vote in New Zealand election  (Reuters, 9/23/17) 

New Zealand's ruling National Party took 46 percent of votes in a hotly contested election but will still need New Zealand First to form a government, the Electoral Commission said early on Sunday.

The center-left opposition Labour Party had received 35.8 percent of the vote and its ally the Green Party 5.8 percent.

The inability or refusal of parties of the left to go to school on Bill Clinton and Tony Blair has not served them, nor Anglospheric voters, well.

September 22, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 8:54 PM


How the Latest Paul Manafort Revelations Fit with Trump's Business Model (Adam Davidson, 9/22/17, The New Yorker)

Earlier this week, the Washington Post reported that Paul Manafort, when he was running Donald Trump's campaign last year, sought to use his position to curry favor with Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch close to the Kremlin. Manafort also, it appears, considered the campaign an opportune time to try to convince unnamed people who owed him money to finally pay him back. In response to this news, Ty Cobb, the White House lawyer in charge of representing President Trump in matters related to the Russia investigation, told Bloomberg's Margaret Talev, "It would be truly shocking" if Manafort "tried to monetize his relationship with the President."

Cobb's shock is, surely, of the "Casablanca" variety. Manafort's personal profit-seeking is, if anything, a rather tepid example of the kind of activity that the special counsel, Robert Mueller, might find as he continues to investigate those in Trump's orbit. I have been reporting on the Trump Organization for the past year, and, the more work I've done, the more it has become clear that allowing hangers-on to monetize their relationship with him was, essentially, Trump's business model.

The Trump Organization, as it has been described to me by more than a dozen people who have worked for it, was nothing like a typical, hierarchical corporation. The company's central office was tiny and comprised a few dozen people, including Trump, his children, and some close associates, whose collective experience was largely limited to New York, Miami, and a few other American cities. When the company began aggressively pursuing international deals, over the past decade, it relied on a loose grouping of people who were authorized--formally or not--to travel around the world seeking deals in Trump's name. Pocketing a little for themselves on the side was part of the arrangement.

According to the sources I've spoken with, the Trump Organization was shockingly lax in its due-diligence procedures. It seemed willing to do business with pretty much anybody, no matter his background. (Several Trump officials told me the key criterion was insuring that the potential partner could pay.) 

Posted by orrinj at 8:37 PM


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Ben Sasse, 'Obamacare's Nebraska Nemesis,' is now working behind the scenes to repeal and replace the law (Joseph Morton, 2/21/17, World-Herald Bureau)

Ben Sasse built his U.S. Senate campaign on the idea that he represented more than just another Republican vote against the Affordable Care Act.

Sasse and his supporters argued in 2014 that his background and expertise made him uniquely qualified to fight against the health care law.

The National Review crowned him "Obamacare's Nebraska Nemesis," predicting that Sasse "almost immediately would become one of the GOP's most visible and articulate experts on the health care law's defects and the ways to replace it."

Since reaching the Senate more than two years ago, though, Sasse hasn't offered his own plan to repeal and replace the health care law. He isn't on any of the relevant committees that will draft a health care bill. In fact, he hasn't even delivered any recent speeches devoted to the subject.

Posted by orrinj at 8:17 PM


Trump aides begin looking for the exits (NANCY COOK 09/22/2017, Politico)

Staffers from the National Economic Council -- where director Gary Cohn is expected to be on his way out altogether after tax reform or onto a different role -- as well as the communications shop and beyond are quietly exploring their next moves. They're talking to headhunters about positions as in-house government affairs experts at major companies, or as executives at trade associations, universities, or consulting firms -- ironically, jobs that run counter to Trump's "drain the swamp" mantra.

Political appointees want to leave for myriad reasons, according to recruiters, Republican operatives and White House officials. Morale is low, the Russia investigations seem only to grow in scope and constant churn at the top has left some staffers without patrons in a workplace known for backbiting and a tribal-like attitude.

Posted by orrinj at 8:00 PM


Later school start times in the U.S. : An economic analysis  (Marco Hafner, Martin Stepanek, Wendy M. Troxel, 9/22/17, Rand)

The study suggested that delaying school start times to 8:30 a.m. is a cost-effective, population-level strategy which could have a significant impact on public health and the U.S. economy.

The study suggested that the benefits of later start times far out-weigh the immediate costs. Even after just two years, the study projects an economic gain of $8.6 billion to the U.S. economy, which would already outweigh the costs per student from delaying school start times to 8:30 a.m.

After a decade, the study showed that delaying schools start times would contribute $83 billion to the U.S. economy, with this increasing to $140 billion after 15 years. During the 15 year period examined by the study, the average annual gain to the U.S. economy would about $9.3 billion each year.

Throughout the study's cost-benefit projections, a conservative approach was undertaken which did not include other effects from insufficient sleep, such as higher suicide rates, increased obesity and mental health issues -- all of which are difficult to quantify precisely. Therefore, it is likely that the reported economic benefits from delaying school start times could be even higher across many U.S. states.

Posted by orrinj at 7:50 PM


Kalashnikov statue altered after sculptor's monumental error (Reuters, 22 September 2017)'

Workers have removed part of a new monument to Mikhail Kalashnikov, the inventor of the Soviet Union's AK-47 assault rifle, after eagle-eyed Russians noticed that it mistakenly depicted a German second world war weapon.

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Syrians vote in Kurdish-led regions of north (Rodi Said, 9/22/17, Reuters) 

Syrians voted on Friday in an election organized by the Kurdish-led authorities of northern Syria, the start of a three-phase process to set up new governing institutions that aim to shore up regional autonomy.

"Today comes as a historical day for us. The people are choosing their way of life, politics, economy," said Renas Ahmed, 25, among several dozen people casting their vote for the local community representatives being elected.

Posted by orrinj at 9:07 AM


BLACK LIBERTY MATTERS (JACOB T. LEVY , 9/20/17, Niskanen Center)

What has been much too rare is an understanding of racism as a cause of the drug war and of mass incarceration. Nixon aide John Erhlichman was belatedly explicit about this.  After the civil rights movement, the Nixon administration couldn't openly admit that it aimed to subject African-Americans to greater policing and control or to mobilize white voters by fear of blacks. The crackdown on hard drugs provided the needed fig leaf. As has so often been true, racism was a cause of the expansion of American state power, a cause of unfreedom. The centuries-old appropriation of the language of liberty by the defenders of white supremacy obscures this, over and over again.

This brings me to two recent and awkwardly-connected controversies within, and about, American libertarianism.

The more prominent is the debate about Nancy MacLean's book on James Buchanan, the Nobel Prize-winning economist and a founder of public choice theory. In Democracy in Chains, MacLean alleges that Buchanan was significantly inspired by the Confederate nostalgia of the Southern Agrarian school, and that his creation of the original ideas and institutions of public choice theory was very much tied up with Virginian resistance to Brown v Board and the civil rights movement. She treats Buchanan as the architect of a decades-long conspiratorial strategy to advance a political agenda that was both anti-democratic and compatible with (indeed possibly supportive of) the maintenance of Jim Crow. I did not know Buchanan and am not much influenced by public choice theory, but those who did and those who are have dealt devastating blows to the credibility of this story. See these two essays co-authored by Crooked Timber's Harry Farrell and my Niskanen colleague Steven Teles. See also this review essay by my Bleeding Hearts Libertarian co-blogger Steven Horwitz in The Cato Journal and this one by another co-blogger, Michael Munger, in The Independent Review.  I will not try to add to these critiques, which I find entirely persuasive about Democracy in Chains' details and core claims alike.

But part of what is so strange about Democracy in Chains is its choice of targets. The claims MacLean makes are untrue about Buchanan. But the history of the postwar libertarian movement is rich with moments of flirtation or outright entanglement with the defenders of white supremacy. This is most conspicuous today in the explicit sympathy for the Confederacy in some quarters, a problem I've written about before. There'd be no trouble writing a better book than MacLean's about the dark history of libertarian politics that ran from Murray Rothbard's support for Strom Thurmond's presidential campaign to Lew Rockwell's celebration to the beating of Rodney King to the racism that went out under Ron Paul's name in his newsletters in the 1980s and 90s to the case of then-aide to Rand Paul Jack Hunter. The generalized distrust of institutions that can be part of anti-statism easily falls back on the fantasy of a unified pre-political national people, and that populist nationalism in America is almost definitionally white populist nationalism.

The particular fascination with Abraham Lincoln's (genuine but far from unique) violations of civil liberties, the celebration of secession, the insistence on discussing the Civil Rights Act primarily in terms of freedom of association (as if white supremacy in the Jim Crow south were just a private taste that some people indulged), and an interest in freedom of speech that focuses disproportionately on the freedom to indulge in racially-charged "political incorrectness" could all figure in such a book. Rothbard was a decisive figure in the development of organized libertarianism, and the Pauls are hardly minor characters in libertarian and quasi-libertarian politics. I suspect they were less appealing to MacLean because Buchanan was close to Charles and David Koch for decades after Rothbard and his circle went to ideological war against them, and the Kochs were the exciting target for her to try to implicate.

But there are ways to neglect black liberty that are subtler than the white nationalism of the Confederatistas. Think about the different ways that market liberals and libertarians talk about "welfare" from how they talk about other kinds of government redistribution. There's no talk of the culture of dependence among farmers, although they receive far more government aid per capita than do the urban poor. Libertarians absolutely and clearly oppose corporate welfare, but they don't do so in the paternalistic language that corporate welfare recipients are morally hurt by being on the dole. The white welfare state of the 1930s-60s that channeled government support for, e.g., housing, urban development, and higher education through segregated institutions has a way of disappearing from the historical memory; the degrees earned and homes bought get remembered as hard work contributing to the American dream. But too many libertarians and their market-oriented allies among postwar conservatives treated the more racially inclusive welfare state of the 1960s and 70s as different in kind. White recipients of housing subsidies hadn't been imagined to become dependent, non-autonomous, or unfree. When the FHA was insisting that neighborhoods be segregated in order to be eligible for mortgage or building subsidies, it contributed a great deal to the racial wealth gap that persists to this day. No free-marketeers of the era felt the need to engage in brave, politically incorrect inquiries into the lower intelligence of new white homeowners that might explain their long-term dependence. But once the imagined typical welfare recipient was a black mother, welfare became a matter not just of economic or constitutional concern but of moral panic about parasites, fraud, and the long-term collapse of self-reliance.

Returning for a moment to the overt white nationalists allows us to also think about the other recent dispute about libertarian politics: the embarrassingly large number of people associated with the racist alt-right who once identified as libertarians, or (even worse) still do. Some of this is just the inevitable sociology of the fringe. Those who join smaller political movements tend to come to think that mainstream sources of information and ideology aren't to be trusted. They tend to be unmoored from a society's dominant values and intellectual positions. And so, as they change their mind about things (and most people do, from time to time), they're disproportionately likely to end up attached to other fringe movements. That's just a selection effect about what kind of people join fringe movements, and it doesn't say anything about the content of either movement's ideas.

But it seems pretty plausible to me that there's something more to be said. The capture of the language of freedom by the defenders of white supremacy and the Confederacy is a major fact about American political language and its history, and there's a small but vocal group of self-identified libertarians who participate in it and perpetuate it. The racialization of the discourse around redistribution, such that people who think of themselves as committed to small government in general have a special visceral reaction against what they call "welfare" that doesn't extend to the far larger redistributive activities of the state, is a major fact about more recent American political language. And the conviction that freedom of speech is mostly threatened by "political correctness" in American life, that saying racist things is a brave stand against censorship, that calling what someone else says "racist" is pretty much like censoring them--these are important facts about American political discourse today. Organized libertarianism partakes of all of these. I have argued elsewhere that American libertarianism's dependence on Lockean traditions brings with it the fantasy of a unified pre-political people that might reclaim its liberty from distrusted governing institutions. And in the American political tradition, that kind of holist populist nationalism has always been white nationalism.

Thus too did polling consistently show that people who identified with the Tea Party were older, whiter, wealthier and more often male than the general population and that they both opposed "welfare spending" and insisted there be no cuts to federal spending on retirees. It's not welfare if we get it; only if they get it.

One big policy question implicated here though is that raised by Thomas Sowell in his comparison of American blacks to immigrant cohorts, including those from Africa and Haiti. The fact that we, at least, denied the first generation of Africans we imported as slaves of the normal immigration experience seems to have had lasting effects--nevermind the subsequent racism succeeding generations faced.  This massive violation of the principle of republican liberty is the proper basis for demanding slave reparations.

Posted by orrinj at 8:56 AM


Reflections of a White Supremacist (Joseph Pearce, 9/22/17, Imaginative Conservative)

As I read reports of the violence in Charlottesville between white supremacists and their opponents it brought back memories of my own battle-scarred past. As an angry young man in my native England, I had joined a white supremacist party and was involved in many bruising battles on the streets. I had rejoiced when a counterdemonstrator was killed at one of our meetings, and mourned when a friend of mine, a neo-Nazi colleague, had died after being hit on the head at another riotous demonstration.

In those days I relished the violence, hoping for a full-blown race war. As the editor of a white supremacist magazine, I sought to incite racial hatred and was sentenced to prison twice, spending my twenty-first and twenty-fifth birthdays in prison. It was, therefore, with an unsettling sense of déjà vu that I watched the events in Charlottesville unfold. I had seen it all before, not merely as a passive spectator watching it happen on television but as an active participant, feeling the rage and the anger and experiencing the violence at first hand.

Having once been in the same place and the same psychological space as today's white supremacists, and having experienced their sense of outrage and alienated anger, I hope that I can offer some insights into why such people feel the way that they do and what we can do to heal the wounds of our broken culture. In order to do so, I will need to retrace my own steps, recalling how I ended up in a world of racism and bigotry.

Although, in all honesty, I learned much of my racism at my father's knee, it was nurtured in the culture of relativism at the public high school I attended. There was no suggestion that young men and women should be taught virtue; no suggestion that the real meaning of love was not self-gratification but the laying down of one's life for another; no suggestion that there was a God or, if there was, that He was relevant to our lives. Christianity, if it was mentioned at all in the classroom, was sneered at by the teachers, almost all of whom seemed to be agnostics or atheists, and several of whom were avowed Marxists. This secularized education is not that dissimilar to the education that young people receive today in the United States. In public schools laboring under the demands of the dictatorship of relativism, there is no room for an education in virtue. Indeed, "virtue" as a word is effectively banished from the classroom, and specific virtues, such as chastity and humility, are actively frowned upon or ridiculed. What is taught is a spirit of rebellion against traditional concepts of goodness, truth, and beauty. In this vicious and vacuous environment, it is inevitable that vice will fill the virtue-free void. If we will not teach goodness, truth, and beauty we cannot avoid breeding viciousness, falsehood, and ugliness, and this will include the rise of Pride in all its ugly manifestations, including Pride in one's own perceived racial identity.

The problem is that relativism privileges feeling over reason.

Privileging emotion over thought is the opposite of conservatism.

Posted by orrinj at 8:41 AM


Sununu praises, then disavows Graham-Cassidy bill to replace Obamacare (ETHAN DEWITT, September 18, 2017, Concord Monitor)

Gov. Chris Sununu disavowed a last-ditch federal bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act Monday, praising provisions that would introduce block-grant funds to states but distancing himself from vast Medicaid cuts included in the legislation.

The bill, proposed by Republican Sens. Lindsay Graham and Bill Cassidy, would dramatically overhaul the U.S. health care system, replacing Affordable Care Act tax subsidies with a state-by-state grant system and making deep reductions to Medicaid and Medicare. 

In a statement Monday, Sununu -- who has worked with other Republican governors to ensure state control -- said the cuts in the present plan would go too far.

"While I continue to strongly believe that Obamacare must be reformed, it must be replaced with something that works for New Hampshire," Sununu said, referring to the Affordable Care Act introduced by President Barack Obama.

Sununu added that the Graham-Cassidy bill would deprive the Granite State of $1 billion in Medicaid funding during a phase out between 2020 and 2026, citing a figure by the N.H. Department of Health and Human Services.

That "down-shifting," he said, could create "general fund liabilities" that would threaten New Hampshire's tradition of not having an income or sales tax.  

The key states that would lose funding under Graham-Cassidy (Caitlin Owens, 9/22/17, Axios)

A new estimate obtained by Axios from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) projects that Alaska, home to key swing vote Sen. Lisa Murkowski, would lose 38% of federal funding for premium subsidies and Medicaid by 2026 under the Graham-Cassidy proposal. John McCain's home state of Arizona would also lose funding (-9% in 2026). [...]

Other estimates: Ohio (-18% by 2026), West Virginia (-23%) and Colorado (-24%), all home to senators who are under pressure over health care, would also lose funding. Sen. Susan Collins' state of Maine would gain 44% by 2026.

Posted by orrinj at 8:32 AM


Can Ukraine Survive? (Judith Miller, 9/22/17, )

[F]ormer CIA Director and Defense Secretary Robert Gates suggested at the YES meeting that Mr. Putin, in fact, may have overextended Russia through his invasion of Ukraine and concluded that it is not possible for him to modernize his military and expand his territory given his severely weakened economy - what Mr. Gates called Mr. Putin's "Soviet trap." Hence, he and others suggested, Putin might be seeking a way out of the sanctions that have suppressed Russia's growth. Mr. Gates noted that even in 2013 when Russian oil was selling at $107 per barrel, Russia managed to achieve a mere 1.4 percent growth.

Several diplomats were struck by Mr. Putin's recent embrace of a version of President Poroshenko's call for the introduction of "peacekeeping forces" in the disputed area. While Mr. Gates and former Secretary of State John Kerry rejected Mr. Putin's specific proposal, both endorsed direct talks to explore whether Mr. Putin might be willing to withdraw from part of the Donbas, Ukraine's eastern industrialized heartland, if not from Crimea. Russian diplomats have signaled through back-channels that Moscow might be willing to unload Donetsk, part of the Donbas region where Russian occupation is increasingly unpopular, even among native Russian-speaking Ukrainians who were initially sympathetic to the nostalgic appeal of a return to Mother Russia. Unemployment in some of the Russian-occupied areas is 60 percent.

Several participants added that if Mr. Putin did not relent, President Donald Trump might well approve the sale of lethal "defensive" weapons to Ukraine, as Mr. Poroshenko has long requested.

Apart from the issue of how best to handle Russia, conferees grappled with Ukraine's domestic politics and whether President Poroshenko was reforming his country quickly enough. Optimists like Anders Aslund, of the Atlantic Council in Washington, argued that Ukraine had done well in this year's first fiscal quarter, given its dire circumstances - with exports up by 25 percent, construction by 16 percent, and retail sales by eight percent. Ukraine's deficit was now "under control" and the country has begun to enjoy modest economic growth of some 2.5 percent.

Others were less sanguine, arguing that Mr. Poroshenko was unable or unwilling to implement reform at a sufficient pace and depth to satisfy his rapidly expanding critics, particularly younger Ukrainians, who accuse him of being corrupt and blocking reform. Critics blast his appointment of two former business partners to posts related to secret military spending, which now totals five percent of the country's gross domestic product. The proliferation of Mr. Poroshenko's "Roshen" chocolate shops throughout the capital, the product that help make him an oligarch and Ukraine's reigning chocolate king, has also been criticized.

Kurt Volker, the U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, recently urged him to focus on enhancing "the rule of law...on your own governance of the country, because Ukraine needs to be a successful country if it is going to withstand this kind of aggression from Russia."

The country's patience is clearly wearing thin. Birth rates are low and emigration is high. Ukraine's annual death rate exceeds the number of live births. Martin Schumacher, who heads Metro Cash and Carry in Ukraine, part of an international chain of wholesale stores, estimates that some five million Ukrainians have already left the country for work, and that some 200,000 emigrate each year. "There is virtually no immigration," he said. A worker can make three times his Ukrainian salary in Poland. Germany salaries on average are 10 times larger.

Posted by orrinj at 8:16 AM


The Cyber Age Has Hardly Begun (Mark P. Mills, 9/17/17, The Wall Street Journal)

[T]he information sector accounts for less than 10% of gross domestic product, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Everyone from infants to seniors is told to learn how to code, but there aren't that many tech jobs. Bureau of Labor Statistics data show the entire information sector accounts for under 5% of employment, with a flat trend line. The productivity and jobs benefits software could produce for the rest of the economy have yet to arrive.

Posted by orrinj at 7:37 AM


Without U.S., 11 nations in TPP inch closer to a deal (Reuters, 9/22/17)

The 11 nations remaining in the Trans-Pacific Partnership after the United States withdrew have inched closer to a comprehensive deal, offering hope that major countries can maintain free trade in the face of U.S. protectionism, a negotiator said on Friday.

President Haley or Obama can just apologize and plead with them to admit us.

Posted by orrinj at 7:22 AM



In the lead-up to the 2012 presidential election, this shift toward vulgarity and bluster accelerated. But perhaps the defining moment occurred on March 23, 2011, when Trump made an appearance on The View. Few at the time thought he had a real interest in--or shot at--the presidency. But polls indicated he was popular, and he was flirting with the idea. Wearing his trademark dumpy blue suit and long red tie, the New York real estate mogul launched into what today feels like a typical stump speech. "We're not going to be a great country for long if we keep going the way we're going right now," he said. Trump was friendly and cordial, cracking jokes and holding Whoopi Goldberg's hand. But when the conversation turned to Obama, it grew heated. "Why doesn't he show his birth certificate?" Trump whined. "If you're going to be the president of the United have to be born in this country.

"The birther canard--that Obama was born in Kenya or somewhere abroad--didn't start with Trump. (And despite his false claims, it didn't start with Hillary Clinton either.) But perhaps more than any other figure, Trump proliferated birtherism, took the lie from the lunatic fringes of the internet and brought it to the mainstream. After his appearance on The View, he went further, implying to Laura Ingraham, the conservative commentator, that the president might secretly be a Muslim. After Obama produced his birth certificate in April 2011, Trump briefly acknowledged his legitimacy, then quickly seemed to recant, saying that "a lot of people do not think it was an authentic certificate." In doing so, he soaked up some much-desired publicity, which arguably helped him launch his 2016 campaign.

Not everyone on the right bought into birtherism. Some, such as talk show host Michael Medved, slammed the conspiracy theory. "Birtherism, he said, "makes us look weird. It makes us look crazy. It makes us look demented. It makes us look sick, troubled and not suitable for civilized company.

"But many leading Republicans either stayed silent or refused to denounce such an outrageous lie. One reason for their reluctance: A Public Policy Poll in February 2011 found that birthers had become a majority among likely Republican primary voters--51 percent said they did not think Barack Obama was born in the United States.  Birtherism was not a fringe idea in the GOP. The poll also suggested, as Steve Benen noted in Washington Monthly, that "candidates hoping to run sane campaigns will be at a disadvantage in the coming months." Republican voters who doubted Obama's legitimacy tended to gravitate to candidates like Palin, Newt Gingrich and Mike Huckabee (all of whom would play key roles in Trump's 2016 campaign).

In private, conservatives who knew better justified their return to the dark fringes on the grounds that it fired up the base and antagonized liberals. Or as Palin put it so memorably in 2016, "It's fun to see the splodey heads keep sploding." The result was a compulsion to defend anyone attacked by the left, no matter how reckless, extreme or bizarre. If liberals hated something, the argument went, then it must be wonderful and worthy of aggressive defense. So conservatives embraced the likes of Christine O'Donnell, a failed Senate candidate who ran a curious ad denying rumors she was secretly a witch. They defended Todd Akin, a former Missouri congressman who said female victims of "legitimate rape" rarely get pregnant. We treated these extremists and crackpots like your obnoxious uncle at Thanksgiving: We ignored them, feeling we could contain them or at least control their lunacy.

We were naive. By failing to push back against the racist birther-conspiracy theory--among other harmful, batty ideas--conservatives failed a moral and intellectual test with significant implications for the future.

We failed it badly.

While core of his support is fellow Nativists and Islamophobes, the jet fuel was hatred of the very idea of a black president.

September 21, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 9:39 PM


An Anti-Growth Tax Cut : Republicans regress into irresponsibility. (Kevin D. Williamson, September 21, 2017, National Review)

Congressional Republicans argue that they can in good conscience pass these tax cuts without any corresponding spending cuts or other countervailing measures on the theory that the tax cuts will produce economic growth, and that this economic growth will be so substantial that it will entirely offset the revenue theoretically lost to the tax cuts. There is very little evidence to support this theory, but Republicans remain fond of it.

Taxes are not especially high just at the moment. Federal revenue amounted to 17.6 percent of GDP in 2016; by way of comparison, consider that in the balanced-budget year of 2000, federal revenue was 19.7 percent of GDP -- and 2.1 percentage points is a heck of a lot in an economy the size of ours.

Taxes were 18.7 percent of GDP in 1981, when the Reagan tax cuts were passed. The free-lunch theory of taxation holds that strategic, pro-growth tax cuts allow the government to increase its revenue by taking a smaller share of a larger GDP. But that isn't what happened after the Reagan tax cuts: In constant dollars, federal revenue shrank, and by 1983 revenue was in real terms $153 billion lower than it had been. There was a recession, and revenue in constant dollars declined along with revenue as a share of GDP. It would not make sense to blame the tax cuts for that recession -- nor would it make sense to credit them for all the growth that came after. By the end of the Reagan years, tax revenue as a share of GDP was right back around where it was at the end of the Carter years -- and right about where it is now. 

Posted by orrinj at 9:35 PM


Electric Bus Breaks World Record With a 1,101-Mile Trip : Proterra's electric bus is scheduled to hit the streets of Los Angeles later this year (Will Yakowicz , 9/21/17, Inc)
A fully-electric bus managed to drive longer than any other electric vehicle on a single charge. Proterra, which is an electric bus manufacturer, drove its Catalyst E2 Max electric bus 1,101.2 miles without stopping to recharge, the company announced.

Posted by orrinj at 9:25 PM


Russia turns on Morgan Freeman over election 'war' video (BBC, 21 September 2017)

Russia has aimed its entire media arsenal at the veteran Hollywood actor Morgan Freeman over his appearance in a video accusing the Kremlin of waging "war" on America during last year's presidential election.

The video shows the Oscar winner accusing President Vladimir Putin, a "former KGB spy", of launching cyber attacks and spreading false information in order to avenge the collapse of the Soviet Union.

He urges President Donald Trump to tell the nation that "during this past election, we came under attack by the Russian government".

Trumpshank Redemption?

Posted by orrinj at 9:19 PM



Valerie Plame Wilson landed herself in hot social media water when she tweeted out a link to a story titled "America's Jews Are Driving America's Wars" on Thursday without any commentary to explain why she was sharing it. 

The article, published in The Unz Review, was published Tuesday by Philip Giraldi, a former CIA case officer and Army intelligence officer. Subtitled "Shouldn't they recuse themselves when dealing with the Middle East?," Giraldi argued that American Jews are pushing for war in the Middle East and pointed to Iran in particular, which he said "does not conceivably threaten the United States."

Giraldi is, of course, a member of the Right's newly beloved Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.

Posted by orrinj at 9:17 PM


Price traveled by private plane at least 24 times : HHS secretary chartered flights even to cities with frequent, inexpensive commercial options. (RACHANA PRADHAN and DAN DIAMOND, 09/21/2017, Politico)

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price has taken at least 24 flights on private charter planes at taxpayers' expense since early May, according to people with knowledge of his travel plans and a review of HHS documents.

The frequency of the trips underscores how private travel has become the norm -- rather than the exception -- for the Georgia Republican during his tenure atop the federal health agency, which began in February. The cost of the trips identified by POLITICO exceeds $300,000, according to a review of federal contracts and similar trip itineraries.

Price's use of private jets represents a sharp departure from his two immediate predecessors, Sylvia Mathews Burwell and Kathleen Sebelius, who flew commercially in the continental United States. 

Skype is an even cheaper option.

Posted by orrinj at 9:07 PM


Posted by orrinj at 9:05 PM



Now, however, the term has become a liability. Its erosion began as far back as November 2016, when Spencer paid homage to the soon-to-be president with a cry of "Hail, Trump!" Then, in August, the "alt-right" brand cratered. During a far-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, meant to bring together a coalition that still regarded itself as the so-called alt-right, crowds of white men were captured on camera giving the Roman -- or Nazi -- salute. Swastikas abounded. Street fights broke out, and the violence turned deadly: A left-wing counterprotester named Heather Heyer was murdered by a white supremacist.

Just a few days after Klansmen and other extreme right-wing activists marched openly on the Charlottesville streets, far-right YouTube star and conspiracy theorist Mike Cernovich disowned the "alt-right," calling them "Nazi boys." "That's all it is now," he said in a video, "is a purely anti-Semitic movement." In 2016, the right-wing website Breitbart had embraced both the moniker and the movement of the "alt-right." Steve Bannon, who returned to Breitbart as executive chair after resigning as Trump's chief strategist, infamously called Breitbart "the platform for the alt-right," and Breitbart reporters Allum Bokhari and Milo Yiannopoulos celebrated the arrival of these "young, creative" far-right instigators, in full recognition of the movement's racial segregationist dimension. But after Charlottesville, Breitbart angrily denounced its critics for ever daring to insinuate that it was part of the "alt-right" movement, calling it a "smear."

The Proud Boys, a drinking club of male, far-right street brawlers, who purport to defend "Western values," are routinely associated with the "alt-right." But the group's leader, Gavin McInnes, who helped launch Vice Media in 1994 and now runs a right-wing YouTube talk show, has in fact rejected the term for some time, preferring the milder-sounding "alt-light." McInnes's insistence that the Proud Boys have nothing to do with the "alt-right" grew even more adamant after the violence in Charlottesville. Last month, in a blog post titled "WE ARE NOT ALT-RIGHT," he alerted his group that "alt-right" members planned to "infiltrate" Proud Boys meetings and "sabotage" them. Then, McInnes's attorney threatened to sue The Intercept over a short documentary film I directed, which included about 17 seconds of footage drawn from McInnes's YouTube shows. His lawyer, Jason Van Dyke, claimed that the film's "obvious insinuation" is that McInnes is "a white nationalist, a white supremacist, or alt-right," whereas in reality, McInnes "has no affiliation with the alt-right whatsoever."

Such is the growing toxicity of the "alt-right" brand post-Charlottesville, and the eagerness of many right-wing groups and leaders to escape its valence. 

Racism is a tough sell in America.

Posted by orrinj at 8:46 PM


CEO Tim Cook says Apple is pushing extremely hard on DACA: 'I am personally shocked that there is even a discussion of this' (Anita Balakrishnan, 20 Sept 2017, CNBC)

Apple CEO Tim Cook said on Wednesday that immigration is the "biggest issue of our time," and that his company is pushing extremely hard on immigration reform.

In particular, Cook defended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which provides temporary protection and work authorization for young immigrants, brought to the U.S. as children, who are living in the country illegally.

Earlier this month, the Department of Homeland Security said it would phase out the program. President Donald Trump has said that there would be no action over the next six months, but that it was Congress' job to legalize the program.

"This is unacceptable," Cook said in an interview at the Bloomberg Global Business Forum. "This is not who we are as a country. I am personally shocked that there's even a discussion on this. It's not a political thing, at least I don't see it that way at all. It's about basic human decency and respect."

Cook has said that Apple will work with Congress on behalf of its employees that benefit from the DACA program -- people that many refer to as "dreamers."

"I wish everyone in America loved America this much," Cook said of the Dreamers that work at Apple.

"If I were a world leader, my goal would be to monopolize the world's talent," Cook added. "Smart people create jobs. ... I'd have a very aggressive plan, not to just let a few people in, but I'd be recruiting."

Posted by orrinj at 7:02 AM


How the Russia probe closed in on Paul Manafort (Dave Lawler, 9/21/17, Axios)


The FBI begins investigating Manafort over his consulting work in Ukraine.

As a part of that investigation, the FBI obtains a FISA warrant to wiretap Manafort, per CNN. It was discontinued at some point in 2016, and later renewed. The CNN report emerged in September, 2017.


March 28: Manafort joins the Trump campaign, tasked with wrangling delegates for the convention.

Spring 2016: A new FBI investigation into Manafort is opened, relating to his business ties to foreign countries, including Russia, per the NY Times.

May 19: Manafort is promoted to campaign chairman.

June 9: Manafort attends the Trump Tower meeting at which Donald Trump Jr. had been told he'd receive dirt on Hillary Clinton as part of the Russian government's efforts to help his father win. News of the meeting emerged in July, 2017.

July 7: Manafort reportedly sends an email to an associate of Deripaska, asking if the billionaire would like private briefings on the campaign. News of the email emerged in September, 2017.

August 12: The AP reports on secret ledgers that record $12.7 million in payments to Manafort from the Ukrainian political party, the Party of Regions.

August 19: Manafort quits the campaign, with Jared Kushner reportedly telling him if he doesn't resign immediately he'll be fired.

Late 2016: The FBI renews its wiretaps of Manafort's communications, per CNN.

Posted by orrinj at 6:59 AM


Mao's Great Leap Forward 'killed 45 million in four years' (Arifa Akbar, Friday 17 September 2010, The Independent)

Mao Zedong, founder of the People's Republic of China, qualifies as the greatest mass murderer in world history, an expert who had unprecedented access to official Communist Party archives said yesterday.

Speaking at The Independent Woodstock Literary Festival, Frank Dikötter, a Hong Kong-based historian, said he found that during the time that Mao was enforcing the Great Leap Forward in 1958, in an effort to catch up with the economy of the Western world, he was responsible for overseeing "one of the worst catastrophes the world has ever known".

Mr Dikötter, who has been studying Chinese rural history from 1958 to 1962, when the nation was facing a famine, compared the systematic torture, brutality, starvation and killing of Chinese peasants to the Second World War in its magnitude. At least 45 million people were worked, starved or beaten to death in China over these four years; the worldwide death toll of the Second World War was 55 million.

Posted by orrinj at 6:54 AM


In Sign of Strength, Central Bank to Start Reducing Balance Sheet (Heather Long, 9/21/17, The Washington Post)

The Federal Reserve said on Wednesday that the U.S. economy is strong enough for the central bank to begin reducing its $4.5 trillion balance sheet in October, gradually unwinding a massive stimulus program started after the economy entered a severe recession nearly a decade ago.

The Fed will scale back its holdings by $10 billion in October and raise that amount gradually in the months to come. After the 2008 financial crisis and ensuing recession, the Fed took the unprecedented step of beefing up its holdings of government bonds and mortgage-related securities from $900 billion to $4.5 trillion in an effort to turn the economy around.

The U.S. economy keeps getting better, according to the central bank.

You really can't overstate the job US institutions did in the face of the credit crunch, nor how fortunate we were that W, Ben Bernanke and the UR were in place that October.

Posted by orrinj at 6:48 AM


Moscow accuses US of hitting Syrian regime forces (Middle East Online, 9/21/17)

"Syrian regime forces were twice targeted with massive fire from mortar launchers and rocket artillery from areas east of the Euphrates river where SDF forces and US special forces are," Igor Konashenkov said in a statement.

Posted by orrinj at 6:41 AM


The Week My Husband Left And My House Was Burgled I Secured A Grant To Begin The Project That Became BRCA1 (Dr Mary-Claire King, 9/14/17, Huffington Post)

The week of April Fools' Day of 1981 began badly. That Sunday night my husband told me he was leaving me. He had fallen in love with one of his graduate students, and they were headed back to the tropics the next day.

I was completely devastated. It was totally unexpected. 33 years later, I still don't know what to say about it. I was just beside myself.

He gave me a new vacuum cleaner to soften the blow.

It was the middle of spring quarter at Berkeley, so the next morning I had my class, as usual. And I had to either teach it or explain why not. It was far easier to teach, so I dropped off our daughter, Emily - who was five and three-quarters at the time - at kindergarten, along with her faithful Aussie, her Australian shepherd, who went everywhere with her. I headed down to school and taught my class.

As I was leaving, my department chairman caught up with me. He said, "Come into my office."

I said, "Fine." (I had hoped to escape.)

I went into his office, and he said, "I wanted to tell you, I've just learned you've been awarded tenure." And of course I burst into tears.

Now, this department chairman, bless him, was a gentleman a full generation older than me. He had three grown sons. He had no daughters. He had certainly never had a young woman assistant professor in his charge before.

And he took my shoulders, and he stepped back, and he said, "No one's ever reacted like that before." He said, "Sit down, sit down. What's the matter?"

I said, "It's not the tenure. It's that my husband told me last night he was leaving me."

He looked at me, opened the drawer of his desk, pulled out a huge bottle of Jack Daniels, poured me a half a glass of it, and said, "Drink this. You'll feel better."

Posted by orrinj at 5:53 AM


Bet on Trump or challenge Israel? Palestinians mull strategy` (KARIN LAUB, September 21, 2017, AP)

A majority believes that the "two-state solution" to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is no longer possible, despite pledges by President Donald Trump that he would try to broker a deal and a new round of Mideast meetings on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly this week.

Such skepticism largely stems from continued Israeli settlement in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, which some believe has passed the point of no return. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who in the past said he does not want to rule the Palestinians, recently declared that Israel cannot give up control over the West Bank. [...]

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas also bears responsibility for the deadlock because he has been unwilling to challenge Israel and the US, said pollster Khalil Shikaki.

He said it relates to Abbas' conflicting roles as both head of a national movement that seeks to end Israeli occupation and as leader of an autonomy government dependent on foreign aid and Israeli acquiescence to provide services to millions.

Shikaki argued Abbas has been too invested in the status quo and should push harder to translate the General Assembly's 2012 recognition of Palestine along pre-1967 lines into achievements on the ground.

For example, Abbas could make a statement by issuing passports emblazoned with "State of Palestine" in place of the current "Palestinian Authority," Shikaki said.

"What we need is to give ourselves the ability to free our decision-making from these constraints and be in a position to take risks. This is not where the Palestinian Authority is today," he said. "So our leadership lacks credibility, in the eyes of its own public, in the eyes of the Israelis and in the eyes of the international community."

A new survey by Shikaki's Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found that 67 percent of Palestinians want Abbas to resign, up 5 points from June. The poll, which had an error margin of 3 percentage points, also found 52 percent still support a two-state option, but 57 percent believe it's no longer possible because of Israel's settlements.

Abbas has been silencing dissent, drawing criticism that he is mainly focused on staying in power.

Posted by orrinj at 5:46 AM


Anger in Barcelona after Spanish police arrest Catalan minister and 12 officials in raids over referendum  (Hannah Strange, in barcelona  James Badcock, in madrid , 20 SEPTEMBER 2017 , The Telegraph)

Thousands of angry demonstrators burst onto the streets of Barcelona on Wednesday after Spanish police arrested 14 people in sweeping raids on Catalan government departments in a bid to halt the region's controversial referendum on independence.

Tensions flared between supporters of the referendum set for October 1 and police ordered to prevent the vote that has been suspended by Spain's highest court.

At raided offices across the city, protesters shouted "Fascists!" and "Out, forces of occupation!" as members of the Civil Guard military police moved in in riot gear. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:45 AM


Federal Elections in Northern Syria Planned Under US Supervision amid Turkish Massing at Borders (Ibrahim Hamidi, 9/21/17, Asharq Alawasat)

The first concrete steps to establish the northern Syrian federation will begin with minor elections starting Friday, followed by the establishment of a parliament and an executive body (government) early next year to manage three districts and six provinces.

The elections are being held in areas with concentrated American and Russian military.

Posted by orrinj at 5:42 AM


Leaked memo fuels accusations of ethnic bias in Afghan government (Reuters, 9/20/17) 

A leaked memo from an staff member in Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's office this week has set off a storm of criticism and accusations that the note lays bare systematic favoritism to Ghani's own Pashtun ethnic group.

The undated memo, about appointments in the Administrative Office of the President (AOP), appeared to show jobs being awarded with an eye to keeping control in the hands of Pashtuns while giving the appearance of diversity.

The leak has caused severe embarrassment to Ghani's fragile government, which has long faced criticism that it favors Pashtuns, traditionally the most powerful among a patchwork of different ethnic groups in Afghanistan, including Tajiks, Hazaras and Uzbeks.

September 20, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 7:47 PM


Manafort offered to give Russian billionaire 'private briefings' on 2016 campaign (Tom Hamburger, Rosalind S. Helderman, Carol D. Leonnig and Adam Entous, September 20, 2017, Washington Post)

Less than two weeks before Donald Trump accepted the Republican presidential nomination, his campaign chairman offered to provide briefings on the race to a Russian billionaire closely aligned with the Kremlin, according to people familiar with the discussions.

Paul Manafort made the offer in an email to an overseas intermediary, asking that a message be sent to Oleg Deripaska, an aluminum magnate with whom Manafort had done business in the past, these people said.

"If he needs private briefings we can accommodate," Manafort wrote in the July 7, 2016, email, portions of which were read to The Washington Post along with other Manafort correspondence from that time.

Mueller Seeks White House Documents Related to Trump's Actions as President (MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT, SEPT. 20, 2017, NY Times)

Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, has asked the White House for documents about some of President Trump's most scrutinized actions since taking office, including the firing of his national security adviser and F.B.I. director, according to White House officials.

Mr. Mueller is also interested in an Oval Office meeting Mr. Trump had with Russian officials in which he said the dismissal of the F.B.I. director had relieved "great pressure" on him.

The document requests provide the most details to date about the breadth of Mr. Mueller's investigation, and show that several aspects of his inquiry are focused squarely on Mr. Trump's behavior in the White House.

In recent weeks, Mr. Mueller's office sent a document to the White House that detailed 13 areas in which investigators are seeking information. Since then, administration lawyers have been scouring White House emails and asking officials whether they have other documents or notes that may pertain to Mr. Mueller's requests.

One of the requests is about a meeting Mr. Trump had in May with Russian officials in the Oval Office the day after James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director, was fired. That day, Mr. Trump met with the Russian foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, and the Russian ambassador to the United States at the time, Sergey I. Kislyak, along with other Russian officials. The New York Times reported that in the meeting Mr. Trump had said that firing Mr. Comey relieved "great pressure" on him.

Mr. Mueller has also requested documents about the circumstances of the firing of Michael T. Flynn, who was Mr. Trump's first national security adviser. Additionally, the special counsel has asked for documents about how the White House responded to questions from The Times about a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower. That meeting was set up by Donald Trump Jr., the president's eldest son, to get derogatory information from Russians about Hillary Clinton.

Posted by orrinj at 7:11 PM


Netanyahu versus Israel  (Ben Caspit September 20, 2017, Al Monitor)

A quiet war is being waged in Israel. No firearms are employed, even though the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) are involved. And none of Israel's external enemies are involved. Nevertheless, both of the warring sides view this struggle as an existential one, a real fight for survival, which is being waged within the very heart of the Jewish state. It is a struggle of the Old Israel versus the New Israel. It is a war between Israel's original Liberal-Zionist-secular statesmanship with the values on which it was established 70 years ago versus a more religious Israel, a more conservative and traditional mindset that is less liberal and also far less democratic. This newer Israel is now trying to exploit its electoral assets into the power to rule. A one-sentence summary: a war between everything that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu symbolizes, and everyone else. [...]

From a party that had once been a liberal democratic bastion in which no one feared expressing an opinion, the Likud morphed into a bulletproof vest with the sole objective of protecting its leader, even from state institutions and legal authorities.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked submitted on Sept. 14 to the Knesset a bill draft she conceived. If turned into law, this bill would allow the prime minister to declare war without the authorization of the Cabinet. In addition, while this very article is being written, the HaBayit HaYehudi party, led by Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Shaked, is working hard on a new bill that would clip (with a 61-seat Knesset majority) the wings of the Supreme Court.

This new bill, which will officially be called the Basic Law of Legislation, is designed to empty the Supreme Court of its most essential powers. Today, the Supreme Court can override a law passed by the Knesset if the law is found to conflict with constitutional principles that are anchored in basic laws. Israel has no organized constitution; instead, there are a number of "basic laws," which are special laws that anchor the basic principles of law in Israel.

Although the Supreme Court does not invalidate Knesset laws frequently, it has done so recently (by suspending the regularization law) when it felt that the laws directly impinged on basic principles such as that of equality. Now the Knesset hopes to create for itself absolute superiority over the law, thus violating the very sensitive checks-and-balances system of Israeli democracy.

Posted by orrinj at 6:28 PM


As Kurds vote for independence, Americans should cheer (Jeff Jacoby, 9/20/17, The Boston Globe)

The Kurdish campaign for statehood ought to have the robust backing of the United States. Iraqi Kurds are ardently pro-American, unabashed allies in a region where the US has few true friends. The Kurds make no secret of their deep gratitude to the United States for toppling Saddam Hussein, the tyrant who waged a war of genocide against Kurdistan in the 1980s, slaughtering at least 50,000 civilians with chemical weapons and aerial assaults.

Kurdistan isn't just a grateful ally, it's a capable and skillful one. Kurdish soldiers, known as Peshmerga, are widely acknowledged to be America's most effective partners in the fight against the Islamic State. They played a central role in the recent liberation of Raqqa and of Mosul from ISIS. As waves of refugees have fled the violence unleashed by the Islamic State and the Syrian civil war, nearly 2 million have found a safe haven in Kurdistan. Among them are many thousands of Christians.

Yet instead of applauding the Kurds' bid for independence, the United States keeps dousing it with cold water.

For over two centuries now we have represented the world's greatest force for destabilization and too frequently wrung our hands about it.

Posted by orrinj at 6:24 PM


Warren Buffett Says People Who Are Pessimistic About the U.S. Are 'Out of Their Mind' (Reuters, Sep 19, 2017)

He noted that since Forbes created its first list of the 400 richest Americans in 1982 -- Buffett was worth just $250 million then -- some 1,500 different people have been included.

All with one thing in common.

"You don't see any short sellers," he said, referring to people who bet stock prices will fall.

"It has been 241 years since Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence," he said. "Being short America has been a loser's game. I predict to you it will continue to be a loser's game."

Posted by orrinj at 2:27 PM


Jack Ma: We need to stop training our kids for manufacturing jobs (Julia Horowitz, September 20, 2017, CNN)

Jack Ma knows artificial intelligence will change the world.

The Alibaba founder and chairman doesn't think we should be scared. But he does think we should be prepared for major disruptions to the job market.

"In the last 200 years, manufacturing [has brought] jobs. But today -- because of the artificial intelligence, because of the robots -- manufacturing is no longer the main engine of creating jobs," Ma said Wednesday in a speech at the Bloomberg Global Business Forum in New York City.

Moving forward, Ma said he believes the service industry will be the largest engine of job creation.

Posted by orrinj at 1:24 PM


"Now, if it's in the interest of major powers to uphold international standards, it is even more true for the rest of the community of nations.  Look around the world.  From Singapore to Colombia to Senegal, the facts shows that nations succeed when they pursue an inclusive peace and prosperity within their borders, and work cooperatively with countries beyond their borders.  

That path is now available to a nation like Iran, which, as of this moment, continues to deploy violent proxies to advance its interests.  These efforts may appear to give Iran leverage in disputes with neighbors, but they fuel sectarian conflict that endangers the entire region, and isolates Iran from the promise of trade and commerce.  The Iranian people have a proud history, and are filled with extraordinary potential.  But chanting "Death to America" does not create jobs, or make Iran more secure.  If Iran chose a different path, that would be good for the security of the region, good for the Iranian people, and good for the world."

Posted by orrinj at 8:21 AM


Poll gives New Zealand's Nationals nine point lead after final TV debate before vote (Ana Nicolaci da Costa, Charlotte Greenfield, 9/20/17, Reuters) 

New Zealand's ruling National Party regained a wide lead over the opposition Labour Party in an opinion poll on Wednesday after party leaders went head-to-head in the final debate before Saturday's election.

It was the second poll in recent weeks to show Prime Minister Bill English's party, which has held power for a decade, holding a near double-digit lead.

It took a historically unpopular nominee to lose to Hillary by three million votes.

Posted by orrinj at 7:58 AM


Here's Where The Money Is Going As Wealth Rises In Vietnam (Ralph Jennings , 9/20/17, Forbes)

Vietnamese are handily finding jobs as the Southeast Asian country's economy expands on export manufacturing. Exporters hire workers. Prosperity of factories enables the launch of local suppliers and companies that do back-end services. The supporting firms create more jobs. The whole cycle increases the spending power of average citizens. By 2020 about one-third of the population will be middle class or higher, the Boston Consulting Group estimates. That means income of at least $714 per month.

Posted by orrinj at 7:47 AM


Neo-Nazi turned 'Islamic State' supporter goes on trial in Germany for bomb plans (Deutsche-Welle, 9/20/17)

Before swearing allegiance to the "Islamic State" terror group in videos, Sasha L. had been active in the neo-Nazi scene in Berlin, according to the indictment. On a YouTube channel authorities attribute to him, Sasha L. posted videos against Muslims, migrants and anti-fascist groups, Der Spiegel reported in February. 

September 19, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 7:00 PM


Exclusive: Trump using campaign, RNC funds to pay legal bills from Russia probe (Karen Freifeld, Ginger Gibson, 9/19/17, Reuters) 

U.S. President Donald Trump is using money donated to his reelection campaign and the Republican National Committee to pay for his lawyers in the probe of alleged Russian interference in the U.S. election, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The U.S. Federal Election Commission allows the use of private campaign funds to pay legal bills arising from being a candidate or elected official.

While previous presidential campaigns have used these funds to pay for routine legal matters such as ballot access disputes and compliance requirements, Trump would be the first U.S. president in the modern campaign finance era to use such funds to cover the costs of responding to a criminal probe, said election law experts.

Posted by orrinj at 6:57 PM


World leaders' faces react to Trump's U.N. speech (Yahoo News, September 19, 2017)

As Trump made his announcements, country by country, photographers documented how the world leaders reacted to the U.S. commander in chief's address. Click through the above slideshow to see their faces.

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, left, reacts as he and first lady Melania Trump listen to President Trump speak during the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. (Photo: Mary Altaffer/AP)


Posted by orrinj at 2:22 PM


Trump Administration Rejects Study Showing Positive Impact of Refugees (JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS and SOMINI SENGUPTA, SEPTEMBER 18, 2017, NY Times)

Trump administration officials, under pressure from the White House to provide a rationale for reducing the number of refugees allowed into the United States next year, rejected a study by the Department of Health and Human Services that found that refugees brought in $63 billion more in government revenues over the past decade than they cost.

The draft report, which was obtained by The New York Times, contradicts a central argument made by advocates of deep cuts in refugee totals as President Trump faces an Oct. 1 deadline to decide on an allowable number. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:25 AM


Cohen, who came out of nowhere to occupy a prominent spot in Trump's orbit, has his own unique links to Russia and Ukraine. In fact, he might be one of the missing links that ties the president to shady figures and shady money from the former Soviet Union (familiarly known as FSU).

After months of speculation, he's finally meeting, informally, with the Senate Intelligence Committee, i.e. not under oath, and in closed session. It's not clear how in-depth the conversation will be, or what we will learn about it.

But the following story should help. It lays bare, in documented detail, Cohen's dealings, his ties to the FSU, and how he could trigger a world of trouble for the president if he ever decided to reveal what he knows about Trump's business empire.

Among the points illustrated below:

-- Michael Cohen and Felix Sater, two key figures in Trump's businesses in recent years, both have backgrounds tied to the FSU

-- Both men knew each other; both began entering Trump's orbit around the same time with money that may have come from FSU sources -- and in a period when Trump came to increasingly depend on such monies

-- Putin appears to have launched a full-court press on the United States in this time frame through surrogates, and eventually took an interest in Trump as someone who could help advance Russian interests

-- Both Cohen and Sater showed up recently as intermediaries to Trump on behalf of pro-Putin policy initiatives

-- While Trump has a history of sticking with supporters, even controversial ones, his loyalty does not extend to Cohen, Sater, Manafort (who managed his campaign for a time) and Flynn, who briefly served as National Security Advisor. What do they all have in common? Ties to Russia. Ties that are part of the public record.

Posted by orrinj at 8:23 AM


With a Picked Lock and a Threatened Indictment, Mueller's Inquiry Sets a Tone (SHARON LaFRANIERE, MATT APUZZO and ADAM GOLDMANSEPT. 18, 2017, NY Times)

Paul J. Manafort was in bed early one morning in July when federal agents bearing a search warrant picked the lock on his front door and raided his Virginia home. They took binders stuffed with documents and copied his computer files, looking for evidence that Mr. Manafort, President Trump's former campaign chairman, set up secret offshore bank accounts. They even photographed the expensive suits in his closet.

The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, then followed the house search with a warning: His prosecutors told Mr. Manafort they planned to indict him, said two people close to the investigation.

The moves against Mr. Manafort are just a glimpse of the aggressive tactics used by Mr. Mueller and his team of prosecutors in the four months since taking over the Justice Department's investigation into Russia's attempts to disrupt last year's election, according to lawyers, witnesses and American officials who have described the approach. Dispensing with the plodding pace typical of many white-collar investigations, Mr. Mueller's team has used what some describe as shock-and-awe tactics to intimidate witnesses and potential targets of the inquiry.

Mr. Mueller has obtained a flurry of subpoenas to compel witnesses to testify before a grand jury, lawyers and witnesses say, sometimes before his prosecutors have taken the customary first step of interviewing them. One witness was called before the grand jury less than a month after his name surfaced in news accounts. The special counsel even took the unusual step of obtaining a subpoena for one of Mr. Manafort's former lawyers, claiming an exception to the rule that shields attorney-client discussions from scrutiny.

"They are setting a tone. It's important early on to strike terror in the hearts of people in Washington, or else you will be rolled," said Solomon L. Wisenberg, who was deputy independent counsel in the investigation that led to the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton in 1999. "You want people saying to themselves, 'Man, I had better tell these guys the truth.'"

September 18, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 7:34 PM


American Proconsul: How Douglas MacArthur Shaped Postwar Japan (STANLEY WEINTRAUB, 11/8/2011, mILITARY hISTORY)

MacArthur's occupation staff in Tokyo at first numbered about 1,500 and grew to more than 3,000 by 1948. Most of his minions ranged politically from conservative to ultraconservative, and they established policies that continued, rather than dismantled, the zaibatsu (business conglomerates) that had long dominated the Japanese economy. Entrenched Japanese bureaucracies from the national level to the villages and towns continued largely undisturbed.

Reform nonetheless crept into Japan, for MacArthur's regime also enforced policies set by the Truman administration. The "Basic Directive" triggered war crimes trials in 1945-46, as well as replacement of the Meiji Charter Oath of 1868, under which Japan had been ruled by oligarchs on behalf of a semidivine emperor. A four-power Allied agreement (between the United States, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union and China) called for a commission to formulate a new Japanese constitution by late February 1946. To evade meddlesome Stalinist input, MacArthur's headquarters pre-empted the commission with its own document, "Three Basic Points," presented as a Japanese initiative. The first of the points allowed the emperor to remain head of state, though his powers would henceforth derive from the new constitution, which itself would reflect the will of the people. The second point called for Japan's renunciation of the right to wage war or to maintain armed forces. The third point abolished the feudal system and reformed the peerage. Each point embodied mandates from Washington based on the Allies' August 1945 Potsdam Agreement.

The new constitution had to be ready in a week, in order to forestall any Soviet input. MacArthur's Government Section chief, Brig. Gen. Courtney Whitney, summoned his public administration specialists--some of them lawyers--and announced that they now comprised a constitutional assembly; they would secretly draft the new Japanese constitution, and his three deputies would ensure the document appeared to be of Japanese origin. The resulting 92 articles reflected America's New Deal policies, establishing social welfare and civil rights, even enfranchising women. When deliberations ended on February 10, Lt. Col. Charles Kades, head of the 25-member committee, said to one member, feisty 22-year-old Vienna-born linguist Beate Sirota, the only woman in the room, "My God, you have given Japanese women more rights than in the American Constitution!" She retorted, "That's not very difficult to do, because women are not in the American Constitution." Once Hirohito gave his "full approval" of the draft, MacArthur announced his concurrence, and on March 6 the Japanese government made public its new constitution.

Posted by orrinj at 7:29 PM


Exclusive: US government wiretapped former Trump campaign chairman (Evan Perez, Shimon Prokupecz and Pamela Brown, 9/18/17, CNN)

Sources say the second warrant was part of the FBI's efforts to investigate ties between Trump campaign associates and suspected Russian operatives. Such warrants require the approval of top Justice Department and FBI officials, and the FBI must provide the court with information showing suspicion that the subject of the warrant may be acting as an agent of a foreign power.

It is unclear when the new warrant started. The FBI interest deepened last fall because of intercepted communications between Manafort and suspected Russian operatives, and among the Russians themselves, that reignited their interest in Manafort, the sources told CNN. As part of the FISA warrant, CNN has learned that earlier this year, the FBI conducted a search of a storage facility belonging to Manafort. It's not known what they found.

The conversations between Manafort and Trump continued after the President took office, long after the FBI investigation into Manafort was publicly known, the sources told CNN. They went on until lawyers for the President and Manafort insisted that they stop, according to the sources.

Posted by orrinj at 4:29 PM


Kate Millett's Destructive Feminist Legacy (Mark Tapson, 9/18/17, Acculturated)

I am friends with Kate's sister Mallory, whose perspective on her sibling gives some necessary insight into the true nature of the feminist vision. In a riveting article from a few years back bluntly titled, "Marxist Feminism's Ruined Lives," she shared what she saw of the subversive undercurrent of her sister's passionate radicalism.

Mallory describes her first experience participating with Kate and friends in a women's "consciousness-raising-group" in 1969. The meeting opened with an almost liturgical back-and-forth recitation that left Mallory dumbstruck:

"Why are we here today?" asked the chairperson.
"To make revolution," they answered.
"What kind of revolution?" she replied.
"The Cultural Revolution," they chanted.
"And how do we make Cultural Revolution?" she demanded.
"By destroying the American family!" they answered.
"How do we destroy the family?" she came back.
"By destroying the American Patriarch," they cried exuberantly.
"And how do we destroy the American Patriarch?" she replied.
"By taking away his power!"
"How do we do that?"
"By destroying monogamy!" they shouted.
"How can we destroy monogamy?"
"By promoting promiscuity, eroticism, prostitution and homosexuality!" they resounded.

"It was clear," wrote Mallory, that "they desired nothing less than the utter deconstruction of Western society." To accomplish this it was necessary "to invade every American institution. Every one must be permeated with 'The Revolution': The media, the educational system, universities, high schools, K-12, school boards, etc.; then, the judiciary, the legislatures, the executive branches and even the library system."

Mallory was shocked and became sick of the "unbridled hate" for American society she witnessed at subsequent meetings, but ultimately dismissed it all as "academic-lounge air-castle-building." She moved on with her life while her sister became famous and influential promoting "Marxism 101 for women"--a revolution against the oppression of the nuclear family. "Her books captivated the academic classes and soon 'Women's Studies' courses were installed in colleges in a steady wave across the nation with Kate Millett books as required reading," wrote Mallory.

Posted by orrinj at 4:25 PM


Inspired by France trip, Trump wants July 4th military parade (Sharon Vavra, 9/19/17, Axios)

"Inspired by France" : words never before associated with a president, including their own...

Posted by orrinj at 2:13 PM


What's the matter with Trump's lawyers? (Aaron Blake, September 18, 2017, Washington Post)

Whatever Cobb and Dowd were discussing, the fact that they were doing it in public would seem to be a pretty serious breach not just of good sense, but possibly of attorney-client privilege. Imagine if this conversation wound up being consequential in the scheme of the Russia investigation. The fact that it even happened -- New York Times reporter or no New York Times reporter -- is astounding.

But against the broader backdrop of what Trump's lawyers have been doing and saying publicly, it is far less surprising.

A quick recap:

Cobb asked a Business Insider reporter if she was "on drugs."

He later called the same reporter "insane" and mused about using a drone on her while unwittingly emailing with a prankster posing as a White House official.

Cobb described himself and Kelly as the "adults in the room" at the White House in emails with a Washington restaurateur. "I walked away from $4 million annually to do this, had to sell my entire retirement account for major capital losses and lost a s‑‑‑load to try to protect the third pillar of democracy," Cobb told Jeff Jetton.

When he took the job, Cobb told that he had "rocks in my head and steel balls." He added that he took the job because it was "an impossible task with a deadline." (Side note: So defending Trump from the Russia investigation is an "impossible task," you say?)

Now-former Trump lawyer Marc Kasowitz threatened a random stranger in an email exchange, telling her, "Watch your back, b‑‑‑‑."

Dowd rather strangely confirmed to The Post last week that the legal team had discussed whether Jared Kushner should exit the White House.

Jay Sekulow denied twice that Trump was involved in Donald Trump Jr.'s initial response to that Russia meeting, only to be directly contradicted by the White House itself.

Trump's colorful longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, responded to his contradictory denials about being involved with Russians with plenty of bluster. "I feel great," he told HuffPost. "Which picture did The Wall Street Journal use of me? Was it good?" Cohen added: "I am in many respects just like the president. Nothing seems to rattle me, no matter how bad the hate."

Cohen regularly engages with critics and mixes it up on social media. Asked by Vanity Fair what that says, he responded: "It means I'm relevant."

Any one of these examples is highly unusual for a lawyer, or really any public official. Yet Trump seems to have assembled a legal team that mirrors his own combative style and at-times-unhelpful tendency to spout off in public.

It's a bit of a chicken-and-egg question. Are the lawyers acting like this because the White House as a whole plays it so fast and loose? Or were they selected because most established lawyers wouldn't take on such a challenging client?

Posted by orrinj at 1:32 PM


Consumption poverty and the Official Poverty Measure (Robert Doar, September 18, 2017, AEIdeas)

Bruce Meyer of the University of Chicago and AEI, and James Sullivan of Notre Dame last week released their report on consumption poverty in the United States for the year 2016. The takeaway from the report is positive: The rate of consumption poverty, which measures how much people consume, and therefore better captures the extent of deprivation and material poverty in the United States, continues to decline, falling to an all-time low of 3.0%. Improvement in the consumption poverty rate speaks to the effectiveness of various in-kind and tax benefits afforded to low-income Americans, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), and housing benefits, all of which help to shore up the material well-being of America's struggling families.

Posted by orrinj at 1:30 PM


After single payer failed, Vermont embarks on a big health care experiment (Carolyn Y. Johnson September 17, 2017, wASHINGTON pOST)

The underlying premise is simple: Reward doctors and hospitals financially when patients are healthy, not just when they come in sick.

It's an idea that has been percolating through the health-care system in recent years, supported by the Affordable Care Act and changes to how Medicare pays for certain kinds of care, such as hip and knee replacements.

But Vermont is setting an ambitious goal of taking its alternative payment model statewide and applying it to 70 percent of insured state residents by 2022 which -- if it works -- could eventually lead to fundamental changes in how Americans pay for health care.

"You make your margin off of keeping people healthier, instead of doing more operations. This drastically changes you, from wanting to do more of a certain kind of surgery to wanting to prevent them," said Stephen Leffler, chief population health and quality officer of the University of Vermont Health Network.

Most importantly, it discourages practitioners from encouraging you to consume.

Posted by orrinj at 1:27 PM


Worried about Jewish pluralism in Israel? So are Israelis, poll shows : 65% of Israelis surveyed by liberal group by Hiddush want Reform and Conservative Judaism to have official standing equal to Orthodoxy (ANDREW TOBIN, September 18, 2017, JTA)

For non-Orthodox Diaspora Jews worried by the Israeli government's unfriendly policies toward them this year, a new poll has some good news.

The 2017 annual survey by Hiddush, a nonprofit advocating religious pluralism in Israel, offers indications that the Israeli Jewish public is as supportive as ever of religious pluralism, if not more so. Few are happy with how the state handles religion, and a record number would like to disentangle Judaism and politics.

Posted by orrinj at 8:50 AM



White House staff are so worried about Robert Mueller's investigation into Russia's possible collusion with Donald Trump's campaign that some in the West Wing are suspicious their colleagues are wearing a wire.

In private, White House officials have said they are afraid their co-workers may be secretly recording their conversations to pass along to Mueller, the investigation's special counsel, according to a report in The New York Times Sunday.

Posted by orrinj at 8:46 AM


Soros hatred is a global sickness (Gideon Rachman, 9/19/17, Financial Times)

In the 1990s, Mr Soros was in tune with the spirit of the age, as he used the billions he had made in finance to support the transition to democracy in post-communist Europe and elsewhere. But now the global political climate has changed and liberal ideas are in retreat. For a new generation of nationalists -- from the US to Russia and Hungary -- Mr Soros has become the perfect villain. He is an internationalist in an age of nationalism. He is a supporter of individual rights, not group rights. He is the 29th-richest man in the world, according to the Forbes rich list. And he is also Jewish, so is easily cast in the role of the shadowy and manipulative international financier, once reserved for the Rothschilds.

One of the nastier bits of anti-Soros propaganda this year explicitly linked him to the old slurs against the Rothschilds. When America First nationalists became worried that HR McMaster, national security adviser to President Donald Trump, was purging their allies in the White House, they set up a website called "McMaster leaks" which featured a cartoon of Mr McMaster being manipulated by puppetmasters labelled "Soros" and "Rothschilds". [...]

There is clearly an echo-chamber element to the anti-Soros campaigns around the world, as far-right groups pick up on the same conspiracy theories. But some strongman leaders have more concrete reasons to fear Mr Soros's Open Society Foundation, which funds civil society organisations that promote education, a free press, minority rights and anti-corruption initiatives. In 2015, Vladimir Putin's government chucked the Open Society Foundation out of Russia since it was no longer willing to tolerate the latter's support for organisations such as Memorial, which promoted research into the Soviet terror.

Mr Soros's activities have even made him a target in Israel. The obvious anti-Semitism in many of the anti-Soros campaigns around the world evidently matters less to the Netanyahu government than Mr Soros's support for Palestinian rights and other causes unpopular on the Israeli right.

There is also a personal element in prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's anti-Soros ire. As an anti-corruption probe has got closer and closer to Israel's first family, so they have lashed out against Mr Soros. Yair Netanyahu, the prime minister's son, complained recently that the "Fund for the Destruction of Israel, funded by Soros and the European Union, is threatening me". He even re-published a cartoon of Mr Soros dangling the world in front of a reptilian creature, the kind of image that his father would routinely denounce as anti-Semitic if it had been published by another source.

There are always Jews to blame.

Posted by orrinj at 8:38 AM


Spicer mocks Trump in surprise Emmys cameo - video (THe Guardian, 9/18/17)
Posted by orrinj at 7:09 AM


Posted by orrinj at 7:08 AM


Posted by orrinj at 7:03 AM


Hold the Egg Sandwich: Egyptian TV Is Calling (SARAH MASLIN NIR, SEPT. 16, 2017, NY Times)

Every other day or so, Hatem El-Gamasy connects to a news audience nearly halfway around the world, delivering hot takes on American politics, live from New York, but on Egyptian television.

When the broadcast ends, he slips out his earpieces, opens the door of his makeshift studio and returns to his day job.

"You want ketchup on that?" he said to a customer on a recent morning. "Extra ketchup as usual?"

Mr. El-Gamasy owns the Lotus Deli in Ridgewood, Queens, a place known for its sandwiches, extensive craft beer selection, and its gracious, friendly owner. But few of his customers -- and likely, none of his viewers in Egypt -- know that the man making egg sandwiches and small talk behind the counter is the same one who appears on popular Egyptian television news programs, holding forth on subjects from immigration policy to North Korea.

Posted by orrinj at 6:01 AM


Robots will soon do your taxes and your bookkeeper is cool with that (ANOUK VLEUGELS, 9/18/17, Next Web)

Up until about ten years ago, choosing a career in accountancy was considered a safe bet. It came with a decent salary, plenty of job opportunities and all sorts of benefits. Robots were still a distant reality. Something to worry about for blue-collar workers, maybe, but in no way threatening to those in the financial industry.

Oh, how times have changed. In 2013, two researchers from Oxford University published a study examining to what extent jobs are susceptible to computerization. The results, at least for accountants and bookkeepers, were pretty grim: Bookkeeping had a 97.6 percent chance of being automated in the near future. Accounting and auditing did only a little better, at 95.3 percent.

Posted by orrinj at 5:38 AM


Kurds in Iraq: from Sykes-Picot to no-fly zones and beyond (FRANCIS OWTRAM 18 September 2017, OpenDemocracy)

The Kurds' quest for independence is partly the product of geography: their ancestral homeland around the Taurus mountains occupies a peripheral border region at the intersection of the historic empires of the Turks, Persians and Arabs.

Under these empires the Kurdish tribes attempted to carve out high levels of autonomy and were often in conflict with the central authority and other rival tribes. Following the demise of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the First World War, they found themselves divided between three successor states: Iraq, Syria and Turkey where they became regionally concentrated 'non-assimilating minorities'. This underlying sense of malaise finds conceptual framing in the 'syndrome of post-colonial sequestration', a term coined by the late Professor Fred Halliday in a succinct and incisive openDemocracy article in 2008 to explain the experience of peoples such as the Kurds and Palestinians.

This underlying sense of malaise finds conceptual framing in the 'syndrome of post-colonial sequestration', a term coined by the late Professor Fred Halliday.

Halliday noted that various peoples have found, during moments of momentous historic change (the end of WW1, WW2, colonial withdraw) that if they were not able (due to bad luck, poor leadership or other circumstances) to obtain a state, then they may remain trapped until the next moment of opportunity. To understand their plight, he argued, it is important to be aware that the division of the world into today's 'nation states' does not correspond to any fundamental principles of natural justice or historic entitlement. It is rather arbitrary and haphazard - the result of power politics, accidents, wars, state crises and hegemonic or colonial intervention.

By way of moving beyond post-colonial sequestration, Halliday recommended these peoples to seek to establish democratic forms including federalism, which once consolidated could lead to discussion of all issues, including independence. Halliday focussed on the Palestinians and the Tibetans, making only passing reference to the Kurds, which I expand here with my primary focus on the Kurds in Iraq.

The imposition of  European-style 'nation-states' on the Middle East led to deeply divided societies due to the straight lines drawn across tribal lands on the map enclosed with the 1916 Asia Minor Agreement signed between Britain and France - otherwise known as the Sykes-Picot agreement.

It's impossible to overstate how much we retarded the development of the Third World by trading self-determination for the League of Nations. It makes David Fromkin's Peace to End All Peace the must read on the Middle East. Most of the geopolitical problems of the last century trace to our failure to adhere to our own ideals.

Posted by orrinj at 5:28 AM


Trump Lawyers Clash Over How Much to Cooperate With Russia Inquiry (PETER BAKER and KENNETH P. VOGEL, SEPT. 17, 2017, NY Times)

The debate in Mr. Trump's West Wing has pitted Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel, against Ty Cobb, a lawyer brought in to manage the response to the investigation. Mr. Cobb has argued for turning over as many of the emails and documents requested by the special counsel as possible in hopes of quickly ending the investigation -- or at least its focus on Mr. Trump.

Mr. McGahn supports cooperation, but has expressed worry about setting a precedent that would weaken the White House long after Mr. Trump's tenure is over. He is described as particularly concerned about whether the president will invoke executive or attorney-client privilege to limit how forthcoming Mr. McGahn could be if he himself is interviewed by the special counsel as requested.

The friction escalated in recent days after Mr. Cobb was overheard by a reporter for The New York Times discussing the dispute during a lunchtime conversation at a popular Washington steakhouse. Mr. Cobb was heard talking about a White House lawyer he deemed "a McGahn spy" and saying Mr. McGahn had "a couple documents locked in a safe" that he seemed to suggest he wanted access to. He also mentioned a colleague whom he blamed for "some of these earlier leaks," and who he said "tried to push Jared out," meaning Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and senior adviser, who has been a previous source of dispute for the legal team.

After The Times contacted the White House about the situation, Mr. McGahn privately erupted at Mr. Cobb, according to people informed about the confrontation who asked not to be named describing internal matters.

...he is apparently unfamiliar with client confidentiality.

September 17, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 PM


A  Lack of Ideas Has Consequences : Adjusting to a novel political era. (JAMES W. CEASER, 9/26/17, Weekly Standard)
Something has gone missing from American politics. Since the beginning of the new administration in January, public debate focused on general ideas has largely disappeared. Yes, President Trump has a few issues he consistently supports, such as limitations on immigration and lower taxes; and yes, some members of Congress remain strongly wedded to a general theoretical position, which they sometimes promote at the tail end of news shows. But the existence of an integrated set of ideas stemming from a single principle, what some used to call "ideology," is absent. In its place is the daily run of news stories and commentary focused on assessment of the president's personality and character, on charges of misdeeds and scandals, on personnel battles and rumored changes of White House staff, and on temporary reactions to decisions that change with each particular policy. There is no public discussion about these matters that fixes a framework of debate, no connective tissue of thought that links what happens on one day to the next.

In fairness, Donald does have an ideology--white male supremacy--it just isn't popular.

Posted by orrinj at 3:43 PM


Trump shares GIF of himself striking Hillary Clinton in the back with a golf ball (Amy B Wang, September 17, 2017, Washington Post)

Trump's love of Twitter and his propensity to post controversial tweets -- often very late at night or first thing in the morning -- is well known. The golf-swing repost, however, was part of an unusual retweet spree in which Trump shared at least half a dozen tweets from other accounts that showed him in a favorable light. Three were from an account called "Trumpism 5.0," which included a train wearing a "Make America Great Again" hat.

...for making, rather than receiving, threats.  He'll never get over losing to her by three million votes.

Posted by orrinj at 11:14 AM


Posted by orrinj at 10:49 AM


ESPN has confirmed its bias (Jay Hart, 9/16/17, Yahoo Sports)

In reading ESPN's own policies on employees commenting on politics, which was issued in April, Hill is in clear violation, and not by a little.

‱ "Writers, reporters, producers and editors directly involved in 'hard' news reporting, investigative or enterprise assignments and related coverage should refrain in any public-facing forum from taking positions on political or social issues, candidates or office holders."

Does Jemele Hill's platform as host of ESPN's flagship news program not fall under "hard" news reporting? Or does she somehow slip through this crack?

Even if she doesn't fall under that umbrella, there's this:

‱ "Commentaries on relevant sports-related issues are appropriate, but we should refrain from overt partisanship or endorsement of particular candidates, politicians or political parties."

(It should be noted the bold emphasis above is ESPN's, not mine.)

None of Hill's tweets had relevancy to any "sports-related issues."

‱ "The presentation should be thoughtful and respectful. We should offer balance or recognize opposing views, as warranted. We should avoid personal attacks and inflammatory rhetoric."

As this relates to Hill's tweets: violation, violation, violation.

Do these policies ESPN has set forth apply to Twitter?

"These guidelines act in concert with all ESPN standards & practices, including those governing social media and commentary, and apply on ESPN, Twitter, Facebook and other media."

So yeah.

Look, I'm not advocating Hill be fired or suspended. ESPN's the one that got that ball rolling when it canned Schilling, which is its prerogative. The network even gave itself some leeway by not attaching any set punishment for violating its own rules, allowing itself the ability to make disciplinary decisions arbitrarily ... which it took full advantage of here.

Posted by orrinj at 8:46 AM


Health Care Is So Expensive Because You Don't Pay For It Yourself (Greg Scandlen, SEPTEMBER 15, 2017, The Federalist)

Food, housing transportation, apparel--all are paid fee-for-service, and all have a lower rate of inflation than health care does.

Yes, the providers of these services would like to sell us more units of service. But we have good reason to resist--we don't want to waste our money on services we don't need. What is unique about health care is not fee-for-service, but third-party payment. Only in health care is someone else picking up the tab for our spending.

If we applied the same third-party payment technique to any other segment of the economy, we would get the exact same inflationary spiral we see in health care. I buy donuts from time to time. If those donuts were free at the point of purchase, I would buy (and eat) a whole lot more than I do today. The stereotype of cops eating donuts came about because donut shops gave them away to the cops for free.

When I was working as a state-level lobbyist for the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, I would attend meetings of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), the National Governors Association (NGA), the National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL), and a bunch of other organizations. These groups typically held their meetings in the ritziest hotel in Kansas City, New Orleans, San Diego, Boston, or some other place that was easy to get to.

Not once did I ever inquire what the room would cost. Why should I? Blue Cross was paying for it. The cost made no difference to me whatsoever. Some years later, when I went into business for myself and tried to attend the same meetings at my own expense, I became very interested in the cost of the rooms. Most of the time, I would stay at a cheap motel on the edge of town and drive to the meetings.

Ah, but health care is different, you might say. Yes it is. It is different because of third-party payment and for no other reason. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:40 AM


The Secret History of Dune (Will Collins, SEPTEMBER 16, 2017, LA Review of Books)

Even a casual political observer will recognize the parallels between the universe of Dune and the Middle East of the late 20th century. Islamic theology, mysticism, and the history of the Arab world clearly influenced Dune, but part of Herbert's genius lay in his willingness to reach for more idiosyncratic sources of inspiration. The Sabres of Paradise (1960) served as one of those sources, a half-forgotten masterpiece of narrative history recounting a mid-19th century Islamic holy war against Russian imperialism in the Caucasus.

Lesley Blanch, the book's author, has a memorable biography. A British travel writer of some renown, she is perhaps best known for On the Wilder Shores of Love (1954), an account of the romantic adventures of four British women in the Middle East. She was also a seasoned traveler, a keen observer of Middle Eastern politics and culture, and a passionate Russophile. She called The Sabres of Paradise "the book I was meant to do in my life," and the novel offers the magnificent, overstuffed account of Imam Shamyl, "The Lion of Dagestan," and his decades-long struggle against Russian encroachment.

Anyone who has obsessed over the mythology of Dune will immediately recognize the language Herbert borrowed from Blanch's work. Chakobsa, a Caucasian hunting language, becomes the language of a galactic diaspora in Herbert's universe. Kanly, from a word for blood feud among the Islamic tribes of the Caucasus, signifies a vendetta between Dune's great spacefaring dynasties. Kindjal, the personal weapon of the region's Islamic warriors, becomes a knife favored by Herbert's techno-aristocrats. As Blanch writes, "No Caucasian man was properly dressed without his kindjal."

Herbert is ecumenical with his borrowing, lifting terminology and rituals from both sides of this obscure Central Asian conflict. When Paul Atreides, Dune's youthful protagonist, is adopted by a desert tribe whose rituals and feuds bear a marked resemblance to the warrior culture of the Islamic Caucasus, he lives at the exotically named Sietch Tabr. Sietch and tabr are both words for camp borrowed from the Cossacks, the Czarist warrior caste who would become the great Christian antagonists of Shamyl's Islamic holy warriors.

Herbert also lifted two of Dune's most memorable lines directly from Blanch. While describing the Caucasians' fondness for swordplay, Blanch writes, "To kill with the point lacked artistry." In Dune, this becomes "[k]illing with the tip lacks artistry," advice given to a young Paul Atreides by a loquacious weapons instructor. A Caucasian proverb recorded by Blanch transforms into a common desert aphorism. "Polish comes from the city, wisdom from the hills," an apt saying for a mountain people, becomes "Polish comes from the cities, wisdom from the desert" in Dune.

Dune's narrative, however, owes more to The Sabres of Paradise than just terminology and customs. The story of a fiercely independent, religiously inspired people resisting an outside power is certainly not unique to the Caucasus, but Blanch's influence can be found here, too. The name of Herbert's major villain, Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, is redolent of Russian imperialism. Meanwhile, Imam Shamyl, the charismatic leader of Islamic resistance in the Caucasus, describes the Russian Czar as "Padishah" and his provincial governor as "Siridar," titles that Herbert would later borrow for Dune's galactic emperor and his military underlings.

Posted by orrinj at 8:33 AM


Ross Macdonald, True Detective : The '50s noir novelist investigated sources of rot in the American grain. (NICHOLAS DAWIDOFF, September 15, 2017, New Republic)

While The Moving Target is not included in the Library of America reissue, Archer's brash proclamation midway through the novel--"I'm the new-type detective"--goes some way toward explaining how Macdonald earned his place among our greatest novelists. As Archer drives through fogged-in hills with a young woman, she asks him why he does detective work. Because he's attracted to danger? Archer's reply defines the moral outlook of Macdonald's detective. While danger gives Archer a sense of power, he tells her, the true appeal lies in watching people closely enough that they reveal themselves:

When I went into police work in 1935, I believed that evil was a quality some people were born with, like a harelip. A cop's job was to find those people and put them away. But evil isn't so simple. Everybody has it in him, and whether it comes out in his actions depends on a number of things. Environment, opportunity, economic pressure, a piece of bad luck, a wrong friend. The trouble is a cop has to go on judging people by rule of thumb, and acting on the judgment.

Whereas Hammett's Sam Spade and Chandler's Philip Marlowe stride through worlds that exist as their own spotlit stages, the new-type detective looks outward, tries to locate flickers of meaning in the vast gloom around him. These are stories where the detective doesn't just discover what happened to a missing person. He reveals what makes a person feel lost--the perverse and tawdry elements that define people as castoffs in a skewed American landscape. [...]

Macdonald named Lew Archer in homage to Sam Spade's murdered partner in The Maltese Falcon, and gave him a backstory. Archer worked for five years on the Long Beach police force before quitting for the sake of his integrity. As he explains in 1950's The Drowning Pool: "There were too many cases where the official version clashed with the facts I knew." A world-weary crusader with no real friends we ever meet, Archer lives in middle-class West Los Angeles, never getting over the wife who left him, still making payments on an underpowered Ford, wearing plain California suits. He charges a daily fee and expenses, though he has an aversion to collecting them, as though taking money will implicate and "declass" him; he loathes the rich and says he is, "like most Americans," a counterpuncher. A good day begins with a rare steak and a barbershop shave. Sometimes it finishes kissing another man's unhappy wife. Archer prefers clear-eyed women who have been through enough disappointment themselves that they won't make any claims on a solitary, unattainable romantic. He is haunted by boyhood memories of holding his father's hand in the Long Beach surf.

Macdonald was no less skilled a user of language than Chandler or Hammett. An aging woman "still wore hopeful white ruffles at her wrist and throat," and the coastal sea has "a used dishwater color." The abandoned husband Alex Kincaid in The Chill has "that clean, crewcut All-American look, and the blur of pain in his eyes." Macdonald's 1958 description of a street boy as "a feather in a vacuum" was perhaps appreciated by John Updike, who two years later described Ted Williams as "a feather caught in a vortex." As to that repellent case of acne, all metaphor men have their moments of excess, and Chandler, who gave a carpet "a Florida suntan" and made teeth "white as fresh orange pith," was far from immune.

Part of the thrill of the Archer books is Archer's great gift for self-scrutiny, the way he can monitor his own internal fluctuations--"I was feeling sweaty and cynical"--in parallel to his penetrating assessments of others. Archer's ambivalence about everything, most of all himself, makes his insight credible. His unattainable aspiration is to be a good man. "I keep trying, when I remember to," he confesses in The Barbarous Coast, "but it keeps getting tougher every year. Like trying to chin yourself with one hand." In 1958's The Doomsters, the book Macdonald wrote after his only child, Linda, fell into serious trouble with the law, Archer sits in a cheap hotel room and feels a stab of pain and loss: "Perhaps the pain was for myself; the loss was of a self I had once imagined." When thinking about crime and criminals, Archer never forgets that he, like Macdonald, is someone who could have gone either way in life.

Only the Western is nearly as American.
Posted by orrinj at 8:20 AM


What Are the Trends in Armed Conflicts, and What Do They Mean for U.S. Defense Policy? (Thomas S. Szayna, Stephen Watts, Angela O'Mahony, Bryan Frederick, Jennifer Kavanagh, 9/16/17, Rand)

From a decades-long perspective, the incidence of armed conflict has decreased. Interstate war (that is, war between states) has become a rare event. Similarly, intrastate conflict (that is, civil wars and related political violence) had declined steadily for two decades before an uptick in conflict sparked by the wars in Syria and Ukraine in 2014. Many factors have contributed to the long-term decline in conflict and most of those factors remain in place. 

The meaningful remaining conflicts just involve artificial polities devolving into constituent states with self-representation.

Posted by orrinj at 7:58 AM


Still no charity money from leftover Trump inaugural funds (jEFF HORWITZ and JULIE BYKOWICZ, 9/16/17, AP)

President Donald Trump's inaugural committee raised an unprecedented $107 million for a ceremony that officials promised would be "workmanlike," and the committee pledged to give leftover funds to charity. Nearly eight months later, the group has helped pay for redecorating at the White House and the vice president's residence in Washington.

But nothing has yet gone to charity.

What is left from the massive fundraising is a mystery, clouded by messy and, at times, budget-busting management of a private fund that requires little public disclosure. The Associated Press spoke with eight people -- vendors, donors and Trump associates -- involved in planning and political fundraising for the celebration, an event that provides an early look at the new president's management style and priorities. The people described a chaotic process marked by last-minute decisions, staffing turnover and little financial oversight.

September 16, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 8:52 PM


Posted by orrinj at 8:49 PM


Transgender troops will be allowed to re-enlist for now: report (MAX GREENWOOD - 09/15/17, The Hill)

The Pentagon reportedly issued new guidance on Friday allowing transgender troops currently serving in the military to re-enlist in the coming months as the department weighs how to enforce President Trump's broader ban on their service.

Posted by orrinj at 8:45 PM


Experts Say the Use of Private Email by Trump's Voter Fraud Commission Isn't Legal  (Jessica Huseman Sept. 15, 2=17, Pro Publica)

President Donald Trump's voter fraud commission came under fire earlier this month when a lawsuit and media reports revealed that the commissioners were using private emails to conduct public business. Commission co-chair Kris Kobach confirmed this week that most of them continue to do so.

Experts say the commission's email practices do not appear to comport with federal law. "The statute here is clear," said Jason R. Baron, a lawyer at Drinker Biddle and former director of litigation at the National Archives and Records Administration.

Essentially, Baron said, the commissioners have three options: 1. They can use a government email address; 2. They can use a private email address but copy every message to a government account; or 3. They can use a private email address and forward each message to a government account within 20 days. According to Baron, those are the requirements of the Presidential Records Act of 1978, which the commission must comply with under its charter.

"All written communications between or among its members involving commission business are permanent records destined to be preserved at the National Archives," said Baron. "Without specific guidance, commission members may not realize that their email communications about commission business constitute White House records."

ProPublica reviewed dozens of emails to and from members of the commission as well as written directives on records retention. The commissioners appear to have been given no instructions to use government email or copy or forward messages to a government account.

Commissioner Matthew Dunlap, the secretary of state for Maine, confirmed that he'd received no such directives. "That's news to me," he said, when read the PRA provision governing emails.

Posted by orrinj at 7:07 PM


Warren Buffett wins $1M bet made with hedgie a decade ago (Gregory Bresiger, September 9, 2017, NY Post)

The Oracle of Omaha once again has proven that Wall Street's pricey investments are often a lousy deal.

Warren Buffett made a $1 million bet at end of 2007 with hedge fund manager Ted Seides of Protégé Partners. Buffett wagered that a low-cost S&P 500 index fund would perform better than a group of Protégé's hedge funds.

Buffett's index investment bet is so far ahead that Seides concedes the match, although it doesn't officially end until Dec. 31.

Posted by orrinj at 7:05 PM


Trump reportedly flip-flops on Paris climate deal decision (Bill Sanderson September 16, 2017, NY Post)

In a surprising about-face, the Trump administration has decided against pulling out of the Paris climate accord, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal attributed to a European Union official.

This presidency barely exists, happily.
Posted by orrinj at 6:42 PM


Woman arrested for vandalizing Wall Street's famed bull statue (Jackie Wattles, September 16, 2017, CNN)

Posted by orrinj at 6:34 PM


The Trump-Hillary merger (mike Allen, 9/16/17, Axios)

Both like bashing Bernie.
Both are beloved by a slice of their party, but increasingly grating to the rest.
Both are convinced the media is out to get them and to blame for many of their problems.
Both seem bitter about the election result and fixated on Hillary's popular-vote win.
Both blame former FBI Director James Comey for their troubles.
Both are consumed with allegations that Russia tipped the election.
Both like Chuck Schumer more than Mitch McConnell.
Both support the Democratic immigration plan for "Dreamers."
Both are lapping up a slice of media acclaim amid widespread friendly fire: Trump, for his second "Chuck and Nancy" deal, and Hillary Clinton for a book that has many of her former supporters wishing she'd

Posted by orrinj at 5:34 PM


Mueller Investigation Into Russian Facebook Ads May Be a Very Big Deal (Benjamin Hart, 9/16/17, New York)

The information Facebook shared with Mr. Mueller included copies of the ads and details about the accounts that bought them and the targeting criteria they used, the people familiar with the matter said. Facebook policy dictates that it would only turn over "the stored contents of any account," including messages and location information, in response to a search warrant, some of them said.
CNN confirmed on Saturday that Mueller had indeed obtained the information with the help of a warrant.

Legal experts said that the news could signal a potentially explosive new phase in Mueller's investigation. In a tweetstorm, Yale Law School associate dean Asha Rangappa said that to obtain the warrant, Mueller would have had to believe that a crime was committed - it is illegal for foreign people or entities to make contributions connected to American elections - and that the offense would need to be connected to "specific accounts" on Facebook.

Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti also focused on the warrant in a series of tweets, arguing that its presence meant that Mueller was "close to charging specific foreign people with a crime," and that if Trump associates were part of the planning behind it, they could face serious charges as well.

Posted by orrinj at 7:48 AM


Donald Trump's new tweets bolster the case against his travel ban (Democracy in America, Sep 15th 2017, The Economist)

LESS than a month before the Supreme Court considers the legality of his executive order barring travel from six overwhelmingly Muslim countries, Donald Trump has handed a gift to those challenging the ban. Reacting to a bombing on the London underground on September 15th, Mr Trump first condemned the "loser terrorist" who perpetrated the attack, calling the bomber "sick and demented" and noting that potential miscreants "must be dealt with in a much tougher manner". Then he brought the issue home: "The travel ban into the United States should be far larger, tougher and more specific--but stupidly, that would not be politically correct!"

Nor constitutional, nor effective.

Posted by orrinj at 7:36 AM


Bacon fans take heart as wholesale pork belly prices plummet (Reuters, 9/15/17) 

What goes up must come down, said food and livestock analysts. The retail bacon price spike dampened consumer and food service sales. That, in turn, has sent wholesale pork belly prices falling about 50 percent in the past few weeks, said Steve Meyer, a pork analyst at Indiana-based EMI Analytics.

"That pushback is the primary reason that belly primal prices are now at $104 per cwt," Meyer said. "These low wholesale values will encourage storage and attract end users back when the pricing is eventually passed along."

One of the well-known problems with inflation measures is the failure to account for such substitution.  No one needs bacon.  We just swap in an alternative when its price goes up.

Posted by orrinj at 7:30 AM


Netanyahu at Odds With Israeli Military and Intelligence Brass Over Whether to Push Trump to Scrap Iran Nuclear Deal (Barak Ravid, Amos Harel, Chaim Levinson and Amir Tibon Sep 16, 2017, Haaretz)

Netanyahu and Lieberman's position is at odds with most Israeli experts in Military Intelligence and in the IDF's Planning Directorate, the Mossad, Foreign Ministry and the Atomic Energy Committee.

Despite Netanyahu's wish that Trump announces that Iran isn't complying with the nuclear deal, all Israeli intelligence bodies dealing with the Iranian issue are united in the opinion that in the two years and two months that have passed since the agreement was signed in Vienna, Iran hasn't been caught violating a single clause. Also, the Israeli intelligence community has no evidence that the Iranians have resumed their nuclear project and gone back on their commitments.

Bibi needs to maintain the illusion that Israel faces external threats.  

Posted by orrinj at 7:14 AM


Trump's fiercest supporters don't actually want him to be president (Matthew Walther, September 15, 2017, The Week)

One of the most curious things about President Trump's most enthusiastic supporters during the 2016 election is that very few of them actually wanted him to be president of the United States.

Oh sure, they looked forward to the spectacle of his victory night speech and fantasized about what a Trump inauguration weekend might look like. They took delight in imagining the suffering of his opponents, especially the bow-tied #NeverTrump Republicans whose own febrile imaginations had made room for a scenario in which an obscure former congressional aide would be elected president by the House of Representatives following a tie in the Electoral College. Trump's supporters longed for protests, the more insipid and incoherent the better, and counter-protests. They got them. [...]

What Trump has shown us in the last week or so is that, more than two years after announcing his candidacy for the White House, he has begun to arrive at some dim idea of what the presidency is and what executing it faithfully might entail. Foaming at the mouth about "amnesty" is great for winning votes, at least in certain parts of the country. But deporting millions of Americans would be difficult, expensive, and imprudent, to say nothing of unpopular and, ahem, wrong.

"Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated, and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military?" Trump asked on Twitter. He knows the answer: Yes, and a lot of them were his devoted backers.

Last year Coulter said that a Trump campaign white paper on immigration was so winningly tough that she wouldn't mind if the president personally murdered babies in the Oval Office.

One meeting on immigration with Democrats later, she's contrasting him unfavorably with a washed-up hack comedian and suggesting he ought to be impeached.

No one with even a tentative grip on reality ever believed that the GOP would take away health care from millions of people nor round up and deport millions.

Posted by orrinj at 6:48 AM


U.S. Army kills contracts for hundreds of immigrant recruits. Some face deportation. (Alex Horton September 15, 2017, Washington Post)

U.S. Army recruiters have abruptly canceled enlistment contracts for hundreds of foreign-born military recruits since last week, upending their lives and potentially exposing many to deportation, according to several affected recruits and former military officials familiar with their situation.

Many of these enlistees have waited years to join a troubled recruitment program designed to attract highly skilled immigrants into the service in exchange for fast-track citizenship.

Now recruits and experts say that recruiters are shedding their contracts to free themselves from an onerous enlistment process, which includes extensive background investigations, to focus on individuals who can more quickly enlist and thus satisfy strict recruitment targets.

September 15, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 7:10 PM


How The Minimum Wage Affects Restaurant Hygiene : An analysis of Seattle restaurants shows that as the city dramatically raised the minimum wage for restaurant employees and other workers, restaurants responded by lowering hygiene standards. (Shankar VedantamSeptember 13, 2017, Morning Edition)


Here's a trend. Cities around the country have moved to increase the minimum wage for workers at restaurants. Now, in turn, those restaurants have responded by trying to find ways to cut costs or pass the bill on to customers. But there is another unexpected effect of raising the minimum wage. To explain, we are joined by NPR's social science correspondent Shankar Vedantam. Good morning.

SHANKAR VEDANTAM, BYLINE: Good morning, Mary Louise.

KELLY: All right, the suspense is killing me. What is the unexpected side effect?

VEDANTAM: Well, the new research explores hygiene violations in the restaurant industry, specifically looking at Seattle, which has been in the vanguard of raising the minimum wage. So the minimum wage in Seattle went from about $8 an hour in 2010 to about 13 to $15 an hour this year.

I was speaking to Srikant Devaraj at Ball State University in Indiana. Along with his co-author Subir Chakrabarti and Pankaj Patel, Devaraj analyzed the effects of the minimum wage increase on restaurant health and hygiene. Seattle's King County keeps detailed inspection records based on surprise visits from inspectors. Since different parts of King County raise the minimum wage at different times, the economists were able to track the trajectory of violations in Seattle as the minimum wage changed.

SRIKANT DEVARAJ: We find that a dollar increase in minimum wage resulted in a 6.4 percent increase in overall health violations and 15.3 percent increase in less severe violations as a result of the increases.

Posted by orrinj at 6:52 PM


As Millennials Get Older, Many Are Buying SUVs To Drive To Their Suburban Homes (Emily Sullivan, 9/15/17, All Things Considered)

But now, as millennials get older -- and richer -- more of them are buying SUVs to drive to their suburban homes.

The National Association of Realtors' 2017 Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends study found that millennials were the largest group of homebuyers for the fourth consecutive year.

Zillow's chief economist, Svenja Gudell, says that for millennials, growing older is beginning to mean buying a house in the suburbs.

Posted by orrinj at 4:02 PM


The Strongest Evidence Yet Donald Trump Is Violating Constitutional Anti-Corruption Clause (April Glaser, 9/15/17, Slate)

Since Donald Trump took office in January, his presidency has been dogged by concerns about how he may be profiting off the executive office. Now, thanks to receipts obtained by the transparency group Property of the People via the Freedom of Information Act, there's evidence that the White House's National Security Council paid more than $1,000 for a two-night stay at the Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, on March 3 and 4 of this year. Trump owns the resort, and the profits are stored in a trust managed by Donald Trump Jr. and Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen H. Weisselberg that the president can pull funds from at any time. As a consequence, these receipts may be evidence of a violation of the Domestic Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits the president from receiving any compensation from federal, state, or local governments beyond the salary he earns as chief executive.

Posted by orrinj at 3:31 PM


Trump forced to sign law condemning white supremacists (Louis Emanuel, September 15 2017, The Times)

President Trump reopened old wounds from the protests in Charlottesville as he was effectively forced into signing a resolution condemning some of the white supremacist groups involved.

Mr Trump signed a text "rejecting White nationalists, White supremacists, the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, and other hate groups", which was drawn up by Congress last week and passed with such a wide majority that it would likely nullify any presidential veto.

All you really need to know about him is that force was required.

Posted by orrinj at 3:28 PM


The Parochialism of American Cosmopolitanism (Samuel Moyn, September 15, 2017, LawFare)

What immediately strikes outsiders to international law as it is understood in the United States--whether foreigners on a visit or Americans who come to our debates with other expertise and training--is how critically the field is affected by its local institutions and protocols. The stereotype is that the purpose of induction into international law is to provide some cosmopolitan lingua franca, for the sake of the gentle civilization of nations by universal norms and the altruistic caste of their stewards, who represent humanity more than any country. The trouble is that the stereotype is so far from reality.

It is an unfair and unrealistic stereotype, of course. International law is a body of rules for the relation of states inter se; it is no wonder that in each place, a different understanding of universality prevails. But it is still shocking how far the common image of the field is from what American international law is actually like. Many of our debates about international law seem to be little more than local debates about how to wield our country's power, refracted into an ostensibly non-local rhetoric. This applies even to the pushback by conservatives against the "cosmopolitan duty" imposed by encroaching international law, pushback which often fails to recognize how nationalist in their outlook even our cosmopolitans usually are, wittingly or unwittingly.

None of this is necessarily a matter of intention, let alone of malice. "Someone said to Socrates," Michel de Montaigne memorably related, "that a certain man had grown no better in his travels." Socrates replied: "I should think not. He took himself along with him.'"

We are the only means of enforcement.

Posted by orrinj at 3:25 PM


The King of the Ferret Leggers (Donald Katz, Feb 1, 1983, Outside)

Mr. Reg Mellor, the "king of ferret legging," paced across his tiny Yorkshire miner's cottage as he explained the rules of the English sport that he has come to dominate rather late in life. "Ay lad," said the 72-year-old champion, "no jockstraps allowed. No underpants--nothin' whatever. And it's no good with tight trousers, mind ye. Little bah-stards have to be able to move around inside there from ankle to ankle."

Some 11 years ago I first heard of the strange pastime called ferret legging, and for a decade since then I have sought a publication possessed of sufficient intelligence and vision to allow me to travel to northern England in search of the fabled players of the game.

Basically, the contest involves the tying of a competitor's trousers at the ankles and the subsequent insertion into those trousers of a couple of peculiarly vicious fur-coated, footlong carnivores called ferrets. The brave contestant's belt is then pulled tight, and he proceeds to stand there in front of the judges as long as he can, while animals with claws like hypodermic needles and teeth like number 16 carpet tacks try their damnedest to get out.

From a dark and obscure past, the sport has made an astonishing comeback in the past 15 years. When I first heard about ferret legging, the world record stood at 40 painful seconds of "keepin' 'em down," as they say in ferret-legging circles. A few years later the dreaded one-minute mark was finally surpassed. The current record--implausible as it may seem--now stands at an awesome 5 hours and 26 minutes, a mark reached last year by the gaudily tattooed 72-year-old little Yorkshireman with the waxed military mustache who now stood two feet away from me in the middle of the room, apparently undoing his trousers.

"The ferrets must have a full mouth o' teeth," Reg Mellor said as he fiddled with his belt. "No filing of the teeth; no clipping. No dope for you or the ferrets. You must be sober, and the ferrets must be hungry--though any ferret'll eat yer eyes out even if he isn't hungry."

Posted by orrinj at 3:22 PM


America's highest-earning state probably isn't the one you would expect (Christopher Ingraham, September 1, 2017, Washington Post)

The Granite State's median household income last year was a whopping $76,260, nearly 30 percent higher than the national median of $59,039, according to the Census.

The typical New Hampshire household earned $35,000 a year more than the typical household in the country's poorest state, Mississippi, where the median income is $41,099. Put another way, the median income in Mississippi today is about as low as the median income in New Hampshire 20 years ago, in 1997 ($40,998).

One of the chief drivers of New Hampshire's high median income is its poverty rate, which is the lowest in the nation. Only 6.9 percent of the state's residents live below the poverty line, compared with a national average of 13.7 percent (in Mississippi nearly 21 percent of people live in poverty).

New Hampshire's workforce is also among the best-educated in the country, according to previously released census data. Better-educated workers tend to make more money.

Posted by orrinj at 3:08 PM


Best hope for free trade is to have principles : Britain should argue against the rules-based system of the EU and China and champion the ways of the Anglosphere (Matt Ridley, 9/11/17, The Times)

[E]xternal tariffs are pure self-harm; they are blockades against your own ports, as the economist Ryan Bourne has pointed out. We impose sanctions on pariah regimes, restricting their imports, not to help their economies but to hurt them. The entire point of producing things is to consume things (the pattern of pay shows that we work to live rather than vice versa), so punishing consumers is perverse. As Adam Smith put it, describing the European Union in advance, "in the mercantile system the interest of the consumer is almost constantly sacrificed to that of the producer".

Therefore, after Brexit, Britain should try unilateral free trade no matter what everybody else does -- and even if the United States turns more protectionist. So argues a group of 16 distinguished economists, Economists for Free Trade, the first part of whose manifesto From Project Fear to Project Prosperity is published today. They calculate that unilateral free trade would benefit the British economy to the tune of ÂŁ135 billion a year. One of them, Kevin Dowd of Durham University, has also written a powerful new pamphlet for the Institute of Economic Affairs entitled A trade policy for a Brexited Britain.

He argues that unlike in every other kind of negotiation, unilateral disarmament works with trade. Dismantling barriers to imports -- removing sanctions against your own people -- reduces the costs of the goods for consumers, reduces the costs of inputs for most producers, lowers inflation, creates employment and boosts growth.

So the best negotiating strategy is liberalise first, talk second: dare others to follow suit. 

Posted by orrinj at 1:48 PM


A positive sign from the bond market : A falling trend in defaults will make investors more optimistic (Buttonwood, Sep 15th 2017, The Economist)

The global default rate on speculative (junk) bonds has been dropping; fewer companies are going bust (see chart). 

This is the first time the default rate has dropped below 3% since October 2015 when a sudden fall in the oil price caused cashflow problems for the energy sector, particularly in the US. Moody's, a rating agency, thinks the trend will continue, with defaults falling to 2.6% by the end of the year and 2.3% in 12 months' time.

The spread (or excess interest rate) paid by speculative borrowers has dropped back after a spike in 2015. Spreads are not as low as they were in 2007 (the height of the credit boom). But given that government bond yields are very low, the total cost of borrowing in nominal terms is extremely subdued by historical standards. That has made it easier and cheaper for companies to refinance themselves, and thus makes a short-term spike in defaults less likely. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:37 AM


Posted by orrinj at 8:23 AM


As Wave Of Mysterious Bomb Threats Rattles Russia, Theories Fly  (Tom Balmforth, 9/15/17, Reuters)

Maybe it's telephone terrorism. Maybe it's a secret test of the country's civil defense. Or maybe it's a new form of cyberwarfare.

For five days, Russia has been hit by hundreds of fake bomb threats phoned in to universities, schools, hospitals, airports, and railway stations nationwide. They've forced police to evacuate tens of thousands, sowing panic and disrupting business across the country. [...]

Government and law enforcement have offered no authoritative explanations. The Kremlin -- having initially declined to comment -- on September 14 labeled it "telephone terrorism," saying only that the perpetrators were being sought.

Meanwhile, fed by an array of anonymous sources cited by pro-Kremlin media, theories and speculation have mushroomed, blaming Ukraine, Islamic State, and even radical Russian Orthodox activists as possible perpetrators.

The point being that it faces multiple threats.

Posted by orrinj at 8:20 AM


The Economy Isn't Broken (David Brooks, 9/15/17, NY Times)

In 2015, median household incomes rose by 5.2 percent. That was the fastest surge in percentage terms since the Census Bureau began keeping records in the 1960s. Women living alone saw their incomes rise by 8.7 percent. Median incomes for Hispanics rose by 6.1 percent. Immigrants' incomes, excluding naturalized citizens, jumped by over 10 percent.

The news was especially good for the poor. The share of overall income that went to the poorest fifth increased by 3 percent, while the share that went to the affluent groups did not change. In that year, the poverty rate fell by 1.2 percentage points, the steepest decline since 1999.

The numbers for 2016 have just been released by the Census Bureau, and the trends are pretty much the same. Median household income rose another 3.2 percent, after inflation, to its highest level ever. The poverty rate fell some more. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:01 AM


Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corruption Empire (Asharq Al-Awsat, 9/15/17)

Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps is being forced to shrink its sprawling business empire and some of its senior members have been arrested as part of President Hassan Rouhani's attempts to curb the elite force's role in the economy, the Financial Times reported.

In the past year, the guards, who have interests in sectors ranging from oil and gas to telecoms and construction, have had to restructure some holding companies and transfer ownership of others back to the state, a regime insider and a government official told the British daily. [...]

The crackdown, which is being conducted discreetly to avoid undermining the guards -- one of the most powerful arms of the regime -- began last year. It started after Rouhani, a pragmatist who has criticized the guards' role in the economy, told supreme leader Ali Khamenei about the vast wealth individuals affiliated to the 120,000-strong force had accumulated, the officials said.

"Rouhani has told the supreme leader that the economy has reached a deadlock because of high levels of corruption and the guards' massive control over the economy," said one regime insider, who is a relative of the supreme leader. "Other than economic concerns, Khamenei feels the need to save the guards [from corruption] and has naturally thrown his support behind the move."

Posted by orrinj at 7:36 AM


How Trump's Turning Liberals into Burkeans (BARTON SWAIM, 8/25/17, Weekly Standard)
Most conservatives find the Trump presidency highly distressing for a variety of totally valid reasons--the ideological mishmash, the dysfunction, the lack of any political principle guiding the nation's chief executive. But there is one part of the present era I can't help enjoying, and that's the way liberals so often sound like conservatives--confused and rather dim conservatives who've only just realized what's been done to their culture.

It happened about the time Donald Trump clinched the Republican primary in 2016: Suddenly liberal commentators began lamenting the destruction of time-honored conventions and generally sounding like defensive traditionalists. Trump wouldn't release his tax returns--an outrageous flouting of a decades-old tradition! He openly used profanity--a gross transgression of the time-honored customs of our politics! He was toying with the idea of living in New York instead of Washington--is nothing sacred? And at one point there was talk of doing away with the White House press briefing--what was the world coming to?

I shared all these anxieties, and still share them. But I was surprised and amused to see people on the left reveal an almost Burkean affection for habit and convention. Who knew that progressives--the very word implies a repudiation of things as they are--had such a high regard for the old ways of doing things?

Posted by orrinj at 7:17 AM


In Detroit, the end of blight is in sight (The Economist, Sep 16th 2017)

[D]etroit seems on the point of doing something remarkable: re-electing a mayor whose singular achievement has been to knock bits of the city down faster than his predecessors, and swapping racially tinged politics for a more managerial sort. Mike Duggan took office in 2014 after an unlikely write-in campaign. In August this year he won 68% of the vote in the primary, and is likely to win the election proper in November. This despite the illustrious lineage of his opponent, Coleman Young II. Mr Young's father was the city's first black mayor, ran Detroit for two decades and has his name inscribed on city hall. Mr Duggan was the city's first white mayor in 40 years. In the past four decades the city has undergone a racial transformation: from 70% white in the 1960s to just 10% now.

Mr Duggan, whose office overlooks the Detroit river (Caesars Casino in Windsor, Ontario, is visible in the distance), calls himself a "metrics nut". The mayor's cabinet meeting room is blanketed in graphs charting the city's employment, ambulance delivery and crime rates, among other statistics. "The police are going to show up in under 14 minutes; the ambulance is going to show up in under 8 minutes; the grass is going to be cut in the parks every 10 to 12 days--it just is." City employees who do not meet these targets do not last long. "It's a pretty unpleasant experience to come in the meeting and not have your numbers straightened out," he says. Cabinet members grimace in agreement.

Plenty of these numbers have improved. Police response times are down from an average of 40 minutes to 13. But the most important numbers for Detroit's future concern derelict properties. There were 40,000 such structures in 2014--ruins left over from an extreme population crunch. The sprawling metropolis, covering 139 square miles, once housed 1.8m people--three times as many as today. The city "is just too big", says David Schleicher of Yale Law School, pointing out that "all that expanse increases the expense of providing services". Urbanists suggest that the solution for such cities is "right-sizing"--shrinking them down to a size where the city can afford to provide pavements, streetlights, sewerage and so on.

There's nothing wrong with cities that making them theme parks wouldn't solve.

Posted by orrinj at 7:12 AM


Demand Moral Beauty: It Is Our Birthright (PAUL KRAUSE, 9/15/17, Crisis)

In the second book of Confessions Augustine recalls one of the more shameful and peculiar moments of his youth--the stealing of a pear from a neighbor's pear tree in the company of his friends. Augustine goes through his usual analysis as to why he engaged in the action that he did. He contemplates that he could have committed the action for some greater good, for honor, or for power, but soon realizes that he engaged in sin with the company of others to share the burden of sin and to get a thrill from the momentary action.

Augustine maintains in the Confessions, as Catholic doctrine proclaims, that happiness is the end to human existence--this is what our restless heart and soul seeks. But in reflecting upon his actions, Augustine concludes that the stealing of the pear and throwing it to the pigs "brought [him] no happiness." He is also very candid as to why it brought him no happiness: "[there was] no beauty because it was a robbery." Augustine links the beautiful with the good, and he openly cries out that he stole the pear in a moment of unrestrained and disordered desire. Augustine acted without reason which subsequently negated the beautiful. In contemplating this incident, Augustine realizes that his actions weigh on him because there was no beauty in what he had done.

Beauty is something that calls us to higher heights. As Augustine states in his commentary over Genesis 1 at the end of Confessions, it is the beauty and sublimity of the creation from God's love, wisdom, and truth that is principally to be understood as being embodied in the phrase that the "Spirit moved over the deep." Augustine poignantly stated, "But in our love of that life where all care is banished, the holiness of your Spirit raises us aloft, so that we may lift up our hearts to you, to the place where your Spirit moved over the waters." Beauty also calls us to participate with it in its splendor and brilliance.

The participation with beauty is the participation with the Logos; the participatio Trinitatis that Augustine and other Latin Fathers speak of in their writings. Augustine asserts that the Spirit that moves over the deep fills us with a sense of the sublime that calls us "to that peace which is high above all." He continues to state that through this participation "our hearts are set on an upward journey, as we sing the song of ascents." Those songs of ascent are also meant to be the hymns and chants of the Mass, a soothing and majestic invitation back to order rather than the chaotic and unorderly "melody" of songs that unleash nothing but pure desire and emotionalism--something that Roger Scruton calls "the tyranny of pop music."

Augustine instinctively knew that the call to participate with beauty is a call to participate with Logos, the Word that is Christ.

It's why the Puritan world has been uniquely immune to art trends, which is nicely illustrated by one of our favorite stories.
Posted by orrinj at 7:08 AM


New Census report refutes fears of a disappearing middle class (Daniel Griswold, 9/12/17, Mad About Trade)

What's notable is that while the share of households with a middle class income has indeed been shrinking over time, from 53.2 percent in 1967 to 42.2 percent in 2016, the households leaving the middle class have not been swelling the lower income category. In fact, the share of households with incomes less than $35,000 has also been shrinking, from 38.2 percent in 1967 to 30.2 percent in 2016. The real trend is that households have been leaving both the lower and middle income categories to join the upper income bracket, which has more than tripled as a share of households from 8.5 percent in 1967 to 27.7 percent in 2016.

Evidence is also mounting that more and more Americans understand that this is a real phenomenon and not a statistical mirage. In a recent Gallup poll, analyzed in a Labor Day weekend column by Robert Samuelson, 62 percent of Americans now identify themselves as middle class. After plunging during the Great Recession of 2008-09, that share has now topped its pre-recession peak of 60 percent.

Posted by orrinj at 7:05 AM


Trump Humiliated Jeff Sessions After Mueller Appointment (MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT and MAGGIE HABERMANSEPT. 14, 2017, NY Times)

Shortly after learning in May that a special counsel had been appointed to investigate links between his campaign associates and Russia, President Trump berated Attorney General Jeff Sessions in an Oval Office meeting and said he should resign, according to current and former administration officials and others briefed on the matter.

The president attributed the appointment of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, to Mr. Sessions's decision to recuse himself from the Justice Department's Russia investigation -- a move Mr. Trump believes was the moment his administration effectively lost control over the inquiry. Accusing Mr. Sessions of "disloyalty," Mr. Trump unleashed a string of insults on his attorney general.

Ashen and emotional, Mr. Sessions told the president he would quit and sent a resignation letter to the White House, according to four people who were told details of the meeting. Mr. Sessions would later tell associates that the demeaning way the president addressed him was the most humiliating experience in decades of public life.

Beauregard is unhumiliatable.

September 13, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 6:50 PM


Exclusive: Rice told House investigators why she unmasked senior Trump officials (Manu Raju, September 13, 2017, CNN)

The Obama administration felt misled by the United Arab Emirates, which had failed to mention that Zayed was coming to the United States even though it's customary for foreign dignitaries to notify the US government about their travels, according to several sources familiar with the matter. Rice, who served as then-President Obama's national security adviser in his second term, told the House Intelligence Committee last week that she requested the names of the Americans mentioned in the classified report be revealed internally, a practice officials in both parties say is common.

Rice's previously undisclosed revelation in a classified setting shines new light on a practice that had come under sharp criticism from the committee chairman, California Rep. Devin Nunes, and President Donald Trump, who previously accused Rice of committing a crime.

But her explanation appears to have satisfied some influential Republicans on the committee, undercutting both Nunes and Trump and raising new questions about whether any Trump associates tried to arrange back-channel discussions with the Russians.

The hilarious part of this attack has always been that the accusation by the Trumpbots--that the Obama Administration acquired damaging information about Donald and company by requesting the identity of those dealing with foreign agents--indicts the unmasked.

Posted by orrinj at 2:09 PM


The Marine Corps wants to 3D print cheaper drones : A new prototype scout drone can be printed for less than the cost of the latest iPhone (Kelsey D. Atherton, 9/13/17, Popular Science)

In three minutes, the Scout drone is assembled. One minute more, and it's airborne, tossed by a Marine. The flight is short, maybe 20 minutes at the most, but the information gained is valuable, a real-time video of just who or what, exactly, is behind that building a mile down the road. With the area surveilled, the aptly-named Scout drone flies back, and suffers a rough landing, snapping a wing. No matter. The squad can print another back at company HQ after the mission, and have it ready to go in a couple hours. [...]

[Corporal Rhet] McNeal was one of the people who submitted a proposal to last year's Marine Corps Logistics Innovation Challenge, a program designed to crowdsource ideas about 3D printing and wearable technologies. The "Make Your Corps" challenge asked entrants "With the right tools and instruction, what might a Marine make? Would these solutions improve warfighting capability, either while in garrison or forward deployed?"

For McNeal, the idea was a drone that did most of what the Raven did, but cost a fraction of the cost, and smaller form-factor that fit into flexible packs for transport. To find that idea, McNeal turned to Thingiverse, an online 3D printing commons. There, he found the Nomad design, a simple fixed-wing drone design by Alejandro Garcia. Garcia's Nomad, published under a Creative Commons license, is designed to carry a GoPro camera, a motor, and it's built from modular parts. That modular design means it's easy to reprint damaged components, and simple to collapse and reassemble when needed.

With a modified version of Garcia's design, McNeal was selected as one of the about 20 winners of the logistics challenge. In February, the Marine Corps partnered with Autodesk's Pier 9 residency program, and by the time the residency ended in June, McNeal had a new, 3D printed drone prototype, nicknamed "Scout. The end of the residency meant a prototype in hand and design files ready to send to his fellow Marines for feedback, testing, and refinement.

"The entire system is $615," says McNeal. "If a wing section breaks now instead of being $8000 it's like $8. That works out a lot better for us."

Posted by orrinj at 1:40 PM


Trump's closed-door rants on Comey and Mueller (Mike Allen, 8/13/17, Axios)

Behind the scenes in the West Wing, President Trump continues to rant and brood about former FBI Director Jim Comey and the Russia investigation that got him fired.

Trump tells aides and visitors that the probe now being run by special counsel Bob Mueller is a witch hunt, and that Comey was a leaker.

Posted by orrinj at 1:29 PM


Trump's Moscow Tower and Back-Channel Ukraine Dossier: Both Began During the Election Evidence Suggests (Ryan Goodman, September 13, 2017, Just Security)

The Ukrainian proposal has been called a "peace plan" by some, but that is a misnomer. The proposal involved unwinding Russian sanctions on favorable terms to Moscow, and the use of derogatory information against the current Ukrainian leadership. The idea was hatched by Ukrainian politician Andrii Artemenko, who told the Times that he received encouragement for his plans from Putin's top aides. Discussing the terms of the proposal, Ukraine's Ambassador to the United States, Valeriy Chaly said, "Such ideas can be pitched or pushed through only by those openly or covertly representing Russian interests." Cohen reportedly hand delivered the Ukraine dossier to then-National Security Advisor Michael Flynn in the White House in the week before Flynn's resignation. [...]

The discussions between Artemenko, Sater, and Cohen began long before January 2017, according to Artemenko. In an interview with a Ukrainian news outlet, Artemenko said that he began discussions with Cohen and Sater "at the time of the primaries, when no one believed that Trump would even be nominated." Talking Point Memo reported on this interview in February 2017 (see also Josh Marshall's assessment that the Ukrainian news outlet is a legitimate publication).

It would surely be significant for the special counsel and congressional investigations if Cohen's discussions involving the Ukraine plan began during the presidential election season. It is even more significant if, indeed, the plan came with Russian backing, as Artemenko and Ambassador Chaly both suggest. Even Cohen, in explaining the reason he met with Artemenko in January said Artemenko told him the proposal "was acknowledged by Russian authorities would create world peace."

It would also be significant that both deals involved Cohen and Slater in this time period. If the discussions on the Ukraine plan occurred during "the primaries, when no one believed that Trump would even be nominated," that would be much closer in time to the emails between Cohen and Sater on Trump Tower in Moscow. Those emails include Sater telling Cohen, "I will get Putin on this program and we will get Donald elected. ... Buddy our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it. I will get all of Putins team to buy in on this, I will manage this process."

If the Ukraine discussions began in early 2016, other parts of the timeline also become significant. Those include bringing Paul Manafort onto the campaign in March 2016, with his ties to Ukraine including his work on the behalf of  the same pro-Kremlin political groups to which Artemenko belongs. The Trump team then changed the Republican party platform on Ukraine in July 2016, which they later denied. On July 30, Trump told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos that he was open to recognizing Russia's control of Crimea.

Finally, it is worth considering why exactly the deal involving Trump Tower in Moscow discontinued.

Posted by orrinj at 8:56 AM


U.S. Household Incomes Rose to Record in 2016 as Poverty Fell (Sho Chandra and Jordan Yadoo, 9/12/17, Bloomberg)

Highlights of Income and Poverty (2016)

Median, inflation-adjusted household income increased 3.2% to $59,039 last year, from $57,230 in 2015
Median incomes for black and Hispanic households rose at more than double the rate of white households; female householders outpaced males
Poverty rate declined to 12.7% from 13.5%; represented 40.6 million Americans

Posted by orrinj at 8:22 AM


Posted by orrinj at 7:52 AM


Trump's Voter Fraud Commission Clashes Over New Hampshire Count (DARTUNORRO CLARK, 9/12/17, NBC)

At the commission's second public meeting, Kris Kobach, the panel's vice chairman and Kansas' secretary of state, defended a claim he made last week that it was "highly likely" that votes cast by nonresidents of the state influenced the result, a charge that New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner, a member of the commission, dismissed.

...than putative conservatives cheering on Beltway bureaucrats telling our secretaries of state that he knows more than they do.

Posted by orrinj at 7:40 AM


ISIS's End-of-the-World Problem : The terrorist organization's apocalyptic prophecies aren't coming true. (Joshua Keating, 9/13/17, Slate)

In a gruesome video released November 2014, showing the beheading of American aid worker Peter Kassig along with 16 Syrian soldiers, the masked militant known as "Jihadi John" says to the camera, "Here we are, burning the first American crusader in Dabiq, eagerly waiting for the remainder of your armies to arrive."

That invocation of Dabiq was significant: In ISIS's apocalyptic propaganda, the otherwise unremarkable Syrian town of Dabiq was to be the site of a showdown with "Rome," the Christian invaders of the Middle East, which was to immediately precede the conquest of Constantinople, and then the Day of Judgment. ISIS named its English-language magazine after the city, which it captured in the summer of 2014, and heavily fortified the town, despite it having little strategic value. But in October 2016, ISIS lost Dabiq after a short battle with Turkish-backed rebels. The Day of Judgment hasn't happened yet.

Just because the war was unlosable doesn't mean the UR deserves no credit for winning it.

Posted by orrinj at 7:35 AM


Republican attempt to deflect Trump-Russia probes could backfire: sources (Mark Hosenball, 9/12/17, Reuters) 

Republican lawmaker Devin Nunes' investigation into whether Obama administration officials used classified intelligence reports to discredit Donald Trump's 2016 campaign team could backfire on the congressman - and the president, sources familiar with the reports said.

The reports contain no evidence that any aides to former Democratic President Barack Obama acted improperly, the sources said, but they do indicate some Trump associates may have violated an obscure 1799 law, the Logan Act, which prohibits unauthorized U.S. citizens from negotiating with a foreign government that has a dispute with the United States.

All the Trumpies are just living down to their sordid reputations; Mr. Nunes ruined what had been a good one.

Posted by orrinj at 7:27 AM


Robert Mueller Is 'Going For The Kill' In Trump Investigation: Report (Jason Le Miere, 9/13/17, National Memo)

Republicans with close links to the White House increasingly believe that special counsel Robert Mueller is "going for the kill" in his investigation into links between President Donald Trump and Russia, according to a report from Axios Tuesday.

Members of the GOP are said to have come to that stark conclusion based on Mueller's hiring of lawyers experienced in dealing with money laundering crimes and the Mafia, as well as the intensity of his pursuit of both witnesses and evidence. [...]

Mueller's probe appears to have stepped up in recent weeks. It was reported last month that he had impaneled a federal grand jury in Washington and has issued subpoenas related to a meeting Donald Trump Jr. held with a Russian-government-linked lawyer in June 2016. Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, as well as his then-campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, were also at the meeting. Last week, Trump Jr. was interviewed behind closed doors by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Such is the scale of Mueller's investigation that legal fees for those coming under the probe's focus are mounting sharply, to the extent that outside legal defense funds could soon be necessary, Axios reports. More Trump aides are said to have lawyered up in response to a draft letter from Trump explaining his reasons for firing Comey, which was never sent and has not been published but has been obtained by Mueller. The letter was handed out to several White House officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, according to The New York Times.

Posted by orrinj at 5:41 AM


RT, Sputnik and Russia's New Theory of War (JIM RUTENBERGSEPT. 13, 2017, NY Times Magazine)

Martin Steltner showed up at his office in the state courthouse building in western Berlin. Steltner, who has served for more than a dozen years as the spokesman for the Berlin state prosecutor, resembles a detective out of classic crime fiction: crisp suit, wavy gray hair and a gallows humor that comes with having seen it all. There was the 2009 case of the therapist who mistakenly killed two patients in an Ecstasy-infused session gone wrong. The Great Poker Heist of 2010, in which masked men stormed a celebrity-studded poker tournament with machetes and made off with a quarter-million dollars. The 2012 episode involving the Canadian porn star who killed and ate his boyfriend and then sent the leftovers home in the mail. Steltner embraced the oddball aspect of his job; he kept a picture of Elvis Presley on the wall of his office.

But even Steltner found the phone calls he received that morning confounding. They came from police officers from towns far outside Berlin, who reported that protests were erupting, seemingly out of nowhere, on their streets. "They are demonstrating -- 'Save our children,' 'No attacks from immigrants on our children' and some things like that," Steltner told me when I met him in Berlin recently.

The police were calling Steltner because this was ostensibly his office's fault. The protesters were angry over the Berlin prosecutor's supposed refusal to indict three Arab migrants who, they said, raped a 13-year-old girl from Berlin's tight-knit Russian-German community.

Steltner, who would certainly have been informed if such a case had come up for prosecution, had heard nothing of it. He called the Berlin Police Department, which informed him that a 13-year-old Russian-German girl had indeed gone missing a week before. When she resurfaced a day later, she told her parents that three "Southern-looking men" -- by which she meant Arab migrants -- had yanked her off the street and taken her to a rundown apartment, where they beat and raped her.

But when the police interviewed the girl, whose name was Lisa, she changed her story. She had left home, it turned out, because she had gotten in trouble at school. Afraid of how her parents would react, she went to stay with a 19-year-old male friend. The kidnapping and gang rape, she admitted, never happened.

Continue reading the main story
By then, however, the girl's initial story was taking on a life of its own within the Russian-German community through word of mouth and Facebook -- enough so that the police felt compelled to put out a statement debunking it. Then, over the weekend, Channel One, a Russian state-controlled news station with a large following among Russian-Germans, who watch it on YouTube and its website, ran a report presenting Lisa's story as an example of the unchecked dangers Middle Eastern refugees posed to German citizens. Angela Merkel, it strongly implied, was refusing to address these threats, even as she opened German borders to hundreds of thousands of migrants. "According to Lisa's parents," the Channel One reporter said, "the police simply refuse to look for criminals."

The following day in Berlin, Germany's far-right National Democratic Party held a protest at a plaza in Marzahn, a heavily Russian neighborhood. The featured speaker was an adult cousin of Lisa's, who repeated the original allegations while standing in front of signs reading "Stop Foreign Infiltration!" and "Secure Borders!" The crowd was tiny, not much more than a dozen people. But it was big enough to attract the attention of RT, Russia's state-financed international cable network, which presents local-language newscasts in numerous countries, including Germany and the United States. A crew from the network's video service, Ruptly, arrived with a camera. The footage was on YouTube that afternoon.

That same day, Sputnik, a brash Russian-government-run news and commentary site that models itself on BuzzFeed, ran a story raising allegations of a police cover-up. Lisa's case was not isolated, Sputnik argued; other refugee rapists, it warned, might be running free. By the start of the following week, protests were breaking out in neighborhoods with large Russian-German populations, which is why the local police were calling Steltner. In multiple interviews, including with RT and Sputnik, Steltner reiterated that the girl had recanted the original story about the kidnapping and the gang rape. In one interview with the German media, he said that in the course of the investigation, authorities had found evidence that the girl had sex with a 23-year-old man months earlier, which would later lead to a sexual-abuse conviction for the man, whose sentence was suspended. But the original, unrelated and debunked story continued circulating, drawing the interest of the German mainstream media, which pointed out inconsistencies in the Russian reports. None of that stopped the protests, which culminated in a demonstration the following Saturday, Jan. 23, by 700 people outside the Chancellery, Merkel's office. Ruptly covered that, too.

An official in the Merkel government told me that the administration was completely perplexed, at first. Then, a few days later, Russia's foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, held a news conference in Moscow. Bringing up Lisa's story, he cast doubt on the official version of events. There was no way, he argued, that Lisa left home voluntarily. Germany, he suggested, was "covering up reality in a politically correct manner for the sake of domestic politics." Two days later, RT ran a segment reporting that despite all the official denials, the case was "not so simple." The Russian Embassy called Steltner and asked to meet, he told me. The German foreign ministry informed him that this was now a diplomatic issue.

The whole affair suddenly appeared a lot less mystifying. A realization took hold in the foreign ministry, the intelligence services and the Chancellery: Germany had been hit.

One of the reasons it's impossible to have a meaningful discussion with the Trumpbots and Bernie bros is because they, quite literally, operate off of their own "facts," which bear no likeness to reality.

September 12, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 6:37 PM


House Passes Amendment to Block Funding of Sessions Civil Asset Forfeiture Program (Charles Fain Lehman, September 12, 2017, Free Beacon)

The House of Representatives passed an amendment Tuesday which blocks funding of a controversial program reimplemented by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

The amendment, co-sponsored by Reps. Jamie Raskin (D., Md.), Jim Sensenbrenner (R., Wisc.), and John Conyers (D., Mich.), affects the federal government's involvement in the controversial practice known as civil asset forfeiture. Attached to a larger appropriations bill, the amendment passed on a voice vote.

Posted by orrinj at 6:36 PM


In first, U.S. defense chief to attend Mexican Independence Day events  (Reuters, 9/12/17) 

U.S. President Donald Trump's defense secretary plans this week to become the first Pentagon chief to travel to Mexico for its Independence Day activities, the Defense Department said on Tuesday, in a sign that defense ties are withstanding political tensions between the two countries.

Posted by orrinj at 3:30 PM


Will Donald Trump Destroy the Presidency? (JACK GOLDSMITH, OCTOBER 2017, The Atlantic)

We have never had a president so ill-informed about the nature of his office, so openly mendacious, so self-destructive, or so brazen in his abusive attacks on the courts, the press, Congress (including members of his own party), and even senior officials within his own administration. Trump is a Frankenstein's monster of past presidents' worst attributes: Andrew Jackson's rage; Millard Fillmore's bigotry; James Buchanan's incompetence and spite; Theodore Roosevelt's self-aggrandizement; Richard Nixon's paranoia, insecurity, and indifference to law; and Bill Clinton's lack of self-control and reflexive dishonesty. [...]


JACK GOLDSMITH is a professor at Harvard Law School and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. He is a former assistant attorney general in the George W. Bush administration.

Posted by orrinj at 3:27 PM


Russia probes pose loyalty test for Team Trump : Current and former White House aides caught up in the probe are being advised by their attorneys to tell the truth - even if that might hurt the president. (DARREN SAMUELSOHN 09/12/2017, Politico)

Lawyers representing Donald Trump's current and former aides are giving their clients one simple piece of advice: Don't lie to protect the president.

As special counsel Robert Mueller and congressional investigators prepare to question high-ranking aides -- including Hope Hicks, Reince Priebus and Sean Spicer -- in the coming weeks, Trump's long history of demanding his employees' complete loyalty is being put to the test.

But Trump stalwarts know the president is closely following the media coverage of the Russia case -- and the last thing they want is to be deemed a turncoat whose answers end up becoming further fuel for investigators.

Several of the lawyers representing current and former aides told POLITICO they're actively warning their clients that any bonds connecting them to Trump won't protect them from criminal charges if federal prosecutors can nail them for perjury, making false statements or obstruction of justice. that they need this counsel.

Posted by orrinj at 1:01 PM


Why is US Senator Ted Cruz trending for porn? (Georgina Rannard, 9/12/17, BBC News)

A US Republican senator who once defended a ban on masturbation appears to have 'liked' a pornographic video on social media.

The Twitter account of Ted Cruz, the former lawyer who ran for US president in 2016, 'liked' the two-minute video by @SexuallPosts on Monday.

No one will believe he's that interesting.
Posted by orrinj at 12:59 PM


Uninsured rate dipped to 8.8% in 2016 (Bob Herman, 9/12/17, Axios)

The number of Americans who did not have health insurance was at another all-time low last year, according to new data from the Census Bureau. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:54 PM


California moves closer to adopting a drug pricing transparency law (ED SILVERMAN, SEPTEMBER 12, 2017, STAT)

A California bill that would require drug makers to report and justify price hikes took a big step toward reality on Monday night. The state Assembly overwhelmingly passed the legislation and it now goes to the Senate for approval, which legislative sources say may occur as soon as today.

The bill, which has been vociferously fought by the pharmaceutical industry, could become one of the most comprehensive state efforts to address pricing transparency. For instance, drug makers would have to provide 60-day notice to insurers and government health plans before increasing list prices of a medicine that costs more than $40, by 16 percent in a two-year period.

Posted by orrinj at 12:51 PM


Median income in the U.S. hits new highs (Christopher Matthews, 9/12/17, axios)

The median household earned more money in 2016 than ever before, according to new Census Bureau data. The typical family earned $59,039, up 3.2% compared to 2015 and beating the previous all-time high of $58,149 from 1999.

Posted by orrinj at 12:49 PM


Trump open to Dreamers relief legislation without wall funding -aide (James Oliphant, Richard Cowan, 9/12/17, Reuters) 

U.S. President Donald Trump will not necessarily insist on including funding for a border wall with Mexico in legislation to address protections for children brought to the United States illegally, a senior aide said on Tuesday.

Posted by orrinj at 7:16 AM


Exclusive: Russia Used Facebook Events to Organize Anti-Immigrant Rallies on U.S. Soil (BEN COLLINS, KEVIN POULSEN, SPENCER ACKERMAN, 09.11.17, DAILY BEAST)

Russian operatives hiding behind false identities used Facebook's event management tool to remotely organize and promote political protests in the U.S., including an August 2016 anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim rally in Idaho, The Daily Beast has learned.

A Facebook spokesperson confirmed to the Daily Beast that the social-media giant "shut down several promoted events as part of the takedown we described last week." The company declined to elaborate, except to confirm that the events were promoted with paid ads. (This is the first time the social media giant has publicly acknowledged the existence of such events.)

The Facebook events--one of which echoed Islamophobic conspiracy theories pushed by pro-Trump media outlets--are the first indication that the Kremlin's attempts to shape America's political discourse moved beyond fake news and led unwitting Americans into specific real-life action.

Reducing immigration only serves our enemies.

Posted by orrinj at 7:13 AM


Why Sweden is close to becoming a cashless economy (Maddy Savage,12 September 2017, BBC)

Amongst the other typically Scandinavian touches - minimalist white tiles and exposed filament light bulbs - is another increasingly common sight in the Swedish capital: a "We don't accept cash" sign.

"We wanted to minimise the risk of robberies and it's quicker with the customers when they pay by card," says Victoria Nilsson, who manages two of the bakery chain's 16 stores across the city.

"It's been mainly positive reactions. We love to use our cards here in Stockholm."

Across the country, cash is now used in less than 20% of transactions in stores - half the number five years ago, according to the Riksbank, Sweden's central bank.

Coins and banknotes have been banned on buses for several years after unions raised concerns over drivers' safety.

Even tourist attractions have started to gamble on taking plastic-only payments, including Stockholm's Pop House Hotel and The Abba Museum.

Posted by orrinj at 6:32 AM


White House lawyers reportedly discussed getting Kushner booted (Times of Israel, September 12, 2017)

Although the suggestion was ultimately rejected, a group of Trump's lawyers debated the dangers of keeping the president's son-in-law and senior adviser on the team as they felt the investigations into Russian collusion could harm the president and prevent Kushner from doing his job, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday. [...]

The White House legal team in July debated the damage Kushner could potentially do to the administration after details emerged of a June 2016 meeting with a Russian-American lawyer he was invited to attend by Donald Trump Jr. and several other meetings with foreign officials which Kushner failed to disclose on the forms required for him to obtain security clearance.

Posted by orrinj at 6:31 AM


Saudi Arabia foils 'Islamic State' plot to attack defense ministry (Deutsche-Welle, 9/12/17)

Officials said they had detained two Yemeni members of the "Islamic State" (IS) jihadist group who were living in the kingdom under aliases, according to the state news agency SPA.

Posted by orrinj at 5:45 AM


Sixteen Years After 9/11, How Does Terrorism End? (Robin Wright, September 10, 2017, The New Yorker)

The current spasm of international terrorism, an age-old tactic of warfare, is often traced to a bomb mailed from New York by the anti-Castro group El Poder Cubano, or Cuban Power, that exploded in a Havana post office, on January 9, 1968. Five people were seriously injured. Since then, almost four hundred thousand people have died in terrorist attacks worldwide, on airplanes and trains, in shopping malls, schools, embassies, cinemas, apartment blocks, government offices, and businesses, according to the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism. The deadliest remains the 9/11 attack, sixteen years ago this week, which killed almost three thousand people--and in turn triggered a war that has become America's longest.

I've covered dozens of these terrorist attacks on four continents over that half century. After the Barcelona attack and the U.S. decision to send more troops to fight the Taliban, I began to wonder how terrorism ends--or how militant groups evolve. In her landmark study of more than four hundred and fifty terrorist groups, Audrey Kurth Cronin found that the average life span of an extremist movement is about eight years. Cuban Power carried out several other bombings, but, in the end, it didn't last a whole year. [...]

Fewer than five per cent of terrorist groups succeed outright, Cronin told me. Among the most notable was Irgun. The Jewish group bombed Britain's colonial offices in Palestine and diplomatic sites abroad, as well as local Arab targets. Its most famous attack was in 1946, when members, dressed as waiters, planted a bomb, concealed in milk cans, in Britain's headquarters in Jerusalem's King David Hotel; ninety-one were killed. The group was then led by Menachem Begin. Two years later, Irgun realized its goals when British troops withdrew and the state of Israel was founded. Three decades later, Begin, then the Prime Minister, shared the Nobel Peace Prize for détente with Egypt.

Another was in South Africa. In 1961, Nelson Mandela founded the armed wing of the African National Congress. Its first attack was five bombings on government facilities on the same day, in Johannesburg, Durban, and Port Elizabeth. Mandela was arrested and sentenced to life for sabotage. Decades later, as apartheid floundered, the white-minority government ceded power.

Extremist groups are more likely to succeed when objectives are limited or attainable, "such as independence, a role in government, or a piece of territory," Richard Clarke, the national coördinator on counterterrorism under the Clinton and George W. Bush Administrations, told me. "If a group can increase the pain point to the decision-makers, they will give in. That was true of many independence movements, including the American Revolution."
"Then they go straight," Clarke added. "They trade off their radicalism to become a government that is not that out of line with other governments of the world."

More common--about eighteen per cent--are terrorist movements that end up negotiating to achieve their political goals. "They are the groups that hang on the longest. Their life span as terrorists is usually twenty to twenty-five years," Cronin told me. "Usually, the talks trundle along. They often take years, and some lower level of violence continues," she said. "But they rarely fail outright." [...]

I lived in Beirut when embryonic precursors of Hezbollah launched the first suicide bombing against an American Embassy, in 1983. After the attack, the seven-story building, which was down the hill from my office, looked like a doll's house with its façade blown off. Sixty-four died, including some of my friends. Six months later, a bomber drove a Mercedes-Benz truck into the barracks of U.S. Marine peacekeepers in Lebanon. Two hundred and forty-one marines died in the largest loss of U.S. military life in a single incident since the Second World War. I still recall the roar of that bomb waking me up on a balmy October morning, and watching for weeks as the bodies of my countrymen were recovered from under tons of debris.

A decade later, Hezbollah emerged from the underground to run for Parliament, build a network of social services, and greatly expand its support base. Today it has seats in Parliament, Cabinet positions, an alliance with Lebanon's President, and the largest military force outside the army, as well as hospitals, schools, and welfare agencies. I spent several hours interviewing its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, in 2006, and his deputy, last October. Yet Hezbollah still calls for Israel's destruction. The United States considers it one of the most dangerous terrorist groups.

"Hezbollah doesn't rule Lebanon, but it controls it. The message is that terrorism pays. It is translated into power," Hoffman told me.

The similarities stand out more than the differences: successful violence works for exactly the same reason non-violence does, when the group is making universalist demands that a democratic oppressor live up to its own ideals of self-determination.  It fails when the power it opposes is inherently non-democratic--and the demands, therefore, do not resonate--and when the demands themselves are non-democratic.

September 11, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 7:39 PM


Data on Out-of-State IDs Fuels Cries of 'Fraud' in 2016 Election (CASEY MCDERMOTT ‱ SEP 7, 2017, NHPR)

[K]ansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach penned a Breitbart column pointing to the data as evidence that "a pivotal, close election [the U.S. Senate Race between Kelly Ayotte and Maggie Hassan] was likely changed through voter fraud." Kobach is co-chair of the Trump administration's Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which is meeting in New Hampshire next week and of which New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner is a member.

Gardner, in an interview Thursday evening, said he hadn't yet read Kobach's column. But, Gardner said, "I'll certainly talk to him about it next week."

When asked if he had any reason to doubt the legitimacy of last year's election outcome, Gardner replied: "No."

"That's why I want to get the facts out there," Gardner added, referring to his participation on the Trump voting commission. "Not just good facts. I want all the facts."

The report released Thursday doesn't say where the people who used out-of-state IDs and didn't follow up with in-state licenses or vehicle registrations voted.

Earlier this year, using data provided at the time by the Secretary of State's office, NHPR found that out-of-state IDs were mostly used in areas surrounding college campuses. New Hampshire law allows out-of-state college students to vote in-state, as long as they meet all other eligibility requirements.

Posted by orrinj at 7:37 PM


GM boasts "the world's first mass-producible driverless car" (Co-Exist, 9/11/17)

General Motors has unveiled the third version of its self-driving car-the first such car "that meets the redundancy and safety requirements we believe are necessary to operate without a driver," Kyle Vogt, CEO of the General Motors-owned self-driving car startup Cruise, wrote in a blog post. "There's no other car like this in existence." And, he says, it's the first car that's ready to be produced at scale once the software and regulations are in place.

Posted by orrinj at 7:11 PM


With reforms, Palestinian economy could grow 7% each year -- World Bank (SUE SURKES, September 12, 2017, Times of Israel)

The bank called on the Palestinians to strengthen its central government and pass a series of fiscal reforms including improved tax collection, increased investment in public infrastructure and vocational training, and an overhaul of business regulation.

It also said Israel should streamline procedures at border crossings, remove restrictions on Palestinians entering Area C of the West Bank, which is controlled by Israel under the 1993 Oslo Accords, and lift the blockade on Gaza.

These measures from both sides could increase the West Bank's economy by 36% and Gaza's by 40% by 2025, the report predicted.

Israel has maintained a blockade on Gaza for 10 years...

Posted by orrinj at 10:12 AM


U.N. nuclear watchdog chief says Iran playing by the rules (Reuters, 9/11/17) 

Yukiya Amano, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said Iran had not broken any promises and was not receiving special treatment.

"The nuclear-related commitments undertaken by Iran under the (deal) are being implemented," he said in the text of a speech to a quarterly meeting of the IAEA's 35-member Board of Governors.

Posted by orrinj at 10:07 AM


The Schadenfreude Phase Of The Trump Administration Is Hitting Already (Robert Tracinski, SEPTEMBER 11, 2017, The Federalist)

So Trump supporters are now in a situation where it looks like, by the end of his first year in office, there will be no wall, no mass deportations, no Obamacare repeal, no tax reform--but there will be multiple extension of the debt ceiling and a permanent legislative version of amnesty for some illegal aliens. But hey, we'll always have Neil Gorsuch!

As this possibility shapes up, Trump supporters have been caught out for having heaped invective in the past on establishment Republicans for doing the same thing Trump just did--and somehow not being able to apply the same standards to their man.

Except for Ann Coulter, who has been using Trump's preferred medium, Twitter, to push out a series of angry tweets denouncing him for selling out his supporters on their central agenda item, immigration.

The problem is that less than a year ago, Coulter published a book titled "In Trump We Trust," laying out the case for him as the one politician who would finally make good on her anti-immigration agenda. The key word there is "trust." Trump's fanatical advocates violated what I think should be the First Commandment of the Right: "Place not thy faith in politicians."

Yet these are the people who thumped their chests and mocked us for doubting Trump, declaring that we were weak and compromising and impugning our very manhoods. (Remember that these are the people who dragged the term "cuck" from its sordid corners of the Internet and brought it into the mainstream.)

So it's totally appropriate to take a few moments to gloat at the collapse of Trumpism. But let's not spend too long in this phase.

Mr. Mueller will end the phase.

Posted by orrinj at 10:04 AM


Sputnik, the Russian news agency, is under investigation by the FBI (Hunter Walker and Michael Isikoff, September 11, 2017, Yahoo News)

The FBI recently questioned a former White House correspondent for Sputnik, the Russian-government-funded news agency, as part of an investigation into whether it is acting as an undeclared propaganda arm of the Kremlin in violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).

As part of the probe, Yahoo News has learned, the bureau has obtained a thumb drive containing thousands of internal Sputnik emails and documents -- material that could potentially help prosecutors build a case that the news agency played a role in the Russian government "influence campaign" that was waged during last year's presidential election and, in the view of U.S. intelligence officials, is still ongoing. [...]

"This is incredibly significant," said Asha Rangappa, a former FBI counterintelligence agent and now an associate dean of Yale Law School, about the bureau's questioning of the former Sputnik reporter. "The FBI has since the 1970s taken pains not to be perceived in any way as infringing on First Amendment activity. But this tells me they have good information and intelligence that these organizations have been acting on behalf of the Kremlin and that there's a direct line between them and the [Russian influence operations] that are a significant threat to our democracy."

Sputnik is owned by Rossiya Segodnya, a Russian government media operation headed by Dmitri Kiselyov, a belligerent television broadcaster who is known as Putin's "personal propagandist" and has been sanctioned by the European Union in response to Russia's intervention in Ukraine. On its website, Sputnik describes itself as a "modern news agency" that "covers global political and economic news targeting an international audience."

Posted by orrinj at 10:01 AM


Freedom is acting without asking permission, Edward Snowden tells Berlin (Deutsche-Welle, 9/11/17)

He continued, "When it comes to the self, that inherent seed that makes a person a person, these things must be free from permission. You don't ask; you act. That's freedom."

No one actually believes in freedom; we believe in liberty.

Posted by orrinj at 6:40 AM


Panel Repeats N.H. Fraud Claim (David Weigel, 9/08/17, The Washington Post)

"If 59.2 percent or more of them went for (Democratic Sen. Maggie) Hassan, then the election was stolen through voter fraud," Kobach wrote in a column for Breitbart News. "That's likely, since the surrounding states are Democrat (sic) strongholds."

Kobach apparently made no attempt to contact voters who'd cast ballots but held out-of-state IDs. On Thursday night, The Washington Post asked voters who'd done so to tell their stories; three did so within 60 minutes. The three were college students who were living in New Hampshire but did not change their licenses.

Patrick Derenze, 22, said that he voted with a New York ID, and was unaware of any New Hampshire law that required voters to change their licenses after voting.

"I was a student at Saint Anselm College in Manchester until I graduated this past May, and because I spent most of my time in the state I felt it was right I vote there instead of my native state of New York," Derenze said.

Alexander Rounaghi, 19, used his California ID to vote while studying at Dartmouth College. "I lived in New Hampshire then, and I'll live there again when I'm back from summer vacation," he explained.

Jonah Cohen, 20, also was studying at Dartmouth when he used his New York ID to vote in New Hampshire's 2016 election. "I've since transferred to Columbia, so I won't be voting in New Hampshire anymore, but I haven't changed my registration yet," he explained. "I did not end up getting a New Hampshire license, but I never needed one to vote."

It's possible that thousands of other New Hampshire college students voted the same way; the ability of temporary residents to swing close elections has been controversial in the state for years, as Democrats go through the same biennial battle to drive up turnout on campuses.

"Apparently, Kobach is saying that voting should be limited to people who drive cars," said David Becker, director of the Center for Election Innovation. "He's basically saying Bill Gardner, New Hampshire's secretary of state -- his colleague -- is incompetent. And he's doing it without a basis."

Posted by orrinj at 6:33 AM


Fears mount in Florida Keys over damage, possible deaths from Hurricane Irma (DAVID OVALLE AND DAVID GOODHUE, SEPTEMBER 10, 2017, Miami Herald)

There was plenty of damage in Key West: Surge swamped streets to hip level near Mallory Square, wrecked boats near Galleon Marina and toppled ficus trees onto cars. The huge trees also smashed parts of two houses on Williams Street -- one, neighbors said, belonging to the late, great children's book author Shel Silverstein.

*(credit to Foos)

September 10, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 6:53 PM


Michelle Obama outshines all Democratic prospects for 2020 (DOUGLAS E. SCHOEN, 09/08/17, The Hill)

Let me be clear: This is not an endorsement. I have been, and still am, critical of Barack Obama's presidency. Michelle Obama would not be my candidate, and I do not agree with many of the positions I believe she would advance. But as an analyst, Michelle Obama is clearly the Democrats' best chance to reunite the party and win back the White House in 2020.

Michelle Obama is perceived as a strong, well-qualified leader with immense national popularity. Broadly, the polls show she is respected by the American people and by the near-entirety of the Democratic Party.

Although Michelle Obama has stated that she is not interested in a presidential bid, her appeal and support for her husband remain robust.

According to the January 2017 USA Today/Gallup poll, Michelle Obama left the White House with a 68 percent favorability rating, compared with 58 percent for President Obama and 61 percent for Vice President Biden. 

While it is common for first ladies to be more favored than their husbands, Michelle Obama's favorability is substantially higher than Hillary Clinton's rating of 56 percent from 2000 when she and President Clinton left the White House. 

Further, in plain terms, Michelle Obama would be a far superior candidate to Hillary Clinton. I opposed Hillary Clinton because she faced ethical issues that could very well have initiated a constitutional crisis had she been elected. Michelle Obama does not face such controversy.

If the Right seems bat-scat crazy now, wait'll 2020, when it's Michelle vs. Nikki.

Posted by orrinj at 10:27 AM


'Our Partners Have More To Lose Than We Do' : Iranian Vice President Ali Akbar Salehi says his country wants to continue adhering to its nuclear treaty, even if the United States withdraws.  (Interview Conducted By Susanne Koelbl, 9/10/17, Der Spiegel)

DER SPIEGEL: [...] Some weeks ago, Iran tested a new ballistic missile. Is this wise timing amid growing tensions?

Salehi: If the U.S. considers this an issue, then it is their problem. Nowhere in the nuclear agreement does it say that Iran does not have the right to develop its missile capacity. We are exercising our rights and it is the other side that is trying to interpret this as a provocative act. Every day for the last 38 years, we've dealt with the U.S. or other countries issuing different accusations against Iran. One day we are not "democratic enough," the next day it is about "human rights" or "false elections.

DER SPIEGEL: Isn't there some truth in that?

Salehi: There are countries in the region which have no elections at all, nor basic rights for their citizens -- where, for example, women can't even drive. But because they are in the political orbit of the West, especially the U.S., they are being left alone.

DER SPIEGEL: How does Tehran view the U.S. president's close cooperation with Saudi Arabia?

Salehi: From what I have gathered, the U.S. is in a state of confusion. Even the European allies of the U.S. do not know which strategy President Trump is pursuing. This confusion is not directed against us alone, but it has negatively impacted the U.S. administration's governance and its allies in the region. For example, recently Qatar.

DER SPIEGEL: Although the emirate is home to the U.S.'s most-important military base in the Persian Gulf, Donald Trump allowed a Saudi Arabia-led group of states to isolate Qatar.

Salehi: Suddenly you wake up and you find out that Qatar has been cut off from the military alliance of the Gulf States, the Gulf Cooperation Council. I really can't say that Qatar was a friend. In the case of Syria and in other regional conflicts it has always been on the other side. But now we are providing them with access to airspace, access to the sea and roads, because we are their only outlet. True political practice requires wisdom and a rational approach. That is why we are making these concessions to Qatar.

DER SPIEGEL: This could make Saudi Arabia's leaders even more furious. They already see themselves as surrounded by Iran.

Salehi: I lived in Saudi Arabia for four years, I know many of their officials. We always had our different views, but also enjoyed a relatively good relationship in different domains, such as economics, trade and tourism -- visitors from Iran going to Saudi Arabia and vice versa. The Iranians do not have any designs on the land or the wealth of others. We have our own ample gas and oil, and vast land.

Our allies aren't going to stop trading with Iran, so we can only hurt our own businesses.
Posted by orrinj at 9:23 AM


Why Angela Merkel deserves to win Germany's election : And why she must become bolder in her (almost inevitable) fourth term (The Economist, Sep 9th 2017)

TO HER many fans, Angela Merkel is the hero who stands up to Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, and who generously opened her country to refugees. [...]

Yet, for all this, Mrs Merkel has often governed on the "easy" setting, especially in her policies at home. She has enjoyed a host of advantages. Mr Schröder's reforms made German workers competitive. The euro, raw materials and borrowing have all been cheap for much of her chancellorship, too. Emerging economies such as China cannot yet make the things Germany does (like luxury cars), so they import them. Germany has the second-oldest population in the world, but its baby-boomer bulge is largely still of working age. The country has been living through a golden age.

The trouble is that none of the factors that brought this about is permanent. Mrs Merkel had a chance to prepare the country for the future. She has squandered it. Her government's obsession with balanced books has led it to invest too little. The net value of German infrastructure has fallen since 2012. Since 2010 the country's broadband speed has fallen from 12th to 29th in the world. New industries like the internet of things and electric cars are underdeveloped. The mighty German automotive industry took a bad gamble on diesel engines, and is now mired in allegations of faked emissions tests.

Little has been done to prepare Germany for its demographic crunch. Mrs Merkel's outgoing government not only reversed a raise in the retirement age, but cut it to 63 for some workers and introduced a "mothers' pension" for women who took time off to care for children before 1992, benefiting a generation that was already well-catered for. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:57 AM


Posted by orrinj at 8:47 AM


Alexander Hamilton, "Account of a Hurricane" : Alexander Hamilton (1757-1804) From The Essential Hamilton: Letters & Other Writings (Library of America)

"View in Antigua: Effects produced upon the House at Clark's Hill by the Hurricane in 1772," watercolor and body color over pen and ink on laid paper by English artist Thomas Hearne (1744-1817).
245 years ago a devastating hurricane barreled through the Caribbean, making its first landfall in the same group of islands menaced today by Hurricane Irma. The storm is so widely associated with our first Secretary of the Treasury that the meteorologist and hurricane historian Wayne Neely refers to it simply as the "Alexander Hamilton hurricane of 1772."

Seventeen years old and a native of Saint Croix, Hamilton experienced the awesome power of the tempest firsthand--and the course of his life was dramatically changed by the letter he sent afterward to his father (a ne'er-do-well who had abandoned the family years earlier). Hugh Knox, a local minister, was impressed by the letter and its theological underpinnings--which were inspired, not coincidentally, by a sermon delivered by Knox himself. In addition to being a Presbyterian minister, Knox worked for the local newspaper and decided to publish the letter, which brought the young man to the attention of a wider public for the first time. Local businessmen took up a collection to send Hamilton to Boston to further his education--and the rest, as we all know, is a musical.

Posted by orrinj at 8:40 AM


Freud the Egotistical Fraud? : a review of Freud: The Making of an Illusion (Matthew Hutson, 9/10/17, The Washington Post)

Freud's life has been digested and redigested for decades, but Crews, an English professor and former psychoanalysis advocate, takes on this period because, he says, it's been overlooked except by proselytizing partisans who distort the record. Plus, the complete set of Freud's letters from this period to his fiance, Martha Bernays, has recently been released.

The driving force of the narrative is Freud's yearning to become famous -- for anything. In school, he was keenest on philosophy and entered medicine not out of interest or aptitude but for a living. His first stab at notoriety came with a useless cell-staining method he overhyped in scientific papers Crews describes as "crass propaganda."

Next he turned to cocaine, which he expounded as a cure-all (and habitually injected). Freud tried to treat his friend's morphine addiction with cocaine, rendering him doubly addicted, then fraudulently championed the fiasco as a string of successes with multiple patients. He even sold fake data to a cocaine manufacturer and pseudonymously published an academic article praising his own work.

Freud's engagement with psychotherapy began in 1885 on an extended visit to a Parisian hospital. There he witnessed the treatment of "hysteria," a grab bag of physical and psychological symptoms thought to be psychogenic -- and distinctly feminine -- and he took note of hypnosis as a method of inquiry. Essentially, the staff would knowingly or unknowingly induce women to act out, and punish them if they didn't, using sedatives or clitoral cauterization. Apparently, Freud liked what he saw. He returned to Vienna and opened up shop.

Far from a passive listener, he insisted that patients had been sexually abused as children, and if they failed to recall anything, he would describe the episodes in detail. Many patients went away fuming -- or laughing.

Freud's claims skirted falsifiability, the quality of being testable, a bedrock of the scientific method. Resistance to his lurid suggestions, he argued, meant only that he was onto something: Heads I win, tails you really do want to fellate your father. He also conspired to excommunicate any analyst from the movement who dared to subject his ideas to critical scrutiny. As Freud wrote to a close colleague, he was only "fantasizing, interpreting, and guessing" toward "bold but beautiful revelations." He claimed: "I am actually not at all a man of science, not an observer, not an experimenter, not a thinker. I am by temperament nothing but a conquistador."

As a result, he made claims about humanity based not on the evidence his patients presented but on hunches about his own hang-ups.

...was that Marxism, Darwinism and Freudianism were all, necessarily, unfalsifiable theories that flattered their propounders.

Posted by orrinj at 8:38 AM


Domino's Tries Delivering Pizza Without a Driver (Brent Snavely, 9/10/17, Detroit Free Press)

Soon, the pizza you order from Domino's might show up in a Ford Fusion hybrid without a driver. [...]

"We are delivery experts; this is where the industry is going," said Russell Weiner, president of Domino's USA. "We think we are the right company, and we certainly are working with the right partner to make this happen."

While the idea will require the customer to do a little extra work, people have adapted in the past to self-service gas and self-checkout at grocery stores. Plus, the pizza won't cost more, and no tip will be required.

Posted by orrinj at 8:35 AM


Rush Limbaugh Evacuates Palm Beach Ahead of 'Fake News' Irma (Callum Borchers, 9/10/17, The Washington Post)

Rush Limbaugh recently claimed that the media is manufacturing unwarranted panic about Hurricane Irma as part of a plot to hype climate change, boost ratings and increase advertising revenue from businesses that stand to make money off purchases of batteries and bottled water. [...]

Limbaugh said something else on Thursday: He indicated he is evacuating his Palm Beach mansion, from which he broadcasts daily, for "parts unknown."

"May as well go ahead and announce this," he said. "I'm not going to get into details because of the security nature of things, but it turns out that we will not be able to do the program here tomorrow.

Posted by orrinj at 8:25 AM


Financial Globalization 2.0 (HANS-HELMUT KOTZ ,  SUSAN LUND, 9/05/17, Project Syndicate)

As the financial crisis evolved, private-sector involvement - through "haircuts" and "bailing in" - became a threatening option. From a risk perspective, domestic markets - where banks had the advantage of scale and market knowledge - became comparatively more attractive. In Germany, for example, the ratio of foreign to total assets at the three largest banks flipped, from 65% in 2007 to 33% in 2016. This was not simply a matter of shrinking the overall balance sheet; domestic assets grew by 70% during the same period.

What has emerged in the eurozone and beyond is a potentially more stable financial system, at least where banking is concerned. Banks have been required to rebuild their capital, and new rules on liquidity have reduced leverage and vulnerability. Stress testing and resolution preparedness - the sector's so-called living wills - have created significant disincentives to complexity. All of this has made foreign operations less attractive as well.

A more diverse mix of cross-border capital flows also indicates greater stability. While total annual flows of cross-border lending have fallen by two thirds, foreign direct investment has held up better. FDI is by far the most stable type of capital flow, reflecting long-term strategic decisions by companies. Equity-related positions (FDI plus portfolio investments) now account for 69% of cross-border capital flows, up from 36% in 2007.

One final measure of stability is that global imbalances, including aggregate capital- and financial-account balances, are shrinking. In 2016, these imbalances had fallen to 1.7% of global GDP, from 2.5% in 2007. Moreover, the remaining deficits and surpluses are spread over a larger number of countries than before the crisis. In 2005, the US absorbed 67% of global net capital flows. By 2016, that share had fallen by half. China, meanwhile, accounted for 16% of the world's net capital surplus in 2005; last year it was only 1%. And, with only a few exceptions, like Germany and the Netherlands, imbalances have also declined within the eurozone. Today, developing countries have become capital importers once more.

Posted by orrinj at 8:17 AM


Germany praises Iran nuke deal as model for North Korea talks (AFP, September 10, 2017)

Talks between Iran and six world powers, sealed with a 2015 deal for Tehran to roll back its nuclear program and submit to inspections in exchange for some sanctions being rolled back, were "a long but important period of diplomacy" that had achieved a "good end," she added.

"I could imagine such a format for the settlement of the North Korea conflict. Europe and especially Germany ought to be ready to make a very active contribution," Merkel said.

Such a deal ought to include elections.

Posted by orrinj at 8:12 AM


The Arab Autocracy Trap (SHLOMO BEN-AMI, 9/-8/17, Project Syndicate)

Egypt offers a classic example of how revolution often ends in betrayal. President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi's dictatorship is even more violent than that of Hosni Mubarak, the strongman whose 30-year rule was ended by the 2011 uprising. With the help of a police force that he himself describes as a "million-man mafia," Sisi has made repression the paramount organizing principle of his regime.

It would be a Herculean feat for anyone to reform Egypt's economy so that it benefits the country's 95 million people (plus the two million added every year). And it is a task that Egypt's leaders cannot avoid, because the social contract of the Mubarak years, whereby Egyptians traded freedom for an expansive welfare state and generous subsidies, is no longer sustainable.

With youth unemployment at 40%, only a bold reformist president could pull Egypt back from the brink of economic disaster. Sadly, rather than providing hope to the younger generation of Egyptians who protested in Tahrir Square six years ago, Sisi has stifled individual initiative and made the army the primary actor in the economy.

Perhaps fearing even greater social unrest, Sisi has yet to meet the conditions set last November by the International Monetary Fund as part of a $12 billion bailout. These include drastically reducing the wage bill for Egypt's bloated public sector, which still employs six million people (not counting the army and police); and reducing subsidies, which still constitute 30% of the national budget.

Moreover, Sisi has offered even fewer institutional channels for political expression than existed under the Mubarak-era one-party system. According to the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights, there were five times more street protests in Egypt in 2016 than there were, on average, in the years preceding the Arab Spring. A social volcano is forming; sooner or later, it will have to erupt.

In Saudi Arabia, the monarchical-theocratic regime weathered the Arab Spring with relative ease, because it could lavish its citizens with largesse. But the kingdom's social contract, like Egypt's, has become unsustainable, owing to falling oil prices and a population that has grown by more than 25% in the last decade alone.

Earlier this year, the Saudi government was forced to cut public-sector salaries and subsidies on basic goods. This represents a major risk for the regime (indeed, the salary cuts were quickly restored, after protests were called in four cities), not least because the state is the largest employer of Saudi citizens.

Many of the region's autocrats have put their faith in the "China model" of non-democratic development. But that model has clearly failed them. It requires far too much socioeconomic and political regimentation to be workable under prevailing conditions in the Arab world.

September 9, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 7:07 PM


Betsy DeVos's remarks on campus sex assault were right on target (Editorial Board, September 8, 2017, Washington Post)

Being held accountable -- with the threat of a loss of money -- forced colleges and universities to finally confront the problem of sexual assault and other misconduct. They were obliged to investigate, rather than cover up, complaints and to offer protections to victims of sexual abuse. At the same time, legitimate questions have been raised about whether there was an overreach by the Obama administration in its prescriptions that resulted in imbalances and injustices. Ms. DeVos, while crediting the Obama administration for bringing the issue of campus sexual assaults "into the light of day," blasted the current system as failing both victims and the accused and being too onerous for administrators.

Advocates for survivors of sexual violence seized on her criticism -- in particular her concern about the need for due process for the accused -- as a betrayal that backtracks on protections for victims. But Ms. DeVos was unequivocal in stating that there must be no tolerance for sexual misconduct and that universities and colleges have a responsibility to combat it.

She is not alone in seeing some problems with how the guidelines have been implemented, as she illustrated with stories from students -- both survivors and those accused -- about how the system failed them. In a detailed examination, the Atlantic's Emily Yoffe argued that many remedies pushed on campuses "are unjust to men, infantilize women, and ultimately undermine the legitimacy of the fight against sexual violence." Groups such as the American Association of University Professors and the American College of Trial Lawyers have called for changes in the standard of proof used in campus disciplinary proceedings. Professors in the law schools at Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania and other institutions wrote an open letter about their concern over the absence of due process.

Posted by orrinj at 7:02 PM


Key Obamacare Architect Who Shunned Single-Payer Now Backs It : Max Baucus' comments show how far the debate has shifted. (Daniel Marans, 0/08/17, Huffington Post)

Former Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), a fiscal moderate who, as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, presided over the passage of the Affordable Care Act, expressed his support on Thursday for the creation of a single-payer health care system.

"My personal view is we've got to start looking at single-payer," Baucus said in remarks at Montana State University, according to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. "I think we should have hearings... We're getting there. It's going to happen."

Single-payer health care, in which the federal government insures all citizens through one large program, is a model for universal coverage in many developed countries, including Canada, France and Australia. But it has long been viewed as a pipe dream in the United States, where a plurality of people receive coverage from their employers.

Baucus' endorsement of the idea speaks to just how dramatically the health policy debate has shifted within the Democratic Party in recent years ― particularly since the 2016 presidential run of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who made what he called "Medicare for all" a central issue of his campaign. [...]

Obamacare itself relies on a hybrid model, once favored by conservative policy experts, that combines the creation of a new private, individual insurance marketplace and an expansion of Medicaid.

The electorate of every developed democracy considers health care a right, so it is one.  All GOP derangement has done is make the less desirable option for providing it more likely.

Posted by orrinj at 7:00 PM


How Previously Accepted Peanut-Allergy Wisdom Is Being Upended (Brian Freedman , 9/07/17, Forbes)

The statement, attributed to FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., notes that, "As the science governing allergies and diets continues to evolve, so do expert recommendations around how best to safely introduce babies and children to various foods."

He goes to note that, "the prevalence of peanut allergy has more than doubled in children from 1997 to 2008 alone. Today, about two percent of American children are allergic to peanuts." As a consequence of this, he says, "doctors began advising parents not to introduce peanut-containing foods to children under the age of three who were at high risk for peanut allergy."

Turns out that was the wrong advice.

At the end of the statement, Gottlieb announces that, "Recognizing the importance of science-based food decisions, the FDA has responded to a petition for a new qualified health claim that states 'for most infants with severe eczema and/or egg allergy who are already eating solid foods, introducing foods containing ground peanuts between 4 and 10 months of age and continuing consumption may reduce the risk of developing peanut allergy by 5 years of age.'" 

Posted by orrinj at 6:48 PM



There's a simple explanation for how the American far-right became curiously infatuated with the Arab totalitarian leader: Their hearts were won over by the Assad family's years-old propaganda campaign at home in Syria. Assad's authoritarianism uses the same buzzwords as the far-right to describe the society he's trying to build in his own country -- a pure, monolithic society of devotees to his own power. American neo-Nazis see Assad as a hero.

As the chaos of Charlottesville and its aftermath was unfolding, Assad addressed a group of diplomats in Damascus about the ongoing war in Syria. "We lost many of our youth and infrastructure," he said, "but we gained a healthier and more homogenous society."

Whereas white nationalists aim to create a healthy and homogeneous society through racial purity, for Assad it means a society free of any kind of political dissent, excluding any Syrian living outside the territory his regime controls. Anyone who does not fit Assad's specific definition of what it means to be Syrian is up for execution.

Alexander Reid Ross, a lecturer of geography at Portland State University and author of the new book, "Against the Fascist Creep," said Assad is a figure that is central to a realization of "Eurasianism." The notion "holds that Russia will lead the world out of a dark age of materialism and toward an ultranationalist rebirth of homogenous ethno-states federated under a heterogeneous spiritual empire," Reid Ross said.

In other words, the Assad dynasty, with the strong backing of Vladimir Putin's authoritarian state in Russia, is the Middle East's leading force toward creating a society that is spiritually, socially, and politically "pure." Cosmopolitanism, with diversity in political thought and social identity, is an obstacle for those aiming to realize this vision.

Posted by orrinj at 6:45 PM


Expect Special Counsel Mueller to Follow the Money (John McKay  Friday, September 8, 2017, lAWfARE)

I oversaw many cases in which a suspect's personal finances were often intimately linked to whatever wrongdoing that person had engaged in. The finances either created a motive (naked greed, for example), contained evidence or fruits of the illegal scheme itself, or provided evidence of how the scheme was concealed. For example, in one conspiracy case prosecuted by my office, we established the complicity of Russian hackers by examining related financial crimes and connecting complex schemes involving the transfer of funds to the conspirators. Similar evidence of financial transactions can establish overt acts proving the conspiracy or can connect the alleged conspirator with the crime, whether or not the crime itself is financial in nature. In fact, ignoring such evidence would severely hamstring most federal criminal investigations.

It is hard to imagine how payments by foreign governments, including Russia, would not be central to Mueller's investigation, given what is already known. To start, Donald Trump, Jr. admitted at a real estate conference in 2008 that "Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets; say in Dubai, and certainly with our project in SoHo and anywhere in New York. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia." As Reuters reported in March, wealthy Russians invested nearly $100 million in revenue to several of Trump's properties in Florida and New York in recent years. And beyond Russian money flowing to Trump properties in the United States, Donald Trump had tried to develop properties in Russia since the 1980s. In 2007 he declared, "We will be in Moscow at some point," and in 2013 his hosting of the Miss Universe pageant in Russia was financed by Aras Agalarov, an oligarch who is close to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Agalarov later worked with Trump on plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, though the deal fell apart. Late last month, the Washington Post reported on emails that revealed that Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, played a role in that deal, working to connect the Trump Organization with a spokesperson for Putin to help finalize it. Agalarov's son also reportedly sought to arrange the now-infamous meeting between Trump Jr. and the Kremlin-connected lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.

These financial relationships are relevant to the Russia investigation because they may speak to Trump or his associates' motive or opportunity to collude, or else provide evidence of collusion. Recently these facts were recounted as part of a civil lawsuit filed against the Trump campaign by three voters whose private information was exposed to the world as part of the Russians' hack of the Democratic National Committee. Discovery will likely be allowed in that case. Surely the special counsel must look into these issues as well.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein granted Mueller a broad mandate to probe financial records when he authorized an investigation into "any links ... between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump" (emphasis added). There is ample reason for Mueller to believe based simply on information in the public sphere that there are financial links between Trump and Russians close to the Russian government. The only way he would be able to tell if any of these financial links connect Trump to the Russian government for purposes of influence operations is to investigate them.

Given that investigating Trump's finances is within Mueller's mandate, the president's warning that Mueller not look at Trump family finances beyond any relationship to Russia is highly inappropriate. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:42 PM


Five suspected al Qaeda militants killed in Yemen drone strikes (Reuters, 9/09/17) 

Five suspected al Qaeda militants were killed in drone strikes on two villages in Yemen's al Baida governorate on Saturday, a local official and residents said.

Posted by orrinj at 6:37 PM


Taking Risks to Move the Culture Forward { An interview with Claire Lehmann, founder of an online magazine for free thought (Clay Routledge Ph.D., 9/07/17, Psychology Today)

What inspired you to create Quillette?

It's hard to pinpoint exactly. I think there was a confluence of factors. I had been writing a few columns for the local Sydney newspaper The Sydney Morning Herald, and I was very aware that I couldn't write anything that was too academic or scholarly, and I also couldn't write anything that was too politically incorrect. It felt very constrained.

I was also pursuing graduate studies at the time in forensic psychology and was becoming increasingly cynical about the university system. I was reading Peter Thiel, and was struck by his iconoclastic views on education; in particular his claim that the higher education system is like the Vatican on the eve of the reformation. So in mid-to-late 2015, I wrote an article for the Herald about universities in Australia being a road to nowhere, dropped out of my course, and two weeks later started Quillette. [...]

Quillette has received high praise from some very influential scholars and public intellectuals. This is impressive considering that there is a dizzying number of online magazines, podcasts, blogs, and vlogs focused on politics, science, and social life. What do you think you are uniquely tapping into that has captured the attention of influential thinkers?

Yes, it's been very humbling to have such support. I think that we are simply offering up an alternative to the blank slate view of human nature that appears to be dominant within the media ecosystem.

The blank slate view, which is the idea that who we are is entirely or predominantly the product of culture and socialization, is very common in left-leaning media. And left-leaning media also happens to provide most of today's science journalism. It's kind of ironic, because the convergent evidence coming out of evolutionary psychology, biology, behavioural genetics and neuroscience that falsifies this blank slate view is simply incontrovertible at this point, but most of the media, and even the popular science media keep clinging to it. At times it's just embarrassing.

Another factor is that although conservative or libertarian magazines are less wedded to blank slate dogmas, they nevertheless do not give a lot of space to science journalism. So there is a gap in the market for data driven, scientifically literate commentary that does not conform to an outdated view of human nature. Quillette has just run with this.

Posted by orrinj at 6:30 PM


Opposition leaders slam Yair Netanyahu over allegedly anti-Semitic cartoon : After David Duke tweets about story, Labor's Avi Gabbay condemns PM's son for posting a caricature 'the head of the KKK agrees with' (TOI STAFF, September 9, 2017, Times of Israel)

Opposition lawmakers on Saturday strongly criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's son for posting a cartoon over the weekend that appears to have anti-Semitic origins and has circulated on anti-Semitic websites.

The cartoon, posted Friday on Yair Netanyahu's private Facebook profile, features references to Jewish billionaire and philanthropist George Soros, the Illuminati and some sort of lizard creature. [...]

Responding to the younger Netanyahu's posting of the cartoon, which former Ku Klux Klan head David Duke shared an article about on his Twitter account, Labor party chief Avi Gabbay said it was a "sad day" when the prime minister's son shares a cartoon the leader of the KKK would agree with.

Soros's advocacy of democracy places him beyond the Pale.

Posted by orrinj at 11:48 AM


Why are Republicans working to bail out ObamaCare and raise taxes? (Ned Ryun, September 08, 2017 Fox News)

In the wake of their faux attempt to repeal ObamaCare, many Establishment Republicans have embraced ObamaCare's so-called cost-sharing subsidies. Commonly known as CRSs, these subsidies are payments the federal government makes to insurers to help offset the high costs of ObamaCare customers.

It's clear Republicans were never serious about ObamaCare repeal and now they are in fact actively working to support some of the very worst parts of ObamaCare.

Just a few years ago, House Republicans actually sued the Obama administration over CSRs, arguing, correctly, that the payments were unconstitutional because they had never been authorized by Congress. Permanent authorization of CSRs is now the top health care priority for Congressional Democrats.

Let's be honest about what these "CSRs" are. These are taxpayer-funded payments that go directly from the federal government to insurance companies that sell ObamaCare policies. You can call them whatever you like; corporate welfare, crony capitalism, but these are unconstitutional bailouts specifically designed to prop up ObamaCare and mask its true cost.

But wait: it gets worse. Much worse. Not only are Establishment Republicans poised to bail out ObamaCare, they are simultaneously going to allow the return of two suspended ObamaCare taxes. In other words, they are going to let taxes go up on their watch.

The device tax should be stiffer.

Posted by orrinj at 9:43 AM


The First White President (TA-NEHISI COATES,  OCTOBER 2017, The Atlantic)

His political career began in advocacy of birtherism, that modern recasting of the old American precept that black people are not fit to be citizens of the country they built. But long before birtherism, Trump had made his worldview clear. He fought to keep blacks out of his buildings, according to the U.S. government; called for the death penalty for the eventually exonerated Central Park Five; and railed against "lazy" black employees. "Black guys counting my money! I hate it," Trump was once quoted as saying. "The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day." After his cabal of conspiracy theorists forced Barack Obama to present his birth certificate, Trump demanded the president's college grades (offering $5 million in exchange for them), insisting that Obama was not intelligent enough to have gone to an Ivy League school, and that his acclaimed memoir, Dreams From My Father, had been ghostwritten by a white man, Bill Ayers.

It is often said that Trump has no real ideology, which is not true--his ideology is white supremacy, in all its truculent and sanctimonious power. Trump inaugurated his campaign by casting himself as the defender of white maidenhood against Mexican "rapists," only to be later alleged by multiple accusers, and by his own proud words, to be a sexual violator himself. White supremacy has always had a perverse sexual tint. Trump's rise was shepherded by Steve Bannon, a man who mocks his white male critics as "cucks." The word, derived from cuckold, is specifically meant to debase by fear and fantasy--the target is so weak that he would submit to the humiliation of having his white wife lie with black men. That the slur cuck casts white men as victims aligns with the dicta of whiteness, which seek to alchemize one's profligate sins into virtue. So it was with Virginia slaveholders claiming that Britain sought to make slaves of them. So it was with marauding Klansmen organized against alleged rapes and other outrages. So it was with a candidate who called for a foreign power to hack his opponent's email and who now, as president, is claiming to be the victim of "the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history."

In Trump, white supremacists see one of their own. Only grudgingly did Trump denounce the Ku Klux Klan and David Duke, one of its former grand wizards--and after the clashes between white supremacists and counterprotesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August, Duke in turn praised Trump's contentious claim that "both sides" were responsible for the violence.

To Trump, whiteness is neither notional nor symbolic but is the very core of his power. In this, Trump is not singular. But whereas his forebears carried whiteness like an ancestral talisman, Trump cracked the glowing amulet open, releasing its eldritch energies. The repercussions are striking: Trump is the first president to have served in no public capacity before ascending to his perch. But more telling, Trump is also the first president to have publicly affirmed that his daughter is a "piece of ass." The mind seizes trying to imagine a black man extolling the virtues of sexual assault on tape ("When you're a star, they let you do it"), fending off multiple accusations of such assaults, immersed in multiple lawsuits for allegedly fraudulent business dealings, exhorting his followers to violence, and then strolling into the White House. But that is the point of white supremacy--to ensure that that which all others achieve with maximal effort, white people (particularly white men) achieve with minimal qualification. Barack Obama delivered to black people the hoary message that if they work twice as hard as white people, anything is possible. But Trump's counter is persuasive: Work half as hard as black people, and even more is possible.

For Trump, it almost seems that the fact of Obama, the fact of a black president, insulted him personally.

For Hoffer's hero is 'the autonomous man,' the content man at peace with himself, engaged in the present.  In Hoffer's book, this hero, nourished by free societies, is set off against 'the true believer,'  who begins as a frustrated man driven by guilt, failure and self-disgust to bury his own identity in a  cause oriented to some future goal. 
            -Editor's Preface to the Time-Life Books edition of The True Believer

Posted by orrinj at 6:30 AM


24.8 Million Americans Are Enrolled in High-Deductible Insurance Plans (Ali Meyer, September 9, 2017, Daily Beacon)

There are 24.8 million Americans who are enrolled in a high-deductible health care plan through their employer, according to data from researchers at the University of Minnesota.

According to the IRS, a high-deductible health plan is one that has a minimum deductible of $1,300 for an individual and $2,600 for a family. [...]

"High-deductible health plans are increasingly becoming the norm in commercial insurance, and there is every reason to expect this trend to continue," said Katherine Hempstead, senior advisor at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. "Deductibles rose considerably faster than premiums, and the share of health care spending made directly by consumers will continue to grow."

Now to get that to 300 million Americans...

Posted by orrinj at 6:28 AM


U.S.-backed SDF launches operation in Syria's Deir al-Zor: statement (John Davison, 9/09/17, Reuters) 

U.S.-backed Syrian militias have launched an operation against Islamic State in the north of Deir al-Zor province, a statement said on Saturday.

Assaults would aim to drive the jihadist militants out of areas they hold north and east of the Euphrates river, close to the Iraqi border, said the statement from the Deir al-Zor Military Council, which is fighting as part of the Syrian Democratic Forces alliance (SDF).

September 8, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 8:16 PM


Russia claims 'Islamic State' group leaders killed in Syria airstrike  (Deutsche-Welle, 9/08/17)

Russia's Ministry of Defense said on Friday four prominent leaders of the so-called "Islamic State" (IS) group have been killed in an airstrike outside the city of Deir el-Zour in eastern Syria.

Posted by orrinj at 7:15 PM


Mueller gives White House names of 6 aides he expects to question in Russia probe (Carol D. Leonnig, Rosalind S. Helderman and Ashley Parker September 8, 2017, Washington Post)

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has alerted the White House that his team will probably seek to interview six top current and former advisers to President Trump who were witnesses to several episodes relevant to the investigation of Russia's meddling in the 2016 election, according to people familiar with the request.

Mueller's interest in the aides, including trusted adviser Hope Hicks, former press secretary Sean Spicer and former chief of staff Reince Priebus, reflects how the probe that has dogged Trump's presidency is starting to penetrate a closer circle of aides around the president.

Each of the six advisers was privy to important internal discussions that have drawn the interest of Mueller's investigators, including his decision in May to fire FBI Director James B. Comey and the White House's initial inaction following warnings that then-national security adviser Michael Flynn had withheld information from the public about his private discussions in December with Russia's ambassador to the United States, according to people familiar with the probe.

Posted by orrinj at 3:38 PM


Braves apologize for playing 'Rock You Like a Hurricane' during series against Marlins (Ted Berg, September 8, 2017,

The Atlanta Braves have been known to playfully troll opposing players and teams with music choices at their home stadium, but an innocent mistake in Thursday's game against the Miami Marlins crossed the line: With Hurricane Irma bearing down on South Florida, the SunTrust Park P.A. system played the Scorpions' horrible 1984 anthem Rock You Like a Hurricane between innings.

September 7, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 9:19 PM


The Fake Americans Russia Created to Influence the Election (SCOTT SHANE, SEPT. 7, 2017, NY Times)

Sometimes an international offensive begins with a few shots that draw little notice. So it was last year when Melvin Redick of Harrisburg, Pa., a friendly-looking American with a backward baseball cap and a young daughter, posted on Facebook a link to a brand-new website.

"These guys show hidden truth about Hillary Clinton, George Soros and other leaders of the US," he wrote on June 8, 2016. "Visit #DCLeaks website. It's really interesting!"

Mr. Redick turned out to be a remarkably elusive character. No Melvin Redick appears in Pennsylvania records, and his photos seem to be borrowed from an unsuspecting Brazilian. But this fictional concoction has earned a small spot in history: The Redick posts that morning were among the first public signs of an unprecedented foreign intervention in American democracy.

A Facebook post, by someone claiming to be Melvin Redick, promoting a website linked to the Russian military intelligence agency G.R.U. Credit The New York Times
The DCLeaks site had gone live a few days earlier, posting the first samples of material, stolen from prominent Americans by Russian hackers, that would reverberate through the presidential election campaign and into the Trump presidency. The site's phony promoters were in the vanguard of a cyberarmy of counterfeit Facebook and Twitter accounts, a legion of Russian-controlled impostors whose operations are still being unraveled.

The Russian information attack on the election did not stop with the hacking and leaking of Democratic emails or the fire hose of stories, true, false and in between, that battered Mrs. Clinton on Russian outlets like RT and Sputnik. Far less splashy, and far more difficult to trace, was Russia's experimentation on Facebook and Twitter, the American companies that essentially invented the tools of social media and, in this case, did not stop them from being turned into engines of deception and propaganda.

Posted by orrinj at 8:07 PM


U.S. appeals court rejects Trump's bid to bar most refugees (Jonathan Stempel, Mica Rosenberg, 9/07/17, Reuters) 

A U.S. appeals court on Thursday rejected the Trump administration's effort to temporarily bar most refugees from entering the country, ruling that those who have relationships with a resettlement agency should be exempt from an executive order banning refugees.

A three-judge 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel also ruled that grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins of legal U.S. residents should be exempted from President Donald Trump's order, which banned travelers from six Muslim-majority countries.

Posted by orrinj at 6:52 PM


Europe's Far-Right Proves It's Possible To Be Pro-Israel And Anti-Semitic (Tamara Micner, September 5, 2017, The Forward)

In continental Europe, allying with Israel is also a way to advance an anti-Muslim agenda. For far-right leaders, Islam and its adherents--be they immigrants or European-born--have become the new target for scapegoating and discrimination.

So these leaders have found an ally, and a model, in the Israeli government's narrative of Israel as "the bulwark of Western civilization in the midst of Muslim barbarism," as Mr. Weidinger puts it.

Mr. Wilders argues that both Muslim newcomers and established Turkish- and Moroccan-Dutch communities present a threat to the Netherlands' "Judeo-Christian" identity.

Eric Krebbers and Jennifer van Leijen, from Dutch anti-racism organization Doorbraak, say this nationalist identity ignores 2,000 years of Christian persecution toward Dutch Jews, and is a way to exclude Muslims.

"If you ask Jewish people, it's a meaningless term," says Ms. van Leijen. "They don't really like the fact that he's hijacking our identity to do that."

And when it comes to proposing or voting on legislation, Mr. Wilders' talk of "Judeo-Christian identity" fails to translate into action. For example, the PVV has supported a proposed ban on "ritual slaughter" without sedation (affecting both Muslim and Jewish practices).

"They're not really against anti-Semitism as much as they are against Islam," says Mr. Krebbers.

In Austria, the FPÖ uses the issue of anti-Semitism as a way to scapegoat Muslims. Mr. Weidinger says the party claims that Muslim immigrants have "introduced" present-day anti-Semitism to Austria, and that it no longer exists among "native" Austrians--which absolves non-Muslim Austrians of any prejudice or responsibility.

"The narrative of the Freedom Party is, 'Anti-Semitism in Austria today equals anti-Semitism in Muslim communities,'" he says.

As for Ms. Le Pen, Mr. Camus believes her support for Israel depends on who is in power and whether the government continues to ally with her worldview.

"It's a pro-Israel party as long as the right is in power in Israel, and as long as Israel fights the neighboring states and the Palestinians, and fights the terrorism movement that comes from an Islamic background," he says.

Posted by orrinj at 6:41 PM


Russians Flock to Trump Properties to Give Birth to U.S. Citizens : While the president rails against children of undocumented immigrants, wealthy Russians rent his condos--at huge costs--so they can have American kids. (Katie Zavadski, 09.06.17, Daily Beast)

Anatoliy Kuzmin held out his daughter's blue U.S. passport over a red Russian one and snapped a photo from a Florida beach.

"Woohoo! Got dual citizenship for my daughter!" he wrote on Instagram.

American citizenship for the newborn girl was the goal of Kuzmin and his Instagram-celebrity wife, who sought the help of birth-tourism services in Florida for the arrival of their first child. They are among the estimated hundreds of Russian parents who flock to the U.S. annually for warm weather, excellent medical care, and, more importantly, birthright American citizenship.

And many, like Kuzmin and his wife, stay at President Donald Trump's properties in Florida.

Posted by orrinj at 6:37 PM


NY's Highest Court Rejects Assisted Suicide (Bill McMorris, September 7, 2017, fREE bEACON)

"We reject plaintiffs' argument that an individual has a fundamental constitutional right to aid-in-dying as they define it," the court ruled. "We also reject plaintiffs' assertion that the State's prohibition on assisted suicide is not rationally related to legitimate state interests."

The court said the plaintiffs' complaint "would require that we read into the statutes words and meaning wholly absent from their text," and the state prohibition contained "no exceptions" to the criminal prosecution of those who participate in a suicide. It also drew a clear definition between refusing medical treatment that would further delay death and actively committing suicide, pointing to the intent of each practice.

"The State also has a significant interest in preserving life and preventing suicide, a serious public health problem," the court ruled. The ruling won support from anti-assisted suicide advocates. J.J. Hanson, founder of the anti-euthanasia Patient Rights Action Fund, hailed the court's decision as a victory for "truth and compassion."

Posted by orrinj at 5:51 PM


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Pick games, win books.

Posted by orrinj at 5:45 PM


Trump's Tweets and Witness Tampering-Where to Draw the Line (Hannah Ryan, September 7, 2017, JustSecurity)

Over the years, Trump has used his Twitter account to target many different people. They now include potential witnesses in Mueller's investigation. One is Sally Yates, the fired acting attorney general who warned the White House that Flynn may be compromised and that Flynn had misled Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations with the Russian ambassador. Ahead of her testimony before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee in May, Trump suggested Yates leaked classified information to the press. He tweeted, "Ask Sally Yates, under oath, if she knows how classified information got into the newspapers soon after she explained it to W.H. Counsel."

Another is Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was a senior adviser to the Trump campaign. On top of the interest in his own interactions with Russians, Sessions is likely an important witness in the firing of Comey and in events surrounding Comey's Valentine's Day meeting with Trump, at which Comey says Trump pressured him to drop the Flynn investigation. Trump ratcheted up the pressure on Sessions in recent weeks, describing him on Twitter as "beleaguered" and "VERY weak," and may well return to this theme if and when Sessions' involvement is back in the news.

Comey himself will be a key witness to any obstruction case. Trump tweeted on May 12 that Comey "better hope that there are no 'tapes' of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!" While Trump didn't end up live-tweeting Comey's testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee as he'd promised, his son Don Jr. did, disputing Comey's account and interpretation of Trump's actions.

Other potential witnesses to find themselves on the receiving end of Trump's Twitter account include former acting (and current Deputy) FBI Director Andrew McCabe - whom Trump has criticized as conflicted - and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who penned the letter recommending Comey's dismissal but also appointed Mueller. Trump has launched broadsides against these potential witnesses in comments to the press as well. Sessions, he told the New York Times, should not have recused. Trump tried to impugn Rosenstein's independence by saying the Deputy AG (incorrectly, as it turns out) was from Baltimore, a place with few Republicans. 

Can Trump tweet his way into criminal liability? Witness-tampering, a subspecies of obstruction, is dealt with in section 18 U.S.C. § 1512. Alongside conduct like killing or using physical force against a witness, the section outlaws "knowingly" using intimidation,  threatening a person, or corruptly persuading a person with the intent to influence, delay or prevent their testimony in an official proceeding, or to cause them to withhold their testimony.

Posted by orrinj at 5:43 PM


Donald Trump Jr. at Russia meeting sought damaging information on Hillary Clinton (dEUTSCHE wELLE, 9/07/17)

Donald Trump Jr., eldest son of US President Donald Trump, told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday that he met with a Russian lawyer in June 2016 because he was open to receiving damaging information on then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, The New York Times reported.

Posted by orrinj at 5:37 PM


Syrian opposition leader says 'revolution continues' after UN failure (Middle East Online, 9/07/17)

A prominent Syrian opposition leader said on Thursday U.N. mediation to end the country's six-year conflict has failed and the revolution would continue. [...]

Assad has won a series of military victories but rebel groups still hold large parts of the northwest of the country and substantial enclaves in the southwest, in Homs province and near Damascus.

Posted by orrinj at 5:20 PM


SOMEDAY, YOU WILL LOVE THE PATRIOTS (Will Leitch, 9/07/17, Sports on Earth)

It is strange to read NFL season previews, almost every single one of which ends with some variation of "the Patriots are the obvious, overwhelming, no-duh favorites to win the Super Bowl," in the wake of last year's Super Bowl. Obviously, the Falcons blew a 28-3 lead halfway through the third quarter, and that's something they're going to have to live with forever. But let's not forget what we were saying about the Patriots at that particular moment. It wasn't just "the Falcons are killing them." It was, "the Patriots look so old. They're toast. The dynasty is over." [...]

The Falcons looked like the future of football: speed everywhere, getting the ball to your burners in space, going nuts. The Pats looked old and tired and beaten. Now, after a quarter and a half that might be the most amazing in Super Bowl history, they're young and fresh and dominant and Obvious Favorites again? If the Patriots' comeback had fallen short and they had lost the Super Bowl, would we all be calling them the clear favorites in 2017? We wouldn't, right? That's just a quarter-and-a-half of football, switching the Patriots from "over" to "better than ever."

But that's what the Patriots do to us: They make us so emotional. Everything is always The Best Ever or The Worst Ever. They're either the greatest or the most devious. There is never an middle ground on the Patriots, and it's tough not to notice that this same all-or-nothing mindset -- a mindset one might call downright Belichickian -- has seeped in throughout the entire NFL. Counting the year before and after the Patriots won Super Bowl XXXVI -- and at this point I feel obliged to remind you that the entire sports world was cheering for Belichick over Kurt Warner in that game, a moment in history that will never be repeated in any realm for as long as humanity exists as a species -- the NFL had eight champions in nine years, with random teams like Tampa Bay and Oakland and Tennessee and Atlanta showing up in the Super Bowl. But the Patriots, as they always do, immediately began to weaponize the Big Game: In the 14 years since, they've won four Super Bowls, and the Super Bowls they didn't win were mostly defined by the winners' relation to the Patriots. "The Giants have their number; Peyton Manning finally broke through; the Steelers only win when they don't have to go through the Patriots."

They have owned the NFL, on the field and off, for so long that it's difficult to remember a time they didn't. The last time the Patriots weren't the center of the NFL, the rookie of the year was Mike Anderson, a guy who is now 43 years old. Barack Obama couldn't even get into the Democratic National Convention. Donald Trump was having a fight with Jesse Ventura on the Howard Stern show. Lots of things have happened.

And here's the thing: Eventually, we're all going to pretend we loved them. This is what we do with our champions.

...the rest are just props.

Posted by orrinj at 12:41 PM


With alleged airstrike, Israel punctuates opposition to Syria ceasefire pact (Judah Ari Gross, September 7, 2017, Times of Israel)

In addition to whatever tactical value was gained from destroying such a facility, the early Thursday morning bombing run also presented a message to Syria, Iran and Hezbollah, as well as to the United States and Russia, that Israel would continue to act in the war-torn country if necessary -- ceasefire between the regime and rebels be damned.

Posted by orrinj at 9:44 AM


Bannon Rips Catholic Church on Pro-DACA Stance: 'They Need Illegal Aliens to Fill the Churches' (Washington Free Beacon, September 7, 2017)

Former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon condemned the Catholic Church's stance on immigration in an interview with Charlie Rose, saying they have an interest in illegal immigration to get "aliens to fill the churches."

Posted by orrinj at 6:40 AM


Elon Musk's new semi-truck may ignite a commercial war (Steve LeVine, 9/07/17, Axios)

Wall Street's most prominent Tesla bull says an electric semi-truck that the company plans to unveil later this month might be 70% cheaper to operate than conventional diesel-powered vehicles, and ignite a fierce contest to dominate a nascent market in intelligent trucks.

September 6, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 8:16 PM


Senate panel slashes military aid to Egypt (Bryant Harris September 6, 2017, Al Monitor)

The Senate's foreign aid spending panel voted today to slash military assistance to Egypt by $300 million amid growing congressional frustration with the country's dismal human rights record under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Posted by orrinj at 8:14 PM


Fed sees pickup in economic growth, but inflation remains muted (Lindsay Dunsmuir, 9/06/17, Reuters) 

The U.S. economy expanded at a modest to moderate pace in July through mid-August but signs of an acceleration in inflation remained slight, the latest survey conducted by the Federal Reserve showed on Wednesday.

Posted by orrinj at 8:11 PM


Trump's day as a Democratic president (Jonathan Swan, 9/06/17, Axios)

Trump handed Pelosi and Schumer the deal of the century over the debt ceiling this morning -- a move one top Republican described to me as the legislative equivalent of giving an entire stockpile of weapons to Democrats and inviting them to take the entire Republican Party hostage.

He nodded to bigger government, by agreeing to raise the debt limit, spend billions on disaster relief, and get zero spending cuts in exchange.

Trump invited his daughter Ivanka into the meeting with Congressional leaders -- where he was rejecting GOP leaders Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, and embracing Schumer and Pelosi -- "to briefly discuss childcare tax credit," per NBC's Hallie Jackson.

And he hopped aboard Air Force One and "held out the possibility of giving Democrats a much bigger prize in future negotiations: a permanent legislative fix for undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children who were protected from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which he announced would be winding down," per The Atlantic.

It's especially delicious to see all the congressional Republicans who have compromised themselves morally for what they thought they could get out of Donald get it with the bark on.

Posted by orrinj at 8:10 PM

...AND SAFER...:

Crime in 2017: A Preliminary Analysis (Ames Grawert, James Cullen, September 6, 2017, Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law)

- The overall crime rate in 2017 is projected to decrease slightly, by 1.8 percent. If this estimate holds, 2017 will have the second-lowest crime rate since 1990.

- The violent crime rate is projected to decrease slightly, by 0.6 percent, essentially remaining stable. This result is driven primarily by stabilization in Chicago, and declines in Washington, D.C., two large cities that experienced increases in violence in recent years. The violent crime rate for this year is projected to be about 1 percent above 2014's violent crime rate, the lowest recorded since 1990.

- The 2017 murder rate is projected to be 2.5 percent lower than last year. This year's decline is driven primarily by decreases in Detroit (down 25.6 percent), Houston (down 20.5 percent), and New York (down 19.1 percent). Chicago's murder rate is also projected to fall, by 2.4 percent. The 2017 murder rate is expected to be on par with that of 2009, well at the bottom of the historic post-1990 decline, yet still higher than the lowest recorded rate in 2013.

Posted by orrinj at 8:06 PM


Facebook says Russians bought $100k in ads to influence US election  (Tristan Greene, 9/06/17, Next Web)

Facebook Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos released an official statement detailing the investigation process:

In reviewing the ads buys, we have found approximately $100,000 in ad spending from June of 2015 to May of 2017 -- associated with roughly 3,000 ads -- that was connected to about 470 inauthentic accounts and Pages in violation of our policies. Our analysis suggests these accounts and Pages were affiliated with one another and likely operated out of Russia.

Posted by orrinj at 7:59 PM


Americans Are Confronting an Alarming Question: Are Many of Our Fellow Citizens 'Nazis?' (SASHA CHAPIN SEPT. 5, 2017, NY Times)

"Nazi" is a remarkable example of the very different routes a word can take through the world. In this case, that word is the Latin name "Ignatius." In Spanish, it followed a noble path: It became Ignacio, and then the nickname Nacho, and then -- after a Mexican cook named Ignacio Anaya had a moment of inspiration -- it became delicious, beloved nachos. In Bavaria, a much darker transformation took place. Ignatius became the common name Ignatz, or in its abbreviated form, Nazi. In the early 20th century, Bavarian peasants were frequent subjects of German mockery, and "Nazi" became the archetypal name for a comic figure: a bumbling, dimwitted yokel. "Just as Irish jokes always involve a man called Paddy," the etymologist Mark Forsyth writes in his 2011 book "The Etymologicon," "so Bavarian jokes always involved a peasant called Nazi." When Adolf Hitler's party emerged from Bavaria with a philosophy called "Nationalsozialismus," two of that word's syllables were quickly repurposed by Hitler's cosmopolitan opponents. They started calling the new party Nazis -- implying, to the Nazis' great displeasure, that they were all backward rubes.

Posted by orrinj at 9:53 AM


The anti-Semitic origins of the war on 'fake news' (Victoria Saker Woeste, 9/05/17, Washington Post)

#FakeNews has become Trump's tagline. He uses it to deflect questions from reporters and to discredit stories that portray him in a negative light. Although he claims that he coined the phrase, neither the term nor the idea it represents is new. In fact, the charge of "fake news" has roots in the dark world of American anti-Semitism and in the cries of LĂŒgenpresse ("lying press") that once echoed in Nazi rallies. Understanding those roots reveals not only the pattern of conspiracy at the heart of Trump's rhetoric, but also tells us why many white nationalists find the concept of "fake news" so appealing.

"Fake news" is a classic trope from the anti-Semitic, fabricated book "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion." First published in its complete form in Russia in 1905, the "Protocols" are the brainchild of czarist nationalists who wanted to spur violence and pogroms against Russian Jews. The "Protocols" purport to be the minutes of a meeting in which Jewish elders detailed their plan to conquer the world.

Over the past century, the book has become the bible of the international anti-Semitic movement. Adolf Hitler learned about the book in the 1920s and promptly worked it into his political speeches. Dozens of editions appeared around the globe between 1920 and 1933. In Germany, the Nazi Party incorporated many of its main ideas into the laws enacted by the Third Reich.

The propagandists behind the "Protocols" attributed extraordinary power to the media. A section titled "Control of the Press" "reveals" that Jews seek to control every aspect of the media to protect their new, worldwide government from attack or criticism. Through false stories and skewed analysis, the Jewish-controlled media would lead the masses to see the world not as it was, but as Jews wished it to be seen: "Our subjects will be convinced [of] the existence of full freedom of speech and so [will] give our agents an occasion to affirm that all organs which oppose us are empty babblers."

Fake news, then, begins as Jewish infiltration of the legitimate media and transforms into complete domination: "Not a single announcement will reach the public without our control."

Posted by orrinj at 7:41 AM


'Negative Partisanship' Explains Everything : Conservatives and liberals don't just disagree--they actually like to hate each other. And it's getting uglier. (ALAN ABRAMOWITZ and STEVEN WEBSTER, September/October 2017, Politico)

If you're confused about why a president whose campaign is under investigation for its possible ties to Russian hackers, whose approval ratings are abysmal only halfway into his first year, whose legislative agenda is already off the rails, and who launches bizarre Twitter rants each day still commands the fealty of the Republican Party, don't be. Donald Trump thrives amid all this chaos because of the rise of a phenomenon that we have labeled "negative partisanship."

The concept is pretty simple: Over the past few decades, American politics has become like a bitter sports rivalry, in which the parties hang together mainly out of sheer hatred of the other team, rather than a shared sense of purpose. Republicans might not love the president, but they absolutely loathe his Democratic adversaries. And it's also true of Democrats, who might be consumed by their internal feuds over foreign policy and the proper role of government were it not for Trump. Negative partisanship explains nearly everything in American politics today--from why Trump's base is unlikely to abandon him even if, as he once said, he were to shoot someone on Fifth Avenue, to why it was so easy for vulnerable red-state Democrats to resist defecting on the health care bill.

The value of pure partisanship is that it liberates people from the need to think; it thrives on pure emotion.  And given that there are no policy differences between parties anymore, it alleviates that annoying sense that you are a Republican who basically agrees with the UR or a Democrat who agrees with W.  You can hate them for who they are instead of what they are. It provides clarity.

Posted by orrinj at 7:07 AM


Reform Jews 'worse than Holocaust deniers' -- former chief rabbi (SUE SURKES, September 6, 2017, Times of Israel)

Jerusalem's chief rabbi on Tuesday lashed out at Reform Jews, saying they were worse than Holocaust deniers for defying Orthodox Jewish law on gender separation and insisting on the right to mixed-gender prayer at the Western Wall in the city.

Minus "deniers," in some ways.

Posted by orrinj at 6:46 AM


Grocery Prices Have Been Falling. Did You Notice? (ALINA SELYUKH, September 6, 2017,  Morning Edition)

Food prices in America were down for the longest period in about 60 years.

Wait, what?

It's not something that shoppers seemed to have noticed much.

"Are you serious? Really?" says Michelle German, holding a bag of groceries and wine at a Harris Teeter store in Washington, D.C. "I just spent about $40 dollars on four items and I'm like, wait, how did I spend that much money?"

But a number of foods -- most notably, beef, eggs and dairy -- saw some serious price drops over the course of 2016 and into 2017. For 19 months straight, the U.S. government reported declines in the food consumer price index, which compares supermarket prices with what they were a year earlier.

September 5, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 7:02 PM


Posted by orrinj at 6:26 PM


Tax Consumption Through a VAT, and VoilĂ  :If the administration and Congress drop the income tax, it won't be difficult to achieve 3% growth (John H. Cochrane, 9/05/17, WSJ)

Much of the current tax mess results from taxing income. Once the government taxes income, it must tax corporate income or people would incorporate to avoid paying taxes. Yet the right corporate tax rate is zero. Every cent of corporate tax comes from people via higher prices, lower wages, or lower payments to shareholders. And a corporate tax produces an army of lawyers and lobbyists demanding exemptions. [...]

[I]f Congress and the president drop the income tax in favor of a VAT, or another simple consumption tax, they can break the political logjam and achieve a dramatic pro-growth reform.

It is essential that the VAT be uniform, and it is best to carve that in stone at the outset. Trying to transfer income or subsidize people and businesses by charging different rates for different goods or organizations will again muck up the tax system. And it is essential that the VAT replace rather than add to the current tax system, as it does in Europe.

What about progressivity? It is easy to make a value-added tax progressive: In place of current exemptions, send everyone a $10,000 check. Or people could receive a refund according to how much they spend, similar to income-tax refunds. Taxpayers could get a full refund for the first $10,000, half for the next $10,000, and so forth. Electronic record-keeping makes this straightforward--it's just a big debit or credit card reward--and everyone would have an incentive to report purchases rather than to hide income.

But the chaos in U.S. income redistribution is as great as the anarchy in the tax code. Tax discussions fall apart because the redistributive influence of each change is assessed in isolation. By measuring how the tax and transfer system work together, politicians could get better taxes and more effective redistribution.

The U.S. also needs an integrated social-insurance program: Send checks to needy people, yes, but also monitor the amount they get from all government sources, including college financial aid, health insurance, energy assistance, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, unemployment insurance, food stamps, farm programs, housing and so on. Even without reforming the programs, it is necessary at least to measure their total effect to calibrate accurately any tax-based redistribution.

What about the tax rate? Well, if the federal government is going to spend 20% of gross domestic product, the VAT will sooner or later have to be about 20%.

Posted by orrinj at 6:18 PM


Trump again shows he's not pro-business like he says (Paul R. La Monica, September 5, 2017, CNN Money)

President Donald Trump claims to be a business-friendly president. But how can that be true when the five largest tech companies in America all vehemently oppose his stance on immigration?

The heads of Apple (AAPL, Tech30), Google owner Alphabet (GOOGL, Tech30), Microsoft (MSFT, Tech30), Facebook (FB, Tech30) and Amazon (AMZN, Tech30) were among the more than 400 business leaders that asked Trump to keep the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA.

DACA allowed immigrants who came to the U.S. as kids, a group commonly referred to as Dreamers, to avoid deportation. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Tuesday that DACA was being rescinded.

U.S. lawmakers, business urge Trump not to scrap South Korea trade pact (Reuters, 9/05/17) 

U.S. lawmakers and America's biggest business lobby urged President Donald Trump on Tuesday not to scrap a free trade agreement with longstanding ally South Korea, especially at a time of heightened tensions over North Korea's nuclear missile tests.

Race trumps trade.
Posted by orrinj at 1:12 PM


Top US Jewish leader urges PM: Rethink Western Wall prayer, or risk wider chasm (DAVID HOROVITZ, September 5, 2017, Times of Israel)

The head of American Jewry's main umbrella group urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to rethink his approach to the suspended Western Wall compromise, and move to "restore the confidence" of US Jewry or risk broadening the "chasm" between many American Jews and Israel.

Posted by orrinj at 1:10 PM


Amid US-Russia diplomatic row, Putin says Trump 'not my bride' (AP, September 5, 2017)

In comments carried by Russian news agencies, Putin said Trump is "not my bride, and I'm not his groom."

Posted by orrinj at 12:55 PM


'If they deport all of us, who will rebuild?' Undocumented workers could be key to Texas recovery. (Arelis R. HernĂĄndez and Aaron C. Davis September 4, 2017, Washington Post)

Everywhere Samuel EnrĂ­quez looks, he can see the work that needs to be done. But because he is in the United States illegally, he knows he can't earn an official paycheck in this city's recovery.

The carpenter from El Salvador sits on a curb outside a home improvement store, hoping a passer-by will offer $10 an hour to help rip out sewage-soaked carpets or rotting drywall. Having lived in the United States for a year, he believes Texas is as good a place as any to seek refuge, because that's where the work is now, even if some government officials want him and others like him to leave the country.

"If they deport all of us, who will rebuild?" says EnrĂ­quez, 36, waiting along with about two dozen other laborers seeking work. "We do more for less."

It will take an army of workers to reconstruct a vast swath of Southeast Texas, including the sprawling metropolis of Houston, that was devastated by Hurricane Harvey. Whether the region can do it without fully embracing workers like EnrĂ­quez will soon be put to the test -- with reverberations that could be felt nationwide.

If you've ever worked day labor in TX, you were the only Anglo...

September 4, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 7:04 PM


The Economy Really Is Getting Better. Here Are Two Key Signs (Heather Long, 9/03/17, The Washington Post)

The average American household now spends more than $2,900 a year, a record high, on entertainment, according to data released Tuesday by the Labor Department. That's a good sign the middle class is feeling better about how much money is in their piggy banks.

At the same time, the number of Americans on food stamps is dropping rapidly, according to the latest report from on the U.S. Department of Agriculture, an indication the poor are finally seeing some benefits of the recovery too.

Food stamp usage spiked after the Great Recession when many Americans couldn't find jobs and struggled to eat. Nearly 48 million people relied on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP, in 2013, an all-time high. Since then, businesses have gone on a hiring spree. As more people get jobs, they are dropping out of SNAP, which is exactly what is supposed to happen.

It's no coincidence that Congress and the Executive have done nothing for 7 years.

Posted by orrinj at 8:16 AM


How the GOP became the party of Putin (James Kirchick, July 27, 2017, Brookings)

Contrast Rubio's principled stand with that of current CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who, while now appropriately calling WikiLeaks a "hostile intelligence service" that "overwhelmingly focuses on the United States while seeking support from antidemocratic countries," was more than happy to retail its ill-gotten gains during the campaign. Today, just one-third of Republican voters even believe the intelligence community findings that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, no doubt influenced by the president's equivocations on the matter.

I was no fan of Barack Obama's foreign policy. I criticized his Russian "reset," his Iran nuclear deal, his opening to Cuba, even his handling of political conflict in Honduras. For the past four years, I worked at a think tank, the Foreign Policy Initiative, that was bankrolled by Republican donors and regularly criticized the Obama administration. Anyone who's followed my writing knows I've infuriated liberals and Democrats plenty over the years, and I have the metaphorical scars to prove it.

What I never expected was that the Republican Party--which once stood for a muscular, moralistic approach to the world, and which helped bring down the Soviet Union--would become a willing accomplice of what the previous Republican presidential nominee rightly called our No. 1 geopolitical foe: Vladimir Putin's Russia. My message for today's GOP is to paraphrase Barack Obama when he mocked Romney for saying precisely that: 2012 called--it wants its foreign policy back.

I should not have been surprised. I've been following Russia's cultivation of the American right for years, long before it became a popular subject, and I have been amazed at just how deep and effective the campaign to shift conservative views on Russia has been. Four years ago, I began writing a series of articles about the growing sympathy for Russia among some American conservatives. Back then, the Putin fan club was limited to seemingly fringe figures like Pat Buchanan ("Is Vladimir Putin a paleoconservative?" he asked, answering in the affirmative), a bunch of cranks organized around the Ron Paul Institute and some anti-gay marriage bitter-enders so resentful at their domestic political loss they would ally themselves with an authoritarian regime that not so long ago they would have condemned for exporting "godless communism."

Today, these figures are no longer on the fringe of GOP politics. According to a Morning Consult-Politico poll from May, an astonishing 49 percent of Republicans consider Russia an ally. Favorable views of Putin - a career KGB officer who hates America - have nearly tripled among Republicans in the past two years, with 32 percent expressing a positive opinion.

Ultimately, the fact Putin is an enemy of Obama/Clinton matters more to the Right than that he is an enemy of America.

Posted by orrinj at 8:04 AM


Posted by orrinj at 8:02 AM


Posted by orrinj at 6:09 AM


Cancer's Invasion Equation : We can detect tumors earlier than ever before. Can we predict whether they're going to be dangerous? (Siddhartha Mukherjee, 9/11/17, The New Yorker)

Mets go to the brain." He punctuated the air with his fingers at each verb, his face flushed with excitement. "And--yes, yes--going is important, because we need to find what allows cells to break away from the tumor and enter the blood and the lymph nodes. But if primary human tumors shed cells continually, and if every cell is capable of forming visible metastasis, then every patient should have countless visible metastatic deposits all over his or her body." Anna Guzello's breast tumor should have stippled her brain, bones, and liver with mets. Why, then, did she have no visible evidence of disease anywhere else in her body? The real conundrum wasn't why metastases occur in some cancer patients but why metastases don't occur in all of them.

"The only way I could explain the scarcity of metastasis," Massagué said, "was to imagine that an enormous wave of cellular death or cellular dormancy must restrict metastasis. Either the cells shed by the tumor are killed, or they stop dividing, becoming dormant. When tumor cells enter the circulation, they must perish almost immediately, and in vast numbers. Only a few reach their destination organ, such as the brain or the bone." Once they do, they face the additional problem of surviving in unfamiliar and possibly hostile terrain. Massagué inferred that those few survivors must lie in a state of dormancy. "A visible, clinical metastasis--the kind that we can detect with cat scans or MRIs--must only occur once a dormant cell has been reactivated and begins to divide," he said. Malignancy wasn't simply about cells spreading; it was also about staying--and flourishing--once they had done so.

In the spring of 2012, while Massagué and others were searching for sleeper cells, Gilbert Welch, an epidemiologist at Dartmouth, was preoccupied with a different problem: the unfulfilled promise of early detection. Early-detection programs aimed to catch and eliminate cancers that were otherwise destined to become metastatic, but a huge ramp-up in screenings for certain cancers hadn't yielded comparable benefits in the mortality statistics. Welch was trained as a statistician as well as a physician, and when he recites numbers and equations his voice rises to a booming pitch, as if he were a televangelist moonlighting as a math teacher. To illustrate an extreme version of the problem, Welch told me the story of an epidemic-that-wasn't. In South Korea, starting about fifteen years ago, doctors began to screen aggressively for thyroid cancer. Primary-care offices in Seoul were outfitted with small ultrasound devices, and doctors retrained themselves to catch the earliest signs of the disease. When a suspicious-looking nodule was found, it was biopsied. If the pathology report was positive, the patient's thyroid gland was surgically removed.

The official incidence of thyroid cancer--in particular, a subtype termed papillary thyroid cancer--began to soar across the nation. By 2014, thyroid-cancer incidence was fifteen times what it was in 1993, making it the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the country. It was as if a "tsunami of thyroid cancer," in the words of one researcher, had suddenly hit. Billions of Korean wons were poured into treatment; tens of thousands of resected thyroids ended up in surgical buckets. Yet the rate at which people died from thyroid cancer remained unchanged.

What happened? It wasn't medical error: observed under the microscope, the questionable nodules met the criteria for thyroid cancer. Rather, what the pathologists were finding wasn't particularly pathological--these thyroid cancers had little propensity to cause illness. The patients had been not misdiagnosed but overdiagnosed; that is, cancers were identified that would never have produced clinical symptoms.

In 1985, pathologists in Finland assembled a group of a hundred and one men and women who had died of unrelated causes--car accidents or heart attacks, say--and performed autopsies to determine how many harbored papillary thyroid cancer. They cut the thyroid glands into razor-thin sections, as if carving a hock of ham into prosciutto slices, and peered at the sections under a microscope. Astonishingly, they found thyroid cancer in more than a third of the glands inspected. A similar study regarding breast cancer--comparing breast cancer incidentally detectable at autopsy with the lifetime risk of dying of breast cancer--suggests that a hyperzealous early-detection program might overdiagnose breast cancer with startling frequency, leading to needless interventions. Surveying the results of prostate-cancer screening, Welch calculated that thirty to a hundred men would have to undergo unnecessary treatment--typically, surgery or radiation--for every life saved.

"The early detection of breast cancer via mammography saves women's lives, although the benefit is modest," Daniel Hayes told me. But equally important is the question of what to do with the tumor we've detected: can we learn how to identify those cancers which need to be treated systemically with chemotherapy or other interventions? "It's not just early detection that we want to achieve," Hayes went on. "It's early prediction."

For Welch, the fact that diagnoses of thyroid cancer or prostate cancer could soar without a corresponding effect on mortality rates was a warning: a little knowledge had turned out to be a dangerous thing. Cancer-screening campaigns had expanded the known reservoir of disease without telling us if, in any particular case, treatment was necessary. Early detection helped us with when and what but not with whether. And there was an element of mystery. Why did some cancers spread and kill patients, while many remained docile?

One day in March, 2012, Welch flew to Washington to attend a conference on cancer metastasis. It was a gusty, gray morning--"the hotel was nondescript, the food unremarkable"--and Welch, dangling the requisite nametag on a forlorn lanyard, found himself in a room full of cancer biologists, feeling like an alien species. "I study patterns and trends in cancer in human populations," he told me. "I take the one-hundred-thousand-foot view of cancer. This meeting was full of metastasis biologists looking at cancer cells under the microscope. I couldn't tell what any of this had to do with population trends in human cancer--or, for that matter, why I'd even come to this meeting."

Then, coffee jolting in his hand, he saw a slide on the screen that made him sit up and take notice. It depicted the infestation of mussels in Lake Michigan. The speaker, Kenneth Pienta, an oncologist from the University of Michigan (and now at Johns Hopkins), had heard about the quagga crisis, and been struck by the seeming parallels with cancer. Rather than viewing invasiveness as a quality intrinsic to a cancer, researchers needed to consider invasiveness as a pathological relationship between an organism and an environment. "Together, cancer cells and host cells form an ecosystem," Pienta reminded the audience. "Initially, the cancer cells are an invasive species to a new niche or environment. Eventually, the cancer-cell-host-cell interactions create a new environment." Ask not just what the cancer is doing to you, Pienta was saying. Ask what you are doing to the cancer.

By talking about cancer in ecological terms, Pienta was, in the tradition of Paget and Fidler, urging his colleagues to pay more attention to the soil. A woman with a primary tumor in her breast was caught in a pitched but silent battle. Oncologists had spent generations studying one possible outcome of that battle: when the woman lost, she succumbed to metastasis. But what happened when cancer lost the battle? Perhaps cancer cells tried to invade new niches, but mainly perished en route, as a result of the resistance mounted by her immune system and other physiological challenges; perhaps the select few that, singly or in clusters, survived the expedition ended up languishing in forbidding tissue terrain, like seeds landing on a salt flat.

Welch was captivated. We had to be alert to the differences between the rampaging quagga mussel and the endangered purple-cat's-paw mussel--but what about the differences between the Great Lakes and the Dnieper? Evidence suggested, for example, that most men with prostate cancer would never experience metastasis. What made others susceptible? The usual approach, Welch knew, would be to look for markers in their cancer cells--to find patterns of gene activation, say, that made some of them dangerous. And the characteristics of those cells were plainly crucial. Pienta was arguing, though, that this approach was far too narrow. At least part of the answer might lie in the ecological relationship between a cancer and its host--between seed and soil.

September 3, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 5:56 PM


Posted by orrinj at 1:34 PM


Trump preparing withdrawal from South Korea trade deal, a move opposed by top aides (Damian Paletta September 2, 2017, The Washington Post)

President Trump has instructed advisers to prepare to withdraw the United States from a free-trade agreement with South Korea, several people close to the process said, a move that would stoke economic tensions with the U.S. ally as both countries confront a crisis over North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

Withdrawing from the trade deal would back up Trump's promises to crack down on what he considers unfair trade competition from other countries, but his top national security and economic advisers are pushing him to abandon the plan, arguing it would hamper U.S. economic growth and strain ties with an important ally. Officials including national security adviser H.R. McMaster, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and National Economic Council director Gary Cohn oppose withdrawal, said people familiar with the process who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal White House deliberations.

As he caters to the only people who support him, his policies will become ever more racist.
Posted by orrinj at 9:28 AM


Utah Nurse's Arrest Raises Evidence Collection Issues (Amy Forliti, 9/03/17, Associated Press)

Police body-camera video released Thursday shows Salt Lake City Detective Jeff Payne handcuffing nurse Alex Wubbels on July 26 after she refused to allow blood to be drawn from an unconscious patient after a car crash.

In the video, Wubbels, who works in the burn unit at Utah University Hospital, explains she's protecting the patient's rights and she can't take the man's blood unless he is under arrest, police have a warrant or the patient consents.

None of that applied, and the patient was not a suspect. Payne's written report says he wanted the sample to show the victim did nothing wrong.

The dispute ended with Payne telling Wubbels: "We're done, you're under arrest." He pulled Wubbels outside while she screams: "I've done nothing wrong!"

Wubbels is being praised for her actions to protect the patient, while Payne and another officer are on paid leave. Criminal and internal affairs investigations are underway.

Posted by orrinj at 9:09 AM


MIT Achieves Breakthrough in Nuclear Fusion (Jay Bennett Aug 28, 2017 , Popular Mechanics)

Researchers operating fusion reactor experiments at MIT, along with partnered scientists in Brussels and the U.K., have developed a new type of nuclear fusion fuel that produces ten times as much energy from energized ions as previously achieved. The experiments with the new fusion fuel, which contains three types of ions--particles with an electric charge due to the loss or gain of an electron--were conducted in MIT's Alcator C-Mod tokamak, a magnetic confinement reactor that holds the records for highest magnetic field strength and highest plasma pressure in a fusion experiment. [...]

Nuclear fusion has the potential to revolutionize energy production, with virtually endless power available from common elements like hydrogen and helium and no dangerous waste products produced as a result. Experiments like the Alcator C-Mod and JET inch us closer and closer to cracking the code, using the right fuel, and producing the conditions to spark a full-scale, energy-positive fusion reaction.

As the paper in Nature notes, the findings from these experiments could also help astronomers better understand helium-3 abundant solar flares that erupt from the sun, because that is literally what these fusion researchers are trying to do--ignite nuclear fusion in plasma that is hundreds of millions of degrees, similar to what stars are made of, trap it, and then power the world with the resulting energy.

Posted by orrinj at 8:59 AM


Fierce clashes between IS, Syrian regime kill 150 (Middle East Online, 9/03/17)

Fierce clashes between the Islamic State group and pro-regime forces in central Syria have left over 150 fighters dead in 24 hours, mostly jihadists, a monitor said Sunday.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 120 IS fighters "were killed in clashes in and around the town of Uqayribat in the eastern Hama countryside... along with at least 35 regime troops and loyalist militiamen."

The town is the jihadist group's last bastion in the central province apart from a handful of small villages.

Pro-government forces seized Uqayribat on Friday night, but IS responded with a counter-offensive on Saturday that left it in control of most of the town, Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said.

An intense barrage of artillery fire and Syrian and Russian air strikes on jihadist positions allowed pro-regime forces on Sunday morning to push the jihadists back out of the town and advance on villages to the west that remain under IS control.

September 2, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 6:44 PM


In Defense of the 'Deep State' and a Free Press (Jeffrey H. Smith, August 30, 2017, Lawfare)

Those who conjured up the Deep State narrative have seen too many bad movies. Their contempt for career public servants is misinformed and dangerous.

We are a nation of laws, not men. We are bound together by the ideas enshrined in the Constitution, not by religion, ethnicity or allegiance to any given president. It is the institutions of government, and the men and women who work in them, who give life to our Constitution.

Career public servants will follow responsible political leadership. But they are also the ballast of the ship of state. They understand why presidents should not obstruct the fair administration of our laws, why intelligence cannot be politicized, and why America is secure only if it leads and maintains the international order established after World War II.

Posted by orrinj at 4:25 PM


DOJ Filing Says No Evidence that President Obama Wiretapped Trump Tower (Matthew Kahn, September 2, 2017, Lawfare)

In a Motion for Summary Judgement on a lawsuit related to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by American Oversight earlier this year, the Justice Department said Friday that "Both FBI and NSD confirm that they have no records related to wiretaps as described by the March 4, 2017 [Donald] tweets."

..they're like Charlie Brown and reality keeps whipping the football away from them...

Posted by orrinj at 1:45 PM


Posted by orrinj at 1:43 PM


Trump aides averted more detailed letter justifying Comey firing (JOSH GERSTEIN and JOSH DAWSEY, 09/01/2017, Politico)

A draft letter from President Donald Trump justifying the firing of FBI Director James Comey and now reported to be in the hands of Special Counsel Robert Mueller was substantially watered down before Trump dismissed Comey in May, according to people familiar with the events.

The decision to fire Comey was made by the president the weekend before the firing as he huddled at his country club in Bedminster, N.J., with his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner and top policy adviser Stephen Miller, the people said.

"It was talked and talked about," said one Trump adviser who asked not to be named. [...]

Then, the White House began frantically searching for how to explain the firing. McGahn had told Trump that the firing would be "less of a big deal" if it was handled properly and delayed, one person said, describing the conversations.

"It turned out to be what everyone was afraid of," one adviser said. "A pivotal point for his presidency, and not a good one."

Posted by orrinj at 1:39 PM


Kremlin Says Putin To Skip UN General Assembly (Radio Liberty, September 02, 2017)

The Kremlin says Russian President Vladimir Putin will not attend the United Nations General Assembly later this month.

Posted by orrinj at 1:37 PM


Workers clear out of Russian consulate in San Francisco (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 09/01/2017)

Acrid, black smoke was seen pouring from a chimney at the Russian consulate in San Francisco and workers began hauling boxes out of the stately building in a historic area of the city Friday, a day after the Trump administration ordered its closure amid escalating tensions between the United States and Russia. [...]

Mindy Talmadge, a spokeswoman from the San Francisco Fire Department, said the department received a call about the smoke and sent a crew to investigate but determined the smoke was coming from the chimney.

Talmadge said she did not know what they were burning on a day when normally cool San Francisco temperatures had already climbed to 95 degrees by noon.

"It was not unintentional. They were burning something in their fireplace," she said.

Posted by orrinj at 1:07 PM


Putin's Pal : Stephen Cohen was once considered a top Russia historian. Now he publishes odd defenses of Vladimir Putin. The Nation just published his most outrageous one yet. (Cathy Young, 7/24/14, Slate)

A few months ago, at the height of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict over Crimea, Stephen F. Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian studies and politics at New York University and Princeton, acquired a certain notoriety as the Kremlin's No. 1 American apologist. As Cohen made Russia's case and lamented the American media's meanness to Vladimir Putin in print and on the airwaves, he was mocked as a "patsy" and a "dupe" everywhere from the conservative Free Beacon to the liberal New York and New Republic. Now, as the hostilities in eastern Ukraine have turned to the tragedy of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, Cohen is at it again--this time, with a long article in the current issue of The Nation indicting "Kiev's atrocities" in eastern Ukraine and America's collusion therein. The timing is rather unfortunate for Cohen and The Nation, since the piece is also unabashedly sympathetic to the Russian-backed militants who appear responsible for the murder of 298 innocent civilians. [...]

s Cohen the one person in the world who puts stock in the results of the Donetsk and Luhansk "referendums," which even Russia did not formally recognize? Pre-referendum polls in both regions found that most residents opposed secession; they were also, as a U.N. report confirms, kept from voting in the presidential election by violence and intimidation from the insurgents. Nor does Cohen ever acknowledge the known fact that a substantial percentage of the "resisters" are not locals but citizens of the Russian Federation--particularly their leaders, many of whom have ties to Russian "special security services." Their ranks also include quite a few Russian ultranationalists and even neo-Nazis--a highly relevant fact, given that much of Cohen's article is devoted to claims that Ukrainian "neo-fascists" play a key role both in the Kiev government and in the counterinsurgency operation.

On this subject, Cohen's narrative is so error-riddled that one has to wonder if The Nation employs fact-checkers. (According to The Nation's publicity director, Caitlin Graf, "All of The Nation's print pieces are rigorously fact-checked by our research department.") Cohen asserts that after the fall of pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych, the far-right Svoboda party, and the paramilitary nationalist group Right Sector got a large share of Cabinet posts, including ones for national security and the military, because Ukraine's new leaders were "obliged to both movements for their violence-driven ascent to power, and perhaps for their personal safety." In fact, Svoboda (which has tried to reinvent itself as a moderate nationalist party, despite a genuinely troubling history of bigotry and extremism) got its Cabinet posts as part of a European Union-brokered agreement between Yanukovych and opposition leaders, made shortly before Yanukovych skipped town. Right Sector has no such posts--early reports that its leader, Dmytro Yarosh, got appointed deputy minister for national security were wrong--and the government actually moved to crack down on the group in April. Cohen also neglects to mention that the Svoboda-affiliated acting defense minister, Ihor Tenyukh, was sacked in late March and replaced with a nonpartisan career military man.

Cohen's claims about the "mainstreaming of fascism's dehumanizing ethos" in Ukraine are equally spurious--and rely heavily on Russian propaganda canards. Thus, he asserts that Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk called the rebels "subhumans"; in fact, even the pro-government Russian newspaper Vzglyad admits this was an English mistranslation of nelyudi, literally "inhumans" or "monsters." (The word also exists in Russian, and Russian officials have freely used it toward their own "resisters" in the Caucasus.) He reports that a regional governor (Yuri Odarchenko of the Kherson region) "praised Hitler for his 'slogan of liberating the people' in occupied Ukraine" in his speech at a Victory Day event on May 9. In fact, as a transcript and a video show, Odarchenko said that Hitler used "slogans about alleged liberation of nations" to justify invading sovereign countries and "the aggressor" today was using similar slogans about "alleged oppressions" to justify aggression against Ukraine. And, in Cohen's extremely tendentious retelling, the May 2 tragedy in Odessa, where clashes between separatists and Kiev supporters led to a deadly fire that killed some 40 separatists, becomes a deliberate holocaust reminiscent of "Nazi German extermination squads."

In a downright surreal passage, Cohen argues that Putin has shown "remarkable restraint" so far but faces mounting public pressure due to "vivid accounts" in the Russian state-run media of Kiev's barbarities against ethnic Russians. Can he really be unaware that the hysteria is being whipped up by lurid fictions, such as the recent TV1 story about a 3-year-old boy crucified in Slovyansk's main square in front of a large crowd and his own mother? Does Cohen not know that Russian disinformation and fakery, including old footage from Dagestan or Syria passed off as evidence of horrors in Ukraine, has been extensively documented? Is he unaware that top Russian officials, including Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Putin himself, have publicly repeated allegations of war crimes that were quickly exposed as false, such as white phosphorus use by Ukrainian troops or a slaughter of the wounded in a hospital? But Cohen manages to take the surrealism a notch higher, earnestly citing the unnamed "dean of Moscow State University's School of Television" (that's Vitaly Tretyakov, inter alia a 9/11 "truther") who thinks the Kremlin may be colluding with the West to hush up the extent of carnage in Ukraine.

Putin Bootlickers Assemble in D.C. : The World Russia Forum was once a respectable affair. Now it's just a nest of Putin apologists and has-beens and both. Dead Souls indeed. (James Kirchick, 03.31.15, Daily Beast)

Offering introductory remarks was Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, who, over the course of a three-decade career in Washington, has made the improbable journey from Cold Warrior to slavish defender of the Russian regime. Rohrabacher, who came to Washington as speechwriter for the Reagan White House, is now doing the same sort of legwork for his old nemeses in the Kremlin, who, in his view, are worthy allies in our shared struggle against militant Islam. "We could not have done it without them," is how he described Russian cooperation in our overthrowing the Taliban, apparently laboring under the belief that granting the United States overflight rights to bring down a radical Islamist regime on its southern flank somehow represented a concession on the part of Moscow.

Rohrabacher told the audience how, following the 2004 Beslan school massacre, in which nearly 200 children were killed after being taken hostage by Chechen terrorists, he called a "high-level person" in the George W. Bush administration to propose that the president "go to Beslan and stand shoulder to shoulder with Putin." Tying America's struggle against Islamist terrorism with Russia's would be inadvisable on several levels, not the least of which is that Russia's way of dealing with the problem largely consists of leveling entire cities. Indeed, this is a tried-and-true Russian strategy dating back to their war in Afghanistan--a war that Rohrabacher himself took part in as a fighter with the mujahideen--when the Russians inflicted nearly a million deaths. As for Beslan, to this day, parents of the victims criticize Putin for his handling of the crisis, alleging that their children lost their lives as a result of the botched rescue effort, as was the case when Putin ordered his security services to pump poison gas into a Moscow theater seized by Chechen terrorists. Thankfully, wiser heads within the White House prevailed, and the Bush-Putin photo op never happened. (Rohrabacher was the only elected official who turned up at the event. Lozansky said that Sen. Amy Klobuchar reserved the room, revealing a strange Minnesota connection: At last year's World Russia Forum, which took place just months after the annexation of Crimea, the Minnesota secretary of state spoke in opposition to sanctions, complaining about how a "U.S.-Russia Innovation Forum" scheduled to take place in St. Paul had to be canceled on orders from the State Department.)

Next up was the redoubtable Stephen Cohen, America's most notorious Kremlin apologist. Falsely labeling the conflict in Ukraine a "civil war," Cohen called for a "new détente" between Russia and the United States. This would suit Cohen well, as the old détente effectively conceded Soviet mastery over Eastern Europe, which is exactly what Cohen wants the West to do today. Cohen lamented how, not long ago, "both sides had legitimate spheres of influence," (or what he prefers to call "zones of national security") yet after the collapse of the Soviet Union, America and its allies disregarded the "conception of parity" and "treated Russia as a defeated nation." Washington's relationship to Moscow has since been characterized by "constant meddling in Russia's internal affairs," and the problem has only gotten worse. "This vilification of a Russian leader is unprecedented," constituting nothing less than "an illness." Cohen would presumably prefer all those gays, journalists, and other liberals--in the true sense of the word, not the form in which Cohen and other "progressives" of his ilk have perverted it--would just shut the hell up. [...]

It says something about your intellectual credibility as a scholar of Russia when the only outlets to feature your work are Russia Today and The Nation, the magazine edited by your spouse. Addressing the confab, Editor Katrina vanden Heuvel praised her publication as one that "repeatedly champions ideas labeled 'heretical' only to see them championed as conventional wisdom later." People who challenge the conventional wisdom on the situation in Ukraine are "marginalized and vilified" here in these United States, she complained (as opposed to those who express "heretical" ideas in Russia, who--if they're not shot in the back four times like opposition leader Boris Nemtsov--are thrown in jail). Like her husband, vanden Heuvel criticized the "demonization" of Putin, as if the man's critics needed to invent facts about his horrible record, and took a surprising swipe at The Washington Post, where she writes a column, calling it "Pravda on the Potomac. A regime change newspaper." (Which is more than can be said of The Nation. It's just Pravda, in English).

Vanden Heuvel introduced a panel of has-bens, "formers" all around: former AP reporter Robert Parry, former UPI editor Martin Sieff, former International Herald Tribune Asia bureau chief Patrick Smith, and former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, now the proprietor of the internationally renowned news source Like all regular guests of RT, the men channeled embitterment over their flailing careers into critiques of the "mainstream media." Parry, who accused the U.S. government of withholding information about the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine, complained about how no one in the State Department returns his calls. McGovern spoke of Russia's "so-called aggression" in Ukraine before asking, "How can Russia trust a serial liar? And by that I mean John Kerry." It was at some point in the midst of Sieff's spiel about how the Western powers were leading us back to the carnage of World War that I decided I had better things to do.

Posted by orrinj at 9:28 AM


The Nation issues editor's note on story questioning whether the DNC was hacked (Erik Wemple September 1, 20/17, Washington Post)

The editor's note addresses the use of technical language in Lawrence's reporting: "The article was indeed fact-checked to ensure that Patrick Lawrence, a regular Nation contributor, accurately reported the VIPS analysis and conclusions, which he did," notes vanden Heuvel. "As part of the editing process, however, we should have made certain that several of the article's conclusions were presented as possibilities, not as certainties. And given the technical complexity of the material, we would have benefited from bringing on an independent expert to conduct a rigorous review of the VIPS technical claims." [...]

Via the magazine's review of the Lawrence piece, it has published pieces from two VIPS groups -- one from the folks on whom Lawrence relied for his hack-debunking piece, and another from a band of dissenters. "A number of VIPS members did not sign this problematic memo because of troubling questions about its conclusions, and others who did sign it have raised key concerns since its publication," reads the piece from the dissenters. They continue: "The implications of this leap-to-conclusions analysis of the VIPS memo--which centers on claiming as an unassailable and immutable fact that the DNC 'hack' was committed by an insider with direct access to the DNC server, who then deliberately doctored data and documents to look like a Russian or Russia-affiliated actor was involved, and therefore no hack occurred (consequently, ipso facto, the Russians did not do it)--are contingent on a fallacy," they write.

As for the VIPS personnel who Lawrence sourced for his column -- they write, in part, "In recent years we have seen 'false-flag' attacks carried out to undergird a political narrative and objective--to blame the Syrian government for chemical attacks, for example. Forensic evidence suggests that this tried-and-tested technique (in this instance, simply pasting in a Russian template with 'telltale signs') may have been used to 'show' that Russia hacked into the DNC computers last June."

There's more! The Nation commissioned its own, independent technical review of the Lawrence piece. Performed by Nathanial Freitas, this document takes tremendous pains to assess the minutiae in Lawrence's story, before reaching this conclusion:

Good-faith efforts to parse the available data to provide insight into the unlawful extraction of documents from the DNC in 2016 are admirable and necessary. All parties, however, must exercise much greater care in separating out statements backed by available digital metadata from thoughtful insights and educated guesses. Walking nontechnical readers down any narrative path that cannot be directly supported by evidence must be avoided. At this point, given the limited available data, certainty about only a very small number of things can be achieved. [...]

The soft-glove treatment of Russian President Vladimir Putin is a specialty of Stephen F. Cohen, a Nation contributing editor and the husband of vanden Heuvel. In a February piece, Cohen wrote of the intelligence community's assessment: "A summary of these 'facts' was presented in a declassified report released by the 'intelligence community' and widely discussed in January," wrote Cohen. "Though it quickly became axiomatic proof for Trump's political and media enemies, almost nothing in the report is persuasive. About half are 'assessments' based on surmised motivations, not factual evidence of an actual Kremlin operation on Trump's behalf." The column was essentially a harbinger of Lawrence's story: "Indeed, the group Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity believes that the DNC documents were not hacked but rather leaked by an insider," wrote Cohen.

There's an inventory of Cohen's views on Russia on the Nation's site; it's a series in which he summarizes his discussions with radio host John Batchelor. He refers to himself in these summaries in the third person (much like the Erik Wemple Blog), as in this passage reacting to a new set of Russia sanctions: "Pointless and recklessly irresponsible new sanctions recently adopted almost unanimously by Congress against Russia are, as Cohen has long argued, evidence that the new Cold War is more dangerous than was its 40-year predecessor. Still worse, the sanctions, inspired more by unverified 'Russiagate' allegations against Trump than by anything Moscow has actually done recently, further prevent him from seeking cooperation instead of conflict with the Kremlin, as previous presidents did and indeed as President Trump has tried to do. "He writes them up as if they were dispatches," said vanden Heuvel about Cohen's radio write-ups. "They find their audience."

A charitable approach to Russia colors the Nation's review of the Lawrence piece. As opposed to actually weighing the evidence carefully and reaching a firm conclusion, the Nation has opted to assign more homework to its readers. [...]

Nationites long frustrated by the magazine's Russia tilt are unlikely to find satisfaction in vanden Heuvel's response. "This article was flat-out wrong and a tremendous disservice to honest discourse," says contributor editor Bob Dreyfuss. "The review by Nathan Freitas says that the article simply doesn't prove what it says it proves." A full retraction, says Dreyfuss, is in order.

It really just doesn't get any better than watching Trump defenders on the Right hop in bed with the pro-Putin/anti-American Left.

Posted by orrinj at 9:14 AM


Trump's Insubordination Problem (RICH LOWRY August 30, 2017, Politico)

The new measure of power in Washington is how far you can go criticizing the president at whose pleasure you serve. The hangers-on and junior players must do it furtively and anonymously. Only a principal like Gary Cohn, Rex Tillerson or James Mattis can do it out in the open and get away with it.

First, it was chief economic adviser Cohn saying in an interview that the administration--i.e., Donald J. Trump--must do a better job denouncing hate groups. Then, it was Secretary of State Tillerson suggesting in a stunning interview with Chris Wallace of Fox News that the rest of the government speaks for American values, but not necessarily the president. Finally, Secretary of Defense Mattis contradicted without a moment's hesitation a Trump tweet saying we are done talking with North Korea.

In a more normal time, in a more normal administration, any of these would be a firing offense (although, in Mattis' defense, he more accurately stated official U.S. policy than the president did). Tillerson, in particular, should have been told before he was off the set of Fox News on Sunday that he was only going to be allowed to return to the seventh floor of the State Department to clean out his desk.

The fact that this hasn't happened is an advertisement of Trump's precarious standing, broadcast by officials he himself selected for positions of significant power and prestige. A more typical scenario is that a president loses credibility in a foreign crisis when an adversary defies him, or in a domestic political confrontation when the opposition deals him a stinging defeat. Not at the hands of his own team.

Posted by orrinj at 9:10 AM



While James Comey was FBI director, he began drafting a statement about the bureau's investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email system long before the probe was completed, according to Senator Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Senator Lindsey Graham, a committee member. The committee is investigating President Donald Trump's firing of Comey on May 9.

In July 2016, Comey said during a press conference that he would not be recommending the Department of Justice pursue charges against Clinton. But in a letter to new FBI Director Christopher Wray on Wednesday, which the committee made public on Thursday, Grassley and Graham wrote that according to information from the United States Office of the Special Counsel, "in April or early May of 2016, Mr. Comey had already decided he would issue a statement exonerating Secretary Clinton.

The main fact of the FBI investigation was, of course, that it was never based on any evidence nor accusation, just a congressional referral.  There was never anything there.

Posted by orrinj at 8:51 AM


America needs tax reform. But not like this. (James Pethokoukis, September 1, 2017, the Week)

 Abandon the go-it-alone strategy that doomed the effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. To get the big reform the American economy needs, Republicans and Democrats should work together. Maybe lower the corporate tax rate all the way to 15 percent but pay for it by raising investment taxes. And perhaps help workers out by cutting payroll taxes, paid for by a new value-added tax or even a carbon tax.

These are big ideas and politically difficult lifts. But at least the effort, if successful, is more likely to be worth it.

Why tax profit, investment and pay at all?

Posted by orrinj at 8:48 AM


Letter from Gaza: 'Alive due to lack of death' : Gaza-born Jehad Abusalim describes the devastating effects of Israel's blockade on the daily lives of Palestinians. (Jehad Abusalim, 9/02/17, Al Jazeera)

In Gaza, entire families sit in the darkness of their living rooms, with candles generating the only light. Dozens of families have lost loved ones in house fires.

Propane is scarce, and small generators are unsafe and hard to come by. They are usually smuggled through tunnels and poorly made. One of my college professors lost three children (a 14-year-old and eight-year-old twins) after their generator exploded.

Gaza residents face so much hardship and pain, just to secure one of life's basic necessities.

When the electricity goes out, the silence is deafening. Everything grinds to a halt: refrigerators, televisions, hospital equipment, water pumps and fans. Modern life stops. The quiet allows us to imagine what the world was like before we were immersed in the noise of car horns and the hum and buzz of modern machines. Later, the quiet is replaced by a storm of sound as generators whir and screech back to life.

I will never forget the afternoon when I asked my father how long he thought the blockade would last.

"A  few months, my son. A few months. It won't take long," he answered.

A few weeks ago, more than a decade since the Israeli blockade of Gaza was implemented, I spoke with my father again and reminded him of what he said that day. I could practically feel his sorrow and grief through the phone.

"I don't know how many 10 years there are in one's life," he answered, crushed by the naivete of his statement all those years ago.

Posted by orrinj at 8:46 AM

Posted by orrinj at 8:42 AM


Shelley Berman, Stand-Up Comic Who Skewered Modern Life, Dies at 92 (PETER KEEPNEWS, SEPT. 1, 2017, NY Times)

Perched on a stool -- unlike most stand-up comedians, he did his entire act sitting down -- Mr. Berman focused on the little things. He talked about passionate kisses that miss the mark so that ''you wind up with the tip of her nose in the corner of your mouth." Or what to do when the person you are talking to accidentally spits in your face -- do you wipe the spit off or make believe it didn't happen?

Performing in upscale nightclubs and on concert stages, including Carnegie Hall at the height of his fame, he found humor in places where his borscht belt predecessors had never thought to look: ''If you've never met a student from the University of Chicago, I'll describe him to you. If you give him a glass of water, he says: 'This is a glass of water. But is it a glass of water? And if it is a glass of water, why is it a glass of water?' And eventually he dies of thirst."

"Sometimes," Mr. Berman told The New York Times in 1970, "I'm so oblique, even I don't know what I'm talking about."

Like his fellow Chicago comedian Bob Newhart, Mr. Berman specialized in telephone monologues, in which the humor came from his reactions to the unheard voice on the other end of the line. (Mr. Berman often claimed that Mr. Newhart stole that idea from him. Mr. Newhart maintained that the idea did not originate with either of them, noting that comedians had been doing telephone monologues since at least the 1920s.)

In one classic routine, Mr. Berman, nursing a brutal hangover, listened with increasing horror as the host of the party he had attended the night before reminded him of the damage he had done: "How did I break a window? ... Oh, I see. ... Were you very fond of that cat?"

In another, he called a department store to report that a woman was hanging from a 10th-floor window ledge: "And I was just sitting, I was looking out my window, and I, uh, uh, noticed there's a woman -- there's a woman hanging from a window ledge on your building about 10 flights up and she's. ... No, operator, you're missing the point. I don't wish to speak to the woman."

Posted by orrinj at 8:32 AM


Forceful Chief of Staff Grates on Trump, and the Feeling Is Mutual (GLENN THRUSH and MAGGIE HABERMAN, SEPT. 1, 2017, NY Times)

The president, for his part, has marveled at the installation of management controls that would have been considered routine in any other White House.

"I now have time to think," a surprised Mr. Trump has told one of his senior aides repeatedly over the last few weeks.

Mr. Kelly cannot stop Mr. Trump from binge-watching Fox News, which aides describe as the president's primary source of information gathering. But Mr. Trump does not have a web browser on his phone, and does not use a laptop, so he was dependent on aides like Stephen K. Bannon, his former chief strategist, to hand-deliver printouts of articles from conservative media outlets.

Now Mr. Kelly has thinned out his package of printouts so much that Mr. Trump plaintively asked a friend recently where The Daily Caller and Breitbart were. [...]

Mr. Kelly is close to Mr. Mattis and supported the Pentagon's decision to slow-walk Mr. Trump's order to ban transgender troops from serving in the military, opting for the creation of a panel to study the matter before implementing a policy that is highly popular with the president's conservative base.

Despite his crackdown on illegal immigrants and support for the Muslim travel ban in his previous job as Homeland Security secretary, Mr. Kelly has been among those calling for Mr. Trump to proceed with caution on rolling back Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the Obama-era policy protecting from deportation immigrants who entered the country illegally as minors. [...]

But one associate who spoke to Mr. Kelly last month said the former commander had remarked that his current assignment was by far the hardest job he had ever had. His favorite gig, he jokes, was his first: Marine grunt.

Posted by orrinj at 8:10 AM


Maybe Colin Kaepernick Is Just Not That Good (Colin Fleming, SEPT. 1, 2017, NY Times)

What seems to me more problematic than Kaepernick's not having a job is the general unwillingness to consider that this situation might be justified on the merits, given Kaepernick's current attributes, or lack thereof, as a quarterback, rather than assuming, as part of a kneejerk gospel of victimhood, that persecution must be the cause.

It's not hard to make a statistical case for why Kaepernick is not playing now. He threw for a mere 187 yards a game last season, which was good enough for 30th (in a league of 32 teams). For his career, he has completed fewer than 60 percent of his passes. Last season, 24 passers completed more than 60 percent. Kaepernick, at 59.2 percent, was ranked 26th. If you're below 60 percent, you're a fringe guy.

More damning, Kaepernick was not asked to make difficult throws; he's not a Matt Ryan-type quarterback, slinging the ball far down the field on deep crosses or challenging out routes. In the current iteration of the N.F.L., offense rules the day, with quarterbacks tasked to put up crooked numbers on the scoreboard. Kaepernick's job was to be a game manager, making the easiest, high-percentage throws. And he still struggled. What are you supposed to do with a guy like this? What can he do for you? Can he help you win?

If Kaepernick deserves a spot in the league, it's only as a backup quarterback. And he will eventually get a job as one, I bet, once quarterbacks start getting hurt. But the fact that he doesn't have a job right now isn't shocking, and it doesn't have to be because N.F.L. owners are racists who are blackballing him.

The older I get, the less I care about football, but I do care about merit, and things being seen for what they are. "Life is," as Dostoyevsky wrote, and it is our job to figure out what the "is" is. I believe that's one of the core responsibilities of being human.

We don't do this enough anymore. We don't ask the tough questions. We seek to align ourselves with what I think of as the "control voice" -- whatever piped-in monotone is dictating a given narrative at the moment. It's easy to feel good about yourself when you're patting yourself on the back for your inability to never fail to take the moral high ground, which everyone who agrees with you reinforces and enables, one Facebook "like" at a time. But there is nothing real about that.

It doesn't matter that Kaepernick doesn't have a job; it matters that so few people even wonder if there might be a non-disgraceful explanation. We have become the anti-meritocracy. We resent those who outperform us, outwork us, outproduce us. And the person who has been perceived to have been slighted? He is whom we now adore.

He had a lower QB rating than Brock Osweiler. In a normal workplace you'd assume he was crying racism to protect his sinecure.

Posted by orrinj at 8:04 AM


Consumers Face Upcoming 'Golden Age' Worth $2.95 Trillion, Study Says (Tom Popomaronis , 9/01/17, Forbes)

Technology is one of the most rapidly changing elements of modern businesses. But according to the Painting the Digital Future of Retail and Consumer Goods Companies report from Accenture Strategy, that's not going to be a bad thing at all for consumers. The study found that, if companies invest in digitally-driven business models, consumers will have more choices about how they buy what they want. Companies also will have the opportunity to give consumers engaging, desirable experiences that yield profits for the businesses. Together, accelerated digital transformations could be worth $2.95 trillion over the course of just 10 years for shoppers, retailers, and consumer goods companies.

Posted by orrinj at 7:24 AM


Press Release: Government Settles in First Lawsuit Filed Against Trump's Muslim Ban (International Refugee Assistance Project, August 31, 2017)

(New York, NY) - The Trump administration today settled with the plaintiffs in the first legal challenge to the president's original executive order, which sought to bar travelers from certain majority Muslim countries from entering the United States and to dramatically curtail the admission of refugees. The settlement ensures that all travelers who were barred from the country on the basis of the ban and have not since returned to the United States are informed of their right to reapply for a visa and provided with a list of free legal services organizations that can help them do so.

The settlement came in the case of Darweesh v. Trump, which was filed as a nationwide class-action in federal district court in New York City on the morning of January 28, 2017, only hours after the first Muslim ban went into effect. The ban had plunged airports across the country into chaos as the Trump administration haphazardly implemented its discriminatory policy, leading to the separation of families and exclusion of refugees fleeing persecution. By the evening of January 28, the court had issued a nationwide injunction prohibiting the Trump administration from removing anyone from the country on the basis of the Muslim ban. As a result, the administration's effort to bar Muslims and refugees from the country was halted barely 24 hours after it went into effect.

Having succeeded in halting detentions under the Muslim ban, the lawsuit then sought to address the harm done to those already excluded in the chaotic first days of the Muslim ban. In the settlement announced today, the government agreed to contact all individuals who had been barred from entry as a result of the ban and have not since reapplied for a visa or entered the United States and to inform them of their right to reapply for a visa. The government will also provide a list of pro bono immigration legal aid providers available to assist with the visa application. The written notice will be provided in English, Arabic and Farsi. The settlement also requires the Justice Department to coordinate the processing of new applications for any affected individuals identified by the plaintiffs' attorneys who are seeking to return to the U.S. in the next three months.

Posted by orrinj at 7:20 AM


Pro-Kremlin Botnets Pose An Existential Threat To Twitter (Tony Bradley , 9/01/17, Forbes)

Respected information security journalist Brian Krebs wrote a post this week detailing his interactions with the world of fake Twitter account botnets. Krebs had noted that every time he tweets anything about Vladimir Putin it somehow results in a predictable flood of pro-Trump replies even when Trump is not mentioned. Krebs shared that following that tweet, "I awoke this morning to find my account on Twitter (@briankrebs) had attracted almost 12,000 new followers overnight. Then I noticed I'd gained almost as many followers as the number of re-tweets (RTs) earned for a tweet I published on Tuesday."

Krebs explains that further investigation determined that almost all of the new Twitter followers he had gained were actually part of a social media botnet being used to falsely amplify propaganda and fake news posts, and to intimidate journalists, activists and researchers. "The botnet or botnets appear to be targeting people who are exposing the extent to which sock puppet and bot accounts on social media platforms can be used to influence public opinion."

Posted by orrinj at 7:16 AM


The burning of Atlanta, seared into America's memory (FRANK REEVES, 8/31/14, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

The fall of Atlanta 150 years ago this week was pivotal to the outcome of the Civil War. It increased the odds that Abraham Lincoln would be re-elected president on the Republican Party platform to preserve the Union and abolish slavery.

The immediate effect was to destroy a key Confederate railroad center and manufacturing center, thus depriving Southern armies of vital supplies needed to carry on the war. [...]

In April, Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, the Union Army's top commander, had ordered Sherman to attack the Confederate Army of Tennessee under Gen. Joseph E. Johnston. Grant had also ordered Sherman "to get into the enemy's country as far as you can, inflicting all the damage you can against their war supplies."

The Union high command also hoped Sherman would be able to prevent Johnston's forces from reinforcing Gen. Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, thereby assuring, as one historian has put it, "Grant's expected war-ending victory in Virginia."

With the capture of Atlanta, Sherman was well on his way to accomplishing part of his mission.

"So Atlanta is ours and fairly won," Sherman telegraphed his superiors in Washington, hours after Confederate forces, now under the command of Gen. John B. Hood, abandoned the city. Soon his words were emblazoned in headlines in newspapers across the North. "Wild celebrations," as some newspapers described them, greeted the news in many cities.

"The fall of Atlanta is the severest blow -- considered both in military and political aspects -- which the rebels have received since Vicksburg and Gettysburg," wrote the editors of the Pittsburgh Evening Chronicle, a Republican-leaning newspaper. [...]

Now with Atlanta "fairly won," Sherman had his own plans for the city. On Sept. 7, he notified Hood that he wanted to remove the 1,600 residents who had remained in the city as the Union armies closed in. Sherman said Union troops would escort those who wished to go north to Tennessee and Kentucky and asked Hood's assistance in aiding those who wished to go south.

In a letter to his superiors in Washington, Sherman explained his "real reasons" for advocating what he knew was a controversial proposal: He wanted to use Atlanta's buildings for Union war supplies. He wanted to leave only a minimal force to guard the town. He also did not want the responsibility of supplying food and clothing to the city's beleaguered population.

Hood protested Sherman's decision "in the name of God and humanity."

There then passed between the two men-- 44-year-old Sherman and 33-year-old Hood --an exchange of letters that set the stage for a debate that would last long after the Civil War was over.

"The unprecedented measure you propose transcends, in studied and ingenious cruelty, all acts ever before brought to my attention in the dark history of war," Hood wrote Sherman.

But the Union general was unmoved, reminding Hood and other Southerners at every opportunity, that it was they who brought the war on themselves and the country.

"If we must be enemies, let us be men, and fight it out as we propose to do, and not deal with such hypocritical appeals to God and humanity," Sherman replied. "God will judge us in due time."

Atlanta's mayor and city council members also implored Sherman to reconsider his expulsion order. But Sherman was adamant.

"War is cruelty and you cannot refine it," he told Atlanta's leaders. "But my dear sirs, when peace comes, you may call on me for anything. Then I will share with you the last cracker."

It's not terrorism when we do it.
Posted by orrinj at 7:12 AM


Reports: Trump Drafted Angry, Unsent Letter to Comey Before His Firing (Benjamin Hart, 8/01/17, New York)

Trump drafted the characteristically belligerent letter, with help from adviser Stephen Miller, from his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey. But the missive never made it to Comey. The Times reports:

The letter, drafted in May, was met with opposition from Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel, who believed that its angry, meandering tone was problematic, according to interviews with a dozen administration officials and others briefed on the matter. Among Mr. McGahn's concerns were references to private conversations the president had with Mr. Comey, including times when the F.B.I. director told Mr. Trump he was not under investigation in the F.B.I.'s ongoing Russia inquiry.

Mr. McGahn successfully blocked the president from sending the letter to Mr. Comey, which Mr. Trump had composed with Stephen Miller, one of the president's top political advisers. But a copy was given to the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, who then drafted his own letter. Mr. Rosenstein's letter was ultimately used as the Trump administration's public rationale for Mr. Comey's firing, which was that Mr. Comey mishandled the investigation into Hillary Clinton's private email server.

Trump's daughter Ivanka and son-in-law, Jared Kushner were also in Bedminster that weekend, and Kushner was reportedly in favor of firing Comey. (The Times notes that rain forced Trump to cancel his tee time with legendary golfer Greg Norman, contributing to his noxious mood.)

September 1, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 7:12 PM


During a summer of crisis, Trump chafes against criticism and new controls (Philip Rucker and Ashley Parker August 31, 2017, wASHINGTON pOST)

Trump chafes at some of the retired Marine Corps general's moves to restrict access to him since he took the job almost a month ago, said several people close to the president. They run counter to Trump's love of spontaneity and brashness, prompting some Trump loyalists to derisively dub Kelly "the church lady" because they consider him strict and morally superior.

"He's having a very hard time," one friend who spoke with Trump this week said of the president. "He doesn't like the way the media's handling him. He doesn't like how Kelly's handling him. He's turning on people that are very close to him." [...]

Meanwhile, people close to the president said he is simmering with displeasure over what he considers personal disloyalty from National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, who criticized Trump's responses to a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville on Aug. 12. He also has grown increasingly frustrated with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who has clashed with the president on issues including Afghanistan troop levels, the blockade on Qatar and Cuba policy.

But Trump sometimes defies -- and even resents -- the new structure. He has been especially sensitive to the way Kelly's rigid structure is portrayed in the media and strives to disabuse people of the notion that he is being managed. The president continues to call business friends and outside advisers, including former chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon, from his personal phone when Kelly is not around, said people with knowledge of the calls. [...]

On Tillerson, Trump has come to see his top diplomat's approach to world affairs as "totally establishment," in the words of one Trump associate. Several people close to Trump said they would be surprised if Tillerson stays in his post past his one-year mark in January. They hinted that his departure may come far sooner, with one describing it as "imminent."

And some who have recently seen Tillerson say the former ExxonMobil chief executive -- unaccustomed to taking orders from a superior, let alone one as capricious as Trump -- also seems to be ready to end his State Department tenure. He has grumbled privately to Kelly about Trump's recent controversies, said two people familiar with their relationship.

Posted by orrinj at 7:02 PM


Exclusive: Mueller Enlists the IRS for His Trump-Russia Investigation (Betsy Woodruff, 08.31.17, Daily Beast)

Special counsel Bob Mueller has teamed up with the IRS. According to sources familiar with his investigation into alleged Russian election interference, his probe has enlisted the help of agents from the IRS' Criminal Investigations unit.

This unit--known as CI--is one of the federal government's most tight-knit, specialized, and secretive investigative entities. Its 2,500 agents focus exclusively on financial crime, including tax evasion and money laundering. A former colleague of Mueller's said he always liked working with IRS' special agents, especially when he was a U.S. Attorney.

And it goes without saying that the IRS has access to Trump's tax returns--documents that the president has long resisted releasing to the public.

Potential financial crimes are a central part of Mueller's probe. One of his top deputies, Andy Weissmann, formerly helmed the Justice Department's Enron probe and has extensive experience working with investigative agents from the IRS.

Posted by orrinj at 6:57 PM


Paul Ryan Backs Bill to Give Dreamers Legal Status (Eric Levitz, 9/01/17, New York)

Asked about reports that the president intended to end DACA, which provides people who were brought to this country illegally as children with temporary protection from deportation, the House Speaker told his hometown radio station, "I actually don't think he should do that."

Ryan stipulated that, "President (Barack) Obama does not have the authority to do what he did" when he established the program. But the Speaker suggested that Trump should put humanitarian concerns above legalistic quibbles, until Congress can take legislative action to address the plight of the Dreamers (which is, more or less, exactly what Obama did when he established DACA in the first place).

"These are kids who know no other country, who were brought here by their parents and don't know another home," Ryan continued. "And so I really do believe there that there needs to be a legislative solution."

There are roughly 800,000 people in the United States who fit Ryan's description. Many work and pay taxes.

Posted by orrinj at 6:49 PM


Racist behaviour is declining in America (The Economist, Sep 1st 2017)

Research by Leonardo Bursztyn of the University of Chicago and colleagues suggests that Mr Trump's November win has certainly helped embolden white supremacists to go public. Before the election, the researchers offered survey participants a cash reward if they authorised a donation to a strongly anti-immigrant organization on their behalf. One group were told the donation would be in complete confidence, while the second group that the surveyor would know about their choice and discuss it with them in a future session. The group told that their donation would be anonymous was more likely to take the reward and authorise the donation than the group who were told their decision would be (comparatively) public. Mr Bursztyn and colleagues repeated the experiment after the election, and the gap between the groups disappeared. 

The researchers report that Donald Trump's election victory did not make participants more xenophobic--but it did make those who were already xenophobic more comfortable about expressing their views without the shield of anonymity. The Charlottesville protest matches that result: racists were willing to march in public, but there weren't very many racists. Only about 500 people were involved and they were rapidly outnumbered by counter-protestors. In Boston, counter-demonstrations to a subsequent "free speech" rally organized by alt-right groups drew at least fifteen times the people who turned up to the rally itself. And while those with racist views may have become freer about expressing them, a recent Marist poll suggests only 4% of Americans say they 'mostly agree' with the white supremacy movement (there is greater evidence of professed racist views amongst supporters of Mr Trump). 

Long-term trends, meanwhile, suggest a decline in both professed racist views and racist acts. On a range of survey measures including reported discomfort about living next to someone of a different race, or opposition to inter-racial marriage, Americans appear far less racist than in the past. Only 4% of Americans supported inter-racial marriage in 1958. By 1997 that was 50%; today it is 87%. Inter-racial marriages climbed from 7 to 15 percent of all marriages between 1980 and 2010. And racially and ethnically motivated hate crimes reported to the FBI fell 48% between 1994 and 2015. Because local law enforcement agencies aren't required to report hate crimes to the FBI and because they can only report to Washington if the crime has been reported to them in the first place, the FBI statistics are a considerable underestimate of the problem. But the trend is still revealing.

One reason for changing attitudes may be greater exposure to positive images of minorities.

Posted by orrinj at 6:46 PM


Why Western Pennsylvania dirt is used in the infields of most MLB stadiums (Elizabeth Bloom, 8/31/17, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

This is not a story about dirt.

It's actually a story about an old asphalt plant, a set of computers older than the average baseball player and a man who revolutionized an industry he didn't know existed.

OK, and it is about dirt.

But this dirt is special: It starts under the ground in Western Pennsylvania and ends under the cleats of the best baseball players in the world.

"Most people have no idea that the infield mix for Major League Baseball, from San Diego to Boston, comes from Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania," said Grant McKnight, president and founder of DuraEdge. [...]

[T]here's the "completely dumb luck" that McKnight happens to be from Western Pennsylvania, whose clay, he insists, is special.

"Not all dirt is created equal," McKnight said. "It's a very, very unique mineral."

Posted by orrinj at 6:43 PM


Was Charles Darwin the true father of eugenics? : His mad, bad, dangerous theory of evolution would profoundly influence Hitler, according to A.N. Wilson (Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, 2 September 2017, The Spectator)

[T]he theory quickly outstripped his scientific data, and instead became a grand narrative seemingly capable of explaining the entire history of life on earth.

Seen through Darwin's eyes, suddenly the world looked very different. Birdsong was no longer an innocent celebration, but a set of warnings and sexual invitations; flowers were no longer cheerful splashes of colour in the landscape, but hostile organisms engaged in a turf war. Wherever you looked, different life forms were part of an endless struggle for survival. The only problem, Wilson points out, is that this was a myth.

The fossil record and recent DNA discoveries indicate that evolution does not proceed through infinitely small gradations; rather nature makes sudden leaps. Nor does progress depend only upon selfishness and struggle. Collaboration is just as important as competition: 'Ants don't build anthills by fighting one another; nor bees hives.' And it turns out that the same is true of evolutionary theory itself, for although Darwin's was the name that became attached to the idea of species evolving through their adaptation to environment, this was the result of co-operative scientific efforts that could be traced back to his grandfather Erasmus Darwin and beyond. [...]

The picture of Darwin that emerges from this biography is a mixed one. On the one hand, he spent most of his adult life as a martyr to symptoms that ranged from eczema to flatulence, and he was patiently looked after by his wife Emma, or 'Mammy' as he liked to call her, as if she hadn't so much married him as adopted him. On the other hand, he assumed that men like him were naturally superior, not only because of their wealth (an immensely rich father and marriage into the Wedgwood family meant that Darwin never had to earn a living) but also because of their race, expressing his relief that 'civilised nations are everywhere supplanting barbarous nations'. He was an unsentimental believer in Malthus's theory of populations regulating themselves through famine and disease, but was devastated when his ten-year old daughter Annie died of tuberculosis. And as his religious faith slowly slipped away, so he developed a theory that would later become a substitute religion for many. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:40 PM


Mexico, Canada to stay in NAFTA even if U.S. leaves: minister  (Reuters, 9/01/17) 

Mexico and Canada would remain in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) even if the Trump administration abandoned the accord, Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said on Thursday.